Monday, June 18, 2018

Vermont wants an economy based around remote workers, but can its infrastructure handle it?

The Vermont legislature recently passed and Governor Phil Scott signed legislation that would pay $10,000 to qualified individuals who can work remotely for an employer and want to live in Vermont. The program, entitled the "Remote Worker Grant Program", provides each recipient with $5,000 per year for 2 years and will be awarded on a first come, first serve basis.

The legislature has allowed $125,000 for FY 2019, $250,000 for FY 2020, $125,000 for FY 2021, and then $100,000 thereafter with no specification on how many grants can be awarded each year. It is not clear how much of the funding will be used for the administration of the program, which will reduce the amount available for awards.

According to a WBUR (NPR affiliate in Boston) interview with Joan Goldstein, commissioner of the Vermont Office of Economic Development, there have been many inquiries into the program and many are certainly interested. There was however one question that she sidestepped that I feel merits further inquiry.

The question of whether or not Vermont's infrastructure can support an economy based around remote workers is important. Right now, much of the state lacks access to high-speed internet. Ms. Goldstein contends that most downtowns in the state have access to high speed internet, as do many of the co-working stations. It seems to be assumed that if a worker moves to an area without high-speed internet, they will be forced to commute to a downtown office in order to work, thus removing one of the advantages of being able to work from a home office.

She acknowledges that work needs to be done in order to help the more rural parts of the state and there is evidence that Vermont is working to address this issue. In 2015, Vermont was the largest recipient, per capita, of federal funding to help ease the digital divide and, in an attempt to expedite the process, the state has enacted legislation that allows broadband providers to bypass local review when building broadband infrastructure. 

Despite the state's best efforts, the challenges of getting universal broadband in Vermont remain. Last year, Michael Schirling, Vermont's Commerce and Community Development Secretary, estimated that it would cost "about a half a billion dollars" to get broadband throughout the state. In fact, Schirling expressed concern about whether or not Vermont's telecommunications infrastructure could handle an influx of people moving into the state while town officials throughout the state felt that the lack of communications infrastructure has contributed to the population decline that much of the state is seeing.

For this program to be successful, workers have to be able to successfully work remotely from almost any portion of the state. The current state of broadband infrastructure in Vermont excludes some of the most economically disadvantaged communities from being able to reap the potential benefits that this plan may have. This plan does little to help disadvantaged rural Vermont communities if its recipients are congregated in the few communities that offer high speed internet.  While this legislation is a step in the right direction, it should also serve as a reminder of what is possible in a rural economy, if we adequately invest in infrastructure.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Rural school issues in the national news

Yesterday, the New York Times ran this story about the closure of the public school in Arena, Wisconsin, population 834.  A few weeks ago, the paper ran this story about what budget cuts mean for a school in rural Snow Hill, North Carolina, population 1,595.  I'm always glad to see the national attention to rural schools and rural communities. 

Here's an excerpt from Julie Bosman's story about the Arena school, with a focus on the implications of the closure for the entire community:
People worry about losing not just their schools but their town’s future — that the closing will prompt the remaining residents and businesses to drift away and leave the place a ghost town. 
Rural schools have been closing in waves for decades, but the debate has taken on sharp urgency this year, particularly in communities in the Midwest and New England that have grown smaller and older since the recession.
Arena is part of the River Valley School District, which closed another of its elementary schools last year, leaving just one in the district.  Just over 100 seniors graduated from the district this year, while only 66 kindergartners are expected to start in the fall.

Bosman writes of the toll the decision to close the school--and all that happened in the run up to it--took on the community:
Friendships soured. Co-workers took sides. Elected officials held long and emotional hearings. Residents voted on a referendum attempting to raise money and save the school. School board officials faced a recall election, and after the vote last year, one member was told by friends that it might be best if he didn’t show up at the Fourth of July celebration in Lone Rock. He stayed away.
Incidentally, Arena is within the Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area.  This locale worked against it because it was not remote enough to qualify for special funding available to assist the most sparsely populated districts.  (Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin is just 10 miles away.  The village of Arena also features "a gas station, a cheese outlet, a cafe called Grandma Mary’s, beloved for its Friday fish fry and beef stroganoff.)

