Second part in a series on the reauthorization of the Children’s Services Council Of Broward County

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The Children’s Services Council Of Broward County (CSC) appears to be the biggest source of funding for a local affiliate of the controversial “La Raza” organization. According to its website, Hispanic Unity of Florida (HUF) is an affiliate of the National Council of La Raza, (NCLR), “the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.” While they claim to be non-partisan, La Raza has supported liberal politicians and causes such amnesty for illegal immigrants. In 2012, President Barack Obama appointed a La Raza official as the White House Director of Domestic Policy.

Founded by disgraced former Broward County Commissioner Diana Wasserman Rubin, Hispanic Unity of Florida claims its mission is, “Empowering Hispanics and other members of the community to become self-sufficient, civically engaged and to lead productive lives.” According to documents filed the Broward County Commission, the Children’s Services Council will give Hispanic Unity of Florida more than $1.27 million taxpayer dollars to help it achieve its mission.

In 2014, the CSC will give Hispanic Unity of Florida $25,000 for “prosperity/hunger” programs, $125,000 for “prosperity/EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) programs and $99,131 to match a Florida Department of Education grant to HUF. The CSC has alotted $879,340 worth of taxpayer dollars for “youth force” programs and $142,525.00 for “LEAP” programs conducted by Hispanic Unity. The LEAP programs operated by Hispanic Unity are held at Broward high schools such as Dillard, Hallandale beach and Stranahan.

One of La Raza’s major outreach programs is also known as LEAP. Created in 2001, La Raza considers the Latino Empowerment and Advocacy Program (LEAP), to be its “model for increasing Latino civic participation.” The notion of “civic participation” is  found throughout Hispanic Unity of Florida literature. In 2012, an official with La Raza explained the success of LEAP depended on local service providers like Hispanic Unity of Florida.

Clarissa Martinez, the Director of Civic Engagement and Immigration at the National Council of La Raza, detailed the theory behind LEAP. “Through its work with its national network of affiliates, NCLR started working with community-based organizations, mostly service providers, to identify effective ways to incorporate electoral participation into their operations.” In 2010, LEAP worked with 22 partners who registered nearly 20,000 voters.  Martinez said, “The potential to register and engage new voters through direct-service providers and community organizations normally outside the electoral realm is much greater.” Please note, Hispanic Unity of Florida clearly identifies itself as an affiliate of La Raza.

Martinez claimed their program targeted people that may be overlooked by traditional campaigns. “Community partners can contribute their cultural competency, access to hard-to-reach-communities, credibility, established operational footprint and long-term presence to the task of engaging potential voters. As opposed to stand-alone electoral campaigns that need to find prospective voters, community members come through these organizations’ doors.” In fact, a recent La Raza publication touted the success of the LEAP program at Hispanic Unity of Florida.

RED BROWARD obtained a May 2012 copy of LEAP: A Model For Increasing Latino Civic Participation which singles out Hispanic Unity of Florida.  La Raza boasts how government entities provide greater access to partners like Hispanic Unity of Florida. “The organizations are asked by educational and public institutions to collaborate on community events, further expanding their contact with the community. Staff of Hispanic Unity of Florida in Hollywood FL registered Latino hospital workers to vote while they were already on site making a health-related presentation and they sponsored voter registration drives at predominantly Latino senior citizen centers that they had previously worked with on other community projects.” La Raza makes it clear that voter registration is more important than the programs themselves.

On page 18 of the report, La Raza states the importance of a program is determined by the opportunity to register new voters. “NCLR helps its partners develop campaign plans by analyzing each organizaton’s programs and the number of new individuals that each program serves….Since not all programs serve clients who are eligible to register, or the eligible number is very small, the LEAP partners are first asked to create goals based on the programs with a large client base that have the most potential for eligible but unregistered voters. Hispanic Unity of Florida in Hollywood operated 20 different programs but selected the three with the most eligible voters–the front desk or intake, senior center and the HIV/AIDS program–to be part of their voter registration project.”

Of course, Hispanic Unity of Florida may claim it is simply registering new voters and not influencing these voters on candidates or issues. Even though it was founded by a Democrat politician, Hispanic Unity of Florida claims to be a non-partisan organization. However, HUF has deep ties to local Democrats including Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston).

Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, is a frequent visitor to Hispanic Unity of Florida offices in Hollywood. In January 2014, Wasserman Schultz announced Hispanic Unity of Florida would receive Federal dollars to help sell Obamacare to south Florida. “Grants like these will make sure we can get the information out,” Wasserman Schultz told the Miami Herald. Hispanic Unity of Florida President Josie Bacallao was on hand to accept the money. “Computer access for our population is always a concern, as well as a lack of knowledge about health insurance,” Bacallao said. “Many people have never been insured, or come from countries with single payer systems.”

Bacallao told the Miami Herald  she expected “more than 80 percent of Hispanic Unity’s clients will meet the income threshold to apply for a subsidized health plan.”

Just two weeks ago, Hispanic Unity of Florida hosted yet another political press conference for Wasserman Schultz. Accompanied by Congressman Joe Garcia, Wasserman Schultz attacked Republicans on immigration legislation, the DREAM Act and in-state tution bills–all top issues of La Raza. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Wasserman Schultz referenced Hispanic Unity of Florida’s position. “I know you [HUF] have to be careful, but I don’t. Democrats support that bill. The House of Representatives already passed it in Florida and all that has to be done is for the Senate to take it up and send it to the governor. The governor says he supports it, but he’s exercised exactly zero leadership, spent no political capital whatsoever, like he does with most things, where he has not pushed this legislation or used the power of his office to demonstrate how critical it is that undocumented immigrants to this country, young people who deserve an opportunity to get an education and take an opportunity to build a better life for themselves through being able to afford to go to college. This is squarely in the Republicans’ court and I hope they don’t let the legislative session expire on Friday without taking it up and sending it to the governor,” Wasserman Schultz said.

Thanks to this event, Hispanic Unity of Florida’s non-partisan facade became an issue on social media. Sun-Sentinel political reporter Anthony Man asked Josie Bacallao about the partisan nature of the Wasserman Schultz press conference. On the Broward Politics Twitter account he wrote, “Head of @hispanicunity speaking at @DWStweets event says her group is bipartisan. Earlier, she declined to identify any R’s.”hufdws2

La Raza and Hispanic Unity of Florida are free to register as many voters to join their cause, but some Broward Democrats wonder why Cindy Arenberg Setzer, president of the Children’s Services Council of Broward County, is allowing taxpayer dollars to fund Hispanic Unity of Florida’s mission to register new voters? The mission of the CSC is “to provide leadership, advocacy and resources necessary to enhance the lives of the children of Broward County and empower them to become responsible, productive adults.” No mention of civic engagement or voter registration. No mention of supporting programs that have the largest number of eligible new voters.

It seems unlikely Arenberg Seltzer is unaware of Hispanic Unity of Florida’s programs. Last May, the Children’s Services Council publicized her attendance at a HUF “strategic panel discussion.” According to the CSC Facebook page, Arenberg Seltzer “participated in an awesome discussion on education with Hispanic Unity’s Strategic Panel. Some topics addressed included major trends that will impact our industry as well as main considerations/threats/opportunities facing our industry. It was part of an ongoing conversation of ways to work together on behalf of Broward’s children.”

The Children’s Services Council may claim to be non-partisan, but Cindy Arenberg Seltzer is no stranger to partisan politics. Arenberg Seltzer was the Chief of Staff to Connecticut House Democrat Majority Leader Thomas S. Luby. On the CSC website, she touts her time as a district field coordinator for Sen. Chris Dodd and the Clinton campaign.  She has made numerous contributions to Democrat candidates such as Lois Frankel, Alex Sink and Nan Rich. Her experience with politics may explain her support of a new political committee pushing a CSC ballot measure.

Last week, RED BROWARD reported how Arenberg Seltzer is urging her friends to “like” the Facebook page of “Citizens For Broward’s Children.” The newly created political committee claims it is interested in Broward County ballot issues regarding “children’s services in Broward County.” Promotion material obtained by RED BROWARD, shows the committee is headed by Fred Lippman, a longtime Democrat member of the Florida legislature. Citizens for Broward’s Children, Inc. says it is a “countywide group of community, business, civic and political organizations and leaders who are working together to support the reauthorization of the Children’s Services Council of Broward County. Citizens for Broward’s Children was created by a group of concerned Broward County residents who want to ensure the Children’s Services Council is reauthorized by voters in the 2014 Election. Membership in Citizens for Broward’s Children is free and open to anyone who shares our goal of supporting the reauthorization of the Broward County Children’s Services Council.”

In November 2014, Broward voters will be asked to reauthorize the Children’s Services Council of Broward County. If approved, the CSC may control $55 million in taxpayer dollars indefinitely.