SENIOR POWER: Sophie Hahn, fortunately.

Helen Rippier Wheeler
Wednesday March 15, 2017 - 04:53:00 PM

The library -- and by that, everyone knows I’m referring to the Berkeley Public Library system, what used to be our library -- isn't working in the best interests of seniors and Berkeley residents in general.  

The staff knows that books are still removed if they haven't been checked out in 3 years. No human or professional collegial decision on each book if it has lasting value or interest. One of the principles of library collection and selection management included in accredited graduate schools of library-information science curricula is do not discard based solely on how often, or even if, a given title circulates.  

The current BOLT situation reminds me of an invitation that was included in each Senior Power column beginning in June 2012: All candidates for election are welcome to share statements of their accomplishments and plans vis a vis senior citizens and elders.  

And I sent individual invitations to candidates for Berkeley Mayor and City Councilmembers representing districts 2, 3, 5 and 6 in the November 6, 2012 General Municipal Election. 

I received one statement. From Sophie Hahn, candidate for City Council, District 5, running against incumbent Laurie Capitelli. The City Election website indicates that she is currently a Zoning Commissioner, i.e. a member of the Zoning Adjustments Board. She recounts accomplishments and plans relative to the health, housing and transportation of our senior citizens.  

None of the other, thirteen mayoral and councilor candidates provided statements. None, that is. There were acknowledgments of receipt of Senior Power’s invitation email from the offices of candidates Bates, Capitelli, Wengraf, and Worthington. 

What might be concluded from this? Several things, possibly… depending on your reading interests and skills, politics, income, and demographics— mainly age. Is it possible that thirteen candidates consider that they have no accomplishments and plans related to senior citizens’ well-being?  

Of fourteen candidates for Mayor and four Council memberships, there was one clearly concerned with seniors’ health, housing, and transportation. Sophie Hahn wrote

“The diversity among Berkeley’s seniors reflects the diversity of our entire population. There is a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences, of family and economic status. Berkeley needs to ensure that all seniors have adequate housing to meet their changing needs, and services to support them.  

"Much of the housing built in the last few years in Berkeley has targeted our student population. I will work for more housing diversity, with developments appropriate for seniors and for families, close to public transportation and other amenities. Funding for affordable housing has been severely restricted at the State and Federal levels, so it’s up to local communities to find ways to support affordable housing. Council recently rejected an approach to obtaining funding for such housing – without even studying the proposal.  

"As a result of ongoing budget deficits and less funding for AC Transit, fares have gone up and services have been cut. This has a disproportionate impact on seniors who often rely on public transit. I will advocate for increased funding for transit and against cuts that have a negative impact on seniors.  

"Our parks, libraries, pools and other public amenities are important for all, and seniors in particular. I support the refurbishment of Berkeley’s pools, including the warm pool, and believe that with good management they can become profit centers for the City. As a member of the Public Library Foundation Board and Chair of the North Berkeley Committee for the Branch Libraries Campaign, I am actively involved in the refurbishment and expansion of our libraries. I believe a community must provide safe and well maintained parks, recreation facilities and other amenities to support the health – and happiness – of all residents, including seniors."  

Cuts to senior programs in Berkeley, including the closing of the West Berkeley Senior Center, are troubling. Cuts in critical safety net programs at the State Level – in-home supportive services and services that help the disabled – compound the problems seniors face. With tight budgets at the local level as well, the need for good government practices, pro-active, fact-based fiscal management and strategic resource allocation becomes even more important.  

Seniors value good government and good financial management, and want to know that tax dollars are wisely spent. But we cannot balance our budget on the backs of seniors and other vulnerable populations. We need to increase transparency around the city’s financial predicament, clarify our priorities and pull the community together to address our common future.”