Commentary

12/13/2012  by Alexandra Bjerg

Latino Caucus riding wave of changing California demographics

This election season Latinos proved they are a political force to be reckoned with. Hispanics turned out in record numbers on Election Day and made historic gains in Congress and state legislatures, yet they remain underrepresented in local government. But a newly formed group is determined to promote diversity and to champion the needs of the Latino population at the county level.

A group of Latino county supervisors from across the state recently came together to create the Latino Caucus of California Counties. The group aims to nurture the development of strong Latino leaders and encourage full participation of Latino county officials in the policy making process. 

In addition, the Supervisors will work to identify issues important to counties’ diverse Latino communities and advocate solutions, including legislative intervention. “Government must be inclusive and reflective of the people it serves,” said Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna, the Latino Caucus’ new President (pictured to the right). 

The California State Association of Counties (CSAC), the voice of California’s counties at the state level, officially recognized the newly created organization as an affiliate during their Board of Directors meeting in late November. 

“California State Association of Counties’ legislative priorities have a direct impact on all Californians including Latinos,” said Serna. “As President of the Latino Caucus of California Counties, one of my primary goals is to enhance communication and collaboration between CSAC, the State Legislature and Latino communities in all of our state’s 58 counties.”

The Latino Caucus will serve as a resource regarding Latino issues while ensuring the perspective of the fastest growing segment of the population is taken into account in the development and implementation of public policy at the state and local level.  

“One of CSAC’s roles is to be a conduit for information and ideas between the Legislature and the 58 county governments in California that deal directly with the people and implement state policy,” said CSAC Executive Director Matt Cate. “The Latino Caucus gives us a stronger voice in representing the growing Hispanic population in our state and sends a clear message that we expect the Legislature and Administration to serve all Californians.” 

14.4 million Latinos call California home, accounting for nearly 40% of the state’s residents, however, Latinos hold only a very small percentage of county supervisor seats. For example, nearly half of Los Angeles County’s population is now Latino yet there is only one Latina on the five-member board, Supervisor Gloria Molina. 

California’s county leadership must diversify to better reflect the state’s rapidly changing demographics. A true representative democracy relies on political representation that adequately reflects the interests of the community.  

California Forward hopes that the Latino Caucus will be successful in promoting diversity and inclusiveness as well as become an effective voice for the Latino community at the county level.

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