Senator+Ron+Latz+talks+to+citizens+of+Saint+Louis+Park+on+Feb+23.+State+Representatives+Cheryl+Youakim+and+Peggy+Flanagan+were+also+at+the+meeting+Tuesday+night.+

Hannah Wolk

Senator Ron Latz talks to citizens of Saint Louis Park on Feb 23. State Representatives Cheryl Youakim and Peggy Flanagan were also at the meeting Tuesday night.

Legislators outline top priorities

State representatives meet with constituents

State representatives hosted an open forum meeting with St. Louis Park residents ahead of the start of the upcoming state legislative session.

State Representatives Cheryl Youakim and Peggy Flanagan attended the meeting Feb. 23 at City Hall, as did State Senator Ron Latz, where they discussed legislative issues and answered questions from constituents.

According to freshman Jonathan Sirotin, such opportunities for lawmakers to meet with voters facilitate important dialogue.

“It’s great that representatives periodically meet with their constituents because otherwise they would be out of touch,” Sirotin said. “It is good that they meet so that they know what the people they represent want.”

Legislators discussed a range of issues at the meeting including the state budget, the proposed light rail and criminal justice reform.

Latz said approving light rail funding presents a significant legislative priority in the coming session.

“The big issue this year, certainly for this district and the western suburbs, is Southwest (Light Rail Transit),” Latz said.  “We need to come up with, somehow, $135 million for the state’s remaining portion of the overall cost.”

Flanagan, in her first term as a representative, said light rail funding benefits both the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota.

“As we’re looking to the growth and expansion of our community, that (funding) is really critical,” Flanagan said. “When we talk about initiatives in the metro, it’s not just about rights here in our community — these are are things that also serve the entire state of Minnesota.”

Junior Felix Hengel said the open forum meeting provided citizens the opportunity to express their opinions.

“I think that it’s nice that legislators listened to our voices,” Hengel said.  

Youakim said because of the large scope of the legislative agenda, lawmakers expect an intense session.

“It will be very, very fast and furious,” Youakim said. “10 weeks is not a lot (of time) to get things done, especially when you are doing more than you would traditionally do.”

Sophomore Maddie Turnquist said the length of session increases the risk of mistakes.

“It sounds like the legislators might not have enough time to do things correctly,” Turnquist said.

Youakim said she fears the short legislative session may stifle political discourse.

“My major concern is that there’s not going to be enough time for public input, so be loud very quickly and let us know where you stand on the issue,” Youakim said.

Students can contact their legislators throughout the upcoming session through the Minnesota Legislature’s website.

For more information on St. Louis Park city meetings that welcome student involvement, explore the profiles below.

Parks & Recreation Commision

St. Louis Park City Council created the Parks & Recreation Commision to work on issues regarding the parks and fields of St. Louis Park, according to junior Edward Halvorson, who acts as the youth adviser on the commission. Halvorson said he began serving as the youth adviser for the commission a year-and-a-half ago. As youth adviser, Halvorson said he assists in any way possible. “I attend...

Friends of the Arts

St. Louis Park Friends of the Arts, established in 1997, has dedicated the last 19 years to promoting art and culture in the city, according to former board member Susan Schneck. “I was actually one of the founding members,” Schneck said. “It was an exciting experience because the people I was working with and I were very passionate about bringing art and creativity to the community.” S...

Human Rights Commission

In 1968, St. Louis Park City Council created the Human Rights Commission, according to commission liaison Breanna Freedman. Freedman said the goal of the commission has not varied much throughout the years, but the focus has changed in accordance with the time.   “It’s always been about promoting equal opportunities, dissolving discrimination, being inclusive and appreciating the city...

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