The Importance of Voting For Juanita

by Maria Revelles- Michell, Community Organizer and Advocate and Near Westside Resident

The City of Syracuse will elect soon a New Mayor; for voters like me, a woman, city resident and a democrat seemed hard to think about a Mayor as accomplished, strong as progressive as Stephanie Miner. Miner did right to many in this city, declaring it a sanctuary city and made many right decisions, sometimes facing bitter criticism, Miner is strong, intelligent, committed the first Woman Mayor of Syracuse.

I am a resident of the City; I live on the near Westside. The subject of putting the right person in City Hall is personal to me. I know very well the impact that decisions can make an impoverished community transportation, schools, jobs, recreation, housing… or not.

Like many of my neighbors I was part of the movement to convince Juanita Perez –Williams to run for Mayor. I am convinced that the importance of electing Juanita goes beyond my “Barrio” and will have a positive impact for Latinos and future generations across our nation.

54 million Latinos live in the United States, comprising 17 percent of the population. But, just one percent of the nearly 500,000 elected officials in federal, state and local governments nationwide are Latinos. The 2012 Presidential Election marked a milestone for Latino political participation. Latinos turned out in record numbers. For the first time ever, Latino donors became deeply engaged in a presidential election. Yet, while a record 11.2 million Latinos voted during the 2012 Presidential election, comprising 8.4 percent of all votes cast across the country, 12.1 million Latinos eligible to vote stayed home on Election Day. Of those, 9.6 million were not registered to vote. This disparity in Latino political participation is one reason for the lack of Latino elected officials. While the Latino population grows, the number of Latinos elected to public office remains dangerously low. In the current Congress, only 28 members of the House are Latinos when more than twice that number would be reflective of their share of the national population. The statistics are worse in many legislative bodies across the nation.

The lack of Latinos running for office further discourages political participation in the Latino community: when you don’t see people on the ballot that reflect your community, you are less likely to vote, but We can be the change. Since I moved to Syracuse in November 2007, I have engaged in more than twelve voter registration drives, last year when we were supporting the election of Rita Paniagua as a School Board Member, currently the only Latina in the Board, more than 400 new voters, a majority Latinos on the West Side came out to register. Last Primary when Juanita was running as a democrat candidate for Mayor, in Saint Lucy’s in the heart of the Westside and the Latino Community almost 700 voters came out to vote versus 70 in the previous.

It’s time to make history and elect more Latino leaders who know how to deliver for working families, the Mayoral race of Syracuse provides us an opportunity to help cultivate a new generation of feminists who will be the change agents and advocates on behalf of their communities. Democracy will not fully do its job until it fully reflects the people it represents, Juanita Perez –Williams is the most qualified candidate in the race, with the vision, education and experience that Syracuse needs. It is our Moral Duty as Latinos, Minorities, Women and Residents of Syracuse to make sure that she becomes Our Next Mayor. On November 7 Get Out and vote.

Maria Revelleswas born in Puerto Rico, and lived her early childhood in Madrid, Spain. She is an organizer for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1199; SEIU represents 1.5 million service workers, many of them health-care workers.

Over the years, Maria Revelles has led some of the most successful service-union organizing campaigns across the United States and in Puerto Rico, starting in the early 1990’s First with the ” FederaciónCentral de Trabajadores” a local of the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) and after the year 2000 with UNITE Union and the USW, United Steel Workers developing organizing strategies and workshops on diversity; also Directing education and solidarity projects with unions in the Dominican Republic for Women Union Leaders mostly in the Free Trade Areas and manufacturing.

Maria is the Former President of the Board of Directors of the Spanish Action League of Onondaga County in Syracuse (La Liga) New York, Served in the Mayor’s Women Commission, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Legislators Caucus of The State of New York; Somos El Futuro. Also served as a Board Member of the Near West Side initiative.

Maria Revelles is the first Latina to serve in the Board of the Housing Authority of the city of Syracuse.

As a strong believer in the integration of minorities and revitalization of the inner city, she and her family relocated into The Westside of the city of Syracuse where a majority of Hispanics live with the desire to help rebuild this community.

She advocates for and develops leaders within the community and encourages them to speak out on issues important to them, such as education, right to vote, health care and immigrant rights.