Tuesday, March 31, 2009

So, North Dakota matters after all?

Read Monica Davey's story in the NYT about federal assistancein the run up to (and presumably wake of) the Red River flooding over this past week. Here is a fun excerpt about how the city drew up an evacuation plan with no intention of ever using it:

The idea of abandoning those efforts [to build up dikes and earthen walls]— just as the big test was approaching — was not negotiable for many residents, who were needed to monitor and reinforce the dikes even as the river crested.

“The process for the entire United States is not the same as it is for Fargo, N.D.,” the mayor said. “You have to know Fargo.”

(Some city leaders say they have a slogan to remember this flood by, something they envision printing on T-shirts soon: Spirit of Fargo: Evacuation is not an option.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Finally, a mention of rural areas affected by the Red River flood

This story just posted to the New York Times website discusses not only Fargo and Grand Forks, North Dakota, as well as Winnipeg, Manitoba, but also actually mentions rural areas affected by Red River flooding. In particular, the story is about new issues and threats raised by a snow storm now moving into the area.

Here's the lede to Kirk Johnson and Monica Davey's story:
A major snow storm that is expected to hit the Dakotas Monday night and into Tuesday is not expected to exacerbate flood worries or significantly raise water levels in the still-swollen Red River, emergency officials here said Monday. But the storm could create havoc on many other levels as Fargo and the rural areas around it struggle to find a pathway back to normal life.
And here is another brief excerpt mentioning rural places:
Paul D. Laney, the sheriff of Cass County, which includes the city of Fargo, urged residents, especially those in some rural areas where travel has already been difficult because of flooding, to think hard about whether they wanted to ride out the snow storm or evacuate Monday morning before the snow starts.
This comment highlights the challenges of physical spatial isolation for rural communities and their residents, particularly in the context of natural disasters. (Other examples of these challenges are discussed here and here).

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part XX): Sheriff's office upgrades equipment, jail still in use

The February 26, 2009 and March12, 2009, issues of the Newton County Times awaited my return from spring break, and they bring both good and bad news out for law enforcement officials there. The good news is in the February paper, which features the headline, "N.C.S.O. first to use digital radios." N.C.S.O. stands for the Newton County Sheriff's Office, and the story reports that the office is the first in the state to "cease transmitting radio signals and convert to the latest digital radio technology." The Sheriff is quoted: "Finally, Newton County is first in a positive way." The story further credits Sheriff Keith Slape with securing federal grant funds to finance purchase of the $26,000 Motorola system. The system also has a GPS feature that tracks the location of officers.

The bad news, if you will, is reported in the March 12 paper. There the headline is "Jail housed 25 inmates in February." The story notes that the jail is functioning under the watch of state Jail Standards officials. Read more about the county's jail travails here, collecting links. Other metrics for February are listed in the story:

Total inmate days: 83
Total cost: $343.50
Felony case files: 25
Total miles driven: 14,539
Total gallons of fuel used: 1,022.7
Money turned over to circuit court: $1,512.69
Money turned over to district court: $20,033.19
Citations issued: 99
Warrants served: 22
Number of outstanding warrants: 103
Amount outstanding warrants: $110,865.46

In other non-crime related stories:
  • "Gardening strategies for economic problems" reports on a program of the Newton County Extension Office that encourages residents to plant vegetable gardens to lower their food costs.
  • "Storm recovery recapped" is about the local electric cooperative's handling of the late January ice storm.
  • "Schools adding lifetime sports to list of extracurricular activities" is about local schools' adoption of Arkansas Game and Fish Commission shooting sports programs.
  • "County addressing, mapping proposed" tells of a visit from the Arkansas Geographic Information Office advocating a uniform physical addressing system for the county. Such a system would facilitate delivery of "modern services" such as parcel and mail delivery, as well as "enhanced emergency 9-1-1 telecommunications."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Rural community in the face of tragedy

News is just breaking of the deaths of 8 persons in a shooting this morning at a North Carolina nursing home. The facility is in Carthage, population 1,871. I was struck by how rurality and stereotypes of rural community are reflected in the following quotes from Carthage residents, as reported in the New York Times.
“This doesn’t happen in Carthage, this is brand new to us,” said Carol Sparks, the town manager. “Everybody right now is in a state of shock. I am too.”
* * *

“This is a tiny little town ... . Its 2,000 people. Everybody knows everybody. So we’re just running around, trying to figure out what we can do to help.”