Bosman quotes Ronald Saari, the district administrator in Potosi, in western Wisconsin, who links the school closure crisis to big ag and the consolidation of small farms:

We’re an agricultural area.  At one point, they tell me, back in the ’80s there were 600-some kids in this district. But the smaller farms have consolidated into bigger company farms. Sometimes you sit back at the end of the day and reflect on how touch-and-go things are from year to year. When is that going to end?
Potosi's 320 students, K-12, are housed in a single building.

The story out of North Carolina, while using "rural" in the headline, is not that focused on rural issues. Here's an excerpt focusing on a student named Preston:
Preston, 8, goes to West Greene Elementary School in Snow Hill, a town of 1,500 in rural Greene County, N.C. Of the 100 counties in the state, Greene is one of the poorest. About four out of five public school students come from low-income families. Only three counties in North Carolina spend less on public education. 
All around Preston were signs of how little money his district has. West Greene is one of many schools across the country dealing with the effects of funding cuts, from broken-down buses to donated supplies to teachers who work second jobs. 
The story indicates that teachers from this district are unlikely to join state-wide protests about poor funding and low teacher salaries.
Teachers here said they felt they could address their needs locally, without getting involved in state politics, even though many said they were unhappy about their salaries and the school’s tight budget. Their detachment from the protests suggested that there were limits to the walkout movement, whose organizers are trying to mobilize voters ahead of midterm elections.
I wish journalist Dana Goldstein had said more about how the problems could be solved at the local level.  Is thinking they can be solved locally feasible?  or pie-in-the-sky thinking?  In any event, the decision by these rural teachers not to join state-wide pro-teacher movements saddens me.   Stories about the teacher strikes out of West Virginia did feature some teachers from towns in the 10,000 population range, though I don't recall reading about any very rural teachers.
As in Bosman's story out of Wisconsin, Goldstein gives a nod to shifting rural demographics:
There are more Latino immigrants who work in agriculture and food processing, and some of their children enroll in school. “We don’t care if they’re black, white, Mexican,” said Ms. Canada [Preston's grandmother], who is white and works as a home health aide.
I note that Greene County, of which Snow Hill is the seat, is quite racially diverse.  Those who are white only make up only 54% of the population, and African Americans are more than 37%.  Those who identify as Hispanic or Latino are about 15%.  Those who are white alone, not Hispanic or Latino, are 47%.  The county's population is about 21,000.

Monday, June 11, 2018

A story about cross-ethnicity solidarity in rural America

Most of the news out of rural America that implicates racial or ethnic difference suggests bigotry among rural and small-town whites.  That makes this New York Times story an exception, with its headline proclaiming:  "ICE Came for a Tennessee Town's Immigrants.  The Town Fought Back."  Morristown, Tennessee, population 29,663, is the dateline. This small city in northeast Tennessee has attracted workers from Mexico and Central America for three decades, with many settling there over the years, raising families now present across generations.  As context for her story, journalist Miriam Jordan plays up the politics of Tennessee, where 61% of voters supported Trump in 2016.  An excerpt follows:
So the day Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the Southeastern Provision plant outside the city and sent dozens of workers to out-of-state detention centers was the day people in Morristown began to ask questions many hadn’t thought through before — to the federal government, to the police, to their church leaders, to each other.
Jordan tells the story partly through excerpts from interviews with folks in the Morristown area.  Needless to say, Morristown's residents are not all supportive of the immigrants, but I note that many of those who are parents and those who teach and interact with immigrant children are among the most supportive of the immigrant families.  They tend to see the immigrants as connected to, part of the fabric of the community. 

The details Jordan  provides of the raid and the detentions are chilling.  Indeed, the actions of ICE agents and the response of the community remind me of accounts of the 2008 immigration raid in Postville, Iowa, which is the subject of this film

Also, an Anne Lewis film about Morristown, "Morristown:  In the Air and Sun," was released by Appalshop in 2007.  That documentary, too, tells the story of cross-racial coalition building among workers in Morristown, a coalition that led to the unionization of a Koch Industries owned poultry processing plant there. 

