Filling the void

Filling the void

Latinos must step up to make a difference on the City Council and school board

By Randy Jurado Ertll 06/20/2013

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One would think that a Latino candidate would have been elected to the Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education, since much money and time were placed on redistricting — so that minority candidates would have a better shot at winning in newly created smaller districts. What is most ironic and contradictory is that more than 60 percent of PUSD students are Latino. 
 
Unfortunately, this is a sign that historical institutional discrimination continues to exist throughout the city of Pasadena. Those who would disagree are mainly those who are used to holding power, without being challenged or questioned and may not believe that racism and discrimination continue to exist. 
 
Of course, discrimination is less if we compare it to the 1950s pre-Civil Rights Movement. But the reality is discrimination is alive. The question is simple: How many Latinos hold positions of policy- decision-making power within the city and PUSD?   
 
The truth of the matter is demographics have changed dramatically in Pasadena and younger Latino leaders need to step up to fill the void of representation at the school district and city levels. Having one Latino on the City Council is not enough. 
 
On the issue of school board representation, Ramon Miramontes decided not to run again for the school board, and now there are none. But, he is reportedly considering running for the council. One candidate is not enough. Other Latinos need to consider running for the council and the mayor’s seat.
 
We need highly qualified, energetic, competent and motivated individuals who will step up to advocate for the working-class communities in Pasadena. I am not just being a cheerleader for Latino candidates. We need diverse representation from Asian American, Armenian American and African American communities as well.
 
Pasadena has a tremendous history, largely because of Caltech, Parsons Engineering and Jacobs Engineering, Pasadena City College, Art Center College of Design and other world-known institutions. However; if we look at history at a closer level, we see that Albert Einstein decided to leave Pasadena and that baseball great Jackie Robinson did the same. One has to wonder why they chose to leave such a beautiful city. Pasadena must retain its homegrown leaders. 
 
Pasadena losing many Latino activists and leaders may be related to the trend that I have observed over the last decade. Most Latino activists, community leaders and political candidates who have lost in elections stick around for a few years, but then leave town or are never seen again. Many feel burned out and underappreciated. No one said that fighting for social justice was easy.  
 
We need to teach our younger generation that chasing money and prestige should not be the only driving factors in their lives. A job title should not determine one’s value as a human being. Also, having a big bank account does not make one superior, more intelligent, or better than the less fortunate. Most often, accumulated wealth is inherited anyway.
 
We need our young leaders to recognize that they must get a quality education and that they should give back to their community — especially by running for political office, so that they may make changes at the institutional policy level. Otherwise, Latinos will continue to be seen as second-class citizens in the City of Roses.
 
Established leaders need to embrace and support up-and-coming community leaders instead of opposing their drive and motivation. Such opposition shows there is intolerance toward activists who dare to speak up and point out inequities. Nonprofit organizations do have the right to advocate as long as it is not related to electoral politics or political partisanship. Yes, nonprofits can and should tackle issues of health care access, environmental protection, immigration reform, educational equity, law enforcement, women’s rights, civil rights, human rights … I could go on and on. But are nonprofits in Pasadena changing things at the root and policy levels? 
 
Some are doing wonderful work, but they remain quiet on issues that we cannot afford to further ignore, like the fact that Pasadena has a wider gap between the rich and poor than most cities in Los Angeles County. 
 
Programs and social services are essential, but nonprofits can go beyond the safe model of job security and wanting to fit in. Intellectual capacity, innovation and respectful discussions are some things that have made Pasadena world famous. Let us continue the tradition of the Pasadena Way of embracing and promoting tolerance and not contribute to some of the factors that led to people like Einstein and Robinson leaving town. We have to create the opportunities here in our own communities of the San Gabriel Valley. We know that the San Gabriel Valley gets neglected in comparison to other Los Angeles regions, such as Hollywood and West, East and South LA. The San Gabriel Valley should be proud of its history, roots and diverse communities. 
 
My ultimate goal is to motivate young Latino leaders to obtain their educations and to eventually evolve into effective community activists and leaders. We need leaders to aim beyond their own self interests and reach out to improve Pasadena and embrace its diversity. 

Randy Jurado Ertll, author of the upcoming book “The Life of an Activist: In the Frontlines 24/7.” To obtain more information, please visit randyjuradoertll.com.

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Comments

Thank you, Pasadena Weekly, for providing such a professional, polished forum for the diverse voices of our community. As Randy Ertll says, our city has a beautiful legacy, and we've come a long way. But as he also points out, we still have much more work to do to create a genuine COMMUNITY in every sense of the word that is freer of class divisions than it now is.

