Friday, March 16, 2012

End of 'Luck' shows urban-oriented entertainment has an uneasy marriage with rural horse industry

"Farm kids are educated early about the events that bookend life," Max Watman writes for The Daily Beast. "Time spent around barns and pastures will provide quick, and valuable, instruction regarding how life begins, and how it ends. Agriculture is, at its core, a system that attempts to control these two events, and the key lesson of husbandry is that while it is worth trying, one cannot achieve total control of the situation. Animals will be born, and will die, in ways that are unexpected. When one combines the very urban pursuit of the production of entertainment with the very rural pursuit of agriculture — as on the HBO series 'Luck,' which was canceled this week due to the unfortunate death of a horse while the show was filming — one is guaranteed to find that the marriage of the two will be fraught." (Photo by Gusmano Cesaretti, HBO)

The subhead on Waltman's article reads, "In canceling the show, HBO has ensured that 'Luck' will be known, unfairly, as the show that killed horses about a sport that does the same." Waltman writes, "Cancelling the series won’t change anything about the death of the three horses, but I can’t see any other option. If horses are dying while your cameras are rolling, you must quit." (Read more)

Reporting on records requests: One weekly shows how, another suggests competitor does it too much

Sunshine Week, which ends tomorrow, is designed to increase public awareness of the value of open government and efforts to keep it open. In Kentucky, at least one weekly newspaper made a special effort to spotlight the observance and its issues, noting inconsistency in what local government offices charged for copies of public records. Three counties to the east, another weekly made no mention of Sunshine Week, but created an unusual spectacle of raising questions about open-records requests made by the local, competing daily.

When a woman asked him if the sheriff could charge $5 for a five-page report, Editor-Publisher Ryan Craig of the Todd County Standard in Elkton surveyed his public agencies and reported, "Most of the public offices in Todd County are overcharging for public records." The sheriff''s proposed fee exceeded the allowable 10 cents per page by $4.50. Local police charge 25 cents a page. That's also the figure charged by court clerks. The courts have exempted themselves from the state Open Records Act, but media lawyer Jeremy Rogers told Craig that the fee may have prompted overcharging by agencies that are covered. Craig's story ended with a walk-through of how request records, and how to appeal to the state attorney general's office if a request is denied. The Standard is not online, but the pages with the story are here.

Publisher Jeff Jobe of the weekly Barren County Progress in Glasgow is in competition with the Glasgow Daily Times, as was evident from the top story in this week's edition. The subhead reported that the Times had targeted the city police department since the hiring of a new chief. Most of the front-page story, which also consumed most of an inside page, was a listing of the requests in 2010 and 2011, only one made by the Progress.

"In recent weeks there have been numerous local concerns about the number of open-records requests made to certain agencies, along with speculation about the nature of those requests," the story said, without saying who was concerned or what the speculation was. Jobe filled that vacuum in an editorial, saying the Times appears determined to prove its opinion that the Chief Guy Turcotte is not worthy of the office. "Perhaps someday the GDT will hit pay dirt and Turcotte will go down in flames, but I am certain that with each open-record request that does nothing more than cost the city time in preparing documents, their requests come closer and closer to being considered nothing more than a 'Witch Hunt'." The Progress is mainly behind a pay wall, but we have scanned and posted the editorial here.

In its first year, western North Carolina weekly wins national award for service to the First Amendment

The paper continues its election-fraud coverage.
Barely a year old, a weekly newspaper has won the "Distinguished Service to the First Amendment" prize in the Scripps Howard Awards.

Jonathan and Susan Austin, who founded the Yancey County News in Burnsville in January 2011, will receive $10,000 and the Edward Willis Scripps Award for “Unlawful Law Enforcement,” which exposed absentee-ballot fraud, ethics violations, abuse of arrest powers, and the theft and illegal sale of county-owned guns – "all during the newspaper’s first year of operation and despite risks both financial and physical,"the Scripps Howard Foundation said in announcing the award today. "In winning, the Yancey County News bested entries by finalists Bloomberg News and," the paper says in its online story about the award.

