High Schoolers Think They Influenced the West University Election
Contributed photo Mason Speed, Franz Brotzen-Smith and Sam Kagan, three of the seven members of West-U for Progress, on election night.
In the weeks leading up to the election, a group of seven students from Lamar High School and St. John's were reading through the proposed amendments to the West University charter when they came across a few they didn't like.
We all see things we don't like in politics and government, but the difference here is these kids saw something they wanted to change and -- though not a single one of them is eligible to vote -- they did something about it (and yes, politically active future voters trying to have a vote is as adorable to Hair Balls as a teacup pig, we admit it.)
The group, which formed about three months ago and is called West-U for Progress, got out and started going door to door and making phone calls urging people to vote against Proposition 1, which was supposed to change term limits in West University; Proposition 2, which called for increasing the number of qualified voter signatures needed on initiative petitions to the City Council; and Proposition 3, which called for an increase in the number of signatures required by residents to repeal ordinances. The students were against the charter amendments, and knowing the election turnout would be low, it seemed possible they could persuade enough voters in the community to make a difference on whether the charters were approved, Franz Brotzen-Smith, 16, deputy director and press secretary of the organization, said.
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 15, 11:00am
Rice University Owls Football vs. UTSA Roadrunners Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 15, 6:00pm
Rice University Owls Football vs. Prairie View A&M University Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 22, 2:30pm
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. UCF Knights Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 29, 11:00am
"We just wanted to make a difference and we knew on a local level that was something we could actually do," he said, talking to Hair Balls on his parents' cell phone from the backseat of the family car as they made their way to the airport on Tuesday evening. "We're not old enough to vote, but we are old enough to actually make a difference."
Proposition 1 was defeated by 19 votes. Propositions 2 and 3 passed by such narrow margins -- one vote and two votes respectively -- that both were recounted and failed to pass.
Now, it's very possible that this is all a coincidence, but it's just as likely that at least a handful of the voters these guys talked to over the phone, on the doorstep or from their posts outside polling stations were influenced by such enthusiastic political engagement from a crew of students 15 to 16 years old.
Either way, it totally reminds us of this (though it should be noted that West-U for Progress, unlike the fictional group below, is not advocating for lowering the voting age):
But they definitely think people should be engaged in what's going on in the world, even if they can't vote. "I think people my age should definitely be involved in politics. We're not necessarily setting an example or anything, but it feels really good that all that work paid off," he said.
And they've already got the next goal in sight, cutting the West University budget. "We want to cut the budget, stop deficit spending and look into why the recycling program was stopped," Franz said. "Even if you're not old enough, you can still do something. You can get out there and stand outside the polls and convince a lot of people."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.