On Tuesday morning, Randy Paul’s family relayed the news of his passing.
In the last two and a half years, Paul has been covered by The B Square in connection with at least two significant issues. One was his effort to reorganize the local Green Party. The other was his fight to ensure that polling sites for the 2020 elections were accessible.
The start of the Green Party reorganization came during pre-pandemic days. I remember meeting Paul for breakfast at the Village Deli to talk about it.
He managed to pay the check for our table before I noticed it was done. I did not want to be on the wrong side of the ledger with Paul, and he agreed he’d let me pay for breakfast next time. The pandemic prevented any next time.
So now I will have to find another way to make good on that debt—which was a plate of biscuits and gravy.
Of course, our debt as a community to Randy Paul is bigger than a breakfast.
I think it’s fair to say that the reason some accessibility features were added to polling sites for the 2020 elections—labeled parking spots, temporary ramps, and the like—was Randy Paul.
In the B Square’s write up of an election board meeting after the June 2020 primary, Paul’s remarks were summed up this way: “Disabilities community activist Randy Paul commented at Thursday’s election board meeting saying that county clerk Nicole Browne should be proud of her team’s work on HAVA [Help America Vote Act] compliance.”
But during the meeting, Paul’s ear pricked up when he heard the phrase “do our best,” and when a general election polling site was given some consideration, even though it was not accessible. The comment he wrote on that B Square article made clear what his perspective was on following the laws about providing access: Follow the law, don’t just “do your best.”
In Paul’s words: “In the Primary we showed that compliance with HAVA can be achieved if people approach the law in good faith. Will the EB [election board] do the same in November? Time will tell. In the meantime words do matter, and so far they are wildly inconsistent on whether the EB will follow the HELP AMERICA VOTE ACT.”
Here’s what some Monroe County councilors had to say about Paul at their meeting on Tuesday night.
Randy was well known to almost everyone who watches local public meetings, both at the city and the county.
And just during the time I’ve known him, he’s fought for bus drivers, for adults trying to learn to read, for fiscal responsibility in county and city government, for library employees attempting to organize, for abused and neglected children, for climate justice, for transparency at public meetings for voters with disabilities, for that matter for all people with disabilities.
He was willing to speak truth to power and he was willing to make all of us elected officials feel the heat at times—which to me meant that he was doing his job. So the community lost a fighter yesterday but also a man with a family that loved him.
We mourn the loss of Randy Paul, and our thoughts are with his family.
I wanted to speak tonight in memory of Randy Paul. He is a neighbor of mine and his family is certainly close to many of those who live on Bloomington’s east side and, as Councilor McKim mentioned, all throughout Monroe County. At the risk of repeating all of the things that Councilor McKim was talking about, I wanted to simply echo that Randy always spoke truth to power and it’s something that I learned even in my short time here on the council.
And tonight I wanted to read a short paragraph from an email that he sent me on July 1, I think, that highlights that pretty well.
He says; “Just as two wrongs don’t make a right, two incomplete or partial inspections don’t put you in ADA compliance. As a service to the party, I provided them with a how-to manual which included all the information needed to do a full ADA inspection. I could literally recruit middle-school aged kids to do these inspections with the estimated cost of pizza when they finished. This is not rocket science, we can get this job done. All we need is a good faith effort from those people involved.”
Randy, we’re gonna miss you.
It might surprise some of you to know that even though Randy and I didn’t always agree on a whole lot, we just remained really good friends. And I would receive messages from him, always friendly.
Always friendly, with suggestions and asking for, literally, he would ask for advice. From me! A brilliant man. But he was just a charming, a wonderful human. And not enough Randy Pauls on this earth. So he will be missed.
For this column anyway, the final word on Randy Paul should go to Randy Paul. From a July 3, 2020 email message he wrote to me:
I do know this: One day all the people fighting me on ADA compliance will likely need some form of ADA protection in the future. If you live long enough, eventually you are likely to need handicap parking, closer and easier access to buildings, changing transportation accommodations…etc. And if I’m still alive when that happens, I will try not to be petty and say “I told you so”…but no promises!