Littleton City Council wants to hear from young people. The council approved the convening of the Next Generation Advisory Committee at its Feb. 5 meeting, with plans to recruit millennials to give …
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Littleton City Council wants to hear from young people.
The council approved the convening of the Next Generation Advisory Committee at its Feb. 5 meeting, with plans to recruit millennials to give feedback on local issues as the city ramps up a slate of long-term planning efforts.
The committee will have between seven and 11 members, all between the ages of 17 and 34, according to bylaws approved by council. Members must live, work or go to school in Littleton. The committee must meet at least quarterly, and members are expected to keep up with issues before city council.
The goal is to increase engagement from the millennial set to “build relationships by listening, moving past preconceived notions, and seeking a voice from an often underrepresented demographic,” according to the bylaws.
“This is a good example of when people say government should think and act more like a business,” said City Councilmember Kyle Schlachter, who will serve as council's liaison to the committee. “I think of this as a good business model of market and consumer research. Our business is setting policy for the city. We get information from the majority of our customers, but not all of them.”
At least three of the committee's members will be current Littleton Public Schools students, according to the bylaws. Another should be a current Arapahoe Community College student. Meetings will cover topics like education, employment, housing, the environment and governmental issues. The committee will undergo an evaluation by city council at the end of 2020.
The committee has seen sustained opposition from some longtime city council watchers at recent council meetings, who say the group gives one demographic unfair access and influence with council.
“To me, this is discrimination,” said resident Jeanie Erickson at the Feb. 5 meeting. “We have enough committees and boards in Littleton… Special privileges should not be given because of their age.”
Pam Chadbourne, perhaps council's most regular commenter, said the group is unnecessary because city staff can and should gather useful data around the group's proposed topics.
“It is unfair, and it does harm by giving special access to people who don't have the age or experience of other groups,” Chadbourne said.
Councilmember Carol Fey — who along with councilmember Peggy Cole voted against the creation of the committee — echoed the skepticism of commenters, saying young people are free to address council or respond to city planning efforts just like anyone else.
“So much of the writeup from staff is about trying to get this group to pay attention to this and trying to get them to attend,” Fey said. “It puzzles me why we would work so hard to involve a group that apparently doesn't want to be involved.”
Mayor Debbie Brinkman said the time is right for the committee.
Engaging young people is “becoming a greater challenge, because that portion of the population is growing,” Brinkman said. “I agree anybody can speak to us or send us emails… but over the years that's the group that seldom does reach out.”
Councilmember Pat Driscoll said the group is a good experiment.
“This is a two-year trial period,” Driscoll said. “I'm excited for the younger generation to get involved in the city.”
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