EDITORIAL: Act on recommendations in York Latino assessment
On the heels of a special report in The York Dispatch about a lack of Latino representation in local government comes more discouraging news for one of York County’s fastest-growing populations.
A study released last week shows 50 percent of Hispanic and Latino individuals in York County are unemployed, many face discrimination and most do not feel at ease in their own communities.
“The state of the Latino community is sad and unhealthy," said Louis Rivera, founder of Latinos Unidos, a Latino advocacy organization in York City. "However, we are making sure the Latino population is a part of everyday life in York City, and this work will help do that."
The 76-page report is based on more than 200 surveys of Hispanic and Latino residents in York County between January and March of this year.
It’s the first of its kind study and is long overdue, considering the local Latino population is skyrocketing.
Countywide, 7.2 percent of residents identify as being Latino or Hispanic — more than double the 2.96 percent identified in the 2000 census.
In York City, a whopping 30.9 percent of the population falls in the same category, up from the 17.9 percent noted in the 2000 census.
These number can’t be ignored … and yet it appears they have been.
Vinny Cannizzaro, a public policy fellow at the Arthur J. Glatfelter Institute for Public Policy at York College who conducted the research, noted the lack of documentation about issues facing the Latino community.
"There wasn't enough understanding about what was happening to begin with," he said. "We are going from no information to this, which is surprising."
The good news is the Cannizzaro’s research includes recommendations to address the issues troubling York County’s Latinos and Hispanics.
These include language training services, increasing engagement through new initiatives and creating a more-welcoming community.
Topping the list is a proposal to create a system of "Latino community centers."
The report suggests the centers “should be governed by a board of directors that has regularly scheduled, ongoing conversations about the needs and issues impacting residents."
The idea is that the board would increase community involvement by opening direct lines of communication between residents and policymakers.
Perhaps these centers could even help convert Latino and Hispanic residents into policymakers, since lack of representation in local government is another troubling fact of life in the community.
More than 50 government officials, business owners and community members were on hand Wednesday, July 11, at the York Jewish Community Center to hear the results of the 2017 York County Hispanic and Latinx Community Assessment.
It’s now up to them to act on the recommendations.