Some youthful advice for Seattle's new mayor
This school year, some 1,000 local high-school students have been part of an unusual experiment to see if exposure to real-world politics can help young people to become more active and engaged citizens.
As part of the Seattle Student Voices Project, social-studies classes at 15 high schools have spent the fall examining the Seattle mayor's race — the issues, the candidates and the campaigns. Students have pursued various projects, including a forum last month where more than 200 of them turned out to grill Greg Nickels and Mark Sidran on topics ranging from transportation to hip-hop.
Directed by the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement at the University of Washington, the project is an initiative of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, with funding from the Annenberg Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Before the election, students wrote essays offering advice and opinions to Seattle's new mayor. Here are excerpts from a few. The opinions expressed are solely those of the individual students and not those of the sponsoring organizations.
Activities for teens
Both Seattle mayoral candidates said during the campaign that they are interested in improving transportation, public health and safety, the environment and neighborhoods. Neither candidate even acknowledged the need for more teen hangouts. For teens this is a big concern, and because youths are also citizens, the new mayor of Seattle should listen.
Teens feel there is not enough for them to do. After school, on weekends and during the summer, teens have limited choices for activities. There aren't very many dance clubs where teens are allowed. The Boys and Girls Club and after-school programs are primarily for younger children. Teens would like to see more dance clubs, all-ages music clubs, free concerts, and places to just "hang out" — places designed just for them.
Other Seattle residents would benefit from these venues as well. Teens would be less likely to roam the streets creating noise and being disruptive. There would be fewer teens turning to drugs and alcohol for amusement. Parents would feel safe knowing where their teens are. Most of all, if the city government supported more venues and activities, teens would make more friends and have fun!
Ballard High School
I am concerned with the safety of public schools. To prevent school violence and ensure the safety of students and teachers, there should be more security guards to enforce school rules or to check if students possess "dangerous" objects (which could include an extremely sharp pencil). Along with security guards, there should be metal detectors at the entrance of every school to ensure the safety of students and faculty. There should be even more fire and earthquake drills to make sure that the alarms work to test the competence and ability of students to take seriously such dangerous situations.
Schools should enforce strict dress codes or require uniforms. This would help stop gang-banging and teasing of the poor or less fortunate. If all these steps had been taken earlier, the Columbine High School shootings might have been prevented. I hope the new mayor will take a leadership role in enforcing stricter school safety.
Cleveland High School
I can't say I have any personal experience with the police, or with racial profiling, but what I do know doesn't really warm my heart. Racial profiling is an insult. The police, who are supposed to uphold justice and law (and for the most part do), should not make assumptions based on race or color.
Racial profiling is the result of ignorance and bigotry, and should not be tolerated to any degree. Unfortunately, racial profiling is not easily recognized or proven, so how do we deal with it?
I really don't have any good solutions, but I would like to see stricter laws (if any currently exist) and harsher penalties for those who practice it. Enforcing anti-racial profiling laws would do two major things: show people that this behavior is not to be tolerated; and show that the police do not encourage or excuse it.
Nathan Hale High School
Major cities like New York, San Francisco and Portland have experienced success with their different rail systems. A majority of people living in these cities support and enjoy what rail has done for them, and I believe Seattle would do the same if we were given the chance to experience it.
The city of Seattle needs light rail to ease traffic congestion. Express lanes, low bus fares, car pools, and "flex time" for employees are not solving the massive problem of traffic in Seattle. The construction of a light-rail system will not immediately solve the problem either, but in the long run traffic congestion will ultimately decrease if people use the system to its fullest potential.
As years pass by and light-rail fares decrease, Seattle commuters will ultimately save money by not spending so much on gas and other car expenses. With fewer cars on the road, pollution will also decrease, making the ecologists very happy.
The new mayor needs to look at the success light rail has had in other cities and recognize that Seattle has tried almost everything else to solve traffic congestion. We need to give light rail a try.
Kennedy High School