During the Diamond Bar Council Forum hosted by Diamond Bar High School students, candidate Andrew Chou encouraged residents to vote in the City Council election on Nov. 6.
“Last year 3,000 people voted out of 35,000 registered voters…we need to change that. Let me tell you voices do matter; you are heard,” Chou said during the event when asked about voter apathy.
The Oct. 24 event at the Diamond Point Club enabled residents to hear the city council candidates’ plans for the city before the upcoming local City Council election.
“We decided to host this citizen forum because we believed that communication between city council candidates and the people is really lacking in Diamond Bar, especially just the transparency,” senior Yuwen Wang said.
The students hosted the event independently from DBHS and Walnut Valley because the forum involved political discussion.
Although none of current sitting city council members appeared at the forum, challengers Chou and Bob Velker were present to participate in the question-and-answer discussion with Diamond Bar residents.
“Because the incumbents didn’t show up, there was some pushback from the members of the community who were at the forum who felt as if there was a lack of involvement from the sitting members in the community,” senior Amelie Lee said.
Senior Hamzah Daud and Wang moderated the event, while seniors Danny Mansour, Kasra Nosrati and Lee also helped with setting up the forum, keeping track of discussion time and talking to the citizens. The students worked with DBHS parent Teruni Evans to organize the event.
“Diamond Bar has never had a forum before,” Daud said. “The thing is that the incumbents keep getting reelected every election year, and so we wanted for people to actually hear from the incumbents, to hear what they plan for the city, what they have done and to hear from the challengers as well.”
During the forum, the moderators covered a wide range of topics such as land use and development, business and economy, crime and homelessness, youth and seniors issues and government transparency. The meeting also included questions that Diamond Bar residents submitted to a Google Form, and allotted time for the audience to ask questions after each issue was discussed.
“So we gathered their questions and we determined what were the big overarching themes that they were asking about. Through those we devised specific questions to ask under each category.” Wang said. “We also allowed citizens to actually ask questions live. We gave about one to two citizens the mic for every category so they could ask a more specific question that pertains to them.”
One of the biggest difficulties the student organizers faced was the questioning of their credibility, especially online.
“People were saying really unfounded things about how our political alignments would mean that this forum was biased, but really we took the questions from the citizens, so we were as unbiased as we could be,” Wang said. “And our personal political affiliations did not enter the discussion at any point.”
Through discussion of the major issues in Diamond Bar, the candidates and the DBHS students hoped to address voter apathy and encourage more individuals to get informed and vote in the upcoming local election.
“There’s a lot of things [the city can improve upon], but we can all work together for that and I hope the forum provided a place for people to express their opinions on how Diamond Bar can get better,” Daud said.