By William E. Kelly
Author’s disclaimer: The sharing of my personal views, opinions and endorsement should not and cannot be construed as those of Gay San Diego or any of its affiliated San Diego Community News Network papers, their owner(s), editors, staff or advertisers.
With 30-plus years of providing family caregiving, more than a decade of study, research, writing and speaking about the significance of the historic aging of our population and the simultaneous impact it has on younger and all generations, my endorsement of Omar Passons for the San Diego County District 4 Board of Supervisor’s seat is not made lightly. This seat is being vacated by terming-out Supervisor Ron Roberts.
On March 13, the United States Census Bureau released an eye-popping, mind-blowing report, “Older People Projected to Outnumber Children for the First Time in U.S. History” declaring, “2030 Marks Important Demographic Milestones for U.S. Population.” The Census Bureau projects a 200 percent increase in the number of people 85 and older between now and 2060, and a steadily shrinking labor force. This all means fewer younger people will be around to support a growing number of the elderly. This disproportionate aging of the population is and will increasingly impact everyone, whatever their age. San Diego County is not immune and is indeed prone to the demographic shifts noted in that report. That said, experts sounded the alarm warning of the deepening threats of this demographic shift for decades. Yet, it has been flying like a stealth bomber under the radar of too many. One might liken it to the alarms being sounded about climate change or Nero’s fiddling while Rome burned. (Source Reference: bit.ly/2qm41Tr)
While there is no shortage of major priority issues facing the residents of San Diego County, it can be argued that the population shift is the most all-encompassing intergenerational and multi-cultural threat to social and economic stability. Specifically, in San Diego County, but also throughout California, the nation and the world. The effects it has and will increasingly have on families, jobs, careers, businesses, health care, education, government, social safety nets, and the overall sense of well-being and happiness is more than significant. It is potentially catastrophic.
It is up to each of us to determine our own priority concerns and draw our own conclusions as to which candidate will best serve our needs. But Passons rose to the top of my list because he exhibited the deepest and broadest awareness, understanding of and personal experience with the challenges faced hourly by children, older adults and those they depend upon. More importantly, Passons’ grasp of the intergenerational and multi-cultural diversity of San Diego County is a breath of fresh air. His views truly embody his “fresh start fresh face” campaign slogan that many agree has been missing from the Board of Supervisors for far too many decades.
From July 2017 and through March of 2018, I reached out to the San Diego County District 4 Board of Supervisor candidates with questions focused on the aging of San Diego County’s population. The intention was to give myself and voters an opportunity to hear and assess the candidates’ awareness, preparedness, ideas and commitment for mitigating the intergenerational and multi-cultural effects this phenomenal shift in demographics portends. The candidates’ replies were published on the front page of the March 2, 16 and 30, 2018 issues of Gay San Diego (available respectively at: bit.ly/2tGWqD9; bit.ly/2pKYJ2J and bit.ly/2GRzl2R)
Passons stated, “The position of County Supervisor is not a ceremonial one. It is too important to simply just insert a career politician. Instead, it requires substantive knowledge and relevant experience about the many issues we face.”
His words stuck with me as did the messages in his informative podcasts describing the important role that the San Diego County Board of Supervisors plays in our lives, his background, concerns, priorities, visions, reasons for running and views on the aging crisis, homelessness, poverty, our children, affordable and accessible housing and services. The very informative series can be heard at: bit.ly/2GMUmiU. Also, Passons’ explained his views, priorities and objectives in an April 6 San Diego Union Tribune article at: bit.ly/2EBGli6.
Omar Passons is a candidate who underscores that our youth are the future and that aging, disability and disadvantage are not exclusive to any political party, ideology, religion, ethnicity, skin color, sex, sexuality or other characteristics of human diversity. He gets that we as a society have kicked the issues and challenges of a shifting population down the road so long that we have run out of road. He acknowledges the inestimable threat to every San Diegan that this demographic shift presents as we strive to maintain the sustainability of the social, political, economic, housing, health care and education systems of San Diego County. He represents the long-standing, grassroots-driven, ordinary-citizen-based, behind-the-scenes issues that most concern me: the rise of a highly dependent aging population and the intertwined needs of our youth.
The April 9 San Diego Union Tribune reported, “The struggle will intensify. We all know — or should — that the United States is an aging society (the 65-and-over population was 12 percent of the total in 2000 and is projected to be 20 percent in 2040). It’s also common knowledge that spending on the elderly, mainly Social Security and Medicare, has squeezed other federal programs, inflated budget deficits and created pressures for higher taxes. What’s less well known is that similar forces now assail states and localities.” (bit.ly/2IJCi5X)
Omar gets it and is right to focus on changing the systems, not merely expanding some singular program. As he declared, “The county must responsibly invest more resources in children, seniors, tackling homelessness, and especially mental health— all of which are properly within the county’s areas of responsibility.” Omar Passons apparently listens to, hears, and is an advocate of, a long-term simmering grassroots movement and demonstrates an understanding of and dedication to the well-being of San Diego County’s shifting and richly diverse and aging population. His “fresh face for a fresh start” mantra resonates with many disenfranchised voters — new ideas and new faces.
Passons is a capable, strong, determined and dedicated grassroots leader. He is a man of conviction, morality, honesty and honor who easily connects with people and the established political systems they have come to depend upon. His life’s journey has taken him from the depths of despair and hopelessness to the pinnacles of success and hopefulness. But I sense that he has not forgotten his roots.
In a comment to an April 4 Union Tribune article by columnist Michael Smolens, Andy Kopp wrote, “Omar Passons is smart, considerate, and genuine. When you consider that the county’s largest department is Health and Human Services, and that the majority of land in the county is under direction of the Board of Supervisors, with a master’s degree in public health and as a land-use attorney, he’s perfectly suited for this role.” That Omar is running as a Democrat is relevant and simultaneously irrelevant. The overriding facts are that his worthiness is respected across the aisle because “he brings real, researched solutions to the table and engages everyone in good faith.” We need someone who can earn the respect of the entire board, while advancing the county’s role and responsiveness in guiding the region. I have no doubt that Omar will be a terrific supervisor representative of all San Diego County residents.
Whatever political, philosophical or religious ideologies guides each of us as the June 5 election day nears, it is our individual responsibility to inform ourselves about the issues and candidates before we vote. As we share our diverse opinions, we celebrate that our differences are born in and nurtured by our democracy, protected by our Constitution and implemented through our legal system. But once election results are certified, it is our mutual obligation to remain watchful and involved as solutions are devised to address the challenges we face.
Voters are urged to attend candidate appearances, call, write and/or contact them and/or their campaign offices and visit their campaign websites to assess which will best represent their priority needs, concerns, views and values. Visit the candidates’ websites at LoriForSupervisor.com, omarpassons.com, kenmalbrough.com, bonnieforsupervisor.com and nathanfletcher.com.
Something to think about. A stable democracy and economy as diverse as ours is hard work. Candidates and voters must be well informed, vigilant and constructively participate in our governing process to make it work. When voters and candidates point accusing fingers at each other, we waste precious time and resources. Arriving at mutually beneficial solutions does not demand total agreement. It requires a willingness to listen to each other to achieve a mutually beneficial understanding. It is only through understanding without the necessity of total agreement that the door to constructive negotiations, collaboration, cooperation and acceptance is achievable, and reasonable compromises are within reach.
— 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.