Council runs a-mock: QVS students get hands-on lesson in city government
Seventh-graders from Quincy Valley School donned sport coats and ties to look their best last Friday as they discussed funding for a new splash pad water feature at Lauzier Park.
Mayor Carter Rubio banged his gavel to start the mock council meeting, which was held in the real Quincy City Council chambers. It didn’t take long for financing problems to pop up – just as in real life.
City Recreation Director Connor Morgan noted that the Culture, Recreation and Leisure Committee along with the Recreation and Arts Commission had discussed options that would raise the splash pad’s cost.
“If we want to do optional designs we will need to have more money set aside for the project,” Morgan said, peering over his glasses. “Currently there is $55,000 budgeted. I am requesting to have the budgeted amount increased by $15,000 and direction from the council on the options they would like to have included in the project.”
Mayor Rubio asked for a formal motion to boost funding and quickly received a motion and a second. But construction money wasn’t the only concern for the pint-sized politicians.
“Before we get too far into spending money, have we thought about what happens if someone gets hurt running across it?” asked councilmember Emma MacGillivray. “Will the city have to pay?”
The acting city attorney replied there should be no problem if the city follows steps required by the insurance carrier.
Then, during a portion of the meeting when citizens could speak, Quincy Valley School teacher Chris Ornelas – Mr. O to his students – stepped up to the podium.
“Could the city form a committee of citizens and staff members to look at other funding options?” he asked. “When the pool was remodeled there was a softball tournament and other fundraisers to help with the costs.”
Eventually, decisions were made about what kind of features the splash pad should have. It ramped up the total cost to $68,707.25, leaving $1,292.75 in the project’s coffers after the motion to increase funding was passed.
Nancy Schanze, finance director and city clerk, wrote the original mock council meeting script a few years ago when the discussion focused on a new skate park. It took only minor revisions to accommodate the splash pad idea.
After Mayor Rubio again struck his gavel, this time to end the meeting, the city’s real recreational director Russ Harrington talked with the kids about what they’d done.
“This was pretty much like a real council meeting,” he said. “That’s pretty much how it goes, and it’s a big team effort.”
He encouraged everyone to attend a Quincy City Council meeting to see how the grownups handle issues, saying, “It’s never too early to get involved.”
Ornelas said some Quincy residents, whom he called “Facebook activists,” like to post criticisms online. It’s much more productive to attend council meetings and talk to councilmembers face to face, he said.
“You are not too young to have a voice,” Ornelas told the students. “Just because you are only teenagers doesn’t mean you can’t do something.”
— By Steve Kadel, firstname.lastname@example.org