On Oct. 5 at Tenaya Middle School, a youth-led forum was held by the Young Revolutionary Front, a Youth Leadership Institute program, as an opportunity for Merced City Council candidates to communicate with youth.
The forum was held in order for the candidates to properly express their plans moving forward to work with the youth and community of Merced. While all the candidates were invited, the ones present were Fue Xiong (District 6), Fernando Echevarria (District 2), and Javier Fuentes (District 4).
The main focus of the forum was about today’s youth and the struggle to have their voices heard by the council.
“I need another person to be elected,” Echevarria said. “I’d like to see these two elected. When we see the numbers against us, nothing can get done. But if we hold a majority, with these two elected, we could get a lot more done.”
Xiong, Echevarria, and Fuentues spoke about a lot of programs, many of which have been in discussion for years. However, the emphasis on lack of power within the city council remains.
“One of the reasons I want to run is that if you elect us…we will have a majority,” Fuentes said. “If we don’t have a majority, we will not be able to get the things we need when we vote. We can ask for whatever we want and we won’t get it.”
Projects like a youth wellness center, less police engagement within schools, more affordable housing, and a permanent youth employment program were mentioned. All of which are programs that Echevarria says he has fought for during his last term.
In order to move these programs forward, candidates discussed the support they would need. A lack of votes for officials that support these programs would mean the death of these ideas before they even got started.
Xiong stresses the importance of voting.
“Yes, I definitely believe that we need everybody to vote,” Xiong said. “Young people particularly because there tends to be a trend where young people don’t vote during the primaries. And so we need to uplift that, we need to energize our community, we need to energize young people to come out and vote. And Delray [Shelton], our opponent, he won his election in 2018 by 6 votes. Literally 6 votes, and so we need to make sure we overcome that 6 votes and every single vote here actually really really matters.”
Shelton was not present at the forum.
Many present at the forum spoke of change, such as building a better community within Merced and supporting low-income families and youth. Xiong’s campaign manager, Crissy Gallardo, spoke about this as well.
“I feel like Merced is ready for change,” Gallardo said. “Folks have been showing up. We wanna see an elected official that is closer to us in age, and represents our loved experiences.”
It’s important for people to show up, to participate in creating the change they want to see. As Xiong pointed out, every vote matters in this election. However you vote, you are voting for the changes you want to see in our community.