Tuesday, April 30, 2019

My Rural Travelogue (XXII): Back in rural (aging, white and gentrified) Maine after nearly a decade

I have spent the past few days in Maine, following the Maine Law Review's symposium on rural access to justice.  I'd thought seriously about heading up to "The County" (Aroostook), but my energy waned, and it's been easy just to hug the coast, which is so gorgeous and enticing. Plus, there is plenty of rural to see here, including as I passed the mid-coast area and up to what locals call "Down East," as far as Acadia National Park.   (Does "down" here mean south--in contrast to the far northern and inland parts of the state, such as Penobscot, Piscataquis and Aroostook counties?)

As I began this post and was trying to figure out what "number" it would be, I saw that my very first Rural Travelogue post, from 2008 (!) was about rural Maine--specifically the south coast area around Ogunquit.  I guess I had not quite figured out the photo thing at that point because the post doesn't feature any!  I'll try to make up for that with a few in this one.

Winnegance Bakery/Cafe/General Store
I headed out of Portland, Maine on Monday morning and persisted along Route 1 rather than traverse the first part of the journey along I-295, which my traffic app kept nudging me to do.  I thus saw the commercial areas of towns like Yarmouth and Falmouth en route to Bath, where I headed down the peninsula to Phippsburg, population 2,216, and eventually to Popham Beach, where remains of Popham Fort (which guarded the entrance to the Kennebec River dating back to Revolutionary War times) can still be explored.  (Interestingly, Phippsburg, like the Sagdahoc County seat of Bath, is part of the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford Metro area).  I'd planned to have lunch at one of the restaurants farthest south on the peninsula, like Spinney's which my guidebook told me is "open every day."  Turns out Spinney's, like so many service establishments in coastal Maine, is a seasonal establishment, which means that "every day" runs from May 1 (or so) 'til Labor Day.  (Also turns out that Spinneys, like a number of establishments I've seen in coastal Maine and in other rural parts of the United States, is for sale; this largely seasonal, service industry business looks rough).

As I worked my way back north on the peninsula, I stopped to take photos of lots of sights, including the Phippsburg school (looks like elementary only) and the town hall and fire station.  I'd already stopped at the Phippsburg Congregational Church and Phippsburg Library as I traveled south.  I took a photo also of the VFW/hunting club, too, which was somewhat more rustic than the other public buildings.

Regulars at Winnegance Bakery/Cafe/General Store
Driving toward Bath and passing through a wide spot in the road called Winnegance, I saw that the General Store/Restaurant/Bakery there was much busier (based on the number of cars in the slip of a "parking lot" out front) than it had been on my way south.  I also noticed that the establishment had gotten favorable mention from my guidebook, so I pulled in.

The place was nearly full, but I was able to grab a table near the door.  The largest table in the place was full of elderly white women--half a dozen or more, clearly local regulars.  Shortly after I arrived, a stooped elderly man, also white, arrived; they knew him and invited him to join them.  Several other patrons of the restaurant were also elderly and white, though a mixed race, multi-generational family and some motorcyclists were also there.  Still, I couldn't help think how this scene represented what I've repeatedly heard about Maine (from Mainers)--it's the oldest and whitest state in the nation, which is interesting because the public buildings tend also to be white ....  (Well, that's what people say--a quick Google search reveals that Vermont is "whiter" by a smidgen, and New Hampshire is third).
Winnegance Bakery/Restaurant/General Store
Had a great meal (salad with fresh hake and some incredible seafood chowder) before heading back to Highway 1 for my trek on up the coast.  Next stops, Wiscasset (Lincoln County, Sheepscot River), Waldoboro (Lincoln County, Medomak River), and Camden (Knox County).
View in front of Winnegance Bakery/Cafe/General Store

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Maine Law Review symposium: Ensuring Equal Access to Justice for Rural Maine

It was my great honor to participate in this symposium yesterday and today in Waterville, Maine, hosted by Colby College and Maine Law School.  A highlight was the inclusion of attorneys and judges from across Maine, including from remote places with exotic sounding names like Piscataquis County (population 17,000), Calais (population 3,123), and Presque Isle (population 9,078).  A photo of the participants in the panel on Ensuring Access to Justice in Maine's Rural Communities is shown here (with speakers from Presque Isle, Dover-Foxcroft, Camden and Fort Kent, and a moderator with Pine Tree Legal Services): 

Maine Law students who have been the beneficiaries of rural fellowships that have permitted them to work with practitioners in some of these rural communities were also present.  Sadly, that two-year rural fellowships program is coming to a close--in part because of a widespread sense that the Maine Law School does not deserve funding for such enterprises when it primarily educates students to work in Portland (the largest city, population about 65,000), where they earn hefty salaries.  Kudos to Maine Law Review editors Mac Walton and Hannah Wurgaft for putting together this really terrific event.  It was also edifying to see and meet audience members from around Maine, including non lawyers who simply care about their state.

