Monday, February 28, 2022

"Rural America Lost Population Over the Past Decade for the First Time in History"

That's the title of a policy brief by Kenneth Johnson, from the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire.  Here are the first few paragraphs:   
The economic turbulence beginning with the Great Recession of 2007 and continuing through the next decade had a significant demographic impact on rural America. Recent data from the 2020 Census reveal that the rural population declined between 2010 and 2020.1 The loss was minimal, just 289,000 (-0.6 percent) out of 46 million, but it is the first decade-long rural population loss in history. In contrast, the rural population grew by 1.5 million between 2000 and 2010, and by nearly 3.4 million in the 1990s. Just 33.1 percent of rural counties gained population between 2010 and 2020, compared to 53.2 percent in the prior decade. Population growth was impacted in metropolitan areas as well, but the urban population continued to grow between 2010 and 2020. Thus, both rural and urban America have been buffeted by the aftermath of the Great Recession, which continued to exert a significant impact on migration, fertility, and mortality throughout the decade.

Population growth or decline depends on the balance between natural change (births minus deaths) and net migration (in-migrants minus out-migrants). Between 2010 and 2020, the United States experienced the least population growth since the 1930s because of the economic turbulence of the Great Recession and its aftermath. During the decade, immigration to the United States slowed and internal migration diminished because residents were frozen in place by high unemployment, housing debt, and poor economic prospects. At the same time, natural increase declined because there were fewer births and more deaths. In 2020, fertility rates hit record lows and there were the fewest births since 1979. At the same time, deaths were at record highs because of population aging and growing deaths of despair (including from drug overdoses and suicide).

These changes in national demographic trends had significant implications for rural America. A key question is how did the components of demographic change combined to produce the population loss in nonmetropolitan areas after 2010? The rural population declined because more people moved out than moved in, and because diminishing rural births only minimally exceeded the rising number of deaths. Between 2010 and 2020, the rural population declined by 289,000 because the net migration loss of 510,000 reduced the rural population by -1.1 percent, a loss which exceeded the gain from natural increase of 221,000 (0.5 percent). In contrast, in the prior decade, the rural population grew by 1,516,000 (3.4 percent) because there was a net gain of 464,000 migrants (1.0 percent) plus 1,052,000 more births than deaths (2.4 percent) (Figure 1). The shift from net migration gain to loss was widespread. Just a third of rural counties had migration gains between 2010 and 2020, compared to 45 percent between 2000 and 2010. In contrast, the metropolitan migration gain remained stable over the two decades.

The sharp reduction in natural increase following the Great Recession had a significant impact because it traditionally produced most of the rural population gain, as it did between 2000 and 2010. However, between 2010 and 2020 natural increase contributed only 21 percent as many new residents to rural America as it had in the last decade. This small gain from natural increase was not sufficient to offset the net migration loss. Fewer births and more deaths also increased the number of rural counties experiencing natural decrease (when more people die than are born). Between 2010 and 2020, deaths exceeded births in 55 percent of nonmetropolitan counties, up from 37 percent in the previous decade. This is the highest incidence of rural natural decrease in history, and it predates the onset of COVID-19, which is likely to further accelerate the incidence of natural decrease.
Download the entire brief here.   

Postscript:  Here is an interview with Kenneth Johnson about this matter, published in The Hill.  

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Morning Consult poll on rural attitudes toward the Democratic Party, and what one rural U.S. Senator is doing to reach his constituents

We've seen lots of stories about how Democrats should seek and can win the rural vote in the past few weeks (see earlier posts here and here, along with late 2021 post), and a big one appeared a few days ago.  It's from Morning Consult titled, "The Culture War Has Democrats Facing Electoral Demise in Rural America. Can They Stop the Bleeding?"  The piece by Eli Yokley leads with these data points, which are sobering for the Democrats: 

  • 65% of rural voters view the Democratic Party unfavorably — including 48% who do so strongly.
  • Among 21 issues tested, a rural voter’s desire for candidates to support securing the U.S.-Mexico border had the strongest correlation with negative views about the Democratic Party.
  • Only 23% of rural voters say the Democratic Party “cares more about my community” than the GOP.

These are drawn from the results of Morning Consult's mid-January survey of 1,525 self-identified rural voters.  This bit of the story explains why rural voters remain so important:  

The Democratic Party’s attrition in America’s shrinking yet politically powerful rural communities was obscured during Donald Trump’s presidency, with the GOP’s suburban decline ultimately helping deliver Democrats a governing trifecta in Washington despite state-level losses.

But Democrats may no longer be able to rely on the suburbs given President Joe Biden’s mounting struggles that threaten to again highlight his party’s weaknesses in rural communities, where new Morning Consult research reveals culture-driven displeasure with the party in power. Some prominent Democrats believe an immediate course correction is required for the party to avoid perhaps decades in the political wilderness.

“The root issue is that rural voters are worth more in both the Senate and the Electoral College,” said Democratic data scientist David Shor, a 2012 campaign guru for President Barack Obama who has spent years warning his party that it faces extinction in the country’s more remote areas. “Either Democrats make these adjustments and do better with working-class voters, or they get locked out of the federal government for a very long time.”

This piece in The Hill by Hannah Trudo does not focus on rural voters only, but rather on Democrat messaging.  Same regarding this piece from Politico.  Jeff Greenfield offers his opinion under the headline, "Democrats are Losing the Culture War.  A Messaging Shift Won't Change Them."  This piece by Stanley Greenberg, the famed Democratic pollster, focuses on cross-racial coalition building among working-class voters.  

Meanwhile, back specifically on the rural front, I follow U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) on Twitter, and it strikes me that he does a brilliant job of reaching his rural constituents using social media.  I'm pasting screenshots of some of his recent tweets below, where he has been touring Montana cities and towns, from mid-sized ones like those in the Flathead/Kalispell region and small ones like Havre, on the so-called Hi-Line, which is the strip along the Canadian border.  I like the respectful way he listens to and communicates with his constituents--and the way in which he lets them know what he's doing for them.  The recent infrastructure bill has given him lots of opportunities to talk specifics with particular communities.  All of these screenshots were taken on February 23 and 24, which shows just how busy Tester stays when he goes home to Montana. 

Tester has also spearheaded an effort to rein in the power of meatpackers and thus protect ranchers:  
February 26, 2022
Tester also tweets regularly abut issues with the U.S. Post Office (reductions in service hit rural areas especially hard) and the need to expand broadband to all rural folks  

In short, it seems that Tester is out doing what Steve Bullock, former governor of Montana, said he could not do during his pandemic run for U.S. Senate against the state's junior senator, Steve Daines:  Tester is out talking to people, conveying his interest in them and their challenges.  He is also communicating his values and personally countering the negative stereotypes of Democrats in rural Montana--the stereotypes Bullock said he could not counter during the height of the pandemic.  