I wrote in 2009 in the Harvard Latino Law Review about the integration (or lack thereof) of immigrants into the rural South here, with some particular attention to Morristown.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Why use a rural image in a policy brief about "the American middle class"?

That's what the Brookings Institute did here

But I can't find any significant rural angle in Brookings analysis of the "seven reasons to worry about the American middle class."  They do use the word "rural" twice under the heading "Place Matters More than Ever."  Here's an excerpt (emphasis added): 
Alongside the diverging destinies of individuals is a great divergence in the prosperity of whole communities and regions of the country. Employment and economic growth is far from consistent from one metropolitan or rural area to the next. Because various parts of the country are home to different industries and occupations, trade and technology have had differential impacts by region. Employment rates have, for example, fallen most dramatically in the nation’s rural areas, though there are still more non-working men in cities than in the heartland. 
Our Brookings colleagues Mark Muro and Jacob Whiton find that the largest metropolitan areas have accounted for the vast majority of the nation’s population, employment, and output growth since 2010. For the first time, the rural population is actually shrinking. This, alongside the declining role of manufacturing and mining, means that employment growth, an important contributor to overall economic growth, is waning in many parts of the country.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Another missive about how helping rural populations vis a vis work requirements is racist -- and a modest rebuttal

The New York Times op-ed headline proclaims:

Bryce Covert explains: 
Ignore the platitudes. Work requirements have never been about helping the poor or unemployed. They’ve always been about punishing black people. 
I do not agree.  As I have argued in detail elsewhere, "middle class" and "working class" whites don't like poor whites any more than they like poor Blacks.  In short, the "upper classes" have little tolerance for the poor--especially those they see as the undeserving poor--which includes plenty of poor whites. 

Covert continues, regarding the exemptions:
These carve-outs would, in effect, spare white, rural residents from work requirements but not black ones in urban areas. These proposals have turned the subtext that was there all along into legible text. 
Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia are seeking waivers from the Department of Health and Human Services that would allow them to impose work requirements on some Medicaid recipients, but not all of them. They all included exemptions for counties with the highest unemployment levels, which are rural, mostly white areas. Urban centers where lots of black people are unemployed, but whose county-level unemployment rates are lower, would be subject to the work requirement.
As I have noted in earlier blog posts, the county may not be the optimal scale for granting these sorts of exemptions from work requirements.  Of course, I must also note that work requirements seem unwise generally in the current era of low unemployment.  That is, folks everywhere will have trouble finding jobs--assuming that those receiving SNAP and Medicaid are able to work, and some budget analyses suggest they are not.

But another point bears making here:  I wonder what critics of the Michigan proposal would say if a similar proposal were made in a state with a more significant population of rural African Americans and/or rural Latinx residents.  I am looking at this document--now more than five years old, but it is not easy to find super current data on this topic--which suggests that more than 17% of Virginia's rural and small-town population is African-American. So the Virginia proposal to exempt rural residents would benefit a significant number of African-Americans.

Other states with significant percentages of African-Americans dwelling in rural areas and small-towns are:

Mississippi           39.2%
South Carolina     36.4%
Louisiana              31.0%
Georgia                 25.8%
Alabama               21.9%
North Carolina     20.4%
New Jersey           18.2%
Virginia                 17.1%
Maryland              14.7%
Arkansas              13.9%
Delaware             13.8%
Florida                 12.9%

States with significant rural and small-town Latinx populations include:

New Mexico          42.7%
California               36.4%
Texas                      31.8%
Arizona                  23.5%
Colorado                18.9%
New Jersey             18.0%
Washington             16.9%
Nevada                   16.1%
Florida                    14.7%
Idaho                      12.4%
Hawaii                    10.5%
Oregon                   10.1%
Utah                         8.5%
Wyoming                 8.2%

I bet some of those figures are surprising to readers.  Did you know that Idaho has a significant Latinx population who work on dairy farms?  That Latinx workers keep rural Wyoming's hospitality industry humming?  Who knew New Jersey's rural areas were so racially/ethnically diverse? Who knew New Jersey had rural areas? 

