The Washington Post

Task force to study the state of diversity in Prince George’s County government

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) is setting up a task force to help assess the diversity of the county government and provide recommendations on how the county can expand employment opportunities for its growing ethnic and immigrant groups.

The new nine-member panel will “assist the County as we study this important issue and make sure our government reflects the wonderful diversity that makes this County great,” Baker said Wednesday in a statement.

The task force comes after months of criticism from members of the county’s Hispanic community who criticized Baker for not including Latino members on the reconfigured Prince George’s school board. Latino public officials and community leaders also have recently cited a lack of Hispanics employed by the county schools and agencies and asked the county to find ways to increase the number of Hispanics on its payroll.

Earlier this month Baker named Dinora Hernandez, a Hyattsville resident who grew up in Prince George’s as the daughter of Salvadoran immigrants, as his first Latino liaison. Prince George’s schools Superintendent Kevin Maxwell appointed Maritza E. Gonzalez as the system’s first diversity officer, to focus on Hispanic affairs.

“It is great that the county executive has taken notice and created a task force to look into the diversity problems we have in the county,” said Jaime Contreras, an immigrant advocate, union leader and parent of two Prince George’s public school students.

He said he hopes the commission will look at ways to attract talent from the different ethnic groups in the county, and in particular Hispanics who make up 17 percent of the county’s population and about 25 percent of the school population.

“It is scary when it comes to representation in the school system, but that is just one problem,” he said. “When you look at all the different county government levels, Latinos are just way underrepresented.”

Baker named nine people to the New Americans Task Force, which will be co-chaired by state Sen. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George’s) and Patricia Arzuaga, a health care attorney with the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. The group will meet for six months and report back to Baker in April.

The other members of task force are:

•Will Campos, Prince George’s County Council Member (D-District 2)

•Hector Aguiñiga, Judy Hoyer Family Learning Center

•Luisa Montero-Diaz, Latin American Youth Center

•Andy Kim, Prince George’s County Korean American Chamber of Commerce

•Lt. Joe Perez, Hispanic National Law Enforcement Association

•Virginia Kase, CASA de Maryland

•Franklin Akinkoye, African Business Owners Forum, Inc.

Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.

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