I am proud to serve as Chair of the New York State Assembly/Senate Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. In that capacity, it is my pleasure to again work closely with SOMOS El Futuro in the upcoming November conference. Every year, Somos hosts major conferences in the spring and fall. This year’s San Juan meeting promises to be our best yet.

Elected officials and government leaders, business professionals, labor leaders, academics and activists make the trip from New York to San Juan in November not only to be at one of the year’s premier civic events, but because we want to make a positive difference for the Hispanic people and the larger community. By the end of the meeting, we will have formulated policies to help make New York the leader in education, healthcare, housing and jobs and economic growth.

After San Juan, we will work hard in Albany and across the state to enact these recommendations into law and to establish them as models for the entire nation. The fall conference also promotes the opportunity to bridge economic and community development among territories by sharing best practices and replicable models, as well as opening doors to market businesses with the potential of expansion and growth.

Many different people serve in state and local government, all with the goal to guide public policy. Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio were able to work together with the state Legislature to enact universal pre-k in less than one year, with vital help from Hispanic leaders and so many others. Change can happen if we meet the challenge.

SOMOS’s goals are very direct and action-oriented: We want to train our youth, create political empowerment, develop civic coalitions, shape our education system, advocate for better housing, reform the immigration system, pass the DREAM Act, and provide scholarships, internships and apprenticeships. Our fall conference, for the second consecutive year, encourages Puerto Rican students to participate in our internship exchange program. 

There are 3.4 million Hispanics residing in New York State and we have a strong message. We are proud professionals who have earned a place at the table and we will be heard. We are diverse, but we are united. We want a seat in the boardrooms of America and we will accept nothing less. We want leadership roles in our political parties and we will accept nothing less. We want our youth to share in the opportunities of education and jobs and we will accept nothing less. We want our seniors protected and cared for and we will accept nothing less. We are united in our message and have strength in our voices.

I urge my fellow New Yorkers to help us harness our energy and become a part of the process. We will gather information, formulate ideas and policies and move forward our agenda in Albany. We have come a long way but we must move forward with the challenges ahead. We will be heard. We will accept nothing less.

After the busy election season ends, people will turn to SOMOS to begin strategizing for the 2015 legislative session. We want you to join us!

 

Félix Ortiz is a native Puerto Rican, who has served in the New York State Assembly since 1995. He is a past chairman of the SOMOS conference and the current chair of the New York State Assembly/Senate Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force.