Highlights from academic speakers included Maybell Romero's talk on race/ethnicity and prosecution in the mostly white state of Maine; Nicole Huberfeld's talk on rural health care delivery in relation to universal norms; and Hannah Haksgaard's talk on rural practice as public interest.   I believe that the video-recording of the entire conference will ultimately be available online. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

On rural nursing (and rural exceptionalism)

One of the five most emailed stories on the Washington Post website yesterday was this one about a state senator in Washington state (Maureen Walsh-R), who had said a few days earlier, in legislative debate, that nurses "probably play cards" at work.  That the part of the quote that made it into the WaPo headline, anyway.   Here's the lede for Allyson Chiu's story:
A Washington state senator apologized on Monday after drawing nationwide backlash for saying nurses in smaller hospitals “probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day” during their shifts.
State Sen. Maureen Walsh (R) made the comment last week while debating a bill that would give nurses uninterrupted meals and breaks at work and protect them from mandatory overtime. Walsh was arguing that hospitals in rural communities should be excluded from the measure because the requirements would place too much strain on those facilities.
Needless to say, I'm picking up on the story here because it is, in many ways, a rural story.  Walsh was taking up an issue sometimes taken up by legislatures, both state and federal:  should exceptions be made, as in the context of employment regulation, for small and/or rural institutions because they are under greater resource constraints?  (a related question is whether exceptions should be made for rural folks who have difficulty meeting work requirements for public benefits, something debated here and here).  We might call this rural exceptionalism, and one of most common settings in which it occurs is the exemption of agricultural enterprises from various employment protections, including child labor (read posts here and here). 

Another thing that is rural is the correlation between so-called "critical access hospitals" and rural.  When she put her foot in her mouth, Walsh was speaking about a particular subset of hospitals that have fewer than 25 beds.  Here's more from WaPo, including direct quotes from Walsh who, being from a rural area 200 miles from Olympia and served by a critical access hospital, might be more "understanding" of the challenges these hospitals face:
Walsh’s trouble began when the Senate convened last week to debate the bill and started with a discussion of an amendment that would exempt “critical access” hospitals, which usually have 25 beds or fewer in rural areas with small populations.
Regarding the bill, Walsh said: 
I understand helping with employees and making sure that we have rest breaks and things like that, but I also understand that we need to care for patients first and foremost.  I’m in an underserved area and all we’re doing is making it more difficult to be served. 
By putting these types of mandates on a critical access hospital that literally serves a handful of individuals, I would submit to you that those nurses probably do get breaks. They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.
Walsh concluded that these hospitals may not be able to survive if they have to comply with the bill. Walsh's statement triggered a national backlash on social media, but little if any of it (at least not what was featured in the Washington Post) acknowledged rural difference, purported or real.  Walsh subsequently apologized and explained: 
Again, I was simply trying to differentiate between the staffing needs of the small rural critical access hospitals with a handful of patients, versus the large urban hospitals with hundreds and hundreds of patients,” she said. “I have the greatest respect for nurses, for their hard work, tremendous compassion, and the excellent care they gave me when I ended up in the hospital last year.
Regarding her effort at rural exceptionalism, the Washington Post wrote:   
Walsh continued to justify her stance on why “small-town hospitals” should be exempt from the bill altogether, explaining that a number of critical access hospitals in the state “are already operating in the red,” and the legislation “will make them redder.”  

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Rural America is growing......but there's a caveat

In the years following beginning of the the Great Recession, much of rural America dealt with population loss. There is evidence however that this trend has started to reverse itself. For the second straight year, rural America has recorded population growth, largely driven by net positive in-migration. The growth is small, just 37,000, but it represents the reversal of the negative trajectory that dominated the early-mid 2010s. 

