In Texas, an Emerging Problem for Democrats on the Border

first_imgMr. Trump defeated Joseph R. Biden Jr. in Texas, winning a more narrow victory than he had in 2016 but winning nonetheless. Senator John Cornyn, a Republican, won re-election. Wendy Davis lost again, one of several Democrats who tried and failed to grab Republican-controlled congressional seats. A push to flip the Texas House foundered, as Republicans held on to their majority. – Advertisement – Many residents in this part of Texas have strong Christian, anti-abortion, pro-gun and back-the-blue views that put them more in line with conservatives than liberals, and in Zapata, there is a strong sense among his supporters that Mr. Trump will bring jobs to the economically struggling region.In a brief exchange during the final presidential debate, Mr. Biden had said he would “transition from the oil industry” because of its pollution, a remark that did not go unnoticed by Zapata residents, including Yvette Gutierrez De Leon, 56, who is a secretary for an oil-field services company and who voted for Mr. Trump.“At the end of the day, in the little bit of oil field that is still left, if it goes away tomorrow our county will go away,” Ms. De Leon said. “Oil is all we have here.”Isela Gonzalez-Lindquist, 42, a saleswoman at a Laredo mattress store, said she voted for Mr. Trump even though she was opposed to his plans to extend the border wall in the area, because she believed it would hurt wildlife and infringe on the rights of property owners.“I want to convey that he is not perfect and we know that, but he is the best candidate for the job,” she said. “I like Trump’s grit and that he’s not a career politician.”James Dobbins reported from Zapata, and Manny Fernandez from Houston. David Montgomery contributed reporting from Austin, Texas. ZAPATA, Texas — Democrats spent years focusing on how they could finally win Texas. But since Tuesday’s election, they have been wrestling with a more pressing question: How did they lose Zapata County?In the reliably Democratic and majority-Hispanic stronghold of South Texas, Zapata County, population 14,179, had never been a political bellwether. It is a largely rural border community on a narrow stretch of the Rio Grande between Laredo and McAllen, home to oil-field workers and one of the highest poverty rates in Texas.- Advertisement – Mitt Romney lost Zapata County in 2012 by 43 percentage points. Donald J. Trump lost it in 2016 by 33. Ted Cruz lost it in 2018 by 26. On Tuesday, President Trump reversed many years of political history, including his own, and won Zapata County by 5 percentage points. “Why should I apologize for it? I’m not going to apologize anymore. Just because the president wants people to come into the country the right way, it doesn’t make him a racist. He’s not a racist and neither am I.”- Advertisement – Mexican-American families have called Brownsville, McAllen, Edinburg and other Rio Grande Valley cities home not for years but for generations. They identify with their Mexican roots just across the river but identify just as strongly with America. At the formal southern line of the nation, patriotism intensifies, and many an American flag waves in yards and on porches. Young Mexican-American men and women eagerly sign up to become Border Patrol agents. Often, their older relatives and neighbors worked for Border Patrol, and they are proud to do so, too, ignoring the perception of the agency among immigrant families elsewhere in the country. Many Trump voters in Zapata know one another, and they have formed an unofficial booster club and support group. It includes Ricardo Ramirez, 51, the president of a local bank branch, and Jack Moore, 45, an oil-field construction worker who said the Democrats of 50 years ago “are not the same Democrats today.”center_img These working-class and middle-class Mexican-Americans feel compassion for the Central American migrants who have been flooding the border off and on since 2014. Volunteering at migrant shelters and donating clothes and food have become Valley traditions. But many view those migrants as outsiders. The Hispanic migrant in a shelter and the Hispanic longtime Valley resident are culturally and economically disconnected. Texas is more politically and culturally complex than any one poll or election can capture. There were Houston oil-and-gas workers who voted for Mr. Trump, but many in the industry voted for Mr. Biden. There were longtime Democrats who, on the same ballot, voted for Mr. Biden and Mr. Cornyn. The president may have won Zapata County, but Mr. Cornyn lost it.If there is any one force determining how Texans vote, it is neither party nor politics. It is something that resists party labels but has helped transform Texas from a place to a cause — an ideology disguised as a brand disguised as a state. It is a cliché to say Texas is filled with mavericks, but the whole notion of mavericks belongs uniquely to Texas — the word comes from the surname of a Texas rancher and lawyer who left his calves unbranded in the late 1800s, Samuel A. Maverick.At first glance, Mr. Biden’s support in most of South Texas appears solid. He carried all four of the counties that make up the Rio Grande Valley region, next door to Zapata County. But a closer look reveals the emerging Democratic challenge on the border. Mr. Trump broadened his support in all four, plus in other border counties. In one of those communities, rural Starr County, Mrs. Clinton won in 2016 by 60 percentage points. On Tuesday, Mr. Biden carried it by just five.South Texas has long been a place where a lot of people are politically liberal but culturally conservative. The flipping of Zapata County was one of many Republican victories in a state that Mr. Trump carried. But it stunned Democrats and reflected their enduring struggle in the country’s largest conservative-led state. Not only do Democrats have a problem surging forward, they may be going backward in places.“When I was running, I’d get 85 percent in Zapata County — and Trump carried it,” said Garry Mauro, 72, a Democrat and former state land commissioner who was the chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign in Texas in 2016. “The idea that Trump, who has been so overtly racist about Hispanics in particular, was able to do so well has got to be a failure of our party not having a message.”In the postelection aftermath, a changing Texas remained largely unchanged.- Advertisement – Updated Nov. 7, 2020, 4:37 a.m. ET “When I would tell people I helped a friend sell air fresheners in the shape of Trump’s head, I would apologize because I supported Trump,” said Anna Holcomb, 55, a Latina and former oil-field administrative assistant who lives in Zapata, the county seat. Mr. Trump’s support in that context was not surprising.“I believe that many Mexican-Americans who ordinarily vote Democratic are attracted to his personality,” said State Senator Judith Zaffirini, a Democrat who is Mexican-American and whose district includes Zapata County. “He’s very strong here. I don’t find him appealing but I’m fascinated by his appeal to so many Texans.”The town of Zapata lies along five traffic lights on Highway 83.Halloween decorations, hay bales and pumpkins were still up on a highway plaza in the aftermath of the election this week. Payday loan, auto parts and pawn shops outnumber gas stations and restaurants. The gentle western slope down to the Rio Grande gives residents spectacular sunsets and views of Mexico. In town and on the more rural roads around the county, where Border Patrol agents can be seen on hilltops gazing through binoculars across the river, there were an equal number of Trump signs and Biden signs.Two of the few orchestrated Trump events in Zapata happened in September, when stickers and signs were handed out at a local restaurant and a “Trump Train” caravan rode through town.But they did not draw huge crowds, and even now, some people who supported him said they feared retaliation for speaking out.last_img read more

