(Foto: Cortesía/Representante/Danilo Burgos)

The Pennsylvania primary elections will take place on Tuesday May 17th.  Impacto sat down with State Representative Danilo Burgos, current incumbent representing the 197th State House District in North Philadelphia.  Rep. Burgos is running for reelection following his first term in office.

(Foto: Cortesía/Representante/Danilo Burgos)
 

For community members who may not know you well, can you tell us about your background prior to running for elected office?

Thank you for the opportunity to reach out to our community through this communication platform.

I started as a community organizer through faith-based initiatives, and with the Eastern Pennsylvania Organizing Project.  I was first inspired to get involved in politics when my uncle was murdered in 1992, and the case went unsolved.  In 1996, the Dominican Bodegueros Association organized to demand answers from the system.  Thankfully, the murderer of my uncle was caught, and our family was able to achieve closure.  But I still felt the need to create the change I wanted to see in a lot of areas – I wanted to see less talking, and more action. When I got out of high school in 1997, I opened my first grocery store – I was a bodega owner for many years, which was my family’s business.  Because I continued to be civically engaged, I ended up working with Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez in Philadelphia, representing our community.  I also worked with Councilman Allan Domb, in my last years in City Council. During those years, I was always involved in politics, helping other members of our Latino community get elected – both Republicans and Democrats.  I’ve been civically engaged for most of my life. 

(Foto: Cortesía/Representante/Danilo Burgos)
 

What initially motivated you to run for office yourself, and become a State Representative?

I felt nothing was being done for our community at the state level.  There was a lack of leadership at the time, and a lot of negative things going on. I knew I could make a difference on a greater level. 

(Foto: Cortesía/Representante/Danilo Burgos)
 

What are some of your greatest accomplishments from your first term?

One of my most important accomplishments was in my freshman year. I was part of House Bill 1172, which provided reciprocity for professional licenses. When I was elected in 2018, I already knew nurses from Puerto Rico had been seeking professional reciprocity for years, to allow them to practice their profession on the mainland.  When I did some research, I discovered that reciprocity endorsement for professional licenses was only being extended to military families.  Through this bill, I was able to help get reciprocity for many professional licenses from all US territories.  This was a huge accomplishment, because I have heard politicians speak about this issue for 20 years, but no one could get legislation across the finish line.  I was able to build a coalition of both Republicans and Democrats and educate them about the need for this law.  This law not only affects nurses, but also teachers, and 20 to 30 other professions.  I’m also involved in a bill right now that would allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses – a law that many other states already have, so immigrants can travel for work and basic necessities.

(Foto: Cortesía/Representante/Danilo Burgos)
 

You were a small business owner.  What are your thoughts on our local economy?

Small business owners are the backbone of our community – especially in communities that are economically challenged.  As a city and state, we need to treat them as such. So many of our small business owners have been around since long before the phrase “buy local” was ever spoken.  In Philadelphia, we don’t treat small business owners with the respect they deserve based on the value they bring.  They are the economic engines to local communities, and they should be a priority. 

(Foto: Cortesía/Representante/Danilo Burgos)
 

How would you encourage other Latinos to get civically engaged? What is your advice on how to make a difference?

It can be as simple as organizing clean-ups on your block, or organizing Town Watch blocks to ensure community safety, or joining the regular meetings at your local police department.  Unfortunately, the majority of our people are disenfranchised, and the political system is not engaging the everyday voter enough.  People need to see that their leaders care about them.  Through the work that I’m doing, I believe I’m showing my community that they do matter, and it will encourage others to vote on a more consistent basis – not just for the presidential elections.  That’s a habit that we need to break as a community – we only come out for presidential elections.  Municipal elections are really the most important because that’s when we choose the local leaders that are going to guide our communities.  It starts with each and every one of us being responsible for our actions –by voting and holding elected officials accountable.  

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