Yancey County, N.C. (Wikipedia map)
Jonathan Austin "documented cases from the weeks leading up to the election in which individuals were arrested, voted, then saw the charges against them later dismissed or drastically reduced," the paper says. “People say we are doing something special here, but we’re only doing what any good journalist learns,” Austin said. “What makes this honor so unique is that we did this work in the newspaper’s very first year, that we did it with no staff, and that other local media had the chance to point out these serious issues as they occurred, but they chose to keep their eyes shut.” (Read more)

The award for community journalism went to reporter Sara Ganim and the staff of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg and Mechanicsburg, Pa., for “Jerry Sandusky and Penn State,” a two-year investigation that first uncovered the child sex abuse scandal and then explored its impact on the university. They will receive receive $10,000 and a trophy. The finalists in the category were Brandon Stahl and Mark Stodghill of the Duluth News Tribune, for “The Case of Dr. Konasiewicz,” a story about a neurosurgeon with a record of malpractice; and the Valley News of West Lebanon, N.H., and White River Junction, Vt., for “Tropical Storm Irene: The Aftermath.”

The editorial writing prize had rural flavor. It went to Jamie Lucke of the Lexington Herald-Leader for "editorials that took on Kentucky’s powerful coal industry while speaking for the voiceless and powerless in Appalachia," the foundation said. Lucke gets $10,000 and the Walker Stone Award. In another Appalachian angle, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette won $10,000 and the Edward J. Meeman Award for environmental reporting for "Pipeline," a website "led by Erich Schwartzel and Elisabeth Ponsot that is dedicated to explaining the economic, environmental and political effects of the natural-gas industry's Marcellus Shale drilling," the foundation said in its news release.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Free slot available for a rural journalist to attend Computer-Assisted Reporting Boot Camp Mar. 25-30

Rural reporters, editors and broadcasters:

This is very short notice, but any rural journalist (see definition below) who can clear the last week of the month has a marvelous opportunity to get FREE registration at the six-day Computer-Assisted Reporting Boot Camp of Investigative Reporters and Editors to be held at the University of Missouri March 25-30. This workshop is the gold standard in computer-assisted reporting, a skill that most journalists need, but one at which few are proficient.

You have a chance to attend the IRE Boot Camp without paying the $550 registration fee because the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues funds two Boot Camp scholarships for rural journalists each year, and no one has sought a scholarship to the upcoming boot camp. The Institute and IRE are still willing to accept your application, available by clicking here. To this application you need to add three examples of your work and a statement of how you hope to use the training. All the material should be faxed or emailed as soon as possible to IRE Executive Director Mark Horvit at 573-882-5432 or If you have questions, call Mark at 573-882-2042.

This scholarship is made possible by Daniel Gilbert, a Wall Street Journal energy reporter who won the Bristol Herald Courier the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service by reporting on mismanagement of pooled natural-gas royalties in Southwest Virginia. He donated his $10,000 prize from another contest, the Scripps Howard Awards, to the endowment of the Institute so other rural journalists could gain the skills that enabled him to do the prizewinning series. The Scripps Howard Foundation matched his gift, and the state of Kentucky matched both, creating a $40,000 Fund for Rural Computer-Assisted Reporting that generates enough earnings to sponsor two rural journalists each year at a Boot Camp just like the one Daniel attended.

Under terms of the endowment agreement, “rural journalist” means one working for any news outlet based outside a Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area, or a newspaper with a daily circulation of less than 40,000 whose geographic coverage or circulation area is primarily rural, or a broadcast station that is not in the top 100 markets as defined by Nielsen Inc. and has a mainly rural coverage area, or an online publication that has demonstrated an abiding interest in covering issues in rural areas.

We apologize for the short notice but look forward to your application!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

State agency gets one of SPJ's Black Hole Awards after losing records battle with weekly newspaper

A Kentucky state agency that tangled with a weekly newspaper over secrecy of child-abuse records after the death of a local child has been named the "winner" of one of three "Black Hole Awards" by the Society of Professional Journalists. It's part of Sunshine Week, the annual observance to promote open government.

Amy Dye, 9, left, was killed by her adoptive brother in a family where abuse had been reported. The local Todd County Standard and others wanted to know what the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services "had done – or not done – to monitor reports of suspected abuse it received, and sought its records regarding Amy," SPJ reports. "The cabinet stonewalled, first denying it had such records, then classifying its records as a ‘neglect’ probe rather than a ‘fatality’ probe, which under Kentucky's open records law must be made public. Subsequent lawsuits by editor-publisher Ryan Craig and others finally obtained release of some of the relevant documents, which were heavily redacted."

The cabinet continued to delay and resist disclosure. A judge levied a $16,000 fine, "believed to be the first against a state agency under the Open Records Act" since it was passed in 1976, and granted the newspapers $57,000 in legal fees. "Toward the end of this, the secretary of the CHFS resigned," SPJ reports.

