Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Virginia’s 17th District debate focuses on seniors and the disabled

Bill Cleaveland and Gwen Mason

Bill Cleaveland and Gwen Mason

Botetourt attorney Bill Cleaveland (R) admitted the health care system needed revision but said that it’s “not practical to just add money.” Roanoke City Councilwoman Gwen Mason (D) pointed to prevention focusing in on smoking habits, infant mortality and obesity.

Jay Warren

Jay Warren

Jay Warren, WSLS anchor and moderator asked both to be specific on health care. Cleaveland came back with allowing insurance companies to compete across state lines and suggesting independent medical credits for individuals to purchase health insurance. Mason suggested additional funding for CHIP (Child Healthcare). Both agreed on solutions that delay nursing home care while allowing seniors to stay in their homes longer. Cleaveland said, “the greatest generation is coming to an end … we should express our gratitude by showing them dignity.”

On local transportation for seniors Cleaveland pointed to the lack of cooperation between localities. In a light jab at Mason a member of city council – Cleaveland said that Valley Metro contracts “prohibit access to health care facilities across a designated line … that’s in control of the city council of course … that issue is not an issue that should be defined by a line.”

Mason countered with a snippet “it’s not just as simple as a bus line … Bill has pointed out a disconnect between the city and the county and the county is not a member of the Greater Roanoke Transportation Authority.” Her solution was better urban planning and making sure there is a sidewalk available for the disabled to be able to get to the bus.

Pressed by Jay Warren Mason said “yes” on tax increases for transportation if Virginian’s safety and the state’s economy were threatened. While Cleaveland on the other hand admitted to Warren that his long term perspective was geared toward offshore drilling revenue to fund transportation. He added that funds received by privatizing ABC stores was another option as Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell has proposed.

Cleaveland echoed the Republican ticket’s mantra of limited government and reducing government spending saying, “cut where it hurts if necessary.”

Web DSC02856Warren asked both candidates if they agreed with Governor Tim Kaine’s budget cuts. Mason praised Kaine saying “he has done a superior job” while Cleaveland said Kaine was “not addressing the issue” and spending cuts “called for serious measures” across the board – specifically duplication of services saying Kaine “didn’t look closely enough.”

On the subject of jobs Cleaveland encouraged the “entrepreneurial spirit” while Mason emphasized that education producing job-ready graduates was a key component.

Both agreed that as a priority the I-81 rest stops should be reopened. Cleaveland stressed safety while Mason said it was “shameful” to the eyes of visitors traveling through Virginia.

Warren asked for specific item(s) that could be cut from the budget. Cleaveland recounted the Northrop Grumman contract that placed a $150 monthly service charge on every state laptop. (Northrop Grumman has a $2.3 billion, 10-year contract with VITA.) Mason responded that tough decisions would have to be made.

Warren asked Cleaveland if he “was a McDonnell Republican?” Cleaveland replied that McDonnell was the best candidate for governor – “I can assure you as a delegate I’m going to be a Bill Cleaveland delegate … if I’m on the other side of Bob McDonnell then that’s the way it is.” Mason said she was proud to support the Democratic candidate for Governor Creigh Deeds.

Both agreed on capping car title loans at 36% interest. Neither had an answer on funding a Housing Trust Fund for lower income seniors. The debate was sponsored by AARP and LOA.

Chris Head and Mike Wray

Chris Head and Mike Wray

After the debate both Chris Head and Mike Wray pontificated on how they would have answered some of the questions. Both Head and Wray were primary candidates with Head coming in a close second behind Bill Cleaveland.

Chris Head owns Home Instead Senior Care on Peters Creek Road in Roanoke County. He had a lot to say about the unnecessary costly regulations associated with his private long-term care facility. One of which is the requirement to have a registered nurse on staff costing in excess of $50,000 a year versus a senior certified nursing assistant at half the cost. The duties performed at Head’s facility involve only “changing patient’s Depends,” said Head and “you don’t need an RN to do that.”

Wray who served on the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors lamented on the health care issue as well while naming off a list of available resources for seniors.

Democrat Linda Wyatt former member of Roanoke City Council chimed in with Head and Wray saying that she served on the Virginia Easy Access Community Integration Advisory Commission or in short 2-1-1 Virginia.

2-1-1 Virginia provides access to both community services and statewide services. By dialing 2-1-1 an individual is directed to the services they need in their particular circumstance. It is a government, nonprofit, community-based agency, and business that provides health and human services to the citizens of Virginia.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Election 2009, Politics, State Politics

Tags: , , , ,

Comments (1)


September 30th, 2009 at 7:22 PM    

I have yet to hear an independent thought from Mr.Cleaveland. He is a nice man, but he is not the creative, independent thinker that we need in these difficult financial times.

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