There’s a belief that the millennial generation isn’t engaged in Scottsdale’s political issues. There’s also a perception that those younger than 35 are obsessed with social media and hypnotically transfixed to their smartphones.
As a consequence, it’s said, millennials have little interest in anything else, including our city’s politics. Admittedly, most of my generation isn’t active in local politics. After examining our group’s turnout in recent elections, the evidence speaks for itself. In a word, millennials’ participation in the local political process is “pitiful.”
In last year’s city bond election, residents 18-34 years old, who represent 15 percent of our population, cast only 4 percent of all votes. In the 2014 election for city council, the same group represented 7 percent of all votes. In that election, a scant 61 votes of the total 78,500 votes separated candidates who finished in second and fourth place.
Do the math: millennials have little to say about the future of Scottsdale, leaving critical decisions entirely up to others.
Further examination of national voting data since 1964 shows that, although people vote in greater numbers as they become older, voter turnout across all generations has declined. But that doesn’t make millennial turnout less frustrating.
It’s been more than 80 years since the phrase “All politics is local” was introduced in the political vernacular. Although it’s now cliché, the term remains true today, including in Scottsdale. Issues at the federal and state levels may seem flashier and attract the most attention, but it’s those at the local level that have the greatest direct impact on people’s lives.
That starts with our city council.
Councilmembers are the ones who help set our property tax rates, craft public safety policies, budget street repairs and parks’ upkeep, and appropriate funding for services like water and trash pickup and the maintenance of our city’s infrastructure. It’s our seven-member Council that also earmarks monies from bed tax dollars to enhance the tourism that generates sales tax revenue for our city.
It appears to me that millennials dismiss politics in general and local issues in particular, at least until now. Going forward they could have a voice in the process that’s shaping the vision and setting the direction of our city – which is currently dominated by older residents.
Why would millennials wait to create their own future, or even let others create it for them?
I am neither a spokesperson nor a standard bearer for the millennial generation. I do, however, care about the future of our city and wish more people my age felt the same way.
Editor’s note: Mr. Graham is a Scottsdale resident and a certified public accountant.