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Seniors plead with Oakland City Council: No more cuts, not for us

on May 20, 2009

Deficit fears and budget issues continued to plague politicians at Tuesday night’s city council meeting in Oakland, as seniors pleaded to keep their services safe from the proposed cuts.

After a resolution was adopted declaring May 2009 National Older American’s Month, several senior residents took to the microphone, requesting that their funds not be cut and reminding city council members that they, too, were “senior citizens in training.”

One Oakland woman spoke of classes at a local senior center that had already been cut back, calling them “the highlight of the week for older Americans.”  She also talked about the importance of the free meals that senior centers offer, to a population suffering acutely from the economic downturn. “With all of the cut backs,” she concluded, “we really don’t see what there is to celebrate this year.”

In the wake of the mayor’s recently released two-year proposed budget, which revealed an $83-85 million shortfall in the General Purpose Fund, citizens have been concerned about the loss of police, fire and general services, which include senior services and libraries.

The President of United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda county, Andrew Montgomery, implored the city council—most within a decade of becoming seniors themselves—not to impose any more financial pain on seniors. “Please don’t cut our services,” he pleaded. “We’re really hurting.”

Nate Miley, another Oakland resident, said that he understood the difficult task before the council, but asked that they not forget the vulnerable population.  According to U.S. Census data from 2000, more than 10 percent of Oakland’s residents are 65 or older.

Another older man was more forceful.  “I have to stand up here and beg you tonight,” he said in a booming voice as he addressed the council, “why don’t you leave seniors’ money alone?”

Later in the meeting, Oakland City Budget Director Cheryl Taylor addressed the council to recommend adopting legislation, including a resolution authorizing balancing measures to address the projected deficit in the General Purpose Fund.  Many of the reasons behind the large deficit are linked to the economic slow-down this year.  Taylor listed revenue declines in the area of property tax, due to the housing crisis, as well as other taxes due to reduced travel and tourism in Oakland.  Sales tax revenues were also down.


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