Who’s Next Episode 1: Previewing the March 5 Primary

Date:

Welcome to our new podcast series, Who’s Next, where we talk to youth leaders in Santa Monica about the issues that are most important to them. With California’s primary election next Tuesday, I had a chance to talk with three co-captain’s for Samohi’s Team Marine. 

The conversation jumps back and forth between a discussion of the election and issues that youth are concerned about nationwide and a discussion of their personal advocacy efforts and those of Team Marine.

I don’t want to ramble on too much, so to learn more you can listen to the podcast immediately below, or a transcript of the discussion immediately below that.

Damien Newton
As I said in the intro my name is Damien and we’re here with this week’s Santa Monica Next podcast. We’re gonna be talking with 3 leaders from Santa Monica High School’s Team Marine, and they’re gonna we’re gonna talk about the election, what matters to high school students…specifically the ones we’re talking to, but broadly what matters to high school students. Those that are eighteen about what is going to influence their votes both next week and in the fall. We have Emery, Maya and Willow with us today: and why don’t we just start off with some brief introductions..

Maya
Hi everybody. My name is Maya. I’m a senior at Santa Monica high school and I use she/her pronouns. I’m one of the 3 co-captains of Team Marine. I’m just really excited to be here, talking about the election and its relationship to the climate crisis and just all of the issues that the youth are really concerned about. I’m glad to be here today and to be able to be in the space to talk with you all.

Emery
Hi everyone. I’m Emery. I’m also a co-captain on Team Marine as a senior at Samohi as well. I’m very excited to talk about different perspectives on the election upcoming and in the fall and express how our communities have reacted to the whole discussion around politics and as emerging voters.

Willa
Okay, hi everyone. I’m Willa. I’m also a co-captain of Team Marine and as basically everybody else said “I’m really looking forward to talking about the upcoming elections” and how youth has a voice in elections even if you’re not old enough to vote yet.

Damien Newton
So the timing of this is fortuitous because we do have a primary next week. The presidential election primary is kind of dull in California. We pretty much know who the candidates are for the 2 major parties. Outside of some protest voting, or if you know you’re going to vote for the US senate race or something that’s a little more exciting. 

But when we talk about climate and climate issues, it is one of the biggest factors in deciding who to vote for and 1 of the ways that you can look at candidates and start to see differences.

Emery
I’d say it’s an important issue for the youth as a whole.. It’s something that is sometimes at the forefront and for some it can probably be a very influential factor. I wouldn’t say that it’s the only one. There’s a lot of different issues. But it’s one that at this point in time is getting a lot of attention and that I think does have the potential to sway a lot of votes.

Maya
As youth climate activists, when we talk about the climate crisis. We’re not just talking about nature and the environment. But we’re talking about our future and the future of our society. And so, when we’re looking at different candidates,like Emory was saying, there are so many issues nowadays that we really have to weigh the pros and cons of the stances of each candidate. But I think that the climate crisis has emerged as one of the most important issues, especially for youth voters.

Willa
I definitely agree. I think Maya said it really well. When we’re voting for environmental policy, we are voting for our future because this is something that as people who are in their late teens; it’s going to be something that is going to impact the rest of our lives and also the lives of many many future generations. That is something that’s so important to consider, for me at least as somebody who will be voting in the general election. I can’t vote in the primaries because I’m not quite old enough.

Damien Newton
I should have done this before we jumped into climate issues, but.. Team Marine deals directly with climate issues. But I’m going to guess that there’s going to be people that are listening to this podcast that have no idea what Team Marine is…I mean Santa Monica high school sort of has a reputation of being a very environmentally conscious school going back to things like WalkIt!BikeIt! which was groundbreaking for bicycle pedestrian advocacy in a high school, to what Team Marine is now. So could you guys just describe a little bit what that is and what Team Marine does.

Maya
Team Marine is Santa Monica High School’s environmental advocacy and activism organization. We talk about a plethora of issues. We were founded in 2006 and our main issues are the climate crisis and more specifically plastic pollution. We deal with all sorts of projects nowadays. 

We’ve done climate policy: passing a climate literacy resolution at our board of education this past November. We look at green spaces in the city of Santa Monica and at the waste management practices of our school and school district. We work with teachers and administrators to educate our students. Team Marine is really involved in a little bit of everything 06:30.80

Willa
I just want to add that we um historically started out as a competition team and so it used to be much more stereotypical STEM kind of things. Generations of Team Marine have built a solar powered car, or were integral to Santa Monica’s plastic bag ban. We’re trying to continue that legacy; not really a competition team anymore, but more of an environmental activism group.

Emery
Team Marine’s history is largely not so much as a mission driven action so much as passion driven. There’s obviously the overarching goal of fighting climate change in the way we can, but that’s always been dictated by the interest of people in the club at the given time. It started out as a competition because STEM kids were interested in this as it was more an emerging movement. Now seventeen years down the line, we’re doing fast fashion green space climate literacy. Things that members now are interested in.

