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New York Daily News
Mikes Spanish Ayes Fade 47% Latino Support Has Dwindled To 19%
BY MICHAEL SAUL DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU
June 23, 2003
Getting a big chunk of the Latino vote helped Mayor Bloomberg win election in 2001 - but notching Hispanic support has proven easier than keeping it.
In November 2001, voter surveys showed Bloomberg won 47% of the Hispanic vote. His current approval rating among Hispanic voters is at a perilously low 19%, according to a New York Times poll published this month.
"Anybody who's going to be mayor of New York City has to win the Latino vote," said Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion. "If the mayor wants to win reelection, he's got to do better with the Latinos."
Symbolic gestures, such as twice traveling to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, have been noticed and appreciated.
But City Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera (D-Bronx) and others told the Daily News that Hispanics are angry with Bloomberg for the same reasons that most New Yorkers are angry with him - higher taxes and fines and massive budget cuts.
The Latino community, they say, has been more directly - and perhaps disproportionately - affected by the city's budget woes because middle- and low-income families have been hit the hardest.
"For God's sake, acknowledge the pain that's been inflicted on working families in this city," Carrion said. " 'Let me know that you care' - I think that's what people are saying."
State Sen. Olga Mendez, a GOP convert who considers herself a Bloomberg supporter, said the mayor is perceived as standoffish.
"He's a sort of reserved person," Mendez said. "We Puerto Ricans, and other Latinos, tend to be exuberant in expressing ourselves."
Bloomberg's wealth may be playing a factor. "It's not his fault, but it's extremely difficult for him to feel the pain because he's not from the community," Rivera said.
No one's happy
Just because Bloomberg is a billionaire, Mendez said, doesn't mean he lacks compassion.
"Once the people understand that he had to do what he is doing because of the economic situation, it would be more palatable for them," she said.
Bloomberg's communications director Bill Cunningham said the mayor's low poll numbers - among Latinos and all New Yorkers - reflect that the mayor has asked the city to sacrifice in tough economic times.
"We have not been in the business of giving out good news," Cunningham said. "The same thing that aggravates the Latino community aggravates every other community in these polls."
He added: "Nobody really likes taking their medicine."
Bloomberg, who promised a diverse administration during his campaign, has appointed a slew of Latinos to top city posts and boards. 'Decent' to community One of Bloomberg's five deputy mayors, and nine of his 41 agency heads, are Hispanic.
To his credit, many say, Bloomberg hasn't done anything significant to inflame minority-group members, including Latinos, during his 18 months in office.
"He has been fair," said Councilwoman Margarita Lopez (D- Manhattan). "He has been a decent person to the Latino community."
But, she said, "He doesn't have a good PR team that communicates in the most effective way with the Latino community."
Latinos are also closely watching how the administration will move forward with bilingual education. The divisive issue has been the subject of many rumors, but the administration has yet to unveil its plan.
Over the next two years, Cunningham predicted the administration will build a record of accomplishment that, he said, will appeal to Latinos and all New Yorkers. "Ultimately, people are going to say, 'While you were mayor, what did you do?' "