Spencer-Herrera Appointed As AARP WI State President

MADISON, WI – AARP Wisconsin announced this week, the appointment of Leslie Spencer-Herrera of Whitefish Bay to the two-year position of State President – the highest state-level volunteer position within the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that has more than 800,000 members statewide and nearly 38 million members nationwide.

Spencer-Herrera, 69, who was appointed to the position by AARP Wisconsin State Director Martha Cranley, will begin her role immediately.

“Leslie truly embodies everything AARP is striving to achieve,â€� Cranley said. “She understands the importance of empowering Wisconsinites of all ages, cultural backgrounds, and income levels to live their best possible lives.”

As AARP Wisconsin State President, Spencer-Herrera will work with AARP members, volunteers, staff, legislators, and state residents on key issues facing the 50-plus population and all Wisconsinites, such as strengthening health care, long-term care, financial security, voter education, and addressing digital needs. She comes to this role with a great appreciation for all Wisconsin has to offer.

“I am so honored to have been appointed to this important position,� she said. “I have seen how AARP succeeds at the local, state and national levels to improve the quality of life for those over 50. “I have two goals. First, to help AARP to better hear and learn the hopes and needs of all Wisconsinites over 50 from Superior to Milwaukee and everywhere in between. And second, to recruit more volunteers from all our communities to make AARP more effective in meeting these hopes and needs.�

Spencer-Herrera’s career, education, and volunteer activities have revolved around analyzing issues, developing plans, and helping organizations (both in the non-profit and for-profit sectors) to provide services to improve workforce and financial capacity of low-income individuals and families. Her professional life centered on developing training programs which helped individuals access jobs and more skilled positions.

Technology is also a big issue for some Wisconsinites, which is why Leslie is committed to narrowing the digital divide by improving access, training and affordability of computers and hand-held devices.

Having immigrated from Mexico at the age of nine, Spencer-Herrera said she saw the ability to open doors through education. She has a Master’s Degree in Political Science from UW-Madison and another Master’s in Curriculum & Instruction with a focus on Adult Education from UW-Milwaukee. She has an undergraduate degree from Indiana University.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment security and retirement planning.

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WILN Opinion+: Nicole Winters and Tim Schindler

Welcome to another episode of Wisconsin Latino News Opinion+, where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the state of Wisconsin. This week’s guests include two members of the Milwaukee-based organization Wisconsin Voices: Co-Executive Director of Fundraising & Development Tim Schindler and Managing Director of Operations Nicole Winters.

Wisconsin Voices is a grassroots not-for-profit organization started in 2010 to protect democracy and encourage civic participation, particularly for those in marginalized groups statewide. Historically, Wisconsin is a state with high civic engagement, but stricter voter ID laws and other suppression strategies in recent years have challenged this reputation.

Schindler and Winters explain how their work with Wisconsin Voices aims to counter this trend in their state by “giving a voice to the voiceless.�

“There are individuals that just won’t use their voice for democracy,� Winters said. “It’s important because it makes a difference. It may not look that way in the end result, but when you are out there expressing your voice, using your voice to fight for democracy, it actually does make a difference.�

Schindler said that the organization tries to use education as one method of encouraging this participation.

“A lot of [people] don’t understand what’s the difference between an alderman and a county supervisor,â€� Schindler said. “So really empowering them and educating them on who to go to for what issue… that’s a lot of the impact that we’re trying to make.â€�

These goals from Wisconsin Voices are particularly applicable to the state’s Latino population, who, due to gerrymandering and strict voter ID laws, are underrepresented in local legislatures. According to Princeton University’s gerrymandering project, Wisconsin is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country.

“There’s very minimal representation,� Schindler said. “Even when you look at the redistricting of Milwaukee, [Latinos] really don’t have much representation in every district in Milwaukee and even in the legislature. So that’s why it’s important for them to get their voices heard.�

Wisconsin Voices collaborates with numerous other local organizations to accomplish their broader goals of education and voter outreach. It measures success in a variety of ways, including voter turnout and overall residents reached.�

“If our partners engage with a large number of individuals and they can talk to them and educate them on the importance of using their voice, I think that’s the greatest measurement we could ever use,� Winters said.

