With less than three weeks to the November election, a team of Latino renter advocates took to the streets in San Mateo to encourage renters to vote. They also offered recommendations about which candidates to vote for.
“There are seven people competing for three seats on the San Mateo City Council”, says Imelda Navarro, who was a member of the Latino team. “Some of the candidates have proven to be much more sympathetic to renters than the others, and we wanted renters to know who they are.”
Going door-to-door, the team distributed specially designed renters’ ballots that had been prepared by One San Mateo, a community group working for fair housing solutions in the City of San Mateo. The ballots were English on one side and Spanish on the other. They included photos of the three recommended candidates, along with a brief description of why they are deserving of renters’ votes.
Giselle Alvarez described part of her motivation for being involved. “In the past my father taught me to vote by scanning the ballot for every Latino name and voting for these candidates, as this would ensure that our interests weren’t forgotten. I’m finding that in the present election, choosing that way would hurt my community, and I want to get that message out.”
Other team members were inspired to take part by their experience living in substandard living conditions in an apartment building in the North Central neighborhood of San Mateo. “My rent was just raised again”, said one of the residents. “Meanwhile, the people in our building, many of them Latinos, have been living for a long time with cockroaches, bedbugs and mold. The city is now working with the landlord to get these conditions fixed, but what we noticed is that some council members didn’t seem to care very much at all. We want council members who care and will do something to help us.”
The three candidates being recommended are Chelsea Bonini, Charlie Drechsler, and incumbent Rick Bonilla. Many of the Latino team were part of a discernment process conducted over the past couple of months by One San Mateo. This process involved individual candidate interviews, as well as a candidates’ forum that was open to the public and attended by 150 community members. Other members of One San Mateo, a diverse community group involving a wide range of professions and ethnicities, participated in the ballot distribution as well.
This past weekend the team distributed 1,500 renters’ ballots, using walk lists of renters who vote. Next weekend they will hit the streets again to distribute more. “When we had a chance to talk to folks at the doors, they seemed very appreciative”, Imelda says. “One young woman grabbed the ballot out of my hand, saying. ‘I haven’t voted yet. Thank you!'”