Thursday, December 12, 2013 5:46 AM
Published on: Thursday, March 28, 2013
By Tazeen Ahmad
As the Montgomery County Council takes on the $4.8 billion county operating budget presented by County Executive Isiah Leggett earlier this month, Council President Nancy Navarro wants to see the council to do more to reach out and bring members of the immigrant communities and African American community into the decision making process.
“I have proposed that for the first time ever that the council have a bilingual, multi-cultural public information officer. We need somebody out in the community explaining what the council is doing,” Navarro said. “I think the more information people have the more empowered they are to do advocacy and hopefully contribute to their quality of life.”
Navarro, who represents parts of Colesville, Wheaton, Glenmont and Aspen Hill on the council, was elected council president last December. She is the first Latina to hold that position in the county. At the start of her term Navarro said she hoped to focus on the county’s poor and minority population during her year-long tenure as council president, and as she wraps up the fourth month of her term Navarro continues to emphasize the importance of finding ways to strengthen community connections.
“I see my role as translating culturally some of those important pieces of information that a lot of our immigrant population may not quite understand when it comes to access to government services, and or decisions and or opportunities,” Navarro said.
Fellow council member Craig Rice, also serving as the council’s vice president, appreciates the way Navarro is leading the council especially her proactive approach to the county’s growing minority population.
“I think Nancy has done a fantastic job. We need strong leadership as we move forward to tackle the budget and we have to keep all our residents in mind and reach out to them and get their input,” Rice said.
The need to reach out to the immigrant population is not lost on council member Phil Andrews, who has recently announced he will be running for County Executive in the upcoming elections.
“I think one of the jobs of elected officials is to voice the concerns of people who often are not at the table. We have to listen respectfully to everybody who comes to speak to us but we also have to see who is not there and make sure their concerns are considered as well,” Andrews said.
Navarro said it is important that the council is careful not to overlook any inequities and disparities among our residents and expressed concern over the growing academic achievement gap in the school system between white and Asian students and black and Latino students. She thinks the solution lies in collaboration between the school system and the local communities.
“The school system has to do whatever it can to be welcoming and really facilitate participation as much as possible and the community has the obligation to step up to the plate and show up and be involved in whatever level and capacity they have,” Navarro said.
Noting the demographic shifts in the county, one of the nation’s most affluent, Navarro said these changes will play an important role in how the county moves forward.
“Over the past decade our county has become majority-minority so we have to address the issues of the minority population if we want our county to flourish. So whether it is economic disparities, economic disparities, health disparities or education disparities if you don’t address them it will definitely have an effect on every single resident in the county,” Navarro said.