Our elected officials must stop bickering among themselves and get down to the business of investing in Merced’s future – its youth. We are worth the investment.
At town hall meetings and other sessions since February, hundreds of Merced residents have repeatedly made it clear that the city’s Youth Council merits attention and investment. At Monday’s City Council meeting Councilmen Mike Murphy, Josh Pedrozo, Kevin Blake,Tony Dossetti and Mike Belluomini all supported an advisory vote to ignore the calls for increased support for the Youth Council.
The advisory vote to allocate only $13,500 to support the Youth Council demonstrated something very important. The issue is not that youthslack a voice, it is that too often youths are silenced.
We were silenced again Monday night. The budget “deliberations” are contrived. Drama played out with decisions reached prior to the meetings without real public discourse. Young adults like me pay the price as council members posture for power rather than demonstrate leadership. It is surreal to witness the unhealthy voting blocs, grudges and other negative dynamics among the council members that impede them from doing what’s right.
When I cast my vote for Merced mayor and the City Council in November, I will use their votes on the city budget to determine the good guys from the bad.
Pedrozo and Blake fearmongered and warned of an imminent recession. Both chose to ignore the economic growth that is coming, and City Manager Steve Carrigan is counting on tax revenue, as UC Merced grows from 6,800 students to over 10,000 in the next four years. That will make our already young city even younger.
The Youth Council provides a real opportunity for Merced’s young people to have a genuine voice, to share ideas, partner with the city and be the catalyst for solutions. A healthy Youth Council will improve how the city does business. It can be energetic and forward-thinking in looking at opportunities for jobs, the economy and quality-of-life issues.
The Youth Council isn’t simply a training ground for seven young people; it is an opportunity to give all of Merced’s young people a genuine voice that can be heard through Youth Council representatives. It prepares young people to inherit the city, to forge change and innovation. It makes sense to invest in such a vehicle to drive us forward.
Programs come and go, but young people are a constant. Our city’s commitment to its youths can’t be subject to market rates. The commitment needs to be solid, steady and unwavering.
The Youth Council is a modest investment with high returns, and will enhance how the city does its business. A well-supported Youth Council will ensure that youths are at the table; it’s recognition that youths matter. An investment in the Youth Council indicates that young people are a priority in our city.
Merced cannot disregard the value of developing its young people, given the fact that we make up 45 percent of the city’s population. Meanwhile, more than 13 percent of all Merced’s youths are neither in school nor working. This is twice the state rate.
We can cross the finish line together. We can provide a platform for youth inclusion and allow young people to interact effectively with the City Council on issues of importance.
Israel Alonso is a second-year English major at UC Merced