Felix Hunziker: Mayor Blacklists Local Latina Activist, Cinco de Mayo Organizer


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blogimage.jpgI've attended Cinco de Mayo planning meetings for several years because the Police Commission staffs a public outreach booth. The last several festivals were organized by Rosa Lara, President of the 23rd St. Merchants Association, who, with her team, has succeeded in building an ever larger, safer, and family-friendly celebration of Mexican culture.

Gone are the days of "riots" and other problems and the event has become the biggest Cinco de Mayo celebration in northern California –it regularly receives national attention.

At the April 15th City Council meeting, Ms. Lara warmly invited the public to this weekend's parade and festival. At the following meeting, in a unilateral move excluding the three Councilmembers who were actually planning the event with Ms. Lara, Mayor McLaughlin and Vice-Mayor Jovanka Beckles issued a proclamation for Richmond's Cinco de Mayo festival. But rather than recognizing Ms. Lara and her team for their really hard work, they presented it to three of their political allies who haven't attended a single meeting or done a damn thing to plan the festival. Ms. Lara wasn't even invited!

For those who are unaware, there's a leadership struggle within the 23rd Street Merchants Association that is partly tied to local politics including the acceptance of donations from corporations like Chevron and Sims Metals. The three men recognized by the Mayor share her anti-corporate views and are trying to wrest control from Ms. Lara, a frequent critic of the Mayor's partisan agenda and inability to lead. But none of that matters here.

What matters is that an enthusiastic community activist Latina, who for years has organized a key civic event that shines a positive light on Richmond, has been blacklisted by a vindictive mayor and vice-mayor. This is completely unacceptable; and it is made more atrocious by their sanctimonious calls for a diverse community while they simultaneously interfere with a cultural celebration and engage in cronyism. These elected officials have dishonored the public's trust and the Latino community they claim to serve and should resign immediately.

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