Here's Tester's Twitter bio, with his barn, near Big Sandy, MT, in the background.  His prior bio showed a photo of him in his tractor.  In this one, he's pictured in work clothes beside a big truck used to transport what he grows.  In sum, he is unabashedly and unashamedly rural and not in the least bit elitist or playing to coastal elites.  It's refreshing that he doesn't seem to care about what urban elites think.  He knows who his most important audience is. 
February 26, 2022

But Tester does "international" too.  Here's a Tweet stemming from his work on the defense appropriations subcommittee, related to the Ukraine crisis: 
February 26, 2022
And this tweet highlights his work on behalf of veterans.  He chairs the Veteran's Affairs Committee, which is a frequent subject of tweets, including when he visits veterans services facilities in Montana.    
February 26, 2022
Just goes to show that domestic and international service, action, and expertise are not at odds with each other. It strikes me that Tester is doing both--and he's doing them very well.  Indeed, he's not only doing a good job serving his constituents, he's communicating well to his constituents--and people like me who are not his direct constituents--what he is doing for them.   

Other posts about Tester are here, here, here, and here.  

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Coronavirus in rural America (Part CLXXVII): New Yorkers who decamped to rural places (mostly) return to the city

The New York Times reports today on New York City residents who fled to the country during the pandemic and are now mostly returning to the city.  The headline for Julie Lasky's feature is "They Fled for Greener Pastures, and There Were Weeds."  Here's the humorous lead anecdote:  

For Andrew Joseph, the unexpected challenge of rural living was summed up in a single word: beavers. Mr. Joseph was enchanted by baby beavers swimming in the brook on his four-acre property in the town of Saugerties, N.Y., [population 19,482, in the Hudson Valley] where he and his partner, Paul Pearson, have been sheltering since March 2020.

“I quickly learned that they’re horrible, nasty creatures that wreak havoc and destruction,” said Mr. Joseph, the head of a Manhattan public relations firm who still maintains a home in Harlem. The beavers dammed the brook in three places, creating a swamp behind the house, and built a den that is “the size of a small van.”

Mr. Joseph, 51, applied for a permit to remove the animals and awaited a visit from a beaver trapper. After a preliminary visit, he never showed up again, though a bear did.

Then one night the couple heard gunshots from a neighbor’s property, and, lo, the beavers were gone.

Here's another excerpt, this one focusing on what the data tell us about population movement:

According to a report published in November by the New York State comptroller based on United States Postal Service change-of-address forms, a trend in migration from New York City following the March 2020 lockdown had reversed itself as of July 2021, motivated by the reopening of schools, offices and arts and entertainment offerings.

There are more humorous anecdotes, this one about Tara Silberberg, who moved with her family from Brooklyn to Gallatin, population 1,668, also in the Hudson Valley, early in the pandemic:

Having been raised in rural western Massachusetts, where her parents retreated [from Brooklyn] after a horrific 1973 acid attack left a Park Slope child blind, Ms. Silberberg said she speaks two languages: country and city. “I’m very direct and the people on my board appreciate that about me. In the country, there’s a lot of couching and people trying to say something and not wanting to be aggressive about it.”

She is also schooled in the sometimes-operatic inconveniences of rural life. In the first year of her family’s Massachusetts sojourn, the 1930s gravity-fed water system broke “and nobody knew how to fix it and we didn’t have water for a year,” she recalled. “I understood that the country doesn’t mean it’s always picking daisies.”

Some transplants came to realize that urban density, the close contact with fellow citizens that seemed so threatening in a time of pestilence, was the first thing they missed.
And here's yet another, focusing on the "harsh demands" made by "big rural parcels":  
“I hurt my back over two years ago when I did weed whacking, one of the perils of country life,” said Annette Schaich, 58.

Ms. Schaich, a New York-based marketing consultant in the design industry, has spent the pandemic in a southern New Hampshire farmhouse she shares with her husband, Tony Conway, 71, an artist who grew up and was educated in the state. The couple are stewards of 20 acres, which has claimed a bit of their health. “Tony fell from a ladder when he was renovating the barn and broke his knee,” Ms. Schaich said. She added that there is an excellent hospital in the area.

And the presence of that excellent hospital sets it apart from other rural locales, where the transplants to rural places found themselves missing all sorts of services.   

Read the whole story.  Among other things, you'll find a mention of New Yorker--or urbanite--as identity. 

Here's a related post--now more than a decade old--by a student, "The uninformative rural mystique."  

Friday, February 25, 2022

Thoughtful comments on GOP's very rural candidate for Governor of California

I wrote a few weeks ago about Brian Dahle's campaign for governor of California.   Now, Laurel Rosenhall of the Los Angeles Times provides these thoughtful and respectful comments on the state's most rural state senator, from nonmetro Lassen County in the far northern part of the state.  

Dahle told me he was one of just two Republicans who routinely showed up to play cards at Democratic Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s Sacramento home. When Dahle became the Assembly Republican leader in 2017, he flew to Los Angeles to meet Rendon over beers. Rendon said they developed a warm and respectful relationship during seven years working together in the Assembly, including several visits at Dahle’s farm.

“I’d be at a taco truck in downtown L.A. and I’d call him up and he’d say, ‘I’m on my tractor right now, I’ve got to turn it off,’” Rendon recalled. “I think we’ve learned from one another’s perspectives, just from how different we see the world based on, to an extent, where we come from.”

Dahle’s background in agriculture is one of many ways he’s contrasting himself with Newsom. Big-city Democrat versus Republican farmer. Powerful politician versus scrappy underdog. To the extent there will be much of a campaign in this lopsided race, both men will spend much of it emphasizing their ideological differences — on guns, abortion, criminal justice and, of course, COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates.

Then, there is this comparison with Newsom:  

It’s worth noting, however, that Dahle and Newsom have some things in common — not only as white men in their mid-50s, but also in their origin stories. Both men come from families deeply rooted in their respective corners of California, Newsom as a fourth-generation San Franciscan and Dahle farming land near the Oregon border that once belonged to his grandfather. Both began their careers as entrepreneurs, Newsom opening a wine shop with the help of family friends and Dahle launching a seed business on the family farm. Both got into local politics on their county board of supervisors before setting sights on the state Capitol.

Pot-grower in far northern California pleads guilty to trying to bribe local sheriff

The Sacramento Bee reported yesterday from Siskiyou County, California, population 44,076,. on the Oregon state line: 

One of two marijuana growers charged with offering the Siskiyou County sheriff a $1 million bribe in 2017 pleaded guilty in federal court in Sacramento Tuesday in a plea deal that allows her to escape trial.

Gaosheng Laitinen, 41, of Cottage Grove, Minnesota, pleaded guilty in a Zoom hearing before U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez to conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, felony counts that could have netted her up to 20 years in prison.

