In a Monday morning roundtable discussion, representatives of the Latino community throughout the states 119th Assembly District — represented by Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon — weighed in on ideas to improve community connections within the Hispanic/Latino community.
Joining Buttenschon and community leaders including Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri, was Assemblywoman Maritza Davila, D-53, Brooklyn, chair of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. As chair of the task force, Davila travels the state, meeting with community leaders to identify challenges being met by Hispanic and Latino communities.
Davila and Buttenschon said the thrust of the roundtable was to help identify legislative priorities for the upcoming legislative session. A follow up discussion will occur in the spring.
Monday, Davila shared her experience in creating change, and the beginning of her work.
As a single mother of three children in Bushwick, New York, Davila — a native of Puerto Rico — recounted her early years in public service working as a community organizer, first joining with neighbors to find resources to pay for utilities and later to combat drug activity in apartment buildings in her neighborhood.
“As a mother, you do everything in your power to keep (your children) safe,” she said, remembering the purpose behind the early days of her community activism work.
Palmieri noted Utica’s long-standing tradition of being a warm, welcoming community for immigrant and refugee populations.
“Do we have hurdles to overcome? Absolutely,” Palmieri said of the Utica area, “... Our diversity is our strength.”
In communities like those in the 119th Assembly District, Buttenschon said the goal is to find ways to create social programs to benefit disconnected ethnic groups.
One such issue that Davila identified was mental health concerns in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic especially among children who have been in isolated learning environments for extended periods of time.
“One of the Mohawk Valley’s greatest assets is the rich cultural landscape it gleans from its diverse communities,” Buttenschon said in a statement. “I thank Assemblywoman Davila for attending the roundtable to meet with and discuss the concerns facing the Hispanic community. Many of the issues raised at today’s roundtable are similar to the ones my office works on every day, including landlord/tenant disputes, mental health and drug addiction, and investing in community resources that will keep kids engaged and off the streets. It’s vital to hear from local small-business owners about the challenges and issues they’re facing. The hardworking Latino small-business owners that I met are an integral part of our community, and I will continue working to support them.”