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Standing Tall

Mayan Rotnes Cohen, 17, a senior at the Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, holds a sign in September outside of the Flagstaff City Hall as a part of the climate change walkout held across the world.

Flagstaff’s youth may have a larger say in the direction of the city after the Flagstaff City Council discussed the creation of a city youth council this past week.

Councilmember Austin Aslan said he believed such a group could be valuable to the city in not only encouraging future leaders of Flagstaff but also providing the city council with input on matters of policy.

And Aslan said if the council goes down that path, the city needs to take it as seriously as any other city commission.

“[The council needs to ensure] that we’re providing youth with meaningful opportunities to show leadership in the city of Flagstaff so this isn’t a token organization where we're just giving them something to do,” Aslan said. “It’s not a camp experience. I would like to see them have the opportunity to bring to us meaningful perspectives.”

City Management Analyst Jack Fitchett said the commission could be staffed by eight to 10 high school students from all of the high schools in Flagstaff, including those charter schools that are unaffiliated with the Flagstaff Unified School District.

Fitchett said the city had a youth advisory group in the past that operated from 1991 to 2010, but it was disbanded, seemingly because not enough members attended for the group to have a quorum.

One solution to that issue this time could be to set up the group in a way that was distinct from the official city commission system, Fitchett said.

But Councilmember Charlie Odegaard, who had first brought up the possibility of creating a new city youth group, said he thought there was a real appetite from Flagstaff youth to be more involved in the running of the city.

“I just don’t think we’re going to have any problem finding youth wanting to participate in this,” Odegaard said. “The mayor and I were down at the state capital this past year and there was like 20-some kids from [Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy] that were just there to talk about governance, so the interest is there.”

Vice-mayor Adam Shimoni agreed and said he did not think they would have any problem with attendance if the work given to a possible commission was important and meaningful and if the members were getting value out of the experience.

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Mayor Coral Evans said she also wants to make sure that the youth commission is made up of a diverse group of high-schoolers, not just those who may already be hyper involved in extracurricular groups or come from the same background.

Additionally, Council directed staff that any group would need to be set up in a way as to not compete with existing youth groups that are doing work in Flagstaff such as Coconino Anti-Tobacco Students or the Boys and Girls Club of Flagstaff.

Although Flagstaff’s youth commission was disbanded a decade ago, Fitchett said several cities around the state continue to operate youth advisory groups, including Phoenix, Prescott, Cottonwood and Tempe.

Still, the creation of any new youth advisory group is some ways off and Evans said the city will have to have a work session with other existing youth groups before moving forward.

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Adrian Skabelund can be reached at the office at askabelund@azdailysun.com, by phone at (928) 556-2261 or on Twitter @AdrianSkabelund.

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