Laitinen was charged along with her brother, Chi Meng Yang, 36, in an audacious scheme to bribe then-Sheriff Jon Lopey for to buy protection for marijuana grows in the county, prosecutors say.
The U.S. Attorneys Office in Sacramento said Yang offered Lopey $1 million during a meeting in the sheriff’s Yreka office on May 17, 2017, “in exchange for his assistance with an interstate marijuana distribution business that Yang and others were in the process of organizing in Siskiyou County.”

Immediately after the meeting, Lopey called the FBI and agents began recording subsequent meetings.
Other posts about pot growing in Siskiyou County and the Hmong community are here and here, and other links are embedded in those posts.  

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Aging and disability services unequally distributed along rural-urban axis

Here's the policy brief from Syracuse University's Lerner Center for Public Health, authored by Claire Pendergrast (Syracuse) and Danielle Rhubart (Penn State):  
As the U.S. population ages, demand for aging and disability services will increase, but 15% of U.S. counties have no aging and disability services organizations. This brief shows that rural counties and counties with the highest rates of poverty, highest shares of older adults, and highest shares of non-Hispanic Blacks are most likely to be aging and disability services deserts. To support healthy aging across the country, policymakers should invest in aging services infrastructure and should prioritize resources for places that are aging and disability services deserts.

And here is a related paper, also about aging and rurality, just published in the Journal of Rural Social Sciences, "Support from Adult Children and Parental Health in Rural America," by Shelley Clark, Elizabeth M. Lawrence, and Shannon M. Monnat.  The abstract follows:  

Adult children are a primary source of care for their aging parents. Parents in rural areas, however, live further from their adult children than parents in urban areas, potentially limiting the support they receive and compromising their health and ability to age in place. We use two waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (2013 and 2017) to investigate the relationships among geographic proximity, adult children’s instrumental and financial support, and parental health. Rural parents live further from their adult children and receive less financial support, but they are more likely to receive instrumental assistance. In addition, rural parents have worse health and more functional limitations than urban parents, and these differences persist after controlling for proximity to and support from adult children. Our findings indicate that factors beyond proximity influence the complex relationships between spatial and social boundaries and their consequences for older adults’ health and well-being.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Recalling local government officials: a rural-urban comparison (Part II: San Francisco Board of Education)

I started this rural-urban comparison of recent local government recalls in California last week, and this post is going to focus on the urban bit--what happened in San Francisco on February 15, when more than 70% of voters supported the recall of three members of the city's Board of Education (only three were eligible for recall based on how long they had served).  

I'll leave for a future post more details about what happened a few weeks earlier in Shasta County, California, popularly thought of as rural, though it's a metropolitan county.  San Francisco, however, is the Golden state's most densely populated county, and it is coterminous with San Francisco City.  

Public ire toward the San Francisco school board originated last year, in January, 2021, when the board voted 6-1 a year ago, in January, 2021, to rename 44 schools currently named for folks like Paul Revere, Diane Feinstein, George Washington, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Abraham Lincoln.  Ross Douthat, New York Times columnist, wrote then:  

After the vote, I spent some time reading the Google spreadsheet helpfully compiled by the renaming effort, which listed the justification for each erasure: for Washington, slave-owning; for Revere, helping to command a doomed Revolutionary War military operation on the Maine coast that nonetheless supposedly contributed to the “colonization” of the Penobscot tribe; for Stevenson, writing a “cringeworthy poem” that includes words like “Eskimo” and “Japanee.” (It may not surprise you that some of these justifications, often pulled from Wikipedia, included significant errors of historical fact.)

As interesting as the spreadsheet, in its way, was the displeased statement from San Francisco’s mayor, London Breed. Though there was liberal opposition to the renaming project, the pressures of the mayor’s position apparently made it impossible for her to argue straightforwardly that Abraham Lincoln still deserves to have a school named after him. Instead, her ire focused on the fact that the school board is busy renaming schools when it hasn’t actually found a way to open them: “What I cannot understand is why the School Board is advancing a plan to have all these schools renamed by April, when there isn’t a plan to have our kids back in the classroom by then.”

After that, the school board also decided to do away with "merit-based" admissions at the city's prestigious Lowell High School, a magnet school that Laurel Rosenhall of the Los Angeles Times described thusly: 

Lowell High School historically has admitted only students with strong grades and test scores, a policy that’s been controversial since before I was a student there in the 1990s. Though the campus has been an engine of upward mobility for generations of students from immigrant families, Black and Latino students have long been underrepresented. Overrepresented are the number of California politicians with ties to the school: Both parents of former Gov. Jerry Brown graduated from Lowell High, as did Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mother. State Controller Betty Yee graduated from Lowell in 1975, and Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis is married to a Lowell alum, according to my alumni newsletter, which writes about such things.

Soon after the election results rolled in, showing overwhelming voter support for the recall, columnist Mark Z. Barabak wrote in the Los Angeles Times: 

The circumstances of the recall were both unique and broadly reflective.

In a place that prides itself on social justice and forward thinking, members of the school board outdid themselves by moving to strip the names of, among others, Presidents Washington and Lincoln and Sen. Dianne Feinstein from 44 public schools.

The intent was to remediate the country’s history of injustices: George Washington owned slaves, Abraham Lincoln oversaw the slaughter of Native Americans, and Feinstein, as mayor in 1984, replaced a Confederate flag that had been vandalized at City Hall with a new one. The result was outrage.

In another instance of misplaced priorities, board members spent hours debating whether a father who was white and gay brought sufficient diversity to a parental advisory committee. His appointment was ultimately nixed, but there was no recovering the time that was wasted.

Perhaps most antagonizing, the board moved to end merit-based admissions to Lowell High School, one of the city’s most sacred institutions, where Asian American students are the majority. (The move catalyzed the district’s Asian American community, long an important force in San Francisco politics.)

Old comments surfaced from Collins, in which she stated Asian Americans used “white supremacist” thinking to get ahead and were racist toward Black students. She apologized, then sued the school district and five fellow board members, seeking $87 million in damages, for removing her title as vice president. A judge summarily rejected the case.

This is the only account I have seen detail why the board would move to rename a school named for U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein.  Other coverage of how Abraham Lincoln, for example, could be one of the bad guys is here.

Laurel Rosenhall suggests on the Los Angeles Times editorial page that the overwhelming success of the recall was less due to a failure on the part of the board to "do its job."  Rosenhall closes her column thusly:  

In the end, all that misdirected effort accomplished little. A judge ruled that the board couldn’t change the Lowell admissions policy because it had violated open-meeting laws. The board rescinded its plan to rename dozens of campuses after being ridiculed at home and across the nation.

But the parents who spent hours on Zoom trying to get the board to listen to them and their children had been awakened. Their recall movement plowed ahead, gaining support from progressives and moderates in a city where Dem-on-Dem combat is usually fierce. This wasn’t about a conservative backlash. It was just about a school board that didn’t do its job.

