By this time next week, City Council Member James Rodriguez in District I will be the only Latino member on Council.
“For many people, I will be the only Latino voice on the City Council, and that’s something I take very seriously,” he said in a recent interview. “I want to do a very good job to represent District I and also Latinos as a whole.”
A host of candidates already have lined up to replace [Adrian] Garcia in a special election for District H expected to be held in May, and most political observers expect that a Hispanic ultimately will win the seat.
But for many, six months with only one Latino council member is far too long in a city in which at least 42 percent of the population — more than 850,000 people, according to census figures — is Hispanic.
Underrepresentation, they say, has become something of a rallying cry.
“There’s kind of a discussion beginning to percolate within the Latino community,” said Marc Campos, a political strategist, who long has worked to broaden the reach of Hispanic candidates in Houston and Harris County. “We need to step it up in terms of political empowerment. James will be the only Latino on the Houston City Council. … It’s kind of challenging. Something’s not right with that picture.”
Rodriguez said he hopes to work with other Hispanic elected officials in the area to host a Latino summit next year, where they can discuss the potential impact of the 2010 Census on redrawing district lines and how to field more candidates for school board, community college and citywide office.
I think those last two words are the key, as we’ve discussed before. Even with another Latino in District H, that’s still under-representation in a city with such a large Latino population. But you can’t have candidates only competing for those two seats. More Latinos need to run citywide, and as Joe Trevino could tell you, they need more support when they do run. For that matter, I don’t see why more Latinos don’t run in some other Council districts – surely, District F would be winnable for a good candidate. The eventual expansion of City Council will likely help, but only in a limited way. There’s no good reason things have to be this way.