Originally appeared in Publisher’s Column of March 2014, Issue 106 of LatinTRENDS Magazine
I normally write about and introduce the content that is presented to you in each issue. This time, I choose to do something different. I will share with you a piece I wrote that came from my encounter with, back then, NYC Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio.
The Brooklyn traffic was worse than Midtown during rush hour. There I was, stuck on the same block (Atlantic Ave. and James Place) for 20 minutes and no movement! Then I switch radio stations from La Mega to WKTU (it’s the bilingual beast in me) and the host is talking about the NYC Marathon. No wonder I’m stuck. I then see cops diverting traffic. By now I’m a few blocks away from the Barclays Center. To avoid the forced redirection from the NYPD, I make a quick U-turn. I decide to park and hop on the train to my destination—a rally by most of the city’s Latino elected officials in support of Mayoral Candidate Bill de Blasio at City Hall in downtown Manhattan.
I was curious in part because most of the city’s Latino elected officials did not support de Blasio during the primaries, with the exception of Melissa Mark Viverito (hence the support she received from de Blasio for her position as speaker of the City Council and her eventual win of said seat).
There were a lot of people there. Outside of the media and elected officials that seemed as if they were there to prospect for a job with the (most likely) incoming Mayor and his people, the other half were just happy to shake his hand or take a picture with him. As the head of LatinTRENDS, a NY-based Latino Media Company, I felt it was my duty to engage Mr. de Blasio with an important question because word on the street was that de Blasio and his circle of influence were most likely not to appoint any Latinos in key positions. These were the rumors. I don’t know why or where they came from, but that’s what I kept hearing from many in the community.
I listened to de Blasio speak. When he finished, people from the crowd bombarded him. They ran to shake his hand and take photos with him. Everyone knew he was going to be the next mayor.
There must have been close to 100 people around him. It was almost impossible for me to reach him but where there is a will there is a way. I had to ask him my question so I literally elbowed my way through the crowd. I finally got to about a foot and a half away from him. Now I had to get his attention. I tapped his elbow but that didn’t work. I tapped a little harder—nothing! I then adjusted my grip firmly on his elbow and WEPA! he turns around to see who is this person holding his elbow. He looks me in the eye. I quickly gave him my business card, shook his hand and introduced myself. I told him, “I have one question for you.” I looked at him straight in the eyes and asked, “How many Latinos are you going to hire in key positions when you become Mayor?” He took a long pause, as if he really listened to my question, looked at my business card with a laser focus, then with the same laser focus looked me in the eye and answered, “We will surely look into that.” He put my card in his coat pocket and left. He seemed a bit surprised by my question and I in turn felt good for asking it.
I believe that the beautiful diversity of our city is in fact what runs New York (it’s not Dunkin’, people!), and a city as diverse as New York should also have a diverse leadership in regard to the day-to-day operations of this great city. If no one asks the questions then we may never get the answers to them. It’s that simple! I believe in asking the right questions, because that’s how we grow as a people, as a city and as a country. I like to say: ask the right questions if you seek the right answers.
Fast-forward the clock from my encounter with Mr. de Blasio on that citywide pre-election Sunday (the day of the NYC Marathon on November 3rd 2013) to today and Mr. Bill de Blasio is now the 109th Mayor of NYC. As for the question I asked him, he gave the best possible answer that a person can give—an answer that has no words but is rooted in action. He did in fact appoint some Hispanics in key positions—positions that will influence the lives of millions of New Yorkers. For example: Marco A. Carrión to lead his Community Affairs Unit; Lilliam Barrios-Paoli to new deputy mayor for health and human services; and Gladys Carrión to run the Administration for Children’s Services. Carmen Fariña is now the new chancellor of the board of education, and the first Hispanic in this position. Melissa Mark Viverito is now the Speaker of the NYC Council, managing over a 100-billion dollar budget and making history as the first Hispanic Speaker, making her the second most powerful person in the city after the mayor. Kudos to Mayor de Blasio! I see you were not kidding when you answered my question in front of City Hall on that NYC marathon morning.
In a recent statement, Latino Justice President and General Counsel, Juan Cartagena, praised these appointments as milestones for Latinos, and then added, “But more than a few Hispanic appointments from among 80 positions under mayoral control are needed. There is much to work to be done within the Latino community, a community with a lot of talent. So the new mayor cannot now rest in addressing the future needs of this vibrant community.”
In closing, good leadership starts and ends with good values, good vision and good people. And when you add integrity to the platform you get great results. In regards to Mayor de Blasio and his administration—so far so good. But let’s not sleep on it because this is the city that never sleeps, right?