On the wokeness front, I found of particular interest the San Francisco Chronicle's coverage of some comments by recalled school board member Allison Collins:  

Lowell [High School] wasn’t the main issue for [Laurence Lee, a 2011 alum of Lowell], but rather the “overt racism” of Collins’ 2016 tweet comparing Asians to a racial slur against Black people after she said they weren’t standing up against then-President-elect Donald Trump. She deleted the tweet after being reported, but reposted in a screenshot in December 2021.

“It’s completely performative, outrageous crap,” Lee said. “We used to have support and allies. Now we’re the easy scapegoat.”

Collins also said in 2016 that many Asian American students, teachers and parents “use white supremacist thinking to assimilate ‘get ahead.’”

A few days before the election, she doubled down.

“So when I have said in the past that SOME members of the AAPI community have aligned themselves with whiteness, it’s a historical fact, not an opinion. It’s surprising to me that some folks still find this idea so controversial,” she wrote in a tweet. “And let me add, this is true of ALL GROUPS including Black folks.”

This argument that Asians are trying to be white or acting white is also one made in Claudia Rankine's book, Just Us.  

So, the right-leaning and many mainstream media frame this successful recall as a backlash against wokeness, but there's room to interpret it the way Rosenhall does, too.   In fact, this quote from one of the recall organizer, Autumn Looijen, is perhaps most accurate in that it gets at the intersection of issues:  

It’s not about renaming, itself. It’s about renaming while the house is on fire.

Meanwhile, a recall effort is afoot to remove Chesa Boudin, the progressive prosecutor in San Francisco. 

Marketing wine as "rural"

Homepage for Rural Mendocino Wines

I've been traveling this weekend in nonmetropolitan Mendocino County, California, including both inland parts (the Anderson Valley wine region) and the coastal bits (the town of Mendocino and Fort Bragg). 

Tonight, dining at a restaurant south of Mendocino (the town), the red wine by the glass on offer was branded Zosia, a blend of Pinot Noir, Grenache, Carignan and Barbera.  I ordered it and found it slightly effervescent and quite distinctive, so I asked to see the label.  I was delighted to see that the wine is from farther inland Mendocino County than the Anderson Valley--and that is is marketed explicitly as "rural."  Here are the front and back labels:

And this led me to the website for the winery, Rural Mendocino, run by the sons of the Fetzer wine empire.  The text states: 
We grew up in Mendocino County. As kids our days were filled with hiking the beautiful countryside and working in vineyards. Our family started growing winegrapes here in 1958, and later founded Fetzer Vineyards. In the mid 90’s we began building the MasĂșt properties throughout Mendocino County, where we farm vineyards and raise cattle and hay crops on nearly 5000 acres. Our ranches are rural, and we love working with our hands creating something from farming.

Rural Wine Company was founded because we wanted to showcase the incredible fruit across this beautiful county, a place we love and call home.

    Ben and Jake Fetzer, third generation

Kinda' cool to be marketing a product like wine as "rural," though we see many other products marketed that way.  Certainly, throughout California, tons of wine grapes are grown in rural regions, including parts of Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Placer, Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Monterey, Santa Clara, and Nevada counties, just to name a smattering.  A great deal of those grapes are also made into wine in the same places.   

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Coronavirus in rural America (Part CLXXVI): Nonmetro California county one of last to drop mask mandates

Between Boonville and Philo, 
Anderson Valley Grange, California 

I'm spending this weekend in Mendocino County, California, and, on the way here, I learned from my local NPR station that Mendocino is one of three California counties keeping its mask mandate in place.  That is, it's doing so even though the state wide mandate has finally been dropped.  I was surprised to hear this because Mendocino County, with a population of about 91,000 spread over a land area of about 3,800 square miles, is one of the Golden State's least densely populated counties.  It's not the type of place one expects to be one of the last to hold onto a mask mandate, especially given how controversial these mandates have been in this part of California, the full third of the state's land area lying between Sacramento and the Oregon state line.  The other two counties retaining mask mandates are decidedly, predictably urban. 

I've not been able to find a transcript of the radio segment on Capital Public radio, but the public health official noted that the reason Mendocino County is keeping its mask mandate is because of a relative shortage of hospital beds.  Then I found this related information in a county press release from February 10, 2022:

While Mendocino County appears to be recovering from the Omicron surge based on a decrease in reported cases from PCR testing, this data is believed to be an undercount because it does not include all positive antigen test results. The County also continues to be an area of highest risk, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), with “High Community Transmission.”

Furthermore, the County’s COVID-19 hospitalization and ICU rates are still higher than they were during the Delta surge. Since February 1, Mendocino County has had less than 10% ICU capacity. On some days, there are 0 or 1 ICU beds available, compared to California overall, which currently has 18-20% ICU capacity. This adds stress for local hospitals and their staff and delays other medical procedures.

“We will continue to assess the COVID-19 situation as it evolves and will reevaluate the need for continued universal masking orders on March 15, 2022, based on community transmission and burden to the local hospital system. For now, continued masking will protect our residents as we are still at the highest CDC risk level,” explained Dr. Coren.

The official interviewed for the Capital Public Radio story mentioned that people on the coast are supportive of the mask mandate--those are mostly tourists and those serving tourists.  Inland folks, however, don't support the mask mandate.  Their jobs are far less likely to be oriented to tourists; they tend to be more traditionally rural, and with that comes an antipathy to government regulation.

I have noticed here in Mendocino County that there is uniform signage (like photo above; saw same signs at wineries) every where I look, and I've been impressed at the extent to which folks are compliant with the mandate--whether inland or coastal.  

At Lichen Estate Winery, between
Boonville and Philo

At Lichen Estate Winery, between 
Boonville and Philo 

Northern California logging back in the news, this time regarding the rights of Native Americans

Lila Seidman reports for the Los Angeles Times today from near Fort Bragg, California, in Mendocino County.  The headline is, "A war to halt logging in Northern California reignites. Will it end differently this time?," and an excerpt follows: 

The Jan. 23 gathering was the latest rallying cry in a decades-long war over Jackson [Demonstration State Forest]’s trees, a battle that has pitted environmental activists against state and timber industry leaders. At the heart of the dispute are differing opinions about the best use of public land and who should steward the precious resource.

Those who oppose logging call it a greed-fueled operation that runs contrary to climate goals. Supporters see it as pragmatic management of a renewable resource.

Now, Native American tribes indigenous to the area [in particular the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians] have joined the fray, demanding a say in the fate of their ancestral homeland. And state officials are listening.

The renewed debate playing out behind the so-called redwood curtain could deliver the first agreement with Indigenous tribes to co-manage a state demonstration forest, according to officials at the California Natural Resources Agency.

