By Stella Heo, Staff Writer
// Posters, flyers, and signs litter the streets of Lafayette, each publicizing different political candidates and measures. Even in front of Acalanes High School, pedestrians, commuters, parents, and students can witness signs for various campaigns. In hopes of getting a parcel tax passed or a seat in office, politicians and even everyday Lafayette citizens are trying to make a positive impression on residents before voting day in March.
Although most students at Acalanes are too young to vote, Barbara Burkhalter, the school librarian, invited all students to an Academy session on Wednesday, Feb. 19, to hear Acalanes Union High School District Governing Board Member Bob Hockett explain what it’s like to run for office, the election process, and the importance of voting.
Although many students thought the discussion would be about the upcoming presidential elections, Hockett focused more on the local level, such as the School Governing Board and the Lafayette City Council.
“It was to try to inform students more about local government because I know there’s been discussion about state issues and national issues, and it was really more about the role of local government, how you can serve a local government, what are some local governments, how you get elected to local government,” Hockett said.
Hockett began the discussion by having students brainstorm how the government affected students’ daily lives. Some students noted street signs, roads, using water, and even following the school’s block schedule.
“We spend so much time talking about national issues and state issues, but there’s a lot of local issues that affect our daily lives. I think people should give as much attention to local government as they do to national or state,” Hockett said.
Hockett encouraged students to get more involved in their local government.
“Now, first of all, just awareness. Know what’s going on. Then, there are various ways to get involved. You can actually go down and speak to the media or support a candidate,” Hockett said. “Having an awareness of issues and things that are important, then talk to your local officials.”
Senior Charlie Keohane is the student representative for all four schools in the district on the District Council. While she can’t directly vote, she can recommend a vote, make motions, and participate in discussions.
“I’m representing all the students in all the districts, so that’s over 5,000 students, so I’m supposed to be a voice for student needs and concerns, especially with student wellness and homework,” Keohane said.
While students didn’t speak up much at first, towards the end of the discussion, students voiced their thoughts more and even listed some changes they wanted the school board and city council to consider.
Hockett and Keohane recommended students to share their opinions at meetings.
“I would just encourage students to come to meetings, and if they’re interested, they can always give a public comment, so if they see something on the agenda that they want to talk about, they can come and give their opinion on that too,” Keohane said.
Even if students and community members aren’t in office, many still have the power to vote. Voting is a powerful method to voice an opinion, and ultimately, it’s up to the voters to decide who will be in office.
“We have a representative democracy, and that means we elect people to represent. I think that’s very important, and I think people need to be aware of state, local, or national issues because ultimately, it’s our decision. If our elected officials aren’t doing a good job, who’s responsible for that? We are. We put them there,” Hockett said. “I think it’s extremely important to be an informed voter so that you know what you’re voting on, you know what the issues are, and you can make good choices.”