There is, however, a caveat to this finding. The counties that grew the most were either adjacent to metropolitan areas or home to recreational opportunities that would attract migrants, especially retirees. The most isolated rural pockets still recorded losses. As this map from The Daily Yonder illustrates, these population losses hit the most impoverished and disadvantaged areas of the country the hardest. For example, Appalachia and the Black Belt South are both home to counties that are continuing to depopulate. 

This map also tells a compelling story. You can look at it and see the depopulation of areas that have historically relied on industries that have since declined. In New England, Northern and Downeast Maine continue to experience population loss. In fact, Hancock County, home to Acadia National Park, is the only county in the Downeast region to gain in population, an illustration of the principle that recreational activities are a driver of population gain. Maine is one of only three states (along with Vermont and West Virginia) with a majority rural population so its rural communities are vital to the overall health of the state. The areas that have been hardest hit in Maine are those that have historically been reliant on fishing and logging. As these industries have declined, as have the fortunes of the towns that once supported them. The same is also true in West Virginia, which has historically been supported by the coal industry. In fact, the majority of counties in West Virginia lost population, an affliction that also affects neighboring and also formerly coal reliant eastern Kentucky. 

The map also tells another compelling story, the decline of the impoverished rural South and the region's continued struggles. I would be remiss if I did not mention that my native county, Robeson County, North Carolina, saw a decline of 759 people in the last year. Within this however is also a great illustration of the growth of metro adjacent areas. Just last month, the Robeson County Board of Education discussed shutting down my high school alma mater, South Robeson High School, because of the declining youth population in that section of the county. In making that decision, they noted the asymmetrical growth in the county, with the northern part of the county, which is metro adjacent with Fayetteville being just over the county line, experiencing growth and the more isolated southern part experiencing population loss. Despite the growth in the northern part of the county, Robeson has, for the past couple of years, been leading the way in population loss in North Carolina. Robeson County's population losses also fit into the broader trend of impoverished, rural Southern counties declining in population. In almost every Southern state, the impoverished counties are the ones that are losing population. 

This story illustrates a growing problem, the continued isolation of disadvantaged rural communities. While this study is an overall positive for rural America, it does contain some continuing and troubling trends. As the most impoverished and disadvantaged communities continue to experience population loss, it will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in those communities. Many of the most vulnerable people in these communities lack the resources to simply move to a new area to look for work and will be directly impacted by the consequences of a smaller population. For example, if property tax revenue declines, who will pay for schools? If skilled people are not moving to the area and are leaving, who will provide medical services? Legal services? As I have discussed in this space many times, there is an almost universal rural lawyer shortage and in many spaces, the bar is only aging. The potential impact of the continued decline of disadvantaged rural spaces could be dire for the most vulnerable in those spaces. 


Thursday, April 18, 2019

New report on law practice in rural New York, from Albany Law School

Taier Perlman of Albany Law School on Tuesday released a report on the state of rural legal practice in New York.  You can read the full report here.  Perlman's report, which is in a policy-brief type format, presents the findings of her survey of more than 900 lawyers in rural update New York.  What follows is cut and pasted from the press release:
While the shortage of legal services in rural communities is generally known, there is limited data on the extent and nature of the problem. This report aims to quantify the shortage of legal services in New York's rural counties. The data contained in the report will inform the work of policy makers, advocates, and bar associations. Additionally, attorneys can use it to determine market trends to build or expand their practices. 
The report is organized around three key issues identified in the survey: what rural practices are like; the nature of access-to-justice gaps in rural communities; and how rural practice and systemic burdens impact efficient delivery of legal services in rural New York counties.
The major findings include: 
  • Many rural attorneys are overwhelmed by volume of cases, financial stress, and limited resources, among many other rural practice burdens.
  • Rural practitioners have trouble finding qualified attorneys to refer cases to.
  • Over half the attorneys surveyed are at retirement age or are soon approaching it.
  • Several high-needs practice areas have a shortage of experts.
  • Rural practice involves unique challenges, including due-process issues related to non-attorney judges, inefficiencies in town justice courts, a lack of access to broadband, and a prevalence of indigent clients.
As the access-to-justice gap continues to grow in rural communities, the [Albany Law School] Government Law Center has produced this report to highlight this issue and inspire creative multi-stakeholder solutions. Additionally, this report implicitly spotlights the admirable public service of current rural attorneys who support their communities and clients under tremendous challenges.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Rural once again acknowledged by Pulitzer Prize winner