* * *

“This is a small community built on faith and faith will get us through,” said Chris McKenzie, chief of Carthage police.
A report in the 30 March 2009 issue of the New York Times indicates that a sole police officer responded to an emergency call from the nursing home after the gunman entered and began firing. The officer, who was wounded, was the only officer on duty in Carthage that morning.

My Rural Travelogue (Part X): Central Kentucky

A few days ago, I drove Hwy 52 from Richmond, Kentucky to near Harrodsburg, passing through Paint Lick, which is not even a Census Designated Place. As I drove through this part of Central Kentucky, I was struck by the distribution of homes and farms across the landscape. There seemed to be fewer of the tiny centers of commerce, with post offices, that we had seen a day or two earlier as we traversed West Virginia. So, it was odd to come across the narrow bridge over a river that separates Madison (population 70,872) and Garrard (population 14,792) counties and find myself in the middle of Paint Lick with all of a half dozen commercial buildings. On one side of the street was the community center, so identified by some hand-made signs pointing upstairs in what appeared otherwise to be a vacant building; a tiny medical clinic; a U.S. Post Office sharing a building with a barber shop; and an auto mechanic. On the other side of the street, in a somewhat better kept building, was a bank. I didn't note the bank's name, but it was a hive of activity at about 9:15 am when we passed through. How odd, I thought, for such a tiny place to have such an active bank--indeed, to have a bank at all. I assumed it was a branch of a larger bank based, perhaps, in the county seat.

When I saw this story in yesterday's New York Times, it reminded me of the bank I'd seen in Paint Lick, and the role that bank must play in its community. Shaila Dewan writes in her story, under the headline, "A Small Town Loses a Pillar: Its Only Bank," of the federal take-over of a bank in Gibson, Georgia, population 694, 120 miles east of Atlanta. Among Dewan's observations: "Elderly people, used to cruising over in their golf carts to make a deposit, fretted about driving 14 miles to the nearest bank." Her story is worth a read also because of its description of how the bank operated for years as a strictly local, family-owned institution, making loans to folks based on their reputation, often without collateral. But that was all before an Atlanta mortgage lender bought the bank in 2000, a transaction that ultimately led to its demise, a casualty of the mortgage crisis.

In any event, reading this story made me wonder what the folks in Paint Lick would think (and do) if they lost their bank, a physical anchor--and surely also a symbolic one--in their tiny community.

Timber-based economies adjust in the face of green concerns

The story by William Yardley in today's New York Times is headlined, "Loggers Try to Adapt to Greener Economy," and the dateline is Lowell, Oregon, population 857. The lede notes the rural implications:
Booming timber towns with three-shift lumber mills are a distant memory in the densely forested Northwest. Now, with the housing market and the economy in crisis, some rural areas have never been more raw.
Mills have closed, and unemployment approaches 20% in some counties. But, as Yardley notes, there is optimism--optimism based on a shift to green opportunities.
Some people who have long fought to clear-cut the region’s verdant slopes are trying to reposition themselves for a more environmentally friendly economy, motivated by changing political interests, the federal stimulus package and sheer desperation.
Read more here, and view the accompanying slide show here.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

More on the Obamas' urbanicity in the NYT

Here's an excerpt from Rachel Swarns' story, which appeared in the Thursday Style section of the New York Times.
The Obamas, after all, are city people, former community organizers who have long felt at home in the urban landscape. Mr. Obama is the first president since Richard M. Nixon to be elected while living in a city neighborhood, in his case, Chicago’s racially and economically diverse Hyde Park. And the Obamas are now eager to explore the city beyond the White House walls.
Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to Obama offered this comment: “They want their lives not to be confined solely to the White House but rather to become a part of the urban, vibrant fabric of D.C.”

