Tuesday, December 29, 2015

California and the rural way of life: Part IV - Solutions to the lack of rural representation in California

This is the last installment in the "California and the rural way of life" series.  In my previous three posts, I focused on some of the issues that rural Californians have with their state government and how many rural Californians (and rural people in general) distrust their own government and feel that they are not being represented by those in power (see here for Part I and links for other posts on this topic, here for Part II, and here for Part III).  This post will focus on several ways that California (and other states) can tackle the lack of rural representation in state policy decisions.  One idea comes from the proponents of Jefferson State, one is inspired from an Arizona law, and another from Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.

Jefferson State

The proponents of Jefferson State seek to have counties in Northern California and Southern Oregon secede from their respective states and join together to form a new 51st state.  Doing this would allow the new state, comprised of mostly rural counties, to elect their own governor, legislators, and judges.  Those elected to public positions would be from rural counties and theoretically be more sympathetic to issues that affect rural communities.  There has also been a push to split California into six different states (see post here) to solve the same issue of lack of representation.

Jefferson State would not be without its problems though.  The state would have a much smaller economy than the rest of California and Oregon.  The new state would relinquish the economic powerhouses of California's Bay Area, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and Portland while keeping two persistent poverty counties in Northern California (see post here).  Because of this, the new state might have difficulties maintaining essential infrastructure like roads and bridges and have difficulty funding public service programs like Medicare.

The chance that Jefferson State will become a reality seems very low.  Although in the last decade rural counties have seemingly become more vocal about seceding to form Jefferson State, this idea has been around over 70 years (since 1941) without any success.  Even if the end goal of these rural counties is to form a new state, there are things that can be done in the more short term to address the issue of rural representation in California and Oregon.  The next two ideas can be implemented in any state in the country.  

For more information on Jefferson State, see posts here and here.

Legislative distinctions between rural and urban in Arizona

In Arizona and other states, legislatures have made laws that apply to rural and urban communities differently.  In 1997, Arizona passed a statute that prohibited minors from possessing firearms in public places.  This law, however, only applied to counties with populations greater than 500,000.   The law essentially targeted Arizona's two urban counties and had no effect on Arizona's rural counties.  The law also exempted "those engaged in hunting, marksmanship, and ranching or production of agriculture."  For more discussion on this law and legislative distinctions between rural and urban generally, see part D of Rural Rhetoric (page 199 or page 41of 82 online).

This targeted approach to lawmaking could help alleviate some of the impact that broad "one size fits all" laws have on rural communities.  However, this would only work on a small percentage of laws passed by the state.  The only laws that could be targeted would be those in which the problem the law is trying to address only exists in either urban or rural communities.  Further, you would need a legislature that is willing to draft these type of targeted laws. 

The laws (and the moratorium) that I brought up in my previous posts would not be good candidates for this type of targeted legislative approach.  The laws that I discussed were about a ban on hunting mountain lions, a ban on using dogs to hunt bears, a statewide ban on lead hunting ammunition, and a moratorium on gold dredging.  These laws were enacted for the betterment of the public and addressed concerns over environmental and moral issues.  It would be difficult to enact a law that allowed gold dredging in rural counties while banning it in urban counties (or vice versa).  This would also make the law ineffective at stopping the remobilization of mercury or destruction of fish redds.  The same argument can be applied to the ban on lead hunting ammunition and the hunting of mountain lions.

The ban on bear hunting with dogs is a law based on modern morals (possibly more urban morals).  Although moral issues could possibly be candidates for a targeted legislative approach, this particular law probably wouldn't.  It would not make any sense to distinguish hunting bears with dogs in a rural area with hunting in an urban area because bears are typically not hunted in urban areas.  In addition, although this law is statewide, it can be argued that it is already a targeted law because it only effects rural areas. 