Resources mentioned in this video
Wisconsin Voices: https://www.wisconsinvoices.org/

Wisconsin Voices Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100089112562766

Information on Youth Advocacy: https://www.wisconsinvoices.org/donate/donate-youth-advocates-for-change-wisconsin-voices-program

Information on Voter Education: https://www.wisconsinvoices.org/donate/donate-voter-education

Wisconsin Voices current projects: https://www.wisconsinvoices.org/causes-overview

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WEC’s Spindell touts low voter turnout, reveals Republican suppression strategies

Democrats and voting rights advocates are calling for Robert Spindell, member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, to resign after celebrating low voter turnout among marginalized communities in the 2022 elections. 

“…We can be especially proud of the City of Milwaukee (80.2% Dem Vote) casting 37,000 less votes than cast in the 2018 election with the major reduction happening in the overwhelming Black and Hispanic areas,� Spindell wrote in an email to fellow Republicans that was shared by Urban Milwaukee on Jan. 10.

Spindell, who served as a fake elector for former President Donald Trump, is now facing immense backlash from state Democratic leaders and community organizers for his comments. “We don’t need election officials bragging about voter suppression, encouraging it enthusiastically as he has done,â€� Democratic state Senator Kelda Roys told WI Latino News. “He needs to resign or Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, who appointed him, needs to remove him.â€�

Spindell is yet to resign or be removed from his post, and denies that he was celebrating voter suppression in his email. Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces De La Frontera in Milwaukee, is unconvinced.  

“He’s proud that voter suppression efforts are working to limit the voting rights of Latinos and other people of color,â€� she said. 

For Neumann-Ortiz, Spindell’s lauding of voter disenfranchisement represents a pattern of behaviors and beliefs of Wisconsin’s Republicans.

“Here in Wisconsin, the Republican Party has really been dominated by the interests of big business,â€� Neumann-Ortiz said. “To hold power, they were part of supporting the architecture of one of the most gerrymandered states in the country.â€� 

Wisconsin is victim to some of the most “extreme partisan gerrymanders in the United States,� according to Princeton University’s gerrymandering project

Republicans control nearly two-thirds of the state’s legislative seats, despite a strong Democratic presence. Voters reelected Democrat Gov. Tony Evers in 2022, beating his Republican challenger 51 percent to 48 percent. In eight of the last nine presidential elections, the Democratic candidate won the statewide vote in Wisconsin.

“If one party was winning the majority of the statewide vote, you would think that they would be represented about the same in the state house,â€� said Sam Liebert, Wisconsin State Director of All Voting is Local. 

Liebert says the gerrymandering that plagues Wisconsin disenfranchises the state’s marginalized voters the most. 

“It’s called ‘cracking and packing,â€� Liebert said. “You have a lot of brown and Black people who are in districts that are 80 percent plus Democratic. But then, most of the Republican districts are 53, 54, 55 percent.â€� 

With Republicans controlling the gerrymandered legislature, Roys says that lawmakers snowball their suppression efforts to retain power by making it more difficult for voters to cast their ballots. 

“Over the last 12 years… the gerrymandered Republican legislature has worked systematically to limit access to early voting and absentee voting by implementing voter ID laws,â€� Roys said. “We know in Wisconsin that people in urban areas are much less likely to have driver’s licenses, and that’s the primary ID that people need to vote.â€� 

Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which was passed in 2011 under former Republican Gov. Scott Walker, is among the strictest in the country. It’s widely credited as the reason the state’s voter turnout was so low in the 2016 election, particularly among racial minorities in urban areas.

But in the 2022 election, state Sen. LaTonya Johnson said that voting in Wisconsin was even more stringent. 

“The ballot drop boxes that were legal during the presidential election were deemed to be illegal for this election,� Johnson said. “Then, they made sure that absentee voting was taken down from six weeks to two weeks – we used to have six weeks to vote absentee.�

State Republicans performed well for their efforts in this past election. They achieved a supermajority in the state senate after a net gain of one seat, and fell just short of a supermajority in the state assembly with a net gain of three seats. 

Their success was, at least in part, due to the tactics that made Spindell so proud in his email.

“The Republican strategy has been very apparent for a while now,â€� Neumann-Ortiz said. “Instead of trying to win Latino and African American voters on policy issues and the issues that they care about, they’ve used a strategy of both voter suppression and manipulation.â€�

Roys urges these voters not to be discouraged, but to fight back.

“Be angry,� Roys said. “Use that anger to organize your friends and neighbors to go vote. There’s a reason that they’re working so hard to silence your voices.�

Spindell did not respond to multiple requests by WI Latino News for comment.

Cover photo: Connor Betts, Unsplash


Erik Uebelacker is a journalism graduate student at DePaul University and the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The DePaulia. Find him on Twitter at @Uebey.

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WILN Opinion+:Roberto Tecpile, Mercedes Falk and John Rosenow

Welcome to another episode of Wisconsin Latino News Opinion+ where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the state of Wisconsin. This week’s guests include three team members from the Fountain City-based organization Puentes/Bridges: Director Roberto Tecpile, President Mercedes Falk and Co-founder John Rosenow.

Like its name, this organization attempts to build bridges between farming communities and the people who immigrate to these rural areas of Wisconsin for work opportunities. Nearly six percent of Wisconsin’s labor force are immigrants, and a significant portion of this immigrant population goes into the farming industry. According to Rosenow’s own accounts, and a report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which included him and Tecpile, Latino immigrants are vital to Wisconsin’s dairy industry. 

To no surprise, Latino immigrants face language barriers with their employers, often relying on hand gestures or their phones to translate. 

“The desire to want to understand each other really helps a lot,� said Falk.

That desire prompted action. In 2001, a group of dairy farmers, including Rosenow, took a trip to Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico to visit a language school in the hopes of developing Spanish skills to better communicate with their staff. It was his idea to visit the workers’ family members.

While Rosenow was doubtful about the first trip, he soon realized the value in it when their visit brought out local Mexican media, who were astounded by their arrival. He was told that it was the first time they had ever seen U.S. employers visit their employees’ hometown. After a few more pioneer trips, Puentes/Bridges was incorporated two years later.

“It was like a once-in-a-lifetime experience,� said Rosenow, who will embark on his tenth international visit with Puentes this year.

“Even though there is a separate language, there’s so much that they have found in common and ways that they realize that they really connect with one another on a deeper level,â€� said Falk. 

The trips act as a cross-borders, immersive, team bonding experience. Tecpile says that he has learned a lot through his experiences with Puentes. Rosenow echoes this sentiment, sharing how Puentes has helped his relationships with his workers evolve.

“I’ve seen people die, I’ve seen people get married, I’ve seen people have children, I’ve seen the children grow up, I’ve seen the children come and work for me [as adults] after they were just little kids the first time I saw them,� Rosenow said.

“It’s always been a family-type thing,â€� he said. “And now the families are just from a different country.â€� 

Resources mentioned in this video: 

Puentes/Bridges website: https://www.puentesbridges.org

Puentes/Bridges on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/puentesbridges

Information on Workers Rights: https://www.puentesbridges.org/resources/worker-rights/

Derechos de los Trabajadores: https://www.puentesbridges.org/recursos/derechos-de-los-trabajadores/

Immigration System: https://www.puentesbridges.org/resources/immigration-system/

Sistema de Immigración: https://www.puentesbridges.org/recursos/sistema-de-inmigracion/

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WILN Opinion+: Nancy Hernandez and Kim Stoll

Welcome to the very first episode of Wisconsin Latino News Opinion+ where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the state of Wisconsin. For this inaugural episode we spoke with two members of Milwaukee Women inc (MWi) about their efforts towards equitable leadership.

Milwaukee Women inc is an organization of professional women focused on changing the face and quality of leadership in the Wisconsin business community by increasing the number of women corporate directors. The group recently published their 2022 Research Report, “Celebrating 20 Years of Advancing Inclusive Leadership.�

The report found that MWi’s goal for women to fill 25 percent of director roles in Wisconsin was met early. 26.3 percent of director seats in Wisconsin’s top 50 public companies are currently held by women. 

“With all the data and the numbers clearly demonstrating the overall value that diversity, equity and inclusion brings, I think [it] really helped MWi achieve its goal of 25 percent by 2025,� said Kim Stoll, Chair of MWi and Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Badger Meter.

The statistics were much lower for women of color. In fact, only 5.7 percent of these roles are held by women of color, equating to 26 women. This number increased from last year’s report, but still displays the disparities that exist for BIPOC.

“Of those 26 only three are Latinas,â€� explained Nancy Hernandez, MWi Steering Committee member and President of the Hispanic Collaborative.  “But I think that we are seeing more women, Latinas especially, going through higher education, getting into different levels of managerial ranks and experiences and in the c-suite.â€�

Both Hernandez and Stoll remain optimistic that the continued efforts of MWi and other organizations, along with companies’ desires to be more inclusive, will lead to a continual increase of women in leadership roles.

