Mesa’s demographic transformation has been under way for years now, but this is the year its Latino Town Hall has adopted change as the overarching theme of the event.
Phil Austin, president of the Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens, said one reason this theme is important this year is that some residents need reassurance as parts of the city begin to look more foreign.
"Change can be a little unsettling when it comes," Austin said. "Overall, you can look at it as an advantage or a problem, but the influx of immigrants as a whole benefits the country."
The association hosts the event with the help of Mesa Community College and Mesa Unified School District. The crowd is expected to be as large as last year’s 400.
The conference at MCC is using the same format it has had in previous years, where attendees choose to participate in one of five two-hour discussions, or "tracks."
People are asked to indicate a language preference when they register. Town hall chairwoman Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo said the one group that has considerable translation needs are parents of school-age children signing up for the education track.
Teachers signed up for the education track will talk to one of the "Wilson Four," the Phoenix teens who were nearly deported this year, having been brought from Mexico illegally by their parents when very young.
The leadership track will include a City Council candidate forum, where District 4 contender Pat Esparza and District 6's Scott Somers will take questions.
"I really can’t think of another setting where the public can have such an intimate setting with city leaders, or prospective city leaders," Villanueva-
Some leaders won’t be there. Two City Council members up for re-election next spring, Kyle Jones and Rex Griswold, will be in China for a Sister Cities trip Saturday. The third, Janie Thom, said last week she can’t attend because of a family event.
The other three discussion tracks focus on health, business development and youth.
The conference includes a continental breakfast and an awards luncheon where leaders in each of the five fields will be recognized.
The nonprofit and business expo is being moved outside and expanded this year as more businesses look for a spot at the tables that will be set up, said David Luna, an event organizer and director of educational television for the school district.
Latino Town Hall What: 2005 Mesa Latino Town Hall
When: 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Mesa Community College, 1833 W. Southern Ave.
Cost: $15, in advance or on the day of the event
Information: (480) 472-0550 or