Certain laws banning activities that are deemed immoral could be targeted to urban areas.  For example, more and more urban households are raising backyard chickens.  For more about this phenomenon, see here, here, here, and here.  Imagine that lawmakers want to ban killing chickens by cutting off their heads if they can be seen by the public or neighbors.  Let's say the reason for the law is because seeing chickens run around with their heads cut off can be traumatizing to people who are unfamiliar with the practice.  The urban chicken farmers, if they didn't have a private concealed yard already, would then have to build fences high enough so that the public could not see the dispatching of the chickens or build special shacks to kill the chickens.  Now assume that rural people are more familiar and accepting with the practice of killing chickens by cutting their heads off and the activity is seen as acceptable because it is the fastest and most efficient way to kill a chicken (I understand that this plays to stereotypes of rural people but this specific stereotype is only used to illustrate my point).  Targeting the law to urban areas would allow the rural chicken farmers (not large scale farms of course) to continue their practice of killing chickens for food without the burden of building a fence or special shack to kill their chickens.  It would also stop urban morals being thrust upon the rural population.

Rural Proofing 

In Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, lawmakers engage in a practice called "rural proofing."  According to the 2009 Rural and Regional Committee, Final Report: Inquiry into Regional Centers of the Future, Parliament of Victoria, rural proofing is described as "a process for taking into account the circumstances and needs of the rural community (rural people and rural businesses) when developing and implementing policy."  When making laws, lawmakers consider issues such as rural spatiality, the rural population's access to services such as hospitals, schools, water, and social services, the cost of compliance with the new law, and whether the law disproportionally effects rural communities.  For an example of how rural proofing could be used to solve rural after-school program licensing issues, see blog post here.

Rural proofing could be used in California to address the impact that laws have on rural communities.  If the state was forced to consider the impacts that laws have on the rural population, the laws could have less of a negative impact (or a more positive impact) on rural communities.  In Addition, even if rural proofing did not alter laws in any significant way, the fact that rural communities would be considered when drafting new laws would go a long way to ease the rural population's distrust of their government.  Rural proofing would essentially give the rural people a voice in the capital.

If California adopted a rural proofing policy, the rural people of California would still have to be informed about the policy.  The people need to trust that their government is looking out for their best interests.  Informing and educating the rural population about the policy and how to get in touch with lawmakers is essential to resolve issues that rural populations face.  How else would lawmakers truly understand how laws effect the rural population if they did not hear from the rural people themselves?

Rural proofing is a good idea and should be implemented.  That being said, it is doubtful that rural proofing would completely solve any of the issues I talked about in previous posts (ban on hunting mountain lions, a ban on using dogs to hunt bears, a statewide ban on lead hunting ammunition, and a moratorium on gold dredging).  However, it would at least allow lawmakers to consider the impacts that the laws have on rural people.  If lawmakers understood the tradition of hunting bears with dogs or how some rural people supplement their income and remove mercury from streams by gold dredging, maybe the laws could be slightly different than they are today.  Maybe hunting bears with dogs could be slowly phased out instead of leaving bear dog owners with dogs they can no longer use (and still have to feed, house, exercise, etc.).  Maybe if lawmakers considered the impact of a moratorium on the dredging community, a moratorium would not be implemented until scientists had completed environmental impact studies (if the studies showed that dredging has a net negative impact).  Maybe the lawmakers would consider allowing smaller dredges to continue to operate while banning the largest dredges.


There is not one right answer to solve the issue of rural representation at the state level.  In order to allow the rural population's voice to be heard in the capital, rural communities should strive to implement both targeted legislation and rural proofing.  Rural proofing and targeted legislation could work hand in hand.  Forcing lawmakers to consider the impacts of legislation on rural communities would leave the door open to more targeted laws.  For example, if a new law disproportionally effects rural communities, the law could be tailored so that it only effects urban populations.   

