Huntsville hosts town hall geared toward Hispanic community concerns
Published on November 1, 2023
Huntsville’s Hispanic and Latino residents shared their thoughts on issues ranging from employment to community policing during a recent town hall at McDonnell Elementary School.
The evening event featured a panel discussion with City leaders on topics specific to the growing Hispanic and Latino communities. Led by Kenny Anderson, Director of the City’s Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, the panel featured Mayor Tommy Battle, District 4 Council Member Bill Kling, Huntsville Police Capt. Chris Riley and Carlos Javier Torres, Programs and Community Partnerships Director for the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA).
More than 30 people attended the meeting and freely engaged with the panelists. Interpreters provided translation for non-English speakers.
“We want people who live in Huntsville to feel like this is their community,” Kling said.
We want to have conversations, and we’re not just looking for easy conversations. We want to make sure there’s representation and that people are heard. We want you to feel connected to us.” — Kenny Anderson
An early question addressed Huntsville Police Department’s policies on bias. Capt. Chris Riley, commander of the West Precinct, said officers receive continuous training on bias and how to interact with different cultures.
He urged Hispanic and Latino residents speak up if they see shortcomings in the department.
“We want people to feel comfortable talking to us if they have a problem,” he said. “Sometimes, if there’s someone like you (working as an officer), it’s easier to get that information.”
To that end, Mayor Battle encouraged members of the Hispanic and Latino communities to consider careers in public safety. He said there is a need in both the police and fire departments for more people of color, particularly Hispanic females.
“We want to have people in our department who represent the whole community,” Mayor Battle said.
He also addressed the Hispanic community’s role in the workforce, adding there are plenty of jobs available, from homebuilders to advanced manufacturing. He said 35,000 advanced manufacturing jobs have been added over the past 12 years.
“We have to make sure we have job opportunities in Huntsville for everybody,” Mayor Battle said. “It’s also important to recognize we’re an inclusive community.”
Anderson urged those interested in getting a foot in the employment door to learn more about vocational programs offered through two-year colleges.
“One of the things I think is really important is to look outside traditional avenues to find employment and training opportunities,” he said. “There are a lot of creative things going on in our academic institutions right now.”
One resident who works in a medical clinic asked for more on-the-job safety measures for laborers. Another expressed concern over the amount of litter in the community. Others simply thanked City officials for being part of a meeting that directly targeted the Hispanic and Latino communities.
Anderson said he plans to organize similar meetings.
“We want to have conversations, and we’re not just looking for easy conversations,” he said. “We want to make sure there’s representation and that people are heard. We want you to feel connected to us.”