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November 16, 2009

Finding Nashville’s Hispanic voice

Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 10:45pm

By Tim Ghianni

"“Even when I can see the negative effects of initiatives such as that, I can see how these galvanize our community and gave us a sense of identity and a sense of purpose,” said Yuri Cunza, president of the Nashville-area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

He said the measure’s defeat encourages Latinos “to fight for what is right and to take the leading role” by participating at the polls and stepping forward as candidates to help direct “the future of our government.”

Bold talk to be sure, but for the most part, Latinos here have been stuck in the “ponder” phase.

Fabian Bedne, 49, is something of a pioneer in that he already made a failed run for a Metro Council District 31 seat a couple of years ago. He said he wasn’t running as a Latino, though, but as a Nashvillian with Argentine roots. And Bedne believes Nashville’s changing face, thanks to its growth, is encouraging to people like himself who are seeking office.

He said he drew the courage to run from his participation in community meetings that examined development and zoning proposals for his once-rural neighborhood stretching
almost to Nolensville.

“I was just going to meetings and saying what I thought,” Bedne said. And before he knew it, he was one of the first Latinos to seek elected office in Nashville.

Asking members of the Hispanic community to say what they think may be a tall order.

While Bedne’s campaign was about neighborhood issues, it occurred at about the same time Metro was coming to grips with the English-only proposal that basically removed Spanish from Metro communications, and the 287(g) program, which delegates immigration authority to local law enforcement, was in its incubation stage.

The two issues may have galvanized a community, but opponents of both agree it also elevated a sense of fear and distrust among Hispanics.

While targeting illegal immigrants, the 287(g) program, which operates in about 100 communities nationwide, confuses even legal immigrants about the reach of law enforcement and its ability to disrupt the unity of families by potentially deporting husbands, wives and children after something as insignificant as a traffic violation.

Cunza says elected Latino representation would be important in helping monitor such increased interest by local government in immigration enforcement. But would that representation allay fears as well?

Bedne said what Latinos in Nashville are going through is a process that all immigrants — reaching back to those who came through Ellis Island — had to endure to become part of America and its culture.

“Those were the people who came with pride and hope and little else to start building the country from scratch. Why is it we have to look down on current-era newcomers?” he said. “It’s not ‘I want to crash into your party.’ You need us to better understand the dynamics of our emerging community without resulting collateral damage. We moved here because we believed we were moving into a better system.”

Future leadership

Perhaps Bedne’s run at least cracked open the door for elected Latino representation. A first step will be for him or another Hispanic to represent one of Metro’s 35 Council districts, to “bring a point of view to the Council,” he said.

Or perhaps a Hispanic will run for one of the five at-large seats, to actively represent the entire county.

“It would be totally senseless” even to bring up the idea of a Latino running for mayor right now other than as a “publicity stunt,” Cunza said. But “since there are so many Council members, there is at least a chance to succeed” in getting a Latino elected to that body. Perhaps an at-large role will be a good thing in a few years.”

Bedne said the size of Metro Council, which some view as cumbersome at 40 seats, does encourage diversity in representation. Cities with smaller governing bodies are run by more exclusive “clubs” of people who are able to spend huge amounts to win a seat. When he made his run for District 31, Bedne relied on shoe leather and handshakes, not a bank account.

A Latino at-large Council member would receive citywide exposure and perhaps prepare Nashvillians for a bigger prize like the mayor’s office. Bedne said the name most bandied about as a potential Hispanic candidate for mayor is American-born immigration attorney Mario Ramos.

Ramos admitted to being “flattered” to hear his name mentioned, but he said “it feels way too far out there.”

While Ramos is heralded by many in the community as perhaps the next, best hope for Latino representation, he won’t be shifting into a political posture right now because his main objective is perhaps the most important to the Hispanic community at large.

“My focus now is on immigration reform,” said Ramos, who won the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s top honor for promoting immigration reform.

It’s hard-earned acclaim and it gives him even more clout in the national debate. Next year, Ramos said, the nation’s focus will be on immigration reform, which is where he hopes he can make his contribution.

But the 2011 election is neither a target nor an impossibility for Ramos. He admitted it could be time to turn his focus to more local politics, but any such run “is not even a consideration” at this point.

Ramos said, though, that Bedne’s achievement (getting about half as many votes as incumbent Parker Toler in 2007) was heartening to any Latino candidate. “I think that’s certainly enough to encourage everyone that they can be competitive. Whoever does choose to run, maybe they will win,” he said.