The other winners of Black Hole Awards were the legislatures in Georgia and Wisconsin. The Georgia body passed a law allowing "tax credits to support scholarships at private schools without tracking which schools or students get funding or disclosing publicly anything about how the state money is spent by private organizations," SPJ reports. "After the amendments in 2011, the law makes it a criminal offense to disclose virtually any meaningful information about the program to the public. Georgia’s law fails to hold anyone accountable for how they divert or spend tax funds. It does not track who is receiving scholarships under the program."

"The Wisconsin state legislature ignored the state's open meetings law in hastily passing a collective bargaining bill in March 2011, then successfully urged the state supreme court to exempt it from this law," SPJ reports. "Additionally, tasked with redrawing voter boundaries based on the 2010 Census, the legislature's Republican leadership hammered out new maps behind closed doors, even having their members sign secrecy agreements." The legislature "also passed a law barring even police from knowing who may be carrying concealed weapons. And while opening the state capitol to these weapons, it cracked down on the use of cameras by citizens in the State Assembly." (Read more)

EPA using flights to look for pollution from feedlots

The Environmental Protection Agency is using aircraft to look for pollution from feedlots, a technique that the agency says increases its efficiency. After a meeting in northeast Nebraska to discuss it, some farmers said their concerns had been alleviated, but others still complained about invasion of privacy, Ken Anderson of Brownfield Ag News reports.

Forbes magazine headline: 'The Republican Party's fatal attraction to rural America'

Alabama map shows Santorum's rural strength (Washington Post)
"Rick Santorum’s big wins in Alabama and Mississippi place the Republican Party in ever greater danger of becoming hostage to . . .  rural and small town America" and alienating the decisive suburbs, geographer Joel Kotkin writes for Forbes magazine. The party's rural base, "not so much conservatives per se, has kept Santorum’s unlikely campaign alive."

Kotkin thinks Santorum has "a kind of generalized sanctimoniousness that does not play well with the national electorate" and especially with women and in suburbs, where President Obama won the 2008 election and where this one will be decided. He writes as if Santorum might be nominated, which remains unlikely, but warns that demanding "drill, baby, drill," a Republican mantra, does not resonate in the suburbs as well as it does in rural areas.

"Until the Republican nomination fight is settled, the party’s pandering to the sensibilities of such conservatives in rural areas could prove fatal to its long-term prospects," Kotkin writes. Even if Santorum loses, "His preachy, divisive tone — on contraception, prayer, the separation of church and state — has opened a gap among suburban voters that Obama will no doubt exploit."

Kotkin offers this caveat: "The president, as thoroughly a creature of urban tastes and prejudice as to ever sit in the White House, could prove vulnerable in the suburbs, if the Republicans can deliver a message that is palatable to that geography’s denizens." While Mitt Romney "has been a consistent loser in the countryside," except in "the Mormon belt from Arizona to Wyoming," he "does very well in affluent suburbs, confronting President Obama with a serious challenge in one of his electoral sweet spots." (Read more)

Joplin editor, Mass. reporter, Wisconsin weekly among winners in Local Media Association contest

The Local Media Association, formerly Suburban Newspapers of America, has announced the winners of its contest for 2011.

Carol Stark, editor of the Joplin Globe, was named daily editor of the year for the Missouri paper's "detailed and comprehensive coverage of last May's tornado that killed 162 people and destroyed one-third of the community," writes William Ketter, chief news executive of Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., which owns the paper.

Judges at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism said the paper provided "phenomenal" coverage in "the most trying of conditions -- one of the dead was a Globe staffer, half of the staff's homes were destroyed or severely damaged. . . . "It is hard to conceive of a newspaper of any size serving its community better in such a tragic situation."

Ketter also notes that Keith Eddings, a reporter for The Eagle-Tribune of North Andover, Mass., which Ketter once edited, was selected as daily journalist of the year "for a series of investigative stories about local government corruption and fraud. . . . Among other stories, he disclosed that the head of an anti-poverty agency was spending more time at the local Elks Club than at his office."

In the Newspaper of the Year competition, the Lake Country Reporter of Hartland, Wis., won among non-dailies with circulations up to 10,000. The other circulation categories were won by suburban papers of the Washington Post Co. in Maryland: the Enterprise of Lexington Park, the Frederick Gazette, and The Gazette of Gaithersburg. Among dailies under 30,000, the winner was the Galveston Daily News of Texas.