BC Communities In Bloom judges visit Fort St. John

first_imgOne of the judges, Ali Double, said it is a great experience to visit cities like Fort St. John.“We’re absolutely delighted to see Fort St. John representing the northern communities. It’s really wonderful because you get such a wonderful insight into the community spirit.”Judges also look for how the municipality is involved in the above criteria.They first started at the Fort St. John community gardens and then visited the cemetery. They also visited the award-winning Passive House. They also had the opportunity to see the work NEAT has been doing by making stops at some of the elementary schools involved. They also got a taste of history as they visited the museum.Advertisement FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – BC Communities In Bloom judges were in Fort St. John today to judge the city on visual appeal.Communities usually enter the competition to increase tourism, generate new economic development or achieve civic pride.On the BC In Communities website, they say that they want to help cities sustain visual appeal as well as many other factors.“British Columbia Communities in Bloom is a program that inspires communities to enhance and sustain the visual appeal of neighbourhoods, public spaces, parks and streetscapes through the imaginative use of regionally-appropriate plants and landscaping with attention to environmental stewardship and to preserve heritage and cultural assets. An integral component of this very popular program is the friendly competition between communities, engaging citizens of all ages, service groups, businesses and associations in a public-spirited effort to succeed and be recognized. We invite communities of all sizes and from every region of British Columbia to participate in the BC Communities in Bloom program to reap the many social and economic benefits that result.”- Advertisement -2 judges stopped in Fort St. John on Thursday to look for the following 8 points from the criteria list:– Tidiness– Environmental Action– Community Involvement– Heritage Conservation– Urban Forestry– Landscape– Turf & Groundcovers– Floral DisplaysAdvertisement Each city is graded from 1 to 5 “blooms”. The community with a top five-bloom score (one in each population category) may receive an invitation to participate in the following year’s national program.last_img read more

