Teenagers from Findlay's Youth Task Force discuss issues that concern them with Jeanne Rustic, the community solutions director at United Way of Hancock County.
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FINDLAY - Lee Kindig knows that as a teenager, he "can't really change things" in his hometown, but the Findlay High School freshman can make sure his opinions are heard.
He and nearly two dozen other Findlay youths have volunteered to serve on first-term Mayor Tony Iriti's new teen advisory council.
Last spring, the mayor invited Findlay High School students to join the council in an attempt to find out what they would like to see in their community and to get them to weigh in on issues that affect them.
"This is just something to help us as a city and me in particular as mayor to really kind of understand what's going through kids' heads," Mr. Iriti said.
Michael Crofts, a junior, said he thinks the mayor is sincere.
"I think he will take us seriously," Michael said. "I know it's important to Mayor Iriti that our opinions be taken into account."
The teen council's latest assignment was to take a look at Findlay's 9-year-old curfew law, which requires children 15 and under to be in by 8:30 p.m. during the school year and 10 p.m. on weekends and summer nights. Children 16 or 17 must be in by 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday year-round.
A spirited debate evolved as the mix of boys and girls, honor students, athletes, cheerleaders, and others chimed in on the issue.
"The paper said curfew arrests are up but the crime rate hasn't gone down," said junior Christina DeArment. "Obviously, it's not really doing anything."
Kelly Havens said she thinks the curfew is a good idea, though it ought to be a little later.
"With a curfew you can't get mad at your parents. You can't say, 'Why do I have to be in?' It's the law," she said.
Sophomore Lindsay Brown said she thinks having a city-wide curfew is "kind of like racial profiling for children." If police suspect illegal activity, she said,
they ought to stop and question them rather than hide behind a curfew law.
As the discussion heated up, various students brought up different circumstances under which a curfew is not appropriate. Why can't I go out for a walk after 10 p.m.? Why can't I ride my bike after 8:30 p.m.?
Jeanne Rustic, community solutions director for United Way of Hancock County, moderated the meeting.
She pointed out how difficult it is to make a one-size-fits-all law - a challenge often facing city councils.
Mayor Iriti said he plans to take as many of the teen advisory group's ideas to city council as he can.
"It comes up all the time no matter where it is - Toledo, Columbus, or California - people say there is nothing for kids to do in this town," the mayor said.
"I think part of the problem is we adults sit around and try to figure out what there should be for kids to do."
Councilman Randy Ward, who is principal at Glenwood Middle School, said he believes the mayor will take kids seriously.
"I hope he does use it purposely to listen to them and see how some of their ideas can tie into some of future plans of what we're working on," Mr. Ward said.
"He has a true interest in kids, and I think he knows what I know from working with kids: If you listen to them, sometimes they're a little outlandish, but sometimes they have good ideas."
The mayor said he hopes eventually to see the teen council evolve into a mini city council with regular meetings where youth from across the city can come in and speak to the group.
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