Thursday, May 28, 2009
Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part XXV): Woman sentenced to 25 years for killing husband in domestic dispute
This week's news report indicates that the woman, who was initially charged with first-degree murder, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, for which she was sentenced to 10 years. She was also initially charged with a "felony with firearm" sentence enhancement, which was not amended by the prosecution and thereby adds an additional 15 years to her total sentence, which will be served in the Arkansas Dept. of Corrections. The story does not indicate when she will be eligible for parole, nor does it indicate (of course) who will care for the couple's minor children. It's difficult to assess the appropriateness of this sentence without knowing more, but it strikes me as rather harsh under the circumstances reported.
In other front-page crime news, the paper reports that the county jail is still operating "pending action to close it by the state attorney general." Read more here. In April, 64 "inmate days" cost $386 for meals. The Sheriff's report also indicates that the office investigated 8 felony cases and 31 misdemeanors in April. The total miles patrolled were 12,760.
Another front-page story reports that the Arkansas State Police are joining with other law enforcement agencies to "buckle down on motorists not buckling up." The story indicates that the effort "is being supported by an $8 million national paid advertising campaign." It does not indicate the fine amount or other penalty for not wearing a seatbelt.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
The point of Collins' column is that Manhattanites (those in New York, that is, as opposed to those in Manhattan, Montana) have proven far less squeamish about having terrorists housed and tried on their tiny island than have some rural and frontier states. (She doesn't mention the reaction out of Kansas to the possibility that the Gitmo prisoners might go to Fort Leavenworth, but you can listen to an NPR interview with the Kansas governor here.) In doing so, Collins articulates the rural-urban dichotomy in an interesting way: "The nation, as we all know, is divided into crowded states and empty states, and I was always under the impression that folks in the empty places were particularly brave and self-reliant."
In making her point about Montana being an "empty" state, Collins provides this background on Hardin, Montana, population 3,384, which is the county seat of Big Horn County.
Unemployment is rife. “You go look at our downtown, there’s many closed businesses ... you’ll see drunks laying in the street. It’s not a pretty sight,” the head of the town’s economic development authority told National Public Radio. The town built a $27 million, 464-bed prison under the theory that other parts of the state would pay to have Hardin look after their problem residents. But it’s been empty since it was declared open for business nearly two years ago, and the construction loans are in default.So, it seems, Hardin is one of many rural places that hitched its economic fortunes to the (mostly rural) prison-building boom. (Read more here and here). But the return on their investment hasn't been what they anticipated, and now their U.S. Senators are undermining their bid to help themselves.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
The entire story is a must read, including some fascinating anecdotes that illustrate the culture clash that (inevitably) follows from such arrangements ...
They come armed with little more than soft hands and dog-eared copies of Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” which takes a dim view of industrial agriculture.A few hope to run their own farms. Others plan to work on changing government food policy. Some are just looking for a break from the rigors of academia. But whatever the reason, the interest in summer farm work among college students has never been as high, according to dozens of farmers, university professors and people who coordinate agricultural apprenticeships.
Opposition focuses mainly on one formula: 1,000 people per square mile. This is the bill’s definition of urban.
In communities that fit that description, developers would no longer have to pay if local roads could not handle the impact of their projects. The law would also let individual municipalities or counties designate areas for large-scale development — an outlet mall, a sprawling subdivision — without being subject to regional planning boards that currently analyze how such plans would affect communities nearby.
Prior to Liles' hiring in 2004, the only law enforcement officers in the county were the sheriff and his few deputies, along with a sole Arkansas Highway Patrol officer. The story indicates that the city will hire a new officer in October, though it doesn't explain the wait, which may be attributable to budget considerations. I have no idea how the tiny city of Jasper pays for an officer's salary and expenses -- perhaps a mill levy, perhaps federal funds, maybe both. Jasper, population 498, is the county seat of Newton County, population 8,608.
The other front page stories this week basically reproduce company press releases:
- FNBGF celebrating 78th anniversary (that's First National Bank of Green Forest)
- Jasper Dollar Genderal grand opening is Saturday. I have no idea why a grand opening is being celebrated since this store has been in Jasper for several years.
