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In Lieu of Casting Votes, City Heights Teens Get Candidates To Sign Pledge

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

Most of the teens at Wednesday’s District 9 candidates forum at Hoover High School may not be able to vote in the upcoming election, but they just might have something better: signed contracts with both candidates in the running to represent City Heights on City Council next year.

After listening to candidates Mateo Camarillo and Marti Emerald discuss how they would advocate for youth interests, members of the Mid-City CAN Youth Council asked the candidates to put it in writing.

They presented Camarillo and Emerald with four pledges printed on teenager-sized poster board. Both signed, promising to bring youth job opportunities to City Heights, to work on getting free youth bus passes, to support a City Heights skatepark and to create a District 9 youth advisory group.


For Camarillo and Emerald, courting the youth contingent makes sense. District 9 has a high immigrant and refugee population. Many in the community speak English as a second language and rely on their teenage sons and daughters to help them navigate civic life.

“Even though youth can’t vote, we can still give voters our opinions and share what we learn,” said Rosa Olascoaga, 15. “I try to inform my parents when something is changing in the city.”

And if Emerald or Camarillo run for office at the end of four years, there’s a good chance Olascoaga and her peers will be lined up at the ballot box.

“It’s never too early to start a dialogue with the candidates,” said Mark Tran, the youth community organizer for Mid-City CAN. “These high school students can’t vote this year, but they will next year and the year after that.”

District 9 Candidates Square Off In Youth-Organized Debate

The 2024 primary election is March 5. Find in-depth reporting on each race to help you understand what's on your ballot.