Starting this September, London City Council might have a helping hand when it comes to decision making.
An initiative is currently underway which seeks the help of London’s youth in forming a new committee. The end goal is for the committee to advise councilors on municipal issues.
“It’s kind of a mirror of city council,” said co-coordinator and founder Matt Ross. “They will make policy recommendations to Council, almost in the form of an advisory committee. But in this first year it’ll have to be a delegation.”
During that year, all suggested policy will have to go to city council through another committee, but the London Youth Advisory Council is hoping to take on a more active role soon after.
What’s important for Ross, however, is that these suggestions will be coming from young people, who he says have been unrepresented at the municipal level until recently.
LYAC will consist of 13 elected members between the ages of 15 and 25. They come from both a wide variety of backgrounds and age groups.
Additionally, LYAC will receive one representative from the University Student Council at Western University, Fanshawe Student Union, the London District Catholic School Board and the Thames Valley District School Board.
“I’ve been all over Twitter and Open Media,” said the 23-year-old former Huron University College student. “I’ve blasted it out everywhere so as many youth as possible hear about it.”
Candidates were asked to upload videos to the popular video-sharing website, YouTube, demonstrating why they wished to be a part of the council.
Twenty videos ranging from creative to inspiring were put forward during the campaign period and one recurring theme amongst candidates was that of the importance of youth in the city.
“I think that the youth should have a say in the decisions that are made about this city,” said 24-year-old Jason Kloss. Kloss heard about the initiative from his girlfriend, who thought he would be a good fit for the role.
“We are the future leaders and teachers of this city so we should have a say about what will eventually affect us,” he said.
Kloss has an extensive background in community service but not all candidates have been involved with city issues in the past.
“This is just me getting my feet wet… seeing if politics would be something I’d be interested in,” said Sonja Fernandes, 22. “I honestly have no expectations, none whatsoever.”
Others were more forthcoming about what they wanted to get out of the experience.
“Ever since I was old enough to understand the concept of Canadian government I’ve been telling everyone I know that one day I would be their Prime Minister,” said 16-year-old Mary-Margaret Zinger in her video campaign.
Despite candidates’ reasoning, city officials are thrilled to see city youths taking an active role.
“There’s no doubt that young people have a lot to say, young people need to be engaged in the community, young people need to start to formulate policies and programs that meet their needs,” said Mayor Joe Fontana in a video posted on the initiative’s website.
“I think that’s remarkable. That’s what we need. That’s what we want as a community.”
All twenty candidates will gather on Tuesday, March 6 at 7 pm at the Wolf Performance Hall of the London Public Library where entrants will issue a final speech.
Online voting will then be opened to the public.
Written by Eric Clement. Published in The London Free Press, March 4, 2012.