Opinion

The importance of transparency

In all the years that I have been working with elders, I always knew when it was important to influence members of our City Council on issues of importance to seniors by inviting them to their meetings. Without their attendance at council meetings, making a difference failed. However, when senior attendance was visible, the City Council was more attentive to their issues.

Regrettably, it wasn’t often that I could get seniors to attend due to evening meeting schedules and the lengths of time they had to wait to be heard. Then there was the futility of a dialogue with the City Council because seniors in attendance claimed they could not hear council members. Their voices did not carry in the chambers. In contrast, watching the meetings on local TV was better for seniors.

Subsequently, the Rye Senior Advocacy Commission shifted its strategy. We targeted a more challenging approach. We asked one of the commission’s most influential members to attend these meetings. This secret weapon was the late Ellen “Sis” D’Angelo. She was not only well known in Rye, but also was unafraid to confront the City Council until she got answers to her questions. She was persuasive whenever she spoke in this public arena because she was an advocate to be reckoned with at council meetings. Why? She not only knew the history and background on most issues, but also was articulate in reminding council members to make correct choices.

After the death of D’Angelo, it was less likely that seniors would attend these meetings to promote their interests. But on Nov. 16, 2016, an exciting episode occurred. Two elderly residents from the Blind Brook apartments attended the City Council meeting, motivated by the intense discussions occurring around the Crown Castle issues. They were motivated to take actions to learn the parameters of the applications by two other telecommunication carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile, which were asking for permission to upgrade their equipment on the rooftops of Blind Brook.

These two women were not there to protest the equipment upgrades. As an alternative, they came to voice their opinions to be assured that the equipment would not harm their individual apartments. They raised in calm voices that they were there to learn more about the installation of the new equipment and that their personal interests would be protected.

As expected, the City Council responded to their issues and assured them that the proper procedures were followed in the applications process by the two companies. In witnessing the interactions at this meeting, I was pleased to observe that these two senior women made a difference in defense of their concerns, and proved that whenever seniors speak at council meetings, their opinions are respected and their voices make a difference in eliciting answers.

Another avenue for assisting our elders is that the Senior Advocacy Commission has invited a number of prestigious speakers to its second annual Senior Summit to share their expertise on related issues to enable our elders and their families to keep current. On Thursday, May 25, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Rye library annex, this event will take effect. We will be joined by an expert elderlaw attorney, Ariel Rosenzveig, who is an associate of E.J. Rosenzveig Attorneys at Law in White Plains; followed by Irma Nimetz, an attorney with the attorney general’s office; Kevin Fennell, a senior associate of Foresters Insurance Company; and our newly appointed public safety commissioner, Michael Corcoran. Their interest is to speak to the matters that are important to the aging process. Refreshments will be available from the Post Road Market during the meeting.

Finally, we will cover introductions of organizations that currently serve elders in different venues; specifically, Sally Rogol, Superintendent of Rye Recreation/Senior Programs; Carolyn Cunningham, to share information related to the Taxi Voucher Program; and Barbara Brunner, president of SPRYE.

Additionally, we have a special guest speaker, Nancy Gould, a veteran for identifying solutions for seniors. Her concentration at our event is to speak on Medicare, the long-term health care program for seniors; as well as the potential hazards it may facing under our current federal government leaders. She is someone you must hear since health care is so important to us all as we age.

Thanks for readiing; and I invite you to share any ideas you feel are important. You can reach us at 643-7813 or by email at gunnerjpm@gmail.com.

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