“Even when I can see the negative effects of initiatives such as that, I can see how these galvanize our community and gave us a sense of identity and a sense of purpose,” said Yuri Cunza, president of the Nashville-area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

He said the measure’s defeat encourages Latinos “to fight for what is right and to take the leading role” by participating at the polls and stepping forward as candidates to help direct “the future of our government.”

Bold talk to be sure, but for the most part, Latinos here have been stuck in the “ponder” phase.

Fabian Bedne, 49, is something of a pioneer in that he already made a failed run for a Metro Council District 31 seat a couple of years ago. He said he wasn’t running as a Latino, though, but as a Nashvillian with Argentine roots. And Bedne believes Nashville’s changing face, thanks to its growth, is encouraging to people like himself who are seeking office.

He said he drew the courage to run from his participation in community meetings that examined development and zoning proposals for his once-rural neighborhood stretching
almost to Nolensville.

“I was just going to meetings and saying what I thought,” Bedne said. And before he knew it, he was one of the first Latinos to seek elected office in Nashville.

Asking members of the Hispanic community to say what they think may be a tall order.

While Bedne’s campaign was about neighborhood issues, it occurred at about the same time Metro was coming to grips with the English-only proposal that basically removed Spanish from Metro communications, and the 287(g) program, which delegates immigration authority to local law enforcement, was in its incubation stage.

The two issues may have galvanized a community, but opponents of both agree it also elevated a sense of fear and distrust among Hispanics.

While targeting illegal immigrants, the 287(g) program, which operates in about 100 communities nationwide, confuses even legal immigrants about the reach of law enforcement and its ability to disrupt the unity of families by potentially deporting husbands, wives and children after something as insignificant as a traffic violation.

Cunza says elected Latino representation would be important in helping monitor such increased interest by local government in immigration enforcement. But would that representation allay fears as well?

Bedne said what Latinos in Nashville are going through is a process that all immigrants — reaching back to those who came through Ellis Island — had to endure to become part of America and its culture.

“Those were the people who came with pride and hope and little else to start building the country from scratch. Why is it we have to look down on current-era newcomers?” he said. “It’s not ‘I want to crash into your party.’ You need us to better understand the dynamics of our emerging community without resulting collateral damage. We moved here because we believed we were moving into a better system.”

Future leadership

Perhaps Bedne’s run at least cracked open the door for elected Latino representation. A first step will be for him or another Hispanic to represent one of Metro’s 35 Council districts, to “bring a point of view to the Council,” he said.

Or perhaps a Hispanic will run for one of the five at-large seats, to actively represent the entire county.

“It would be totally senseless” even to bring up the idea of a Latino running for mayor right now other than as a “publicity stunt,” Cunza said. But “since there are so many Council members, there is at least a chance to succeed” in getting a Latino elected to that body. Perhaps an at-large role will be a good thing in a few years.”

Bedne said the size of Metro Council, which some view as cumbersome at 40 seats, does encourage diversity in representation. Cities with smaller governing bodies are run by more exclusive “clubs” of people who are able to spend huge amounts to win a seat. When he made his run for District 31, Bedne relied on shoe leather and handshakes, not a bank account.

A Latino at-large Council member would receive citywide exposure and perhaps prepare Nashvillians for a bigger prize like the mayor’s office. Bedne said the name most bandied about as a potential Hispanic candidate for mayor is American-born immigration attorney Mario Ramos.

Ramos admitted to being “flattered” to hear his name mentioned, but he said “it feels way too far out there.”

While Ramos is heralded by many in the community as perhaps the next, best hope for Latino representation, he won’t be shifting into a political posture right now because his main objective is perhaps the most important to the Hispanic community at large.

“My focus now is on immigration reform,” said Ramos, who won the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s top honor for promoting immigration reform.

It’s hard-earned acclaim and it gives him even more clout in the national debate. Next year, Ramos said, the nation’s focus will be on immigration reform, which is where he hopes he can make his contribution.

But the 2011 election is neither a target nor an impossibility for Ramos. He admitted it could be time to turn his focus to more local politics, but any such run “is not even a consideration” at this point.

Ramos said, though, that Bedne’s achievement (getting about half as many votes as incumbent Parker Toler in 2007) was heartening to any Latino candidate. “I think that’s certainly enough to encourage everyone that they can be competitive. Whoever does choose to run, maybe they will win,” he said....".

for the rest of the article go to;

http://www.mario-ramos.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt.cgi?__mode=view&_type=entry&blog_id=1


Posted by VisaLawyer at November 16, 2009 07:34 AM

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