Archive for Thursday, February 24, 2005

Mayoral candidates unveil initiatives for city’s youths

February 24, 2005

Young people could be stepping up their participation in city government if initiatives being promoted by mayoral candidates take hold.

Mayor Kenneth Bernard and his challenger, City Council member Harland Russell, both are touting plans for bringing young people into the city policy-making arena.

Bernard told council members he had discussed with Lansing Schools Superintendent Randal Bagby the idea of the city sponsoring a youth leadership council composed of high school students; Russell, in a letter to supporters, proposed forming a youth advisory council.

Bernard said he was rekindling an idea he presented in the past, based on a National League of Cities proposal. His idea is for a board of a to-be-determined size to be elected by high school students. The board, in turn, would meet on a regular basis with city staff and council members to discuss issues.

"My thought would be that : we could meet every month or so just to discuss issues that come up from the teenage side of the house or issues that the City Council needs to be aware of, and we could work with them to accomplish those tasks," Bernard said.

The city, he said, has worked with high school students in the past. When City Administrator Mike Smith was chief of police, officers taught a class for seniors. Bernard teaches a city government class for seniors.

Members of a youth leadership council, Bernard said, could bring to light some issues "that in many cases we aren't even aware of."

He said he hoped the program could get under way in the fall.

Russell said his idea to create a youth advisory council came from a desire to get more young people to stay in the community or return after college.

"As Lansing grows, our continued success will be dependent upon our ability to attract doctors, lawyers, engineers, bankers, managers, accountants, architects, mechanics, secretaries and others vital to our success as a community. What better way than to have our own children stay home or return home in these capacities to invest their knowledge in our community," Russell said.

Russell called the legislative level "a natural place to groom our community's future leaders."

He said a youth advisory council could have advised the city on previous issues such as skate parks, micro motorcycles and parks and recreation programs.

Participants in the leadership advisory council, he said, could leave their mark on such events as Lansing Daze and the Fourth of July celebration.

Lansing voters will select between Bernard and Russell during the April 5 election.

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