Some may argue that Jefferson State is the best way to solve the representation issue.  Even if that is true, it would be much easier to implement policy changes at the capital than it would to secede.  Furthermore, even if the end goal is to form a new state, why not try to implement new beneficial policies in the meantime?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Governor Jerry Brown's rural California escape

Here's the story by Adam Nagourney in today's New York Times.  The dateline is Williams, California, population 5,123, and the lede follows:
Four dusty miles off State Route 20, around a curve on a dirt road once used by stagecoaches, a scattering of barns and dilapidated buildings sits hidden among rolling hills speckled with oak trees. There is no electricity or cell service. There is a compact outhouse and a redwood cabin just big enough to hold one air mattress. There is no other sign of civilization for miles.
This is Rancho Venada, and for all its isolation and ostensible inhospitality, it is the place that this state’s governor, Jerry Brown, is gravitating to as he approaches the end of his 50-year career in politics. These 2,514 wind-swept acres have been owned by the Brown family for almost 150 years, since the governor’s great-grandfather August Schuckman, a German immigrant, traveled to central California on a wagon train.
An earlier post about Jerry Brown's relationship to Colusa County and rural California is here.

(Re)claiming "white trash": a commentary on race, class and geography

NPR's Race Card series ran a piece this morning headlined, "6 Words:  Yes, I'm Tobacco Pickin' White Trash."  Michele Norris, who runs the "Race Card" project selected this submission on race and identity from Tracy Hart, an economist in Washington, DC.  Norris notes that Hart is one of many who have made a race card submission to describe their roots at the intersection of race, class and geography.  The term "white trash" shows up fairly often in the six-word submissions for The Race Card Project, Norris says, as do words like hillbilly, redneck, hayseed and bumpkin. Norris is quoted:
People are sometimes writing about pain, sometimes they're using humor to distance themselves from the pain, sometimes it's associated with a kind of nostalgia.  
Some other such submissions listed in the story are:
Hillbilly White Trash? I'm Oxford educated — C. B., West Va.
"Appalachian" means "none of your business" — Amy Tanisha, Petaluma, Calif.
Hillbilly – the wrong kind of white — TR Kelley, Swisshome, Ore.
I'm Appalachian — it's an invisible ethnicity— Catherine Vance Agrella, Asheville, N.C.
Poor white trash, not welcome here — Tracie Combs-Cantu, Austin, Texas
Do hillbillies have white privilege too?— Tony Van Winkle, Knoxville, Tenn.
One thing I like about these is that most recognize explicitly that whites have race, too.

So how does a well-traveled World Bank economist like Hart come to claim the phrase "white trash" for herself?  Well, Norris suggests it involves a bit of nostalgia and pain, but I would suggest that there is also a sort of pride inherent in claiming the term.  I say "pride" because the extended family Hart describes were poor.  What Norris's report overlooks, however, is that Hart's family was not lazy.   In particular, Hart describes her great uncle, Reese Billings, who lived in Independence, Virginia.
He died within the last 10 years, never having had indoor plumbing, never having had electrical wiring in his house, never having had a telephone line to his house.  The water for the kitchen came from the stream through a PVC pipe, then dumped into a sink and then there was an egress PVC pipe that took it back to the stream downhill. And that was the only running water in the house.
So what Hart describes is rural poverty, but it is not what I and people like Matt Wray consider the sine qua non of white trash:  dirtiness and laziness.  Indeed, as Hart acknowledges, the fact her ancestors picked tobacco ultimately helped pay for her education at UC Berkeley.

Norris notes that the term "white trash" is pejorative--harsh and a slur--but it can also be used as a shield.  I think this is where the "pride" associated with white comes in.  The story continues, referring to Hart:
For those in the Deep South, she says, the term has been embraced by a significant part of poor people who feel misunderstood. "They feel misunderstood because of the heavy legacy of slavery and segregation and poverty," she says. "And I think part of their feeling misunderstood is to take on or embrace that term, which is self-denigrating but it also says, 'We've been hurt, too.' "
Hart further observes:
I'm able to admit it [her "white trash" family/background] because I've stepped out of it. ... It's where I'm from — but it's not where I'm at.
In other words, Hart is a white class migrant.  As such, she gets to take some moral high ground in what she has accomplished, her move up the socioeconomic ladder.

