One of the biggest stories coming out of the 2010 census is the growth of the Latino population, which has seen a 43% increase in the last decade. In Washington D.C. Latinos now make up around 9% of the total population, but their historical representation on the City Council has been less – 0%.
At a recent Latino Community forum at Carlos Rosario Charter School, candidates for the at-large seat on the city council answered questions about the issues of most concern to Latinos in D.C.
Topping the list is education, along with affordable housing and jobs.
Joshua Lopez, who, if he wins, will be the Council’s first Latino member, spoke frankly about the housing situation around Columbia Heights, where the forum took place.
“Number one, we need to enforce the laws that are on the books. There’s a bunch of slum lords in teh city, who don’t maintain their buildings,” Said Lopez, to the evening’s loudest applause. “And you can see some of them along 14th street…It’s shameful.”
Other candidates, like Bryan Weaver, whose wife is Colombian and children are bilingual, addressed issues such as proposals to allow legal residents, even if they are not U.S. citizens to vote in local elections, for example for their local ANC members.
“We’re a city of immigrant, the thing that makes the character of Washington, D.C. so important is that we have so many Ethiopians, Vietnamese, Salvadorans, Guatemalans that live within the community, and we really ahve to make people feel they’re a part of that.”
German Vigil, a voter and community organizer who attended the forum liked the idea of such a proposal. He also said that anxiety about immigration status has been one of the main obstacles to political organizing among Latinos.