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Hola, City Hall, Are You Serious About Latinos?…Hispanic Center Elicits Warm Hello

Hola, City Hall, Are You Serious About Latinos?

Myriam Marquez

February 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004
THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.

Mayor Buddy Dyer, stumping for re-election, gave a nice little speech Tuesday pointing out that the city's new Hispanic Office of Local Affairs, or HOLA, is Spanish for hello.

Hello? Is anybody at City Hall really serious about tackling the economic development, education and discrimination issues that many of Orlando's hard-working Hispanic taxpayers face?

I'll give Dyer the benefit of the doubt. It's hard to come up with $60,000 for an office to serve almost one in five city residents when you've squeezed the city budget dry with multimillion-dollar giveaways to downtown developers.

At least Dyer started the ball rolling in the right direction. He pledged support to help Latino Leadership leverage its partnership with the city and attract more dollars from foundations and government grants to expand the HOLA office's services. But in two years -- poof! -- the city's commitment is supposed to end.

The nonprofit organization, headed by Marytza Sanz, has run on a shoestring budget with the help of community volunteers and heavyweight organizations such as the National Council of La Raza and the National Puerto Rican Coalition. Now the HOLA office, on Herndon Avenue off Colonial Drive, will run on a shoestring budget, but at least Sanz will have city clout to hustle for grant money from other sources.

Sanz noted that without the help of volunteers, Latino Leadership couldn't be the success it has become. She's right, but there would be a whole lot of success if HOLA had a budget of at least $250,000.

Orange County government should be a natural part of such a partnership. So, too, should Orange County Public Schools. The nonprofit group offers home-buying counseling classes, computer courses and work-force development to needy citizens. It also has tutored students.

Certainly Dyer's support for a private/public partnership with Latino Leadership is more than City Commissioner Betty Wyman has done in almost 12 years in office representing District 2, which has the city's largest concentration of Hispanics.

But don't tell Wyman that. She was at the grand opening of HOLA on Tuesday, mugging for the cameras. She went so far as to tell me she had found the site for HOLA -- a claim city officials dispute.

No matter. Wyman says she's running for a fourth term because no one, especially a Hispanic, has lived in the district long enough or served for very long on city boards. Asked if she has encouraged any Hispanic residents in her district to apply for city boards, Wyman could name only two.

There's no retirement party in the works for the septuagenarian commissioner. Wyman says she hopes to groom a Hispanic for her post to run in four years. Whatever. She said that four years ago. She also said at the time that she wouldn't run again.

As for having an aide who could speak enough Spanish to address concerns in her district that elderly people or young arrivals not quite fluent in English may have -- well, there's no one. "I've never had a problem with that," she said. "No one's called."


Hola, Commissioner Wyman? You think no one's ever called because the word is out that you're either clueless or you simply don't care?

Hispanic Center Elicits Warm Hello

HOLA, a new partnership in east Orlando, will reach out to a growing community of Latinos.

By Kelly Brewington | Sentinel Staff Writer

February 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004
THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved.


The Hispanic Office of Local Assistance, or HOLA, is located at 615-A Herndon Ave., Orlando.

For more information call 407-384-2929.

Hispanic community advocates joined the city of Orlando on Tuesday to unveil the city's first comprehensive Hispanic outreach center.

The Hispanic Office of Local Assistance -- known as HOLA, or hello in Spanish -- is a partnership between the city and Orlando nonprofit Latino Leadership.

Founded in 1999 by community advocate Marytza Sanz, Latino Leadership works to empower Hispanics by offering a clearinghouse of information from language classes and referrals to health care facilities and homeownership assistance and voter registration drives. Latino Leadership has for two years received some funding from National Council of La Raza, a national advocacy group that helps 300 community-based organizations meet the needs of Hispanics.

Sanz said Latino Leadership had become so popular it had outgrown its 900-square-foot office off Colonial Drive, and she was looking for a new home for the center. Meanwhile, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer promised in April to create a Hispanic outreach center for the region's burgeoning population.

Deciding to combine efforts, they created HOLA, a 2,800-square-foot center on Herndon Avenue equipped with a computer room for language classes and a resource center for homeownership training.

The city will cover the rent of the facility for two years and is working to secure Community Development Block Grant dollars for a $100,000 grant to help the organization fund housing for seniors and low-income families.

The center also will house a mentor program for troubled teens called "I Am the Future, Inc."

Dyer and City Commissioner Betty Wyman, whose district has the largest Hispanic population in the city, lauded the partnership as a step toward aiding the city's large Hispanic population. More than 322,708 Hispanics call Central Florida home, according to the 2000 census.

Sanz said the office would offer greater visibility and better meet the needs of the growing Hispanic community.

"We really want to make this an example community around the nation," Sanz said. "We want people to look at Orlando and see that everything is going well, people are getting jobs and learning the language."

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