The city of Golden Valley is moving forward with a proposal to create a teen commission that would advise the City Council on teenagers' issues and perspectives.
Teens currently have no say in local government, something that needs to change, said Andrew Urevig, 18, of Golden Valley. A senior at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School in Plymouth, Urevig is part of a group of young people helping to create the commission.
The idea came largely from Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris. Teenagers' lack of a voice and options in government was a concern that parents voiced to Harris when he was running for office, he said. Addressing that gap became a personal goal, he said.
"They will be our leaders in our future," Harris said.
Urevig was completing a mentorship with Harris last year when the idea for the commission was discussed.
"We spoke about different projects we could work on, and we settled pretty quickly on this commission," Urevig said.
Harris said there's support from the City Council to move forward with the idea.
The commission is still in the planning stages, but Harris said he hopes it will be formed and active by the end of the school year. Guidelines will be created next month, with word going out to area schools to recruit student members soon after, Harris said.
Exactly what roles the commission will have are not yet defined. The council wants it to be advisory, but there are also opportunities to lead community service projects, Harris said. The council does not want to be overly prescriptive, and Harris said he wants to allow creativity on the part of the teens.
One role the commission may play is in making decisions about teen space in a potential new community center in Golden Valley.
"We want the teens to be engaged in that conversation," Harris said. A recent survey found that Golden Valley residents expressed a need for a place to gather in the community.
Harris said the city would like to know what would make a space for teens attractive.
Golden Valley's teen commission would not be the first in the Twin Cities area. Minneapolis and St. Paul have versions of a teen council. The Minneapolis Youth Congress exists to advise the city of Minneapolis, Minneapolis public schools, Hennepin County and other entities on issues and policies relevant to youths, its website said. That group is made up of 55 members in eighth through 12th grades.
The St. Paul Youth Commission, which was created in 2006, has 22 members in ninth through 12th grades. Its biggest accomplishments are the creation of an after-school arts program for teens and a stronger youth bus culture created in conjunction with Metro Transit, said Megan Mueller, coordinator of the St. Paul Youth Commission.
The St. Paul Youth Commission takes up its own issues, but also talks to the city as things come up.
"We definitely advise the city on what we think they need to care about," Mueller said.
Harris said he expects the Golden Valley group to include nine to 13 members.
A cost to the city could come into play, depending on what activities the commission pursues, Harris said. Such funds would come from the general fund budget, he said.
Urevig said the group of teens will develop a proposal to bring to the City Council that will include what the commission would look like.
"I would like to see the teen commission make some substantive impact on local policy or at least make a teen perspective heard," Urevig said.
Said Harris: "Rather than waiting for [teenagers] to walk through the doors of City Hall, [we should] step out to them."
Danielle Dullinger is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.