A battle Latinos have to choose

With Latino political power at stake, individuals and organizations should closely monitor the redistricting process underway.

New York City began the work of redrawing the boundaries of the 51 City Council districts. It’s a process that happens every 10 years so that these districts reflect demographic shifts and communities are fairly represented. That is, in theory.

The problem is that political and partisan interests and sheer disregard poison decision-making.

A few weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg and the Council’s Democratic majority and Republican minority announced the 15 appointees to the Commission tasked with redrawing the map.

Things didn’t start out well.

After the announcement, the National Institute for Latino Policy pointed out that only three of the 15 members are Latinos -which matches the number of Latinos who were in the Commission in 1990, despite the fact that New York’s Hispanic community grew by 31% in the past decade alone. To match the new demographics, we should have had five representatives in the Commission.

The lack of Latinos on the Commission, especially coming from the Council, which appoints eight of the 15 members is shameful. Because Latinos were given a short stick, checks are in urgent order to make sure this never happens again.

In the meantime, we should quickly climb on this fast-moving wagon and make sure the Commission doesn’t play politics at the expense of Latinos.

The recently created commission had its initial meeting last night -the first of several before presenting a plan to the public in September. Hispanic groups and leaders should mobilize people to these public hearings.

What is at stake? The power to have a say in the shaping of policies that affect our day-to-day lives and in the distribution of funds for vital services in our neighborhoods.

In recent years, Latino neighborhoods have elected 11 Hispanic council members of the 51 that make up the Council. The number -which accounts for 23% of the Council’s membership- is proportional to the share of Latino voters in the city.

This parity has been achieved through efforts to motivate Latinos to participate, run for office and vote. However, we don’t always get a fair piece of the pie because of political agendas that run against our community’s advancement.

We saw this happen when a committee moved lines for state districts in a way that diluted Latino voting power in New York, even though our numbers have increased.

Hispanics have to repeatedly send a firm message that there are certain lines you can’t cross. And this is a battle we have to choose in a city that often feels resistant to Latinos in power.