Teens learn how city gov affects them

  • Tue Nov 8th, 2011 6:57pm

By Katie Murdoch Herald writer

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — They may not be old enough to vote or pay property taxes, but about 100 Mountlake Terrace High School teens got a taste for how city budgets and government affect them now – and how as voters they’ll have a say in the decisions that impact them.

City Manager John Caulfield and his staff talked to four classes last month about city finances in their presentation “City Finance 101.” The City Council began their budget talks Nov. 3 and will continue until the end of the month.

The presentation appealed to 16-year-old Sydney White’s political aspirations. The sophomore plans to pursue a career in politics, perhaps a seat on the Mountlake Terrace City Council.

“I was super stoked,” White said.

Caulfield tailored the presentation using examples to relate to the young crowd, including how funds pay for school buses, smooth roads and walkable sidewalks.

“It’s hard to make finance ‘sexy,’” Caulfield said.

He credited his staff for taking dry technical terms and filtering them into a 30-minute lesson showing the teenagers how property taxes are collected and spent, how some city spending is restricted by law and the City Council’s plans for revitalizing Main Street and building a Civic Center.

Students were encouraged to connect with the city through its newsletter and Facebook and Twitter websites.

Unsure of what to expect, Marquis Armstead, 16, left the presentation excited about planned improvements, including creating a downtown and smoothing streets.

“I’ve lived here my whole life and I liked seeing all the things that could be,” Armstead said.

The information also prepares him to make informed decisions in the future, Armstead said.

“That way when you’re out of high school, you’ll know what you’re doing,” he said.

The lesson was coordinated by Nalin Sood, a business technology teacher at the high school. Erika Spellman, school-to-career counselor at the school, promoted the event.

“It took them from being Mountlake Terrace students to Mountlake Terrace residents and involved in daily happenings,” Sood said.