Youth Commission faces uncertain future
Santa Ana City Hall chambers. (Daniel Diaz/El Santanero)

The youth commission is facing tough questions after its Council-picked appointees have failed to attend meetings at City Hall.

According to city staff, not enough members have showed up to establish a quorum.

The staff report laid out five options:

Staff Report's Options

  1. Keep Youth Commission as-is. Staff requests that Councilmembers encourage their appointees to attend meetings and remind them that they receive $100.00 per meeting. The Commission is currently missing appointees from Ward 1, Ward 3, and the Mayor (appointment listed separately on agenda for March 19, 2024).
  2. Disband Youth Commission.
  3. Staff-run Youth Advisory Committee. The City of Anaheim was experiencing similar issues with lack of quorum and participation and recently dissolved their Youth Commission and established a Youth Advisory Committee to be appointed and managed by staff, meetings to be held with any number of members present, and not subject to the Brown Act.
  4. Subcommittee for Parks and Recreation with two rotating seats for members of the Youth Subcommittee to attend Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Commission meetings as commissioners.
  5. Create two seats on the Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Commission as done for the two Senior representatives. Youth would submit applications to the City Clerk and staff would select from the applicants for approval by the City Council.

Councilmember Lopez, who has not yet filled in her seat for the youth commission, suggested the Council vacate all seats and appoint new members.

Parks and Recreations Director Hawk Scott recommended to dissolve the commission and bring the youth reps under their department as done with seniors.

Councilmember Vazquez agreed with Lopez but offered to create an informal advisory committee that allows students from local school to attend a meeting or have staff meet with students at their school to resolve any concerns of transportation.

Mayor Pro Temp Phan was also concerned about transportation for commission members but opted to keep the commission as is and later incorporate new ideas for the group.

While some agreed, Councilmember Bacerra did not. He acknowledged that there could be some reasons behind the appointees not being able to attend meetings, claiming his representative is always showing up because he is good at selecting candidates.

Councilmember Penaloza agreed with Lopez as well.

Mayor Amezcua’s representative, although sworn in recently, also failed to respond to meeting requests.

The Council voted 7-0 to accept the staff report and decide later what to do with the commission if attendance remains flatlined.

A former member of the youth commission visions a different approach.

Mia Verdin was Councilmember Lopez’s appointee from 2021 until 2023.

“I believe that dissolving it and restructuring it in a more informal and advisory capacity would encourage participation from young people,” said Verdin. “Having bureaucratic barriers feels unnecessary when you’re trying to give a platform to the youth of the city.“

The commissions’ appointees usually favor those with aspirations to attend college and obtain degrees in higher education, but Verdin says it attracts students thinking of their résumés and college options meaning they are often the most busiest students in the city.

“Another large problem is that there’s no proper training for commissioners to navigate a bureaucratic space such as a commission. When I was first appointed, I had no idea was a “quorum” or “motion” was. These spaces and platforms must be restructured to be more accessible to young people or if we insist on keeping things as they are, there must be more support provided for the individuals involved.”

Verdin believes the advisory capacity should be emphasized when discussing the future of the commission.

While there are many students in the city that are self-driven and wanting to help their community, finding, keeping and maintaining communication with an appointee should be priority number one.

Currently, youth commissioners get paid $100 each time they attend a meeting, an incentive for keeping appointees on the commission.