By William E. Kelly
With a focus on the aging population, the candidates seeking the County Supervisor seat representing District 4, which will soon be vacated by Ron Roberts — Bonnie Dumanis, Nathan Fletcher, Ken Malbrough, Omar Passons and Lori Saldaña — gave generously of their time over the past eight months to discuss their views, prior-ities, recommendations and qualifications.
In this last of the three-part series, Bonnie Dumanis and Nathan Fletcher share their thoughts as their opponents did in the March 2 and 16 issues, available online here, bit.ly/2tGWqD9, and bit.ly/2pKYJ2J, respectively.
Candidate Bonnie Dumanis
- Opening statement
Former San Diego District Attorney and candidate for County Supervisor Bonnie Dumanis stated that elder abuse remains a serious problem in our county.
“Scams from strangers and undue influence from family and ‘friends’ result in devas-tating financial losses,” Dumanis said. “Families worry about the potential for abuse of their loved ones in assisted living, skilled nursing or those living in their own homes with or without hired help having their needs neglected because of cognitive problems, depression, hoarding behavior or other concerns.”
Dumanis said she views older adults as a “valuable resource” and emphasized that they should be treated with both dignity and respect.
“I recognize the ‘gray tsunami’ upon us and have witnessed the devastation of elder abuse, neglect and financial scams,” she said. “As the primary caregiver for my aging parents, I have seen older adults treated differently and understand they have fewer options. The attention paid to their specific needs and the quality of those options de-pends on the funds available.”
- Dumanis’ supervisor qualifications and commitment to seniors
Dumanis pointed out that as district attorney, she partnered for many years with su-pervisors Dianne Jacob, Greg Cox and Ron Roberts to put seniors first.
“Those efforts significantly beefed up the DA’s elder abuse unit, adding two deputy district attorneys, five investigators, two paralegals and expanding our mission to elder residential facilities to make sure every branch in the county has a dedicated elder abuse attorney,” Dumanis said. “I support the monitoring of those facilities and holding accountable those accused of physical or financial abuse or neglect.
“Living and working in District 4 [Hillcrest, Talmadge, Mid-City, North Park, Golden Hills and Downtown] for 40 years has given me great insight into the needs of the district enabling me to develop relationships with residents and leaders of all ages and backgrounds, law enforcement, businesses and groups that serve our seniors,” Dumanis said, further addressing her experience. “Those and other countywide rela-tionships are resources for the ideas and feedback that gets things done!”
- Dumanis’ commitment to seniors
“My priorities for addressing senior challenges include creating greater awareness about elder abuse and increasing penalties for abusers,” she said. “Monitoring the care provided by assisted and skilled nursing facilities and paid caregivers and fund-ing the DA’s elder abuse team at needed levels is part of that.”
Dumanis said she intends to continue to work with and “encourage” not only the DA’s office but the Sheriff’s Department to “maintain vigilance of crimes impacting older adults” and wants the County to fund the County’s Aging and Independence Services “to expand education of older adults and their families about all forms of el-der abuse, signs of self-neglect and how to alert officials.”
She said she supports “proactive, preventive measures,” like the “Take Me Home Re-gistry,” which helps reunite those with dementia who become lost back with their families, and strengthening Project CARE (Community Action to Reach the Elderly), an all-volunteer program that focuses on supporting older adults who live alone, of-fering them daily phone calls, which also trains service industry personnel — postal employees, utility workers, bank tellers, as well as clergy — to recognize signs of a problem.
“I want the incidences of self-neglect and isolation reduced,” Dumanis said. “I support more neighborhood intergenerational programs and believe they need to be devel-oped and incentivized to encourage community partners to participate, and commu-nity centers, where all ages can interact, need to be promoted.”
As an example, Dumanis suggested a program which would involve youth sharing their technical knowledge with seniors to help them “stay connected” to not only their community, but the resources available to them.
“Many county library branches promote intergenerational programs,” she said. “Per-haps school libraries could also provide a setting for that healthy interaction. Anoth-er example is Broadway Heights, where adults and youth work together on civic pro-jects to benefit their area.”
- Dumanis’ take on affordable housing
Dumanis said the limited number of affordable housing available impacts everyone, and listed this as one of her top priorities.
“Building affordable housing and providing placement assistance is crucial,” she said, adding that bureaucratic delays increasing time and cost, and that the stream-lining of the approval process is needed.
“This is a regional issue and the County must take a leading role in identifying available development sites in all five districts that considers accessibility to librar-ies, community centers, fire stations, hospitals, etc.,” she said. “We must strive for more walkable and self-contained neighborhoods with easier access to grocery stores, transportation, restaurants and businesses. The same is true for any community. … The LBGTQ-affirming housing for older adults in our community needing services and care is an example and funding for such efforts need to be leveraged.”
Dumanis said she favors funding the County’s Choose Well rating system, especially within the LGBT and other marginalized communities, which “have faced life-long unique cultural and societal challenges and discrimination.” (Visit bit.ly/2E39x19 to learn more.)
As the first gay elected judge and district attorney in San Diego, she said she is “very sensitive” to the needs of the community.
