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Antonio Barrios: Lorain Latino seeking City Council seat

 

By La Prensa Staff

 

With the prospect of losing a Latino voice on Lorain City Council, a community activist is stepping forward to run for an available seat in the May 7, 2019 primary to ensure representation remains in place.

 

Antonio Barrios recently announced he’ll seek a city council seat. The Lorain resident of Puerto Rican descent has been very active within the Lorain County Democratic Party, serving as a member of the party’s central committee. As 2nd Chair of the county party, Barrios also serves on the executive committee.


Antonio Barrios

 

Although he is running for an at-large city council seat, much of his political experience is based in his own neighborhood—serving as the 5th and 6th Ward area leader and as precinct committee person in the 5th Ward. Those roles are instrumental in grassroots get-out-the-vote campaigns for Democratic candidates. He started 15 years ago with a group known as Reclaim Lorain, after seeing some inner-city wards get neglected in favor of more affluent areas of the city.

 

“I want people to understand—I’m not the Wizard of Oz,” he said. “I’m not coming in with a magic wand and abracadabra and all of a sudden everything’s fixed. But I’m coming in with a passion and love for this town I grew up in. I was here in its heyday. I know what it was and can be. We can retool and remodel ourselves and do other things differently. We’re right on the brink of making that leap.”

 

Barrios, 71, recently launched a Facebook page for his candidacy under a theme of “knocking down walls to unite the people,” a direct reference to repeated attempts in Congress by President Trump to get funding to build a wall along the Mexican border to control immigration.

 

“Now is the time to create unity and I believe that all residents together, can make changes happen for the good of all citizens of this international city,” Barrios wrote on his Facebook page. “In this moment of chaos and confusion, it is of dire importance that cooler minds prevail and that we focus on knocking down the walls that have been created to divide the people. We must make room for healthy dialogue which will be the best path for communication and uniting the people.”

 

Longtime Lorain City Council President Joel Arredondo recently lost a bid to be appointed as a Lorain County Commissioner, which is considered a full-time elected office. The Lorain County Democratic Party central committee instead chose Sharon Sweda for the appointment from a six-candidate field. She recently ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Ohio Senate.

 

According to Barrios, one in five Lorain residents is Latino. He believes the elected political representation should reflect the makeup of the community, so their voice is heard on issues.

 

There are two other Latino Lorain city councilmen, but Angel Arroyo is not running for re-election. Barrios and another Latino candidate, Ray Carrion, if both are elected, would increase the Hispanic influence in city politics.

 

Barrios is running for at-large seat because he wants to see more sections of the city get attention. For example, he believes the momentum of the current downtown development should be moving at a faster pace.

 

“We should be putting more assets and whatever we have as resources into making that the place of destination. We should be working a lot more on that,” he said, while emphasizing the arts could be a catalyst for more businesses to locate there and increase tourism.

 

As executive director of the Lorain Arts Council, Barrios is very active in the northern Ohio arts scene. He was instrumental in the unveiling last September of a large veterans’ mural in the downtown area, a five-month project designed to help veterans cope with their post-war struggles and find their purpose through art. Veterans went through instruction in painting, water colors, and drawing—then created wooden paddles depicting various “stories.”

 

Barrios also hosts the weekly “Sabor Latino” radio show on WDLW Kool Kat Oldies 1380 AM and 98.9 FM, a three-hour program focusing on current issues facing the Latino community. Interspersed in discussion and interviews is throwback “Jibaro” music. Barrios even finds time to be a small business owner with FrameWorks, which focuses on photography and video.

 

Barrios has served as president of the Puerto Rican Culture Committee and vice president of the Coalition for Hispanic/Latino Issues and Progress (CHIP), an advocacy group working to ensure there is growing Latino influence in the political and economic landscape of northern Ohio.

 

Barrios was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, but moved to Lorain at the age of four with his mother and siblings. His father preceded the family to northern Ohio as part of the first group of 500 Puerto Rican men brought to Lorain to work in the steel mills. He grew up in a low-income, working-class neighborhood of mostly sugar cane workers before his family settled in Lorain.

 

Their life stateside started in the basement of a friend’s house. He worked as a young boy picking produce in the fields, while his family sent him to Catholic schools through the eighth grade. He moved to public school and graduated from Lorain Admiral King High School, then attended Lorain County Community College for an associate’s degree in computer technology and Cleveland State University, where—when time permits—he is working towards obtaining a bachelor’s degree in film and digital media.

 

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Revised: 03/26/19 12:56:43 -0800.

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