As the Republican candidates for Delaware County Council unveiled a plan to establish a Seniors Commission to address the specific needs of that demographic, a Democratic candidate has called the effort "a PR stunt."
The slate of GOP candidates – Thornbury Supervisor Chairman Jim Raith, special needs activist Kelly Colvin of Drexel Hill and non-profit board member Mike Morgan of Newtown Square – announced they want to create a permanent standing Delaware County Seniors Commission to advice county council on issues related to those 65-years-old and above.
"Our seniors are the backbone of this county," Raith said. "Many have raised families here, built businesses here and have retired here. We need a Seniors Commission to understand what issues are impacting their quality of life and how county government can serve them better."
Elaine Schaefer, a Radnor environmental activist who joins fellow Democrats attorney Christine Reuther of Nether Providence and Upper Darby School Board member Dr. Monica Taylor in also vying for the three open council seats, offered her viewpoint.
"Seniors don't need a PR stunt 'commission,'" Schaefer said. "They need the actual services that county government can and should be providing, but under a Republican leadership they do not receive."
The Republicans said the commission will consist of a 15-member board appointed by county council. Board requirements include being a resident of Delaware County and being over 65 years old at the time of their appointment. Two seats will be designated for veterans.
Some county department managers, such as representatives from the County Office of Services for the Aging, will sit on the board ex-officio.
The board is anticipated to meet monthly.
The Republican candidates also said the commission would be staffed by an executive director. They declined to say how much salary that position would pay, explaining how that process would unfold in the commission's creation.
However, their spokesman, Cody Bright, explained that once county council would create the board and appoint the members, they would then organize and propose an operating budget to council for approval.
"By creating a commission specific to seniors, they will have a direct conduit to county council," Morgan said. "We think that is important."
Colvin added, "I'm looking forward to a dialogue with our Seniors Commission to ensure seniors always have a meaningful voice. The best way to lead is to listen."
In her comments, Schaefer said the Democrats can serve seniors better.
"Democrats are committed to actually taking action to provide services like a public health department, which Republicans refused to establish and fund and a county retirement facility that provides first-rate care – as opposed to Fair Acres, which has gone from a 4-star rated facility to a 1-star rated facility under Republican leadership," Schaefer said. "We don't need talk. We need action."
Raith said the establishment of a commission geared solely for seniors' needs is a method of accessibility for this population.
"Our seniors deserve the best," he said. "Our Seniors Commission is a way to make it happen."