Line of youth snaking through City Hall
  • Line of youth snaking through City Hall

Roughly 300 youth flooded City Hall yesterday to attend Mayor Mike McGinn's Youth Summit, the sixth public meeting of the highly popular Youth and Families Initiative designed to get residents talking about city-wide problems affecting youth and families. The event kicked off with spoken word by Blue Scholars Emcee Geologic, "dedicated to anyone who's ever taken the 48" bus. Then the mayor asked the room a simple question to the youth in the room, "why are things the way they are and how can we change them?"

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The concerns youth raised weren't new, but their priorities were different than those raised by adults in the five previous public forums. Instead of focusing on youth jobs and affordable housing, youth were more concerned with creating safe spaces in which they could be themselves.

"I just want a place in my neighborhood I can hang out," said one student. "It feels like if you're hanging out with your friends you have to be on the move all the time or else somebody will hassle you or ask you to buy something."

Adults in the room weren't allowed to participate in the groups. They could sit in and listen, but not offer up comment.

Creating more green space was one group's top priority, while others addressed the need for less youth violence, equal education opportunities across both public and private schools, more public events—especially free ones—and better public transit options. Their comments painted a somewhat bleak picture of how Seattle fails to meet the needs of its youth.

"Safety's a big concern for me," said another student, "at school, after school—wherever. I know kids who are picked on by other kids and then those kids are picked on by cops. I'd like my school to be more secure and I'd also like cops to be friendlier and not prejudge me based on where I live."

Delegates from the six public meetings will come together at the Kids and Families Caucus on June 5 at Seattle Center to compile their ideas. The concerns targeted at these city-wide meetings will influence the direction of future city spending.

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