For a variety of reasons, I wish legislators in these states with more diverse rural populations would offer work exemptions.  Rural is not always synonymous with white, and it would be nice if critics--as well as policymakers--would acknowledge that fact.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

On rural crime involving flora and fauna

Two stories about distinctly rural crimes--or more precisely, wilderness crime--have caught my attention in the past few weeks.  The first is about poachers in the Pacific Northwest, covered by The Seattle Times here and the Washington Post here.  A quote from Kyle Swenson's story in the Post highlights the role that technology played in finding the poachers:
It started when state officials wanted answers about the headless deer turning up in the Oregon wilderness east of Mount Hood. 
“Nearly every year, it seems we have deer showing up minus their heads at the end of seasons,” Craig Gunderson, a senior trooper with the Oregon State Patrol, recently told the Seattle Times. Authorities believed the mutilated animals might be the work of poachers, so in November 2016 they fixed motion-triggered cameras in the national forest near The Dalles, Ore., smack on the Washington state line. 
The footage troopers caught would prove to be the first clue to uncovering what officials now say was a loosely linked poaching ring responsible for the illegal brutal slaughter of hundreds of animals in Washington and Oregon. The sheer size of the animal body count involved has shocked wildlife officials, in part because of the wantonness driving the rampant killing.
Also in evidence against the poachers are cell phone videos and photos the poachers took of their illegal activities, including the use of dogs and spotlights to startle the animals, including bears.  That's the fauna story.

The second story involves flora, succulents found on the California coast.  The Voice of Monterey Bay published this story a few weeks ago, "The Case of the Stolen Succulents."   Here's an excerpt that refers to a major bust of plant poachers near Big Sur, reported by Kathryn McKenzie. 
It was the first such incident of large-scale plant poaching reported in Monterey County, but comes hard on the heels of arrests in thefts involving plants in Humboldt and Mendocino counties, specifically involving a species called Dudleya farinosa, commonly known as bluff lettuce or powdery liveforever. Plant thieves were stripping the succulents from the coastal bluffs and smuggling them to Korea and China, where the plants reportedly sell for as much as $50 each.
This story was drawn to my attention by the daily California Sun e-newsletter, which I highly recommend. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

In talking about "taming the continent," Trump once again ignores Native issues

In his recent commencement speech at the United States Naval Academy, President Donald Trump attempted to encourage graduates by invoking images of patriotism and triumph. In doing so, he told the graduates that their ancestors had "tamed a continent" and that we should never apologize for America.

Trump's comments are problematic for a multitude of reasons, but mainly because of the idea that the North American continent had to be "tamed." Before the arrival of European colonists, North America was home to a litany of vibrant and diverse Native nations. My own ancestors, who lived on the coasts and in the swamps of the Carolinas and Virginia, were among the first to encounter English colonists. Upon arriving to North America, the Europeans did not treat the pre-existing Native nations as equal sovereigns but rather as lesser entities. Empowered by the "Discovery Doctrine," which Chief Justice John Marshall retroactively enshrined into U.S. law in Johnson v. M'Intosh in 1823, they assumed control of lands that had already belonged to other sovereign nations and through military force, removed them from those lands. Many tribes, including my own, lost their language through European colonization while other tribes did so when their children were forced to attend boarding schools, which sought to "Americanize" Native people by forcing them to learn English and adopt Western customs. As Richard Henry Pratt, the founder of Carlisle Indian School, said, the goal was to "kill the Indian, save the man." The intent was to eradicate tribal nations and assimilate Native people into the general American population.

This is yet another comment from President Trump that demonstrates his lack of understanding of tribal communities and their inherent sovereignty (I covered another example here). It also has troubling implications for addressing issues in Native communities, which are among the most remote and impoverished in the United States. In 2014, then-President Barack Obama called the astronomical poverty rates among Native people a "moral call to action."

