De La Cruz takes helm of Hispanic advisory committee

<p>Eddie De La Cruz, of Hermiston, was recently appointed chair of the Hispanic Advisory Committee.</p>

A proposed Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and increased support for businesses are items Eddie De La Cruz would like to see accomplished by the Hispanic Advisory Committee. De La Cruz, appointed as committee chair on Monday, never thought he would be at the forefront of a committee which acts as a liaison between the Hispanic community and the Hermiston City Council.

“We didn’t even know when the City Council meetings were,” he said.

But now he and committee members are ready to set and meet goals.

A packed City Council chamber proved in May that others were interested in the committee, too. More than 50 people attended a Hispanic Advisory Committee meeting last month largely to voice concern over soccer league play. City officials had moved soccer games from fields at Butte Park to fields at Rocky Heights. The shift was opposed by several soccer league representatives, players and enthusiasts, and the games were returned to Butte Park.

Hermiston Police Officer Erica Franz credits De La Cruz for bringing the initial concern forward to the advisory committee’s attention.

“It was Eddie that started the ball rolling,” Franz said. “He’s so open to helping people.”

But De La Cruz said the issues do not stop at soccer fields.

“There are all kinds of issues,” he said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

De La Cruz now owns and operates Sunrise Cleaning & Janitorial Service and wants to help Hispanic business owners by creating a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“We need more support for our local businesses,” he said.

De La Cruz said the chamber would help meet the unique needs of about 40 Hispanic businesses in the Hermiston area, which he said largely are made up of family workers. The former Oregon Department of Transportation worker also plans to organize committee volunteer projects such as ODOT’s highway clean up program and promote safety.

“The No. 1 challenge is getting the word out,” he said. “We’re still in the baby steps right now.”

Hermiston City Councilor George Anderson chairs the group of city representatives who advise the Hispanic committee, which includes Police Chief Jason Edmiston. Edmiston said the department has already been able to address problems, such as unlit streets in Hermiston, through the committee.

“It gives everybody the opportunity to communicate in a non-hostile manner,” Edmiston said. “We’ll see good things come from this.”

The city is also playing a role in promoting the committee. This week, the city included a notice on the water bill advertising the committee in Spanish and English.

“I’m excited that the city’s willingness to help us in any way they can,” De La Cruz said. “They’re doing everything in their power to help the Hispanic community.”

City Manager Ed Brookshier said the committee is “off to a good start.”

“I am just very pleased with the quality of people who are helping with it,” Brookshier said.

De La Cruz credits Spanish radio station 101.7 for helping to promote the committee as well as events such as a recent Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Educating others about the committee and clarifying its purpose are a priority for the committee.

Members recently approved a mission statement on June 11 that includes providing “representatives the Hispanic community can contact with their issues, concerns and problems which relate to the city.”         

“This is just the beginning,” De La Cruz said. “It’s an open door for everybody.”

Hispanic Advisory Committee meetings are held on the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 180 N.E. Second St. The next meeting is scheduled for July 16. Meetings are open to the public and there is an opportunity for open comment.

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