Monday, March 06, 2006

City Council Wants Youth Input

High school students will be invited to serve on a new commission that will reward them for attending city board meetings.

As outlined by Councilwoman and former City Council president Linda Carter, students on the Plainfield Youth Commission would receive community service credits for joining decision-makers such as planners and zoners. Although they would not have a vote on city boards, they would gain insight into how government works. The civic participation could produce a group of young, informed citizens willing to be the next generation of appointees on important boards and commissions, officials said.

The students would have to have parental permission, file a timely application, and commit to spend at least two hours per month as liaisons to city boards. Applicants must be city residents. No more than two could serve on any given board nor could a student liaison serve more than three one-year terms.

Outside Plainfield Public Library Monday (March 6, 2006), Alisha Reid and Jade Coney looked over a list of boards and commissions and found the concept interesting.

“I think that they should let teenagers have our impact, because it‘s all about the teenagers in 2006,” Reid said. “Teenagers should have a say in what goes on in this community, because it‘s a community for us.”

Coney agreed, and both members of the Plainfield High School Class of 2007 were delighted to see that two schoolmates, Shemika Brooks and Andrew Asare, were on the City Council agenda as honorees for their achievements. The council previously honored Danielle Sterling, Luis Nunez and Kenya Nesbitt. All five students were previously honored by Frontiers International at the 30th Annual Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast on Jan. 16.

Reid did have some reservations about the time commitment involved. Most city meetings last from two to four hours or more, although students need only serve a minimum two hours per month.

On Monday, the council decided to move the ordinance to the March 20 meeting, but also introduced another ordinance on first reading to establish the membership rules.
The commission’s proposed membership has changed in discussions since December.

Originally set at 21 members, it shifted Monday to 15 members. Youth between ages 15 and 19 would comprise 11 members, two appointed by the mayor, one appointee each by seven council members and two from the public at large. Four members from the public at large would be over 21. The commission would have an annual budget of $20,000.

The city has 38 boards and commissions, but not all are active and many lack members. Reid was interested in the Plainfield Cable Television Board, but at present, only three City Council liaisons have been named and other seats are unfilled. Last year, the council approved a Hispanic Affairs Commission, but so far no members have been named.

The city also passed the Civic Responsibility Act in early 2005, creating a means for citizens to learn about vacancies on boards and commissions and how to apply for them. But an application form was not created nor was required information about each board made available last year. The council recently approved numerous appointments without opening the process the way the Civic Responsibility Act envisioned.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: youth, commission


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