As I have also covered in this space, tribes continue to encounter difficulty in exercising their sovereignty and navigating the complex web of restrictions that have been placed onto them by the United States government. Under President Obama, tribes saw incremental progress through the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act and increased recognition of their sovereignty in the Violence Against Women Act. Despite these small bits of progress, tribes however still lack the ability to exercise full criminal and civil jurisdiction over actions within their own nations. Given the relationship between the United States government and Native tribes, it is imperative all sides work together to address these issues.

It appears that the Trump Administration however has opted to ignore the moral call to action and return to the policies of yesteryear, when Native people and their cultures were actively marginalized. According to the United States Census Bureau, there are 5.2 million Native people, representing 566 different sovereign nations, in the United States today. The implication that the modern day United States was "tamed" ignores the continued existence of these people and their tribal nations. It is also a troubling harkening back to the days when it was the official policy of the English and later United States governments to abolish and eradicate tribal nations. Addressing issues in rural tribal communities is going to require a President that understands Native issues, is committed to addressing them, and recognizes the important role of tribal sovereignty in the modern legal framework.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Farmer suicides in Australia, old news down under but now in the New York Times

The New York Times today includes a long-ish feature story on farmer suicides in Australia.  The headline is "A Booming Economy with a Tragic Price," which hints at the story's inequality and globalization angles, but not the mental health/rural services angle which is also a key component of this excellent reporting:
Family farms like Mr. Guy’s [who committed suicide in 2016] have been the producers of Australia’s agricultural bounty, and the bedrock of its self-image as a nation of proudly self-reliant types, carving a living from a vast continent. But as Australia’s rural economy has boomed on the back of growing exports, small farmers have not always shared in the bounty, with many forced into borrowing money or selling their farms.
This is old news "down under," according to my Aussie friends, and I've seen some coverage of similar trends in the United States, as here and here.  (This is also reminiscent of the deaths of despair associated with rural folks in the U.S., though in Australia it is men who are disproportionately dying). One reason, it seems, that this trend is now attracting so much attention in the NYT (this is part I of II in the NYT, on "Regional Australia," a term used to connote "rural" in that nation) is the family murder-suicide that occurred a few weeks ago in Western Australia.

Here's a further sobering, data-dense excerpt from Jacqueline Williams' feature story in the NYT:
Nationwide, people living in remote Australia now take their own lives at twice the rate of those in the city: Every year, there are about 20 suicide deaths per 100,000 people in isolated rural areas, compared with 10 in urban communities, according to independent studies of local health figures.
In very remote parts of the country, the figure is closer to 23, the studies say.
Data out of the state of Queensland are even worse, also indicating that the more remote the farmer, the higher the suicide risk.  

Williams then takes up that which differentiates what is happening in Australia from what is happening in other nations where farmers are experiencing higher rates of suicide:
[T]he crisis seems to be worsening at a time when, at least on paper, the [Australian] rural economy is quite robust.
* * * 
There is a painful irony here, they say, since Australia has embraced free trade in farm goods, and even pressed other nations to liberalize their markets, in the belief that agriculture is one of its most competitive industries. 
And Australian farm exports are growing: Last year, they totaled 44.8 billion Australian dollars, or $33.5 billion, up more than a fifth from just six years earlier, according to the National Farmers Federation. 
But many experts say the biggest beneficiaries are larger corporate farms. Family farms are less able to ride out fluctuations in far-flung global markets that can drive down prices of their crops while raising the cost of tractor fuel. 
 So, neoliberalism does a number down under, too.

