The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette and The Mt. Vernon Voice in the week of August 18, 2014.
Children’s Issues Dominate First Hispanic Town HallOn Saturday, August 16, 2014, I held my third town hall meeting of the year and my first ever Hispanic Community Town Hall. I was also joined by the first Democratic elected Latino State Delegate - Alfonso Lopez - who represents South Arlington and Bailey's Crossroads.The Hispanic population has grown from less than one percent in Virginia in the 1970s to 8.6% today. Here in our area, there was virtually no Hispanic population when I was a kid. Today, the Hispanic population is the largest minority demographic in the 44th District. One in four people who lives in the 44th District is Hispanic.
This community represents a new and growing part of Mt. Vernon and Lee and are a growing part of the community. It’s important that we reach out to and engage every group in our area in order to have a robust conversation about the challenges we face.At the meeting, we discussed the following:
- Route 1 Transit Study.
- Healthcare Expansion for Low Income Families
- Secondary Education Funding
- Low Cost Internet and Computers for Students
- Virginia DREAM Act - In-state tuition for migrant students
- Affordable HousingDuring the question and answer session, the main focus of the audience was improving local schools and providing more resources for children in the community.
Attendees specifically raised concerns about the seventeen trailers at Hybla Valley Elementary School - even after a new addition to the school. They pointed out that children cannot access bathrooms or water without going outside and back into the main building which also raises safety concerns.
Several mothers pointed out that Hybla Valley Elementary School does not have the same services for students as other schools in the area. The school also does not have a Parent Teacher Association which also limits parental involvement.Attendees also had concerns about the lack of any meaningful after school activities for children in their neighborhood. Several mothers from Audubon Estates Mobile Home Park pointed out that they do not have convenient pedestrian or bike access to any parks or other activities. The only activities accessible to children are playing street. Several agreed that a bike and walking trails connecting Lockheed Boulevard, Audubon Estates, Mount Vernon Woods, Muddy Hole Park, and the Gum Springs Community Center would help to alleviate this problem.The attendees also raised concerns about the condition of Audubon Estates, rent increases, and towing practices in their community.Questions were also asked about how voting could be made more accessible to accommodate people's working schedules. It was also suggested that legislation should be introduced to allow the Virginia DMV to issues driver's licenses to all people residing in Virginia similar to Maryland.Delegate Lopez explained how his father came to the United States, acquired a college education, and helped to educate dozens of members of his extended family. He also explained the Virginia DREAM Act and Attorney General Herring's recent decision which directed Virginia universities to extend in-state tuition to the 8,000 children granted status under President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.I encouraged the attendees to stay engaged in the community and we discussed setting up further meetings with other local elected officials.It is an honor to serve as your state delegate. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any feedback.