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November 12th, 2012:

How Latinos voted in Texas

Latino Decisions publishes its poll of Latino voters on the eve of Election Day.

Gary Segura and Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions webinar presentation today focused on the key insights generated from the ImpreMedia-Latino Decisions Election Eve Poll. The survey included a national sample of 5,600 Latino voters, as well as 11 state specific samples of Latino voters, including several key battleground states. This post summarizes some of the highlights from that webinar presentation, with the full slide deck and toplines for the full national and state results available below.




Latino support for President Obama was huge, with a record-breaking 75% of Latino voters nationwide (see below) casting their ballot for the President- the previous high for Latino voters was the 72% for Bill Clinton in 1996. Romney’s share of 23% was nowhere near the 38% his team identified as his “magic number” for Latinos nationally.

Here’s their methodology:

The national sample carries an overall margin of error of 1.8%. This margin-of-error is adjusted to account for the design effect resulting from 12 unique sample strata of varying size and post-stratification weighting used to derive the national estimate. California and Florida each had 800 completed interviews and carry a margin of error of 3.5%. The remaining 9 individual states sampled — Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia — all had 400 completed interviews and carry a margin of error of 4.9%.

So there we have an answer to my question about Texas Latinos and Latinos elsewhere, which is that Texas Latinos are indeed basically like Latinos elsewhere when it comes to how they vote. It’s not definitive – one poll can only tell you so much – but until someone else does a similar poll in Texas, it’s what we know. On a side note, I’ll point out Mike Baselice’s claim, as seen in the Trib, that Romney did 12 to 15 percentage points better with Hispanics in Texas than in California. Latino Decisions showed Obama winning California 78-20 among Latinos, and 70-29 among Texas Latinos, but as I have no data from Baselice to examine, it may just be that he’s reporting on a small sample. Even if you take him at his word, that would put Obama at as much as 68% in Texas, which is close enough to the Latino Decisions number to be not worth quibbling about. And for what it’s worth, Baselice also claimed that David Dewhurst was going to beat Ted Cruz. In other words, caveat emptor and all that.

“One Bin For All” in the running for prize money

This happened before the election, which now seems as a remote a time as the 19th century.

Houston is one of 20 finalist cities from among the 305 nationwide that applied for a $5 million grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies for the boldest local initiative to address a national problem.

The city’s proposal, “Total Reuse — One Bin for All,” calls for the construction of a mega-recycling plant that could ultimately allow the city to recycle as much as 75 percent of all residential trash, up from just 14 percent now. More importantly to the average resident, it would allow you to throw all your garbage in a single can and have the city sort it out at the plant.

In the spring, Bloomberg Philanthropies will announce the grand-prize winner of the Mayors Challenge and four $1 million prize winners. This month a team of city officials is invited to attend the Bloomberg Ideas Camp, a two-day gathering in New York City during which they will collaborate with experts to prepare One Bin for All finalist application.

See here for the background, and here for Mayor Parker’s statement. I like the idea of this and I am glad to see focus on Houston’s abysmally low recycling rate, but after I posted that first story I got some feedback from the Texas Campaign for the Environment, which is skeptical of this technology. The following was sent to me by Tyson Sowell to more fully explain their thinking on this:

Houston’s “one bin” waste reduction proposal: What exactly does this mean?

A few weeks ago the City of Houston’s Sustainability Department announced, to much fanfare, that they were considering a “One Bin” solution for collected recyclables, organics (like food waste), and garbage. In the meantime, City of Houston officials say they will keep working to expand single-stream recycling collection while they explore this other option. However, the technologies being mulled over are generally untested. Some technologies promoted by waste lobbyists as brave, new diversion techniques are actually destructive to the environment. While everybody likes innovative thinking, still, we have questions. Here are some questions we encourage Houstonians to ask about Houston’s “One Bin” proposal:

