CB9 Clashes Over Latino Representation
New Caucus Pushes for Increased Outreach, Some Call It Divisive
By Tanveer Ali
Issue date: 4/20/07 Section: News
A proposed mobilization effort to increase Latino representation within Community Board 9 caused an uproar at Thursday's general board meeting, as many members said that such a campaign would affect the unity of the board.
While some members of the board took issue with how the plan was formed-as the brainchild of five Hispanic members who identify themselves as the Latino Caucus-others said that such an effort would be ineffective in reaching out to a community that they say has traditionally been disinterested in local politics.
"Our efforts are designed to act in a determined and unified way to achieve the objective of ensuring that CB9 becomes a truly representative body of the diverse community at-large," Latino Caucus member Jane Arrendell said, explaining that the group would conduct outreach efforts to encourage more Latinos to apply to the board.
But CB9 member Georgiette Morgan-Thomas said that while greater diversity on the board would be beneficial, attracting members of the Latino population might be unsuccessful. "The lack of representation may be deliberate and may be acceptable," Morgan-Thomas said, adding that Latinos in the district, in her experience, have often been unresponsive to outreach efforts.
The population of Community District 9, which serves West Harlem, Morningside Heights, and Hamilton Heights, is 43.2 percent Latino, according to the 2000 census. In the last round of applications, only one new applicant to the 50-member board was identified as Latino or Hispanic, according to the office of Borough President Scott Stringer. The applicant was not selected.
Ted Kovaleff, currently secretary and a former chair of CB9, said that there have been many Hispanic board members in the past, but a number of them had to be taken off of the roll call for poor attendance.
CB9 Chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, who is Latino but not a member of the caucus, emphasized that the caucus is a group formed independent of CB9 and not recognized by the board. Other board members, though agreeing with the aims of the caucus, objected to the way it was formed--in a meeting of which the full board was not alerted--and said they thought it would cause divisiveness.
"I'm for diversity," said Board member Tisha Jackson, but added, "Why did they feel the need for a caucus? Why did they feel the need to separate themselves out? ... We need to do it together."
"The spirit in which we organized is being completely misunderstood," Arrendell said, "We are not here to blame anyone."
But she emphasized that "we are not being represented in the numbers that we should," adding that the Board also lacked Asian and Native American representatives.
Michael Palma, a member of the Latino Caucus, said the group has been created only as a steering committee to introduce CB9 to potential Latino applicants. "A lot of people don't even know about the community board and they don't know what it can do," Palma said. "We had one meeting. Cut us some slack."
Also at Thursday's meeting, District Manager Lawrence McClean announced that the board will have to move its offices out of its current location, at 565 W. 125th St., by June 30, after which the city plans to rehabilitate the building and shift ownership to its residential tenants. McClean said that CB9 has cut a tentative deal to move its office operations to a nearby building, while it will look for locations throughout the district to hold its meetings.
Tom DeMott of the Coalition to Preserve Community discussed Wednesday's teach-in and protest on Columbia's Manhattanville expansion plans. "Columbia's having more and more of a problem selling their expansion plan. They get on New York 1 and they accuse us of ... presenting lies," he said, "It's a symbol of the desperation. It's a symbol of the fact that they cannot break the unity of this community."
The meeting moved into a closed session, where several members present said that a vote failed to remove Vicky Gholson from the board for failing to sign into meetings where she was present.
"There are several board members whose attendance will have to be addressed," Gholson said about the topic of the session. "I was just surprised that I was the only one."
"I would hope that as we move forward with all of the issues-in a body that is all volunteers-that the adjustments are made so that people can serve the best that they can on behalf of the community," she added.
Melissa Repko contributed to this article.
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2007 17:03:50 -0700 (PDT)
From: "J Reyes-Montblanc"
Subject: CB9 Clashes Over Latino Representation New Caucus Pushes for Increased Outreach, Some Call It Divisive
To: "Ali I Tanveer"
I am NOT any sort of Latino. Never ever refer to me as such. I am a Cuba-born AMERICAN, if you ever need to attribute a label to describe me.