I am proud to call Lewiston my home. I was born in Lewiston, and have spent the best years of my life in our city. My work with the city has been very rewarding, especially my tenure on the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council.

Our city government has given our youth the chance to get involved in city policy, as well as the chance to simply make a difference in the community. I became a member of the LYAC during my sophomore year in high school, when a fellow LYAC member, Tim Stretton, told me I might enjoy working on the council. He was right, and I served three terms as a member, two of those years as chair of the group.

The LYAC is extremely involved in its activities, and has been known for getting the job done. We’ve raised funds to put up an electronic community message board at the entrance to Lewiston High School, campaigned to promote beautification in the city, volunteered at local holiday festivities, and created and filmed “Smashed,” a drunk-driving awareness film which was the brainchild of former member Ashley Morgan. The film was soon approved for driver’s education classes statewide.

Possibly the biggest involvement for most LYAC members, especially for the delegates who went, was Lewiston’s bid in the All-America competition. After a close loss in 2006, with much LYAC involvement, the city reapplied in 2007 and was again accepted as a finalist.

Lewiston sent roughly 15 delegates to the competition in Anaheim, Calif. As luck would have it, I was selected as one of only three LYAC members to go. Lewiston ended up winning in 2007, with a unanimous vote by the judges.

Working with the city, I’ve been able to accomplish a lot, especially for my age. Perceptions of Lewiston have been quite false, and many people don’t acknowledge the city’s progression. People insult the city as if it were a meaningless entity, rather than the  home to tens of thousands. The city is almost revolutionary with its involvement with its young people, and provides many opportunities for young adults to get involved. Joining the LYAC is the best way for local youth to get involved with the city.

I am extremely proud of what the LYAC has done, and what I’ve been able to accomplish. I’ve disagreed, at times, with not only city councilors, but fellow LYAC members; the great thing is all members can speak their minds.

Yet one problem I see is that although the city has been great in giving the LYAC many privileges, adults still have too much say in what the LYAC does.

For example, the committee to choose the youth who serve on the council is comprised of adults only; no youth have a say. Also, the city administrator has the ability to kick any member out of the group, even when a member of the LYAC vocally disagrees with a city policy. No one adult should be able to kick out a LYAC member for any reason.

Youth should sit on the selection committee, and the administrator should not have to authority to boot a member from the LYAC; member expulsion should be left up to the group members themselves, as are other legislative and civic bodies in our country. Also, advisors and the city council liaison to the LYAC should be barred from speaking during LYAC debates and discussions regarding “advisory opinions.”

Advisory opinions are what the LYAC delivers to the Lewiston City Council regarding city policies, and they are most often recommending a change. When I proposed possible advisory opinions to the LYAC during my tenure, the most vocal opponents weren’t always fellow youth members; for my proposed change to the city curfew, our city council liaison even accused me of trying to force others into the idea, while I had spoken previously with others who agreed with me about the proposal.

I feel confident about Lewiston: where it is going, what has been done, what the future will be like. I still see changes to be made, but progress is on the way. Lewiston needs to have at least one member of the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council sit at city council meetings; things may be different with a youth perspective among the councilors.

The Lewiston City Council should immediately do away with the city curfew applying only to youth; the fact it only applies to minors is inherently discriminating. If the curfew remains, it should apply to people of all ages, rather than to the group of Lewiston citizens who don’t even have a say in it.

The city must also lower the age to run for mayor and city council.

This would require a change to the city charter, which would come from a charter commission. That makes it no easy task, but still a necessity for the city. If an 18-year-old can serve on the county commission, shouldn’t they also be able to bring a youth perspective at the city level?

The youth of Lewiston have more say in how the city is run than most other places, yet changes still need to be made.

City officials often say they want to keep our city’s youth; the best way to do so is by making it a good place to grow up, which involves repealing the curfew and having younger representatives on the city council. This is such a great city to live in, but to secure its future, changes must be made for the youth of Lewiston.

Luke D. Jensen was chair of the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council and president of Lewiston High School’s Class of 2009.

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