  • How has this technology worked elsewhere? We know that in other states and countries with materials recovery facilities which take in commingled trash and recycling (commingled MRF), they need either incineration or loopholes to reach meaningful “diversion” levels. What the city is proposing would include anaerobic digestion (AD; a process whereby microbes break down organic matter and produce methane to be used for energy) for organics and some of the paper; this is especially untested, and AD systems elsewhere are challenging to operate even with very controlled feedstocks and are very expensive to build. Lancaster, CA has signed a contract to try the technology the city is proposing, so why not wait to observe their performance before jumping in?
  • What will the markets be like for the recovered materials, and how do they compare with what we could get from expanded single-stream recycling? Historically, commingled MRF’s have to sell their paper and cardboard at lower prices because they are contaminated by being mixed in with garbage. The system envisioned here would put much of that paper into the AD, but
    is this a truly “higher and better use” than recycling? Are we saying that Houston is giving up on paper recycling? If so, the city needs to demonstrate why AD is a higher and better use for paper than recycling. TCE Executive Director Robin Schneider visited an out-of-state facility that separates recyclables mixed with trash and the valuable cardboard was clearly degraded.
  • How much would this cost? In particular, what would be the impact on tipping fees? Facilities of this sort in California have tipping fees more than 3 times what we are charged locally. In Dallas they were talking about these facilities in the $100 million range, but since something like this has never been built, we have no idea what cost overruns might look like, or what the long-term contractual obligations for the city might end up being. Ask the cities locked into ugly incinerator contracts from the ‘70s, and they’ll tell you that when it comes to trash technologies, extreme caution is crucial for local governments. Harrisburg PA, for example, has gone into bankruptcy because it went whole hog for what was supposed to be a cure-all incinerator. We need to show great care and proceed slowly before buying into this alleged solution to all of our diversion problems.
  • What will be the full long-term impact on reduction and reuse? Big increases in recycling are good, but not as good as big decreases in total discards. There is an ethical argument that encouraging throwaway mindsets and a disposable culture is absolutely unacceptable. Even under a less strict ethic, this proposal seems to do nothing to encourage reduction and reuse, and may even create incentives to throw things away. How does this proposal ensure that we are using fewer resources and consuming less stuff—not just recycling more—in the long-run?
  • Is this about the best use of our resources, or just the best we expect from Houston? We should not assume that Houston can’t recycle, or that folks here just don’t care enough. Sure, Houston is no San Francisco, but neither is Fresno, and Fresno has a 75% diversion rate without the need for risky new technologies. Fairfax County, Virginia is not setting the world on fire with 42%, but that is still 3 times higher than what we are doing in Houston right now. Orange County, North Carolina is at 61% waste reduction, and Nashville reduced waste by 30% in just three years. Their plan is to get to 60% reduction by 2018, and they are well on their way. Some of these communities—including San Francisco—are curious about the technology proposed here as a means of dealing with what is left over after recycling, composting, reduction, reuse and other diversion activities. Why shouldn’t we follow this same path by passing a Zero Waste Plan with strong benchmarks, putting proven policies in place and then circling back to these proposals once we have finished the basics and other communities have tested this new technology for us?

It be ars repeating that Laura Spanjian, the City’s Director of Sustainability, has made it clear that Houston will continue expanding curbside single-stream service. Houston has more households without curbside recycling than any in Texas and almost any big city in the country. It is clear that we need big changes, that they will not happen overnight and that we will need to be creative and flexible if we are going to catch up to where we ought to be. The least renewable resource of them all is time, but haste on waste policy can mean doing much more harm than good. These questions and others seek to ensure that our planet is the priority, and that Houston reaches true sustainability in a safe, proven and truly innovative fashion.

Some good questions to ponder, and I intend to have a conversation with Laura Spanjian about this in the near future to hear some more answers. The more discussion we have about this, the better. CultureMap has more.

Fee for all

Fees are part of the answer for Texas’ pressing infrastructure needs, but they aren’t and cannot be the whole solution.

To help keep the Texas business climate robust, lawmakers should double state fees on motor vehicle registrations and impose a new fee on every water meter in the state, the state’s largest business lobbying group said Thursday.

Economic development competitors are using Texas’ lack of investment in water resources and roads against it, and the fees could help the state address those issues, Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, told a special committee of lawmakers and business leaders.

Other states are telling companies, “Don’t go to Texas. They’re not investing in infrastructure,” Hammond told the Select Committee on Economic Development. The committee is studying how to encourage continued business development.


The business group is suggesting a $1.50 monthly fee on every water meter as well as every irrigation well in a water conservation district. Hammond estimated that the fee would raise $150 million a year to encourage local governments to develop new water resources.

Likewise, Hammond said, increasing the motor registration fee would raise more than $1 billion a year for highway construction. That money, according to the Texas Association of Business report, could be leveraged into $14 billion to $16 billion in bonds for new roads.

Most motorists now pay $50.75 per vehicle to the state and another $5 to $11.50 in local fees.

Hammond said, “The business community feels so strongly, we are willing to offer a specific solution.”

That solution, however, has critics.

Dick Lavine, a fiscal analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, said he agrees that the state needs to invest more in transportation, water and education. But he disagrees with using fees that hit well-off people the same as the poor people.

“They pretend that everyone has the same ability to pay,” Lavine said. “We’d like something so those who can afford more, pay more.”

Hammond countered there is little appetite in the Legislature for raising taxes.

Usually when there is a pressing need for something that isn’t popular, functional societies rely on something called “leadership” to make it happen. You know, the whole “doing the right thing” thing. Regressive though they may be, I don’t have any abiding objections to these fees, but let’s get real: Neither will raise nearly enough money to solve the problems. Raising the gas tax is still the best option, and if done right could just about wipe out the transportation funding deficit. The water issue is somewhat more intractable, but hey, that’s what we elected these people to figure out. It’s on them to get it done, and it’s on them if they don’t.

Why does Midtown need a big box store?

This story is about a forthcoming six-acre “superblock” being developed in Midtown, and about Midtown’s rise as a successful residential/entertainment area. What caught my eye was this bit at the end:

Still, Midtown has yet to see any significant new retail, retail broker Ed Page said, referring to big-box stores like Target, TJ Maxx and Best Buy.

“I believe at some point in time that hurdle will be crossed, and I think there will be a significant retail project down there,” said Page, managing partner of UCR moodyrambin PAGE.

Why does Midtown need someplace like that? Midtown has grown as a dense, reasonably walkable area with convenient access to the Main Street light rail line. Big box development is the antithesis of this. In fact, as Andrew Burleson showed, big box development stops nascent walkable development in its tracks. Why do that to Midtown? It’s not like big box stores are unavailable to Midtowners. All three of the places mentioned in this story have locations near 59 and 610, which is to say a 10 minute or so drive from Midtown. So I ask again, why does Midtown need someplace like that? It makes no sense to me.