I know I’m always going on about wasteful spending but …

I think it’s a shame that the subsidized taxi service for Greenwich seniors is in trouble. It costs the town maybe $10,000 annually and for some older folks with limited budgets, it’s a Godsend. For several years, before a group of us got her into the Mews last fall,  I used to take an older woman from Byram shopping on Fridays. One of our stops was the Senior Center where she would buy a coupon book for these rides. The deal is, or was, she’d pay $5 for a $10 coupon book, with the town contributing $4 and Greenwich Taxi tossing in $1. For my friend, it offered a limited bit of mobility for a modest amount of money.

The town claims they’ve closed the operation over insurance concerns but I smell cost cutting. Which is usually a good thing, but having seen the difference this modest program made in one old lady’s life, I hope we restore it.

Of course, that’s the difficulty of cutting any government spending program, large or small – there’s always going to be some nice folks hurt by the cut. So I’m just as glad to leave this one to the Commission on Aging.

13 Comments

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13 responses to “I know I’m always going on about wasteful spending but …

  1. tokenekebozo

    Ahhh, “insurance concerns”! How predictable.

    The all-purpose, hard to challenge reason for doing something that you don’t want to defend.

    Strike “patriotism”, insert “insurance concerns”, as the new last refuge of the craven scoundrel.

  2. Pierre Bergé, Nom de Plume

    “The economic times that we all are living through have forced us to take account of frivolous niceties. Thank you for your support of our Town government.”

  3. dogwalker

    Yeah, right, has one of the grannies sued . . . or even threatened to sue?

  4. Stump

    This is the problem: Everyone has their favorite program that shouldn’t be cut even though all the others have waste. The advocates for these programs are always louder and more informed about them than those who would cut them, so it becomes very hard to cut anywhere.

    • You’ve hit the nail on the head, Stump. I was once, long ago, an alternative on the RTM Cost Containment Committee and we discovered that for every program we suggested be cut or eliminated, the few advocates of each program were far louder than the general public, which really didn’t much care about a $5,000 saving here, a $50,000 saving there. They would all have added up to a significant total saving but politically, it was impossible, and we gave up. And that’s what I’m engaging in here with the save the taxi ride program. Which I hope I acknowledged in my final paragraph.

      And you know, it really wasn’t all that much trouble for me to set aside two hours, once a week, to take an old lady shopping (a confession never made here before today, by the way – my old boss, when she discovered what I was doing on Fridays, urged me to mention it in my newspaper column “so that people will realize that you’re not such a mean guy” but I wouldn’t stoop so low – I was doing, what – a mitzvah? – whatever the term is, and wasn’t about to tarnish it by seeking personal benefit). Anyway, my point is, those of us who claim compassion for the poor and the elderly could probably step up our efforts without demanding that the less compassionate among us contribute financially.

  5. bc

    If the recent raises for top town management(?) had not been put in place, there would be no problem with this modest program.

  6. A mitzvah is literally a commandment, duty or obligation (think going to your cousins wedding). It also commonly refers to an act of kindness because Judaism teaches that people have a obligation to perform them.

    • Richard – well okay, then, I think I used the term correctly in the latter sense, an act of kindness to a stranger (who became a friend). And there’s an awful lot of Judaism that can, and should, guide us heathens and even Christians.

  7. lowmanonthetotempole

    Hey, uh, idea? Use TAG (WWW.RIDETAG.ORG). This org was put on this earth to move people from place to place cheaply, under a partial town subsidy. Rupert Murdock was the brain child, we should finally thank him.

  8. Chris – you did use the word correctly. I always used it the same way, to connote a selfless good deed. Then I heard a Jewish friend complain that he had to go to a wedding for a family member he couldn’t stand. When I asked him why he had to go, he told me “It’s a mitzvah”. So I asked him to explain the meaning of the word to me, and have always thought it interesting. And I agree, there is much that Judaism teaches that everyone could benefit from.

  9. dogwalker

    lowmanonthetotempole, TAG is great. I discovered them when it became too much to transfer my mobilely challenged mother to and from the car – and a wheel-chair accessible mini-van was a little outside the budget. They can transport her wheel chair and all. I LOVE them!

    The one drawback is that the hours they have available are rather limited. They request that they not be asked for rides on Monday unless it is a genuine necessity. Also, they are involved in transporting some to and from school, the Senior Center and the Adult Day Program early morning and late afternoon. So it is only several hours mid-day that they are available.

    There is also Call-a-Ride, but I think (not positive) that they only do to and from medical appointments.

  10. Riverside Dog Walker

    I actually spend a fair amount of time on the topic of how to best transport seniors as part of my day job.

    There are now several common sense programs with names like Aging in Place and Livable Communities, which have as their objective keeping seniors in their homes, as opposed to institutionalizing them in nursing homes, as long as possible. Not only does this give the senior a higher quality of life, but it is much less expensive for the taxpayers, who in most cases pay for nursing homes through Medicare and Medicaid.

    Sadly, the existing payment models support the nursing home solution, similar to the health care arena where money would best be spent on preventive primary care, rather than emergency room or hospital in-patient status, but changing our system is like turning a battleship. The fact that the de facto losers are well organized with a lot of money makes it a hard fight.

    A crucial component of keeping seniors in their homes is reliable transportation, since many of them don’t and shouldn’t drive. Programs like Transportation Association of Greenwich and Call a Ride are excellent. They are very well run, and are cost effective. In fact, our community would be better served if the people running these programs were on the Greenwich school board, but I digress; that is a topic for a separate post.

    However, these programs are not free. Call A Ride has done a nice job on a shoestring budget which is largely funded by local churches and synagogues and makes use of volunteer drivers. TAG is a much more ambitious program which, at least currently, gets a fair amount of state funding. Bear in mind that providing transportation is a cost intensive business. TAG has to buy vehicles, fuel, and insurance and it has to pay its drivers and dispatchers.

    I long ago started directing my charitable contributions to local 15c(3) organizations, including these two. I fairly quickly eliminated the Silver Shield Association when they spent my contributions on lawyers who sued the town over internal department politics. But I feel contributing to worthy local organizations such as these two transportation providers is much more tangible and useful to the community than sending money to places like the United Way.

    In terms of taxis, they can’t be beat for low cost, on demand transportation. Several towns in Westchester have similar programs to the one in Greenwich, where the town underwrites a good portion of the cost. I fear that all these programs will get caught up in budgetary squeezes in what I think are the inevitable hard times ahead.

    One of the people I work with gives a convincing presentation on how if communities are going to work going forward, it will require a lot of volunteerism, particularly as the population ages. However, everyone is so busy keeping up with day to day life, it is hard to see this happening. Probably especially in Greenwich, which certainly has the means and resources, but maybe not the will.

    • Well Dog Walker, we used to just put Granny on an ice flow on a rising tide and she’d be carried into Old Greenwich. She’d have to cool her heels waitinmng for the tide to ebb for her return ride but it workd pretty well until one day the ice was a little thinner than we expected and ….
      But I suppose global warming’s going to eliminate that option.