better banning/support youth


For the Record Gazette

Chris Castorena (he/him) graduated from Banning High School and is a Master of Public Policy candidate at University of California, Riverside. He is also a team lead for Banning’s Future Fellowship, a youth initiative dedicated to helping create a 21st-century city through participatory democracy, mutual aid, and resource-sharing.

Banning is a vibrant city packed with talented youth who deserve every opportunity at success.

Still, we have few quality youth employment opportunities, and only 9.1 percent of our students are college-ready by graduation.

Leaders throughout Banning and beyond must treat investment in youth as one of their top priorities to pave the way for a 21st -century city.

Simply put, we need to stop operating out of scarcity mindsets and start providing essential resources and opportunities for our beloved residents, emphasizing future generations.

This includes investing, training, and providing real leadership opportunities for those who will soon oversee our economy, architecture, history, art, and culture.

According to city data, prior to the pandemic, the City of Banning had a poverty rate of 23.4 percent, already well above the state average of 13.3 percent.

While poverty-stricken, Banning is filled with abundant intellect, talent, and a strong sense of community.

With the support of the hearts and minds of its residents, the municipal government can provide much-needed assistance by enacting community-based public policies to prepare for a brighter tomorrow.

Youth-led participatory budgeting (PB), overseen and in part administered by a youth council, can act as a significant catalyst for transformative change and have positive cascading socio-economic impacts on the greater community.

What is participatory-budgeting and why youth-led?

PB is a concept that gives residents a direct say in public budget spending.

When targeted at youth, this vital tool allows our future generation to identify community needs, work directly with public officials to create actionable proposals that fill these gaps, and vote on where and how to allocate resource flows.

The aspirational outcomes for this new policy implementation reimagines youth engagement by increasing community-based public spending, helping decriminalize poverty, and decelerating the carceral system.

Boston launched the first youth-led PB in 2014 with one million dollars of city funds.

They brought students into city hall and listened to their concerns and their needs. And that's precisely what they did. In the first year, the youth acted $90,000 to increase technology access for Boston public high school students, $60,000 to create art walls that brightened up public spaces, and $400,000 to renovate parks to make them more accessible safer for everyone.

To clarify, there will need to be some initial investment of resources in stipends and training for staff to fully understand the PB process and educate the youth council on best administration practices.

Still, the cascading returns outweigh the upfront cost, like any future investment steeped in inclusion.

This can be highlighted by youth council leadership presentations at city council meetings and other community-organized events with city stakeholders.

A youth council for youth voice

Establishing a youth council can offer guidance for our city on issues affecting youth and create sustained leadership for the community’s future.

Youth leadership can help alleviate pressure and time from city government staff.

Further, they can make recommendations to our city council, create master plans, initiate educational campaigns, organize conferences, and plan community events around the younger population’s issues.

A few examples of government youth advisory boards across the Inland Empire include City of Eastvale’s Youth Council, The Town of Yucca Valley’s Youth Commission, City of Indio’s Youth Advisory Council, and the Riverside County Youth Commission.

In addition, the National League of Cities has a comprehensive fact sheet with step-by-step directions on how to start one.

For Banning’s growing talent, being a youth council member allows for professional development, encouraging young people to pursue a career in the public sector, hold a role in local decision-making, and participate in civic activities.

They are a resource providing young people a voice in the political process and vital community input for local government.

When a city empowers scholars, they invest in a new generation of public employees and change agents.

With what money?

According to Banning’s City Government Website, the local government spends less than 1 pecent of tax dollars on public health, less than 6 percent on economic environment, less than 6.5 percent on culture and recreation, approximately 7 percent on transportation, and less than 17 percent on general government, but over 60 percent on public safety, that being police (over 70 percent) and firefighters (under 30 percent) of that allotment.

When the city of Banning’s Measure L passed in the 2020 election cycle, it served as a chance to inject new cashflow into widely ignored city budget areas.

Measure L imposed a tax on cannabis distribution facilities at an annual rate below 10 percent of the distributions facility’s gross receipts, with the potential to raise between $20,289-$405,790 annually for general municipal services (public safety, parks, roads, and senior and youth programs).

The city of Banning can diversify its investment portfolio and reroute a portion of the newly minted Measure L resource flows toward residents' basic needs with the help of a youth council-led participatory budget because youth investment is community investment.

Banning should be future focused: investing in the next generation

When we are preparing our youth, that means we are preparing future leaders of the economy.

We can tap our youth in helping design our city and give them ownership in our neighborhoods.

We have a lot of talented youth that we can help further develop their unique skillsets so that they can preserve the history and the culture of the community, create wonderful architecture in the area, and further revitalize the local economy.

We must build out and build on community leadership.

Globally, PB has been shown to improve public health, reduce corruption, and increase trust in government.

We can change system in Banning by opening doors so wide that people cannot help but walk in.

Ordinating a local youth council coupled with a youth-focused participatory budget process will offer our neighborhoods a fresh start and new outlook on a future full of prosperity and unity at a time when it is most needed.


Banning Govermnent Budgetary Information. Archive Center • Canning • CivicEngage. (n.d.).

Banning High in Banning, CA - US News Best High Schools. U.S. News. (n.d.). Retrieved


Banning, California (CA) poverty rate data information about poor and low-income residents.

Banning, California (CA) poverty rate data - information about poor and low-income

residents living in this city. (n.d.).

Eastvale Youth Council. News | City of Eastvale, CA. (2021, August 17).

Google. (n.d.). National League of Cities: IYEF Starting a Youth Council. Google Drive.

Indio Youth Advisory Council. City of Indio - Youth Advisory Council. (n.d.).

The Town of Yucca Valley Youth Commission. Youth Commission | Yucca Valley, CA. (n.d.).

Youth Lead the Change. (2017, May 1).



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