Park City Latinos outline concerns about housing, work force equality | ParkRecord.com

Park City Latinos outline concerns about housing, work force equality

Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

Park City leaders recently held a discussion about Latino issues that touched on a series of topics during a well-attended meeting that, it appears, was the beginning of what will be broader talks involving a range of City Hall functions.

It is rare that a discussion at the Marsac Building is solely focused on Latino issues even years after Latinos secured their place as Park City’s largest minority group. Mayor Jack Thomas, the Park City Council and City Hall staffers covered issues like housing, Spanish-language municipal government materials, daycare and access to athletic facilities.

The discussion was spurred by a group that is addressing the issues. The group is not affiliated with City Hall, but some government officials have been involved. The elected officials were not scheduled to make important decisions at the recent meeting, but it seems almost certain that City Hall in coming months will address some of the issues more formally It was not clear at the meeting, though, what sort of timetable will be pursued and what steps will be priorities.

A translator attended the meeting. It is believed it was the first time a City Council meeting was translated to Spanish on a real-time basis. There were approximately 30 people in the audience, many of them Latinos. The people involved in the discussion seemed to understand the historic nature of the meeting. Even without progress on details, they were pleased with the start of talks between City Hall and the Latino community.

The mayor early in the discussion described the meeting as an "amazing event in itself" as he noted the Spanish translation. He also said he wants Park City to be a complete community. Tim Henney, a City Councilor, apologized that some Latinos continue to feel as though they are segregated.

"It should not be that way," Henney said, pledging assistance as the Latino community continues to integrate itself into Park City.

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Other elected officials praised the efforts as well, saying they were happy with the attendance at the meeting and that Latinos are important to the community.

"Park City could not function without your help," City Councilor Dick Peek said.

The elected officials learned about services the municipal government offers the Latino community, including an effort by the Park City Municipal Athletic & Recreation Center to translate more information into Spanish and conversational Spanish classes at the Park City Library and Education Center. Diane Foster, the Park City manager, mentioned that City Hall has pledged significant funds to housing in coming years, something that could benefit Latinos as well as the wider population.

One of the crucial moments of the meeting was the reading of a statement in English and Spanish outlining the work of the group exploring the issues. Franco Pedraza, a Snyderville Basin resident who works in the energy efficiency field, read the statement in Spanish. City Councilor Liza Simpson read the English.

The statement addressed issues like housing, work force equality, access to recreation by youngsters, access to programs like English-language classes designed for adults and daycare availability for families with low incomes. It seems probable that the statement’s content will be a basis for at least some of the talks that are expected to occur over time.

"The number one issue identified by this group was the issue of housing. Specifically, affordable housing for all residents of our community. The affordable housing issue also raised concerns regarding the management of the apartment complexes in our community and the need for these companies to be respectful and responsive to the needs of their renters and community," the statement says.

The statement, meanwhile, contends that workers need to be treated equally and that "salaries need to be in line with the cost of living of our community."

"Currently, an affordable apartment in Park City is approximately $1,350, where the conditions and maintenance leave a lot to be desired. We are the workers that are at the heart of the Park City economy," the statement says. "We need local business leaders at the table to discuss our needs as employees and as community members."

Latinos began arriving in Park City in large numbers in the 1990s, as the city was amid one of its great periods of growth. There have been various bridge-building efforts between Latinos and the Anglo population involving City Hall, not-for-profit organizations and religious groups, resulting in numerous programs designed for Latinos.

"Accessibility to affordable housing needs to also encompass both documented and undocumented workers. The desire is to be part of the fabric of the city and not be separated into housing projects where you only find low income housing thus creating an undesirable part of our community. We want to live in Park City where we are raising our families, where our children attend school and where we work," the statement says.

People who identified themselves as Latino or Hispanic accounted for 24.1 percent of the Park City population in the 2010 census. The U.S. Census Bureau also found in a five-year period between 2009 and 2013 a little more than one in five Park City residents 21.4 percent spoke a language other than English in the home. The two percentages were significantly greater than the statewide numbers, according to the Census Bureau.