Finally, a photo and caption depict and discuss the planting of a tree in memory of a former county resident. The tree has been planted on the courthouse law. The final line of the caption provides some perspective on the item: "The month of May is the traditional month for decorations, cemetery beautification and reunions in Newton County."
Back to crime, however, a story on the back page of the (8-page) paper reports that several counterfeit $100 bills have been passed in the Piercetown area that the Sheriff's office is investigating, in collaboration with the U.S. Secret Service.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
First, under Mrs. Gandhi’s leadership, the Congress-led coalition homed in on the rural poor. During its first term, buoyed by robust economic growth, it used record government revenues to increase social spending, not just raising health and education budgets, but also starting an ambitious public works program in the countryside and a costly loan repayment waiver for farmers.Now, according to some commentators, Ms. Ghandi, the 62-year-old, Italian-born widow of Rajiv Ghandi, is in a position to become prime minister if she wished. More likely, experts on Indian politics say, her soon Rahul, age 38, will soon get that job.
Read other blog posts about the rural-urban divide in India here and here.
In the near future (c. 2012), however, an expressway--complete with bridge--is to be completed to link Fayette County to the rest of the region, including Washington County. Yet residents are resistant to give up the local ferry, known as "Fred," which they have relied on for years. Here's an excerpt that includes a quote from a local resident:
Another local woman, age 62, states that she won't take the bridge once it's finished. Of Fred, she says, "I’d love to see it continue. It’s just been such a big part of my life.”
For most of Fred’s loyal passengers, the familiar red-and-white steel shell has become as much a part of the valley as the river itself. For a region that has seen mines and factories shut and residents and stores leave in their wake over the last 40 years, Fred has become a cause to hold onto.
“It’s the big conversation here all the time now,” said Cheryl Ann Boone, a bartender at Bower Brothers Lounge, a restaurant that sits near the entrance to the ferry in Fredericktown. “It’d be terrible to shut it down. It’s a landmark here, and we’ve lost so much already over the years.”
Meanwhile, a county commissioner for Washington County, which like Fayette County has long subsidized the ferry, states: “It’s a quaint little artifact that we have in Washington County, and we’re proud of it ... But how much can you spend on quaintness?”
The story notes the role of the federal government in all of this. First, the federal government is presumably financing the new expressway and bridge, which are likely to displace the ferry. Second, the federal government has set aside almost $1 million to refurbish or replace the ferry. That same county commissioner states:
[He] started wondering about the ferry’s future in December, when the counties formally accepted a $970,000 federal grant to pay for most of a renovation or replacement for Fred. ... People say, ‘Well, the money has been obligated, why not spend it?’ But I’m not cavalier about spending money ... . We might be spending $1 million to overhaul an operation that might have a life expectancy of three years.After all of the obloquy (and rural bashing?) associated with that Alaska bridge near Ketchikan--for which Sarah Palin rejected that federal money, leading to a heyday among politicians--I am surprised no one has pejoratively referred to this bridge (as they did to the Alaska bridge) as one "to nowhere."
Saturday, May 16, 2009
The loss of the featured dealership there, in relatively densely populated New England, means that residents will have to travel only about 20 minutes to reach another Chrysler/Jeep dealership. However, the story reports a much greater impact on the town in terms of its loss of a significant community presence for purposes of charity sponsorships and civic engagement.
Another NPR story, this one by Martin Kaste, discussed the rural angle explicitly, also noting that many closing dealerships have been pillars of their community. Yet here is an excerpt from Chrysler's bankruptcy filing that mentions the downsides to rural dealerships:
"Many rural locations also served a diminishing population of potential consumers. Some dealership facilities became outdated. Other locations faced declining traffic count and declining populations."On the other hand, another NPR report quoted had GM officials regarding the importance of their rural market base.
Read here and here earlier blog posts about the issue of struggling car dealerships in rural America.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
It is the source of this woman's knowledge that suggests a rural lack of anonymity. How curious that the woman who kept this secret--perhaps a nurse at the hospital, perhaps a towns-person who saw the family resemblances (or lack thereof)--came forward only so many years on, after the women could meet their biological parents.
