Common Council’s diversity grows

Hispanics still lack representation.

JAMIE LOO • Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND — When the Common Council meets, it will be the first time in history that there will be four minorities serving on the nine-member council.

All four members — Henry Davis, D-2nd; Oliver Davis, D-6th; Timothy Rouse, D-at large; and Karen White, D-at large — are black. There has never been a Hispanic council member and some local leaders say that time is coming.

Community activist Gladys Muhammad, who has been active in politics, said this is an exciting thing for the black community and shows progress in the city.

“It shows that the community is voting for the best person for the job and not by the color of their skin,” she said.

Muhammad said having candidates of color encourages minorities to come out and vote and to be more involved in the political process. Many people talk about running for office but don’t do it because they believe they don’t have a chance, she said, and seeing another minority successfully run for office and win inspires other people to run.

Muhammad said Henry Davis, who is under age 30, is someone who can hopefully inspire more young people to run for office.

The city has a growing Hispanic population that hasn’t been reflected in political representation yet. According to the U.S. Census, about 9,110 people claimed Hispanic or Latino descent in South Bend in 2000. The Census Bureau American Community Survey estimates that number has grown to 11,324 in 2006.

Former council members Charlotte Pfeifer and Erv Kuspa, who represented heavy minority neighborhoods, said it’s time for Hispanics to have representation.

“Whenever a group of citizens reach a certain critical mass, they have a right to have representation, and I think that Latinos in this community have certainly reached that critical mass,” Pfeifer said. “I would certainly support it.”


(Summary from the South bend Tribune)

Kuspa said he has encouraged a few Latinos to run for office. The council’s diversity includes men, women and blacks from various occupations and socioeconomic backgrounds, Kuspa said, and having a Hispanic member will add to that diversity and make it more reflective of the community.

Hispanic community activist Juan Hernandez, who has worked on political campaigns for both the Democratic and Republican parties, said a desire exists for political representation among the Hispanic community, but that hasn’t translated into action.

Hernandez recently worked on Republican mayoral candidate Juan Manigault’s campaign and said that although many Hispanics said they would come out and vote, most of them didn’t. Hernandez said he and other Hispanic leaders have seen this happen during other campaigns.

“Will people come out and support a Latino candidate? That’s yet to be seen,” he said.

Muhammad and Hernandez both said they hope residents choose the candidates that will do the best job for the city, regardless of race.