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No plan for the future
(Published April 3, 2006)
One thing has become glaringly clear at this early stage in the 2006 mayoral campaign: None of the five candidates who have been anointed as frontrunners has a plan for the future of this city – its young people.
Feed them, clothe them, push them out of town to college or lock them up. They are considered a problem to our city leaders, who blather endlessly about low test scores, truancy, teen pregnancy, underage drinking, drug dealing and other youth-related crime.
At a recent mayoral candidates' forum hosted by the Ward 5 Democrats, the focus on "public safety and youth services" continued this community's unfortunate, negative attitude toward its young people. The "context of the forum," was set by an "expert panel" from the Metropolitan Police Department, the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services and the Department of Parks and Recreation's Roving Leaders Program. Few young people were among the civic-minded crowd of approximately 300 who attended.
When the five invited candidates were asked to state their vision for the future of a junior high school student growing up today in the District of Columbia who wants to remain here, all of them dodged the question posed by The Common Denominator's editor and publisher, Kathryn Sinzinger. Later during the forum, Sinzinger asked the three D.C. City Council members who are running for mayor – Chairman Linda Cropp, Ward 4 Councilman Adrian Fenty and Ward 5 Councilman Vincent Orange – what they had done personally since becoming elected leaders to bring the District's young people into the local political culture as active citizens. They talked about legislation and the city budget in response.
All five of the candidates – including lobbyist Michael Brown and former Verizon executive Marie Johns – dished up tired platitudes and buzzwords throughout the almost three-hour event. Among them was this jewel from former junior high school guidance counselor Cropp, regarding young people: "You can talk, but they don't always hear you."
That's precisely why city leaders need to do more than talk.
The District's public policy should be focused on creating a city in which its residents can put down roots in their hometown. Where are the opportunities for this city's young people? Where is the vocational training? Where are the entry-level jobs? Where is the political mentoring? Where are the starter homes? Why must the District's young people leave their hometown to succeed?
It says a lot – and none of it good – about a community's quality of life when city leaders continually show young people the door. These same leaders incessantly fret about attracting more residents and wonder why population estimates show a decline.
Why would anyone in their right mind want to relocate to raise a family in a community that doesn't care about its young people?
Copyright 2006 The Common Denominator