By Ed Martin, Editor
Lemoore's Jim Christian in his Lemoore home with his dog Daisy.
Lemoore's Jim Christian in his Lemoore home with his dog Daisy.

Seventy-eight-year-old Jim Christian is still fighting the good fight. Over the past two decades, I've seen Mr. Christian, while exhibiting a calm demeanor and winsome smile, proudly stand before the Lemoore City Council and others and challenge city officials to make our city better.

As a former city council member and mayor, I remember well Christian's frequent visits to Lemoore City Hall, ensconcing himself in what I presumed was his favorite seat in the gallery, where he listened patiently to councilmembers' arguments.

Christian was no wallflower. He frequently visited the speaker's lectern, where, in a mostly calm demeanor – over several years –  pleaded with Lemoore's elected leaders to do what's suitable for Lemoore's citizens, including the elderly and the disabled.

He is undoubtedly an unknown soldier, a champion of the disabled, who adamantly supported the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a landmark civil rights law prohibiting discrimination based on disability. It was signed into law on July 26 by President George H.W. Bush. The act was comprehensive and affected critical segments of our society, from schools to the government.

And Christian was all in.

Christian doesn't visit city officials much anymore. He now uses a powered wheelchair (courtesy of the Veterans Administration) to get around his cluttered but friendly home off West D Street in an older part of Lemoore.

He shares his humble abode with his wife Carol and several chattering birds that constantly chirp away as Christian, and I converse. And on Christian's lap rests a somewhat nervous-looking dog named Daisy, who clearly loves his master and is suspiciously keeping her eyes on me while we chat.

Daisy is the definition of a pampered dog. "She wears a different dress every day," said Christian, as his dog rested proudly on his master's lap. "She's got 300 dresses. Daisy also goes with me to the doctor's office."

Christian is a native of East St. Louis, Illinois. As a very young man, he proudly enlisted in the U.S. Navy, a move that eventually led to a small comfortable home just off West D Street in one of its several cul-de-sacs. He and Carol arrived in Lemoore in 1972, and over the years, the two have made quite a home for themselves, raising two girls, one of whom is a Lemoore area teacher.

As a frequent visitor to the Lemoore council chambers, he often took to the speakers' lectern to state his case,  arguing that Lemoore officials simply were not doing enough to comply with the American Disabilities Act.

Local man Jim Christian continues the good fight for the elderly and disabled of Lemoore

Years ago, it took a lawsuit to force cities to become compliant. The Ninth Circuit ruled – and the Supreme Court let it stand – those cities had to comply with the ADA.

The U.S. Supreme Court, without comment, rejected the appeal by Sacramento and over 200 other cities to overturn the Ninth Circuit ruling that city sidewalks were covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and therefore had to be accessible.

"The cities had to become compliant," said Christian. "Cities had to comply, and anytime they did a resurface on the road, they had to bring all sidewalks and curb cuts up to standards at that time."

The problem, insisted Christian, is that Lemoore may have failed to comply – in his opinion.

The city, however, has delivered curb cuts over the years, but older sections of Lemoore are still waiting. "Many cities have a problem (with curb cuts). "The city of Hanford does an excellent job." They took care of their problem quickly," said Christian.

He admits Lemoore proceeded with curb cuts, but Christian said they may have failed to meet ADA standards. "A lot of the curb cuts in the downtown area, and I do mean the downtown, they put curb cuts, but they were steeper than what ADA required."

Christian told The Leader that many of the curb cuts implemented in Lemoore's downtown over the years may have failed to comply with the standards.

Christian added that the "bad" curb cuts force some pedestrians to traverse the city streets instead of the sidewalks. "It's just not me. There are other people I've seen driving wheelchairs and scooters down the street – which is dangerous."

Christian, who has been forced to use a wheelchair, says he would like to offer city council members and city officials to utilize his wheelchair to see how difficult it is to get around this town.

"I'd be more than happy to let anybody from the city use my wheelchair to see how difficult it is to get around this town."

Lemoore has had its problems with sidewalks over the years. Two years ago, the city hired a firm to remove full-grown trees on a stretch of Fox Street between Cinnamon Drive and Hanford Armona Road. The trees, over the years, caused the adjacent sidewalks to shift, forcing bike riders and walkers to avoid using them. The city removed the trees and replaced the sidewalks at a high cost.

In various neighborhoods, trees planted in parkways (stretching grass between the sidewalk and the street) have roots that often grow beneath the sidewalks, eventually forcing sidewalks to pop up.

Editor's note: The Leader called Lemoore City Hall on Thursday to get its perspective regarding curb cuts but did not get a return phone call.