It’s a historic path supported by stakeholders on both sides. But there’s a wrench in the works: State and tribal leaders don’t see eye to eye on important aspects of Jackson’s future. It’s not yet clear how the chasm between their visions will be reconciled.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Agricultural crime: Bee hives stolen in rural northern California

The Press-Democrat (Sonoma County, California) reported this week from Hopland, population 756. under the headline "Theft of almost 400 bee colonies near Hopland part of an industry trend."  Here's the lede: 
Millions of honeybees mysteriously vanished around the end of January from a Hopland property in Mendocino County. There was little indication, though, that the colonies just flew away and took their hives with them.

Sometime between colony inspections on Jan. 19 and Feb. 1, it became clear that Sonoma County-based Tauzer Apiaries, which owns the bees, had fallen victim to a thief or thieves who made off with 384 colonies.

By several accounts, the theft reflects a consistent burden members of the apiary industry face, especially during this time of year when bees are pollinating and in high demand by growers.

Around 600 hives were stolen across California last year and more than 800 have been taken so far this year, said Butte County Sheriff’s Deputy Rowdy Freeman who is not only a law enforcement liaison to the California State Beekeepers Association and president of the California Rural Crime Prevention Task Force, but also and a fellow beekeeper.

The colonies were found within just a few days in neighboring Yolo County.  Tauzer Apiaries also had a forklift stolen at about the same time, and it was apparently used in the bee colony theft. 

Friday, February 18, 2022

Recalling local government officials: a rural-urban comparison (Part I)

I find curious the recent successful recall of a county supervisor by "militia-backed" forces in Shasta County, California--popularly thought of as rural--juxtaposed against the successful recall this week of three school-board members in San Francisco, an uber-urban and uber-woke place. 

One commonality is that both take advantage of the California law that makes it relatively easy to recall--or attempt to recall--an elected official.  Recall that this law was used last year to attempt to recall Governor Gavin Newsom, an effort that did not succeed.  Another commonality of both elections is that they show voters--at least those who showed up to vote--moving to the right, though not necessarily very far to the right.  These are arguably incremental moves in both urban and rural contexts.  Also, both have drawn lots of media attention.  

Yet the types of media attention are different.  The concern by the media regarding Shasta County is about an "alt-right" force, and the concern in San Francisco is that the recalled officials have gone altogether too woke.  But the tenor of the coverage of San Francisco feels different from that of Shasta County.  Is one more reasonable than the other?  I'll unpack the details of the difference in a future post.  

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Big Associated Press story on Democrats chasing the rural vote

Steve Peoples reports from Smethport, Pennsylvania, population 1,655.  The lede is certainly attention getting: 
Some Democrats here in rural Pennsylvania are afraid to tell you they’re Democrats.

The party’s brand is so toxic in the small towns 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh that some liberals have removed bumper stickers and yard signs and refuse to acknowledge their party affiliation publicly. These Democrats are used to being outnumbered by the local Republican majority, but as their numbers continue to dwindle, the few that remain are feeling increasingly isolated and unwelcome in their own communities.

“The hatred for Democrats is just unbelievable,” said Tim Holohan, an accountant based in rural McKean County who recently encouraged his daughter to get rid of a pro-Joe Biden bumper sticker. “I feel like we’re on the run.”

The climate across rural Pennsylvania is symptomatic of a larger political problem threatening the Democratic Party ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Beyond losing votes in virtually every election since 2008, Democrats have been effectively ostracized from many parts of rural America, leaving party leaders with few options to reverse a cultural trend that is redefining the nation’s political landscape.

Here's a vignette from the story out of Pennsylvania:   

In Pennsylvania, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a leading candidate in the state’s high-stakes Senate contest, insists his party can no longer afford to ignore rural voters. The former small-town mayor drove his black Dodge Ram pickup truck across five rural counties last weekend to face voters who almost never see statewide Democratic candidates.

Fetterman, wearing his signature hooded sweatshirt and gym shorts despite the freezing temperatures, described himself as a champion for “the forgotten, the marginalized and the left-behind places” as he addressed roughly 100 people inside a bingo hall in McKean County, a place Trump carried with 72% of the vote in 2020.

“These are the kind of places that matter just as much as any other place,” Fetterman said as the crowd cheered.

I came across this story thanks to this tweet from the 134 Pac in Texas, which describes itself as "Formed March 2, 2021 to break the mold of what it means to be a Democrat in the 134 counties between El Paso and the I-35 corridor. #SaveRuralTexas."

A California program is working to help the rural unhoused

Anna Maria Berry-Jester reports for the Los Angeles Times reports today out of Del Norte County, in the far northwestern corner of California, about how the state's "Project Roomkey" is working to put a roof over the heads of the previously unhoused.  That program provides funds for the purchase of old motels to house those without housing.  Here's an excerpt:  
California’s spiraling housing crisis is often understood through the lens of its big cities, where the sheer number of people who need assistance can quickly capsize the programs designed to move people into housing. But before the pandemic, helping people find shelter in Del Norte had been an insurmountable problem for [Heather] Snow [county director of health and human services] and her colleagues, as well.

There’s not enough housing in general in Del Norte, let alone for people with precarious finances. Snow lived 30 minutes north, in Brookings, Oregon, when she started her job six years ago. It took years to find somewhere closer to live. And there’s never been a homeless shelter anywhere in the county, as far as she knows.

For several years, Snow has used county funds to rent rooms at a local motel to temporarily house people at risk of becoming homeless. Sometimes they’d been released from a psychiatric medical hold or were trying to get out of an abusive relationship. Sometimes they needed a temporary sober-living environment. The county spent $820,000 on those rooms from July 2015 through June 2020. “It was a public health emergency before is the truth,” Snow said. “People just didn’t see it that way.”

After the pandemic came to town, Snow and her colleagues began using the motel to house people ... who were at high risk for serious illness and had no safe place to live, as well as people who needed a safe place to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure.

* * *
In October 2020, the state awarded Del Norte County $2.4 million to buy the 30-room motel and turn it into affordable housing through Project Homekey, a statewide initiative spearheaded by Gov. Gavin Newsom to help counties buy old motels and other buildings and turn them into permanent housing. 
Snow said there’s enough space to accommodate about 17% of Del Norte County’s homeless residents and families.The motel is nestled in a median between the north- and southbound lanes of Highway 101 and is flanked by grocery stores, fast-food restaurants, a laundromat and a drugstore. It’s not far from the police station and county health services. To Snow, it’s an ideal location for people ... who don’t have a car.

* * * 

Today, the 30 motel rooms in Del Norte are among the more than 7,000 new housing units the state says it has created through Project Homekey in two years. In late January, the Newsom administration announced that an additional $14 billion will be spent in 2022 on a mix of housing units and mental health treatment.

Some people have stayed at the Legacy, as the county renamed the motel, and then moved on to new homes after finding their footing. Others have housing vouchers and jobs but can’t find another place to live. And some...have become long-term tenants.

