Félix Rivera, the Second Latino in the Anchorage Assembly “I will work to maintain the good relationship between our diverse community and the Police Department” BY SOL DE MEDIANOCHE
Toma de protesta de los miembros electos de la Asamblea // Members of the Assembly taking the oath of office
Last April 4, Puerto Rican Felix Rivera was elected to the Anchorage Assembly. He is the second Latino to hold a chair in this legislative body after Mike Gutierrez, who held a seat from 2008 and 2011.
Felix began public service when he was very young. He studied journalism at Alaska Pacific University, where he held his first elected office as president of the student body. Felix says the experience showed him “how politics is an avenue to get good things done.” He later became involved in other political campaigns, and worked for almost a year in Mayor Berkowitz’s office as Constituent Liaison and Special Assistant.
This election was notable also because it was the first to put two openly gay people in seats of the Anchorage Assembly, one of them being Felix. The young Assembly member says breaking that glass ceiling is “a personal point of pride” for him. However, he adds that he did not focus his campaign on his sexual orientation because he wanted to be sure people chose him for his concerns about the city. But, he says, “much as being Latino gives you a certain perspective on things and gives you a voice to shine a light on a population that maybe isn’t represented, being gay and working in the Assembly will allow me to shine a light on problems that are pushed under the rug.”
Among his concerns as an Assembly member is public transportation. “I will work to have a transportation infrastructure that is diversified, where everyone can feel more connected.” This concern has seeds in his student years: “When I moved to Alaska I did not have car, and did not have the means to get one. So whenever I wanted to go do something off the university campus I would take public transportation, and it took a long time.” Felix says he would like to bring the problem to the Assembly because good transportation infrastructure favors the unprotected.
Felix is also concerned about helping to build a safer city, “where folks feel that the quality of their lives is not being diminished by the crime in their neighborhoods.” Regarding immigration issues, Felix knows as a Latino and a member of the Assembly that people are concerned about how the Police Department interacts with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). He says, “I can tell you right now that this interaction is minimal to almost non-existent. I will work to maintain the good relationship between our diverse community and the Police Department, which is fantastic.” Except for four people who were arrested and deported in late March because of criminal charges filed against them, ICE has made no arrests in Anchorage recently.
Felix suggests that for the Latino community, the best way to fight the wave of hate for immigrants unleashed after the November general election is to “be involved. If because of this fear and because of this unknown, we as a community retreat and we decide not to be as involved, that’s only going to perpetuate the cycle of the unknown. We need to step up, we need to have a presence.” About his heritage, Felix says that, “one of the values instilled for me as a Latino during my youth and my childhood was to pay respect to the elders. From a policy perspective, this is where I learned to listen before speaking.” Felix assures us he will be guided by this value in his work as an Assembly member during these challenging times.
Informar, Educar, & Unir Inform, Educate, & Unite
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