Youth Council voices frustration

Members upset they were not consulted in decision to create services center

What’s the point of having a Youth Council to advise the Mayor and the Santa Barbara City Council if they don’t even consult us when they make a decision involving teens? That was the question recently voiced by members of the Santa Barbara Youth Council (SBYC) with regard to the City Council’s Nov. 11 decision to turn the former Unity Shoppe building at 1235 Chapala St. into a Youth Services Center that would consolidate the administrative offices of various city departments that serve the youth of the community.

“We don’t have anywhere to go,” said Kevin Spracher, a San Marcos High School junior who serves on both the SBYC and as an intern with the Parks & Recreation Commission, part of the city department where the recommendation for the building use came from.

Despite attending Parks & Recreation Commission meetings, Spracher said he initially learned about the decision when watching the City Council meeting on TV with fellow SBYC members Autry Liggett and Melinda Radsliff. The trio took their concerns directly to the City Council on Nov. 25.

“I’m upset and disappointed,” said Radsliff in her address to the City Council “… it makes me feel like the Youth Council exists to make you feel like you’ve done something for the youth of Santa Barbara. (But you are) just downsizing space. … In no way does (the proposed center) benefit teens or the youth of Santa Barbara,” said the Santa Barbara City College student.

Council members Iya Falcone and Babatunde Folayemi were apologetic to the teens and requested that the item be put back on a City Council agenda for discussion.

At its Dec. 1 meeting, the SBYC voted to hold special work sessions this month to prepare a presentation in favor of opening up a Teen Center for themselves instead of a Youth Services Center for city employees.

This could be the biggest thing we’ve done in years, said Spracher, who has served on the SBYC since 8th grade and was involved in advocating to get the skateboard park built.

“We need to cover this really big at our schools and try to get as many kids as we can there,” said Liggett, a Santa Barbara High School senior who’s served on the Youth Council since he was a 7th grader. “On August 20, 2000 (the youth and the City Council) formed a bond to create the skate park,” said Liggett in his Nov. 25 comments to the City Council. “On Nov. 11 it seemed as if the bond and connection were cut in half … what troubles me most about the decision … is that we were not consulted.”

While Liggett, Radsliff and Spracher were under the impression that Falcone’s request would automatically put the item back on a City Council agenda, according to the City Clerk’s Office, as of Dec. 2 the item had not been placed on an agenda for this month. Calls to the Parks & Recreation Department were referred back to city administration.

Despite the bureaucratic hurdles, expect the Youth Council to make their voices heard at City Hall in the very near future.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on December 4, 2003.

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