Colonia residents from election precinct 43, where a community-initiated and directed effort to get out the vote was held during the 2010 midterm elections, received backpacks with school supplies thanks to their participation in the GOTV campaign.
The campaign in precinct 43 was one of 10 GOTV campaigns led by the Equal Voice Network of the Rio Grande Valley in Hidalgo and Cameron Counties for the purpose of raising the vote in low income and Latino communities.
The backpacks were distributed at a community meeting where LUPE and ARISE, both partner organizations in the EV Network, gathered residents of colonia Muñiz to discuss public lighting and redistricting with Hidalgo County Precinct 4 representative Humberto Garza. Colonia Muñiz and elections precinct 43 fall within County Precinct 4.
LUPE has been working for public lighting the in the colonias since 2005. Some colonias have been waiting for light for over 20 years.
LUPE members broke down the first barrier to public light for colonias when in 2005 the state legislature authorized counties to expend a portion of their community development block grant funds to install and maintain streetlights in colonias. A second hurtle was overcome when, as a result of LUPE’s organizing, in 2007 they authorized those same counties to collect a fee from colonia residents to pay for the electricity used by those streetlights. Now, LUPE has received support from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation to continue our push for public lights.
Communities Creating Healthy Environments (CCHE) initiative of the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation is correct when stating that “the childhood obesity epidemic facing the nation is a byproduct of years of neglect and disinvestment in communities that has undermined our children’s ability to eat well and be physically active.” Without streetlights at night, colonia children are denied safe conditions for outside play. Staying inside means being less physically active.
The distribution of the backpacks was a way to thank the residents of colonia Muñiz for their participation in the GOTV campaign. It also served to invite more residents of the colonia to continue their civic participation by joining the campaign for public lighting in their colonia.
Field Operations Director Garza told residents that when he first began working in precinct 4 at the beginning of this year, there was no money for projects like public lights in the colonia. But after Commissioner Joel Palacios decided to use engineers and other experts already on staff with the County instead of contracting the work out, the precinct was able to find the money. Together with federal grants for solar lighting, he said, colonia Muñiz should see public lighting soon.
To get involved with the campaign for public lights in the colonias, contact LUPE organizer Cristela Rocha at 787-2233 or 787-5557.
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