Census 2001
Census 2001

Latinos may seek City Council seats
If one or more of the three recall petitions have enough signatures of registered voters to qualify for an election, it's a good bet that one or more of the challengers on the ballot will be Latino.

In the 18 years since incorporation, only one Latino has served on the City Council -- Ruben Abrica, in the 1980s. He is now on the Ravenswood City School District board.

Nelson Santiago ran unsuccessfully for the council in 1993. And when then City Councilwoman Rose Jacobs Gibson was appointed to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in late 1998, Belinda Rosales and Pat Foster applied for the vacancy, with Foster edging out Rosales.

But the growing number of Latinos in the city hasn't translated into political leadership -- yet.

While the city government has scrambled in the 1990s to hire bilingual city staff and police, there hasn't been Latino representation on the City Council.

There was attempt to change that last November when three Latinos ---- Victor Perez, Everardo Luna and Jose Beltran -- ran as a slate. But they finished a disappointing seventh, ninth and eleventh in the crowded field of 15 candidates.

If there is a recall election, Perez thinks one or more them may be on the ballot. "That's something we're sifting through now," he said.

Perez is supporting the recall attempt because he doesn't think the present City Council is adequately representing Latinos.

And there are a lot of Latinos now in East Palo Alto.

Back in the 1990 Census, it was clear that Latinos were on the way to becoming the ethnic plurality, if not majority, in the city. The surprise, in the 2000 Census, isn't that the Latinos have become the majority ethnic group, but by what margin.

In 1990, there were just over 10,000 African Americans in the city, compared to about 8,500 Latinos (or, in Census-speak, "persons of Hispanic origin").

But in 2000, blacks declined to 6,796 (a decline of 32.5 percent).

Latinos, meanwhile, more than doubled their numbers, to 17,346 (an increase of 103.4 percent).

The city's population swelled from 20,956 in 1990 to 29,506. And Latinos are now 58.8 percent of the city's population.

-- Don Kazak