What’s missing in most discussions regarding Keizer is the voice of its youth.
Keizer prides itself as being a great place to raise a family, a good place for kids and teens to grow up. Unfortunately, their voices are rarely heard when the city discusses issues that affect our children. For example, there have been scant few people under the age of 18 who have appeared to testify before the Keizer City Council on issues such as sports fields. The city has a duty to reach out and listen to what Keizer’s youth have to say.
The place to start is to reread the responses from the youth forum segment of 2009’s Keizer Compass Community Vision report.
The youth forum proved that kids are cognizant of their surroundings; they are generally proud of their community and have a sense of pride being Keizerites. Two striking points of the forum was that Keizer youth appreciate the city’s small size and they want to keep it that way; and, they want more opportunities for community service. Those are two points that get lost in the politics of governing and planning.
In the coming discussions of expanding the Urban Growth Boundary, the voice of tomorrow’s leaders should be heard. In the youth forum in 2009, participants stated that it was important to them that Keizer maintain its small town feel; they didn’t want the city to get too big. For them, they get their big city fix from either Salem or Portland.
From the mouth of babes often comes wisdom that is too easy to dismiss. Over the past three decades Keizer has created a city that people want to live in. Many of those young people want to preserve open and green space; they want to see green strategies implemented to ensure enivronmentally-compatible development. They think of growth in termss of vertical rather than horizontal, and they don’t like traffic anymore than their elders.
It is good that many of our youth want to make Keizer their forever home. Having grown up here they will have the emotional connection with the community and want to help maintain its status as one of the most desired addresses to have in the valley.
Our kids have opinions and points of view about our city we should not ignore. The city council has a non-voting seat for a student member, but that’s just one position. Keizer leaders should seriously consider adding a youth seat to city commissions and boards—a youth seat on the Traffic Safety/Bikeways/Pedestrian Committee seems a natural.
It doesn’t have to be the city alone. The youth organizations (KYSA, KYBA, et al) should have youth representatives culled from those high school-age youth who played those sports. A 16-year old’s perspective on a game he/she played when they were 10 years old makes sense.
Our children are our greatest natural resource. Let’s use that resource wisely in government and elsewhere.