Kudos to Norris for including this piece in the Race Card Project and to Hart and others who have written to the project for being courageous enough to claim who they are, where they've come from.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

An animal tragedy in rural Arkansas makes national news

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post picked up a tragic story out of rural Arkansas this week.  Here's the lede from Katie Rogers' story in the Times, headlined "After Dozens of Dogs are Left Dead in the Woods, an Arkansas Town Rallies."  
The dogs had been lying on the ground for days before they were found last Thursday [December 17]. They numbered 62 or 63, adult mutts whose bodies were strewed around deep woods in part of northern Arkansas where almost no one goes. 
One of the few surviving dogs had been shot through the collarbone and jaw. Another survivor appeared to have been a pet. 
The dozens who did not survive had been fed hot dogs stuffed with sleeping pills before they were shot with a .22 rifle.
No one has reported exactly where the dogs were found, except to say Searcy County and to indicate that the dogs were "stumbled upon by men visiting the secluded area to price timber."  Searcy County, population 7,929, is a persistent poverty county in the Ozarks Highlands, with a poverty rate of 26.1%.  It is virtually all white.  The dateline of one Associated Press report was Chimes, which wikipedia tells us is an unincorporated community that straddles Searcy and Van Buren counties.  

Sarah Larimer's story in the Washington Post includes this quote from County Sheriff Joey Pruitt (no known relation to me, though I grew up in neighboring Newton County):
Just right now, you know, my thought is it was probably someone that was maybe rescuing dogs or some sort of rescue operation that probably just ran out of funds and couldn’t feed them.  I don’t know. I don’t think it’s some kind of organization that’s going around stealing people’s pets. Most of the dogs appeared to be in good health. There were a few that appeared to be malnourished. But for the most part, they were healthy looking dogs.
Larimer's report also includes more forensic-type details of how the dogs were found.   

Rogers describes the Searcy County Animal Shelter: 
Six of the survivors were taken to the Humane Society of Searcy, where volunteers work out of a pole barn and feed animals, in part, from proceeds from a tip jar.
The treasurer of the local animal shelter is quoted:
We’ve had lots of people come in and just hand us money, bring us food.
As the NYT headline suggests, Rogers also plays up the community response, and she notes the response of national animal welfare organizations, which is presumably one reason the story got picked up in the national media.   A total reward of about $10K is now on offer for information about who committed this crime.

The episode has me thinking more about how rural spatiality conceals (read more here)--in this case the crime of animal cruelty--even in a place where animal rights are not taken very seriously.  It also reminds me of this piece in the NYT a few years ago.  It is about the movement of surplus mutts from the rural South, where people tend to be poor and institutional funds to care for the dogs are in shorter supply, to the northeast, where many in cities wish to adopt these dogs.  Read more here.  Too bad whoever killed these dogs in Searcy County didn't know about that operation.  

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Rural insularity, racism blamed for problems at High Desert State Prison, California

If you've ever seen the 2007 documentary, Prison Town USA, you won't be surprised by a report released yesterday by the California Inspector General.  That report was the subject of a New York Times story headlined, "California Rebukes Rural Prison for Racism."  Here's the lede for Timothy Williams's story:
Guards at a rural California prison use other prisoners’ possessions to reward inmates who assault each other, discriminate against black and Latino inmates, and routinely engage in unnecessary force, according to a California inspector general report released Wednesday. 
High Desert State Prison, in Susanville, which is in the northeast of the state near Nevada, was also found to be significantly overcrowded and to be imbued with a “culture of racism and lack of acceptance of ethnic differences,” according to Robert A. Barton, the state’s inspector general.
The Sacramento Bee story about the report unpacks a bit more why "rural" appears in the headline--that is, why rurality seems relevant to what is happening at High Desert and not merely to where it it happening.  Here's the lede for Jon Ortiz's story:  
Prison officers at a remote state prison have excessively used force on inmates in a “culture of racism” nurtured in social isolation and encouraged by a union that coached its members to stymie investigators, according to a scorching report issued Wednesday.
To further unpack the "social isolation" reference, Ortiz later reports: 
“(A) perception of insularity and indifference to inmates exists at High Desert State Prison,” the report states, “exacerbated by the unique geographical isolation, the high-stress environment, and a labor organization that opposes oversight to the point of actively discouraging members from coming forward with information that could in any way adversely affect another officer.”
(emphasis added) 

To illustrate and explain the "unique geographical isolation" and racism points, Ortiz explains:  
Located in California’s northwest corner, High Desert and a second state correctional center there employ more locals than any other business in Susanville, population 16,000. Three-quarters of the nearly 1,000 staff are white, compared with just 18 percent of the prison’s 3,500 inmates. Many of the employees are from Susanville.

