Mayor meets with the Latino community

ROCHESTER — An attempt to thaw out relations between Mayor Lovely Warren and the Latino community made some progress last month.

During a Jan. 26 meeting at St. Michael Church that was spearheaded by Ibero-American Action League, the mayor announced she had nominated Rosemary Rivera for a seat on the Rochester Housing Authority. Rivera is organizing director of Citizen Action of NY.

The announcement followed a question from Belen Colón, a St. Michael parishioner, who wanted to know why Latinos weren’t represented on the RHA board. Many Latinos in the community were upset with the Warren administration after the sudden ouster of Alex Castro as executive director last fall. He recently settled with the RHA for $135,000, which is one year’s salary.

Hilda Rosario Escher, Ibero’s president and CEO, said that she dealt with so many calls and face-to-face encounters with Latinos upset about the situation that she decided a meeting was necessary.

"We agreed the best thing to do would be to have a meeting where the mayor could address whatever questions you might have," said Rosario Escher.

Warren said that she accepted the invitation because there was too much misinformation in the community.

"The only person that can answer their questions is me," she said following the meeting. "I want them to know I’m here to serve them. I don’t see this as a color issue. … The things that affect the Latino community affects the African-American community, affects us all."

Improving the city will require buy-in from all groups to create better economic opportunities and safer neighborhoods, Warren said. She said that she is most interested in finding common ground with the Latino community to work on those issues.

"We are stronger working together than working apart and fighting each other," she remarked.

Julio Vázquez, a retired city commissioner in former Mayor Robert Duffy’s administration, acknowledged that the Latino community has not supported Warren politically in the past and wondered if that is why more Latinos are not represented in her administration.

Warren said that she does not take personally the goings on during political races.

"I will always come to the table and support the Hispanic community," she said. "Even if the Hispanic community never supports Warren as a candidate, I will always be at this table. It is the right thing to do on behalf of this community."

Personal feelings don’t matter when the city has so much work to do, including improving the lives of its "black and brown boys," who are disproportionately dropping out of school and being incarcerated, Warren remarked.

"I refuse to believe this city will be worse off in four years," she said. "I believe in putting people to work, pulling people out (of poverty). We need you to be part of the solution, not the problem. I can’t do this by myself."

Deacon Nemesio Martínez said that the meeting was a good start and more meetings should follow, as recommended by Rosario Escher.

"This is just the beginning. Things are going to get better now that we have this dialogue started between the mayor and the community," he said. "We want to work with her. This meeting wasn’t to criticize her. It was a meeting of the minds."

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