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Idaho's Latinos strive for political representation


Rockies Today

November 22 · Issue #41 · View online
The big stories up and down the Rocky Mountains, curated by Mountain West News

Idaho's Latinos strive for political representation
Megan Taros, a Times-News Hispanic affairs reporter (via Report for America), explores Latino political engagement in Idaho, where Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic but largely lack representation.
On the verge of a shift: Latinos look to youth for political future On the verge of a shift: Latinos look to youth for political future
TWIN FALLS — Although Idaho’s Hispanic population continues to be the Gem State’s fastest-growing demographic, the community’s political representation remains minimal. Only one state legislator out of 105 voting members is of Hispanic descent, and local governments statewide have only begun to scratch the surface in terms of how representative they are of the communities they serve.
This has some advocates concerned that the needs of Latinos are not being understood and appropriately met by the people representing them.
When large blocks of voters aren’t engaged, it can also spell trouble for the geographical area in which they are casting their votes. The outcome of critical issues may not be favorable for the community as a whole if some voters who may be able to sway the vote stay home instead.
The Latino demographic in Idaho may not be as civically engaged as other demographics due to the overall makeup of the population. The majority of Idaho’s Latinos tend to be younger, lower-income and have a lower education level than their peers at the polls. Groups with those defining characteristics typically turn out in lower numbers across the board on Election Day.
Polling patterns are diametrically different than demographic patterns in the Gem State.
This is a pressing conundrum because Latinos are on track to become the largest share of the nonwhite, national vote by the 2020 presidential election. The demographic already has a record number of registered voters. Still, Latinos have limited influence over their political and personal representation.
State leaders, however, say the community is on the precipice of change.
“Because of the size and age of our population, we’re going to start seeing a real shift in the next five to 10 years,” said Margie Gonzalez, executive director of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs. “We’re going to see Hispanic youth in leadership roles all across the state.”
A Q&A with Gonzalez:
A Q&A with the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs
When the dust settles
These Colorado residents live in a Superfund site. Some had no idea These Colorado residents live in a Superfund site. Some had no idea
On his first day of pre-kindergarten, Christina Mishenko’s grandson was tested for lead exposure. After finding out he had a high level of lead in his blood, Mishenko changed his diet, bathed him more frequently, cleaned his toys, and tried to keep him from eating the toxic dirt in their yard. 
That was three years ago. “They’re finally coming to dig up the dirt,” Mishenko said in September. As we spoke, her 3-year-old granddaughter took another handful of soil and stuffed it in her mouth. Two weeks later, the soil in Mishenko’s yard had been dug up and replaced.
Mishenko lives in the industrial town of Pueblo, Colorado, within an Environmental Protection Agency-designated Superfund site. The Eilers, Bessemer, and Grove neighborhoods within the site are some of Pueblo’s poorest, making active involvement in the $75 million cleanup process much harder for residents who often hold down multiple jobs or care for extended family units. That’s the case for Mishenko, who watches over five grandkids and shares her car with two daughters. 
The Mishenko family’s situation is not unique. EPA analyses of census data show that low-income, immigrant, and minority families are more likely than the general population to live within 3 miles of a Superfund site. In Pueblo, an extensive cleanup is underway. In addition to site-specific remediation work and soil removal in yards, EPA and partnering organizations will be conducting indoor dust cleanups in some homes — a rarity for Superfund projects. 
Many barriers keep residents from fully understanding or participating in the process, though. Busy schedules, turnover among renters, and inattentive landlords in the neighborhoods within the Superfund site complicate officials’ attempts to connect with those affected. Some who spoke to Bitterroot didn’t realize until recently that they live in a Superfund site at all, despite the designation being in place since 2014.
A couple more from Bitterroot magazine’s weekly batch of stories:
As Coors moves HQ out of Denver, the West Loses its last major beer company
Even the wet Northwest is struggling to manage its water
Hasta Avista
Colstrip owner speeds up exit plans 9 years to 2025 Colstrip owner speeds up exit plans 9 years to 2025
A Colstrip Power Plant owner has accelerated its exit plans by nearly a decade and has agreed to compensate the community.
Avista Corp. agreed to be financially ready to exit both Units 3 and 4 by 2025. Based in Spokane, Washington, Avista had previously given itself until 2034 to be financially ready for Unit 3’s closure and 2036 for Unit 4.
