Latinos look for representation

Sacramento-- A group of various minority organizations in Sacramento united last week to agree on launching a campaign with the mission of getting more Latinos to run for the Sacramento City Council.

Advocates said there is a lack of minority representation in city issues, especially now that no Latino sits on the council.

The groups -- represented by Latinos, blacks, Asians and Jews -- reached agreement on calling the campaign Empower Sacramento. Advocates also agreed to keep meeting until the city council elections next year.

"With this new organization we look forward to increasing the number of elected (minority) officials on the Sacramento City Council now that, at this moment, there are only two minorities on the council, which is not accepted in a city that is so multiracial," said Efrén Gutiérrez, who is the group's leader.

Gutiérrez emphasized that the situation has been critical for Latinos on the city council because the last time a Latino sat on the council was 10 years ago.

"It's incredible that in a city like Sacramento, where the greatest population growth has been among Latinos, we have not one representative. We want to change this even though doing so will not be easy due to the closeness of the group in power," said Gutiérrez, who met the group over a breakfast meeting in a downtown restaurant.

The last Latino to be elected to a city position was Joe Serna, who was a councilmember before moving on to mayor.

Of the eight Sacramento city councilmembers, six are white, one is Asian and another is black.

"We can see that Sacramento's power is completely unbalanced, and it's not because there haven't been good candidates but because of the lack of political fortitude and support to bring out good candidates," said Gutiérrez.

What this new organization will do at the start is select candidates, prepare them in the time leading to the election and introduce them. The idea is that Latino candidates who are nominated gain a seat on the council in a non-Latino district. And, if a black wins, that he can do so in a Latino district.

In this way, the political power would be shared in an equal and inclusive form for all the city's minorities.

There will be four vacant city council position in next year's primary election. The group is looking to nominate two blacks for districts 2 and 8, and two Latinos for districts 4 and 6.

"This is an alliance we are seeking with the goal of unity, of doing things together with all the groups in the city and where we include white leaders as well. This is an issue that concerns the entire community," said Fred Millar, president of the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's board of directors.

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