That will mean, of course, taking meaningful (not token) steps to enhance the education of all our children, to tackle long-festering issues and shortcomings in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and to bring greater diversity to the table. Excluding or minimizing any groups from participation and conversation is not the American Way. Thanks to Randy for reminding us of this. We all have much work to do.

posted by Thelma T. Reyna on 6/20/13 @ 02:39 p.m.

Part of the problem is that some current Latino leaders in this city are either ineffective, abrasive or they've become "token" Latinos. Token Latinos have very limited power and they are not change agents. They're gate keepers of the status quo because they don't dare to speak out about social justice. They exist solely to allow the majority rule to pretend they're diverse and inclusive. They actually work against Latinos.

posted by JuliusCaesar on 6/20/13 @ 02:55 p.m.

Randy after eight years of keeping the doors open to El Centro de Accion Social And providing social services to the working poor community Within the city of Pasadena. I find the analysis made Publicly by the city's mayor About your performance to be a Breach of Civility Between City Hall and a nonprofit agency. During this length of time the Mayor should have taken you aside and spoken to you about his concerns

Maybe City Hall is suffering a counterdependency disorder

posted by DsmV on 6/20/13 @ 04:54 p.m.

Latinos need to get out and vote.

posted by Erwin Chusid on 6/20/13 @ 05:24 p.m.

Hold on a second: Discrimination is the reason that more Latinos have not been elected to the City Council or the Board of Education? That's a crock. The fact is that Latino voters historically have a poor track record for going to the polls. Even when the first redistricting several years ago created the largely Latino District 5 for the City Council, voters in that district elected the white candidate over the Latino candidate. Go figure. But don't call it discrimination.

posted by Jessica Powers on 6/20/13 @ 08:25 p.m.

The primary impediments to elected representation used to be external (racism and at large elections). Remember that this is a city where the covenants on real property (except the northwest "Servant's Quarters") prevented sale to all except "gentile caucasians" and where the public pool excluded people of color on every day except "International Day" at the end of which it was cleaned for the next week. The intentional segregation in Pasadena, including segregated schools, and lack of access to resources are the foundation on which the old system was built. And yes, things are not what they were.

Now the primary impediments to elected representation are internal (absence of a consensus candidate, for example). Not every Latino in a position of influence has to be a "change agent", and the "community" has not come to grips with the notion of leadership and what that should be or mean. It is all evolving.

posted by Vivavilla on 6/22/13 @ 12:44 p.m.

It's interesting to note the strides that Asian Americans and Latinos have made in electoral office in Pasadena's neighboring cities in the San Gabriel Valley. Former Congressmember Hilda Solis and current Congressmember Judy Chu come to mind. However, it seems that as long as people stay in their places and don't stir up controversy, everything is fine. An activist long ago made a point about stirring up the comfortable establishment and siding with the outsiders of that time. In fact, many of today's establishment leaders probably worship this activist every Sunday.

posted by Klee on 6/23/13 @ 08:34 p.m.

I keep hearing that something needs to be done about the wealth disparity between the rich and poor here in Pasadena... but I haven't heard any solutions. What do people think should be done?

Here's what I think: I think, if you can't afford to live in Pasadena, or you can't find work here, you should move to a more affordable city. Trust me, you'll be happier living somewhere you can afford.

I know it sounds harsh, but people sound like they are entitled to live here in Pasadena. You are not. Heck, I'd love to live on the cliffs of Malibu. I'd love to live at the beach, hear the waves lull me to sleep, drink wine on my balcony watching the sunset over the Pacific as I listed to some jazz. Problem is, I can't afford it. I don't think I should b*tch and moan about the folks of Malibu are not accomodating my living there. I don't really care if they inherited the wealth or not. Sure, it's not fair that I wasn't born with rich parents, but that's not everyone else's problem. As a matter of fact, it's not my problem either.. because I don't see it as a problem. I live where I can afford, and I'm at peace with that. I propose others do the same.

posted by True Freedom on 6/24/13 @ 10:41 a.m.

Actually, I do have an idea of something the city could do... encourage local businesses to hire local employees instead of out of towners.

Perhaps there could be some tax breaks, some free business advertising on city mailers/ website/ events/ etc.

Hiring local is much easier to do with lower skilled jobs, because the required skillset, by definition, is not specialized (and thus, harder to find).

Additionally, while benefiting local workers, hiring local helps the rest of the community with less commute traffic as well.

posted by True Freedom on 6/24/13 @ 11:11 a.m.
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