A section of town is reportedly known as “CO Row” for its concentration of prison-officer residents and their families. Outsiders to Susanville, the report says, tend to come and go.
Further, the prison is at 149% of capacity.

Damn depressing stuff, but much of it was depicted--sometimes subtly, sometimes not--in "Prison Town USA," which is a very powerful documentary.   Not to make excuses, but the film gives you such a vivd sense of how economically depressed Susanville is that it's not hard to imagine the corrections officers (COs) taking power where they can find it--from the inmates.  The Bee story lists a number of abuses detailed in the report.  Both news stories also make clear that steps are being taken to mitigate the problems, including the recent appointment of a new warden.

Susanville is the county seat of Lassen County, population 31,749, of which 66% is non-Hispanic white.  Nearly 9% of the population is black, 18.8% of the population is Hispanic, and 4.8% is American Indian.  In Susanville, 12.5% of the population is black, 23.7% Hispanic, and 55.4% non-Hispanic white.  Those data indicate just how much a prison population--counted where the prison is located, not where the prisoners are from--can skew a county's racial/ethnic demographic when it is is home to a prison.  Lassen County's poverty rate is 16.9%.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/the-state-worker/article50189350.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/the-state-worker/article50189350.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/the-state-worker/article50189350.html#storylink=cpy

Sunday, December 13, 2015

On the challenge of rural organizing and politicking

Here's a line from Alec MacGillis's November NYT piece, "Who Turned My Blue State Red?"(discussed here) that I missed the first time I read it:
So where does this leave Democrats and anyone seeking to expand and build lasting support for safety-net programs such as Obamacare? 
For starters, it means redoubling efforts to mobilize the people who benefit from the programs. This is no easy task with the rural poor, who are much more geographically scattered than their urban counterparts. Not helping matters in this regard is the decline of local institutions like labor unions — while the United Mine Workers of America once drove turnout in coal country, today there is not a single unionized mine still operating in Kentucky.
So how do we mobilize the rural poor?  Can technology play a role?

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Chinese may seem "over the top" with their rural idyll, Jackson Hole, but ...

On the front page of today's New York Times is this story about Jackson Hole, China, "Living a Frontier Dream on Outskirts of China's Capital," by Andrew Jacobs.  Here's the lede:
Yearning to breathe untainted air, the band of harried urbanites flocked to this parched, wild land, bringing along their dreams of a free and uncomplicated life. 
But unlike the bedraggled pioneers who settled the American West, the first inhabitants of Jackson Hole, a resort community on the outskirts of the Chinese capital, arrived by Audi and Land Rover, their trunks filled with French wine and their bank accounts flush with cash. 
Over the past decade, more than a thousand families have settled into timber-frame houses with generous backyards, on streets with names like Aspen, Moose and Route 66. On Sundays, some worship at a clapboard church that anchors the genteel town square, outfitted with bronze cowboys and a giant Victrola that sprays water.
Jackson Hole--the Chinese version that is--is on the cusp of Hebei Province, where it meets the sprawling Beijing municipality. 

