The Falls Church City Council approved a resolution at last week's meeting establishing a 23-member youth commission. The citizens advisory committee will identify concerns and develop policies for the city's children.

"Sitting on the council, you hear a lot about digging ditches, planning and development, but not a lot about kids," said council member Phillip J. Thomas, who drafted the proposal for the commission. "What do kids see as their needs in the community? No one really asks them."

Seventeen members of the commission will be selected from city and civic organizations, including representatives from public and private school PTAs, the police and probation departments, educators and a member of the city's religious community. The other six members will be appointed by the council.

Having representatives from many different city organizations will "provide more coordination and integration of policies for youth and facilitate an exchange of ideas," Thomas said.

The commission will address and develop programs on youth-related issues, including substance abuse and limited recreational opportunities for Falls Church's 2,000 children, one-fifth of the city's population of 10,000. An ice skating rink and the city's only movie theater both closed in the past decade.

The commission also will examine the needs of specific groups, including private school, special education and English as a Second Language students. Possible support groups for children and community-wide, interdenominational activities "to infuse a spirit of ecumenical cooperation" will be investigated by the commission, Thomas said.

An 11-member Youth Advisory Board, composed of city students, will attend the commission's meetings and offer their insights on youth concerns.

Principals will select eight of the members, in fifth grade through high school, including public, private and English as a Second Language students. The three other members will be selected by the commission chairman, who will be appointed by commission members. Both commission and board members will serve two-year terms.

"It's an opportunity {for children} to express their ideas and carry them out," Thomas said. "If you want a particular item, let's develop a plan of action and pursue it."