“For LGBTQ older adults who may have housing and care needs, but who lack re-sources and/or family support, we should support efforts to make available services and appropriate housing that is LGBTQ-affirming,” she said, adding that the Choose Well program could be of great service in this endeavor by identifying facilities com-mitted to equity when it comes to housing.
“Thanks to the perseverance of citizens like [Bill Kelly] and the heavy lifting done by The Center, Community HousingWorks and others, this work is underway but has a long way to go before the needs are met.”
Finally, Dumanis offered positions on other relative topics, such as access to reliable transportation for seniors, stating that Uber/Lyft are often not an option since sen-iors may not use smart phones, and that 211sandiego.org could be a source; and re-garding food and nutrition, she stressed a need to create awareness and encourage enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Candidate Nathan Fletcher
- Opening statement
Candidate Nathan Fletcher, a US Marine veteran and former state assembly mem-ber, started out by saying that there is a “desperate need” of more year-round mental health facilities, nurses, social workers and childcare providers throughout the coun-ty.
“We must also take real action to tackle the homeless and public health crises,” he said. “I have called on the County to put the $150 million they offered for a Chargers Stadium into an Emergency Action Fund.
“We have much to accomplish in our region, we need to support public safety, protect the environment, create smart growth opportunities in areas that can support it, and ensure that our most vulnerable populations that include children, the elderly and homeless populations are getting quality service that provide them a better quality of life.
Fletcher identified a number of areas he sees as needing attention, including more transit opportunities; housing that includes “wrap-around services”; better support to caregivers; targeted mental health care; more adult protective services; expanding career training; and establishing a partnership between the city and the county re-garding senior centers.
“Maximizing County services and programs can work to support a safe, healthy San Diego,” he said
- Fletcher’s supervisor qualifications and experience
“I’ve dedicated my life to taking on the status quo and making a real difference in people’s lives,” Fletcher said. “I served in the Marines. In the legislature, I passed over 30 laws to reduce carbon emissions, invest in renewable energy, expand healthcare coverage, close corporate tax loopholes, protect homeowners and advocate for kids.”
Nathan says, “I have been a staunch supporter of stronger environmental protection and conservation measures to conserve water, preserve sensitive habitats and ex-pand California’s renewable energy portfolio. I’ve remained active fighting for what I believe in and I: joined the environmental movement in advocating for the statewide plastic bag ban; stood with union janitors in their fight to win a fair contract and de-cent wages; worked hand in hand with labor to help pass the local minimum wage increase; founded a Veterans Foundation to help our returning heroes get the ser-vices and support they need and worked to advance progressive causes and elect pro-gressive Democratic candidates.” Fletcher declared, I’m more ready than ever to put my proven experience to work delivering real results to build a brighter future for all of San Diego.”
- Fletcher’s support of seniors and the ‘most vulnerable’
One of his biggest concerns are the status quo approaches that are “leaving our most vulnerable neighbors” — the sick, elderly and children — at risk.
“For too long, the County has stood by letting people go without vital health re-sources, stepping up to protect our environment, and not fighting for better services for our children and seniors.” Fletcher said. “I will be a critical voice for those who need it most when I come into office.”
Fletcher said the county needs to provide “high quality programing” for its senior residents, “so they can age with dignity and a high quality of life.”
He also addressed the homeless issue, promising to use best practices found in other urban communities around the country, including creative approaches and the “Housing First” initiative; his support of the First 5 program for children; and his commitment to enforcing a strong Climate Action Plan.
“I will ensure that the County leads our region with a comprehensive creative ap-proach to problem solving,” Fletcher said. “We can accomplish this by creating coali-tions with our local partners, academia and nonprofits who work to support San Die-gans. Additionally, my office will have robust constituent services that will support community requests in an expedited matter. I want voters to know that they have an advocate in me and that I will work tirelessly to address their ideas and concerns and lead San Diego in a progressive direction.”
Following the campaigns and reading and hearing public remarks made about the candidates has heightened my awareness of just how much an invasion of privacy it is for a citizen who chooses to campaign for elected office and how grueling and drain-ing it is. It makes me all the more certain that politics is not for the weak and under-scores just some of the reasons, so few choose to run for public office.
But I hope this series has provided voters information that helps them assess their own priorities as they prepare to decide upon their vote for the candidate that best represents their views, priorities and concerns and is most likely to serve them well.
In April I will attempt to make my own personal endorsement and share my reason-ing. Having had the luxury and opportunity to learn about each candidate up close, it is going to be a tough call for me. All five candidates have things to offer us, and each have qualifications and accomplishments and have shared their priorities, ideas and recommendations. Sadly, I can only choose one. But as a dreamer, if I could somehow get them all into a room and lock the door until they came up with steps they can mutually support for the well-being of all San Diego County residents, I would.
Register to vote, study the candidates, make your decision and then vote and get others out to do the same. You can follow the campaigns of Bonnie Dumanis and Na-than Fletcher, respectively, here bonnieforsupervisor.com or nathanfletcher.com.
—Bill Kelly is a longtime local activist who currently focuses on LGBT senior issues and moderates the Caring for our LGBT Seniors in San Diego Facebook page. Access to the group is free to all seniors, their advocates, families, friends and caregivers. Reach Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.