Merced mayor wants to discuss funding for youth council

08/19/2014 8:01 PM

08/19/2014 8:02 PM

After hearing about guidelines for a youth council in Merced this week, the mayor asked city staff to draw up plans for a discussion on consistent funding of that advisory board.

Mayor Stan Thurston said he would like to discuss adding a roughly $25,000 expenditure for the youth council to the city’s budget, which could cover expenses related to travel or other efforts. As with any tax dollars to be spent, City Council would have final say over the money.

Thurston said the youth council should take a couple of funded “road trips” during the two-year terms of service. One trip would most likely be to the state Capitol, he said, while the other could be more recreational.

“There should be something more than just hard work that attracts youth to a council,” he said at Monday’s meeting.

The youth council will serve as an intermediary between young people in Merced and the City Council, relaying concerns to officials.

The decision comes two months after tense budget talks in which youth advocates called for more than $400,000 to ramp up services for young people through recreational programs and job-skills training.

Also during the Monday meeting, the council accepted guidelines set by the task force charged with designing the council. The task force, which introduced the guidelines earlier this month, added some duties expected from members of the youth council.

For example, the youth council members will not be expected to attend every Merced City Council meeting but will need to monitor meetings and agendas for items that may affect young people in town.

The young people who served on the task force will transition into the youth council seats. The sitting youth council members will also be in charge of appointing new members when necessary.

Hunter Noble, who was chairman of the task force, said more positions on the council could open if there is enough interest from area youths.

City staff has said all of the youth council meetings will be open to young people in the city but the board will not be held to the requirements of the Brown Act, which guarantees the public’s rights to know about and attend meetings.

The task force has proposed that members of the youth council be 13 to 19 years old, fill out an application and live in Merced. If the applicant is enrolled in school, which is not required, he or she must carry a 2.0 GPA or better.

The youth council will be made up of seven members. Six of them will come from three districts used by the city’s Measure C Committee, which cuts Merced into three parts using Bear Creek and Highway 99 as boundaries. The seventh would be an at-large pick – from anywhere in the city.

The monthly meetings and other duties are expected to take up about eight hours a month, and members will be required to find their own transportation. Members will also be charged with holding assemblies and conducting polls at schools in the city.

Councilman Tony Dossetti said dividing the city into three districts should be sufficient for putting together a diverse group of young people. He also said the youth council could be a good introduction for youths to learn how government works.

Councilman Noah Lor said it is important that the youth council makes an effort to attract members that represent Merced’s diverse ethnic makeup. “Each community has their own needs, in terms of youth needs,” he said.

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