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Anita Rios lone Latina candidate on ballot
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa


The possibility that a second Latino could end up on Toledo City Council is not lost on Anita Rios. Nor is the long-shot that she could be the lone female voice among 11 men if she wins the District 4 council seat. Both offer opportunities to make her feminist Latina voice heard.


The Green Party candidate lives directly across the street from her Democratic council opponent Paula Hicks-Hudson. But that has nothing to do with her reason for running. In fact, there is a mutual respect among both women, who each want to make a difference in the community where they grew up.

Anita Rios


“I’ve lived in Toledo or the Toledo area my entire life and I’m concerned. It comes down to just that,” said Ms. Rios on a recent Saturday morning, while sipping coffee in her downtown campaign office.


“I feel we are facing so many grave and serious issues and I was seeing so much bickering, so much politics-as-usual. The whole process was not changing and we need to change. I think we are at a place where we either become great innovators or we are looking at the great place where we once were. I don’t want to see that happen and I don’t think it’s necessary.”


Ms. Rios had gathered there with her campaign manager, her son, and a volunteer, preparing to go door-to-door in the Old West End where she has called home with her husband of 30 years.


Ms. Rios, 57, has prior political experience. Currently co-chair of the Ohio Green Party, she has run twice before unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor.


“We knew we would not win,” she explained. “We needed to do those runs in order to maintain party status. We had to test those waters.”


There is currently a court battle raging to challenge the legal status of alternative political parties, such as the Green and Libertarian parties, on the Ohio ballot in 2012. Her perception that the existing two-party system has failed is the reason Ms. Rios now is running for city council, a race she described as “a completely different kettle of fish” from her prior candidacies.


“One, I have a genuine and deep attachment and commitment to this community,” she said. “Two, I feel I have been an entrepreneur of sorts: a political entrepreneur, a social justice entrepreneur. I have a set of tools and skills to ask those questions and then find those answers.”


Ms. Rios cited the recent sale of the Marina District property to Chinese investors as a recent example. She blamed city leaders for a “lack of vision” for the lucrative riverfront property. The president of Toledo NOW criticized a plan to put condos, hotels, and retail at the site, which depend on people’s ability to spend money. She questioned why the focus is not on creating employment instead.

“We’ve been doing the same things over and over in different configurations,” she said. “Those are not things that create a strong economic infrastructure. Those are things that rely on a strong economic infrastructure. So how do we create that strong economic infrastructure? I think we’re in new territory. I think we have to admit we don’t know what’s going to work.”


Ms. Rios stated the belief that Toledo has “turned the corner” as a manufacturing community.


“We are a world community now,” she said. “Either we use that to our advantage or we suffer economic hardship as a community.”


Ms. Rios is a patient advocate at the Center for Choice. She is the lone Latina on the Nov. 8 ballot. Lourdes Santiago had filed to run for a judge’s seat, but only as a backup to another Democratic candidate who was facing removal from the ballot. Since he won a legal fight to save his candidacy, Ms. Santiago withdrew her name from consideration.


The Green Party candidate believes her Mexican roots would serve her well in office. Ms. Rios is the daughter of migrant farm workers and comes from a large family of seven daughters and a son. She grew up in “a three-room shack with no plumbing or electricity” before her family finally settled on a five-acre parcel of farmland in the mostly-black Spencer-Sharples neighborhood. Ms. Rios sees her parents, now in their 80’s, at least once each week.


“It’s the foundation of what I do and how I approach things: family and community are very important to us,” she said. “While I do consider myself a somewhat atypical Latina—I’m a fiercely feminist Latina—not only do I think my presence as a Latino in this race is important, but the Latino perspective is going to be huge, especially going into the 2012 presidential race.”


Ms. Rios readily admits she was a high school dropout who did not get her diploma until the age of 23. She graduated from the University of Toledo well into her 30’s, with a degree in Spanish.


“I know this community like the back of my hand,” she said. “I’ve stood on welfare lines. I’ve stood in unemployment lines. I had both of my sons with no healthcare coverage. I know what this community is like.”


Education, immigration, and healthcare coverage are important issues to Ms. Rios, who described herself as a “disenfranchised Latina” in her youth. If elected, she stated that it will be important to invite everyone to the table to participate in finding ways to move the city forward.


“I will never tell you I have all the answers. I will rely heavily on the people in the district for answers and solutions,” she said. “In order for me to succeed, they will have to work harder than they have ever worked with a politician, because I will rely on them. I will need them.”


Her other major objective is to show that there are alternatives to the current two-party system, which she called “a failure.” Ms. Rios wants young people, including her sons Gabriel, 30, and Alexander, 25, to share in the economic opportunities available to past generations.



“’We the people’—perhaps the most powerful words ever uttered,” she said. “If we’re ever going to put an answer to this mess that we’re in, that would be the answer: that we the people, we step up, we participate in democracy. We need to start fueling and generating those solutions that we’re going to need to get past these economic difficulties.”


As an example, Ms. Rios would like to take $2,000 of her potential city council salary to create “civics internships” for young people, so they can learn firsthand from elected officials how government really works. She hopes her contribution would be seed money and that other city council members would contribute part of their salary toward the cause “if they are able.”


Copyright © 1989 to 2011 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/01/11 16:04:07 -0800.





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