Damien Newton
You were just talking about their climate literacy. How does that work for a high school club, do you work with other students, is there a curriculum? In addition, do you think there’s sort of a general consensus even amongst students that aren’t politically active that Climate is something that’s going to be the issue, maybe possibly the defining political issue of their lives.

Maya
I think when we talk about climate, there’s a general understanding among the majority if not all students that climate is an important issue; but I don’t think everybody on our campus grasps the true severity of the situation. That was part of what we were hoping to accomplish with our resolution,  just to make sure that everybody gets an adequate climate education that allows them to really understand all of the complexities of the climate crisis, be able to apply that to their everyday decisions and also empower students to become climate activists.

My hope is that through that extra environmental education that the resolution mandates; students will truly understand what the climate crisis is and be able to leverage the climate crisis to make political decisions.

Damien Newton
As we talk a little bit also about elections as we go forward. There is a presidential primary next week, California has a US Senate election. There are congressional races, state senate races, assembly races.

How much, if at all and (I will be honest when I was your age, I could probably tell you who my US senators were, and who my governor and president were…but I do not think I could tell you my mayor’s’ names, and my city council members assembly members or anything like that) but…Is there a greater awareness ah of any of the local elections or is the focus, “oh my god are we really going to you know, have to try to stop Donald Trump from being president.”

Damien Newton
I’m going to make a note to myself. I love that you all look to each other to see who’s going to answer this. We didn’t have video when I was growing up so there the pauses were actually much longer than they are now.

Willa
From my experience… Emre and I are in an AP US gov class together… and as much as our school tries to make us engaged in politics, it is kind of hard because as young people because we have so many things that seem to come first. I personally am really excited to get involved in voting.

Just like my family has always brought me up to see voting as such an incredible privilege and so it’s very exciting for me to be able to use my voice. But from what I’ve seen most of our age group kind of doesn’t really realize that they can actually have a genuine impact even on just local things. As Team Marine we are so lucky because we get to work with the city council and the school board and we are there and involve ourselves so that we can see how we truly can make a difference. Even though Maya and I both can’t vote yet, I think we can definitely do better in terms of encouraging people our age to see how they can have a voice.

Maya
Building on what Willa said, and what you had mentioned in your question about this general awareness of who our leaders are, it really comes down to the student or the person. If you want to be involved in politics and be an influence on your community, it’s very accessible like Willa was saying, way more accessible than most people would think. But if somebody’s not motivated then yeah, they don’t necessarily have that awareness of who your city council members are and who your state assembly members are. All of us have been to city council meetings and board of education meetings to testify and give public comment.

But I don’t think that everybody is engaging in those opportunities and I don’t think everybody truly understands that those opportunities are available to them. I think we need to be doing a better job of showing young people “Hey you can actually have a tremendous influence on your community and on the politics of your city” even if, like Willa said, you’re not a voting age yet.

Emery
I really like that point that you made about the realization that accessibility is right there. We’ve decided to go to city council meetings and go to school board meetings because we decided it. No one said, “Oh this is an option. Go ahead and do it.” And no one thought to themselves to do it themselves. Talking about Santa Monica high school, there’s a big emphasis I’d say there’s a very clear political feeling on campus. It’s pretty uniform. If you don’t have that, or if you disagree with that you’re going to be an outsider in some way.

That’s not to say that you can’t fit in, but there’s a lot of attention on national issues. Because we’re looking so far up, we don’t see the local world around us. And we don’t pay attention to who gets elected on our city council and our and our school board even though maybe those things do have an impact on the issues that we care about. They’re just not ah those things are definitely not as focused on.

Damien Newton
Well one of the reasons Santa Monica Next exists, even though I don’t live in Santa Monica, is because it really is a tremendous place as far as the city expresses and is very strong about the values and sometimes it…

Emery
By the youth I’d say.

Damien Newton
…doesn’t always live up to them. A lot of times it does, sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s also a nationally famous city for a city with 80,000 people in it. I remember people telling me,  “Hey you know they made a Santa Monica joke on Ted lasso.” “You know they made a Santa Monica Airport joke on some other show.” “You know, Elon Musk blames Santa Monica for his daughter being transgender…”

So what you do with the city,l really matters and it really ripples out because so much attention is paid to the city. It presents a unique opportunity for you all in a way that. Growing up in Reading Pennsylvania, the advocates that I knew in high school didn’t talk about testifying and the city council on the school board. It’s like what you do actually is going to ripple out more than folks that are in other cities just because it’s Santa Monica which for whatever reason has captured the imagination of a lot of people.

