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updated: 4/30/2014 5:58 AM

Some in Elgin want a Latino appointed to city council

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Some in Elgin hope the city council might have its first Latino member in five years.

The city council meets Wednesday to select who among the 21 candidates -- a handful of whom are Latino -- will be interviewed May 7. Those discussions will take place in closed session.

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Kane County blogger Jeff Ward wrote on Sunday a post titled "Why I still believe Elgin needs a Hispanic councilman" that was shared on Facebook among Elgin residents.

"Democracy functions best when everyone participates," Ward writes, later adding, "Since only a Hispanic citizen can truly understand what it means to be Hispanic in Elgin, only they can accurately represent that experience."

According to 2012 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Latinos are 43.6 percent of Elgin's estimated 110,000 residents.

The council should choose the most qualified candidate with an eye toward Latino representation, Elgin businessman Kevin Echevarria said.

"Elgin doesn't need to choose a Latino just to choose a Latino," he said. "If (the Latino candidates) are qualified individuals, there should be a priority to choose a Latino."

Elgin businessman Ron Weiner agreed.

"I think cultural imperatives are such that if you're not of that culture, you don't know what that culture needs and wants," he said.

"The most qualified person should be selected. If they appoint a Latino, I would applaud the city council, and I would applaud the candidate."

Juan Figueroa was the last Latino council member in Elgin. He was appointed in 1999 and won re-election in 2001 and 2005 but lost in 2009.

Any Latino candidates who meet the criteria to serve should be given "strong consideration," said Danise Habun, chairwoman of Elgin's human relations commission.

"I think what is missing on the city council is a reflection of the city of Elgin," she said.

Councilman John Prigge said race should not play a role in any appointment.

"If the voters want to do social engineering, they have that right in Elgin every two years to do so," Prigge said.

He advocates the seat remain open until the April 2015 election. Any appointment will need a five-vote majority and must take place by May 30.

Tom Armstrong, chairman of the city's parks and recreation advisory board, pointed out Elgin has been looking into how to foster diversity among staff members.

"We're better served if the same can also be true with our elected officials and appointed officials," he said.

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