It's easy to chuckle and poke fun at the Chinese frontier "wannabes," but the story reminded me of this piece nearly a decade ago, out of Florida, which tapped into some similar sentiments, myths and--yes, cache--regarding the rural.  The headline is "In Florida, a Big Developer is Counting on Rural Chic," and Abby Goodnough's story tells of a new development in the Florida panhandle:
What is a striving Florida developer to do when most of its vast holdings are not beach chic but rural, remote and mosquitoey? 
The St. Joe Company, which owns 800,000 mostly inland acres here in the scrubby pine forests of the Panhandle, is invoking Thoreau. 
The company, Florida's largest private landowner, is pushing "new ruralism," a concept it hopes will entice city and suburban dwellers who are weary of civilization and long to own a tractor, a pickup truck, or at least a kayak and a few large dogs.
Goodnough reports that the homes in so called RiverCamps are "in a design proudly called 'Cracker Modern."  I cannot imagine what led St. Joe to appropriate the word "cracker" because of its long-standing negative associations with rurality and, indeed, with "white trash."  But what else could be behind the play on "cracker"?   The average price for a lot/site at RiverCamps is $342,900 just for the land.  Per acre prices are expected to be lower farther inland, at developments called Florida Ranches (150 acres, catering to hunters) and WhiteFence Farms (5- to 20-acre lots near fields and ponds where "farmhands" will be available to to help mow the meadow using the owner's tractor)

Goodnough characterizes these Florida developments as "corporate reinvention of new urbanism, an antisprawl movement that advocates compact, old-fashioned towns where residents can commune in parks, shops and restaurants within walking distance of their homes. Instead of connecting with neighbors, new ruralism promotes connecting with the land -- though these cabins in the woods come with wireless Internet access and porches with screens that unfurl by remote control."

All in all, what St. Joe did in Florida is not so different to the re-branding of rural and frontier in Jackson Hole, China--though the Jackson Hole brand is clearly different to the varieties of rural reflected in RiverCamps, WhiteFence Farms and Florida Ranches.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Former chief of Massey Energy guilty of just one misdemeanor in Upper Big Branch explosion

Here is the lede from Alan Blinder's report in today's New York Times:
Donald L. Blankenship, whose leadership of the Massey Energy Company was widely criticized after 29 workers were killed in the Upper Big Branch mine in 2010, was convicted Thursday of conspiring to violate federal safety standards, becoming the most prominent American coal executive ever convicted of a crime related to mining deaths. 
But in a substantial defeat for the Justice Department, the verdict, announced in Federal District Court here, exonerated Mr. Blankenship, Massey’s former chief executive, of three felony charges that could have led to a prison term of 30 years. Instead, after a long and complex trial that began on Oct. 1, jurors convicted Mr. Blankenship only of a single misdemeanor charge that carried a maximum of a year in prison.
Read more about the Upper Big Branch episode here, here, here, here and here.  Among other things, these prior posts discuss the 21-month sentence and $20,000 fine imposed on Gary May, the Upper Big Branch mine superintendent.  Blankenship will get off more lightly than that.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Highlights and lowlights from the 7th Circuit's recent abortion decision

The Seventh Circuit decided a few weeks ago to strike as unconstitutional a Wisconsin law that required the state's abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic.  The case is Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Inc., v. Schimel.  Recall that the Fifth Circuit considered the same issue a few years ago, and upheld a similar Texas admitting privileges law, even though it closed about half of the state's 40 abortion clinics, leaving the only ones operational in major metropolitan areas in the northern and eastern parts of the state.  I have written about the Texas laws extensively here.  The Texas laws are the subject of a case now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the Seventh Circuit case, Judge Posner wrote for the majority, with Judge Manion dissenting.  I have elsewhere railed against the failure of litigants and judges to discuss rural women in these cases--even more so the failure to discuss these vulnerable women with compassion for and understanding of their circumstances.  In this post, I simply want to highlight what the judges did and did not say about poverty, rurality and distance in relation to the undue burden standard.