I was delighted when two "rural" newspapers/journalists (by some definition) won Pulitzer prizes in 2017.   Art Cullen of the Storm Lake Times (Iowa) won for editorial writing, and Eric Eyre of the Charleston Gazette-Mail won one for his investigative reporting on the opioid epidemic in West Virginia.  Now, Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has been awarded the Pulitzer for commentary for his reporting on Missouri's debtors' prisons (or, to be more precise, county jails functioning as debtors' prisons).  Here and here are the Post-Dispatch's stories about Messenger's win; the first link compiles the Tweets about each of the columns in the series.

Many of the jails Messenger featured in the series were in rural parts of the state, including St. Francois (population 66,520), Dent (population 15,593), and Caldwell (population 1,809) counties.  The first two are in the southeast part of the Show-Me State, but Caldwell is in the even more sparsely populated northwest region.  The Post-Dispatch summarizes the series thusly:  
Messenger found defendants across the state who had fulfilled their sentences and served out their paroles only to be saddled with thousands of dollars in “board bills” for the time they spent in jail.

He said he was inspired by the stories of “people who have been abused by the judicial system all over the state for decades and nobody cared.”
The story quotes Messenger:
It’s a story about how we treat people in our state.  It’s a story I’m going to keep telling.
As for the rural angle, the Post-Dispatch observed:
Messenger started writing about court costs and other criminal justice issues, often in small-town Missouri, in 2017. He has written more than 25 columns on the subject. His Pulitzer entry submitted 10, printed between Jan. 5 and Dec. 9, 2018.
One of those stories is from November, 2018, dateline Breckenridge, population 383, and it tells the tale of a man in his late 20s, married and with four children, who is still paying $50/month on a "board bill" for two nights he spent in jail for stealing a lawnmower when he was in high school.  What was initially an $80 bill eventually ballooned to more than $3,000. 
This is the reality for a lot of poor Missourians in rural parts of the state who end up on the wrong side of the law. Long after they’ve served their time and paid their fines, they end up tethered to the court system by private probation companies that have built-in financial incentives to find probation violations, and judges who are all too willing to serve as debt collectors. Pay the bill, or debtors prison awaits.

It is a problem that threatens the independence of the judiciary, says Lisa Foster, a former judge and Department of Justice official who is a co-director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center.

“The idea that you pay for the privilege to be in jail is absurd,” Foster says. “There should never be a charge for jail.” 
But what her co-director Joanna Weiss calls the “poverty penalty” is alive and well in many rural Missouri counties.
The Post-Dispatch coverage also quotes Michael Wolff, a retired Missouri Supreme Court chief justice and former dean of the St. Louis University School of Law, who supported Messenger's nomination, regarding the stories:
It is a rare and beautiful thing when solid reporting so shocks the legal system that change becomes inevitable.  Tony Messenger is making that kind of impact.
Recall that heavy fines and fees were part of the story of Ferguson, Missouri, a story that unfolded only after the police shot and killed Michael Brown.  Read some NPR reporting on the subject here.  Ferguson is metropolitan, a suburb of St. Louis.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Largest ever California poaching case wraps up in far north state

Here's the report from the Sierra Sun TimesThe case is out of Lassen County, California, population 34,895, and in particular the tiny community of Standish.   The 68-year-old defendant did the poaching on his 80-acre property. 
[He] pled guilty to crimes associated with poaching in excess of 150 raptors and other wildlife on his rural Lassen County property. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and given a $75,000 fine and five years of probation. Probation terms include full search authority, prohibitions on possessing firearms, hunting and fishing, and a requirement to obey all laws. The two firearms used during the commission of the crimes were ordered destroyed by the court.
Among the other dead wildlife found on the defendant's property were two bobcats and a mountain lion.  The remains were necropsied by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon.  The California Department of Fish and Wildlife prosecuted the case, with assistance from the California Department of Justice. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

On being a full country--or not (and what to do to help the less full places)

President Trump recently declared the nation "full" in relation to his attempt to stop immigration.  The New York Times took the opportunity of that declaration to explore and explain the parts of the country that are empty and, in fact, getting more empty.  That is, the Upshot brought us an interactive map showing which counties are losing population and how dramatic the loss is, particularly with regard to the prime working-age population (ages 25-54).  Nearly half of Americans live in a county where the demographic slice has shrunk in the last decade.

