Monday, December 31, 2012

This is where increased empowerment begins

The swearing-in ceremony of Ruben Bermudez as the new mayor doesn’t mean a thing outside of the community of Vineland, N.J.

This sign will soon need updating, as Ruben Bermudez moves up to the top post

Yet for those of us with an interest in increased Latino political empowerment, it is events such as what will happen on Tuesday that ought to be of great significance to all of us.

FOR THE COMMUNITY in southern New Jersey elected its first Latino ever to the top post in its municipal government, along with a slate of candidates for City Council posts aligned with him.

And no, this isn’t some activist slate. Based solely on a superficial glance at the names of the slatemembers, this would seem to be a combination of Latinos, Italians and Greeks who got elected.

A nice ethnic combination that I suspect accurately comprises the people of Vineland (I’ve never been there, so I don’t know firsthand).

They all will be sworn in to their new posts during ceremonies to be held Tuesday. A new year with new public officials who won  a runoff election that was held just a couple of weeks ago.

WHICH SOUNDS LIKE a nice way to get government off to a fresh start, rather than the nonsense we’re getting at the federal level where Barack Obama and the new Congress were elected nearly two months ago, yet we still have remnants of the old government lingering around to inflict partisan political damage.

Yet just because I want a sense of variety is not the only reason I’m paying attention to the municipal political scene in New Jersey (actually, I stumbled across a story in the Cherry Hill, N.J.-based newspaper purely by accident on Sunday).

What catches my attention is that it is the word that Latinos are getting elected to lower-level posts like this that gives me some sense that our numbers among the elected officials ranks will grow.

For these municipal bodies, along with the school boards and park districts and other often-anonymous entities is where the real governing of our society is taking place.

AND WE SHOULDN’T forget that our high-ranking elected officials of today were most likely the past decade’s anonymous politicos whom nobody outside of their hometown had ever heard of.

I’m not saying that I believe is destined for political greatness. Maybe he will someday move up the ranks. Or maybe he has hit his peak – being mayor of his hometown.

I have known many an individual with an interest in electoral politics for whom that post was their own personal goal and the thought of being one of those “bigwigs” serving in a state Legislature or in Congress had no attraction.

But the more Latinos who can get elected to these posts will boost our overall profile and perception.

BECAUSE THE PROBLEM Latino activists often have in dealing with local government bodies is that they’re dealing with individuals whose own backgrounds are not identical, and who want to believe that the growing Latino population is just too different from the mass of society.

Try having a few Latino officials in office when policy decisions are made, and you will see how quickly the overall government perception gets changed.

Personally, I have no patience to run for political office. I don’t have the patience to deal with the often snail-like pace at which public policy advances in the proper direction for our society. But I certainly get a kick out of seeing one of my ethnic brethren getting a chance to show what he can do.

Because let’s face it, even if you do have some sort of ethnic hang-up that makes you want to believe that a Latino public official just can’t do the job, do you really believe anything can be more inept than the public officials/buffoons who got us to the point we’re in now?


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