A free breakfast wasn’t the main reason 84 senior citizens packed into Cortlandt Manor’s town hall this morning. They came to listen to live music, learn about different issues facing their age group, and to see their elected official.
New York Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, a Democrat representing the 90th district, hosted this annual senior forum. Galef says the event is meant to discuss issues brought up from the last year. She also allows for discussion of topics that don’t come under her discretion. “I think almost every year I have a discussion about Medicare even though I’m not on a federal level, because it’s so much a part of our lives and changes just keep reoccurring,” Galef said. “This is just food for thought.”
Galef has been in the State Assembly since 1993, and has been a major advocate for seniors. “I think she’s been really effective because for one thing, she wants to hear what her constituents have to say,” said 79-year-old Ilsa Lehmeier of Cortlandt Manor. “That’s more than I can say for some of the others.”
Galef briefly mentioned her legislative accomplishments this year including a tax cap to curtail property taxes and an ethics reform bill to create greater transparency among elected officials. Norman Olsen, 72, of Phillipstown in Continental Village, had a front-row seat at the forum. He wasn’t so much excited about seeing Galef as he was for Michelle LeBlanc, a local jazz singer.
“I almost skipped this, but then I saw [LeBlanc’s] name on the program,” Olsen said. “I’ve caught her before and she’s good.” He left immediately after LeBlanc’s performance along with a few others.
Most seniors, however, stayed to listen to panelists from the American Red Cross, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s regional office, Medicare Rights Center and Hudson Valley Hospital.
Disaster preparedness, identity theft and nutrition were some topics of discussion, but Medicare’s representative got the most buzz with the program being juggled at the national level. “Seniors right now are a little concerned about what is going happen to Social Security and Medicare,” said 78-year-old Theresa Marion of Peekskill who attends the forum every year. “They’ll never do away with them, they just need reform.”
While some of the debated issues usually divide along partisan lines, Galef’s party affiliation didn’t seem to faze many of the seniors. Registered Democrats, unaffiliated voters and even registered Republicans showed up to see whom they all identify as “Sandy.”
Edward D’Anna, 86, of Peekskill was one of the Republicans who says he thinks Galef is a good leader. “She does just about everything right now; there’s not too much I could add to it,” D’Anna said. “She’s very helpful to seniors.”
After a long question-and-answer session with the panelists, Galef ended the three-hour forum with a request to continue the conversation with her. “Always keep in touch with me on your ideas and issues as we go forward.”