A Latino group is protesting Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa’s appointment of bilingual-education foe Ron Unz to a commission studying fiscal relationships between state and local government.
“It really is a slap in the face for Latino and immigrant communities in Sacramento,” said Renee Saucedo, a staff attorney at La Raza Centro Legal Inc. in San Francisco.
Saucedo’s group is organizing a Wednesday morning demonstration at Villaraigosa’s Capitol office.
Saucedo said Villaraigosa, a Los Angeles Democrat, had “legitimized” Unz’s advocacy of Proposition 227, the anti-bilingual education measure approved by voters last year and now in force.
But a spokeswoman for Villaraigosa said the speaker has made clear that he “vehemently disagrees” with Proposition 227.
Villaraigosa appointed Unz along with 25 others to the Speaker’s Commission on State and Local Government Finance because he wanted to forestall Unz pursuing another contentious statewide initiative battle — this time over state and local finances, said Villaraigosa spokeswoman Elena Stern.
The 26-member, bipartisan commission will study the adequacy of local revenues, local control over tax rates, redevelopment, control and financing of schools and property tax allocation.
“Rather than face another divisive proposition, the speaker sought to include Mr. Unz in our agenda,” said Stern. “And for the time being, it looks as if that will take place, and that we may have thwarted another statewide battle.”
Unz, a wealthy Silicon Valley software entrepreneur, said Monday that last summer he did investigate the possibility of an initiative but has dropped the idea.
Of those vowing to protest his appointment, Unz said: “I think their behavior is just absolutely silly.”
History will prove that Proposition 227 “will be one of the most beneficial and popular initiatives on behalf of immigrants in recent years,” he said. “It speaks well on Mr. Villaraigosa’s behalf that he is willing to put people on the commission with whom he disagrees on other issues.”
Villaraigosa last week sent Unz a letter criticizing him for announcing his appointment on stationery from the Yes on Proposition 227 campaign. Nevertheless, Saucedo said the speaker’s explanation of the Unz appointment “is not resounding in the Latino and immigrant communities.”
Vibiana Andrade, national legal counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, also said he was disappointed with the speaker’s appointment. “Mr. Unz launched one of the most divisive educational initiatives in our community,” Andrade said. “By appointing him, it appears to be an endorsement of that divisiveness, and we certainly think that that ought not to have happened.”