Hispanic Activists Protest Ouster of D.C. Parks Director

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hispanic community activists in Washington protested Friday against the D.C. Council for voting this week to oust Ximena Hartsock as the city's parks and recreation director, accusing members of racism and sexism.

Hartsock, who had been serving as interim director of the department since April, was one of the highest-ranking Hispanic officials in the administration of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). The council voted 7 to 5 to reject her and remove her as the head of an agency that has had seven permanent or interim directors in the past decade. It was the first time the council had rejected one of Fenty's Cabinet appointees.

In interviews with The Washington Post and Spanish-language TV stations, Hartsock accused the council of showing disrespect for the city's growing Hispanic population.

"I was mistreated," Hartsock said. "Not only me, but my entire heritage. . . . There is nothing worse than creating a precedent for injustice."

The council members who voted not to confirm Hartsock said she and the Fenty administration had failed to abide by the law in their effort to privatize day-care facilities at the Department of Parks and Recreation.

At Hartsock's confirmation hearing Oct. 2, council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) was quoted as saying that she wasn't qualified for the job because she didn't understand African American culture.

"If Marion Barry was a white person and I was a black person, there would be riots in the streets right now," Hartsock said Friday.

Hartsock said she was not upset that she wasn't confirmed but with how she was treated at the hearing.

Barry, who has been hospitalized since Tuesday, was unavailable to comment. A Barry spokeswoman had declined to discuss the matter earlier in the week.

But Hispanic leaders said the blame extends beyond Barry to Hartsock's other council opponents.

"We refuse to be attacked by people who are supposed to be working for us when African Americans and Latino Americans share many of the same hardships," said Juan Carlos Ruiz, president of the Latino Association of Mount Pleasant. "We demand a written apology from this council."

Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), chairman of the council's parks and recreation committee, lobbied against Hartsock and defended the council vote. He said Friday that Hartsock "just wasn't up to the job."

"I don't think the full [Hispanic] community is behind this," Thomas said. "These are just Hartsock supporters trying to create an issue where there is none. . . . This has nothing to do with ethnicity. It's about her inability to perform."

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