Senior citizens asked the mayor about the city’s social services as they sipped on snow cones Thursday afternoon, the event being one of a series of question-and-answer sessions on Denton’s future that The Vintage hopes to schedule this year.
About 20 residents and several staff members of The Vintage Retirement Community came out for the hour-long session with Mayor Mark Burroughs.
Staff members asked some questions about the city’s future, but residents wanted to know about help for people who are homeless, have developmental disabilities or need transportation.
One resident wanted to know what the city could do about getting better taxi service, since some people who don’t qualify for the Denton County Transportation Authority’s Access bus service for disabled and elderly passengers also live too far from bus stops to make good use of the bus routes.
Burroughs said the city has been too small for cab companies to make money, but the city is growing.
He said he hoped that opportunities came for cab companies with the opening of the A-train stations, “but what cabs need is a consistent business to turn a profit. They count on people needing them for events.”
The rest of the business — people needing a ride across town or because their car broke down — is something that fills in for a cab company.
“But I can renew suggestions to think through ways to generate that business,” Burroughs said.
Two residents asked about services for people who are homeless. The homeless population is growing at a faster rate than the city’s population, Burroughs said, with some people coming to Denton from other cities. Addressing homelessness can be difficult since it often involves other problems, such as mental illness.
In addition to the Salvation Army’s shelter, the city opens some buildings and works with local churches and nonprofits during bad weather to make sure people can come in from the extreme heat or cold, he said.
After an extended pause, Burroughs added there was a “potential for a significant increase in available facilities, but I can’t talk about it.”
Although fighting the spread of West Nile virus has kept many public officials busy in the past few months, no one asked about it until Burroughs asked the crowd whether they had any questions about the epidemic.
One resident wondered why officials weren’t warning people about running their air conditioning, in light of aerial spraying. Burroughs didn’t have an answer, but explained one of the reasons why the city opted out of aerial spraying was because there were no longitudinal studies on the health effects of the pesticide being used.
Daisy Elkins told the mayor she hoped he had something to offer about the problems at Denton State Supported Living Center. Her daughter has been living there for decades, she said. She worried about state budget cuts that would close the center.
“There’s no safety in the community,” Elkins said.
Burroughs told her that sometimes state officials go to Austin and they become disconnected from the problems they are solving.
“That’s what government is for — to protect the people — it’s a pretty fundamental part of what we are supposed to be doing,” Burroughs said.
When budgets are in trouble, then “the temptation is to cut the least able to defend themselves and that’s a political harshness,” he said.
Elected officials who sign pledges not to raise taxes or to cut budgets a set amount abdicate their responsibility to represent their constituents, Burroughs said.
And those who ask for those pledges are “putting pressure on people to stop thinking,” Burroughs said, adding “that just my personal observation.”
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .