Deputy Legislative Director Uses Community Analyst

Tim Petty, Deputy Legislative Director from Senator James E. Risch’s (Idaho) office, uses Community Analyst to demonstrate how priorities were set for two water projects. Viewing and analyzing demographic, health, economic, business, education, and other types of data helps leaders understand the overall community for better and faster policy decision making.

Jan 20th, 2011

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00:01Community Analyst is a new web-based application...

00:04...that allows you to view and analyze demographic, health, economic, business, education...

00:10...and all kinds of other data to help understand the overall community and help you make better policy decisions.

00:17Community Analyst includes thousands of nationwide, authoritative datasets to provide powerful...

00:23...visualization and reporting, so that you can find out who will be impacted by those policy decisions.

00:30What and where the impact will be, what could affect the impact, and hopefully that's going to lead you... solving the problem better and result in better and faster decisions than we've done in the past.

00:41One last note, if you want to try out the Community Analyst, it is now in a public beta magically as of today...

00:48...but you can try it for 90 days for free by going to the URL

00:56So as we discussed, with limited resources, we need to be able to identify the right priorities.

01:02Our next presentation's going to look at some tough choices; two water projects, one in Idaho and one in Colorado...

01:08...and how can we better understand the policy decisions.

01:11So please welcome from Senator Risch's office, Tim Petty.

01:15Thank you, John.

01:21It is a pleasure to be here today.

01:23Working in the Senate office is requirement that you understand and work with the constituents...

01:29...and the policies that support those constituents' needs.

01:32The challenges about understanding which of the communities...

01:35...and how to prioritize each one of those specific areas.

01:39My senator needs the most updated information available to him.

01:43He is looking for the best perspective, and how to actually come up with an answer to each of these issues.

01:49And building on that broad perspective, he also needs to formulate a strategy and create that prioritization.

01:56Let's take a look at the app now that John has just mentioned.

01:59Using the simple tools, we can zoom right in and explore in the general landscape area of southern Idaho.

02:07As Owen zooms in, you can see the context of the Snake River Valley in southern Idaho area.

02:13It just so happens that this area is actually very rich in soil from prehistoric volcanic area.

02:19As he zooms in even farther, you can specifically see some of the irrigation areas that are very clear on the map... a contrast to the high desert that surrounds it.

02:29So in Idaho, it is a combination of the rich soil, plus the water irrigation, that actually creates the great Idaho potato.

02:37This is all well and good, but there is a problem.

02:40Irrigation is dependent upon dams, and the Minidoka Dam is in the southern section...

02:46...of Idaho along the Snake River.

02:48Due to years of weathering, the concrete has reached the end of its life cycle and is in need of repair.

02:56The Minidoka Dam specifically is over 100 years old, and requires money to repair it.

03:02However, there are questions that must be answered.

03:05Should this actually be rebuilt?

03:07Should it actually require some of the needed repairs to move forward?

03:11What would be the impact if the dam was either removed or actually failed, into the future?

03:17Before I was introduced to the Community Analyst, all I had was actually this report that was given to me...

03:22...with analytical research from 2002.

03:26So, here in 2010, I had to make some decisions to support the senator, but the analytical tool has actually changed that for me.

03:34As a legislative aide on Capital Hill, having access to the data is incredibly invaluable.

03:40Let's a look at some of the tools on how I can move from 2002 data up to current situation.

03:46I immediately want to know how many people in this area are employed in the agricultural...

03:51...field and therefore depend upon this dam.

03:54We can select the variables from thousands of datasets and quickly answer the questions on this area of agriculture.

04:02The dark green areas that we're looking at now indicate high percentages of the agricultural workers.

04:09The takeaway is very clear on this situation.

04:12Take away the dam, and you actually take away the vibrant livelihood of this community.

04:18Now, rather than just looking at more colored maps at this point, I would like to quickly take snapshots...

04:23...of the profile in the communities that are surrounded by this dam.

04:27I am familiar with the area, so all I have to do is actually connect several of the polygons around this area...

04:33...and look for summary information.

04:35We are actually going to take the time and actually name this information so that it can correlate with this dam area.

04:43Now we can look at the list of standard reports and select the run, and run the report.

04:50Let's specifically take a look at the demographics and income report.

04:55Instantly, when we get a table of information about the exact area in which I drew the polygon.

05:02Opening report, it's very clear that I see almost 40,000 people in this community...

05:07...with over 13,000 households that impact this specific area.

05:11This report also contains many other facts and several charts, as you can see here, that give a picture...

05:17...of the affected area that supports this community.

05:21While this report is actually quite interesting, there is also another option that allows me to compare to other...

05:27...issues that are taking place with water issues.

05:30One interesting part about my job on Capitol Hill is that there is a need to work with other members...

05:36...and those members come from all parts of the country.

05:39So I'd like to compare another water infrastructure project in Colorado and a water infrastructure issue at hand.

05:48Out West we have all different types of water issues.

05:51For example, in Colorado, has a water infrastructure problem that I specifically know about in Leadville, Colorado...

05:57...where extensive historical mining, as well as water treatment plants, are required for the surrounding communities.

06:05Now, back in the comparison report.

06:07So, let's take a look at these two specific areas of Leadville, Colorado... well as the Minidoka Dam in southern Idaho.

06:17Starting with the population tab here, it instantly sees that the Minidoka Dam area...

06:21...actually has many more people in its community than the Leadville area.

06:26However, when we tab over to compare the 2010 current income levels, when we look at the blue bar on the...

06:32...incoming chart, we see that Leadville Household actually has more income in its specific or high area.

06:40One of the great things about using this tool is that we can actually look ahead and project into the future...

06:46...switching from 2010, for example, to 2015 projected charts.

06:51It is amazing to realize, for me, that at one time, just a while back, I only had data from 2002 to help make decisions...

06:59...for my senator, but at the current rate I'm actually now able to get current data but then also project into 2015... see where the investment actually can take place.

07:10But there's also another dynamic that's going on at play here.

07:13Let's actually take a look at the unemployment in these communities.

07:17We can look at the same comparisons report to look at unemployment numbers.

07:21Interesting, Leadville has a significant unemployment problem, much higher rate than Minidoka.

07:27However, we need to recall that the Minidoka employment is incredibly dependent upon agriculture...

07:34...and therefore the irrigation and the dam.

07:37I am struck by the high unemployment levels, however, in the Leadville, Colorado, community...

07:42...and I was wondering how widespread it actually is, and to look at more the details in Colorado and how hard...

07:48...some of the communities might be hit.

07:50In fact, let's look at one more of these resources in this tool to give us more knowledge into these decision-based facts.

07:58This time, I'm not only wanting to find the area of unemployment, but I also want to couple that with...

08:03...low-income and lower-education areas.

08:07So at this point I want to mash up these variables together and see all the areas in the region and meet certain criteria.

08:14With this...with this tool, it's actually quite easy to pick the different variables and then create my own thresholds...

08:21...specifically to the areas that I'm wanting to look at.

08:24We added education into this mix, because I know where there's unemployment...

08:29...we also understand that there's need for future training for those unemployed areas.

08:34The resulting map here shows us all the areas that my search criteria brought together.

08:40We could have map individual variables at any one time, but the uniqueness of this application...

08:46...combines these...these different factors that will help create a strategy and create a priority model... that my boss can see the people and actually be able to help them into the future.

08:59So these are the areas that are going to be very important to the Colorado senator.

09:03And you ask why would that be important to me from Idaho?

09:07Well, it's important for me to inform my senator from Idaho so that when he is actually interacting with other members... Colorado, that they can together work on priority lists.

09:19And these priority lists, if my boss understands the needs of other members, it gives him a great ability... have focus on prioritization.

09:30This translation tool will start to help change the way offices on Capitol Hill will actually start working into the future.

09:38However, the interesting point is that you, the ones here in this audience, are actually part of the key aspect...

09:45...of this application tool.

09:47It's actually your raw data that gets put into the Community Analyst tool that allows us to work on...

09:54...creating policy decisions and prioritizations.

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