Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gustavo Rivera on THE PEREZ NOTES

I had the opportunity to interview State Senator Gustavo Rivera, who represents the 33rd SD. We discussed rent protection laws, the millionaires tax, the independent caucus in the State Senate, and the budget.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Julissa Reynoso on THE PEREZ NOTES

I had the opportunity to interview Julissa Reynoso, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central American and Caribbean Affairs at the United States Department of State. This interview was conducted in September of 2008 shortly after President Obama won the Democratic party nomination. We discussed the campaign, and the Sarah Palin phenomenon.

Julissa Reynoso became Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central America and the Caribbean in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the Department of State on November 16, 2009. Julissa Reynoso is an attorney by trade and, prior to joining the U.S. State Department, practiced law at the international law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP in New York, focusing on international arbitration and antitrust law. She was also a fellow at New York University School of Law and Columbia Law School.

In 2006, Ms. Reynoso served as Deputy Director of the Office of Accountability at the New York City Department of Education. She has published widely in both Spanish and English on a range of issues including regulatory reform, community organizing, housing reform, immigration policy, and Latin American politics for both popular press and academic journals.

Ms. Reynoso holds a B.A. in Government from Harvard University, a Masters in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge in the U.K., and a J.D. from Columbia University School of Law. After law school, she clerked for the Honorable Federal Judge Laura Taylor Swain. Ms. Reynoso is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mike DenDekker on THE PEREZ NOTES

I had the opportunity to interview New York State Assembly member Mike DenDekker, who represents the 34th AD. Topics of discussion were, the budget, the millionaires tax, the relationship between Governor Cuomo, and the Democratic controlled Assembly, and the plight of public employee unions.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I had the opportunity to interview veteran TV correspondent and anchor David Diaz, who has worked at both WCBS, and WNBC and has been a fixture in New York Television news since 1978, and is the recipient of 5 Emmy awards. He is currently a Distinguished Lecturer at City College where he teaches Mass Media and Politics. We discussed local, and national politics the media, and the future of journalism, new technologies, and the role of social networks. We also discussed the rise of the cost of living throughout the city, and the plight of the middle class.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Luis Miranda on THE PEREZ NOTES

I had the opportunity to interview Consultant Luis Miranda, who is a partner at the MirRam Group. Topics of discussion were Governor Cuomo's budget proposal, and the number of Latino appointments the Governor has made to his cabinet, the expiration of the rent protection laws. President Obama's budget proposal, and the impact it will have on Latinos, and the way in which Latinos and the middle class are portrayed in the media.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Angelo Falcon on THE PEREZ NOTES

I had the opportunity to interview Political Scientist Angelo Falcon, who is the President of the National Institute for Latino Policy. Topics of discussion were redistricting, and his analysis of the process, Governor Cuomo's Budget proposal, and how it will impact the Latino community, and the prospects of immigration reform with a Republican majority in Congress.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Latinos and Redistricting
in the Northeast:
Voting Rights Advocates'
Strategy Meeting Held in NYC
National Institute for Latino Policy (February 17, 2011)

Over 100 Latino voting rights advocates from throughout the Northeast gathered on Saturday in New York City to develop strategies for promoting Latino community participation in the redistricting process throughout the region. Convened by the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP) as part of their Latino Voting Rights Network, the 5-hour Northeast Latino Redistricting Meeting included delegations from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

The meeting opened with remarks by Cesar Perales, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. He spoke about the importance of redistricting to the Latino community and outlined critical issues such as the weakening of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) by recent Supreme and lower court decisions. He also explained LatinoJustice PRLDEF's role in the redistricting process and their partnership with other leading legal defense funds such as MALDEF and the NAACP LDF.

Political scientist Angelo Falcón, President of the National Institute for Latino Policy, followed with a presentation on "Latinos and Redistricting: The Politics of Demography." He pointed to the challenges presented by the dramatic growth of the Latino population and of translating these numbers into better political representation. Falcón discussed the regional specificities of Latinos in the Northeast and how they impact on this community's advocacy efforts. He concluded by pointing to the benefits of effective Latino advocacy on redistricting and warned that Latino advocates needed to work to avoid the usual outcome of "Gerrymandering turning into a Political Chupacabra" against the interests of the Latino community.