Here's an excerpt from the story that calls out "rural."
In smaller cities and rural areas, demographic decline is a fundamental fact of life. A recent study by the Economic Innovation Group found that 80 percent of American counties, with a combined population of 149 million, saw a decline in their number of prime working-age adults from 2007 to 2017. 
Population growth in the United States has now hit its lowest level since 1937, partly because of a record-low fertility rate — the number of children born per woman. The United States increasingly has population growth rates similar to slow-growing Japan and Western Europe, with immigration partly offsetting that shift.
Then City Lab yesterday published this by Richard Florida under the headline, "How Heartland Visas Could Reduce Geographic Inequality."   Here's an excerpt of the part(s) that is most closely related to the "emptiness" of rural America--also known as spatial inequality.
A new report by economist Adam Ozimek of Moody’s Analytics and Kenan Fikri and John Lettieri of the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) takes a closer look at the extent of America’s geographic divide and the factors that are driving it. But instead of stopping there, it also suggests a strategy for addressing it. To bolster the economies of struggling cities and regions, the authors’ proposed solution is placed-based visas (or “heartland visas”), which would effectively channel immigrants to the left-behind places that opt into the program.
* * *

Historically, the U.S. has seen economic and demographic convergence as people moved to areas of greater opportunity. But as a growing body of research documents, such convergence has slowed in recent years; instead, the economic fortunes of the coasts and the heartland have been diverging.

In fact, America now has a dual pattern of migration. There are relatively high rates of mobility for more educated and skilled people, while less skilled, less highly educated citizens are increasingly stuck in place. (I recently called attention to this growing divide between the mobile and the stuck.)
 * * *
Heartland visas are not a panacea for all the myriad problems of struggling places. Many of these places lack research universities or global connectivity or other factors that are required for growth. And many of them have failed to develop the strategy to harness their assets and address the challenges they face. 
That said, creating incentives that would redirect high-skilled immigrants from established tech centers to less dynamic regions of the country could help spur growth in lagging places while taking some of the pressure off the already unaffordable housing markets of leading hubs.

From the culture department: "Old Town Road" and what gets to be "country music"

The New York Times reported recently on the controversy surrounding Lil Nas X's hit, "Old Town Road," which it describes thusly:
For its first 25 seconds, “Old Town Road” could be any other rural lament, a lonely howl delivered over a plucked ukulele. It’s only when the trap drums kick in and the vocals change from singing to quasi-ironic rapping that the song’s true intentions come to the fore. It’s a genre-hybrid exercise — a hip-hop song with country-themed subject matter, partly rapped and partly sung in an exaggerated honky-tonk accent — and also a comedy sketch. The way Lil Nas X overaccentuates his vowels and makes them wobble is a caricature of stoic drawl, and when he raps “cowboy hat from Gucci, Wrangler on my booty,” it’s both confident boast and funny fantasy.
Read Jon Caramanica's feature for the "rest of the story," which includes this explicit link b/w rural and race--specifically, whiteness:
For decades, Nashville has essentially framed and marketed the rural experience as white — despite and in defiance of the deep black roots of country music. So when an artist like Lil Nas X — who is black, and raps, and is from Atlanta, with no ties to the country music business — lays claim to rural aesthetics, even in a way that’s partly tongue in cheek, it causes real disruption.
Another controversy over the relationship  between race and country music, this one from spring of 2013, is here.

I'm also reminded of some of the commentary around Kacey Musgrave from a few years ago (alluded to in the Caramanica piece), as well as in the immediate run up to and in the wake of her win for Album of the Year at the 2019 Grammy Awards.  Apparently Kacey has not always been widely accepted as a country musician.  I wonder how much that has changed at all since her big Grammy wins this year.

And while we're on the subject of Kacey Musgrave, don't miss this story about how women over the age of 40 are disadvantaged in the world of country music.  (Indeed, I'd argue that they are disadvantaged everywhere ...)  Good thing for Musgrave that she's only 30.

