The overwhelming mantra aimed at young people today is simple: vote. In a world shaped by politics, and with a presidential election right around the corner, encouraging young people to use the power of voting to impact their community has never been more important. And that’s the message that Phoebe Lyons, BC ’19, is sending to her fellow young citizens.
Lyons is 23 years old and running for Manhattan Beach City Council. Her campaign focuses on four pillars—communication and transparency, community services, environmentalism, and regional leadership, she said. After attending a Zoom call with residents, elected officials, and public safety officials, Lyons noticed that the top issue on everyone’s mind was the future of policing around Manhattan Beach. The conversation focused on implicit bias against Black people and other minority groups within the community. Lyons decided the best way for her to take action was in the form of running for City Council.
Lyons’ parents moved to Manhattan Beach when she was just a few months old, drawn by the city’s exceptional public school system.
“It’s a great place to grow up, and I think my goal, really, is to make it an even better place,” she said. “Places that are good can always be better.”
After graduating from BC, Lyons worked for the Los Angeles Opera as a Special Events assistant. With the arrival of COVID-19, the performing arts were hit particularly hard. Lyons found herself laid off at the end of June, just like millions of other Americans.
“It gave me the opportunity to really think, how can I be a part of making positive change in this world, in a time when everything is so crazy,” she said. “It really led me to this campaign.”
Lyons double majored in economics and music while at Boston College. Her experience as a part of BC’s music program, in the University Chorale and as a solo singer, allowed her to be collaborative, she said. She participated in Women in Business, and volunteered at Samaritans through BC’s PULSE program.
Lyons did not have any political aspirations while at BC, but said that the University still equipped her with the skills of collaboration and data analysis essential to policy making. As an economics major, she understands the importance of unitizing data, facts, and information to reach conclusions that will allow her to create policies that work for constituencies.
“In the national conversation as well as at the local level, there is not enough focus as I would like on what the numbers are telling us about where we can best use our money and where there are issues,” Lyons said.
She explained that this is especially true when it comes to the Manhattan Beach Police Department—she hopes to create a policy of transparency about the data surrounding the force in order to open up the conversation about where more resources and money should go. Specifically, she wants MBPD to make policies, standards, and statistics available for viewing on the city website, including weekly reports on Calls for Service, arrests, and non-emergency calls.
Lyons is also an advocate for climate sustainability, particularly in pushing practical ways to help the environment, including solar infrastructure and water recapture. She is focused on spreading the message to her residents that there are immediate changes they can make as individuals to make a difference in the long run.
“If we can get individuals to start making those positive changes, it can really make a huge effect,” she said.
Lyons said that she sees a disconnect between city leadership and the young people that they represent in Manhattan Beach. Her campaign emphasizes that while experience on council is valuable, so is having a diversity of perspectives. This will lead to a more full and complete conversation, she said, and allow for better and more creative solutions that will work for everyone in Manhattan Beach.
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Her campaign has been working with Mira Costa High School, Lyons alma mater, to get eligible students registered and excited about voting. She hopes to remind young people that they have the power to make change in their communities by utilizing their right to vote. She has seen first-hand how high school students are more tuned-in with voting now than ever have been before, which she sees as a positive sign for the representation of young voices.
“I would be the youngest city council member in my city’s history—in Manhattan Beach’s history—which is pretty cool,” Lyons said. “Something that is really motivating me is getting more young people involved in the conversation at the city level, and really getting them interested in the change that you can make on a local level.”
The Manhattan Beach council member election is coinciding with the Presidential election, occuring on Nov. 3. This will mean a higher voter turnout, Lyons said, and an increase in young people learning remotely means that the voter turnout for young people is expected to be especially high.
Lyons’ campaign team is running a small grassroots campaign. Her campaign manager is Madeline Taylor, a friend all the way from elementary school. Other campaign members help with the technical side of the campaign, producing videos about her platform and running her social media. There are also “old-timers” on the campaign team who are excited about having such a young candidate for council member, she said. Being young means she’s fluent in technology, she said, and knows how to make use of Instagram and Facebook.
As a young person, Lyons has faced some who say she can’t be a good city councilor because she is only 23. Lyons said, however, that being young would allow to have a “fresher outlook” on issues that older members may not have.
“What I see as making a valuable and effective city council member is someone who is dedicated to getting input from as many residents as possible and [uses] all the available information to reach meaningful conclusions and [ask] questions that really get to the heart of the issue,” she said.