For other awards in the contest, click here. The awards will be presented at the association's annual conference in Atlanta Sept. 11-14.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Santorum rides rural vote to wins in Ala., Miss.

Stronger turnout in rural areas gave former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania narrow victories in the Republican presidential primaries in Alabama and Mississippi tonight, CNN reported. We offer exit-poll results with a caveat: Those polls suggested that former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts would win. (Reuters photo)

In Alabama, with virtually all the votes counted, Santorum had 35 percent of the total vote to 29 percent each for Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a native of adjoining Georgia. Santorum got an estimated 34 percent of the vote deemed rural by the pollsters, while Gingrich got 30 percent and Romney got 29. Voters identified as rural made up 42 percent of those polled. Santorum narrowly carried urban voters, 37-35 over Romney, while Gingrich carried suburbs 35-32 over Santorum. For the full exit poll results from Alabama, click here.

In Mississippi, the pollsters said only 3 percent of the Republican vote was urban and 55 percent was rural. Not surprisingly, among the voters deemed rural, Santorum got the same as his statewide total, 33 percent. Santorum also carried the suburbs, 34 percent to 31 for Gingrich and 29 for Romney. For the full exit poll results from Mississippi, go here. UPDATE, March 14: For an analysis of the actual votes, from Bill Bishop of the Daily Yonder, go here.

'Huge sea change' swings nation to packing heat

"Thirty years after a powerful gun-control movement swept the U.S., Americans are embracing the idea of owning and carrying firearms with a zeal rarely seen since the days of muskets and militias," reports Patrik Jonsson of the Christian Science Monitor. "A combination of favorable court rulings, grass-roots activism, traditional fears of crime, and modern anxieties about government has led to what may be a tipping point on an issue that just a few years ago was one of the nation's most contentious." (Monitor photo by Ann Hermes)

Jonsson says laws allowing citizens to carry concealed deadly weapons have become so widespread that the basic question is not "Should we be able to carry guns?" but "Where can't we carry them?" The answer, he writes, is "not very many places. Hundreds of gun-friendly laws have been enacted by states and localities in the past few years alone. Mississippi, for instance, now allows gun owners who take an extra safety class to carry hidden weapons on college campuses and in courthouses. . . . The number of concealed-weapon license holders in the U.S. has gone from a few hundred thousand 10 years ago to more than 6 million today. In some parts of Tennessee, 1 out of every 11 people on the street is either carrying a weapon or has a license to do so."

"It's a huge sea change, and one lesson to take out of all of this is that it's amazing how fast attitudes on constitutional issues can change," says Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee and proprietor of the conservative but iconoclastic blog. "The thinking has turned in a way that many thought to be impossible only 15 years ago." (Read more)

Eastern Kentucky's only commercial television station raises $185,000+ for tornado victims

Cleaning up in East Bernstadt, Ky. (WYMT image)
WYMT-TV of Hazard, Ky., the only commercial TV station in Eastern Kentucky, teamed with community leaders and the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky to host a tornado relief telethon today from 4 to 7:30 p.m. As of 9:15 p.m. it had raised $185,557 "and donations are still coming in," News Director Neil Middleton reported to us at that hour. "Every penny will stay in Eastern Kentucky to assist tornado victims,"he writes. "Country music duo Halfway to Hazard also returned home to help co-host the event."

The story on the station's site says Pine Branch Coal Co. and its officers and employees gave more than $60,000. “I have seen what the tornadoes can do, not only to property, but injuries, and this is just a drop in the bucket for what they need,” Jim Sidwell, the company's treasurer, told WYMT. For information on how to donate, click here.

Free business journalism workshop for community journalists scheduled in Lexington, Ky., April 13

The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues has partnered with the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism and state press associations to bring free training in business journalism to community journalists at the University of Kentucky on April 13.

"Uncovering the Best Local Business Stories" will take place at the Gatton College of Business and Economics. It is free for journalists and for journalism students and faculty, but advance registration is required. Instructors will include Linda Austin, right, executive director of the Reynolds Center; John Cheves of the Lexington Herald-Leader; Carlie Kollath of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo; and Chris Roush of the University of North Carolina.

Attendees will learn how to find stories in the business of government, and how to cover economic-development agencies at the state and local levels. The workshop will also cover locating public information on private companies, finding stories in publicly available databases and about small businesses, and localizing national and international stories for local audiences. This free training is geared to the needs of generalists in smaller newsrooms and business journalists looking to jump-start their local coverage.

