Latino Town Hall seeks consensus
Arizona Republic
Sept. 16, 2005

We're hoping for plain talk and some challenges for the future
It's not high on the radar screen.

It's a meeting on a weekend, a football weekend.

And you never know what you're going to get when you invite ordinary citizens to attend a town hall - and speak their minds. But we're going to watch them just the same.

Because, as it turns out, the folks over at the Arizona Latino Research Enterprise are not afraid to break precedents, to speak uncomfortable truths and to seek out new ideas.

Not all of them are boxed into politically predictable camps.

By and large, they are not entangled with any particular faction.

In fact, according to educational researcher David Garcia, they're trying to find some "common ground" on sensitive issues like school choice, parental and social responsibility, Proposition 200 and political leadership.

ALRE was formed in February, part research institute, part advocacy group, part forum. It was created by a handful of prominent Latinos, including attorney Sal Rivera, political consultant Mario Diaz and public-relations consultant Lisa Urias.

They're of a different generation than those influenced by the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and '70s. They're Democrats . . . and Republicans. Many have worked for government, but they are not dependent on politics to make a living.

The first ALRE Town Hall is today and Saturday at the Scottsdale Conference Resort. It will focus on two major themes: education and leadership.

In various sessions, town hall participants will examine aspects of each, trying to build consensus on knotty issues as school choice, the Dream Act, Proposition 200 and political participation.

We're not sure what the Arizona Latino agenda is . . . or if there is one. We suspect Latinos want what all Americans want: a good education for their children, equal opportunity for jobs and success, respect and freedom. But the nation's record for reaching those goals for all people is spotty.

We hope the Latino Town Hall will offer some plain talk on that, too. And throw out a few surprises - and challenges - for tomorrow.

We will be watching.