Would love to see a comparison of how and what Project Homekey is doing in California's urban areas. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Rural Sociological Society extends deadline for abstracts for August 2022 meeting

Here's the information on submitting abstracts for the 2022 Rural Sociological Annual Meeting, but note the new deadline is now February 28, 2022:

The Global Reach of Rural Activism: The Community Voice for Imagined Possibilities

The current political crises, voter suppression, and a nation as well as the world dealing with a pandemic unlike any ever witnessed before present innumerable challenges. Some of these problems are long-standing because we failed to fully understand them from multiple perspectives, particularly from the standpoint of those most harmed. We challenge ourselves to identify best practices that will engage all people in civil discourse and community action to work toward the resolution of these issues at an appropriate scale. In our communities, across our nation, and as a global society, we need to explore ways to include a diversity of community voices in charting a course for the next generation.

Building upon the themes of the last two conferences as well the first meeting of the society that took place in 1937, we will be investigating ways that Rural Sociologists can engage the voices from the community in resolving these diverse problems. We recognize that traditional means of addressing Race and Equity in communities cannot be resolved with a top-down approach. New practices, new strategies, and new partnerships are needed. The Society recognizes the need to be at the forefront of identifying solutions.

In addition to presentations on the meeting theme, we invite research and engagement presentations focused on rural people, places, and themes from various disciplinary perspectives.

Submission Process:
Abstracts should be approximately 150-350 words and briefly outline the paper's purpose, theoretical framing, methods, and main findings. The deadline for submitting papers, posters, and sessions is Tuesday, February 15th, 2022, at 11:59 pm (CST). [Now extended to Monday, February 28, 2022] Abstracts can be submitted through this link.

Program Co-Chairs Ian Carrillo or Mark Harvey at or the RSS Business Office, with any questions and ideas for special events you have for the 2022 meeting.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Courting the rural vote, from Wisconsin to Tennessee

Democrats outreach to rural areas--or lack thereof--is something that keeps popping up in the media I consume and on my Twitter time line, so I thought I'd assemble a post featuring these. 

Let me lead with some local/state vignettes.  Out of Tennessee, the headline was "Tennessee Democrats plan to reach out to rural voters," but the dateline was urban Nashville.  Here's an excerpt:  
The chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, Hendrell Remus, says he admits the party needs to do a better job connecting with rural voters, especially now that state Republicans have carved up Nashville into three congressional districts, all incorporating several rural, conservative-leaning counties.

"Democrats for a long time have been disorganized, we hadn't made the type of investments we needed to make across the state," Hendrell said.
* * *
"It's about making sure that people understand that despite our differences, there's a whole lot more that we have in common," Remus said.

But on Wednesday, the Tennessee Democratic Party hosted a livestream, with Aftyn Behn, a campaign director from, talking about how to get votes in rural counties for Democratic congressional candidates.

"Myself, who lives in East Nashville, can now organize with folks in Cookeville to oust [Republican Congressman] John Rose who's a P.O.S.," said Behn.

"What kind of unity and trust does a phrase like that build?" NewsChannel 5 asked Remus.

"I think that language is kind of hot, it's inflammatory, but at the end of the day, there's probably folks, in rural areas who probably feel the same way," Remus said. "If you look at the conditions that some of these people have been left in after repeatedly electing some of these folks representing rural areas, and whose lives really truly haven't gotten better."  (emphasis mine)

I wonder if Remus is right, that folks in rural areas really are mad at the Republicans they've elected.  I think about this frequently in relation to Arkansas, where not a single member of the state's 6-member congressional delegation voted in favor of the infrastructure bill, which will do so much to boost the state's economy in the short run and keep it moving in the long run.  Still, I'm not sure folks regret voting Republican.  A poll released yesterday said that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running 10 points ahead of an unnamed Democratic opponent in the coming gubernatorial race.  Yet Sanders never talks about Arkansas, and is not even out campaigning at this point, in sharp contrast to her likely Democratic opponent, Chris Jones. 

Remus says the focus will be on Democrats who live in the rural counties connecting one-on-one with people they know, on issues like rural hospitals that have closed down across the state, and other issues that conservatives tend to gravitate toward.

"If you're a gun owner, we're going to protect your Second Amendment, but we want to make sure you're not having to pawn your gun around the holidays to put a meal on the table for your family," Remus said.

Another story was out of Wisconsin, appearing first in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and a few days later in, "Democratic U.S. Senate candidates want more rural votes. Can they get them?"  Here's an excerpt:

Last month, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski released a plan for rural Wisconsin, a region home to a significant portion of the state’s Republican voters.

“As Senator,” Godlewski said in a statement about her rural policies, including boosting broadband and health care access, “I will listen, I will engage, and I will ensure that Washington politicians finally start hearing Wisconsin’s rural voices.”

She’s not the first to make such a claim.

Last year, U.S. Senate candidate and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson kicked off the “Full Nelson Tour,” visiting each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties over six weeks. In his tour announcement, he pledged to fight for a Green New Deal, Medicare for All and a $15 minimum wage while listening to what rural voters needed from him.

U.S. Senate candidates Lt. Gov Mandela Barnes and Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, whose policy proposals have thus far been less focused on rural initiatives, still have voiced support for increased internet access, improved health care and support for family farms.

Meanwhile, Senator Jon Tester, D of Montana, was interviewed on the Axe Files, and part of that interview as featured on The Hill.  Here's an excerpt, which is really nothing new in terms of messaging from Tester:  

The three-term Montana senator knocked his party for what he called a lack of outreach to rural voters, telling veteran political strategist David Axelrod in an interview that Democrats will be relegated to the minority unless they start courting voters in Middle America.

“I honestly don't think the Democratic Party can be a majority party unless we start appealing to middle America a lot more,” he said during an appearance on CNN’s “Axe Files” podcast released on Thursday. “I'm talking about the area between the two mountain ranges, the Appalachians and the Rocky Mountains. And if we're able to do that, I think it will provide success.”
* * *

In his interview with Axelrod, Tester said that the party’s brand was “toxic” in rural America and blamed national Democrats for failing to talk to voters in “places we’re not wanted.”

“It's toxic. The national Democratic brand in, I think in rural America generally, is toxic, and it's because, quite frankly, we don't show up,” he said. “I'm talking about national Democrats. We're not willing to go places we're not wanted and answer questions.”

As a related matter, don't miss my review of Tester's book, Grounded: A Senator's Lessons on Winning Back Rural America, on the Daily Yonder, from January 2021. 

A woman running to be chair of Texas' Democratic Party, Kim Olson, was featured in a story by a Texas television station.  She's a prior candidate for U.S. Congress and for Texas Commissioner of Agriculture.  She's focusing on some of the supports rural folks need from government:  

If Democrats are to win their first statewide office in nearly three decades, winning the rural vote will be critical. And Olson says the party must focus on rural education, health care and economic opportunities.

She points specifically to the large number of rural hospitals closing since 2010, according to the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals (TORCH).

