Youths invited to advise Tobin

February 2, 2007
By

JOHN RUCH

Local youths can have insider influence on city politics through a new “advisory board” being formed by City Councilor John Tobin.

The group will set its own agenda and even come up with its own name, Tobin told the Gazette.

“We’re all getting older. You tend to lose touch and forget what it’s like to be a kid,” said Tobin. “We’ll sit down with some pizza and Cokes and just listen to the kids.”

Tobin plans to use the group’s advice as he proposes new City of Boston policies or considers any problems that youths face.

“I don’t think there’ll be a shortage of topics,” Tobin said, suggesting that kids might want to talk about a lack of youth activities or the increase in crime.

“Nobody knows the schools better than they do,” he said, citing another possible conversation topic.

The group is open to youths in grades 7-12 who live within Tobin’s District 6, which includes most of Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury and parts of Mission Hill and Roslindale.

Beyond trying to balance representation among the neighborhoods, there are few limits to the group, and joining will be fairly easy. “I don’t know if we’ll have three or 30 [youths],” Tobin said.

One of the inspirations for the group is the district’s already high level of youth activism through such organizations as the Hyde Square Task Force, Tobin said.

Tobin also recalled the opportunities he had to get involved in politics as a youth, setting him on his current career path. They included the late US Rep. Joe Moakley’s regular accessibility at neighborhood “office hours” and a State House internship.

Tobin said he hopes the group will provide similar opportunities to today’s youths. “A lot of kids have probably never even crossed the threshold of that building,” he said, referring to Boston City Hall. “We’re elected officials, and we’re role models for kids.”

The group is also part of Tobin’s effort to create bonds between youths from neighborhoods that have both real and imagined differences, especially JP and West Roxbury.

He acknowledged that when he was a youth in West Roxbury, “Jamaica Plain was a world away.” But Boston’s problems are citywide, and everyone listening to each other is the solution, he said.

Tobin added that adults should adopt the same perspective, especially regarding the current concern about violent crime and the perception that it only impacts certain areas. He said that on one recent day, he attended a JP meeting about youth shootings, then a West Roxbury meeting about thieves stealing change from unlocked cars. He said he promised to work on the West Roxbury problem, “But I said, ‘Folks, you’ve got to put things in perspective.’”

“People have to treat [youth crime] like it’s happening on the next street over from them,” whether it literally is or not, Tobin said.

Interested youths should send a letter or resume, along with a letter of recommendation from an adult, to: Boston City Councilor John M. Tobin Jr., Boston City Hall, 5th Floor, Boston, MA 02201. The deadline is Feb. 28. For more information, call 635-4220.

Vice President Tobin
Tobin was named City Council vice president by new president Maureen Feeney.

“I’m having my sash cleaned,” Tobin joked, suggesting he would also don a fez and carry a scepter.

The vice presidency has little official meaning, but, Tobin said, he and Feeney have discussed turning it into something more like the whip position in the House of Representatives. A whip is a member who keeps the legislative body in order, especially by making sure votes happen on time.

“There are a lot of bottlenecks of stuff tied up in committees,” Tobin said. “What happens is, things languish.”

The vice presidency also puts Tobin second in the line of succession for the Mayor’s Office in the event of disaster—“two heartbeats away,” as he jokingly put it.