The event, the first of its kind in City history as far as organizers know, and one of the only in the San Gabriel Valley, employed an interactive format that kept all participants engaged and moving!
5:00-5:20 Meet & Greet
5:20-5:25 Welcome, Youth Advocate President Rosa Romero
5:25-6:00 Rotating Tables
6:00-6:15 General Session Popcorn Questions (one question, one candidate),
6:15-6:30 Youth Vote
"Candidate Speed Dating"
Rather than sitting and listening to candidates speak for several hours, as was the norm at the over dozen other forums hosted in the months leading up to the City's most competitive Mayoral election in 16 years, event attendees participated in what we likened to "candidate speed dating."
Each of the 6 Mayoral candidates was given a table. Youth attendees then rotated every 5-7 minutes until they had the opportunity to meet and pose questions to each candidate. This provided Pasadena area youth and young adults aged 12-20 the chance to get to know each of the 6 candidates - Vice Mayor Jacque Robinson, Council Member Terry Tornek, Don Morgan, Allen Shay, Jason Hardin and former Mayor Bill Thomson - in a more casual setting. It also allowed the candidates to directly hear the thoughts, concerns and priorities of young people who live and/or go to school in the City.
Concluding this segment of the event, youth leaders queried the 6 candidates in a general session of popcorn style questions, meaning each candidate was given a new question rather than having each answer the same question. Not only did this keep the candidates on their toes, it allowed for a broader range of youth issues to be touched upon in a short period of time. Questions ranged from what the Mayor/City could do to make streets safer for students moving around town on bikes/skateboards/scooters to how the Mayor/City could reduce drug dealing in City parks and schools. Other questions included:
- Why are you interested in politics?
- What are the problems in Pasadena and what solutions can you offer?
- How can you support highest at risk youth?
- How can the city develop meaningful youth internships, increase teen jobs?
- How would you create safer streets for teens?
- How can we better use empty neighborhood lots for youth?
- It’s really easy for us to get drugs at school (cocaine and weed), what are you going to do about it?
- In NW Pasadena, there are more fast food restaurants than the rest of Pasadena. How can you give NW equal access to high quality, affordable food?
- Fresh- not warmed up school lunches- How can you ensure our school lunches are healthy?
- We need more quality teachers. Teachers have their favorites. We want to be college ready. How can you help out with that?
- Transportation is not safe, overcrowded, overpriced, dirty- how do we improve public transit? Can there be more buses at peak times?
- Can we bring back “free bus rides” for students?
- How will you address human trafficking in Pasadena?
- Many people in Pasadena have to live in crowded houses because rent is too expensive. How will you fix this?
- What will you do to help the environment?
A video of the general session with "popcorn" questions can be viewed on YouTube below.
Following the popcorn questions, each youth in attendance was given the opportunity to complete and submit a written ballot. Perhaps foreshadowing a runoff, the tabulated youth vote was very split, and event resulted in a 3-way tie for 2nd place: 23.2% - Morgan, 19.6% Hardin, 19.6% Robinson, 19.6% Shay, 16.1% Tornek, 1.8% Thomson.
Many thanks to the 6 Mayoral Candidates who took the time to make this event a priority, as well as the many community partners and youth-serving organizations who participated by submitting questions in advance, attending and actively participating. Post-event reviews have been overwhelmingly positive from both sides. Participating youth were informed about the upcoming City election, familiarized with some of the issues and political processed, and were observed actively discussing and debating their favorite candidates and why. The candidates walked away with a better understanding of youth concerns and priorities. We hope this will be the first of many similar events in the coming years across the San Gabriel Valley.