Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Help Me Howard: No Bus
If you want to go to the store right now, you probably get in your car and go, but what if you were old and could only get groceries by taking a shuttle the city provided and now decided to shut down. What can a taxpayer do to fight their own government agency? One thing: call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- The good news, you made it to old age. The bad news, your body is limping along.
Esther Maryanoff: "I have osteoporosis. I have a broken bone in the middle of my spine."
Clara Gianninoto: "I have too many ailments. I try not to think of them because I should be dead 20 years ago."
But Clara and her friend Esther are still enjoying life, living independently in part thanks to this bus.
The 40-seat shuttle is paid for by a special assessment levied on Weston's Bonaventure residents to take elderly people where they need to go.
Clara Gianninoto: "We have to go to the bank, we have to go the drug store, we have to buy food. These are all necessities."
Necessary and possible thanks to the four-day-a-week shuttle, a lifesaver they say.
Esther Maryanoff: "Excellent, excellent, excellent."
But, in a couple of weeks, the bus the city rents will be going, going, gone.
Clara Gianninoto: "They decided not to continue the transportation because of the cost."
"They" are the Weston city commissioners who have decided to put the Kibosh on the bus. Claiming the $88,000 a year it cost to run it is too much for the number of riders it attracts.
Clara Gianninoto: "I cried."
Cried, Clara says, because without the bus, many of her senior friends will have to be sent away.
Esther Maryanoff: "It is not as if we are doing this for enjoyment. We are doing this because we have to live."
Clara Gianninoto: "To keep us out of a nursing home."
Esther Maryanoff: "Right."
Clara and her friends showed up at the commission meeting to explain the importance of the bus.
Senior at meeting: "I beg you to keep this service for us seniors. I am one of them, I am 84 years old and I still keep living."
Commissioners listened but decided this generation of elderly people, who have been paying taxes the longest, would have to lose the bus.
Esther Maryanoff: "I would like to approach all those committeemen and say, how would you like your mothers to be treated like we are treated because we are all senior citizens."
Well, Howard, Weston has voted to ax the bus. Legally, are the senior citizens out of luck?
Howard Finkelstein: Yes, it's up to Weston commissioners to determine what they spend their money on, and if they decide this bus for elderly is not a priority, then legally, they can cut the service."
Weston city officials told us that Bonaventure taxpayers paid $26 each to fund the bus. From a dollars-and-sense standpoint the commissioners thought it made sense to kill it, but what about the elderly people who desperately need the bus? The city manager wrote us, "We do not have any comment."
Howard Finkelstein: "One of the many great things about America, if you don't like what your Weston City Commissioners are doing, remember them on election day and vote them out of office. That's what a democracy is all about."
Clara does not want to move into a nursing home, so she may have to do what she does on days the bus doesn't run.
Clara Gianninoto: "And I'm not ashamed to say so, I put my thumb up and sometimes they give me a lift, but sometimes I feel that they ignore me when driving by. You know, the feeling is very very, you feel humiliated."
Patrick Fraser: "Sad and dangerous. Now, we dug around and found Dade and Broward do have bus service for people who have medical disabilities. Maybe that will work for Clara and Esther. If the seniors don't qualify, the commissioners' decisions may leave them stranded.
Picked up a problem you'd like to drop off? Get on board with us, and we'll drive home your point.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Broward County Transit
Miami-Dade County Transit
Special Transportation Service (STS)