Published in the September 13 – September 26, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

Image result for ElectionsMorgan Hill will soon conduct district elections to elect city council members to conform with the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. The act was designed to increase minority representation. The city council begrudgingly accepted this reality to avoid expensive litigation, but not before complaining from the dais that “there was a lot of nonsense behind it” (San Jose Mercury News). Even some Latino leaders were not convinced that district elections would in fact produce elected Latino city council members.

When nearly one-third of the Morgan Hill population is Latino, no local political leaders have voiced any creative ideas on how to implement this change so that the worthy aspirations of the law might be met. We, on the other hand, believe this is an opportunity for each of us to take a greater role in identifying and recruiting new Latino leaders to serve at the decision-making table of the city council.

It is true that district elections do not guarantee minority representation. However, if we strengthen our infrastructure and capacity to help identify and nurture new Latino leadership, we enhance the quality of leadership and decision making.

Here are some ideas:

Leadership Morgan Hill. This organization has developed a stellar training program to inspire future leaders to engage in community service. Let’s redouble efforts to identify emerging Latino leaders for this program.

City Hall Academy: During an election year, the city could sponsor an information forum for candidates so that all candidates hear from department heads about their budget, current projects and challenges. Incumbent council members will always have a competitive edge on such information, but we need a comprehensive orientation and induction to the inner workings of the city. This will help to produce smarter candidates.

Establish a Campaign Leadership School: This will require a sponsor, perhaps the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley, which can offer leadership development academies. But at the very least, former elected city council members could help to educate new candidates on winning strategies as well as challenges of running a campaign.

The more we demystify the process of becoming a viable candidate, the more we increase the chances of success. What might you or your organizational affiliations do to increase city council representation?

We need to reclaim our democracy and ensure representative government. To do so, Morgan Hill must tap into all its human assets. It is important to elect Latinos to broaden and deepen the council’s conversations on such issues as public safety, housing, business development and support, recreation, youth and senior services.

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Our contributions to Morgan Hill are varied and significant. Latino small businesses thrive and we are a substantial workforce for many local industries. As we look to implement district elections, it is important that we focus on progression, not perfection.

Before Councilmember Rene Spring was elected, the gay pride flag never flew over City Hall, and when it finally did because of his leadership, it reminded us of our pride in our diversity.

Recently our city celebrated Women’s Equality Week thanks in great part to the leadership of Councilmember Caitlin Robinett Jachimowicz. Being on the city council does make a difference. One cannot overlook the impact of the collective values, culture and life experiences that each councilmember brings to the table. Let’s look forward positively not begrudgingly, and work hard to increase diversity on the city council through district elections.

Morgan Hill wins when it engages all of its human assets.