As I hinted above, this story also includes important information on the dearth of services in rural Australia, and how mental health services are being delivered there--sometimes in innovative fashion.  The story is well worth a read in its entirety.                                                                         

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Failing to see childcare and transportation deficits in rural America

I blogged last week about the high-profile media attention being showered on a proposed Michigan law that would exempt counties with high unemployment (8.5% and above) from work requirements being imposed on Medicaid.  Then a related piece was published in the New York Times Upshot.  In "Which Poor People Shouldn't Have to Work for Aid?" Emily Badger and Margot-Sanger Katz quote Heather Hahn, a senior fellow in the Center on Labor, Human Services and Population at the Urban Institute.
The problem, Ms. Hahn and others say, is that geography captures just one kind of barrier to employment. “If you’re taking only the geography as the structure,” Ms. Hahn said, “it’s really overlooking the much more obvious racial structure.” African-Americans who face racial discrimination in the job market are more likely to have a hard time finding work. 
And people who can’t afford cars and live where public transit is inadequate have a harder time. So do the poor with criminal records, or those without a high school diploma, or people with problems securing child care.
Policies that exempt high-unemployment places, but not people who face other obstacles to work, selectively acknowledge barriers for only some of the poor. In effect, they suggest that unemployment is a systemic problem in struggling rural communities — but that in poor urban neighborhoods, it’s a matter of individual decisions.
They then quote David Super of Georgetown Law, who studies public benefits programs.    
The hardships of areas that have seen industry leave are very real; the hardships of rural areas that have had jobs automated away are real.
* * * 
But so are hardships that come from a lack of child care or transportation, he said. “It is troubling that one set of conditions are being taken seriously and another are being scoffed at.”
One thing both Hahn and Super seem not to realize is that public transportation and child care deficits are much more acute in rural communities than urban ones (a point made, with lots of data back up, in my 2007 piece on welfare reform as a mismtach for rural communities."  And the problem of criminal records looms large for the chronically unemployed in rural places, too.  Employers don't want to hire these folks, even when they're white.  (And I do acknowledge that the criminalization of poverty and the war on drugs have had a disproportionate impact on communities of color).

I agree that we should attend to all of these barriers to employment, but the "rural v. urban" and "black v. white" framing is divisive.  It echoes the "who's worse off" or "ranking of oppressions" frame that has become too common amidst the proliferation of identity politics.  It fails to seek common ground.  Which reminds me that today is the second Monday in the 40 days of action invoked by the revival of Martin Luther King, Jr., Poor People's Campaign.

Cross-posted to Working Class Whites and the Law.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

On the drug scourge in rural northern California--and state and local government responses (or lack thereof)

The New York Times reported recently about a drug scourge (heroin, opioids, fentanyl)  in Humboldt County, part of the state's Emerald Triangle, an area legendary for pot growing more than anything else in recent decades.  Jose A. Del Real reports:
The problem is exacerbated here in Eureka, the county seat, by a sizable homeless population that is growing amid an extreme lack of affordable housing and a changing, weakened economy that relies heavily on tourism. The combined ills have devastated a particularly vulnerable community that is often overlooked in the state. [Read more here and here].  Now those problems are spilling into public view, sparking grievances and anger among the town’s residents.
The opioid death rate here is five times higher than the state's average, and it rivals that of Vermont and Maine, where the issue has garnered far more attention.   

Del Real writes also of a controversial needle exchange program--a controversy driven in part because of appearances problems and the heavy reliance on tourism in the region.  He writes, too, of the struggle to provide services such as drug treatment in this remote and often forgotten part of the state.  Del Real quotes chief deputy coroner Ernie Stewart :
The state is failing miserably, and you can quote me on that.  The state is failing miserably across the board. They are not putting enough funding and resources toward rehabilitation.
Mike McGuire, the region's state senator estimates that between "500 and 700 residents of Humboldt and nearby Trinity and Del Norte counties are on a waiting list for opioid treatment services."  According to Marlies Perez, the chief of the California Department of Health Care Services’ Substance Use Disorder Compliance Division, however, local government officials often oppose treatment options in rural areas because of the stigma. Nevertheless
[t]he treatment provider Aegis is scheduled to assist in opening a center just outside Eureka by early 2019. The hub is meant to treat up to 200 patients and to serve as a center for smaller “spoke” centers in the region, including Del Norte and Trinity counties.
Stewart also observes that the rate of opioid abuse is dramatically underreported in the region--and that meth remains "king" there.   