A Key Week for the Future of the Global Environment Facility as Countries Re-up Its Funding

first_imgGovernments will meet in Stockholm tomorrow to decide how to replenish the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a trust fund designed to help developing countries meet their commitments under several international environmental agreements. GEF grants finance everything from toxic chemical clean-up to biodiversity protection to anti-wildlife trafficking efforts. This not only benefits the local communities where the projects are implemented; because the consequences of environmental degradation spill over borders, investing in the GEF has regional and global benefits.Every four years, member countries refill the GEF trust fund and negotiate a package of policy measures they hope will strengthen the institution. This time around, a bold new set of reforms has been put on the table. Key contributors to the GEF, including the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Sweden, should give these reforms a vote of confidence by pledging at least as much finance as they did at the last replenishment in 2014. Perhaps the biggest question is what the United States will do. While the Trump administration has not been a champion of environmental finance and is unlikely to pledge big in Stockholm, Congress will have the last word through future budget appropriations. The good news is that the GEF enjoys the longstanding support of many legislators, thanks to its contributions to U.S. interests at home and abroad.The GEF Has Bipartisan Roots in the United StatesThe GEF was established shortly after the end of the Cold War, at a time when the benefits of international cooperation were on full display. The reunification of Germany, with strong international support, was giving rise to a new era of economic prosperity and stability in Europe. And countries had recently ratified the Montreal Protocol, which phased out ozone-destroying gases.President George H.W. Bush, who became a champion of the GEF in its foundational years, told Congress in March 1992 that preventing environmental degradation should be seen as a way to promote national security and economic growth. “The year ahead,” he said, “will test our ability to redefine the relationship between humanity and the environment — and in so doing, to secure a greater peace and prosperity for generations to come.” In President Bush’s vision, the GEF would become “the principal vehicle for assisting developing nations with the incremental costs of gaining global environmental benefits under new international agreements.”Since then, the GEF has secured strong bipartisan support in the United States. Congress has appropriated funding to the GEF every year since its creation, and the United States has historically been the largest contributor, pledging an average of $460 million in each of the six previous replenishments. The GEF also supports U.S. businesses that provide clean energy and environmental services; 127 U.S. companies, universities and NGOs in 29 states have won contracts to implement GEF projects.Bold Reforms to Improve the GEF’s EffectivenessIn the 25 years since its creation, the GEF has invested $14.5 billion and mobilized an additional $75 billion from outside sources for 4,000 projects in 167 countries. These projects have supported the creation of protected areas covering an area larger than Brazil, sustainable management of transboundary river basins in 73 countries, and the reduction of 2.7 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions.However, over time, questions have emerged about whether the GEF is being all it can be. Can it further scale its impact? Has it worked out a sensible division of labor with its peer institutions? Is it doing enough for the poorest and most vulnerable countries? And can it mobilize more capital and expertise from the private sector? The package of reforms for the current replenishment addresses these challenges:Increasing scale: The GEF provides each developing country with a certain funding allocation, which is further sub-divided into sectoral priorities. This system has provided predictability, but it also means that resources can sometimes be spread too thinly across multiple priorities. A new integrated approach, which builds on pilots in cities, food security and deforestation in commodity supply chains, will retain country funding allocations, but provide more opportunities for countries to concentrate resources in larger financing packages so that they can have impact at scale.Playing well with others: There has been some confusion about the GEF’s role in the climate finance architecture, especially now that the Green Climate Fund is up and running and in some cases funding similar projects. The GEF’s new integrated approach will allow it to focus better on how different drivers of environmental degradation — not just climate change — interact with each other and how they can be tackled together so they promote global environmental benefits. A greater share for those who need it most: Concessional funding is critical if the poorest and most vulnerable countries are to do their part in meeting global environmental challenges. Proposed adjustments in the GEF’s allocation system put more weight on a country’s GDP, which will lead to a greater share of funding going to lower income countries, including least developed countries and small island developing states.Working with the private sector: Mobilizing private investment is key to meeting environmental challenges. New efforts to accelerate the GEF’s use of “non-grant instruments,” such as loans or guarantees, will help mobilize increased private investment to help GEF members meet their environmental objectives. Safeguarding the GEF’s FinancesThe U.S. position on the replenishment remains challenging. President Trump proposed a 30 percent reduction in GEF funding in fiscal year 2018, but Congress rejected those cuts, providing $139.5 million. In the fiscal 2019 funding request, the administration doubled down, proposing a 50 percent cut in GEF funding. While the Trump administration will likely pledge less than we would hope in Stockholm, it’s ultimately Congress that will make the decision—and Congress supports a strong U.S. pledge to the GEF. Other countries should not cut their pledges because of temporary lapses of U.S. leadership. Instead, they should see this week’s GEF replenishment as an opportunity to make a down payment on the world’s environmental future.DISCLOSURE: The GEF is a WRI donor. The views expressed in this post are solely those of the authors.last_img read more