In Sutter County, 17 high school students exercise right to petition local government in speech contest

First place winner Sophia Dunlap of East Nicolaus High School (left to right), second place winner Harpreet Mahi of Sutter Union High School, and third place (tie) winners Orrin Jones of Live Oak High School, and Sophia Garcia of Yuba City High School. The Active 20-30 Club of Yuba City-Marysville donated cash prizes for the Public Business From The Floor High School Speech Contest hosted by the Sutter County Board of Supervisors. 

For the third time, the Sutter County Board of Supervisors and the Active 20-30 Club of Yuba City-Marysville hosted the Public Business From The Floor High School Speech Contest. Seventeen students from five high schools participated in the Wednesday, March 28 event in the Board Chambers at the 19th century Hall of Records in Yuba City.


Under both the United States Constitution and California law, members of the public are allowed to petition their local government (as well as the state and federal government). At every local public agency meeting, the public has an opportunity to address the elected representatives about issues that are on the agenda, and any items they wish to discuss that are under the jurisdiction of the local government agency.

“This contest is specifically designed to introduce high school students to the opportunity of speaking up about issues of public importance,” said Board Chairman Dan Flores. “We’ve learned from the teachers at the various schools that students who have participated in this contest have remained engaged in civic matters. I believe this contest is not only unique, but valuable, in that it is an exercise in democracy, and the Board members really appreciate the input from the youth of the community. We don’t get enough of that.”

This contest, which will occur again in 2019, requires speakers to exhibit their general public speaking skills while addressing the Board of Supervisors about matters under the county’s jurisdiction, making a clear request of the Board of Supervisors, using facts and examples of their research, and adhering to the three-minute clock rule adopted by the Board of Supervisors (courts have determined that local public agencies are required to provide only a limited opportunity for public input during meetings, and therefore have the right to place a time limit on public comments so that public agencies can proceed with their noticed agenda in an efficient manner).

East Nicolaus High School’s Sophia Dunlap won first place and $500 for a speech on homeless issues. Sutter Union High School’s Harpreet Mahi won second place and $300 for a speech on mental health funding. Sophia Garcia of Yuba City High School, and Orrin Jones of Live Oak High School, tied for third place and won $200 each. Sophia gave a speech on recreation funding and Orrin gave a speech on future evacuations in the event of flooding.

Speech topics student safety at schools, speeding cars, use of fracking in extracting oil, expansion of food banks, expansion of public transportation to rural communities, drug addiction, and consumer education.

The 20-30 Club donated $1,200 in cash prizes. They have sponsored the cash prizes in each of the three contests so far.

High schools participating were Yuba City, River Valley, East Nicolaus, Sutter, and Live Oak. All high school aged students in Sutter County, including those at charter schools, were invited to participate.