“Twenty-six hospitals have closed across rural Texas. Why? Because we didn’t want to expand Medicaid or Medicare,” said Olson. “That means people drive for hours to get to a hospital. And that’s why rural counties die is because young families won’t move there unless they have access to good education, health care and decent jobs.”

Here's another part of the story that doesn't mention "rural," but hints at it:  

"It’s my belief that if you really want to win at the statewide, you have to have strong foundations for these candidates that run statewide to stand on and build their campaigns. And that comes at the local level,” Olson said on this week’s Inside Texas Politics.

Olson says two of the keys for the party to win statewide office is to ensure strong county parties at that local level to help motivate Democratic voters and better messaging that resonates with regular folks.

I get a lot of the news about attention to the rural vote (or lack thereof) from Matt Barron, whose Twitter handle is @Mr Rural.  Here's one screen shot I took this week, featuring Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman's campaigning for the U.S. Senate seat.  Here, Fetterman is campaigning in McKean County, in the rural north central part of the Keystone State--and the photo shows him doing so in February, in shorts! 

Finally, today, the New York Times brought us this about Iowa's Cindy Axne, the sole Democrat in Iowa's congressional delegation.  Here are some rural-related excerpts from that story: 

Holding a blue seat in a red-tinged place like Iowa’s Third Congressional District takes discipline. It takes a relentless focus on the folks back home, which is why you won’t see Cindy Axne yukking it up on “Morning Joe” or rubbing elbows with Jake Tapper on CNN. It takes doing who-knows-how-many hits on rural radio stations that might reach just a few hundred people at a time.
* * *
In 2019, when flooding devastated communities in her district along the Missouri River, Axne was everywhere: touring busted levees, lobbying for federal aid. It earned her some credit in the suburban areas around Council Bluffs and Indianola, helping her eke out that win in 2020.

Here's to chasing the rural vote! (You'll find lots of other content on this topic here on the blog, like this recent post and this one from early December).

Saturday, February 12, 2022

On the rural housing crisis, a dispatch from mountain Colorado

PBS reported late last year from Buena Vista, Colorado, population 2,855, southwest of Denver in Chaffee County, population 20,000. Here's an excerpt:  
Nestled in the Upper Arkansas River Valley, Buena Vista has long been a destination for outdoor activities, weddings and tourism in general. The town of just under 3,000 people has seen rapid change over the last 10 years and an even quicker arrival of a housing crisis.

“Every day, I'm at least partially consumed with the thought that I might lose my current housing,” said Catherine Eichel, a five-year resident of the Arkansas Valley. “It's the last thing I think about before I go to sleep. And it's the first thing I think about when I wake up.”

Eichel is a professional wedding photographer and has found success in the area, a popular place for weddings. But in the last year, she lost her housing and more than struggled to find a new place to live.

“So, I was actually homeless during that nine months and working full time, which was incredibly challenging,” said Eichel.

For nine months, Eichel was piecing together housing in any way she could—she stayed on friend’s couches, sublet and lived with relatives. The extra challenge was, of course, navigating this problem during a global pandemic when people were encouraged to stay separated for public health reasons.

Eichel explained:
During the time that I couldn't find housing for nine months, I think the biggest, the most overwhelming feeling was, of course, massive levels of anxiety, but then coupled with that was just severe isolation.

Her story captures the essence of the housing crisis Buena Vista has seen in the last couple of years.

“I've had many friends here lose their housing and have to leave and move somewhere else because they don't have a place to live,” said Devin Rowe, a member of the Board of Trustees for Buena Vista. He also works at a local bike shop that doubles as a bar to help make ends meet.
* * *

A search on Zillow for the average home price in the Buena Vista currently shows it a little more than $460,000, while data from the National Association of Relators shows in Chaffee County shows it just over $410,000. 

* * *  

The Bureau of Economic Analysis, which analyzed and collected 2020 census data, shows the median individual income in Chaffee County is just over $30,000 a year, while household median income in 2019 was $60,331. 

This huge gap between income and housing prices is why Eichel and Rowe have heard of so many people and friends leaving the area.

“It's becoming more and more common where people are getting pushed out because of housing, whether it's being sold or being rented out as short-term rentals,” said Rowe.

Short-term rentals (STRs) have become a big target of blame for the housing crisis in Colorado mountain towns like Buena Vista. STRs often take up a significant portion of the housing units for an area.
The response of local government:
In late September, the Board of Trustees adopted an ordinance that limits the number of STRs for the town, with some exceptions. It puts a cap on out-of-county owners to only own six percent of the housing stock and in-county owners to three percent. Owners are exempted from this rule if the property is their primary residence and/or if the property is in the east or South Main areas of town.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Rural legal scholarship: Localism all the way up by Richard Schragger

The full title of the article, published in the Wisconsin Law Review, is "Localism All the Way Up: Federalism, State-City Conflict, and the Urban-Rural Divide."  Here is the abstract: 
One characteristic of this age of political polarization is increasing conflict between states and their cities. Pandemic-related regulation has been a recent flashpoint, with governors and mayors at loggerheads over public health regulations. But conflicts between state and city officials preceded that global emergency. Though popular electoral maps can sometimes suggest that red state and blue state divisions are driving our current politics, state-city conflicts are more representative of the actual political cleavages that afflict “our federalism” in the twenty-first century—a federalism that is characterized by the decline of regional political affiliations and the rise of metropolitan ones, the broader conflict between urbanizing municipalities and rural counties, the fact of uneven economic development, and the consequent values bifurcation between low and high productivity places. This form of sectional conflict is less amenable to federalism doctrines that contemplate state-by-state divergence; those doctrines can only serve as crude proxies for the political cleavages that are operating within states, not between them. Recognizing the metropolitan origins of our polarized politics is important for two reasons. First, reorienting the conversation away from state-national conflict highlights the disadvantages of state-based federalism as a mechanism for managing ideological cleavages. And second, focusing on state-city conflict suggests the necessity of intra-state institutional reform as a way forward. State-city conflict is not federalism writ small; it is instead what federalism—albeit mediated through a pre-urban Constitution that still gives primacy to states—has become. Instead of “federalism all the way down” as a way to characterize the multiple vertical layers of authority in the U.S., a better description might be “localism all the way up”: conflict at the metropolitan scale is driving important aspects of our national political life.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

California's most rural state senator declares candidacy for governor

Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) declared his candidacy for Governor of California yesterday, becoming the first to challenge Governor Gavin Newsom since the recall election in September, 2021.  I've written about Dahle previously, here and here.  He represents the largest (in land area) Senate district in the state, in far northern and northeastern California, adjacent for miles to Oregon and Nevada.  

I'm surprised by his candidacy, mostly because he doesn't seem to have the proverbial snowball's chance in Hell of winning.  One reason for that is the imbalance in funds:  Dahle, who has served in the legislature since 2014, has $200,000 in his legislative re-election campaign fund, while Newsom has a war chest of $25million.  