I have commented previously about the media's focus on the urban-ness of Obama. See one post here, which links to older ones.

Using the internet to link consumers to farmers

The phenomenon is called Find Your Food, and you can read about it in this story by Brad Stone and Matt Richtel in today's New York Times. Here's an excerpt:
The underlying idea, broadly called traceability, is in fashion in many food circles these days. Makers of bananas, chocolates and other foods are also using the Internet to create relationships between consumers and farmers, mimicking the once-close ties that were broken long ago by industrialized food manufacturing.
* * *
Beginning this month, customers who buy [Stone-Buhr's] all-purpose whole wheat flour in some Wal-Mart, Safeway and other grocery chains can go to findthefarmer .com, enter the lot code printed on the side of the bag, and visit with the company’s farmers and even ask them questions.
This seems to be another example of how our nation's new-found interest in food and in our agrarian past might also garner interest in rural people and places.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A food revolution? If so, what will it mean for rural America?

Don't miss Andrew Martin's story in the New York Times, one of the most popular stories on nytimes.com more than 48 hours after it first appeared. The headline: "Is a food revolution now in season?"

It cites some evidence that such a revolution is about to take off--most of it in Washington, DC, in the form of the Obama's vegetable garden and the new "people's garden" outside the USDA headquarters. Those are only symbolic, of course, and the latter hardly signals a shift in USDA policy. A more meaningful move was Obama's appointment of Kathleen Merrigan, a long-time advocate of sustainable agriculture, to be Tom Vilsack's deputy.

Interestingly, the entire story includes no mention of "rural" anything. It does, however, note Michael Pollan's advoacy of "diversified, regional food networks," a phenomenon that could bring real benefits to rural places--far more than agri-business has done.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rural schools benefit from stimulus funding, but money doesn't flow where most needed

A story in today's NY Times today compares the Rich School District in Randolph, Utah, population 483, with Uinta County District 1, just north of the Wyoming state line, in Evanston, population 11,507. The former is struggling because of a difficult state budget situation, while the neighboring oil-rich Wyoming district has a new elementary school and an Apple laptop for every student.

Sam Dillon's NYT story is prompted by the federal stimulus spending earmarked for public education. He highlights the situations of several states with significant rural populations. Here's an excerpt reflecting the gist of the story--that outdated funding formulas are being used to distribute the funds.
In pouring rivers of cash into states and school districts, Washington is using a tangle of well-worn federal formulas, some of which benefit states that spend more per pupil, while others help states with large concentrations of poor students or simply channel money based on population. Combined, the formulas seem to take little account of who needs the money most.
Under the funding formulas being used, Utah is getting about $400 less per student than Wyoming. In fact, the principal of the Wyoming district sees the money as not only a windfall, but is quoted as referring to it as a "distraction." The main reason that the funds represent a windfall in some states, including North Dakota, seems to be that these states are currently flush (some with oil and gas money) so that the federal funds become a surplus.

Other states whose schools will will receive large per pupil allocations are South Dakota, Louisiana, New York and Washington, DC. Like states that are currently flush with their own monies, these states that will use the federal monies to close significant funding gaps are favored recipients under funding formulas that give preference to states with concentrations of poor students, as well as those that invest heavily in their schools.

Maps accompanying the article may be viewed here. They show which states are getting the most money and indicate the extent to which the federal monies are helping each state close a funding gap.

Latina/os in the rural South

The headline in today's New York Times is "A Slippery Place in the U.S. Work Force," and the dateline is Morristown, Tennessee, population 24,965. Here's an excerpt:

Like many places across the United States, this factory town in eastern Tennessee has been transformed in the last decade by the arrival of Hispanic immigrants, many of whom are in this country illegally. Thousands of workers like Mr. López settled in Morristown, taking the lowest-paying elbow-grease jobs, some hazardous, in chicken plants and furniture factories.

