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Iowa City City Council may end Youth Advisory Commission

BY NATE OTJEN | AUGUST 21, 2012 6:30 AM

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While the Youth Advisory Commission may likely come to an end in the near future, city officials say there will still be a place for youth to be involved in city politics and the community.

“The City Council values the engagement of young people and is not in any way, shape, or form trying to squelch the voice of high-school youth,” Mayor Matt Hayek said. “It’s great to have their perspectives when voting on issues in the community.”

The Iowa City City Council will likely vote to pass a resolution to abolish the Iowa City Youth Advisory Commission at today’s meeting. The city staff members are focused on creating an ad-hoc committee, which targets working on specific projects in Iowa City, and they plan to partner with city principals to engage youth in local events.

“We’re not getting rid of it — just restructuring it,” City Councilor Rick Dobyns said.

Dobyns, the liaison for the Youth Advisory Commission, proposed the plan to end the commission.

This would be the first commission to be abolished by the City Council, specifically because it has been difficult to maintain and find volunteers.

“We [the City Council and city government] have struggled for years to attract young people in sufficient numbers for the commission,” Hayek said.

The commission works with Global Village during Summer of the Arts, awards the Youth Empowerment Grant — which funds projects for Iowa City youth to help better the city — and the Youth Recognition Grant, a leadership award for junior-high students.

The Youth Advisory Commission began in 1996; it currently has five members. The panel’s mission is “to promote understanding and awareness of Iowa City among Iowa City youth.”

The commission is supposed to have seven members, all appointed by the City Council with no member older than 18 at the time of applying. The members must be enrolled in an Iowa City high school or an equivalent and all of the members should be residents of Iowa City, with four of them representing Regina, Tate, City and West.

The commission works with Global Village during Summer of the Arts, awards the Youth Empowerment Grant — which funds projects for Iowa City youth to help better the city — and the Youth Recognition Grant, a leadership award for junior high students.

Leah Murray, who had been a member of the Youth Advisory Commission for a year and a half, resigned from the commission because she will be going to college in the upcoming month.

She was surprised to hear that the commission could be abolished and said she would be unhappy to see it go.

“I love the Youth Advisory Commission, and I think it’s a great thing for teens to get involved in,” she said. “It really shows you how the local government operates.”


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