“There are women out there. Boards and companies just have to make an intentional effort and cast, perhaps, a wider net to find those candidates,� said Stoll.

Resources mentioned in this video: 

Milwaukee Women inc’s website: https://milwaukeewomeninc.org

Celebrating 20 Years of Advancing Inclusive Leadership 2022 Research Report: https://milwaukeewomeninc.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/MWi_Report_2022_UPDATED.pdf

MWi’s Board/Executive Database: https://milwaukeewomeninc.org/board-database/

Hispanic Collaborative: https://www.mkehc.org

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Latino News Network selected for LMA Lab for Journalism Funding

Local Media Association announced in October, the news organizations that will participate in the third cohort of its Lab for Journalism Funding. The Latino News Network (LNN) is among the local news organizations the lab will help develop and execute strategies to fund essential local journalism via philanthropy. The six-month immersive lab runs from November 2022 through April 2023.

The lab, a project of Local Media Foundation, is operated by LMA with continued support from the Google News Initiative. Since its launch in September 2020, the lab has trained and coached 55 publishers, helping them raise more than $11 million to fund community service journalism. LMA published a 42-page report, Pathways to Philanthropy, to share lessons learned and best practices with the news industry. 

“We are excited to welcome this latest cohort,â€� said Frank Mungeam, chief innovation officer at Local Media Association. “The lab has a proven track record, and we are excited to help these news organizations find funding as one way to sustain civic journalism and a healthy local news ecosystem.â€� 

“The Google News Initiative works to support a thriving local news ecosystem, and we are excited for this third cohort of news publishers in the LMA Lab for Journalism Funding to develop new, sustainable funding sources for their essential local journalism,� said Chrissy Towle, head of Associations and Ecosystems, Americas at Google.

The newsrooms accepted into the third cohort include a diverse set of publishers in small and large markets, with a strong representation of family-owned outlets and publishers who focus on traditionally underserved audiences. The cohort also includes two local broadcast news organizations. These news outlets share a commitment to local journalism that serves audiences in their communities. LMA asked leaders at these news outlets to share their goals for joining the lab.

“The diversity of revenue sources for news outlets has grown significantly. With so many options, creating a sustainable news model can be daunting,” said Hugo Balta, Owner and Publisher of LNN. “The Latino News Network is grateful to be part of the LMA Lab for Journalism Funding, a program that I’m confident will help us develop strong competencies in harnessing local philanthropy to support reporting projects.â€�

Publisher’s Notes: This announcement was first published by the Local Media Association: News outlets selected for third cohort of LMA Lab for Journalism Funding.

More about LNN

The Latino News Network (LNN) mission is to provide greater visibility and voice to Hispanics-Latinos, amplify the work of others in doing the same, give young journalists mentoring and real work experience, and apply the principles of solutions journalism in its investigative reporting.

Wisconsin Latino News is one of six local news outlets overseen by LNN in the Midwest and New England.

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Dr. Patricia Tellez-Giron on “Helping each other” through COVID-19

Three years since the pandemic began, its lasting effects are becoming more apparent as communities look to physically, mentally and financially recover. BIPOC communities were hit the hardest in most states, and in Wisconsin, Hispanic or Latinx residents still have 1.4 times greater case rates than white Wisconsiners, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

While the pandemic fostered widespread misinformation through social media, Dr. Patricia Tellez-Giron says her organization used the speed of Facebook and other mediums to broadcast accurate updates.

“We knew that [misinformation] was gonna happen so we started giving education and information to dismantle the wrong information, so we went right away on the radio to answer questions and to give information that was accurate,� she said.

Dr. Tellez-Giron is an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and Chair of the Latino Health Council, a group of 40 organizations throughout Dane County that support the health of Latinos through education, advocacy, consulting and networking.

For Dr. Tellez-Giron it made sense to inform the public immediately, in a format that resonated. She turned to the Consejo Latino para la Salud Facebook page and to Nuestra Salud on Madison’s La Movida station, a Spanish-language health education radio program that’s run for 18 years. This effort earned her recognition from Time magazine’s Meet 27 People Bridging Divides Across America.

For many, obvious health risks came secondary to the risks of not working.

“We knew that day one when this came that we were going to be hit hard ‘cause most of the people had to go and work and did not have jobs where they could stay home and work from home, so regardless of the fear of having to go [to work] and getting infected, they had to go out because they needed to pay rent and food and everything and indeed, we saw that the community was greatly affected, not only medically but also financially,� she said.

