Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rural Idaho town elects all-Latino city council

NPR reports today on Wilder, Idaho's recent election of the first all-Latino city council in the state.  Wilder, population 1,533, also has a Latino mayor, who was elected last fall.  

Nathan Rott reports with a focus on Ismael Fernandez, a 19-year-old student at the College of Idaho who was one of the city council members elected in November an sworn in last month.  As such, he is one of the youngest elected officials in the state's history.  Rott quotes him:
There needs to be change in Wilder, and just in politics in general. We need to have younger people coming in, so that's why I decided to run.
* * * 
The Latino generation that I'm part of, we're kind of activists and all about empowerment and I think it's very empowering to the Latino community.
As Rott points out, Latina/os are the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in Idaho.
Latest census data show that 12 percent of Idaho is Hispanic or Latino. Latinos are also the state's fastest-growing racial group by far, doubling the growth percentage of the state's white population. That growth, [says Margie Gonzalez, executive director for the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs], is what's kept a lot of rural Idaho towns, like Wilder, populated and afloat in recent years.
Still, Erica Bernal-Martinez, the deputy executive director of the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, notes:  
Many rural cities with large shares of Latino population that have had a significant growth of Latinos in their cities haven't necessarily achieved what folks in Wilder were able to achieve.  

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