Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Latinos rally at City Council Meeting

Monday, February 9, 2015. A big turnout of Latino residents at our City Council meeting.  They were there to support a resolution urging the state legislature to allow undocumented state residents to have driving permits.  I wonder if this was a sign of the future for Plainfield politics and government. But first let's take a look at some facts about Latinos in local government.

As many in Plainfield know, there are no current Latino City Council members.  Ray Blanco was the last and he claimed to be the first.  There have been a few Latino Board of Education members over the years.  Christian Estevez was a example from the recent past.  Orlando Gonzalez was another, from the 1990's (he was my running mate along with Beulah Womack and served one term).  David Rutherford is the only current BOE member. None of Plainfield's three state legislators is Latino.

The Mapp administration appointed Carlos Sanchez to a cabinet level position but there have been few high level Latino officials over the years.  There are a number of Latinos in the police department but I believe they do not approach 40% of the force.  With over 40% of the population, Plainfield Latinos are woefully underrepresented in governmental positions.

As for politics, the Latino show of force quickly awakened the interest of local politicians and organizers in the audience. Along with sincere expressions of support for the Latinos at the Council meeting, there were some who worked strenuously to turn them against the Mayor.  There were a few speakers who in the past year made negative and unsupportive comments about Latinos who on February 9 suddenly saw the light.

So after many years of disengagement, they were out in force and seemingly organized to voice their position.  I said at the meeting that this was by far the most Latino residents at a City Council meeting over my nearly three terms in office.  They were there, not to lobby for a special interest (like a taxi company) or to protest a violent crime against a Latino but to support legislation. And they are using social media to organize.  This is different.

To repeat what I said at the end of the Council meeting to the Latinos in the audience, don't believe everything you hear from local politicians.  Check the facts against the statements.  Check me out also.  As an ally of Ray Blanco and supporter who helped create the Plainfield Advisory Commission on Hispanic Affairs, I am not a recent convert to the cause.  Although the Commission was ineffective, basically inactive, during the Robinson-Briggs administration, Adrian Mapp gave it a new life with his commission appointments in 2014.

There are many agendas in play in Plainfield, especially as we approach the June primary.  I hope to see many of the new faces at future Council meetings.  The more residents that get involved, the better our city government will be.  But keep your eyes wide open as you step into Plainfield politics.

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