Last week I sat down with my State Senator. Senator Laurie Monnes-Anderson and I met for about an hour at the Gresham City Hall, tucked between two reception areas in the Multnomah Room, we discussed issues concerning area Hispanics and my take (the majority are no different than non-Hispanic issues). I requested the meeting and was pleased she followed through. The meeting was prompted after being re-confirmed by Governor Ted Kulongoski to the Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs (www.oregon.gov/hispanic) for another 3-year term. I requested a meeting with my two representatives. I’ve not met with Rep. Nick Kahl, yet. To summarize the conversation we discussed: 1. Drivers’ License, 2. Gang Violence, 3. K-12 Education and College, 4. Health Care and 5. Jobs.
On the drivers’ license I expressed my concern that the current law undermines public safety for all Oregonians. Currently, Oregon requires proof of citizenship to take the exam and qualify for a drivers’ license. This law hugely impacted a part of Oregon’s Latino community. We also discussed Hispanic gang violence and outreach. I mentioned a few years ago, former Multnomah County Commissioner Serena Cruz led a Latina/o Youth Gang Summit in Gresham. What we found was that Latina/o youth were often targeted by law enforcement if they either a. dressed a certain way, and/or b. associated with known gang members. Students expressed the need to have role models and support channels. Often, these are in short supply. We also discussed the high school drop-out rate. A few weeks back the [Chalkboard Project] (http://www.chalkboardproject.org) published a report on Hispanic achievement, and in general the drop-out rate is improving. My personal belief is that every student can learn, but they must given the tools and opportunity at a very young age. This includes role models and advisors. On college, we discussed how Chancellor George Pernsteiner is holding every one of his college president’s personally accountable for recruitment/retention of diverse students, faculty and staff. One such campus, Western Oregon University (WOU), conducts “onsite recruitment” in rural Marion county areas. This means that when WOU visits Gervais or Independence High School it has the power to engage with high school students and recruit them on the spot. This is not only smart marketing, it’s smart practice. Sen. Monnes-Anderson expressed her support for fully funding higher education and the importance of making it easier for Hispanics to get there. On health care we discussed the importance of quality and accessible health care. Our downfall in East Multnomah County, unlike Washington County, is we don’t have a Virginia Garcia clinic. While Wallace Medical Concern fills a void, Hispanics long for health care just like every other American. On jobs, we discussed the impact of loss of jobs in the area. Obviously, the recession has created a considerable headache and worry to Hispanic households. The housing crash impacted the need for wood, and steel. Both industries heavily represented by Hispanics. In agriculture, specifically nursery jobs, have greatly undermined Hispanic families further stalling their progression. In general services industry, the recession has slowed this industry greatly impacting Hispanics. In general, the economy has taken a negative toll on the lower and middle-class, and more so on East County Hispanic families.
We both agree that Hispanics will play a more pivotal role in our society in the future as their numbers increase and gain more political clout. Sen. Monnes-Anderson and I met not just to discuss issues but to build trust. In our democracy (of the people, by the people) it’s imperative that we get to know our elected officials. This starts and ends with each of us. Next I will meet with Rep. Kahl.
What issue did I leave out but should have included?
Commissioner David Molina, a community activist, has served on the Commission since April 2006 and served as Vice Chair from July 1, 2008 to July 16, 2009.