Democracy in Action in the Bronx
Aurea Mangual: Getting people involved in local issues.
“All politics is local,” Tip O’Neill famously said. That’s where SSEU Local 371 member Aurea Mangual comes in.
A Community Coordinator at the Office of the Bronx Borough President, Mangual got her start in the office in 1989, helping people with their housing problems, as she had previously worked in housing management.
Now, she acts as a liaison between the office and four Community Boards in the Bronx, going to evening meetings on a regular basis and forming relationships with board members and residents.
“I bring his message to the people, and I bring the message back from the people to the Borough President,” Mangual said.
In addition, she interviews applicants for the Community Boards and makes recommendations to the Borough President about who to appoint.
It is a job that requires a lot of social skills, which Mangual has. But, it also has challenges. Whenever controversial issues come up at Community Board meetings, arguments can get heated with emotions running high. She also doesn’t like having to go home late at night by herself in the Bronx, although she noted that she has the option to call a car service and get reimbursed. Fortunately, she has a lot of friends who give her rides home.
Doing this kind of work has taught Mangual about the importance of local democracy. “The residents need to be more informed of what’s going on in the communities,” she said. “They need to be active in the elections, in the business in their neighborhoods, and the schools.”
She added, “The Borough President wants younger people to participate in the boards, to get involved in their communities. He wants people to care about where they live.”
Mangual also noted that being active in the Union makes her better at public service.
“Engaging in the Union makes you become more knowledgeable and you care more about your job,” she said. “We solve problems for the community, the residents, and the City at large.”