Jan 282009

While Dan Palmer was in high school, his interests — speech and debate, fencing, hiking, camping and musical participation in a few failed heavy metal bands — were varied, but Palmer has maintained a key characteristic no matter what he’s involved in: He’s always been very in touch with young people.

At the present, the CSU graduate student is concerned with giving people under the age of 30 a voice in the local political arena.

Palmer, the director of Education for the Associated Students of CSU and a member of the student government since his freshman year of college, was planning to run for City Councilmen in District 1 in the spring election but said he is now “strongly considering withdrawing.”

However, Palmer said he still plans to share his ideas with the city in hopes of better representing citizens under the age of 30. While Palmer said he doesn’t feel experienced enough to jump into city issues and politics at this time, he also said he believes age is not something that should hinder youth involvement in political contributions.

“I just think that I’m not far enough ahead,” he said.

Political professor John Straayer said it is indeed possible for young people to become extensively involved in local politics, but they first need an organization, an agenda, some financial resources and the ability to have their organization to continue through time.

“(It) is not easy in a student demographic which is, by its nature, transient,” he said.

Palmer, who has aimed to act as an example of political awareness throughout his time at CSU, first became interested in ASCSU his freshman year because his friends were involved. He later decided to join and has been a part of the program ever since.

“What I love about it (ASCSU) is the sense of purpose,” Palmer said. “Putting a plan together, seeing it go into action — It’s very satisfying.”

While active in many student government projects over the years, Palmer considered his greatest accomplishment to be his contributions to the team that helped write, lobby for and eventually pass the College Textbook Affordability Act, which helped lower the cost of textbooks for students after it was approved in Senate last year.

“It was a fascinating process,” Palmer said.

Senate Bill 73 brings a greater transparency to the cost of textbooks and requires textbook prices and significant revisions to be publicly disclosed and for books to be unbundled from CD-ROMS and other materials.

The bill should be fully in effect after this semester, Palmer said.

ASCSU President Taylor Smoot said that Palmer’s main contribution to the program is “his understanding of the community and how he can relate students to the greater good of Fort Collins.”

Palmer said he hopes to present to City Council the idea, though still in development, of creating a non-emergency number for the city that people can call instead of dialing 911. Denver recently implemented a number like this and reduced costs by $1.5 million.

Palmer has also worked with members of student government to counteract the impacts of Three Unrelated, the city ordinance commonly referred to as the U + 2, which prevents more than three non-related roommates to live together. The ordinance is now up for review by City Council and the CSU and Fort Collins communities on Feb. 3.

“This hasn’t been an effective policy ultimately,” Palmer said. “By not renting out as many rooms as possible, people will find a way to cheat.”

Palmer believes that instead of impacting the less-advantaged people who are not able to afford rent with such few people, the real problem should be targeted itself.

“A reasonable argument is that there isn’t enough parking for some of the houses,” Palmer said. “[The city] needs to target the problem itself.”

Straayer echoed the importance of Palmer’s desire to represent the youth demographic in the political arena.

“It is beneficial in a pluralistic society to have diversity in representation — young and old, men and women, variety in occupations, a mix of ethnicity and so forth,” Straayer said.

Staff writer Justyna Tomtas can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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