Ward loses youth councillor

By Brian A. Lloyd

Somerset Ward is without representation on the Ottawa Youth Cabinet.

Leonardo Farren was automatically disqualified from membership when he failed to attend his third consecutive meeting of the cabinet last week. He won’t be immediately replaced.

Farren’s disqualification is a result of a clause in the cabinet’s appointment policy stipulating representatives can be replaced if they fail to attend three consecutive cabinet meetings. The cabinet has met four times since its inauguration in August. Members are appointed to two-year terms.

After some discussion, the cabinet decided it wouldn’t replace Farren.

“The position would normally go to a reserved member, but there was no one on the list for this ward,” said Erin Bell, co-ordinator of the cabinet. “We also thought it was best for now to leave the position empty.”

There seemed little concern over the lack of representation of Somerset youth in the cabinet.

“It’s always difficult when you lose a member,” says Bell, adding, however, that the youth of the area will not be deprived of the chance to be heard.

“Our meetings are open to the public and any youth can serve on subcommittees,” she says. “There are a lot of ways for youth to get involved.”

“Somerset is a very well-defined ward,” Ullyatt says. “(Somerset Ward Coun. Elisabeth Arnold) is a strong councillor who works with youths on her own. So there should be no negative impact due to any lack of representation.”

Farren did not respond to requests for interviews by telephone and e-mail.

Farren, 18, represented Somerset Ward, though he did not live or work in the area. Farren’s home address is still in Somerset Ward, where his parents live. When he was appointed, Farren was a student at Collège Bourget in Rigaud, Quebec. He now attends Collège d’Alfred, east of Ottawa.

Some did not see that as a problem. “It’s very easy to be a representative of one place without living there and still be active,” says cabinet co-chair Russell Ullyatt

“Leonardo did attend at first and he was kept up to date through e-mails,” says Erin Bell, co-ordinator of the cabinet.

Arnold said that despite the distance between Farren and his ward, he was appointed for the right reasons.

“What (city council) looks for in an applicant is interest in the area and an appreciation of the issues that are important to youth,” Arnold said. “(Farren) was selected on that criteria.”

Arnold admitted she was concerned about Farren’s absence from the three meetings, but stressed this would not reflect on the credibility of the cabinet.

The cabinet was established to represent the youth in the city and act as a bridge between Ottawa youth and city council. Positions for the cabinet were advertised in high schools and newspapers in Ottawa. Members were interviewed and appointed based on their interest in the youth community and their past experience.