August 21, 2014
Host: José Cárdenas
- The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) launched Chispa: a grassroots campaign to mobilize the Latino community and urge Arizona utilities to invest in clean energy. Jennifer Allen, Latino outreach program director for the League of Conservation Voters, talks about the campaign.
- Jennifer Allen - Latino Outreach Program Director, League of Conservation Voters
| Keywords: energy
Jose Cardenas: The league of conservation voters held an open house last month to kick off Chispa, a new effort to engage Arizona's Latino community to clean up Maricopa County's air quality and boost the economy. Here to talk to us is Jennifer Allen, outreach director for the league of conservation voters. Jennifer, the Latino vote is a big thing. We just devoted a segment to that. What is the particular interest of the league in the Latino vote?
Jennifer Allen: It's a good question. It’s a little known fact that Latino communities and Latinos specifically are probably the strongest environment lives we have in the United States. Some of the communities that are the least involved in environmental organizations. The league of conservation voters, we recognize that and Latino communities are a critical, important part of the puzzle, the movement that we need to be putting in place so we can have strong policies that can combat climate change, that can ensure we have healthy communities, and that we're working towards a clean energy economy for health and well-being of all of our communities here in Arizona but across the country.
Jose Cardenas: I think you're right; it is a little known fact. I think people would be surprised to hear. That what basis does the league have for thinking that Latinos are more concerned about the environment than other groups?
Jennifer Allen: Poll after poll conducted by league of conservation voters, natural resources defense council, Sierra club has shown for the last five years at least that Latinos want to see government action around addressing fighting climate change at a rate that is higher than U.S. population as a whole. For example about 88% of Latinos say that they want to see government action on climate change. It's about a little over 60% for the U.S. population as a whole.
Jose Cardenas: Is there any explanation for why that would be? Because I think most people would think Latinos are concerned about a whole bunch of issues. They would be concerned about that as well but there may be other things that may be higher priorities. Why is it or why do you think it is that Latinos seem more concerned about this issue and the population as a whole?
Jennifer Allen: We have tried to dig into that and what the motivations are and why that is, why it continues to show up poll after poll. One of the reasons is that -- Latinos care about our family. We care about future generations, and ensuring we are leaving our planet, our community a place that is better off than what we have right now.
Jose Cardenas: Part of it would be cultural values may lend themselves more toward being worried about this issue than otherwise.
Jennifer Allen: Absolutely. Is it an economic factor? Latinos comprise about to 30-40% of clean energy jobs. When asked whether it's an economic motivation behind strong support for environmental action, it's about culture; it's about the responsibility for Stewardship of our earth and our planet, protecting it in the interests of our families and future generations.
Jose Cardenas: So now you're trying to direct that energy with Chispa.
Jennifer Allen: Chispa is really exciting. We kicked off a couple of weeks ago in the Phoenix area, opened an office at a great organizing them that has been knocking on doors, calling families on the phone to talk with them about what they know about what happens behind your light switch in your home. Where does your electricity come from? Where does energy come from? There's tradeoffs that are made. Those tradeoffs are often done by our electric companies that result in polluting our air. Maricopa County continues to get failing scores for air quality from the American lung association. We have an ongoing and increasing air quality issue here and a lot of that has to do with the decisions about where our energy comes from. Specifically about the reliance in using coal fired power plants. Arizona has six of them. Our utility companies in the state of Arizona, the roller manages them and there's a monopoly about where energy comes from and how it gets to our homes. When we flip off the switch it's all controlled by our utility companies. The tradeoff has been our health and our economy. It's been one that's been limited by an interesting keeping the power plants burning coal, continuing down that path as opposed to supporting the past that's -- the path built on creating a robust, clean energy economy with things like investing in solar and wind, which Arizona obviously has an abundance of.
Jose Cardenas: So part of it is an education effort. How are you providing the education? You have people providing that information in Spanish as well as English?
Jennifer Allen: Spanish and English; People are knocking on doors, calling families on the phone there are community events. When they find somebody who is interested, a volunteer, they have house meetings for that volunteer maybe invites friends and family over to talk about our air quality and pollution, how those issues affect us, and providing people with opportunities to step up and take action and to really start to show that in a real, substantive, quantifiable way that Latino communities in Arizona want to see us investing in clean energy.
Jose Cardenas: And how many people are involved?
Jennifer Allen: We just started a couple weeks ago. We have six organizers and like I said every single day they are recruiting more volunteers joining them on the phones, joining them knocking on doors who are inviting their family into their home. We are -- the program keeps growing and growing.
Jose Cardenas: So you're telling people what the issues are, the problems. Are you giving them some ideas as to what they can do about it?