The next presentation was on "Redistricting Legal Standards and the Latino Community 2011," by civil rights attorney Juan Cartagena, General Counsel and Vice President for Advocacy at the Community Service Society of New York. He provided a detailed review of the legal issues affecting redistricting, with a specific focus on the Voting Rights Act. He discussed various aspects of the VRA, such as Sections 2 and 5 (pre-clearance), key decisions like Bartlett, Shaw, Gingles and others, and new issues such as that of the counting of prisoners, the use of proportional representation as a voting rights remedy, the role of non-citizen voting, and others.

Redistricting consultant Lucia Gomez-Jimenez, and former Policy Fellow with NiLP, then went on to address, "The Nuts and Bolts of Latino Redistricting." She spoke about the elements that go into developing effective redistricting plans and their promotion. This included discussion of redistricting criteria, the use of Census and other data, the availability of different data mapping programs, the role of nationalism, inter-Latino relations and coalition-building, and issues related to messaging and media relations.

Falcón then led discussion of issues requiring further exploration. These included identifying existing resources for advocates, which included presentations by: John Garcia, Redistricting Coordinator with LatinoJutice PRLDEF; Myrna Perez, Staff Attorney with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University; and Robert Berman, Deputy Chief of the Voting Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.

This was followed by a discussion of the state of funding for redistricting efforts. Thomasina Williams, Program Officer at The Ford Foundation, informed the meeting of the resources available on the website of the Funders Committee for Civic Participation, and resources available through the Community Census and Redistricting Institute of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. She also offered to provide the Funders Committee on Civic Participation with a report on the results of this Northeast meeting, based on a questionnaire administered to the meeting participants.

Because the redistricting process in New Jersey is the most advanced at this point in the region, the meeting then focused on a discussion of that state as a case study. Moderated by Cartagena, William Ayala of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey (LLANJ), and Christian Esteves of the Latino Action Network presented the positions they provided in testimony before the New Jersey Apportionment Commission, stressing the general agreement they had on key issues. This involved a discussion of the relative merits of "packing" and "unpacking" of districts and of "majority-Latino" versus "influence," "coalition" and "crossover" districts. This was followed by an update on the situation in Rhode Island by Dr. Pablo Rodriguez of the Rhode Island Political Action Committee (RILPAC).

Falcón closed the meeting pointing to the need to discuss next steps and the importance of Latinos in the Northeast seeing themselves as a regional force. He explained the NiLP would be following up by coordinating information between those present and other Latino advocates through its Latino Voting Rights Network information service.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


When discussing issues important to Latinos in New York one topic that often gets overlooked is “redistricting.” Redistricting is the process in which census data is used to redraw the lines and physical boundaries of electoral districts within a state. The way in which these lines are redrawn affects districts and what elected officials will represent us at all levels of government.

Unfortunately this is a highly politicized, and polarizing topic and some elected leaders prefer to keep the community “in the dark” about this subject. For some of our politicians the process is used as an incumbent protection program designed to keep them in office rather than to change these lines to increase Latino representation. As a result the people that are hurt by these backroom deals by elected officials are Latinos.

Moreover, some of these opportunists use a corrupt practice called ”gerrymandering” – attempting to get a political advantage by creating boundaries that favor incumbents or that keep emerging ethnic groups out of power. So that in many cases despite the growing number of Latinos where we may be able to create two Latino districts they will divide the boundaries of a district in half to protect an incumbent or their own position. As a result Latinos, the group with the fewest representatives in elected office in proportion to its numbers in the population are maneuvered out of power.

What some may consider a saving grace for Latinos is the redistricting process is covered by section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits discrimination in the drawing of political districts. But unfortunately the only districts covered under the Act are the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. Queens, which has the lowest number of Latino elected officials besides Staten Island and has an ever-growing Latino community, is not covered.

The only way for the Latino residents of Queens to gain political representation is to unite behind organizations like Latino Justice, the National Institute for Latino Policy (NILP) and the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) in the fight for equality of political representation. We must hold educational forums to inform our community, sue in court, and visit the politicians in Albany and insist redistricting reflect the growing number of Latinos in New York State. Our community must learn that political power is earned through struggle not given!!!

By Roberto Perez and Howard Jordan.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Claudio Remeseira on THE PEREZ NOTES

I had the opportunity to interview Columbia University Professor Claudio Remeseira, who is the author of the book Hispanic New York: A Sourcebook, and runs the Hispanic New York Project blog. We discussed the history of Hispanics in New York, and some of the reasons why the city has attracted Hispanics. We also discussed his work as a journalist, and how Hispanics are represented in the media.