Youth Weigh in on 2012 Election

Blog, Various Authors

“A vote is worth more than money”
Edgardo Cervano-Soto

My vote represents me. How I vote informs political power holders and institutions my interpretation of democracy and equity. Although voting is not the only way to engage in politics (I can do this through writing, media and public demonstration), voting is significant because it provides a quantitative value. Voting is democracy at its most basic and accessible, yet also at its most vulnerable to corruptive influences.

This year, Measure N, which places a penny per ounce tax on sugar sweetened beverages sold within Richmond, is receiving a lot of attention, particularly from the American Beverage Association. Although I live in San Pablo, a mere three blocks from Richmond’s city boundary, I cannot vote in Richmond’s election. But Measure N has made me very concerned. While this season’s debate has centered on whether the tax is harmful or helpful to low-income communities of color, what is often ignored by ABA is the recognition that their cash-fueled campaign undermines the value of a vote. With over 2.2 million dollars spent on the campaign against Measure N, the ABA, and its affiliate, Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, is attempting to buy votes. The reckless spending of corporations in Richmond’s politics puts in danger the most basic and accessible right.

I am disappointed by the large number of billboards in Richmond with messages that claim to look out for the working class. I am offended that the rhetoric of equity for poor communities of color is being co-opted by corporations. I am repulsed that a Washington, D.C. firm names their affiliate, the Community Coalition, when “community” is the very word they fail to understand.

I believe that a vote is worth more than money. A vote is worth hundreds of years of struggle; it’s worth millions of steps in marches; it’s worth infinite hours of sacrifice, courage and solitude; and it will not be undermined so easily. That is why I defend my vote, and encourage others to never exchange their vote like currency. It’s worth more than cash.

“We have the chance to prevent deeper cuts to public education”
Zaira Sierra, 21

Youth in public schools around the nation are being let down by the educational system. In K-12 schools, children are being forced to generate good test results because ultimately test scores determine how much funding the school receives. It may not sound that bad, but in order for a school to get a high score, teachers are forced to teach the curriculum the state demands, leaving limited room for extracurricular activities or teaching creativity. That does not develop critical thinkers because children are focusing on one correct answer.

Now, why should that matter? Youth are our next leaders. Education is important for this country. Our system is broken and needs immediate reform, and the way to get reform is to let our voices be heard. I’m sure parents and kids alike would greatly benefit from having an extra hour of physical education, music and art. In order to have those classes, schools need funding.

How is that done? Well, on Nov. 6, we have the chance to prevent deeper budget cuts to public education. It is done through voting. Yes, voting is a special privilege and should be exercised to the fullest extent. This can improve the health of our community by preventing violence, allocating funding for public safety services, helping our economy and making the nation more stable. It pertains to every individual because we are all a part of a larger society.

We all hear how the world of politics is dominated by wealthy, educated white men. But you shouldn’t give up the power to vote simply because you think your vote will never count.

Our country is so diverse and statistics prove the power within the black and Latino vote can alter the election. What can that mean? Maybe we can let our voices be heard and we can make sure Richmond is represented in the upcoming elections.

“Once I heard Ron Dellums’ plan, I was through with politicians”
Sean Shavers, 21

Voting is something I don’t really think about. I just kind of hear the hype. The commercials, the “Why voting is important” speech. But truthfully, I hadn’t considered it important all. Why should I? I was raised in a home where we didn’t vote, the neighbors didn’t vote and a third of the community didn’t vote.

I remember growing up and hearing people say, “My vote doesn’t count,” or, “What I am I voting for? Those politicians aren’t going to help me.” And to a certain extent, I felt like it was true. Politicians weren’t coming to the ‘hood asking us about anything. More than half of the candidates on the ballot, we didn’t even know.

In my freshman year of high school, I went to a press conference for Mayor Ron Dellums. He was talking about the issues facing the community and how dangerous it was on the streets. His solution to this problem was to hire 50 officers to walk the beat. Now I know for a fact that this is not an effective solution. Adding 50 more officers to the payroll will only create friction between citizens and law enforcement. In Oakland, there has always been a racial divide between police and the black community. Folks just don’t trust the police, so crimes go unpunished and cases go unsolved.

Once I heard Ron Dellums’ plan, I was through with politicians, voting and any other political related thing. I felt like he gave little to no thought about the young men dying on our streets. We needed to build a relationship with the officers we already had, not add more inexperienced officers into the battlefield.

Less than two years later, Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. I felt like Obama was a scapegoat, repairing what Bush destroyed.

I never paid any attention to voting on a local or state level because nothing ever seemed to relate to me. Yes, some of the laws would affect me, maybe some propositions, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t informed about what I was voting for. People would post signs, saying, “Vote on this, vote on that,” but even then, I didn’t have enough information to make a decision.

Voting is just something that I’m not interested in. Even though I know folks fought for my right to vote, I feel like I have that same right not to do it.

If voting means putting your trust in people who don’t care about your beliefs, then I don’t want any part of it. I refuse to help a crook climb the ladder of success and trample over others’ ambitions. I’m sorry, voting is just not for me.

“I can’t understand how someone of African descent doesn’t vote”
Todd Spencer, 24

Politics have always been an interest of mine. I see a problem within my community, analyze the situation, then try and figure out a solution. Voting for someone I feel will represent me in this republic is a great way for me to implement what type of direction I would like us to go.

I’ve come across people who think voting is irrelevant. People always complain about the conditions we’re under in this country. How it isn’t fair that their basic needs aren’t being met. I ask people who complain if they’ve ever voted; virtually every person I asked says, “No.”

I can’t understand how someone from African descent doesn’t vote. During the Reconstruction Era, black people in America were able to vote. Then that right was taken away. People have fought and died to be able to vote again.

Women weren’t able to vote until 1920.

I feel as an American it is our patriotic duty to vote. Since I turned 18, I have voted in every election. My immediate family members who are of age to vote do their patriotic duty as well. I’ve pressured my mom, sister, aunt, and grandmother to vote in every election; I get calls from them asking me to go into detail on certain propositions, due to the fact that the proposition details aren’t always clear.

I first started to understand politics by thinking back on what I was taught in school. I began to watch news networks such as CNN and FOX News to try and understand how politics works. Doing this made me start hating Republican reasoning, as well as every other political group that wasn’t Democrat.

Like most people, I registered as a Democrat based on the fact that I live in a Democratic controlled state and my family members are all in that political party. When I took a political science course in 2007, the instructor assigned the class to take a political compass test. After I received my results from the political compass test I realized my viewpoints don’t match up properly with the Democrats. Since that moment, I’ve been reading books and news articles. I’ve watched many political documentaries, and visited the government’s official websites in order to get the understanding of politics I have now. Based on my experience, TV will get you nowhere in understanding politics.

“I can’t vote because of my legal status”
Anonymous, 22
I can’t vote, but if I had the option to vote, I’m not sure if I would. Either way, I would like it to be my choice, instead of having the decision made for me because of my legal status. I live here as well, and the decisions that will be made this November 6th will affect me as much as everyone else. It is frustrating when you feel like you don’t count and decisions are made with or without you. That’s how things are and as much as we wish things were different, they’re not. Who know? Maybe if my situation were different, I would take it more seriously.

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