Jennifer Allen: Absolutely. One of the things we're really excited about kicking off is a component that first focuses on how people can make their homes much more energy efficient. Because there are just a lot of easy things you can do, seal up your windows, cut your energy costs. That's at the real personal level within decisions in your own home but we're also talking with people about how they can let their opinions and their voices be heard by policy makers.
Jose Cardenas: So give me an example of that. What is it that you do that shows them how they can make their voice heard?
Jennifer Allen: We're going to be encouraging folks to let their voices be heard in front of their utility company, and in front of their elected officials so we can start to demonstrate that Latino families in Arizona want to see clean energy, clean air be a priority issue for our decision makers in our state. We're bringing people directly to decision makers so they can hear their concerns about air pollution and people's interest in really seeing greater investment in clean energy.
Jose Cardenas: So give me an example. Are you taking people to meetings with SRP, APS, Tucson electric power. How are you doing this?
Jennifer Allen: And city council members. They will be meeting with state legislators, meetings with members of Congress. Really getting out in the community so that decision makers have opportunities to hear from families talking about issues that they don't normally hear. Putting them in front as well leadership around utility companies so they can be hearing directly from their customers about the types of policies and practices we think should be in place.
Jose Cardenas: What about impact in elections. What are you telling people about that?
Jennifer Allen: We're not really talking with people about the elections at all. Much more focused on this as an issue that's important for the community. We encourage people to be involved in civic engagement because letting your voice be heard through your leaders is part of being civically engaged in your community. This election cycle we're not specifically involved in.
Jose Cardenas: Solar power, though, seems to have been injected as an issue into, for example, the Arizona corporation commission races. Are you saying anything about that?
Jennifer Allen: We're not.
Jose Cardenas: And this is a multi-month effort as I understand it.
Jennifer Allen: It is.
Jose Cardenas: How are you going to measure success?
Jennifer Allen: A lot of what we're looking at is larger question. We specifically are we able to make this issue be seen and felt as a priority by decision makers in our state, that Latino communities want clean air and clean energy. We're also looking at we're a national environmental organization. Environmental organizations have not had a good track record of working within communities of color.
Jose Cardenas: So this is one example of that effort?
Jennifer Allen: This is an example of an organization --
Jose Cardenas: We're out of time, I'm sorry. We wish you the best in this effort. I'm sure we'll have you back on the show.
Jennifer Allen: My pleasure. Thank you.
Jose Cardenas: An important programming note we want you to know. Starting September 4th Horizonte will be moving to new time slots, Thursday nights at and Sunday afternoons at. That is our show for tonight from all of us here I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good evening.
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- Raquel Terán, state director for Mi Familia Vota, and Tomas Robles, director for the Arizona Center for Empowerment, discuss what is being done to increase Latino voter turnout for the upcoming primary and general elections.
- Raquel Terán - State Director, Mi Familia Vota
- Tomas Robles - Director, Arizona Center for Empowerment
| Keywords: elections
Jose Cardenas: Good evening. I'm Jose Cardenas. We'll talk about what a coalition of Latino voting groups is doing to get voters to the polls for the primary and general elections. Plus a unique dish combining flavors from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. And how Latino families can invest in clean energy. All coming up on Horizonte. Funding for Horizonte is made possible by the contributions from friends of, members of your PBS station. with the primary less than one week away a coalition of Latino groups statewide is adopting new tactics to try to get Latino voters to the polls. Joining me to talk about the efforts are Raquel Teran, state director with Mi Familia Vota, and Tomas Robles, volunteer for school outreach with the Arizona center for empowerment. The coalition, tell us the name.
Raquel Teran: when Arizona grew out of the -- SB in when we realized we had legislation and we did not have enough political power to get people who represented our values and interests in office. So organizations came together and decided to coordinate and strategize and build an infrastructure to build Latino power. So then we have been the Latino community where there's high density number of Latinos, registering people to vote. We made sure that they are on the permanent early voting list and we make sure that they come out to vote in the elections.
Jose Cardenas: so a number of the organizations have other things that are their principal focus but they are involved in this effort. Your organization, Mi Familia Vota --
Raquel Teran: Voting is what it's all about. We engaged our communities, making sure that they become citizens. We ensure that they are registered to vote and they are in the early permanent voting list and get them out to vote. Not only do we ensure the new citizens get out to vote we reach out to Latinos across the state, largely in Maricopa County and Pima County but we're also reaching through the phone banking or through mail to make sure that everybody is educated on the decision making process.
Jose Cardenas: Tomas, you're the director of one of the organizations with a broader focus but is focused now on voting, the Arizona center for empowerment.
Tomas Robles: Two major factors we focus on is the community development and along with electoral work that we do at we're one Arizona. A lot of our programs are gauged to develop our community professionally through our programs and also youth. One of the major reasons we're doing both at the same time is high school voter outreach program through a partnership with Phoenix high school district.
