Pittsfield Youth Commission Deadline Approaching

By Joe DurwinPittsfield Correspondent
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Mayor Daniel Bianchi updates on the City Council earlier this week on the development of a youth commission. Applications for the panel are being accepted through Monday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city of Pittsfield is looking for youth and adult members to join a newly reorganized Youth Commission, which has been dormant for nearly four years.
The deadline for submissions of names is Monday, June 30, and those interested in participating are encouraged to contact Director of Administrative Services Julia Sabourin at jsabourin@pittsfieldch.com or at 413-499-9322.
"The Youth Commission is being put in place to bring the thoughts of young people into decisions, and allow their voices to be heard,"  Mayor Daniel Bianchi told the City Council on Tuesday.
Sabourin told iBerkshires that Mayor Bianchi is "pleased with the diverse pool of applicants" so far, which include 30 interested area residents, youths and some adults.
"Mayor Bianchi envisions a Youth Commission that reflects the diverse opinions and backgrounds of the younger generation in Pittsfield," said Sabourin. "He is hoping that in these last five days before the application time closes, that people of all religious, ethnic and racial backgrounds continue to apply."
The Pittsfield Youth Commission will act in a manner similar to other public boards and committees, in compliance with Open Meeting Laws and other guidelines set forth in both the city code and state law. These include stipulations that the commission must consist of at least three, but no more than 21, members, of which up to seven can be over age 18 with the rest between the ages of 14 and 18.
Similar youth commissions can be found in cities and towns throughout the commonwealth and in other states, and there is also a statewide Youth Council that advises the governor.  
A public youth commission was first proposed in Pittsfield in 1973, but the concept died on the vine under opposition from prominent City Councilor Peter Arlos, before re-emerging in the early 1990s.
Bianchi first voiced the intention to re-establish the commission during his campaign for mayor in 2011, a need that was made even more apparent the following summer. The need for a re-established city Youth Commission was one of the major points identified by local young people at a Youth Summit held in response to a mass disturbance following a 3rd Thursday celebration in 2012.  
The effort gained momentum last year, in large part to research and analysis done by one local high school student, Kylie Mason, who served as an intern at City Hall last summer and has continued to champion the goal since, with support from Senior Center Director and former commission member Vincent Marinaro, Ward 2 City Councilor Kevin Morandi, and others.
Maintaining a youth commission has been an uphill battle for Pittsfield for more than a decade, with one of the key obstacles being a lack of city staff to support and guide the process.
In 2004, the City Council revised the ordinance governing the commission in an attempt to re-invigorate this body, including a proposal from then Mayor James Ruberto for creation of a new "Youth Services Coordinator" position in the city code. This salaried position has never been filled, though between 2007 and 2010 the responsibility was undertaken by a series of AmericaCorp/VISTA interns.  
It is hoped this obstacle can be overcome by the appointment of dynamic individuals as the adult members, who can act in a mentor capacity for its youth members, along with increased liaison involvement from existing City Hall staff.
The public body will include members from other youth groups and youth councils attached to various local nonprofits and youth agencies, in an effort to bring these interests together and create a platform for hearing and advising city government on youth issues. In the past, this commission has also given input on city projects, such as the Pittsfield Common redesign and the Skate Plaza, organized events such as talent shows and open mic nights, and efforts to expand voter registration, among other social issues.
"The commission will act as a collaboration bringing together the youth organizations here in the city of Pittsfield," said Bianchi.
Interested prospective members  are encouraged to submit their name and a brief paragraph about themselves.

Tags: youth commission,   

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