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Hispanic forum on One Florida draws few

As the rows of empty chairs attested, organizers of the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's open meeting on Gov. Jeb Bush's One Florida plan expected a lot of public response.

Instead, the 17 die-hards who pushed their chairs in a circle in a corner of the airy meeting room found themselves talking to each other about an initiative they feel Tampa Bay's larger Hispanic community should care about.

"A lot of people feel there's nothing they can do, that it's done, it's passed," said chamber member Martin Saavedra, trying to make sense of the puny crowd.

"That's why we're here, to make sure we're heard," said Ricardo Roig, the chamber member who moderated Thursday night's discussion at the Ramada Airport Inn.

Roig said the chamber didn't want to address the education side of the One Florida plan, as that's not its area of expertise. The chamber's main hope is that state agencies continue to award contracts to minority-owned businesses whenever possible. In theory, that's the current policy under affirmative action, though chamber members said that policy often doesn't become practice.

Under the One Florida plan, state agencies and offices would not use minority set-asides when awarding contracts but would be accountable to the governor. Ostensibly, the governor would ensure that minority-owned businesses are getting their fair share of state contracts.

For Matilda Martinez Garcia, the One Florida plan is a huge leap of faith.

"The Bushes are famous for their "Read my lips' promises," Garcia said. "He says he will enforce this, and we're just supposed to trust him? We can't afford to do that."