It's a hot topic in cities across America - do you ban the motorized skateboards that sound like unmuffled Harleys and whiz down public streets, or do you regulate them? Or do you just let them be?
Tucson's in-charge adults chose banning. When Marana poses the to-ban-or-not-to-ban question, council member Tim Escobedo said he hopes the town will consult teenagers.
"Before we make the decision they're too noisy and we don't want them, let's get input from the youth," he said.
But where do you find teenage consultants? Try council chambers.
On June 1, Marana swore in its first Marana Teen Advisory Council - a collection of outspoken high school students charged with voicing Marana's teenage perspective.
The teen council, a youthful version of the Marana Town Council, will elect its own mayor, vice-mayor, town manager and town clerk. It will grapple with the concerns of its youthful constituents and may offer input on - among other topics - noisy skateboards.
"We want teens to have a voice in the community," said Escobedo, who helped to form the teen council. "We have a tendency as adults to make decisions for them without taking a step back to look at what they're actually saying."
The formation of Marana's teen council had nothing to do with motorized skateboards. But the raucous vehicles have revealed the value of teenage advisory groups in other cities.
In Peoria, a town council halted its debate about how to regulate the vehicles because one member felt ill equipped to participate in the discussion.
"I abstain and won't go over it again until it goes back to the youth," he said, according to Terri Smith, the town's teen services coordinator. "I don't even know what it's like to ride on a motorized vehicle."
The town's teenage advisors spoke their mind, and Peoria ended up with stricter regulations than the town had been considering.
Marana's teenage advisors will focus much of their attention on their visions for local parks, said council organizer, Mike Brummett, who is teen coordinator for Marana Parks and Recreation.
They may suggest revised rules for a skateboarding park in Continental Ranch that has a history of noisiness, and they may offer input for the design of a future park near the intersection of Silverbell and Cortaro Farm roads.
"Basically the reason we're doing this is so the town can get feedback from teens in an organized way," Brummett said, "rather than have a bunch of kids out there saying, 'I wish this, this, and this' and then it never happening."
Brummett's urge to start a teen council came from attending a state Parks and Recreation conference two years ago. There, he heard people from Mesa and Peoria lecture on their teen councils.
Peoria's teen program began in 1999, after a city council member returned from a National League of Cities conference in Boston, wowed by the spirited teenage leaders he met.
The league is working to establish youth councils across America.
This year, he was discussing his urge with a friend, and Escobedo overheard. He shared the sentiment.
"I noticed we really don't do much for teens," he said. "It had popped in my mind, 'why not come up with something teens can get involved with?'"
Escobedo enlisted the help of a Town Council committee. About 1,600 surveys went out to Marana High School students asking if they wanted to participate in a town council for teenagers.
About 60 said they did.
Their duties, they found out, would include meeting monthly, sitting in on meetings of the town and the Planning and Zoning Commission, and shadowing a city official.
In the end, seven of those 60 chose to make a commitment.
Kate Conway, who was sworn in with her brother Kyle on June 1, said she doesn't know, yet, how she wants to promote teenagers' welfare in Marana - she just knows she does.
"I just like to be involved with everything," she said. "I love planning stuff."
Kortney Smith, another sworn-in teen council member, said she wants to nurture the community's respect for teenagers' opinions.
"I want to have my voice heard and to have other teenagers' voices heard, and to make sure we have a say in what goes on," she said.
Marana's teen council still has two openings for council members, and has room for other students who want to be involved, too.
To qualify for a seat, students must be Marana residents. Other positions - from chief of police to town engineer, can be filled by any high school student in Marana Unified School District.
For more information, call 682-3324.
Marana Teen Council members
- Kate Conway
- Kyle Conway
- Jenny McDaneld
- Michael Marshall
- Ana Maria Santos
- Kortney Smith
- Corey Larriva
All members are students at Marana High School.