NEW YORK—The Latino Society of New York, representing a slew of Hispanic organizations across the state, is calling on Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo to embrace a “Latino Agenda” when he takes office. In six simultaneous press conferences around New York, Latino advocacy groups unveiled their 12-step plan, which calls for more Latinos to be appointed to senior policy positions, ban at-large elections in 1,400 localities which they call discriminatory, fund public higher education by taxing natural gas drilling companies, and strengthen diversity efforts in government.
81 percent of the more than 4 million Latinos in New York voted for the Cuomo-Duffy ticket. The writers of the Latino Agenda are asking that Cuomo refrain from making symbolic but empty appointments of Latino officials, and instead make real social and economic decisions to help their community.
The simultaneous press conferences were orchestrated by the President of the Latino Society of New York, Guillermo Martinez, a long-time aide of Assemblyman Peter Rivera who represents District 76 in the Bronx. Unfortunately for him, it cost him his job. An angry Rivera announced he was firing Martinez Monday afternoon—ostensibly for not keeping him in the loop. Rivera said he “had no idea what was going on” with the agenda and was informed of the press conferences by the media.
Martinez seemed to take the news in stride, and in his interview with Liz Benjamin on Capital Tonight, he called his move a “badge of courage.”
“That we move our society forward, you know, one step forward, two steps back. It was important to be said. This was not a press conference attacking the governor, the lieutenant governor. We think they’re great friends of our community. I’m shocked to see his reaction.”
The incident brings into relief the composition of Cuomo’s transition team, which is dominated by white males. With the press conferences, Martinez could be seen as calling the Governor-elect out on this directly, and that could have made Rivera nervous. That’s just speculation, but in a month we’ll see how diverse Cuomo’s Albany staff is, and how well it sits with the handful of Latinos in the legislature.
Shortly after we published this article the Cuomo transition team responded to our request for a comment by emailing a statement from Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez:
“Governor-Elect Cuomo has repeatedly said he will have one of the most diverse administrations in history and that’s exactly what New Yorkers are going (to) get. I am proud to serve as a co-chair of Governor-Elect Cuomo’s transition committee and to partner with him to build a governing team, not only comprised of the best and brightest talents from New York and across the country, but one that reflects the diversity of our great state. Governor-Elect Cuomo has an unparalleled record of fighting for minority communities, both as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and then as Attorney General, and New Yorkers can be assured they will see the same absolute commitment to fighting for all New Yorkers when he is sworn in as our governor.”