Thursday Roundup: Rural Arts

Money will go to restore Howard Finster's Paradise Gardens • Farm flyovers have folks suspicious of EPA • More "war on coal" talk • Cougar sightings across the Midwest

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ArtPlace says that arts are “not just for cities.” The organization has just made grants for “creative placemaking” in eight rural communities. 

In one grant, ArtPlace is helping Chattooga County, Georgia, restore Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens. The grant is for $445,000 and will be used to maintain Finster’s home and art environment in Pennville, Georgia, near Summerville. Finster died in 2001.

In another, Sitka, Alaska, will receive $350,000 to turn a closed college campus into an arts destination for the Southeast Alaska region.

ArtPlace is a collaboration of eleven large foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts and six large banks. “Across the country, our communities are using the arts to help shape their social, physical, and economic characters,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. “In rural settings, where people live far apart from one another, the arts can offer an opportunity to come together and share a common experience.”

Other rural communities to receive ArtPlace grants are Cumberland, Kentucky; Eastport, Maine; Sauk County, Wisconsin; and Minot, North Dakota. The full list of recipients is here

“Creative placemaking isn’t just for cities,” explained Carol Coletta of ArtPlace.  “These rural arts projects demonstrate that smart investments in art, design and culture as part of a larger portfolio of revitalization strategies can change the trajectory of communities and increase economic opportunities for people, whether the setting is rural or urban.”

• New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is considering limitation on natural gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing. According to several accounts, the governor would limit the use of fracking to five counties near the Pennsylvania border. 

Under the plan being discussed by the Cuomo administration, drilling in New York would be allowed only in Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga counties, if local governments agree to it.

• The Washington Post explains maps that show the rate of abortions by state. See the maps here. 

• The Senate rejected cuts in food stamps. The vote was 65-33, with 15 GOP senators voting to reject an amendment by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to cut nutritional funding in half. 

The Paul amendment would have turned the food stamp program into a block grant to states, much as a House plan would do. “It’s out of control. It’s doubled in the last 10 years,” Paul said. “We do not have an endless supply of money.” Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said Paul’s proposed cuts were “outrageous.”

•The Senate is in the process of voting on amendments on the Farm Bill and that is causing trouble between the parties.

Republicans are saying that Majority Leader Harry Reid is allowing only a few of the hundreds of proposed amendments to reach the floor. And they say the amendments he is bringing to a vote are the most extreme and therefore the least likely to pass.

For example, Politico explains, the Senate narrowly voted down an amendment that would have completely phased out the sugar program. He did not allow amendments that would have made smaller changed.

“If we can’t pass full repeal,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), “we have every right, responsibility to improve the program.” 

The Senate hasn’t voted on Sen. Tom Coburn’s amendment to eliminate the conservation reserve program. Coburn said this is a low-level amendment on his list. 

DTN’s Chris Clayton surveys the deliberations-without-end in the Senate, here. 

• More controversy over the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s new program of flying over farmland and feedlots to check compliance with rules and regulations. Suffice it to say that folks don’t like being spied on from the sky. 

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley has asked for a briefing, saying “Iowans are justified in asking questions. Answers have to be provided.” The Nebraska congressional delegation has raised similar concerns, reports William Petroski in the Des Moines Register

The EPA defends the flyovers as an “important, cost-effective tool (that) helps protect local communities and water quality from harm that can result from discharges from” livestock and poultry operations.

“This is a trust issue, and farmers and ranchers don’t trust EPA doing low-level surveillance flights over their operations,” said Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska. “EPA’s surveillance program only adds to the deficit of trust this closed-door agency has earned of late. It’s past time for Congress to put an end to EPA’s use of aerial surveillance.”

• Mitt Romney’s strategy for winning Ohio is to “run up big margins in rural areas and the Cincinnati suburbs,” the AP reports

• Cougars appear to be spreading across the Midwest and Great Plains. Nebraska ranks first in the number of cougar sightings from 1990 to 2008. 

There have been 67 documented cougar sightings in Nebraska; 31 in North Dakota; and 12 each in Oklahoma and Texas.

• Even as every report tells of a systematic decline in the use of coal by the nation’s utilities, the Republican running for a U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia is airing ads claiming Democrats are waging a “war on coal.” Ken Ward Jr. has the rundown, here

Republican John Raese is running against incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin. Raese’s latest ad claims that Manchin is part of the “gang of four” that is bringing about the “end of coal.” The gang includes EPA’s Lisa Jackson, the UMW’s Cecil Roberts, President Obama and Manchin. “The president and his EPA have been waging war on West Virginia  coal and the people who should be fighting for coal – Cecil Roberts and Joe Manchin – have supported the Obama administration every step of the way,” the ad says.

Ward writes: “But come on … let’s call this one like it is. The ad is just wrong. It’s false. Sen. Manchin and Cecil Roberts have most definitely not supported the Obama administration’s coal and energy policies every step of the way.”

Oh, and there’s that little item about how coal is no longer a competitive fuel.

 

 

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