Image via WikipediaOne of the problems with Salem's weird May council election schedule is that it means that city elections are essentially invisible, with very few people are paying any attention at all, except for the real activists who are trying to push one candidate or another.
That general apathy means that nobody asks the candidates any questions that they haven't thought about or answered a hundred times. They get never get change-up questions like "What are the implications of Salem's changing population profile and what policies does it suggest will be required?"
The reality is that all our candidates and politicians are crippled because they have grown up in an era where the expectation was continuous growth -- growth in population, growth in budgets (by at least the amount of inflation), growth in services, growth in paved area .... in a different era, in other words.
The growth expectation has now been overtaken by events, to say the least. In real dollars, budgets are going to shrink, even as service costs increase. Worse, instead of retiring early to find their bliss, as many expected, Baby Boomers are desperately clinging to jobs much longer than expected, often to cling to benefits. This means that young and not-so-young people are having problems getting launched into careers and can't reach adult milestones readily. Not only did the early Boomers enjoy a following breeze throughout their economic earning years, but they are not leaving the stage at anything like the pace needed to reduce un- and underemployment for the generations following them, who are becoming trapped in limbos not solely their own making. And this is all even before we really are forced to come to grips with peak oil, which is going to be most apparent as wild price swings for energy (and energy dependent commodities, which is to say "nearly everything else") masking an overall steadily rising trend in costs, causing an equally steady declining trend in our economic well-being.
To top it off, as the story below suggests, the one slice of population that's really booming is the very old: people who need a lot of care and resources. In demographic terms, it's like having another baby boom, only these babies all get to vote, and they tend to vote for their own interests, period. They don't much care how much seed corn is left when they're through, judging by their demands for tax breaks, fantastic amounts of heroic and costly care at the end of life (subsidized by the feds), and senior discounts at every establishment in town.
It would be nice if some of the candidates had wrestled with these issues a bit rather than just trading in the tired game of "how do we attract jobs." It would be VERY nice if someone in City Hall looked ahead further than the next budget year and gave some thought to how to organize people and money to create jobs so that people here can meet the needs here, rather than trying to chase after distant companies all the time.
. . . But last year for the first time, another type of search crossed into first place here in Virginia, marking a profound demographic shift that public safety officials say will increasingly define the future as the nation ages: wandering, confused dementia patients like Freda Machett.
Ms. Machett, 60, suffers from a form of dementia that attacks the brain like Alzheimer's disease and imposes on many of its victims a restless urge to head out the door. Their journeys, shrouded in a fog of confusion and fragmented memory, are often dangerous and not infrequently fatal. About 6 in 10 dementia victims will wander at least once, health care statistics show, and the numbers are growing worldwide, fueled primarily by Alzheimer's disease, which has no cure and affects about half of all people over 85.
"It started with five words — 'I want to go home' — even though this is her home," said Ms. Machett's husband, John, a retired engineer who now cares for his wife full time near Richmond. She has gone off dozens of times in the four years since receiving her diagnosis, three times requiring a police search. "It's a cruel disease," he said.
Rising numbers of searches are driving a need to retrain emergency workers, police officers and volunteers around the country who say they throw out just about every generally accepted idea when hunting for people who are, in many ways, lost from the inside out.. . . Many states do not collect or fully categorize local data on search-and-rescue cases, so it is impossible to gauge the full impact of dementia wandering on law enforcement. But in Oregon, for example, the number of searches for lost male Alzheimer's patients nearly doubled just last year, to 26 from 14 in 2008, and has more than tripled since 2006, according to emergency management officials.