View Mobile Site
 

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos

 

Tammy Messina: It’s Time for the City to Become a Real Factor for Seniors

Posted: March 15, 2014 5:19 p.m.
Updated: March 15, 2014 5:19 p.m.
 

Watch the debates. Read the mailers. Everyone running for the Santa Clarita City Council in the April 8 election — right down to the last one of the 13 candidates fighting over three seats — wants the support of our local seniors.

From an electioneering standpoint, that’s simple math. Seniors comprise about 18 percent of the local population, and they tend to vote in greater percentages than the general population. If you’re running for the City Council, OF COURSE you want their support. Duh.

But it’s more important to actually deserve it. And, regardless of who wins on April 8, it’s time for our city leaders to do some serious soul-searching about the way we support the needs of that 18 percent of the population that is expected to grow to 26 percent over the next five years.

Our existing SCV Senior Center is a nonprofit organization that receives support from both Los Angeles County and the city. The Center’s leadership wisely chooses to exhibit nothing but gratitude for the support it receives, which includes an annual grant of approximately $200,000 from the city plus another $400,000 in pass-through grants originating with other government agencies.

And, occasionally, a caring local leader secures something extra, like the $100,000 that Councilman Bob Kellar pushed through about a year ago to help the Senior Center weather tough financial times.
It sounds like a lot of money, and it is.

But it’s not enough.

Our Senior Center, its staff and volunteers do fantastic work with the resources they have. The Center provides a wide range of activities, lunches and programs for active seniors, and provides valuable services, such as adult day care, for seniors who rely on caregivers day-to-day.

The Center also provides home-delivered meals for homebound seniors, many of whom otherwise would not have a hot meal to eat each day — and, many of whom would otherwise go through each day without any human interaction. Those meal drivers can literally be a lifeline.

The Senior Center relies heavily on volunteers, particularly those drivers delivering meals. They’re not spending money wildly — in fact, the home-delivered meals program is delivering 480 meals per day on a budget for 400.

That math, of course, isn’t sustainable.

Besides that, the Center faces bigger issues than an 80-meal-per-day operating budget gap. The building itself is over three decades old — and, while they do a lot with what they have, the facility is a far cry from the sort of state-of-the-art senior center one would expect in a community as accomplished and caring as Santa Clarita.

The senior population is growing by the minute. They will need a bigger, better, more modern Center — and soon.

The City of Santa Clarita needs to become a major player in the effort to address that need. However, the city must step carefully. This is not one of those situations where the city can just stomp ashore like a governmental Godzilla and start knocking down buildings and stomping on cars.

No. This situation requires finesse — and, in what always causes dismay to bureaucrats and elected officials alike, sharing of credit. It’ll make them cringe just to think of it.

If the city decides to create its own senior center — an idea that has been discussed at least casually around town — then LA County may opt to withdraw from the senior services game in Santa Clarita, and we don’t want that. We put plenty of tax dollars into LA County, there’s no reason to chase them away.

A better approach: The city — perhaps including some soon-to-be elected council members who are on the campaign trail at this very moment — needs to put its money where the candidates’ mouths are. But it needs to do so in cooperation with the existing Senior Center and with LA County, so as to preserve the county’s long-running support of services for local seniors.

Consider this: A $20 million bond for a new building. (The new library in Old Town Newhall was $35 million.) Plus, a bigger annual commitment of general fund revenue from the city to help shore up the Senior Center’s operating budget.

It will be a challenge for the city. Beyond carving out the money and sorting out all the details of exactly how to make the financing and inter-agency cooperation work, the city would have to go forward with a relatively hands-off approach, preserving a delicate balance that will keep the support flowing from the county Hall of Administration and leaving the day-to-day stuff to the Senior Center’s management and volunteer board of directors.

Can they do it? No doubt they should. The question is, will they? Or is all this talk of better serving our seniors nothing more than election-year blather?

Tammy Messina is a resident of Santa Clarita, a local business owner and a producer for “The Real Side Radio Show.” She can be reached at tmessina@wildcat.la.

 

Comments

Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.

 
 

Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...