The change in plans is part of a partial settlement agreement between Avista and multiple intervening parties in the utility’s general rate case in Washington State. Avista has a 15% share of each unit. Customer debt associated with Avista’s ownership share is about $50 million. The settlement calls for lowering customer depreciation share to $38.5 million, or $6.7 million a year through 2025.
One subtle settlement detail with big implications for the power plant’s future, Avista won’t be spending money on any improvement that would keep Colstrip running beyond 2025. That agreement places a higher cost burden on owners like NorthWestern Energy, which plans to keep Colstrip running for longer than six years.
Avista also agrees to contribute $3 million to a Colstrip Community Transition Fund, with the utility’s shareholders and customers splitting the bill. The agreement specifically states that the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Rosebud County and the town of Colstrip and labor organizations are to share the benefit of the transition funding.
More from E&E News:
One of the nation's biggest coal plants to lose an owner
Environmental groups file federal lawsuit against Rosebud Coal Mine expansion
More energy news:
EPA proposal lets toxins flow at struggling coal plants
Colorado regulators OK new rules requiring public mapping of underground oil, gas lines
Utah oil and gas agency pursues its first fine in nearly 25 years
The trouble with land transfers
Transferring federal lands to Western states is economically fraught, report concludes Transferring federal lands to Western states is economically fraught, report concludes
A new white paper from the non-profit Headwaters Economics says transferring public lands from the federal government to Western states would generate more revenue, but also comes with high economic costs.
“While transferring federal lands to state trust management would result in more gross revenue,” the paper says, “we find three other major implications: land would be managed exclusively for revenue maximization, states would face new and increased expenses, and state and local economies would become more specialized and volatile.”
Mark Haggerty, who co-authored the report, says environmental planning and wildfire suppression are two of the costs that stand out.
“All of the costs associated with managing [federal public lands] can really erode that revenue benefit and in some cases it might even reverse it,” Haggerty said. “One of the largest costs is wildfire suppression.”
In 2017, it cost the U.S. Forest Service $2.4 billion to fight fires on public and private lands.
Haggerty suggests that instead of transferring federal lands to the states, the feds should increase rates for energy development and grazing on public lands and then pump that money into nearby rural economies. 
More public lands news:
The problem with the BLM moving to the West
Greens sue Forest Service for kowtowing to grazers
Lawmakers eager to boost popular rural programs
BLM buys more land near Blackfoot River
New Trump administration plan could boost oil drilling on remote Alaska reserve
How warming will alter the huck harvest
The impacts of climate change on huckleberries The impacts of climate change on huckleberries
For generations, Montanans have hewn to traditions born of the natural world’s rhythms, both as a means of survival and as cherished rites of passage.
The ministrations of hunting, harvesting, farming, and ranching have sustained families for eons, and not even the passage of time has eroded the lineage of certain heirloom recipes or tried-and-true techniques, passed down through the ages and preserved today for sentimental reasons as well as sustenance.
Increasingly, scientific studies on climate change show that seasonal variations resulting from a warming world will impact the dependability of some harvests, pushing back the blooming bounty of plant species on which wildlife — and familial foraging — depend.
In Northwest Montana, very few of those food-producing plants can contend with the culturally iconic huckleberry, whose prized fruit becomes a ubiquitous accoutrement to desserts and dishes each summer.
Families fill their freezers with gallon bags of the dark-red berries for preserves and pancakes, while grizzlies and black bears eat pounds of them in a single sitting, depending on the tart-tasting morsels for up to 15 percent of their diets.
And yet, for a species as popular as huckleberries, little is known about its phenology — in other words, its cyclic, seasonal behavior and how it’s affected by habitat and variations in climate.
A spate of recent studies, some of them using Glacier National Park and its surrounding forests as a living laboratory, have sought to fill that dearth of data with new research and understanding into the important role hucks play in local ecologies.
What else we're reading today
AG Barr unveils plan on missing, murdered Native Americans
Colorado air-quality board readies high-stakes climate rules for 2020
Grizzly circles back to northwestern Montana
Wyoming races to fill crypto-banking void
How the gutting of local newsrooms has led to a less-informed public
Rockies Today is edited by Matthew Frank, Fellow in Regional Journalism at the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana.
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O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, 59812