Quite a stir has unfolded over whether Scottsdale City Councilman David Ortega gives the city’s Hispanic community sufficient representation.
Executives for the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, LULAC 1000, said Ortega has not been involved as much as they expected he would be with local Hispanic issues during his three years on the council.
"I’m not aware of anything he’s done in the Hispanic community," said league chapter president Armando Gay tan, later adding, "We know him by name."
Ortega, now a mayoral candidate in the March 9 election, said he has done plenty for Hispanics.
The bilingual native Arizonan depicts himself as the "one and only" Hispanic and only architect elected to the Scottsdale council.
And to boot, he won 26 of 30 city precincts for his first term.
He even launched a Spanish version of his campaign Web site at tp:// members.cox.net/david4mayor/
because he said he wants "to serve all voters."
"Although some people say there is a small, or insignificant population, I think about 6 percent" in Scottsdale, Ortega said, "it is very important that our (Hispanic) heritage and our work force population be recognized and vote."
LULAC members said Ortega’s Web site is a smart move, but he hasn’t been a strong advocate on issues involving Hispanic residents.
"He has been good to offer translations when the hierarchy comes in from Mexico," said Frances Young, Scottsdale’s leading veteran Hispanic activist. "But I’m talking about the peons here. . . . I think he’s in touch if he thinks it can benefit him."
While Ortega refers to Young as his strong ally, closest confidante and someone he "very highly respects," she expressed concerns about his leadership.
"I judge people by if they get in the trenches and get their hands dirty," said Young, 82, also LULAC 1000 vice president.
"I’m not talking about your doctors and lawyers, I’m talking about the Hispanic community that’s out here struggling to get an education, mowing our yard, cleaning our bathrooms, painting our houses," Young said.
LULAC chapter treasurer Jose Burrel, Gaytan and Young praised Ortega for his participation in Hispanic education. Ortega has helped Hispanic students at Coronado and Saguaro high schools, whose parents have little money, become dual-enrolled at community colleges. He stresses that he wants all students to advance.
But LULAC representatives, mostly Young, said Ortega has been missing at trying moments for some Hispanic residents.
They cited Richard Carbajal, a Hispanic restaurant owner who argued with an officer at an accident scene involving a Hispanic man. Carbajal attempted to aid with police paperwork and was fined for disobeying an officer. The Holiday Park incident is another case in which several officers and Hispanics in south Scottsdale became involved in a brawl during a police chase of a burglary suspect.
Rosendo Gutierrez, an engineer and former Phoenix city councilman, supports Ortega. Gutierrez said Ortega shouldn’t be labeled or expected to focus on Hispanic issues rather than citywide concerns because no other Scottsdale council member is being held to the same standard.
"Just because he is Latino has nothing to do with the successful term he has had on the council," Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said race is being inappropriately introduced into a mayoral campaign in a city where more than 92 percent of the population is white, according to the 2000 census. Scottsdale also has been dubbed the fifth-whitest city in America with more than 100,000 residents.
Ortega’s family settled in the Tucson area in the 1700s before Mexico had been constituted as an autonomous country. His grandmother was born in Mexico, and he was raised in Globe, where his father owned a jewelry shop.
Ortega said a Phoenixbased Hispanic lawyer group plans to cite him next week for his community service.
Burrel credited Ortega for starting workshops for Hispanics in Mesa and Scottsdale and for his help in allowing use of the Little Mission Church in downtown Scottsdale, built by Hispanics in the 1930s.
But Ortega’s record hasn’t gone far enough, Burrel said.
"There are a lot of people that are backing David that I know of, simply because he’s the only Hispanic who’s running," Burrel said.
LULAC has asked Ortega to join the group, but the offer had never been accepted. Ortega said he has attended several LULAC functions, donated to the group, but prefers to work one-on-one, which may lead Hispanic leaders to believe differently.
"I am involved with all issues for all Scottsdale people," said Ortega, 49.
Ortega also serves on Gov. Janet Napolitano’s Latino Advisory Council.
"I don’t mean to contradict anybody. If they have fair criticism, they can say whatever they like," Ortega said. "I don’t have to prove myself. I have done a great deal in the community, but you know, I am busy fighting issues like Los Arcos."
Gutierrez said he has seen Ortega attend at least a dozen Valleywide Hispanic events this year and he was unaware of problems in Scottsdale’s Hispanic community.
"No critical amount of votes went to him because he was Latino," Gutierrez said of Ortega. "Ten times that amount voted for somebody because they were a woman or a man."