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San Jose seniors, students fight cuts to their services

May 12, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
San Jose, like most cities, is dealing with a serious budget deficit, but on Thursday night the city's most vulnerable residents, senior citizens and students, are demanding that their programs be spared.

San Jose's oldest and youngest gathered to take on city hall. They're hoping that by uniting their voices, they can save their services.

"You guys should have a heart. You aren't having one by one taking away," said San Jose resident Alexander Park.

"Is it okay to treat seniors this way?" said San Jose senior Toni Sansevereno.

Young and old faced off with city leaders. They wore their emotions on their sleeves and held their hearts in their hands.

"Chuck, have a heart," said 68-year-old San Jose resident Mary Ann Guzman.

Guzman goes to the Alma Community Center daily. Because of the proposed cuts, the entire staff there could be laid off. However, that's not all -- the budget for the senior nutrition program could drop from $1.2 million to $550,000. At-risk youth programs currently get $4.3 million; that could be cut in half to $2.2 million. And the Healthy Neighborhoods program, which helps both groups, may drop from $3.5 million to $400,000.

City Councilmember Xavier Campos worries the shrinking pots pits both groups against one another.

"It's a pick and choose and I'm not satisfied with that," said Campos.

Neither were any of the four hundred people at Thursday's meeting.

"It's important for the kids to know they have somewhere to go and someone to talk to," said San Jose resident Alicia Thomas.

"It's impacting families, it's impacting kids, it's impacting programs," said Susie Rivera, the FLY program director.

"I'm desperately worried," said Patricia Gardener from the Silicon Valley Council Of Nonprofits.

Mayor Chuck Reed admits he is too, but said choices have to be made.

"I'm worried about the entire city, seniors, youth. I'm worried about staffing at our police department our fire department. We have threats to public safety," said Reed.

San Jose has a $115 budget deficit. Mayor Reed blames the unions and rising pensions for the shortfall. Fire fighters and police officers are also facing layoffs.

"This is the worst for everybody," said Reed.

The seniors and students will make a similar plea to the county on Tuesday because county dollars are also in jeopardy. Meantime, the San Jose City Council will vote on a final budget June 21.


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