At a time when legislators are discussing cuts versus needs in youth programming, Girls' Initiative, a local coalition, has a novel idea: consult the very people who will be affected by these laws--the youth themselves. "It doesn't make sense to implement something, then find out it's not effective," says Annette Klinefelter, director of the organization. "It makes sense to listen to young people." Although bills like HB3878, an abortion parental notification bill, are currently being debated in Salem, rarely are teenage girls consulted for their views.
On March 29th, Girls' Initiative will gather forty or so girls to travel to Salem and lobby state representatives. Although most involved can't vote, they have learned that lobbying is a way to have their opinions heard. "Conditions will not change unless you advocate for yourself," says Klinefelter. Some girls will tell legislators about their anxiety over benchmark testing in public schools, while others will discuss concerns with proposed cuts to Oregon Youth Authority, the juvenile justice commission. Most of the proposed cuts are to programs for low-level offenders, the majority of whom are girls. MICHELLE MILNE
It all began last spring when Secretary of State Bill Bradbury attended a town hall meeting at PCC-Sylvania. A student stood up and asked why people under twenty-one were trusted to vote, but not to hold legislative office in Oregon.
Bradbury was shocked to find out that the minimum age for holding legislative office in Oregon is twenty-one. "If a person is deemed responsible enough to vote," he states, "then they ought to be considered responsible enough to represent other people."
As part of his efforts to get young people more involved in politics, Bradbury introduced House Joint Resolution 16 to lower the minimum age to eighteen--an age currently shared by eighteen other states. If the resolution is passed, it will be referred to the voters for approval at the next regular General Election.
In a last-ditch effort to drum up support, Bradbury will hold a Youth Summit at the capitol at 11 am on April 4th--just hours before it is heard before the Rules and Redistricting Committee. JOSH WOODARD