Civic involvement is essential for government to be effective

Published in the July 9-23, 2014 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Mario Banuelos

Mario Banuelos

Mario Banuelos

For the upcoming fall elections, Morgan Hill needs strong, competent leaders to step up and run for public office to reflect our changing demographics.

According to the Pew Research Center in 2014, Latinos are projected to become the largest single racial/ethnic group in the state of California. In the upcoming mid-term elections this November, Latino voter turnout is expected to increase more than 17 percent from the 2010 elections, yet Latinos are still underrepresented among elected officials in proportion to the general population. The 2010 census shows Latinos making up 34 percent of Morgan Hill’s population.

For the past decade, immigration reform has been the top concern for Latinos, even though ideologically Latinos are just as diverse as the general public when it comes to important issues such as the economy, education, civil rights, and health care. It’s important for our elected officials to be informed and engaged with the public on the issues that directly affect their constituents. Civic involvement is essential for government to be effective.

In 2010, a friend of mine called and asked me to meet a Latina candidate, Claudia Rossi, running for the Morgan Hill Unified School District board of trustees. Over coffee, she shared with me why she was running for office: her passion for the success of all students. As she told me her struggles growing up as an English learner and living in poverty, I nodded in affirmation because we shared many of the same life experiences.

More importantly, she identified with many families in our community and their struggles maneuvering through our public school system. After winning the election, she became the sounding board for many parents who felt comfortable communicating their concerns to someone who truly understood.

Our local government agencies have actively sought input and feedback from the Latino community. Last year during the General Plan 2035 update, several community workshops were conducted in Spanish. It was reassuring to see that some of the same land-use concerns were raised in both language groups and addressed by City staff.

This past spring the Morgan Hill Unified School District held a handful of “Getting to know your neighborhood schools” workshops in Spanish with bi-lingual literature available on new and existing programs. It is important for our community that residents attend these opportunities and engage with elected officials.

One way to become involved in the democratic process is to run for local government office, such as our school board, city council, the Santa Clara County Board of Education, and other politically-elected posts. The filing period for candidates interested in running for political office this November is from July 14 through Aug. 8. Applications can be picked up at the Santa Clara County Office of the Registrar of Voters. (For details, visit the website www.sccgov.org/sites/rov/Pages/Registrar-of-Voters.aspx)

If potential candidates feel 2014 might be too soon to consider running for office, it’s never too late to prepare for the next election in 2016. Interested candidates should consider looking for upcoming vacancies and demonstrate interest by serving on Morgan Hill commissions such as Planning, Parks and Recreation, Library, Arts and Culture, and school site councils.

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Prior to running for political office, a great way to get involved is to volunteer and join the boards of directors of local non-profits or service organizations. The nonprofit group Leadership Morgan Hill is also a valuable community resource that provides network opportunities and leadership training.

If we want to make a difference in our community, Latinos need to run for office and serve, or help encourage other strong community leaders to run for office. Morgan Hill needs strong, competent leadership in official positions to truly reflect the diversity in our community.

Mario Banuelos is a long-time Morgan Hill resident active in education and other issues in Morgan Hill. He wrote this for Morgan Hill Life.

LEARN MORE

The candidate filing period for the November election is July 14 through Aug. 8.

To learn about Leadership Morgan Hill, visit www.leadershipmorganhill.org.

To learn more about city commission and council positions, visit www.morgan-hill.ca.gov.

Marty Cheek