West Linn community set to stand up, speak out
Next week, West Linn High School students and community members will ask state and local candidates about pressing issues they would like to see addressed.
On Wednesday, Oct. 17, from 7-8:30 p.m. the WLHS Lobby Club — a club where students learn how to impact change using their voices, and have opportunities to lobby Oregon legislators on bills of importance — will host the November Election Candidate Forum in the school's auditorium.
The spotlight will be on State Senate candidates David Poulson and Rob Wagner, House of Representatives candidates Rachel Prusak and Julie Parrish, and West Linn City Council candidates Bill Relyea and Jules Walters. Members of the Lobby Club will ask questions they prepared prior to the forum, and then the public will have an opportunity to ask questions.
"I think other community members and other students at the school should come because it's a great way to learn about these issues in general and what your own candidates think of these issues," said senior Keira Kramer, who will be a moderator at the forum. "It helps voters to know what they can vote for. Not voting is a big problem we have in America because it's not a requirement."
Junior Chris Dunstan, another forum moderator, said members of the Lobby Club met earlier in September to spitball important topics and then narrowed the subjects down. Jones then helped with the phrasing of the questions.
Students decided to ask about gun control and homelessness, among other topics.
"(The homeless crisis) is often a fact that gets neglected — about the degree of the issue," Dunstan said. "Oftentimes it's a very important topic to students, but it's not something they're very cognisant of."
Dunstan said that by hearing the candidates' proposals to tackle the issues people bring up, it will make the West Linn community understand the candidates' positions better.
"This serves a dual purpose — not only as a candidate forum to educate the West Linn community — but also to involve students in politics," Dunstan said. "This is important because in younger generations, there's been a decrease in political efficacy."
Last month, Jones's government class conducted a poll about how students absorb news. Dunstan said the results were not encouraging.
"That's because we're frankly a little unengaged. Very few relied on print media, only a handful read the 'New York Times' and major publications online," he said. "Most people either consume information second-hand or they see it in passing unintentionally, whether it be social media or from political parodies. Oftentimes the information gets disseminated to us through classes." Both Dunstan and Kramer say Jones excels at keeping students up-to-date on current issues in the community, state and beyond. Kramer says her parents often have CNN playing at home, so she receives her news partially from television as well.
"I think it's important we are informed," Kramer said. "An informed society is what makes democracy work."
"Oftentimes people forget they have the power to find out for themselves what's happening," Dunstan added. "I'm really looking forward to seeing what other questions the greater community of West Linn has."