Now, with the economy spiraling downward and a crackdown continuing on illegal immigrants, many of them are learning how uncertain their foothold is in the work force in the United States.
Morristown was the subject of "Morristown: In the Air and Sun," a marvelous documentary by Anne Lewis, which was largely about successful efforts to unionize a poultry processing plant in the town. The micropolitan area and its Latina/o newcomers were also the subject of a fall, 2006, series of articles in the Houston Chronicle. Why all the attention to Latina/o newcomers in this locale? Just look at these stats:
The 1960 census did not record a single immigrant in Hamblen County, of which Morristown is the seat. By 2007, Hispanic immigrants and their families made up almost 10 percent of the county population of 61,829, having nearly doubled their numbers since 2000, census data show.

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Old Levees Haunt Rural Yolo"

That is a sub-head for a story in yesterday's Sacramento Bee. Here's the lede:

Residents in three Yolo County hamlets – Clarksburg, Yolo and Knights Landing – say their towns haven't flooded since levees were built in the early 20th century.

But now, in the midst of a devastating economic downturn, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has redrawn its flood maps – which are the basis for federal flood insurance premiums – and the unincorporated towns will be reclassified as high-risk flood zones come 2010.

The story by Hudson Sangree notes that these unincorporated places, which lack money and political clout, have few options for fixing the levees, some of which were built by farmers a century ago.

Read more here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part XIX): More complications regarding the jail

The March 5, 2009, issue of the Newton County Times provides an update on the county jail, the topic of many prior posts. Regular readers will recall that the jail, built more than a century ago, was basically condemned by the state. Voters passed a sales tax increase to pay for a new jail in the November election, but they failed to pass a companion increase to pay for the maintenance and operation of the jail. Never mind. The county may not get a new jail after all because of Amendment 62.

So, what is Amendment 62? Well, according to this week's paper it allows the voters of a city or county to authorize the issuance of bonds for capital improvements of a public nature. The voters must first approve the bonds in an election, as Newton County voters did. The problem is that, under this Arkansas law, the maximum interest rate that can attach to the bonds is 2% above the Federal Reserve Rate, and the primary rate now is 0.5%. This means that the maximum rate of interest a local government entity can charge for a bond issue backed by a sales or property tax is 2.5%, and in this market, no one wants bonds bearing such a low rate of return. Thus, the state's interest rate limitation hurts local governments. Indeed, it also limits their ability to garner matching funds from federal programs that are contingent on raising state and local revenues.

So, will Newton County ever gets its new jail?

In other news, the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority recently drafted water usage agreements for member utilities to sign. Getting these leases signed is the "last major obstacles to possibly qualifying for part of Arkansas' share of federal stimulus funds." The Association plans to treat water from a lake in a neighboring county and to then transport it by pipe to about 20 rural water associations in three counties.

Migration to exurbs and amenity-rich rural areas slows with the economy

Read Kenneth Johnson's report for the Carsey Institute here. An excerpt focusing on the consequences for rural places follows:
The changing structure of domestic migration has had its most dramatic impact on traditionally fast growing rural areas. Traditionally, the fastest growing rural areas are:
  • those just beyond the fringe of metro areas--where people could live in rural areas but still have access to cities
  • recreational and high amenity areas
  • retirement destination counties
All three of these county types experienced much slower migration gains in 2008.
Johnson notes that the population situation was more stable in rural counties that have typically grown slowly, such as those dominated economically by farming or mining. Outmigration from these counties slowed in 2008. Rural manufacturing counties suffered population loss in 2008, presumably due to the U.S. economic slowdown and the continuing flow of manufacturing jobs to overseas locations.

Read coverage of the Johnson report in the Wall Street Journal here and in USA Today here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Coyotes at the exurban-wilderness interface

Read Dan Frosch's story in the New York Times here. The headline is "After Attacks by Coyotes, a Denver Suburb Turns to a Gun-Wielding Trapper." The dateline is Greenwood Village, Colorado, population 11,035.

