Skip to content
CityLab
Government

What If the Teen City Council Is Better Than the Grownup One?

These high schoolers take their local government very seriously.
Quorum for the Takoma Park Youth Council.
Quorum for the Takoma Park Youth Council. Kriston Capps

Brenda Platt gobbled up a lot of the time allocated for the June meeting of the Takoma Park Youth Council. A concerned citizen, Platt is the co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an organization that lobbies local governments to adopt composting, among other environmental pushes. Platt detailed at length her failed efforts to launch a composting pilot through Montgomery County Public Schools, which seven of the council’s eight members attend. For at least half an hour, she outlined her tactical agenda and led the assembly through the Kafkaesque panoply of excuses that Maryland schools had given for shooting down her project.

This was local government at its finest: a council held hostage by one constituent’s exhaustive accounting of all the Byzantine frustrations keeping her vision from becoming reality. It was local leadership at its zenith, too, when Emma Morganstein, 17, vice chairperson for the Takoma Park Youth Council, cut through the crap. “This is an amazing discussion,” she said, “but unfortunately, we have to wrap up.”