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An Open Letter to Toledos Mayor Mike Bell
by Alan Abrams, La Prensa Senior Correspondent

Dear Mayor Bell:

Your decision to doom the passage of Toledos original City Council resolution opposing Arizonas now-discredited Arizona immigration law S.B. 1070 by refusing to break a 6-6 tie was far from a statesmanlike act.

Indeed, those of us and I include myself in this tabulationwho have known, supported and closely followed your career for two decades expected far more from you.

Mayor Mike Bell

We expected leadershipespecially by one who should understand the effects of Jim Crowish laws, which Amnesty International and the ACLU said would lead to legalized racial profiling.  The federal judge, that enjoined much of S.B. 1070, agreed.


But sadly you opted to play the role of a follower when you could have easily been a hero to the city by casting your vote to break the tie and pass the resolution.


Well, it happened anyway two weeks later in spite of, or despite, your efforts. And Toledo is no longer a national object of scorn and ridicule.


I know that some people have been so disappointed by your action that they have suggested simply writing you off. I dont think thats the right course for the Latino community to follow.


 I am not going to devote this column to hectoring you. More importantly, I want to see how you stand up to a challenge. You owe it to all of your constituents to be open to education.


Ruben Castilla Herrera is the Columbus-based State Director for Reform Immigration for America.


He played an active role in getting the Columbus and Cleveland city councils to pass resolutions against Arizonas S.B. 1070 immigration law. Those resolutions were adopted unanimously, unlike Toledos. That shocked Herrera.


When this reporter interviewed you about your decision, you explained that when you spoke to people both in the general and Latino communities, you could not detect a groundswell of interest in the resolution even though it advocated Congress take action on comprehensive immigration reform.


Herrera begs to differ with you and offers you some advice.


He tells La Prensa, My feeling is that there is support for immigration reform in Northwest Ohio and Toledo especially. People will give you whatever answer you want to hear depending upon whom they ask. Thats why it is important for public officials to ask a wide range of people including those working on the issue. It goes beyond just asking people in your Rolodex. If you dont know whom to ask, thats the problem. You need to build relationships with people who understand the issue. And this should not be situational, as in when a vote is coming up who do I call? It needs to be ongoing.


Our office was never contacted. We are involved in the immigration issue nationally, adds Herrera.


So Mayor Bell, we know you didnt ask Herrera for advice. Nor did you reach out to Baldemar Velsquez at the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), clearly the one person in the local community who knows immigration issues from A to Z. No, as Herrera says, your decision has a lot to do with policies and with relationships.


Thats why Herrera is going to try to rectify the problem through education. And thats appropriate for Toledos Education Mayor.


I will extend Mayor Bell a cordial invitation, says Herrera. As state director, I will go to Toledo to meet with him. I will give him all the stats, let him know what is happening in the state, and give him everything he needs for an understanding of the issue.  There will be no more excuses of not knowing about the importance of the issue. Toledo is very important to us.


Regrettably, you have twice declined requests by La Prensa to explain your actions to our readers. Two council members who voted against the last resolution, Rob Ludeman and Tom Waniewski, have not returned detailed messages left on their respective voice mails so that we can learn the reasons behind their vote.


Meanwhile, many members of the Latino community are joining the chorus of criticism. Ramn Prez, a Toledo activist, was at the last council 10-2 vote on August 3, 2010.  He says your actions do not make him sound competent in making a decision. How did he make it, did he just go on his own beliefs?


Latinos clearly support comprehensive immigration reform and oppose AZ SB 1070


So Mr. Mayor, while you are waiting to meet with Mr. Herrera, here are some stats for you to chew upon.


You know the importance of polls so consider these.  Phone polls were conducted in May by Hispanic Decisions and Grove Insight, two research and opinion firms who were commissioned by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).


This polling data confirms what we have known for a long time, says SEIU Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina. American voters, Hispanic and non-Hispanic alike, are angry and increasingly fed up with U.S. Congresss continued failure to fix our broken immigration system. In the absence of a practical fix by [U.S.] Congress, voters will grasp at straws for anything they believe delivers action.

But, he says, there is clearly a political cost among Hispanic voters, adding that their widespread opposition to SB 1070, shows that frivolous, reactionary state laws just serve to galvanize Hispanic voters to move away from candidates who push draconian, enforcement-only legislation.

 The Hispanic Decisions poll of 402 voters in Arizona and the Grove Insight poll of 402 base voters in Arizona tested overall views and political implications of the passage of the new law, as well as voters' views on immigration reform.

Key findings included that: 81 percent of Arizonas Latino voters oppose SB 1070similar percentages can be found in Toledo and Ohio. Since the bills passage, the polls found, immigration reform became the leading issue among Hispanic voters, shooting up by 16 percentage points and moving ahead of the economy and health care as the leading issue among Hispanic voters.

The data shows very clearly Hispanic voters in Arizona, from first-generation immigrants to fourth-generation families, are very much opposed to SB 1070 and national immigration reform is now their single most important issue, said Matt A. Barreto, a pollster with Hispanic Decisions and associate professor of political science at the University of Washington.

Overwhelmingly, Hispanic voters fully expect the federal government to take up national immigration reform during 2010 to fix this problem in Arizona, he said.

The Grove Insight poll of Arizona base voters showed similar frustration over congressional inaction.

While 60 percent of Arizona voters expressed support for the new law, 73 percent also supported federal reform that included both enforcement and a path to citizenship.

That poll concluded that asking about support for SB 1070 without also asking about comprehensive immigration reform failed to reveal voters underlying motivations.

It said a majority of U.S.-Americans across regions and party lines believe a federal overhaul of a broken immigration system that includes a path to legalization is the only way to end undocumented immigration.

The results are clear, Mayor Bell. Dont write off Toledos Latino voters!

The stakes are too high!

On the Internet: http://www.laprensa1.com/Stories/2010/080610/council.htm




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