Youth shadow Blaine officials
Fifteen local high school students took their civics lessons to the street, or rather to city hall.
On November 28 students in Neil Nix’s advanced placement American Government class paired up with members of Blaine government to get first-hand experience in how a city worked. They also gave something back to the city by preparing a report on how municipal government can better serve local youth.
Student mayor Sam Abrams took up the gavel that evening at Blaine city council and wrangled through a series of public hearings on rate increases, the city budget and utility limitations, leaving mayor John Liebert uncharacteristically silent. “That’s me!” Leibert said as he came to the mayor’s report on the agenda. “There’s nothing more to say besides “Go Borderites” and wear your seat belts,” he ended in his report.
City public works director Steve Banham said that working with him Donald Yung and Matt Gorze had joined in on an hour and a half discussion of the ramifications of a modified determination of non-significance issued by the planning department on the reconstruction of Marine Drive.
“That was a
very exciting time,” he laughed as his student
counterparts rolled their eyes. “Now they’re experts
on the construction impacts of not affecting the birds in the area.”
At the close of the meeting Abrams and student city manager Beth Black presented the students’ report on the strengths and weaknesses of the city when it comes to youth, and where they’d like to see changes.
“People know their neighbors and that’s a good thing,” Abrams said listing the close-knit community as Blaine’s greatest strength, followed by the city’s location, school system and utilities. Black said the lack of activities for young people topped their list of Blaine’s weaknesses. “There’s not a lot to do around here past 8 o’clock,” she said. They also singled out a lack of jail space as a weakness after visiting the city’s public safety facility, she said. “There’s a lot of border crime and not enough space,” she said.
Future challenges for the city will include a growing student population on one end and a growing aging population on the other, students predicted. Abrams said “trying to find a balance between development and maintaining our small town charm,” should be a focus for city government.
In developing strategies to better serve youth Black said young people needed places to gather and things to do, suggesting a movie theater, a bowling alley, or a new community center. She also wanted to see a restaurant open 24-hours brought into the city. “We used to have the Denny’s after football games,” she said. “Now we have nothing.”