I've noticed that coyotes are increasingly bold in the suburban neighborhood where I live, which borders the American River Parkway in Sacramento. I also recently saw two coyotes crossing a four-lane road in nearby Rocklin, California. While the general vicinity is built up, they were crossing between a greenbelt/park and a sprawling private property with a single-family dwelling.

More on rural water woes

A few days ago I wrote a post featuring a New York Times story about water shortages in northern rural Chile, and yesterday an NPR story (from New Hampshire Public Radio) discussed rural water woes closer to home, in central New Hampshire. In Chile, one of the culprits is the law, which respects private water rights without consideration of the public interest. In New Hampshire, part of the problem is an aging water infrastructure. Residents in one community in the central part of the state did not reliably have water every day. Yet, when a private company revamped the water system for that town at a cost of millions, water rates soared to three times their prior level. This left many on fixed incomes unable to pay the rates and seeking to sell their homes and move as a consequence.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Senate Democrats reach out to rural America

Senator Blanche Lincoln, D-AR, is heading up this new "Rural Outreach" initiative by Senate Democrats. The website is here. The agenda is summarized here:
Rural America reflects our nation's most precious values: hard work, independence, and an unparalleled commitment to community. Senate Democrats provide a voice for the over 50 million hard-working rural Americans and support an agenda that addresses the unique challenges they face. Senate Democrats will fight for policies that revitalize and reinvest in our communities so that, together, we can build a stronger rural America.
It enumerates these items:
  • Health Care
  • Education
  • Economic Development
  • Agriculture
  • Energy and Natural Resources
  • Veterans and National Guard
  • Rural Law Enforcement and Homeland Security
  • Infrastructure
The last item specifically mentions broadband, along with clean drinking water, flood control, and transportation.

This initiative clearly goes beyond agriculture, though I note the image used on the new website features a farm.

"Appalachia's Agony"

That's the headline for an editorial in today's New York Times. No, the topic is not Appalachian poverty. Rather, it is mountaintop removal, and the editors call on the Obama administration to stop the practice. Here's an excerpt:
A recent court decision has given the green light to as many as 90 mountaintop mining projects in Appalachia’s coal-rich hills, which in turn could destroy more than 200 miles of valleys and streams on top of the 1,200 miles that have already been obliterated. The right course for the administration is clear: stop the projects until the underlying regulations are revised so as to end the practice altogether.
Read the rest here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Chilean water rights scheme leaves rural places drying up

Don't miss Alexei Barrionuevo's story in today's New York Times. He writes about the shriveling up and near death of Quillagua, Chile', near the country's northern border. Quillagua has for decades been considered the driest place on earth, but it's gotten even drier in recent years. Without water, farming is no longer a viable livelihood. As a consequence, towns like Quillagua are being lost. Quillagua's population has dropped from about 800 in the 1940s to just 120 today. The culprit is partly law, partly mining and other industrial interests. Here's an excerpt from the story:

Nowhere is the system for buying and selling water more permissive than here in Chile, experts say, where water rights are private property, not a public resource, and can be traded like commodities with little government oversight or safeguards for the environment.

* * *

Some economists have hailed Chile’s water rights trading system, which was established in 1981 during the military dictatorship, as a model of free-market efficiency that allocates water to its highest economic use.

But other academics and environmentalists argue that Chile’s system is unsustainable because it promotes speculation, endangers the environment and allows smaller interests to be muscled out by powerful forces, like Chile’s mining industry.

Urban and agricultural interests are similarly pitted against each other in the American West, but laws in this country provide more protection for the public interest, which typically means more water for agriculture and other rural uses. Still, as burgeoning populations in the West increase urban demands for water, holding enough back for agricultural uses and other needs of rural communities is only going to become more dificult.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The rural (or is it ag?)-urban disconnect in California

Don't miss Malia Wollan's story in today's NYT. The dateline is Visalia, population 91,565, and the headline is "Farmers Lead a Bid to Create Two Californias." Here is an excerpt, which refers to Virgil Rogers, a retired Visalia farmer.