The stakes were extra high for undocumented people who were not eligible to recieve stimulus checks and who face numerous additional barriers.

“So it goes from, again, being uninsured, the language, the access to services and not only medical services but social services that are very, very important. Coming from a different culture and having to, you know, acculturate to all the norms in here, eating differently, navigating the weather, so there are so many things and then racism and discrimination big, big, big time,â€� she explained, citing pre existing racial disparties. 

Tellez-Giron says she sees the impact of Latino Health Council’s reach in Dane County. As of Oct. 12, 60.3 percent of Hispanic residents in the state have received at least one COVID vaccine dose. In Dane County, 86.6 percent of the Hispanic population has received one vaccination compared to 80.5 percent for non-Hispanics in the county.

As for the path forward, Tellez-Giron says “It is hard to know because what we know until now is that we don’t really have this virus under full control. We are smarter, so we know more about this virus, we have the vaccines, we have the masks, washing your hands, keeping your distance, but it’s how do you educate people that have chosen not to follow the rules, who are then influencing everybody else,� she asks.

Experts have studied COVID news fatigue, the idea that people have become increasingly disinterested in updates as the pandemic has gone on. She says people’s curiosity in what seemed to be the latest health threat, Monkeypox, has already passed.

“Initially we had a lot of interest, like in the radio people would call and ask about it, and now we don’t really have much,� she explained.

Last month President Biden came under fire for declaring that the pandemic was over. In an Oct. 4 webinar from The Center for Health Journalism, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s Chief Medical Advisor voiced his concerns with this statement.

“Right now it looks like we’re going in the right direction, however, we are entering into the winter months where no matter what the respiratory disease is, there’s always a risk of an uptick in respiratory diseases,� he said.

However, he does remain hopeful on the nation’s ability to handle future health concerns.

 â€œIf lessons learned are really learned, we would do better. I think if you look at the kinds of things, and I hope… I hope that gets translated into a better implementation when the next threat does occur,â€� he said.

Though it’s unclear what’s to come, Tellez-Giron says Latinos’ resilience and support for one another continues. 

“We don’t wait for other people to provide for us and this pandemic showed again how if we work together, even among the community, even within the community, we can help each other,� she said. “Most of the time when things like this happen, it’s the [Latino] community that starts responding and providing for the community, showing the community at large that we are not here to be burden, we are here to be a part of this community and to contribute and to provide for our own if we can’t get the resources that we need.

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Latino News Network Expands Local Coverage To Wisconsin

The Latino News Network (LNN) is expanding its local media coverage to Wisconsin today. 

The addition represents the second Midwest affiliate for the multimedia news source that introduced Illinois Latino News (ILLN) last year. LNN was founded in New England in 2012 with the launch of flagship news outlet, Connecticut Latino News (CTLN).

Hugo Balta, Owner and Publisher of LNN, commented on the new edition, saying, “Hispanics-Latinos are the second largest and fastest growing racial and ethnic population in Wisconsin, but the state’s local news media is not representative of the group’s prominence. Wisconsin Latino News (WILN) is going to change that oversight.�

The Latino News Network oversees six independent, English language, local digital news outlets with statewide coverage, and Hispanic-Latino editorial focus in the Midwest and New England.

“I’m so proud to witness LNN’s growth and expansion in the Midwest. To launch Wisconsin Latino News just a year after introducing Illinois Latino News is a huge accomplishment that shows the need for inclusive storytelling and reporting that amplifies Latinx voices in these states,� said Annabel Rocha, Writer/Editor for ILLN. Rocha oversees LNN-Midwest.

The WILN newsroom takes a partnership approach to prioritizing Latino communities through solutions-focused reporting. “The community is more than just the audience, they are collaborators,� said Balta.

If you have a story idea, we want to hear from you! Email us at info@latinonewsnetwork.com

Follow Wisconsin Latino News on social media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WILatinoNews

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100085238640125

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wi_latinonews/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/wi-latino-news/about/?viewAsMember=true


More about LNN

The Latino News Network (LNN) mission is to provide greater visibility and voice to Hispanics-Latinos, amplify the work of others in doing the same, give young journalists mentoring and real work experience, and apply the principles of solutions journalism in its investigative reporting.

Learn more about our work: https://latinonewsnetwork.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LatinoNewsNet_

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/latino-news-network/

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