For the first time in the history of South County politics, City Council candidates vying for two open seats this November will have a chance to address Spanish-speaking residents in a bilingual forum on Sunday.
Forum organizer Jim Miranda, a local realtor and community activist, said all of City Council candidates have agreed to participate on the panel and answer questions from residents about various issues, including the economy and neighborhood redevelopment programs. Questions from the audience will be translated into English for the candidates and their answers will be translated into Spanish for the residents.
"It's something that's never been done in south Orange County," Miranda said. "There is a large Spanish-speaking constituency here. Candidates have a social responsibility to the Hispanic community."
The 90-minute "Yes You Can" forum, which will start at 4 p.m., will be at Our Lady of Fatima Parish Hall, 105 La Esperanza in San Clemente.
Candidates say they are excited about the chance to address the Latino community, which represents about 14% of the 43,172 population in San Clemente, according to recent census figures.
"I'm looking at this as a great opportunity to gain insight from a portion of our community that historically has not done that," said veteran Councilman Scott Diehl, who is seeking his third four-year council term. "I'm anxious to see if they have issues either for or against what we have been doing."
While Miranda said all the candidates are eager to participate in the forum, some have asked questions about how many registered voters will actually be in attendance. Miranda said he expects many registered voters will attend the forum but, more important, the forum will also promote Latino pride and self-esteem.
"If we come to them in their own language, showing them that they can be part of the process, that we are concerned with their views, then those who did not register this time will hopefully have the motivation to register next time," he said.
Seven candidates will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot. However, candidate Jay Durkin announced Friday that he was withdrawing from the race.