July 4th Roundup: Watching and Doing

Rapping guys from Kansas State • A big ooops on a fracking bill in North Carolina • Minneola v. New Orleans • Good report on Illinois rural doctor

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This music video (above) is making the rounds, so we thought we’d post it for your July 4th entertainment. Those K-state boys are hot!

Candy Chang, I’d like to introduce you Minneola, Kansas. 

Chang and her city friends in New Orleans could learn something from this rural town. We sure did yesterday when we read a story about how the people in that Kansas town took care of their “food desert” problem. 

Minneola had one grocery and that grocery was going to close. So the people in Minneola raised some money (selling shares at $50 each). They cleaned up a 100-year-old building. They built a new grocery from the inside out, stocked the shelves and in their first year they expect to do $1 million in business. 

Later in the day, on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, we heard a special report from New Orleans. There, a young artist developed an “app” “designed to democratize what shows up in our communities,” reported Debbie Elliott. 

The app works like this: People go to Neighborland.com where they find a form that begins with “I want….” They then fill in the rest:  I want a new bus stop at the corner of Main and Vine. I want a bakery on Congress. 

Reporter Elliott talked to Jasmine Fournier, who says that what she wants is a new streetcar line on her avenue. Elliott reported that Fournier “likes Neighborland because it allows her to be an advocate without attending endless meetings or otherwise disrupting her busy life.”

That’s the way the app was planned, says its developer, Candy Chang — “a tool for those who don’t have the loudest voice or the time to show up at City Hall.”

Chang began her “I want” campaign with paper. She would plaster signs on empty buildings in New Orleans saying “I want” and then leaving a big blank that people could fill in. Chang tells Elliott that one of the most popular posts on the paper signs she put up in her neighborhood (the Bywater) has been “I wish this was a grocery store.”

Near the end of the story, Elliott returns to Fournier, who is sitting on the front stoop of her house. “I’m here to watch the neighborhood come back,” Fournier says, “and watch the check place turn into maybe a grocery store or something that would be useful for people around here.”

What Chang and Fournier (and Debbie Elliott) could learn from Minneola is that wishing, wanting and watching have very little to do with democracy or development. These are do it yourself activities. You either do it yourself or democracy and development don’t get done.

People in Minneola wanted a grocery. They may have even wished for one. But they didn’t sit on their front stoops and watch. They did something. So while Chang and Fournier type away on their computers about what they “want,” in Minneola, people are meeting the next delivery truck and they are stocking shelves. 

There’s no app for that.

• Our first memories of Andy Griffith were of his recorded comedy routine, “What It Was Was Football.” Listen again

•Jon Marcus reports on how Montana has engineered the biggest jump in college graduates of any state over the last few years.  He writes:

While policymakers and university officials in other states continue to haggle over such things as making it easier for students to transfer their academic credits from one school to another, Montana has simply and quietly done them. In the process, it has raised the percentage of its 25- to 64-year-olds who have finished college by more than 6 percent over the last three years, the biggest improvement in the nation, during a time when the rest of the country barely edged up on this measure by 1 percent. Fifteen states actually lost ground….

Montana’s success in closing this gap hasn’t resulted from some secret formula, said Judy Heiman, who has worked with Montana officials as an outside consultant on this issue. It’s come from a willingness in this no-nonsense state simply to adopt the ideas that education advocates have been urging for years—but that policymakers, university administrators and faculty elsewhere continue to debate.

Key to the effort was boosting its community colleges.

• Republicans in the North Carolina legislature overrode Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of a fracking bill. The override was made possible by an accidental vote by a Democrat who opposed fracking.

The bill will create an Energy and Mining Commission that will regulate natural gas production. Perdue vetoed the bill because she did not think it went far enough to protect the environment.  

Rep. Becky Carney is the Democrat who voted for the override even though she opposed it. “It was a huge mistake,” Carney said afterward. “I take full responsibility.”

• President Obama will begin a “Betting on America” bus tour of small towns in Pennsylvania and Ohio this Thursday. 

• There are more calls in the eastern coal region for attention to the rapidly declining importance of the coal industry to the area’s economic future. 

• Good story on NBC Nightly news about a family doctor in Rushville, Illinois:

 

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