Today, all roads lead to Albany, where the SOMOS conference is taking place. Dozens of elected officials from throughout the state have gathered to advocate for the issues that impact the Latino community the most.
This year, the focus of SOMOS’s 27th conference is on economic progress and social justice. Since these are two very broad themes, we would like to see a detailed agenda on the table that leads to visible results.
This is an opportunity for new progressive leaders who earned the trust of the electorate at the polls and veteran lawmakers in the State Legislature to advocate for the community’s needs, and an opportunity for Gov. Cuomo to pay attention to the needs of minorities.
Although there are many needs, here we bring up some of the timely issues that require urgent attention:
Our community’s educational performance. Only 12.5% of Latinos are ready for college or a professional career. The barriers that the system imposes have made English-language learners the group with the highest percentage of school dropouts.
On the college level, the legislature was unable to pass the NY Dream Act, taking away access to better resources from young people interested in contributing more to society. However, this can still be included in the state’s final budget.
As far as early education, today there is a debate about creating opportunities for needy families to benefit from universal pre-K throughout the state.
Civic participation and opportunity. Almost 1.7 million New Yorkers lack political representation in the state legislature. The districts that are unrepresented are in NYC and six of the positions, including a senatorial seat, are in poor, Latino-majority districts. Gov. Cuomo has shown that he has no intention to prioritize the need to give a voice in Albany to these New Yorkers, who are members of the electorate and residents of his state.
Decent salaries and less income inequality. According to a Census Bureau report from late 2013, of the city’s ethnic groups, Latinos had the highest poverty rate, 29.8%.
There are other issues on which the Latino community, like other minorities, needs a unified voice like SOMOSfor example, affordable housing and food security.
We hope that after the parties, galas and receptions of SOMOS, the community isn’t the one left with a hangover because of the lack of results.