Senior Spotlight

Senior Spotlight: Budget Season at City Hall

Advocates rally outside of City Hall on June 18 ahead of the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee meeting. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF MARY HUNT

June is budget negotiation time at City Hall.

Cathy Mulkey Meyer, District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai’s legislative aide, said that the supervisor continues to focus on the priority issues facing the district’s seniors: food security, support for existing senior programs and working with San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to improve senior transportation and pedestrian safety.

“Seventy percent of the homes in our district are owner-occupied, many occupied by seniors,” Mulkey Meyer said. “His priority is making sure seniors have the resources they need to age at home. That means we need to find additional sites for lunch programs and for activities, and we need to make it easier for seniors to get around.”

Jarlene Choy, District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee’s legislative aide, said that the supervisor included requests to continue funding the senior programs currently operating in District 7 through his add-back budget. These include the connectors programs in Miraloma and the Merced Extension Triangle; and the programs in West Portal and Park Merced, and at the Stonestown YMCA.

On June 18, after receiving a draft budget from the mayor, the Budget and Finance Committee of the Board of Supervisors invited comments from the community. After a rally outside City Hall organized by the Budget Justice Coalition, hundreds of San Franciscans trooped upstairs for the opportunity to address the committee. Advocates, who were allowed only one minute each to plead their cases, testified on the need for increased funding for homeless services, rental subsidies for seniors and people with disabilities and food programs. Funds were requested for employment programs for seniors, after-school programs, free summer school at City College of San Francisco and pedestrian safety. After the speaker from the senior community choirs finished speaking, 30 choir members rose and serenaded the supervisors and audience.

While the amount of money that will actually be available for these programs won’t be known for months, the Board of Supervisors plans to send its budget to the mayor on June 27 for consideration. The Mayor and Controller will then review and modify the budget before it is finally approved.
Though District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, made some changes to make the negotiation process more public, budget negotiation remains a work in progress.

Josh Kornbluth, Citizen Brain
Josh Kornbluth, locally respected comic and monologist, recently produced a 10-minute video on empathy. Through a series of fortuitous circumstances, Kornbluth, whose performances many of us have enjoyed at The Marsh on Valencia Street, spent the last year hanging out with brain researchers at UCSF’s Memory and Aging Center. His new video, entitled “The Empathy Circuit,” examines how empathy works in the brain and how, as Kornbluth announces, “it can save the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that can save the world.”

The Empathy Circuit is the first in a series that will examine the intersection of brain science and social justice.

Empathy allows us to imagine what someone else might be feeling and to produce an emotion in response. It is the emotion that enables us to get along with one other. Recent comparative studies contrasting the brains of people with frontal temporal disorder, a form of dementia marked by the lack of empathy, with those of people with healthy brains, led researchers to locate an empathy circuit in the brain.

At the same time brain researchers were locating the empathy circuit, other researchers were surveying the rapid decrease in the empathy quotient in American college students over the past 20 years. In a world that needs more empathy, we have less of it.

But all is not hopeless.

“We can strengthen our empathy circuit by practicing a simple exercise each day,” Kornbluth says. “Try to imagine how others feel, put yourself in their shoes. While you probably won’t be able to guess what the fellow who cuts in front of you in the supermarket line is feeling, the very exercise will increase your empathy and will emanate to others. It all starts with a small leap of imagination.”

The Empathy Circuit is the first of several videos Kornbluth will produce under the Citizen Brain label. You can watch it at Subtitled versions are also available in Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese on YouTube.

Kornbluth will be developing a solo show based on what he learns and experiences at the Center on Memory and Aging. In these improvs, he will begin to share stories from the “Brain Place,” along with his recollections of a loved one who had Alzheimer’s. Kornbluth will be joined by one or more experts from UCSF, who will chart with Josh and answer audience questions.

The shows will be presented at The Marsh, The next performance is Wednesday, July 25 at 7:30 p.m.

Senior Spotlight columnist Judy Goddess can be reached at or (415) 759-1994.

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