Maya

Building on what you were just saying, I think one of my favorite things about Santa Monica is it’s looked to globally as a leader in sustainability and so many other issues. One of the beautiful things about being an activist here in Santa Monica and Los Angeles is that really so many other cities are watching us and looking to us to see what we’re doing. Like Willow was saying about the plastic bag ban a few years back, Santa Monica was one of the first cities that adopted that. Suddenly so many other cities around California adopted that same plastic bag ban. Then the state adopted it. so I think even though our actions might move people and projects outside the city.

Maya
Seems small on the surface like what we do influences the policies that other cities end up adopting and then it’s just this ripple effect. Um, but yeah, really really cool to see.

Damien Newton
We’re starting to approach 20 minutes…we’re past fifteen… which usually is the point where I ask if there’s something that you all really wanted to talk about that I totally missed. But I have a backup question in case, no one has something like that or if you’re just too polite to do that to me on our first podcast. So, “Is there anything else sort of related to the election or general values that any of you would like to touch on that we haven’t touched on yet? 

I’ll make it easy, my other question is whether or not you have any predictions for next Tuesday beyond “that Joe Biden and Donald Trump are going to win.” 

Emery
Specific.

Damien Newton
All right…anyone want to guess whether or not Nikki Haley will get more than…that is 30% of the vote in California or 30% of the Republican vote.

Emery
Oh that’s interesting more than 30% what does she get in South Carolina?

Damien Newton
She got 40 in South Carolina but she was governor there, so you would hope that she would do better there than in California. But I think there’s more of the Republican Party in California that is moderate than in South Carolina…California is not a major player in the Republican PartY, so it really would be a guess when we want to give it over/under on 30.

Willa
I’m going to say that she goes over thirty, because especially even in Santa Monica, like Emory said, it’s very skewed politically. That’s something that obviously is true for our entire conversation.

Willa
We’re talking about all these environmental things and how our school reacts to politics and environmentalism but we also are the only public school in Santa Monica which is an extremely liberal place so you know….

…We don’t represent everybody nationally but I think Nikki Haley definitely could do over 30%. Like you said there are many more moderates here and I think a lot of Californians, even the Republican ones, are unified in the fact that they just don’t like Trump. I’m interested to see how it plays out, especially as this is my last year not really voting in the primaries. So I’m kind of watching to see how I can do it next time around.

Damien Newton
I would put it at over 32 for the simple reason that I think a lot of republicans are planning to come out and vote in the US Senate race for Steve Garvey, and I think the more people that vote the lower the Trump share is going to be. He’s got  hardcore people who will go out and vote no matter what as we’ve seen, but those more moderate people that are going to come out to try and get Garvey into second place will be enough to bump up Haley’s numbers.

Emery
I would expect Nikki Haley to get less than 30% of the republican vote in California mostly because even in the place where she would have perhaps a stronger advantage, she didn’t. She didn’t win. I think that there we might underestimate or overestimate how overall liberal California is because you have the cities but you also have the rural areas. I don’t know well enough to say where but there are rural areas in California but it’s my understanding that city centers and more rural areas have the strongest divide.

You can get pretty far to the right even being in California you’re just in a different community. I know maybe 1 person who is a member of the Republican party. And he supports Trump.

Damien Newton
I’ve been to a NASCAR race in Fontana with my son a couple years ago who likes race cars. It was a different world than even in the NASCAR race that’s downtown every year at the Coliseum. Going to Fontana, it was like stepping into another planet. It was something else.

Anyone want to give a closing thought?

Emery
In this age where there’s a lot of information, as youth who are emerging into our political minds and perspectives. There’s a lot of misinformation, disinformation. There’s a lot of opinions and it’s very easy if you want to get an opinion to just get one handed to you. 

What the media is essentially marketing right now. Mostly, “here is an opinion that already exists” and I think that makes it a bit difficult for a youth who hasn’t fully formed their own perspectives to get data and come up with their own conclusions. They’re not able to get their own perspective because it’s essentially handed to them prepackaged.

Damien Newton
It doesn’t get better as you get olde. Well hey thank you all so much. I’m going to check in right after the election and we’ll let you know whether Willa and I were right or Emery was.

Emery
Okay.

Damien Newton
And I’m hoping to be able to do these, maybe check in once a month on some different topics. Thank you all for being here with us.

Damien Newton
Damien Newton
Damien is the executive director of the Southern California Streets Initiative which publishes Santa Monica Next, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, Streetsblog California and Longbeachize.

Share post:

More like this
Related

The Active Transportation Program Has to Strategize About its Severely Reduced Funding

The Active Transportation Program (ATP) has always been oversubscribed and...

SMMUSD Opposes City of Malibu Unification Petition After the City Abandons a Mutually Agreed Upon Timeline

The following submission is from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified...

We’re Opening Our Piggy Bank for Our Summer Fundraising Drive

(Already convinced? Click here to start your donation.) While of...