Jose Cardenas: What are the specifics?
Tomas Robles: The high school resolution that we passed incorporates bringing curriculum to the high schools about the importance of voting but not just voting in general but voting in local elections and how that impacts each individual community along with that we bring twice year focus on strictly voter registration for high school seniors. This is the inaugural year where when will in coordination with national voter registration day we will hold a one-week event with each high school to engage all of the high school seniors and get them registered to vote.
Jose Cardenas: So, those would be students or older.
Tomas Robles: the ones who will be by the time the election starts.
Jose Cardenas: Tomas, talked about one of the new things going on. What else are you doing that's different?
Raquel Teran: We continue to knock on doors. We feel that the best way to reach voters is to have a personal relationship. So not only the volunteers but our staff go every afternoon knocking on doors, building that relationship, getting people to sign the commitment card to commit to vote in the November election. We ensure that they let us know what are the issues that they care about because that way we can organize around the issues the community is letting us know, so people are feeling empowered and owning that vote even more.
Jose Cardenas: You mentioned --
Tomas Robles: I'm sorry, we have also expanded our not only who we reach out to but expanded our messaging in terms of how we're talking about -- this is a way of empowering yourself to the community. By focusing on voting and on the community that votes elected officials will recognize those communities that have oftentimes been forgotten. Our messaging, I'm sorry, our expansion is in the electorate. We expanded from just Latinos but young people and single women and single mothers. We expanded our reach to reach a much broader base of voters that have been forgotten about at times.
Jose Cardenas: So Raquel mentioned the November election. That's the real focus here, not so much the primary but getting people to vote in November. Why is that?
Tomas Robles: The primary can sometimes be short-sighted in terms of what the states needs as a whole. Yes, there are important primary races in which that particular race will decide a winner even through the general, but many of our state races are going to be decided in the general election. The more voter participation we have in these general elections the better chance we have of having a representative that represents all residents of Arizona, not just a select few who vote. Our goal is to make sure they understand the general election is where they can effect great change, especially this year with changes at governor and other state races.
Jose Cardenas: Raquel, just a week ago the Arizona Republic ran a several page article about the Latino vote. Why despite all the efforts of organizations like yours, it doesn't seem to make a difference. The vote has been disappointing in terms of the number of people who turn out even in the wake of SB.
Raquel Teran: Well, We have seen the Latino vote come out in big numbers in local elections, for example we have a new face to the city council of Phoenix. That is due a lot to the Latino vote. To the early voting, to the efforts that our organization has had knocking on doors ensuring Latinos vote in local elections. We have made an effort not only to highlight the gem elections but also local elections and we have seen the number grow. We have more than half a million Latinos registered to vote. We have,262,000 Latinos on the permanent early voting list. We are continuing to engage these Latinos. We may not see the results necessarily even in this year, but we are seeing how that it's going to be inevitable to have a Latino vote to win a statewide election. It's going to come because we're going to continue to build on the infrastructure that we have right now.
Tomas Robles: Sometimes expectation is that they will go from low to max participation in one election cycle. What's been important is we have been increasing the clout amongst Latinos and their vote. One Arizona since it began has put over, people on the payroll, , voters have been registered because of one Arizona. These are efforts that while may not have a huge chunk nationally or may not be the turn around we hoped for but it's increasing every year of the every year we are creating a culture of voters that four years ago never would have thought about voting as a way to empower themselves in the community.
Jose Cardenas: So right now though to date, in this campaign cycle what have you seen that you find encouraging in terms of thinking there will be more Latinos voting this time around?
Tomas Robles: We have seen a lot of Latino candidates win elections. People are seeing more individuals that they can see can represent them. They have had victories. More candidates that appeal to a Latino base. Our organization and one Arizona are talking about issues that are important not just immigration but education in Arizona, tuition cost, raising the minimum wage to a larger living wage. We're really gathering the stories of our voters to really use their concerns as a method to get them to the polls.
Raquel Teran: The conversations we have at the door people are committed to voting. They know that they need to vote. We have heard the voters mature. people were calling us and asking us who to vote for. We could not direct people on who to vote for. Our job is to educate the voters. It's a nonpartisan effort. However calls and conversations we're having with voters it's much more about education. For example we have the ballot that's in the yellow color that makes it easier to identify so people know they receive their ballots, they have it on hand. They are voting with their families. They are having conversations with friends, they’re questioning why does my party or the ballot that I received, why doesn't it have all the candidates. The questions are starting to differ rather than I know that I need to vote. Who do I need to vote for to have those conversations with their families and friends.
Jose Cardenas: Sounds like you're both optimistic. We'll see soon what the results are. Thank you both for joining us.
Raquel Teran: Thank you.
Tomas Robles: Thank you.