First, the bad news--the words "rural" and "rurality" are nowhere to be found in the opinion.  The good news, however, is that Judge Posner did mention poor women (as he had in his earlier opinion granting a restraining order against the law's operation).  Regarding distance (and the relevance of abortion clinics across state lines), he wrote:
It’s also true, though according to the cases just quoted irrelevant, that a 90-mile trip is no big deal for persons who own a car or can afford an Amtrak or Greyhound ticket. But more than 50 percent of Wisconsin women seeking abortions have incomes below the federal poverty line and many of them live in Milwaukee (and some north or west of that city and so even farther away from Chicago). For them a round trip to Chicago, and finding a place to stay overnight in Chicago should they not feel up to an immediate return to Wisconsin after the abortion, may be prohibitively expensive. The State of Wisconsin is not offering to pick up the tab, or any part of it. These women may also be unable to take the time required for the round trip away from their work or the care of their children. The evidence at trial, credited by the district judge, was that 18 to 24 percent of women who would need to travel to Chicago or the surrounding area for an abortion would be unable to make the trip.
(emphasis added).  This is helpful in that it takes seriously the financial obstacles facing poor women, but given that clinic closures across the state are at stake, it is somewhat oddly focused on urban women--those in the Milwaukee metropolitan area.  Further, while the prior Posner opinion enjoining the law discussed the burden of distance on women in the northern part of the state--those served by the Appleton clinic--this opinion discusses the need for the Milwaukee clinic to expand to meet the state's needs if the Appleton clinic closes.  

In that earlier, December, 2013 opinion, Posner wrote of both poverty and the burden of distance, specifically for women in the less populous northern part the state:

Some patients will be unable to afford the longer trips they’ll have to make to obtain an abortion when the clinics near them shut down—60 percent of the clinics’ patients have incomes below the federal poverty line. One of the clinics that will close is Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Appleton, which, as shown in the accompanying map, is in the approximate center of the state. The remaining abortion clinics are in Madison or Milwaukee, about 100 miles south of Appleton. A woman who lives north of Appleton who wants an abortion may (unless she lives close to the Minnesota border with Wisconsin and not far from an abortion clinic in that state) have to travel up to an additional 100 miles each way to obtain it. And that is really 400 miles—a nontrivial burden on the financially strapped and others who have difficulty traveling long distances to obtain an abortion, such as those who already have children. For Wisconsin law requires two trips to the abortion clinic (the first for counseling and an ultrasound) with at least twenty-four hours between them. Wis. Stat. § 253.10(3)(c). When one abortion regulation compounds the effects of another, the aggregate effects on abortion rights must be considered.
(emphasis added).  Posner even included this nifty map, to the delight of the legal geographer in me:

But this recent November, 2015, opinion does not discuss the burden of distance on the women in northern Wisconsin if the Appleton clinic closes and those women must travel to Milwaukee for abortion services.  This seems odd in light of the attention given to distance in regard to the Milwaukee women. 

All in all, the Posner opinion from last month uses the word "distance" three times and the word "travel" just once.  Compare that to the dissent by Judge Manion, who uses the word "distance" three times and the word "travel" four times.  Here's a key excerpt from Manion's dissent, which relies heavily on the recent Fifth Circuit decisions:  
Chicago is approximately 93 miles from Milwaukee—or a one hour and forty minute drive. The Fifth Circuit recently held that Texas’s admitting-privileges law did not impose an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose abortion because “travel of less than 150 miles for some women is not an undue burden under Casey.” Abbott II, 748 F.3d at 598 (citation omitted). Before Abbott II, the Sixth Circuit similarly concluded that there was no undue burden under Casey where one of two Ohio clinics to conduct 18–24 week abortions was closed due to lack of a transfer agreement with a local hospital, even when the remaining clinic was located over 200 miles away. See Baird, 438 F.3d at 599, 605. Consistent with these authorities, it is well within the scope of Newman to conclude that the 93-mile trip from Milwaukee to Chicago to obtain an abortion does not impose an undue burden on a woman’s ability to choose abortion. 305 F.3d at 688.
Also, I just came across this from Manion's opinion in the December, 2013, decision enjoining operation of the Wisconsin law: 
The number of women who seek abortions living in the areas near the closed clinics is apparently very small compared to those living near the clinics that will continue to operate. Thus, the admitting-privileges requirement likely only will compel a few rural women to drive longer distances. So it is far from clear that a “significant number” of women will be prevented from obtaining abortions.
This is the same numbers game the Fifth Circuit has been playing in declaring that the 17% of Texas's reproductive age women who are farther than 150 miles from an abortion provider do not constitute a "significant number."  That finding essentially renders these women--many of them rural women--constitutionally irrelevant in the context of a facial challenge to the laws' constitutionality.