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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Open Letter to Senators on Voting Rights

The day before the final vote on the Voting Rights Bill in the Senate Delegation, I sent the following letter to the entire Montgomery County Delegation:

Dear Senator:

I am writing to you today regarding a bill that you will be voting on in your Delegation tomorrow: MC 12-10.

During the last election cycle, we were told that we, the youth, had the fundamental ability to change the way politics was done in America. I worked tirelessly in the last election and I ran for this position because I sincerely believed that this was the truth and because I wanted to be part of a government that was truly receptive to the needs and wants of young people. It is my hope and desire that you subscribe to this notion that youth truly should be empowered to become the next generation of leaders.

Working as a board member, I honestly do not see any distinction between my role and that of the other board members. The statute currently states that I am not able to attend executive sessions regarding collective bargaining unless the Board votes affirmative to do so. To this day, I have attended every single executive session regarding collective bargaining and the constant vote to include me in the matter is simply a cumbersome and unnecessary step in restricting the voice of the students. I have always voiced my outspoken opinion of the budget with or without restrictions. At this point it is a matter of whether or not people will listen to the comments that I make, and that is up to you.

With regards to the pressure argument: I didn't run for this position thinking I wouldn't have to face and political pressure (In Montgomery County, that's just not possible). In the past election cycle, I received 35,654 votes (more than any State Senator or Delegate from Montgomery County). As you would know, one doesn't get that many votes, unless some significant pressure is applied. To be quite honest, I believe my position goes through much more scrutiny and examination than many of the state offices. I was required to debate and answer questioning from a convention of the brightest student minds in Montgomery County to narrow down the field to two candidates, to debate my opponent in a 30 minute debate broadcast to all the voters, to submit a candidate profile which is used in many government/English classes, etc. to be under public scrutiny, and to campaign to my base of 142,000 citizens, who truly place their trust into their representative.

Furthermore, I have attended every single Capital Budget and Operating Budget hearing and have been subject to extreme lobbying on every spectrum of the budget process - regardless of my vote - because citizens and community activists, just like the Board of Education, the County Executive, the County Council, MCEA, etc. recognize the importance of youth involvement in the political process. I have witnessed with my own eyes the emotional pleas, condemnations, and commendations spoken to any government body. With or without the vote, pressure will be felt - but such is the political process. We were born into a society where pluralism of interests dominate the political arena and without the "pressure", decisions cannot be made because the cases for all arguments are not made. I truly am thankful for and proud of the "pressure" that is applied to me and my position as it indicates the real interest in the community for garnering student support for a proposal.

Students have fought for this right for the past 30 years. Voting no to this bill would disillusion an already frustrated generation of students in Montgomery County. Voting no to this bill would not mean "protecting the students from themselves"; rather it would indicate a distrust of students and their ability to handle decisions. Please stand with your county, students, and teachers and vote yes to a proposal that would truly institutionalize the government's support for student advocacy.

Tim Hwang

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