Councilwoman encourages student invovlement

By Chloe Wilhelm - Staff Reporter

Voting and becoming civically engaged is one of the many ways students can make a difference in their communities, a Des Moines City Council member said on Tuesday.

Luisa Bangs, who became a city council member in 2015, visited campus as part of Highline's Civic Tuesdays, which features local leaders who discuss the importance of voting and civic engagement.

Bangs was elected for a four-year term in 2015 after living in Des Moines for more than 20 years, and is the first person of color to serve on the Des Moines City Council.

She said that her experiences have played a role in how she became involved in serving her community.

Bangs explained that her mother, an Italian immigrant, and her father, who was from Chicago, lived in Mississippi before moving to Spokane.

She said that her father was engaged in politics, and after her mother became a U.S. citizen in the 1960s, she realized that they were able to make a difference in their community by voting and becoming civically engaged.

"They were able to make a difference not only federally and in the state, but in the city we lived in," she said. "I realized [that] at some point in time, I could make a difference."

Bangs said that she became involved in the Black Panther movement in Spokane, and provided food and educational assistance to community members who needed help.

While the group had a mixed reception from the public at the time, she said that they were able to provide assistance to communities that the government didn't.

She said that people encouraged her to run for city council to make a difference, and she is now in the third year of her first term, while working full-time at the Port of Seattle.

As a city council member, Bangs said that her job is to look over the city's goals and projects, and to generally represent constituents and the city of Des Moines as a whole.

She currently serves on four committees, including Municipal Facilities and Public Safety and Emergency Management, which organizes preparation for emergencies.

Bangs said that one of her goals as a council member is "changing the face of how people see Des Moines [and] showing people that we have a lot to offer."

She explained that she is hoping to bring businesses to Des Moines that will bring art and culture to the city. She also wants to develop a stronger connection to Highline.

Bangs encouraged students to vote and become active members of their communities.

She said that voting is extremely important, especially since it allows people to make a difference and act on issues that are important to them.

"You can make a difference because your voice will be heard," she said.

Bangs also encouraged to get involved in their communities, and said that even small actions can make a difference.

She said that getting involved "led me to the power of community and the importance of engagement… and how one person can make a difference."

"It can start very small in your own community," she said.

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