To see details and register, click here. For more information, email Linda Austin or call her at 602-496-9187.

Firm drops plan for horse abattoir in southern Mo., but says it will start operations in state's southwest

Unified Equine LLC, which Brownfield Ag News calls "a new management and marketing firm," says it is looking at southwest Missouri for the first commercial horse-slaughter plant in the U.S. after Congress lifted a four-year effective ban on such abattoirs last fall.

Company spokesman Sue Wallis announced at a public meeting in Mountain Grove, Mo. (Google map), last night that it had abandoned a plan to convert an old warehouse in the town, reports Paul Friswold of the Riverfront Times of St. Louis.

"Unified Equine is determined to build their plant in southwestern Missouri, because of its easy access to highways and its plentiful supply of horses," Friswold writes. "And you need a lot of horses when you're planning to process 200 per shift."

Asked where the plant will be, Wallis told Friswold, "Might be really close to Mountain Grove, might be a ways away, but it will be in southwest Missouri." Friswold reports she left Monday night's crowd "with this parting shot: 'Discussion's over. Make all the noise you want. We're going into business.'" (Read more)
"Wallis is a Wyoming state representative who formed the group United Horsemen to urge Congress to restore domestic horse processing in the U.S.," Brownfield's Julie Harker reports. Kim F. Miller of California Riding magazine writes, "The five-year-old organization is staging its second annual Summit Of The Horse in Oklahoma City April 2-5 and the slaughter discussion is sure to be the gathering's hot-button issue." (Read more)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Coal's share of electricity generation in Dec. fell below 40 percent, for the first time since 1978

In December, only 39 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. came from burning coal, according to preliminary data from the Energy Information Administration. It marked the first time in more than 34 years that coal's share of monthly generation fell below 40 percent. Three years ago, it was just under 50 percent.

"A combination of mild weather (leading to a drop in total generation) and the increasing price competitiveness of natural gas relative to coal contributed to the drop in coal's share of total generation," EIA reports. Gas accounted for 26 percent of December generation, up from 22 percent in the previous December. Nuclear (to 22% from 20%) and hydro (to 7% from 6%) made up the rest of the shuffle. Other sources, including wind and solar, accounted for 6 percent.

"Natural gas prices have dropped significantly this winter, leading the generators in some states (such as Ohio and Pennsylvania) to significantly increase the share of natural gas-fired generation," EIA reports. Natural gas combined-cycle units operate at higher efficiency than do older, coal-fired units, which increases the competitiveness of natural gas relative to coal."

Lakeland, Fla., man named the top Local Hero for Sunshine Week 2012, which runs through Saturday

Joel Chandler of Lakeland, Fla., who has waged a one-man campaign for government transparency in his state, is the Local Hero of the national 2012 Sunshine Week observance, which runs through Saturday, March 17.

Chandler "has filed more than two dozen open records lawsuits, securing the release of school, police, prison and medical examiner records," says a press release from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, prime co-sponsor of Sunshine Week with the American Society of News Editors. Chandler, who runs a data collection business, publishes an online review of government transparency in the state called FOGWatch, for Florida Open Government Watch. He will be rewarded with an expense-paid trip to the ASNE convention in Washington, D.C., April 2-4, where he will be recognized.

"Chandler’s open government activism began five years ago with a simple request for a copy of the school district’s health insurance policy. The district refused, releasing the information only after Chandler complained to the state attorney’s office," the release says. "A year later, he filed a request for names, addresses and other information about the district’s 13,000 employees. When the district refused, he sued and won. Chandler told the Lakeland Ledger that his fight with the district was like 'dealing with a bully.' He began aggressively looking for other ways agencies were hindering citizen access to information, which led to a successful suit against the area medical examiner over fees charged for autopsy reports. Chandler also sued the Lakeland police for its “flat fee” policy, and he recently won a lawsuit for records of a privately operated prison. His public records research led to a suit against the Department of Transportation over a policy that pulled aside drivers who tried to pay Florida Turnpike tolls with a $20 bill or higher while officials wrote down the make, model and tag number of the car, records that he says show racial profiling. He also used public records to show that a charity that received more than $400,000 in public funds had spent less than $10,000 on the designated program."

The runner-up for the Local Hero Award was Eric Rachner of Seattle, who forced the city's police department to make public the records of police activity videotaped with cameras on patrol-car dashboards. Placing third was Suzanne McCrory of Mamaroneck, N.Y., "who, without an attorney, successfully sued her village twice for withholding records. In one case, it took her several years to obtain the financial disclosure statement filed by the chairman of the planning board. Ultimately, she got the records, the chairman resigned, and the village modified its ethics code to ensure that disclosure statements are routinely available to the public." Rachner and McCrory will get $500 and $250, respectively.

