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East Lansing City Council forms Youth Commission to engage young residents

East Lansing City Hall building
City of East Lansing

East Lansing is establishing a new commission to help officials meet the needs of the city’s students and young residents.

The city council voted 3-1 Tuesday to establish the Mayor’s Youth Commission. It will include nine members between age 14 and 18 who either live or go to school in East Lansing.

The commission is designed to understand what youth want out of their schools and local government. The group will provide the council with recommendations on meeting young people's needs and increasing their involvement with city government, schools and libraries.

Councilmember Noel Garcia Jr. voted for the measure. He said the commission will give adolescents a platform to make their opinions heard.

“As parents, as citizens of this city, we always think we have great ideas on how to make our schools better," Garcia said. "And who knows better than our youth really, that are there every day, that are in the system, that are learning in those in those facilities in those buildings.”

Garcia also expressed concern about the commission's members being public figures as minors. City Attorney Anthony Chubb said applicants hoping to serve on the youth commission will likely need parental consent to join.

The group will also include seven non-voting adult members to provide the group with guidance and support. Those members will come from various different city departments, including the chief of police, a city councilmember, the city manager and the East Lansing Public Library director.

Councilmember George Brookover voted against forming the commission. He said the ordinance language gave the group a "vague" and "ill-defined" purpose. He also took issue with the ordinance including the non-voting officials, suggesting they would hold excessive influence over the group.

“That doesn't necessarily suggest to me that the individuals who are voting members are going to be free to express their opinions as they might see fit,” Brookover said.

Mayor Ron Bacon said the idea for the commission came from Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg who was absent Tuesday. He framed the commission as key to understanding issues that young people care about, something he's emphasized as a priority at several previous council meetings.

"I think it's definitely time to engage the youth," Bacon said. "We're not really moving in lockstep with their challenges, or even their concerns."

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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