Latinos Expect Representation in de Blasio Administration

Latino voters in New York  City (Photo by Humberto Arellano via El Diario)

Latino voters in New York City’s recent mayoral election. (Photo by Humberto Arellano via El Diario)

With a new mayor come changes and appointments to key positions within the mayor’s cabinet. Following Democrat Bill de Blasio’s victory, one of the great expectations is how diverse this new administration will be and what role Latinos will have in it.

“The most important figure will be Roberto Pérez,” said Carlos Vargas-Ramos, political analyst and research associate at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College.

Pérez, who was already influential in Latino politics through his radio show and blog, The Pérez Notes, is the deputy chief of staff for the public advocate, de Blasio’s current position. It is believed that Pérez will form a critical part of the new mayor’s transition committee.

However, de Blasio received little backing from Latino leaders during the primaries, and some speculate that this could have some negative consequence when it comes to hiring for the administration’s various positions.

State Sen. Rubén Díaz Sr. criticized de Blasio in one of his weekly columns in October for not mentioning Latinos among possible candidates for police commissioner.

“I refuse to believe that this might be the reason why a Latino wouldn’t be considered for the position of New York City police commissioner,” he said, referring to the lack of support from Latino leaders.

Only Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito and Assemblyman Luis Sepúlveda endorsed de Blasio’s candidacy for mayor. Mark-Viverito is one of the potential candidates for City Council speaker.

Sepúlveda said he has taken the lead in promoting the Latino agenda to de Blasio. “Part of what I asked for is more Latino representation in his administration,” Sepúlveda said. He added that more resources will be invested in the educational system which should help Latino students, who have a high dropout rate. Only 57.3 percent of Latino students graduate from public schools.

So far, de Blasio has mentioned African-American Philip Banks III, the NYPD Chief of Department, and former commissioner William Bratton, of Irish background, for the important position as the head of New York’s finest.

On the other hand, the main Latino police groups, including the National Latino Officers Association of America, are asking de Blasio to consider First Deputy Commissioner Rafael Piñeiro, of Spanish origin, as the new leader of the NYPD.

“I don’t think that he would rebuff the Latino community and marginalize them by not naming a Latino leader,” said Vargas-Ramos, who noted that de Blasio ran as the “inclusive” candidate. “The Latino community is a vital part of this city,” he emphasized.

Although Michael Jones-Correa, a political science professor at Cornell University, agreed that de Blasio will pay attention to Latinos, he said it’s important to note that the public advocate hasn’t had strong connections with this community throughout his entire political career. As a result, Jones-Correa predicted that “it will be very hard to move beyond political symbolism,” and that “the community will have to make an effort to create those ties.”

But de Blasio did receive backing from Latino voters. According to exit polling data from Edison Research, 85 percent of Latino voters favored de Blasio on Election Day.  And he got 38 percent of the Latino vote in the primaries, much more than any other candidate.

Vargas-Ramos explained that the public will truly be able to see where the new Democratic administration is headed when the first budget gets approved in mid-2014. The last Democratic mayor was David Dinkins, who ran the city from 1990 to 1993.

“His public policy will be based on that budget,” said Vargas-Ramos.

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