N.B.  Caramanica's story is the cover story of the Arts and Entertainment Section of the April 21, 2019 New York Times, accompanied by this related story and a feature about/interview with Shannon Houchins, "a producer and executive who has been spreading the country-rap gospel since the late 1990s."

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Prof. Lawrence Summers on rural America (last fall)

Chris Arnade and Sarah McCammon were just commenting on Twitter about this op-ed/essay by Lawrence Summers in the Financial Times last fall.  Summers is, of course, a former president of Harvard University (where he now merely a professor) and a former economics advisor to President Barack Obama.  Here's a screen shot of the McCammon/Arnade Tweet.


Like Arnade and McCammon, apparently, I missed this when it first ran, but it's well worth some attention for what it says about Summers' ignorance of rural America--before and, to some extent it seems, after--a road trip he and his wife took from Chicago to Portland last fall.  He notes that they drove only on two-lane roads and that the "larger cities" they passed through included Dubuque, Iowa (population 57,637); Cody, Wyoming (population 9,520) and Bozeman, Montana (population 46,596, and a rather dramatic example of "rural gentrification," I might add).

Some excerpts follow with a focus on two themes of the essay:  emptiness and remoteness. 
Driving across America, as opposed to looking down from a plane, makes clear how much of this vast country is uninhabited.
* * *  
Much of the land we saw was not only uninhabited but also seemed put to little economic use — valleys too arid to farm or even to support ranching; mountain ranges too rugged (vulnerable to snow or falling rock or fire) to support year round economic activity. We drove past some romantic ghost towns but more abandoned caf├ęs, gas stations and hotels.
(As for the abandoned cafes, gas stations and hotels, I must say I have noticed many such businesses for sale in recent years as I have driven through the more rural parts of far northern California/the would-be State of Jefferson).
We were also struck by how remote the concerns of the coasts seemed. TVs in bars and restaurants were rarely turned to news channels. No one seemed terribly concerned with the controversy over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. We saw 15 roadside signs opposing abortion for every other political sign of any kind.
The focus on the emptiness of the land and local concerns reminds me, at least in tone, of this from a Princeton University professor in fall, 2017, marveling that timber and timber production matter in the places with which she is unfamiliar/just learning about.  And here's another post based on wide-eyed tourism into rural America, though the conclusions drawn here are more positive (if also a bit pollyanna).

I suppose the Summers essay also just reflects an economist's way of seeing things:  that which is not productive is not worthy or worthwhile, though an argument could be made that this very emptiness is part of what attracts some folks to remote places.  It is also part of what attracts tourists to the West, another phenomenon that seems to surprise Summer as worthy of note.

I'm thinking this essay was only published by the Financial Times because, well, it was written by Prof. Summers. 

I'm also thinking about the ways in which this piece sheds light on what Harvard's leadership knows of rural America and therefore how it values (or not) rural students, a topic of this post from last fall.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Democratic candidates ignore California's Central Valley in campaign

The Sacramento Bee reports today on the campaign stops of Democratic presidential hopefuls--or, more precisely, it reposts on where they are not stopping:  California's Central Valley.  Here's an excerpt from Bryan Anderson's story:
Democratic presidential candidates are making their way to California. A dozen of them have visited the state a combined 38 times, and there is no shortage of trips on the horizon.

But in their efforts to woo voters from the most populous state in the country, Democrats have largely ignored the Central Valley — a region with 6.5 million people and five large cities. 
A Sacramento Bee analysis shows none of the 16 declared candidates have held a rally in the valley. Instead, they’ve flocked to wealthier, urban communities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. California Sen. Kamala Harris became the first viable candidate to visit the region when she held a fundraiser in Sacramento Monday night. 
While it’s early in the 2020 election cycle and candidates need to find places with plenty of big-dollar donors, lawmakers, political experts and local activists warn it would be a mistake to continue dismissing the Central Valley.
Anderson quotes Michael Evans, chair of the Fresno County Democratic Party:
Historically, when Democrats have come to the area, they’ve just treated us as an ATM. We hoped moving the Democratic primary up to March, that there’d be more attention to the Central Valley and to our needs. That hasn’t seemed to happen yet. ... With 20 Democrats running, we ought to get one of them.
The only candidate with a Fresno visit scheduled is Julian Castro, who will speak to donors, but not hold a rally, on May 3.