I found the coverage of Dahle's announcement by the two California newspapers I regularly read of interest.  First, the Sacramento Bee failed to even use Dahle's name in its headline, while using Newsom's first and last names, "Republican challenging Gavin Newsom faces uphill battle and $25 million war chest."  Here's an excerpt: 

Brian Dahle stood before a crowd of supporters in Redding on Tuesday and said he wants to win back California from the “corruption” of one-party rule under Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

“I love California, this amazing, beautiful state that used to be the land of opportunity,” he said. “But its leadership is so poor that people are running for the state me, if you get four more years of this dictator, it will cost you a lot more."

The Bee's story, by Lara Korte, closes with this quote from a spokesperson for Governor Newsom:
Nathan Click, a spokesman for the governor’s campaign, said Dahle’s announcement shows a “sad state of affairs for the California Republican Party.”

“They are trying to pass off the same milque-Trump-toast that Californians soundly rejected last year,” Click said in a statement.
That seems a bit of hyperbole--the Trump comparison, that is--given that a Republican consultant, Rob Stutzman, said Dahle is viewed as "serious lawmaker," who understands the role of policymaking in legislation.  But then, this is a partisan business.  Also, the "sad state of affairs" in the California GOP sure sounds like a put down of the state's rural reaches.  What else could it mean given that Dahle is not, after all, Larry Elder, the radio talk show host who led the candidates to replace Newsom in last year's recall effort.   

The local public radio story noted that Dahle had referenced "socialist, special interests" in his announcement.  He also called Newsom a "wine merchant," a reference to Newsom's first business, which he parlayed into a major hospitality empire in the greater Bay Area.  

Interestingly, another home page Bee story about a rural Republican assemblyman also failed to name the lawmaker, leading with this opaque headline: "California Assembly Republicans Have a New Leader: 'I Plan to Build on her Legacy.'" This story is about James Gallagher, who represents a district not far north of Sacramento, including parts of Butte, Yuba, Sutter, Tehama, Colusa and Glenn counties, taking over leadership of the Republican caucus.  (Gallagher happens to be a graduate of UC Davis School of Law).  The woman referenced in the headline is his predecessor in that role, Marie Waldron of Escondido.  There are 19 Republicans in the Assembly. 

Here are those stories in the Bee, side by side, not a Republican actually named in either.  Is this because they're Republican?  or because they're rural? 

The Los Angeles Times headline about Dahle's candidacy was "Republican State Sen. Brian Dahle to Challenge Newsom for Governor of California."  That looks like progress, perhaps something approaching parity, in comparison to the Bee in that at least Dahle's name gets into the headline.  Here's an excerpt from the story:

At a news conference in Redding announcing his candidacy, Dahle expressed confidence that California voters are yearning for political change. He blamed California’s ongoing struggles with crime, homelessness and a high cost of living on policies embraced by Newsom and the Democratic leadership at the state Capitol.

“I am not willing to leave this broken California to my children, your children and our grandchildren,” Dahle said. “I cannot stand aside and watch corrupt one-party rule continue to poison the future of our state.”
* * *
Dahle’s background and politics offer a stark contrast to Newsom, the son of an appellate court judge who had connections to the highest echelons of the Democratic establishment in liberal San Francisco. There, Newsom rose to national political prominence during his two terms as mayor. He then served eight years as lieutenant governor before being elected governor in 2018.

Dahle represents the northeastern corner of California, a far-reaching legislative district in one of the most conservative and rural areas of the state. A rancher and owner of the Big Valley Seed Co., Dahle lives in Bieber, a tiny town 250 miles north of Sacramento with a population of about 260.

Dahle served on the Lassen County Board of Supervisors before he was elected to the state Assembly in 2012.

It's also interesting that Dahle chose to make his announcement in Redding, the largest city in the area he serves with just over 100,000 residents, but also a focus of recent news coverage because a militia associated campaign successfully recalled a Republican county supervisor who did not resist the governor's mask mandate and other public health measures.  Read and listen to more here, here, and here

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

North Dakota invites counties and cities to apply for Rural Attorney Recruitment Program

Here's the announcement from North Dakota Courts:  

The North Dakota Supreme Court is currently accepting applications from counties and municipalities interested in participating in the Rural Attorney Recruitment Program.

The Rural Attorney Recruitment Program was established by the legislature in 2021 with the goal of increasing the number of attorneys residing and working in rural North Dakota. Under the program, the state of North Dakota, the North Dakota State Bar Association, and the participating community each contribute funds to retain an attorney in an eligible community for a 5-year period. To be eligible for the program, a county must have a population of 16,000 or fewer and a municipality must have a population of 5,000 or fewer.

Requirements for the application are found in section 2 of Administrative Rule 62:

The deadline for counties and municipalities to apply is 5 p.m. central time on April 1, 2022.

Attorneys who are interested in the program may submit an application at any time by completing the electronic application form found on the Court’s website at:

Link to Rural Attorney Recruitment Program information page: 

The North Dakota program is modeled on a program by the same name in South Dakota, which is detailed here.   Earlier coverage of the North Dakota program is here.  

Monday, February 7, 2022

Rural Legal Scholarship: Mapping the Civil Justice Gap in Federal Court

The abstract for the article by Roger Michalski and Andrew Hammond is here:  

Unrepresented litigants make up a sizable and normatively important chunk of civil litigation in the federal courts. Despite their importance, we still know little about who these pro se litigants are. Debates about pro se litigation take place without sufficient empirical information. To help fill some of the gaps in our understanding of pro se litigants, this Article takes a new approach by mapping where pro se litigants live.

Using a massive data set of 2.5 million federal dockets from a ten-year period, we obtained addresses of non-prisoner pro se litigants. We then geolocated these addresses and cross-referenced that information with demographic and economic Census data. This approach does not tell us anything about pro se litigants directly, but it allows us to describe where pro se litigants live and identify the communities they inhabit. While this method has limitations, it avoids many drawbacks of other methods.

We stress two main findings. First, most pro se litigants are profoundly ordinary. Typically, they do not hail from demographic or economic outliers. For example, most pro se litigants do not live in either the wealthiest or the poorest neighborhoods. Instead, their neighborhoods represent the middle class, with a few outliers that match the general population of outliers. Our findings present pro se litigants as a radically democratic element in federal courts. They, perhaps more than any other type of litigant, force federal courts into contact with a surprisingly representative sample of the general public. Second, there are two notable exceptions to this representativeness. Even after accounting for population and income, pro se litigants are more likely to reside in communities that are not homogenously white. And numerous rural communities feature fewer pro se litigants than expected. These findings deepen and complicate conventional narratives about pro se litigation and provide new impetus for doctrinal and policy debates about how the federal courts and Congress can and should respond to self-represented litigants.

Read a more lay-oriented summary of the article here, from the Rural Reconciliation Project.