Elderly educated on Amendment One

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 5, 2003

A visit from Irene Collins, Commissioner for the Alabama Department of Senior Services, left Selmian seniors a little more informed, but the impact on the outcome is debatable.

Collins has been touring the state for the past few weeks, discussing Governor Bob Riley’s proposed tax package with area seniors. She’s made a point to &uot;soft-sell&uot; the proposal and said she sought to educate and inform senior voters.

Collins has been touring the state for the last month on what she calls a &uot;whistle stop tour.&uot; The trip has included time spent in Dothan, Decatur, Selma and Mobile, among others.

Seniors as a group can expect the plan to effect them a great deal, according to Camillia Ratcliff, the Area Agency on Aging Director. Ratcliff said if the plan doesn’t pass, the ten county area covered by her organization will face cuts of 10 to 20 percent, beginning with services and possibly ending up closing senior centers.

Of the 7,000 meals served each week in the area, 700 will be cut, eliminating the nutrition program for many homebound seniors, said Ratcliff.

Collins attempted to communicate the situation for the state and the area to a group of about 100 senior citizens assembled at First Presbyterian.

She didn’t ask for a vote, in so many words, but it appeared as if she were endorsing the plan. &uot;September the ninth, I intend to leave a legacy for the state of Alabama, and I’m excited by the opportunity,&uot; said Collins.

The crowd seemed to have sharply divided reactions. Several attendants questioned didn’t believe the presentation swayed them one way or the other.

Some expressed severe sentiments against the plan. Many refused to be named or quoted.

One gentleman took the microphone in an impromptu attack against the plan and its supporters. He left soon after, leaving at least some of his speech unfinished. &uot;I’d better leave before the Gestapo arrests me,&uot; he said. He was among those who wanted to remain nameless.

One woman in attendance said Collins’ presentation didn’t sway her, but she was voting for it anyway. &uot;I want to help out,&uot; said Gloria Waltoe, of Selma.

Collins said the reaction wasn’t surprising but her intent wasn’t necessarily to change minds, just to educate. &uot;I’m not telling them how to vote. I’m just telling them the impact the difference in funding will have on our programs,&uot; she said.

She made a point to explain the accountability programs in the package as well. &uot;It’s not just about taxes, it’s about accountability and reform.&uot;

She ended the program with a reminder about Alabama’s new voter ID law. According to the new law, all voters are required to present ID at the polls. Without identification, they can’t vote. Identification includes a great number of forms, including, but not limited to, driver’s licenses, utility bills and Social Security cards.

She was even pleased with her surprise debate opponent. &uot;This is exactly what we’re trying to do: Get people to think. Each individual is unique and special and that’s their right. Thank God for America.&uot;