So it is that in recent weeks Mr. Rogers, whose previous political involvement amounted to little more than writing a check to a favored candidate — has suddenly become a leader in a secessionist movement bent on cleaving California in two.

But while the plan is not new — the idea of two Californias has been floated dozens of times — the motivations and geographical scissor-work are. Frustrated by what they call uninformed urban voters dictating faulty farm policy, Mr. Rogers and the other members of the movement have proposed splitting off 13 counties on the state’s coast, leaving the remaining 45, mostly inland, counties as the “real” California.

Here is a quote from Mr. Rogers who arrived in California during the Dust Bowl era:

They think fish are more important than people, that pigs are treated mean and chickens should run loose ... City people just don’t know what it takes to get food on their table.

Read more about Citizens for Saving California Farming Industries, which is behind the secessionist movement. Aspects of this movement reflect the tension between more traditional production agriculture and the "foodie" movement endorsed by the likes of Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and Nicholas Kristof here. Note that, consistent with Kristof's suggestion, the Senate Agriculture Committee in California has recently become the Food and Agriculture Committee.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rural as "other" in the context of New York

This is evinced in again in coverage of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Here is a quote from Nicholas Confessore's story in today's NYT.

Ms. Gillibrand, who was twice elected to Congress from a mostly white and rural district stretching from Hudson to the Adirondacks, still faces significant obstacles as she seeks to be elected in her own right.

She is not well known downstate, where Democratic primaries are lost and won. In a recent Marist College poll, only 18 percent of Democrats rated Ms. Gillibrand as doing an excellent or good job, while more than half were unsure.
I continue to find interesting the paper's focus on Gillibrand's rurality (see earlier posts here and here), when in fact many of her biographical details reflect very urban experiences, e. g., law degree from UCLA and work for large law firms in NYC. At least this story uses the rural modifer for her former district rather than in direct reference to her. Still, the rural-urban contrast In NY is clear, with "rural" definitely the outlier.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hardship in rural Alaska

Listen to this report from NPR. Here's the lede:
Imagine a world in which a gallon of milk can set you back $12 and a small package of spaghetti costs $6.50.

Those prices are a daily reality for Americans living in the isolated communities of rural Alaska. Things became worse recently when the high food prices were combined with high fuel costs.

Now, some families are having to choose between buying food and heating their homes.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Law and Order in the Ozarks (XVIII): Still recovering from the storm

There's not much crime news to report in the Feb. 12 and Feb. 19 issues of the Newton County Times. Not surprisingly, the county is still cleaning up after the devastating late-January ice storm, and this is garnering a lot of attention. The Feb. 12 paper promotes a state-wide call center for those affected by the recent storm. It was established by the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM). The Feb. 19 issue features an article with the headline, "ADEM explains reimbursement." The story notes that FEMA will cover 75% of the storm-related expenses to counties and cities for items such as man hours and equipment, so long as strict policies for debris removal are followed.

Other than that, both issues reflect a preoccupation with the elk who were transplanted from Colorado to Newton County several decades ago. They have apparently become a nuisance to some. The Feb. 12 issue features the front-page headlines "AGFC begins overhaul of elk management plan" and "Boxley Valley residents voice concerns about elk neighbors." The Feb. 19 issue features a back page story about what neighboring Searcy County is doing to manage its elk population.

