Tommy Espinoza makes the most of things, whether it’s investing capital or seizing moments. The Valley is better for it.
The Arizona native packed a lot into the five minutes he had Friday to wrap up the big announcement that Raza Development Fund and LISC Phoenix boosted their equal partnership in the Sustainable Communities Transit-Oriented Development Fund by $30 million. In 2011, the partnership put an initial $20 million into the transit-oriented development fund.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and other dignitaries were on hand to hear Espinoza, president and CEO of Raza Development Fund, speak from the heart about Phoenix, the Latino community and low-income families. He was on point when he said, “Community development is about building up families, not building up buildings.” His riff on social, business and political leadership included a play on the highly charged words “anchor babies.” (Yep, he went there.)
Here is Tommy Espinoza, pretty much unfiltered. (There are gaps in the transcript because portions of the recording are inaudible.)
“Listen, what can I say? When you have the secretary of transportation here, if that doesn’t send a clear message to our community that Phoenix is important, I’m not sure anything else is going to.
Raza Development Fund (is) the largest Latino financial institution and CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) in the country. And by the way, the only reason we can claim that is because we’re the only one. …
I’ve got to give credit where credit is due. Michael Rubinger, who’s the CEO of LISC, called me one day and said we want to do this fund. There’s no money out there in Phoenix. It’s your backyard and I don’t want to mess with you. And so why don’t we do this together?
And I said how much money do you want to do, and he said let’s do $10 million apiece. I said, Michael, there’s nothing really happening in Phoenix right now. Can we go through $20 million in capital? He said, I think we can. And so we said, fine let’s do this.
Now, understand that’s when (we had) the great depression, recession, or whatever you want to call it when the banks crashed. There was no capital going to community development at that moment.
So, we did this.
There were people like (inaudible) who was beating us up about light rail at the time, there was folks like council members of various districts in Phoenix. And to be very candid with you, at the same time, we were fighting (Senate Bill) 1070, which, for Latinos needless to say, (leaves) a very negative image for Arizona, and, of course, for Phoenix.
I don’t mind telling you that with my leadership across the country, my board of directors, it was a hard sell. But you know what? I’m a third-generation Arizonan. My roots are here in Phoenix, my family’s roots are here in Phoenix. And so for Raza Development Fund, which is for Latino and low-income families, it’s important for us to invest in our communities.
So, we anchored a project here in Phoenix, we anchored a project in Mesa, and we’re anchoring a project in Tempe. And I underline ‘anchor’ since it’s being abused and (inaudible) right now across the country.
And we helped to help those anchored families that are not going anywhere. Because we’re here. We’re U.S. citizens, and some of us might not have the proper documentation. But I want to put that in front of everybody because it’s important for our community to realize that Latinos are Americans like everyone else, but we just happen to have a very beautiful language, a very beautiful culture, that we like to celebrate with everyone else.
So as we look to this new future for the Valley, we are as excited as we were a number of years ago. We’re going to put another $15 million matching with LISC and we know that that capital is going to get leveraged much higher than this first $20 million.
The reason I know that is because of the leadership in this room. When you have Councilwoman (Kate) Gallego in her district, who is pushing hard … And Senator (Catherine) Miranda, who is working with a group to bring a soccer league into south Phoenix for the kids and the children, when you have (inaudible), entrepreneur in south Phoenix. … And you do work with Gorman & Company, and you start doing with these companies that are sincere about community development. Because community development is about building up families, not building up buildings. And when you have a mayor, like Mayor Stanton, who really believes in that, believes in education, believes in transportation and in housing, for us, it’s an easy investment.
We’re here. We’re proud. We want to celebrate with Secretary Foxx because it’s important for him to go back and get us a couple of billion dollars. … We need this light-rail throughout the Valley, and, obviously going into south Phoenix.
Thank you very much to all of you who really participate in this great project of transportation and community economic development. Thank you.”