NOVEMBER 2002

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Call For More Latinos In New York’s City Council
From ElDiario
10 October, 2002

By Fernando Aquino

The demographic situation in New York City, changed by the 2000 census, would entitle the Latino population to more participation in New York´s local politics. This is the opinion of Angelo Falcon, Senior Policy Executive of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF). On October 9, Falcon presented the PRLDEF’s proposal for a redistribution of the 51 districts in which the city is divided, with each district being represented by its own council.

Against segregation

"We are not interested in protecting any office but in making sure that every community is represented appropriately and in fighting segregation out of reasons of political convenience," explained Falcon.

According to PRLDEF’s plan, the number of Latinos in the City Council could rise from 10 to 13. The 2000 census turned out that the Latino Community in New York City has ascended to 2,160,554 people. With 2,601,267 inhabitants, the white population makes up 32 percent of the city’s inhabitants. And with a total of 1,962,154 people, the Afro-American community makes up 24 percent.

The second group

"Since the Latino community is the second largest group in the city, this must be reflected in its political influence," says Falcon. The most profound changes Falcon presents will affect district 21 that is represented by Hiram Monserrate, district 10, represented by Miguel Martinez and district 14, represented by Maria Baez.

The plan is to shift some of the residents from district 21, which is highly populated by Dominicans, and district 26 to district 25 for administrative issues. By doing this, it would be possible for the residents to elect a Hispanic Council both in district 21 and 25.

The same might happen in district 10, where part of the residents would be subscribed to district 7, currently represented by Robert Jackson. This would give the Hispanic population in district 7 the possibility to vote for one of their own and in addition hold district 10.

Changes in the Bronx

The PRLDEF also took into account district 14 where many Dominicans have moved to the Kingbridge area. A just reorganization that moves parts of district 14 to district 16 would give a Hispanic the chance of being elected.

The plan of the PRRLDEF is not supposed to remain a mere proposal. A panel of 15 members, who have been elected by the mayor and the City Council, is already dealing with the redistribution of districts. Their outline is expected for next week.

Open process

In contrast to what he thinks about the redistribution of districts on state level, Falcón believes that the process in New York City will be open and transparent.

"In Albany, Pataki, Bruno and Silver head the most undemocratic process we have ever seen, and every participant is controlled by them. But in this case, the panel has been composed of people of our communities".

The Councils still do have to approve of the commission’s plan, but Falcon is sure that they would not have the same influence as legislators in Albany to make district lines remain inflexible to make sure they will not lose their offices.

Soon after the Commission presents its plan, different groups of interest will be given the opportunity to negotiate their points of view. The final plan is scheduled for December and will be implemented in next year’s elections.

Translated from Spanish by Kirsten Immendorf


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