On the law enforcement front, the only two items on the papers' front pages are one about harm to dogs and one about possible "scam artists" posing as ADEM officials. The first reports that a dog in Jasper was injured by someone shooting blow darts, while another recently died apparently from ingestion of poison. Both incidents are being investigated, and those with tips about the matters are encouraged to report them. The second story indicates that people may be posing as FEMA or ADEM officials, and it informs the public that FEMA never charges for its services. The Feb. 19 sheriff's report is relegated to the back page. It lists a number of controlled burns, the burn ban having been lifted the prior week. It also reports a "domestic disturbance in the Parthenon area."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Interdependence of rural schools and rural communities

See this Sacramento Bee story by Walter Yost from March 3, 2009. It tells of the schools around the Georgetown Divide area of El Dorado County, California, where the Black Oak Mine Unified School District is the largest employer in a 400-square mile, sparsely populated area. Tough economic times in California mean that some school employees are likely to get pink slips in the coming weeks, and a halt of school construction projects means less local revenue from out-of-town construction workers.

The story quotes Kai Schafft, director of the Center on Rural Education and Communities at Pennsylvania State University, on the interdpendence of schools and the community: "Rural schools and communities can face a real vicious cycle in which the decline of one leads to the decline of the other."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

More than broadband at stake for rural America in the stimulus package?

According to a story in today's New York Times, rural America may also get a bridge or two painted. Here's a quote from Michael Cooper's story, "Stimulus Spurs Road Projects Big and Small":
Beyond all the money for Medicaid and unemployment benefits in the huge bill passed last month, this will be the face of the country’s stimulus program: a bridge will be painted on a rural road, a new lane added on a suburban highway, a guardrail built on a median strip.
He goes on to report that, in Washington state, for example, state legislators are supporting a range of smaller projects spread across the state, while Governor Gregoire and Seattle's mayor are supporting a major project in that city. Cooper queries:
Should the bulk of the money go to metropolitan regions where the bulk of the population and economic activity are or should it be spread out evenly to suburban and rural areas across the state?
Cooper's story features links to the spending plans of a number of states.

Rural America and the recession

The New York Times today features a story headlined, "Job Losses Show Breadth of Recession," by David Leonhardt. The story does not mention rurality, but it is accompanied by a county-level map showing unemployment rates. Striking are the consistently low rates of unemployment through the sparsely populated plains states, from North Dakota down through Oklahoma, particularly the western parts of these states and the eastern parts of neighboring states like Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado.

Here is Leonhardt's observation, with a caveat regarding these places' relative economic well-being.
Every state in the country, with the exception of a band stretching from the Dakotas down to Texas, is now shedding jobs at a rapid pace. And even that band has recently begun to suffer, because of the sharp fall in both oil and crop prices.
Also striking is the very high unemployment in places like northwestern Arizona, which is mostly Apache and Navajo land, as well as in Grand County, Utah, which is home to gentrified Moab. Some counties in the southern part of South Dakota are also very hard hit.

The Daily Yonder, however, has written of the toll that the recession is taking in rural America, and that can be seen on the NYT map in other regions' rural areas--as in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and the Carolinas.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Maine doctors do teeth, too

A story by Katie Zezima in today's New York Times tells of a new program in Maine for training medical residents to provide dental services. This is necessary because of the shortage of dentists in the state, which has one dentist for every 2,300 residents, while the national average is 1 for every 1,600 residents. The shortage is especially acute in rural areas, where many young dentists do not wish to live and work. Here's an excerpt from the story.
In Maine, training physicians in dentistry provides a dental safety net for the rural poor who have never had one, doctors and dentists said. About two-thirds of the residents who have trained at the dental clinic now practice in the state, many in rural areas.
The story notes that similar programs have been (or are being) instituted in New Mexico, Washington, Illinois, Iowa, and North Carolina--all states with significant rural populations.

More on urban farming--of a sort

See this New York Times story about a the Queens County Farm Museum, which is now producing goods for local farmers markets.

And don't miss this on an innovative use of cow poop in Connecticut.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A (faux) rural idyll in Georgia

Read here about Serenbe, in Palmetto, Georgia, population 3,400, in the travel section of today's New York Times. The accompanying slide show is here.

It's a very carefully planned community that targets wealthy visitors, but a caption on a slide show photo of goats lists them as among the animals that "dot the rural landscape."