Sunshine Week is funded by grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Gridiron Club its foundation of Washington, D.C. For more information, go here.

Cooperatives council chief, a former deputy ag secretary, says new Farm Bill not likely this year

All that talk about getting a new Farm Bill passed this year is largely wishful thinking, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President Chuck Conner, deputy agriculture secretary in 2005-09, told the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce in Illinois, Don Dodson of The News-Gazette reports. (N-G photo by Vanda Bidwill)

"Political gridlock and a presidential election year make the prospect unlikely," Dodson writes, paraphrasing Conner. "Plus, "staggering" budget realities — underscored by the failure of the congressional 'supercommittee' to come up with a budget compromise — complicate the situation, he said. . . . Conner said not only are congressional Republicans and Democrats at odds with each other, but there are intra-party squabbles among House and Senate members. Even agricultural lobbying groups can't seem to agree on a direction."

With the exception of cotton and rice, most major commodity groups have the same general goals, such as greater emphasis on crop insurance to replace direct payments, Conner said, "but their methods to get there have never been more different than they are today." (Read more)

In Ky. horse country, small farmers fear they are more at risk after defeat of racetracks' casino plan

Owners of small horse farms in Kentucky are more worried than ever about their future now after a legislative defeat of a plan for casinos, mainly at racetracks, that would have boosted race purses and breeders' incentive programs to compete with other states.

“It’s going to be very difficult for farms like me to stay around much longer,” small farmer Alfred Nuckols, left, told Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues (publisher of The Rural Blog), who made the issue the topic of his fortnightly political column in The Courier-Journal. (Photo by University of Kentucky student Cassidy Herrington)

"The big farms will remain, and some will get larger by absorbing smaller ones, but many will send their profits out of state. And Kentucky will have many fewer horses," Cross writes. "And the recent 25 percent cut in purses at Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky, announced after the casino amendment failed in the state Senate, is probably the death knell for that track — and for the year-round Kentucky racing circuit that has helped keep small horse farms in business."

Nuckols “acknowledged misgivings that many breeders have about casinos,” Cross notes. “He said he’s not a strong advocate, because he fears that gaming interests would become too powerful, to the detriment of the horse industry, but at least for now, 'We need to level the playing field.'”

Cross faults Gov. Steve Beshear and legislators nervous about redistricting for the defeat of the proposal, which he says may pass in a future legislature and be submitted to the voters as a constitutional amendment, "But it will probably be too late for Alfred Nuckols and many other small horse farmers, who carry one of our state’s richest heritages and give it a unique culture and identity — one that should not be put at risk by political cowardice and ineptitude." (Read more)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

How unequal is household income in your county?

Household incomes have a wider disparity in the South and are lower than the national average in the Midwest, according to a new Census Bureau report. It is based on the Gini index, a standard measure of income inequality devised by Italian statistician Corrado Gini 100 years ago. (Click on map for larger version)
The index ranges from 1 to zero, with 1 indicating absolute inequality, where only one household in a county has any income, and zero indicating absolute equality, where all households have the same income. Almost a third of counties in the South had indexes in the top one-fifth, or quintile. About the same share of Midwest counties ranked in the bottom one-fifth. More populous counties tended to be more unequal, but a glance at the map shows that some rural areas such as Eastern Kentucky, the Mississippi Delta and the Black Belt also have high inequality. To download a PDF of the report, with a full-page map, click here.

Rural Calif. landowners hit with fire-protection fee

The State of California is trying to make 800,000 rural homeowners pay up to $150 a year for fire protection that the state has been providing for free, in order to shore up the state budget. Gov. Jerry Brown has noted a population migration to "wildland areas," Loretta Kalb reports for The Sacramento Bee. "And state fire officials say the greater the number of homes in rural areas, the higher the cost of fighting fires."

Nevada County Supervisor Hank Westin told Kalb the fee is "a farce to fill a budget gap created by the state" and services would not be increased. "Westin said the program . . . doesn't distinguish between levels of risk within state responsibility areas." He said his fire district has "a strong fire protection program," with much clearing required. Residents of some fire districts won't pay the full $150 because they "already pay for fire protection from their local fire district," Kalb notes.

Rural legislators are trying to get the program repealed or changed. (Read more)