Connecting state and local government leaders

Threat of Immigration Enforcement and Worker Shortages Worry Ohio Farmers

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Daily Digest: A surprising city for the nation’s fastest-growing average rents; Texas governor’s energy regulation resolution; and community health clinics prepare for federal funding cuts.

IMMIGRATION | The town of Willard, Ohio attracts migrant workers each year to help work the “muck”—what the locals call the region’s incredibly fertile soil. That relationship, between the town and those workers, was uncontroversial enough in the past that the Willard Area Chamber of Commerce even planned a welcome-back party for the migrants, many of whom come from Mexico and other countries to the south. When a local newspaper wrote a story about the celebration, it stirred debate and discontent in the town. Some residents expressed disbelief that Hispanic workers were being welcomed with open arms, rather than handcuffs. Now, Willard’s farmers are worried about what all this will mean for their growing season. “Without the Hispanic labor force, we wouldn’t be able to grow crops,” said Ben Wiers, whose great-grandfather Henry Wiers bought acreage in the town in 1896. Last year, increased border enforcement meant a shortage of workers, forcing Wiers to leave millions of dollars’ worth of produce unharvested. He and other farmers believe this year could be even worse. [The New York Times]

EDUCATION | A policy that would dramatically curb suspensions and expulsions of students in preschool through third grade is set to go before the Denver Board of Education for a vote on Monday night. Proponents of the change say the action would be a step in the right direction toward addressing disproportionate disciplinary action against young boys of color, while critics of the policy say there’s already too little help available for teachers trying to manage difficult students and that the new rules would only make the problem worse. [The Denver Post]

LEAD CONTAMINATION | At one point Philadelphia had 36 lead smelters, more than any other city in the nation. Those plants are now long gone, but their legacy still remains. Once trapped in the soil, lead contaminants stay indefinitely. In some neighborhoods, the construction boom that often follows gentrification is unearthing this dirt, which takes to the air as a toxic dust that can spread to parks, playgrounds and yards. Compounding the problem is the fact that developers are not currently required to test soil lead levels before excavation and no single governmental authority is responsible for ensuring a yard’s soil is safe. A team of reporters tested the soil for lead in 114 locations. One backyard tested for lead levels that were nearly 25 times higher than the acceptable limit. [Philly.com]

HOUSING | Where are California’s fastest-growing rents? If you immediately thought San Francisco or one of its pricey Bay Area neighbors, you’d be wrong. About 90 miles to the southeast of San Francisco, the city of Stockton saw a 10.6 percent year-over-year increase in the average rent for an apartment, which now stands at $1,030 per month. It’s the biggest increase anywhere in the nation, according to the report from RentCafe, which studied rents in 250 cities, specifically buildings with 50 or more units. Eight of the 15 cities with the biggest rent increases were in California, including Fairfield, Sacramento and Santa Rosa, all in the northern part of the state. [San Francisco Chronicle / SFGate.com]

ENERGY | Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a resolution encouraging the federal government to work with the state to reduce regulations limiting the oil and gas industry. The regulation argues over-regulation has prioritized minor environmental gains over major productive losses. [WorldOil]

HEALTH CARE | Community clinics assisting the poor across California will receive $20 million in grants, an “emergency” response to possible federal health care cuts, according to state Treasurer John Chiang. The money is earmarked for small and rural nonprofit clinics at risk of shuttering or reducing services. Planned Parenthood plans to close three clinics in Northern California by the end of June. Grants up to $250,000 apiece “will buy the clinics some time and a little breathing space if these negative things occur,” Chiang said, referring to the passage of the U.S. House GOP’s American Health Care Act or the the Senate’s version being prepared in secret. [California Healthline via Los Angeles Daily News]

BROADBAND | Traverse City wants to be the second city in Michigan with a municipal broadband network, where internet service is sold to residents. Power utility executives, technologists and the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce have criticized high business rates and slow home upload speeds, but project cost recovery is questionable. [Michigan Capitol Confidential]