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Forum Acuerdo Leaders and the Illinois Latino Agenda Meet with Future Mayor's Staff

  ·  Manuel Gonzales

Latino leaders with the Latino Policy Forum’s Illinois Latino Agenda and its Acuerdo network met with staff of Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot’s transition team on Wednesday to provide valuable input regarding issues important to their communities in Chicago.

Fifty-five representatives from the Agenda and the Forum’s Immigration, Housing and Education Acuerdos, who collectively represent over 40 organizations and 160,000 constituents, were present at Casa Central in Humboldt Park to meet with Lightfoot’s Chief of Staff, Maurice Classen, and Intergovernmental Affairs Advisor Manny Perez to talk about issues relating to affordable housing, early-childhood education, immigration and building better relations between African American and Latino communities.

“We’re ushering in a new era in Chicago with a new leader who has so far demonstrated that she’s keen on receiving and evaluating public input from experts in the field and not just people who donated to her campaign,” said Forum Executive Director Sylvia Puente, who co-chairs Lightfoot’s education transition team. “This was a lively exchange of ideas about making a more equitable future for Latinos for the betterment of all of Chicago.”

Classen told the group, which included several other members of Lightfoot’s transition committees, that this was a valuable next step in the process of transforming Chicago.

“One of the things the mayor-elect wants us to focus on is having hope,” Classen said. “There’s a point we’re trying to get to and what we’re promising is we and she will be at this table listening to you and we want you to hold us accountable.”

The Latino Agenda also received updates from transition committee chairs about the progress being made in the meetings leading up to the mayor-elect’s swearing-in on May 20, many of their reflections being available in memos posted to Lightfoot’s Better Together Chicago website.

Gloria Castillo of Chicago United talked about her surprise to see equity as a priority in the incoming mayor’s agenda. She discussed the core values driving all the transition teams: equity, transparency, accountability, diversity and inclusion, which lead to transformation.

Carlos Tortolero of the National Museum of Mexican Art,  co-chair of the Arts transition team, talked about the importance of devoting resources to making Chicago more attractive to tourism and David Munar of Howard Brown Health,-co-chair of the Health and Human Service transition team,  talked about setting the building blocks for a healthier citizenry.

Griselda Vega Samuel of MALDEF, who sits on the Good Governance transition team, said one major issue should be making city officials more accountable and representative of their communities. “The city has functioned the way it has for a very long time and we want to change that,” she said. “Things like changing the limit on aldermanic privilege and establishing new ethics reform, preventing outside employment for aldermen, term limits for committee chairs and agenda minutes from those committees that actually tell us what they’re doing.”

Other issues include data transparency and addressing the issue of the thousands of outstanding Freedom of Information Act requests the city has failed to comply with, creating a more accessible government particularly through language access, even something as simple as reworking the city’s website to make it more user friendly for people from all walks of life.

Forum co-founder Paul Roldan, President and CEO of Hispanic Housing Development Corporation, who’s co-chair on the Housing transition team, said system improvement and changing the process for permitting and zoning to increase efficiency was one major focus of their work. He also cited the need for additional resources for preservation of existing affordable housing.

“We’re in the national spotlight and have the opportunity to make major, real change with the power and influence we have coming in, which we really should take advantage of now,” said Juan Carlos Linares of LUCHA, who also co-chairs the Housing transition team.

“We all know what has to be done but how are we going to get the money and resources to do it,” Puente added. “That will be a challenge.  But what won’t be a challenge is the abundance of creativity and input from the people in this room.”   

The representative of mayor’s Lightfoot pledged to continue the dialogue. 


The Illinois Latino Agenda is a historic collaborative effort among Latino organizations that seeks to promote accountability in business, government, the private sector, and within the Latino community by leveraging their collective voice and influence. The Agenda is a broad coalition of city- and suburban-based Latino-serving nonprofits, the largest Latino coalition in the region. Convened by the Latino Policy Forum, MALDEF, and the Illinois Latino Family Commission, the Agenda currently has 40-plus member organizations.


Posted In: Representation in Government