On Tuesday, June 27th, members of the California Millennial Caucus hosted a town hall at California State University, Sacramento to gain insight into the policy priorities of their young constituents. Five caucus members were in attendance: Co-Chairs Asm. Ian Calderon (D-57) and Asm. Kevin Kiley (R-6), along with Asm. Heath Flora (R-12), Asm. Marc Berman (D-24), and Asm. Matthew Dababneh (D-45). Unlike a traditional town hall where elected officials typically respond to questions from the crowd, this event had a more interactive format. Each assemblyman sat with a small group of students to collectively brainstorm ways to confront some of the challenges facing young Californians. The event quickly reached capacity, necessitating an overflow room to accommodate eager participants.
Over the course of the event, attendees discussed housing policy, the role of technology in society, education, and civic engagement. The goal of the event was to get a better sense of the millennial generation's perspectives and priorities. "The big point of why we started the Millennial Caucus," explained Asm. Calderon, "was that I felt, we felt, that everyone wants us to get engaged, but when it comes to crafting policy, there's no real effort to see how we feel about things."
Asm. Kiley echoed this sentiment. "Politicians haven't given you a reason to be engaged. They haven't talked to you; they haven't addressed your concerns."
Assembleymen Calderon and Berman specifically spoke about their experiences as young legislators at the local and state level, often being the youngest person in the room. “It’s so important for you all to get engaged and stay engaged to make sure that your opinions and your experiences are heard,” said Berman.
The impact of technology across sectors was a popular topic. Asm. Dababneh discussed the future of automation and the job displacement it could cause, as well as the need for government to catch up with the speed of technological change through digital record-keeping. Asm. Flora discussed improving government efficiency with regards to allocation of educational funding. In the concluding Q&A period, the elected officials agreed that the housing shortage in the state presents a pressing challenge, compounded by student loan debt, and the cost and regulatory burdens of housing construction.
Overall, the evening resulted in high-energy and open-minded contributions from not only the elected officials, but also the students in attendance. Sacramento State President Robert Nelson recognized the significance of these exchanges. "We've seen so many town halls where everybody's yelling at each other [...] but tonight we have the opportunity to preserve our democracy."
Watch the full video of the event here: