Youth Local Politics: Antidote for Federal Politics

Aurora posted yesterday about the UTEC youth forum. I want to draw attention to something she mentioned, as it was buried in her post:

…four of the candidates had to respond to a question noting that a high percentage of Lowell youth at UTEC said they had had negative interactions with the police and or felt racially profiled. While Marty Lorrey, Ed Kennedy, John Leahy, and Stacie Hargis all hit good notes about the importance of improving community relationships with the police, none of them said what seemed to me a really obvious and important point: racial profiling is terrible, demoralizing, and not acceptable.

When more than half of a survey group reports that they’ve felt racially profiled by police, I feel a greater response is needed than encouraging the kids to go to neighborhood meetings. This might be a good thing to comment on in the upcoming “listening session” about a new police superintendent with City Manger Lynch at the Lowell Senior Center, 276 Broadway Street, on Thursday, October 24th at 6:00PM.

Candidates on the spot in "Who wants to be a City Councilor?" segment

Candidates on the spot in “Who wants to be a City Councilor?” segment

Otherwise, I think Robert Mills gave a good rundown on the Sun. I just wanted to add that I found the energy and creativity the young folks showed is a nice change from hearing blame tossed around regarding the federal budget. Local youth have been working to bring the right for seventeen-year olds to vote since 2009, which is quite impressive, considering those who were 17 in 2009 may now be 21.

UTEC, for those not in the know, is an organization that does extensive street outreach, peacemaking among gangs, youth workforce development, and alternative education. They also provide an avenue for civic engagement for all people ages 15-24. Everyone congratulated them on their new building, but Vesna Nuon congratulated them specifically for their social efforts, and Derek Mitchell suggested a more formal relationship between UTEC streetworkers and police, having the workers train police. I’ve learned that it’s largely through UTEC’s efforts that youth gang involvement is much, much lower than it was ten years ago.

Speaking of history, I found an article from the Sun ten years ago posted on Geoff Foster’s facebook: Ten years ago, Rita Mercier drew applause by saying, “This election isn’t about us, it’s about you.” At this forum, that same message continued to resonate. She knows how to play the crowd. How many of those kids are still in Lowell? They’d only be a few years younger than me. And they must be a large voting block: There were easily over 100 at the forum a few days ago, far more than other events we’ve attended.

In addition, ten years ago, Rodney Elliott said “he would be in favor of broadening local bus service at night and on weekends.” After ten years, LRTA’s service still is fairly limited, despite a modest increase in hours of operation this year. Mr. Elliott stressed local bus service again at this forum, but this year, transportation didn’t seem to be among the young folks’ priorities.

Final thought: A guy in a Moose costume with annoying Moose sounds works much, much better at keeping time than the bell they use at other forums.

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