Guest Opinion 

The Barrio Hollywood Neighborhood Association President didn’t like our story, and somehow makes it all into one big racial issue


Does the reporting of racial unrest just make good copy?

Barrio Hollywood has received attention lately regarding a change in the membership of the Barrio Hollywood Neighborhood Association. Local media aired and published accounts and I credit them for time extended to seek out my perspective as president of the association. Not so with the Tucson Weekly.

Both articles written for the Weekly by María Inés Taracena, July 21 on The Range and July 23 in the print edition, fall way short of objective reporting.

This lack of professionalism has done a particular disservice to our neighborhood at a crucial time. The Barrio Hollywood Facebook page actively censors posts. Racial prejudice is promoted and dissent applauded. Links to the neighborhood website are removed. This neighborhood needs accurate information.

In these articles, we read about the alleged impacts of "outsiders." Quoting an email from Sal Baldenegro was inappropriate and in poor taste. Baldenegro does not live in this barrio and has a personal agenda. It is a similar story with other "outside" strident voices spreading 'La Raza' rhetoric and the myths of gentrification.

With the title "Take the Power Back," perhaps an explanation of just what power was taken away would be in order. Residents of this neighborhood will always be a majority and have never been at risk for businesses or property owners having final determination over them. There was never a proposal out for vote that supported anything other than one vote per resident.

I am guilty of, as quoted, "supporting businesses being part of the voting process," but it would be more accurate to report that I support our neighborhood being inclusive, as it has always been. We are fortunate to have a rich fabric of small local businesses; a long established parish and other religious institutions, an award-winning elementary school and an American Legion Post as vitally important pieces of this fabric.

"Taking the Power Back" has removed these gems from membership in the association.

In a world where engaging local businesses is the goal of any inner city neighborhood, why?

My presidency began in January 2014 at an election made public through an effort of concerned residents. Margaret McKenna had been self-appointing three year terms and in 25 years had never been challenged for the presidency. This election was run by Scott Egan, not a current board member. Egan had become accustomed to command of the meetings as spokesperson for the El Rio Coalition, a cause he continues to advocate for along with vehement criticism towards the city. The vast majority of voters were residents. It is a complete fabrication to say that "outsiders" determined the election or that "outside" votes were solicited or encouraged. People who had been alienated showed up to vote for a change. Some were business people in the neighborhood.

The first actions in office were attempts to establish some basic communication within the barrio where none had existed for years. What could have been steps towards positive improvement in the association was derailed. A faction was geared up for retaliation. The attempt to update the bylaws became the battlefield.

After numerous focus meetings and discussions at monthly meetings, it wasn't until a workable proposal was on the table for a vote that Scott Egan and Margaret McKenna showed up with supporters to vote down the membership article and clamor for 'residents only' membership.

Egan is quoted in the Weekly article as saying "of course we are going to keep businesses involved." How is this possible when Egan has adamantly maintained the position of "members shall be residents—period." Keeping the membership inclusive to all and restricting rights to vote in an election was an option deliberately kept out of the discussion by Mr. Egan's insistence that the membership be resident only.

For support of the 'resident only membership' proposal, mistruths were circulated to incite, and racial discrimination entered the picture. I ask who would choose to go down that path when we have witnessed over and over the disastrous effects such prejudice can unleash.

I'm sorry to see the Weekly fall so short on it's reporting.

Stop in, smile as you fuel up with the best food on the Westside—we do not all sport clenched fists.

Kacey Carleton, is president of the Barrio Hollywood Neighborhood Association. For more information on BHNA, visit barriohollywood.info.

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