Omaha’s Latino community calls for representation amid District 4 City Council pick

Latino activists are disappointed in the Omaha City Council's selection for the District 4 seat, which covers south Omaha.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 6:53 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - This past Tuesday, the Omaha City Council selected Vinny Palermo’s successor to District 4, unanimously voting in Ron Hug.

“We’re going to look forward to having him meet with the different community leaders, have him down at our BID meeting and definitely come down and partake in that,” said South Omaha Business Improvement District Board member Marcos Mora.

Still, Mora said it would’ve been nice to see a Latino get the nod.

“There has been more talk that the Latino voice isn’t heard,” he said. “There’s a lot of us that feel that way.”

Mora’s not alone in saying that. The Nebraska chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) echoes Mora’s sentiment.

Its president, Elsa Ramon, issued a statement Tuesday night saying the city council could have picked either of the two Latino candidates running for the position.

Council President Pete Festersen agreed.

“I was very supportive of a Latino candidate who I thought was very qualified,” Festersen said. “I thought it was important to appoint the first Latino to the city council. That candidate ultimately only had three votes, and so further compromise was needed to get to an end result. But having said that, I do think the ultimate selection is very qualified, as were many candidates.”

According to UNO’s Center for Public Affairs Research, Latinos make up 50.8 percent of District 4′s total population. However, of its residents who are old enough to vote, 43.9% of them are Latino.

That statistic doesn’t surprise LULAC of Nebraska member Erik Servellon, who was one of the candidates the council didn’t select this week.

He said Omaha’s Hispanic population really only started growing in the 1990s.

“Because we are young, we still haven’t had the time to build that political power to tell the Latino community why it’s important to be registered to vote, why it’s important to vote, why it’s important to have proper representation on the council,” Servellon said.

LULAC said that also extends to political offices, in general.

The organization said it has a plan in the works, not only to get Latinos to run but also to see more of them get to the polls and be civically engaged.

“Everything from civic action to showing up at the city council, to launching any kind of initiatives or drives to get people registered to vote,” Servellon said.

He said LULAC hopes to announce more details of that plan in the next month.