Here at the Suburbs Alliance, we strive to actively engage a diverse group of citizens in municipal and regional affairs. In 2009, we launched a program called the Millennial Mayors Congress, which is designed to engage a key group of citizens — Millennials. The Congress partners Millennials with experienced leaders, and together they come up with innovative ideas to address issues of regional significance.
While the Millennial Mayors Congress has given some young people a voice in local government, many congress members have found it difficult to truly represent the needs of Millennial citizens in decision making processes. Congress members feel this may be due (at least in part) to the fact that Millennials are underrepresented in local government. For example, Millennials account for 23% of the population in our 22 member cities, but only hold 6% of board and commission seats.
Why are Millennials underrepresented? The Congress believes they care about local issues, like public transportation, walkability and quality K-12 education, and that they want to get involved… but they’re not engaged, in part because many cities are not engaging them. For example, only 7 of the Congress’s 22 member cities post open board and commission positions on their website, and only 3 use social media like Facebook to announce vacant positions.
How can Millennials get involved if they don’t know how?
The Congress has selected the issue of Millennial representation (or underrepresentation) as its next protocol. In the coming months, it will select a regional goal (like a 5% increase in the number of Millennial board, council and commission members), and identify local actions (like the use of social media) to achieve this goal. Check out the Congress’s protocol page to learn more!