They may not be able to cast their vote for a couple more years, but teens from Saratoga, Cupertino and Campbell were eager to learn from local political candidates and elected officials on Wednesday night from 7 to 9 p.m.
A few weeks shy of the Nov. 6 elections, about 100 middle and high school students gathered for a "Pizza and Politics" event at Cupertino's Civic Plaza, listening to local politicians—ranging from Saratoga Mayor Chuck Page to 28th District State Assemblyman Paul Fong—share their views on topics ranging from bolstering local business to improving education. The forum was moderated by Crystal Bothelio, Saratoga's City Clerk.
A Democrat and a Republican
Page, a Republican, and Evan Low, the Democratic Vice Mayor of Campbell, took center stage to represent their party's views. One student asked what advice they have for young people.
“Lose the word ‘can’t’ from your vocabulary...And have as much fun on your mother and father’s money as you can” said Page, eliciting laughter from the audience.
“That’s such a Republican philosophy,” said Low, smiling in jest. His advice was also to “stay persistant and learn from failures.”
Both candidates advocated for working together, especially as small cities, across political lines. When asked how they would retain business in California, Low stressed the need to invest in education.
Page suggested that, “We could look at how we can lower the corporate tax rate” as an incentive for more businesses to stay local, he said.
The three politicians running for a spot in the Fremont High School District Board, which represents such cities as Cupertino, Saratoga and Los Altos, also took center stage to discuss how to improve local education.
Candidate Joseph Antonelli Rosas felt that technology should be used to give a boost to the educational system—for example, streaming school board meetings online for parents who could not attend due to work obligations, and offering online classes for subjects that would otherwise not be available to students.
“We don’t need to cut classes. We can bring them online,” he said.
Despite budget cuts, candidate Jeff Moe maintained that “broad course offerings and after-school programs are essential,” he said. A parent in the school system, he also advocated for making schools more “welcoming and inviting” to parents.
Incumbent candidate Nancy A. Newton emphasized the need to maintain the district’s five comprehensive schools, with a full academic program in a seven period day.
“We’ve kept all of our programs in tact,” said Newton, pointing out that the district can continue to do so if she is re-elected.
The Two State Assembly Candidates
For the State Assembly 28th District, incumbent Paul Fong and runner Chad Walsh tackled topics ranging from schools to what sets them apart—the latter posed by a student.
“I’ve been very consistent with my values,” said Fong. “I’m an advocate for environmental and social justice.”
For Walsh, “I have the ability to work very hard and absorb a lot of information,” he said.
Both agreed that there is an academic achievement gap with minorities in local schools, particularly with African Americans and Hispanics.
“We need to be more relevant for the local economy,” said Fong, pointing out that schools need to strengthen their math and science curriculum even more.
Walsh felt that schools should offer more internship and apprenticeship programs, equipping students with more real world experience and connections for when they graduate.
Getting a Head Start
The event is good preparation for when students are able to vote, said Celine Mol, 16, from the Cupertino Teen Commission.
“We’ll be able to form opinions on our own rather than having other people form them,” said Mol, a student at Monte Vista High School in Cupertino.
For Dana Lujack, 16, the event is an unique opportunity for teens to get involved in the electoral process—a priviledge they don’t usually have, she said.
“I haven’t been invited to anything like this before,” said Lujack, also a member of the Cupertino Teen Commission.