Both women were born on May 3, 1953, the only births that day in tiny Pioneer Memorial Hospital in rural Heppner, Ore. Both grew up happily, got married, raised children and now have grandchildren.Then, last summer, say friends and family members, an elderly woman who knew the families of both women long ago made a call to [one of the women's] brother. The woman, who has not been identified, had news she felt she had to share as her life neared its end and the younger women’s parents had already died.
The story also discusses how the UC Davis School of Medicine is training doctors willing to serve rural areas and partnering with health care providers like this one to practice telemedicine, which permits "rural patients access to urban specialists through video conferences."
In addition to the wide-ranging medical care, the clinic serves as the community library and has become the de facto town hall for the communities of Round Mountain, Montgomery Creek, Ingot and Hillcrest.
"We are the only game in town for several square miles," Dorroh [the center's CEO] said. "This is where the community turns to."
The center had a humble start in 1985 in a double-wide trailer. That and a second double wide added later were destroyed – along with most of the community – in the 1992 Fountain fire.
On June 19, the surrounding community of 4,600 is expected to celebrate the grand opening of the sparkling expansion, which has received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in Washington, D.C..
In addition, Fletcher's story notes that the center's expansion is intended to accommodate growth, as Round Mountain and environs are increasingly exurban to Redding, population 88,954.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Read Ed Fletcher's full story here.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
The article is accompanied by various graphics, which depict at a glance the 10 states with the highest rate of aid receipt and the 10 states with the lowest rate of aid receipt for six different categories of federal assistance: welfare, unemployment, housing assistance, food stamps, health insurance for poor adults, and health insurance for poor children. It reveals inconsistencies: Western states are occasionally at both extremes--sometimes home to the highest percentages of those receiving benefits, but more often home to the the lowest percentages of recipients.
Experiences in South Dakota, Idaho, and Wyoming are illustrative of the contradiction. The rate of receipt of unemployment benefits in South Dakota is the lowest in the nation, at 19%, while the rate of receipt for housing assistance there is the highest, at 45%. For the prior designation, South Dakota is accompanied by its similarly sparsely populated neighbor, North Dakota, but also by Colorado, which has grown rapidly in recent years. At the high end for receipt of unemployment benefits, on the other hand, are Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Alaska, along with Arkansas and states widely known to be hard hit during this recession: Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Housing assistance, on the other hand, is highest in South Dakota and Wyoming in the West, but lowest in 9 other Western states and Florida. Other states with high rates of housing assistance are mostly in South and Appalachia, areas widely associated with poverty: Kentucky, West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Wyoming and Idaho are in the bottom 10 states for receipt of both welfare and food stamps. But many in Idaho get unemployment benefits, and Wyoming is one of the top states for residents' receipt of housing assistance.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
It seems that the Postmaster General was swayed by lobbying from Idaho's congressional delegation. Among other points they made: $46K in savings from canceling this service won't make much of a dent in the $6 billion budget deficit the postal service is facing.
Berkes quotes one resident of the Idaho area whose mail delivery has been saved as pointing out, "If Idaho was canceled, who was next? What about all of the nonprofitable rural mail delivery in America?"
Friday, May 8, 2009
When legislatures convened this year, lawmakers in more than 30 states set out to send Washington a blunt message: back off. Frustrated by federal policies like the bank bailout and rules allowing wolves to prowl the West, they drafted so-called sovereignty resolutions, aggressive interpretations of states’ rights outlined in the Tenth Amendment.But as state legislative sessions are coming to a close, only four have passed sovereignty measures: Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota. All are rural by many measures.
Here's a great quote from an Idaho legislator about the catch-22 in which such states found themselves in the current economic climate, with stimulus dollars at stake:
“The stimulus money created a problem for us with the sovereignty thing,” said JoAn Wood, a Republican who is chairwoman of the House Transportation and Defense Committee in Idaho, which has overseen some legislative action on the stimulus money. “We’d like to stand on principle.”
Voters in November approved a 1/2 cent sales tax increase for the construction of the jail, but they did not approve a companion increase for the cost of maintaining the facility. Nevertheless, the Newton County Quorum Court has adopted a resolution authorizing the issues of $1.5 million in capital improvement bonds to finance all or part of the construction costs. The sales tax to re-pay the bonds, with interest, went into effect on May 1, 2009. Initially, the county envisaged raising $2.7 million to construct the jail, and the reports cites "state law and the current economy are factors" as reasons for the reduction.
