Mayor’s racist remarks highlight strong disconnect

When East Haven, Conn. Mayor Joe Maturo blurted out, “I might have tacos when I go home. I’m not sure yet,” during an interview last Wednesday, he most likely didn’t envision the backlash that would ensue.

The off-color comment was said in response to a reporter asking, “What are you doing for the Latino community today?” In the days that followed, the overwhelmingly negative response to Maturo’s comment has grown to epic proportions. CBS, FOX, NBC, Time, and The New York Times have all covered the “taco incident” in one form or another.

At first glance, this news coverage is a bit excessive for an attempt — albeit a bad attempt — at a joke. However, a second glance and a look into the recent history of East Haven reveals something far worse.

Until recently, East Haven was a predominantly white community. According to MSNBC, 10 percent of the city’s population is now Latino, but only one of 50 officers on its police force speaks Spanish. Police harassment toward Latinos has been investigated since 2009, finally reaching a breaking point this past Tuesday when the FBI arrested four East Haven policemen for excessive force, false arrest, and conspiracy against primarily Latino citizens.

It was in this tense atmosphere that Maturo said, “I might have tacos.”

This statement reveals a disturbing disconnect. How can a man whose job consists of being aware of and fixing the problems in his community be so flippant? It’s hard to govern when one is oblivious. We think that there really isn’t much of an excuse for Mayor Maturo.

The public seems to agree. Shortly after Maturo’s comment, activists coordinated to deliver 2,000 tacos to his office.

What he needs to do now is either acknowledge his ineptness and resign, or put every effort into addressing the concerns of the Latino community. Whether Maturo resigns or stays, whoever is mayor in East Haven must acquaint his or herself with the issues of the community before positive changes can be made.