Del Real paraphrases state senator Mike McGuire, who urges government leaders to expand rural resources, observing that "rural Californians are 'desperate' for more assistance." McGuire states:
Humboldt County is just a few hours up Highway 101, but as an individual travels further north on the highway, it’s like you take a step back in time. We need to step up to the plate and provide rural counties with the tools they need to combat this crisis.
Finally, Del Real's story takes up housing issues, initially quoting Stacy Cobine, who has been homeless in Eureka for decades.   
I don’t know why treatment and rehab and these services always have to come into play first.  If there was just affordable housing, people wouldn’t be using as much.
Again, however, local government and local residents appear to be part of the problem.  According to Sally Hewitt of the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services, the "inability to expand public housing options will make that far more difficult, particularly because of local resistance."  Because of state restrictions on the development of public housing, county officials "must largely deal with private landlords when seeking to house the homeless. Many of the landlords require potential tenants to have references, good credit and an income at least three times the cost of rent."

A somewhat related story was filed a few days ago by Elizabeth Zach with USC Annenberg's Center for Health Journalism.  Its dateline is Plumas County, California, and the gist is that some California counties are cooperating to deliver services in response to the opioid crisis--and it's working.  Plumas County has now brought its death rate--previously extremely  high in relation to the rest of the state--down to zero.  Here are some key excerpt from Zach's reporting on how the relatively new program works: 
The California Health Care Foundation started funding Opioid Safety Coalitions four years ago, so counties could combine opioid treatment resources. The nonprofit Center for Health Leadership and Practice, in cooperation with the foundation, has advised public health officials in 32 counties representing 24 coalitions and formed the umbrella group the California Opioid Safety Network.
* * * 
In 2015, health professionals in California’s northern Sierras formed the regional Northern Sierra Opioid Safety Coalition. The group aimed to curb the growing number of opioid-related deaths in four counties — Plumas, Lassen, Sierra and Modoc — and to expand access to treatment for those struggling with addiction. Its objective was three-fold: promote safer prescribing, increase access to naloxone, which can counteract the effects of an opioid overdose, and widen treatment options for addiction. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

John Kelly overlooks rural America--and Christopher Ingraham pounces

Christopher Ingraham, the uber urbanite turned rural refugee/transplant who writes for the Washington Post, dug into John Kelly, President Trump's Chief of Staff on Friday after Kelly spoke against the immigration of "overwhelmingly rural people" who would not "easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society."
Kelly also cited immigrants' education levels, English-language ability and general workplace skills as potential barriers to assimilation. But the choice of “rural” as a detriment for integration into modern society is an odd one, given that it applies to nearly 1 in 5 current residents of the United States. 
* * * 
While rural places account for 19.3 percent of the population, they make up 97 percent of the country's land area. Geographically speaking, the country is “overwhelmingly rural.” And in several states, including politically important ones, the rural population is much higher than 19 percent.
Ingraham's story is here.  The Kelly interview with NPR is here; you will see that its focus is not on the rural-urban divide or any rural issues.  Rather, it is on immigration more broadly, along with some other issues du jour.

Nevertheless, Ingraham picks up the rural torch:
More broadly, rurality remains a central part of American identity — wide-open spaces, amber waves of grain, mom and apple pie — in ways that population figures don't fully capture. In many quarters of the national political conversation, rural America still gets conflated with “real America.” 
All of this brings me to an issue I have explored elsewhere:  in what ways is the "rural" part(s) of a developing world country (often with majority of population) similar to the rural parts of America (with a shrinking minority of the population)?  Read some here and here.  In other words, does Ingraham's argument hold water?  Will rural folks from the developing world have an easy time integrating into America because America is roughly (less than!) a fifth rural?  But aren't rural Americans culturally highly marginalized?  Wasn't that a major lesson of the 2016 election?

Also, of what relevance is it if/that rural Americans are less tolerant of immigrants (those other rural people from elsewhere in the world) than are urban Americans?  That intolerance has been a common theme of much of the "race v. economy" speculation over the reasons for the rise of Trump, so is it fair for Ingraham to ignore it? Is it appropriate for Ingraham to invoke America's "rural-ness" in support of an argument for immigration from largely rural countries?