Saturday, March 14, 2009

Houston: The Quest for Inclusion

Current Houston population estimates place the percentages of the different ethnic groups as follows: 41% Hispanics, 28% Whites, 24% African-Americans and 7% Asian-Americans, but the percentages of Hispanics in key positions in local organizations convey a dismal reality. Members and leaders of the Hispanic community, often voice their concern about being underrepresented in the local government and other local organizations. This is an undeniable fact. The question is, why?

In a recent series of articles written by Dr. Richard Murray (U. H.) and published in his blog at , he elaborates on the possible reasons. The first and more important he mentions, is the poor participation. Out of 41% Hispanics, only an estimated 12% voted in the last presidential elections. (12 percent of 41 percent, is less than 5% of the total potential votes!) With that level of participation, the only chance a Hispanic leader may have to become Houston Mayor, for example, is to receive a considerable support from other groups. If the Hispanic leadership cannot bring “their natural constituency” to the voting room, a more difficult challenge would be to appeal other voters.

Recently Texas Senator Mario Gallegos and other Hispanic and African-American leaders proposed legislation on non-profit organizations, specifically requesting that they “appoint a board of directors that represent the diversity of its constituents.” Actions of this type address the issue of representation, but still do not solve the one of participation, and furthermore, equate to some form of affirmative action. A representation without participation always raises the question of legitimacy, some of our website readers have pointed out.

The root cause of the poor representation in the local non-profits and local politics resides in the failure of the Hispanic leadership to convince their own constituency to participate, to vote, to volunteer, to pitch in. Breaking the indifference of the Hispanic population is the real challenge.

As with any rule, there are exceptions, of course: Harris County recently elected Adrian Garcia as its County Sheriff, from his previous position as Houston Council Member.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Rodeo 2009: The Quest for Inclusion

Senator Gallegos and Community leaders ask diversity and transparency to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

State Senator Mario Gallegos (D-Harris County) stood with leaders of the African-American and leaders of the Hispanic Community to announce the filing of legislation. They want the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to become more diverse and more transparent.

The debate is over minority representation at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at its highest levels of leadership. This year, representatives of the African-American and Latin communities got together to address this issue in a new forum -- the state legislature.

“It is time for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to come to the 21st Century- enough with the Good Ole’ Boy System of doing business. We are calling for the Rodeo to reevaluate how they allocate scholarships, appoint members to the highest levels of the Board, and award contracts” said Senator Gallegos.

Senator Gallegos filed legislation to require, in part, non-profits to appoint a board of directors that represents the diversity of its constituents, answer open records requests and make reasonable efforts to increase minority participation in contracts.