For weeks now, Philadelphia City Council has been battling over re-drawing the lines of the city’s districts. They will not be paid until they come up with a new plan and it is approved.
Mayor Street vetoed a plan that would have “completely ignore[d] the growth of the Philadelphia Latino community in the redrawing of the councilmanic districts,” according to the Spanish-language newspaper Al Día.
This is a commendable action. Even though Philadelphia’s population has dropped by 4 percent over the last 10 years, the Latino population in Philadelphia has grown by over 45,000. New proposals give Latinos an over 40 percent showing in Philadelphia’s 7th district, while diluting their power in other districts.
Even though Street acted in a seemingly reputable way by vetoing a plan that would have nearly silenced the Latino population of Philadelphia, many are still not happy about what is going on.
An editorial in Al Día dated Oct. 28 — Nov. 3 states that: “At the state level, a plan has been proposed, and was expected to pass as early as this week, flagrantly disregarding the numbers from the Census 2000, that clearly indicate that Latinos are populating the city of Philadelphia at an extraordinary pace.”
Victor Vasquez, a Latin American studies professor at Temple and also a member of the Pennsylvania Latino Voting Rights Committee, spoke before the State Commission about the subject. His speech was printed in Al Día. He said, among other things, “The reapportionment preliminary plan presented by the Commission on Sept. 25, 2001 contravenes the constitutional purpose of the commission by not recognizing the opportunity to create more minority-majority districts in the city.”
And he’s right.
Philadelphia County’s Latino population is around 8.5 percent, according to U.S. Census data. The Latino population continues to grow in Philadelphia. There are neighborhoods that are predominately Hispanic, yet the Latino population is not represented in City Council.
Rather, City Council continues to set up districts in such a way that Latinos, even though they are a majority within the neighborhood they live, are a minority in the districts which “represent” them.
State and city legislature need to recognize that the Latino population of Philadelphia is here to stay, and they, like any other group, deserve equal representation.
If one of the latest proposals go through, Latinos will have voting power only in the 7th district, while Latinos in other districts are silenced.
City Council needs to wake up and realize that the Latino population is growing in nearly every neighborhood in Philadelphia. As much as anyone else they deserve fair representation and an equal playing field in the voting booths.