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La Liga de Las Americas

Aviles Casey and Porras sworn in as new commissioners, while OCHLA facing fiscal uncertainty


By Travis Minnear, Columbus Correspondent for La Prensa

“The Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs faces one of the most important times in its 30-year history,” Chair Humberto González said last Friday, Feb. 16, 2007, at the OCHLA’s regular monthly meeting.

OCHLA Director Escudero con Comisionados Blanche Aviles Casey y Dan Porras

He made the comment in reference to fiscal uncertainty the OCHLA faces with the state’s upcoming biennial budget, changes in Ohio’s government policymakers, and a growing Latino population.


“I believe that the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs is now at a crossroad (that is) as critical as or maybe even more critical than when this commission was created,” González said. “We are finding ourselves in a position in which the commission must define our mission and role in order to serve the state of Ohio and our communities.”

González was partially referring to the restrictive budget of OCHLA as reported in the December 13, 2006 edition of La Prensa (page 6). Online, see article at:



At the Riffe Center meeting, the Commission gained two new members to help shape policy and direction. Daniel Porras, of Cleveland, and Blanche Aviles Casey, of Dayton, brought the number of commissioners to the maximum of 11. Both were appointed by former Gov. Bob Taft.


The new commissioners have different backgrounds but share a history of public service, OCHLA Executive Director Ezra C. Escudero said.

Porras is president of the Cleveland Hispanic Business Association.

Aviles Casey is a retired Air Force Colonel who served 30 years. She spent much of her career at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Aviles Casey also served on the Ohio Regulatory Board and worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Since 1982, I have considered myself an involved individual with the Hispanic community,” Aviles Casey said. “Now being on the commission gives me the opportunity to deal with the policy end of it.”

Porras and Aviles Casey might have different experiences coming in, but their basic visions for Latinos are similar. Education and economic development are two of the most important issues facing Latinos today, they said, and serve as the basis for success in life.

“I feel Hispanics are traditionally entrepreneurs, and the United States was built on small business,” Porras said. “Once small businesses start, it develops jobs for Hispanics and it develops the economy for the entire state.”

Besides Porras, Aviles Casey, and González, the Board of Commissioners include: Vice Chair Richard Romero (Lorain), Secretary Michael G. Florez (Cincinnati), Phillip Barbosa (Toledo), Ramona Reyes (Columbus), Chris Rodríguez (Whitehall), Simon Rodríguez (Perrysburg), Mary Santiago (Lorain), and V. Anthony Simms-Howell (Cincinnati). [http://ochla.midwestlatino.us/modules/news]
Escudero encourages implementation of Global-Ready Ohio
With that in mind, Escudero said one of the commission’s goals is to seek implementation of an initiative called Global-Ready Ohio for the 21st Century, or GROh-21.
The proposal attempts to strengthen OCHLA’s case to the General Assembly and the Strickland administration “in appealing for much-needed increases to our budget for the upcoming biennium,” Escudero said.
It requests an increase in funding to keep up with the growth of Ohio’s Hispanic communities, according to a draft of GROh-21. It stated GROh-21 “fully integrates with Gov. Strickland’s Turnaround Ohio vision.” In addition to education, workforce and economic development, GROh-21 focuses on “maximizing Ohio’s cultural wealth.”
The commissioners decided to utilize their annual retreat on Feb. 17, 2007, to discuss details about how to approach important issues facing Ohio and its Latino community. Commissioner Romero said the retreat went well.
Romero further informed La Prensa that: “The Ohio Commission on Hispanic Latino Affairs has always played an important role in identifying and addressing the needs and concerns of the Spanish-speaking community.
“There is an estimated 250,000 Latinos plus another 100,000 or more undocumented Latinos living in Ohio. OCHLA’s role is crucial now in advising the Legislatures and the Governor’s office to address the needs and concerns of the Spanish-speaking community.
“In Ohio’s 2000 census it showed that the growth rate of Ohioans in total was about 4.5% but yet the Latino community grew at a rate of 55%. Some Legislatures see this as a potential liability, but those who truly understand the important role Latinos bring to our economy understand that we must work to transition and work with the incoming Latinos.
“This means having OCHLA overseeing programs that help Latinos learn English and create reasonable pathways to become citizens. Latinos are filling the jobs that otherwise might go overseas and will continue to and by keeping that work here in Ohio and having Latinos contribute to our economy. Ohio and other states like Michigan and Indiana will greatly benefit from this new emerging community.”
The commissioners announced the names of the awardees for two of OCHLA’s most prestigious honors, to be honored at its annual banquet on April 20, 2007.
“It is an honor because a lot of people don’t expect that people have even noticed what they do,” Commissioner Santiago said. “It lets them know what they do in the community is noticed.”
Seven members of the state’s Latino communities earned recognition for the Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan Award. It honors Latino members of the commissioners’ home districts who show outstanding commitment to the community and Latino affairs.
The DHO awardees are: Alfonso Cornejo and Manuel Rodríguez (recommended by Commissioner Simms-Howell), Anthony González (recommended by Commissioner Reyes), Juan Miranda (recommended by Commissioner González), Margarita Quiñones (recommended by Commissioner Santiago), Rosalina Reyes (recommended by Commissioner Romero), and “Cantemos al Senor” (recommended by Commissioner Simon Rodríguez).
Six others earned the Nuestra Familia Award, which is given to non-Latino Ohioans inside commissioners’ districts who have positively impacted Latinos and the community. They are: CAPA (recommended by Commissioner Reyes), Rev. Paula Jackson (recommended by Commissioner Reyes Simms-Howell), Rep. Jim McGregor (R-Gahanna) (recommended by Commissioner González), Sen. C.J. Prentiss (D-Cleveland) (recommended by Commissioner Romero), Dr. Sidney Ribeau, President of BGSU (recommended by Commissioner Rodríguez), and Cleveland Councilman Matt Stone (recommended by Commissioner Porras).
OCHLA meets again April 20 at 1:30 p.m. in the Riffe center, 77 S. High Street, in Columbus, followed by the Commission’s Awards from 6:00 until 9:00PM.
Editor’s Note: Travis Minnear is a senior at Ohio State University, majoring in Journalism. The photo on page 1 was taken by Travis. Rico de La Prensa contributed to this report.





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