by Jessica Cassella, SF2012
With the declining rates of youth participating in civic engagement activities, it saddens me that I am a small minority of people my
age even remotely interested in government affairs. As part of a generation who
became suddenly exposed to the world after 9/11, who has only a vague concept
of what it must be like to live in an era of surplus funds, and who has grown
up in an increasingly politicized national environment, it is almost
understandable why (too) many people write off government as a failed entity.
But I have rejected this viewpoint since I first became interested in political science in high school. I firmly believe that every
failure or step backwards creates an opportunity for reevaluation and
improvement. And that’s where City
Hall Fellows comes in.
During a time of seriously inhibiting deficits, budget cutbacks, and declining numbers of civil servants, we have dedicated the next
year of our lives to getting hands-on experience working for one of the most
innovative cities in the country. We have committed knowing full well that it
will be some of the hardest work that we have ever done. We know that we will
enter into city departments that we have had little experience with in the
past. We know that the expectations are set very high, as the great reputations
of previous Fellows
But these challenges and expectations are what motivate us to soak in as much information as we can and challenge anything that seems unjust or inefficient.
We have heard the stories of previous Fellows who have saved the city millions
of dollars or brought services to previously ignored neighborhoods, and we know
that we will continue to contribute to that legacy.
It’s amazing what can happen when you take a bunch of motivated college graduates, introduce us to various government leaders and
advocates, bring us to most of the major neighborhoods in San Francisco, and
then have us create a project where we report back about our experiences in
these neighborhoods to our future supervisors and City Hall Fellows supporters.
Teach us about local government and education, the Treasure Island Redevelopment Project, the structure of the City and County of San
Francisco, the history of the city, and have us participate in a simulation for
a program that FEMA will be using to improve emergency response situations. Oh,
and do all of the above in 3 weeks of orientation.
Watch us as we challenge the assumptions of government officials and advocate for serious policy changes for various neighborhoods.
Watch us as we talk with neighborhood residents in order to understand their
perspectives. Watch us as we fight stereotypes. Watch us as we bring our
passions into work every day and accept the challenges of this work.
Watch us as we succeed.