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Seniors voice strong concerns

A casual observer at Thursday afternoon’s question-and-answer session with Denton Mayor Mark Burroughs at The Vintage Retirement Community might have concluded that little was accomplished.

We disagree. The seniors raised some interesting points, and we hope the mayor was taking notes.

About 20 residents of the community and several staff members attended the hour-long session, and some asked Burroughs about the city’s social services. In addition to other topics, residents wanted to know about help for people who are homeless, have development disabilities or need transportation.

We’re glad they asked because we think similar questions are on the minds of a lot of people these days.

And unlike questions posed by pesky reporters, concerns voiced by seniors are tough to ignore. The group attending Thursday’s session might have been small, but they represent a large — and growing — segment of the community.

Senior adults may come from a wide range of backgrounds, but share many of the same concerns, and they can speak in a loud voice — especially at the polls.

Some elected officials like to use question-and-answer sessions like this one to promote specific programs or try to put a positive spin on policies or projects. They miss an invaluable opportunity to listen and learn.

We think it’s great that Mayor Burroughs made himself available Thursday afternoon for this meeting. The fact that he did so is a positive sign.

We especially liked his response to a woman who said she hoped he had something to offer about the problems at Denton State Supported Living Center, that she’s worried about state budget cuts.

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.

We’d like to see more of these question-and-answer sessions. We understand that The Vintage hopes to schedule additional meetings, and that’s a good start. Perhaps other senior communities, neighborhood associations and organizations will plan events of their own.

Sure, some issues are beyond the direct control of local officials, but they should always be willing to listen and follow up by sharing local concerns with officials in Austin and Washington.

Like Mayor Burroughs said, we don’t want those folks to become disconnected.