In unrelated news, a glossy 4-color insert in this week's paper promotes Arkansas tourism. The prior two issues of the paper have featured an insert (also 4-color but on newsprint) promoting tourism in Newton County.
My post about Brokaw's piece is here.
There's lots of other good stuff on the Yonder this week, including this story about both political parties' responses to the recession's impact on rural places and their proposals regarding what government should do about it.
I note in particular this action by the GOP:
Last week House Republicans announced a new group composed of 15 Republican House members that will address rural issues. The Rural America Solutions Group will “focus on solutions that create jobs and economic opportunities as well as address the unique challenges rural communities face,” according to a press release.An earlier post about the Democrats' efforts on behalf of rural communities is here.
The group is taking President Obama to task for failing to deliver on a campaign promise to hold a rural issues summit in the first 100 days of his administration.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I suppose you could say it is in good company, as the other WSU programs that will likely be cut are theatre and dance, German, and sports management.
The Dept. of Community Studies at UC Santa Cruz is apparently also on the chopping block. As one rural sociologist commented in an email relaying this news, it is somewhat shocking that even long-standing and prestigious rural sociology programs are so vulnerable.
Monday, May 4, 2009
The movie is based on the story of Regina Kelley, a woman caught up in a misguided drug raid that took place in Hearne, Texas, about 120 miles north of Houston. More than two dozen public housing residents — most of them black — were arrested and charged with selling cocaine.After viewing the film, one African-American resident of Hearne commented, "Maybe now, people will open their eyes to what's going on in these smaller towns."
As national civil rights organizations got involved, it became clear that the arrests were based on tips from an unreliable informant — a drug addict. Most of the charges were dropped. A civil-rights lawsuit followed.
Hearne's population is 4,690. It is in Robertson County, which has a population of16,000.
Most of all, friends say, Justice Souter can be an ordinary guy here, amid others who are not besotted with the fast track, the high life or material goods. In New Hampshire, where reticence is a virtue, he can blend back into the citizenry without a hitch.Goodnough quotes a lawyer friend of Souter's, who hikes with him: “But David has got a real love for the people and the land and the simple things here. I’m not sure I know a lot of people who are more connected to a place than he is. It’s a very strong, kind of visceral feeling that he has.”
This quote certainly suggests the sort of attachment to place often associated with rurality, though Souter was born in neighboring Massachusetts and moved here at the age of 11. Not only has he lived off and on in Washington, DC, since he was elevated to the Supreme Court almost two decades ago, he lived in the city while attending Harvard University for both his undergraduate and law studies. Nevertheless, by all accounts Souters much prefers this corner of New Hampshire, whether because it's rural, because it's New England, because it's home--or all of the above.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
But the story is not only about the complexities of jurisdiction. It is also a window into law enforcement challenges in rural contexts. By way of illustration of the paucity of law enforcement in Indian country, the story notes that "the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which straddles North and South Dakota, had five Bureau of Indian Affairs officers to patrol an area the size of Connecticut." It also reports that tribes are increasingly using revenues raised from casino operations to establish and enhance their own criminal justice systems, e.g., police, prosecutors, courts. In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs helps finance such tribal law enforcement efforts, most recently with $85 million in a March, 2009, appropriations bill. (Another $500 million in the February, 2009, stimulus bill went to Indian Health Services, which will pay for, among other things, rape kits). Nevertheless, what tribal law enforcement can accomplish is limited by the jurisdiction accorded them, and the ability of tribal police to do their job is sometimes complicated because of a lack of certainty over where Indian country ends and U.S. territory begins, particularly in rural locales.
This brings me to the principal point of the NPR story--that Congress is considering a law that would permit tribal police to arrest anyone who commits a crime on Indian land. The Tribal Law and Order Act would also give police departments and sheriff's offices grants for cooperating with tribal police and cross-deputizing officers.
Read an earlier related post about jurisdiction and sexual assaults against American Indian women here. Read my article, "Place Matters: Domestic Violence and Rural Difference" here. The latter includes a section on the particular issues confronting American Indian victims of intimate abuse.