Tuesday Roundup: A Town’s Decline

Changes in a small Ohio town • Bugdet cuts are closing courts • Hemping ain’t easy • What to do when coal leaves • Plant your own seeds

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Effect of lost jobs. Robert Putnam, the Harvard political scientist, sees similarities between the changes in his small, Ohio hometown over the last few decades and the ones that happened nationwide in the same period. In a New York Times “Opinionator” blog post, Putnam says the loss of stable, blue collar jobs — in his case manufacturing — caused the city to falter and the economy implode. Putnam’s insight on the repercussions of losing these jobs is chilling:

“Unlike working-class kids in the class of 1959, many of their counterparts in Port Clinton today are, despite toil and talent, locked into troubled, even hopeless lives. R, an 18-year-old white woman, is almost the same age as my grandchildren. Her grandfather could have been one of my classmates. But when I went off to college on a scholarship from a local employer, he skipped college in favor of a well-paid, stable blue-collar job. Then the factories closed, and good, working-class jobs fled. So while my kids, and then my grandchildren, headed off to elite colleges and successful careers, his kids never found steady jobs, were seduced by drugs and crime, and burned through a string of impermanent relationships.”

Vanishing courthouses. Local governments are closing courtrooms in an effort to save money.

Instead of appearing before a black-robed judge with wooden gavel, people who wind up in traffic court may find themselves facing a TV screen with a judge on closed circuit.

For arraignments and small claims, out-of-town travel may be required.

That’s the case in Coalinga, California, a town of 13,000 in Fresno County.

Residents there have to drive an hour to Fresno for many legal proceedings that used to handled in a local courtroom, NPR reports.

Legalized, now what? Farmers, lawmakers, and communities fight to control how Colorado’s legalization of marijuana and hemp affect the state.

Replacing coal. Dunkirk, New York, is trying to decide what to put in place of its coal-fired power plant when it shuts down later this year. The aging facility is losing money and unable to compete with newer, cheaper-to-operate gas plants. The debate about whether to convert the plant into a natural gas-powered facility brings up the issue of fracking, which opens a whole, larger can of worms.

As more old coal plants go offline nationwide, decisions like the one facing the citizens of Dunkirk will happen more often. 

Gardening by the numbers. We all agree, surely, that gardens are great. But let us take a minute to roll our eyes at the Nourishmat, an “all-in-one grow-out garden.” The Nourishmat is a 4’ x 6’ piece of polypropylene with holes cut in it at proper planting intervals. Each hole corresponds to a plant, and you just stick the seed or bulb in that hole. Targeting “urban gardeners,” the mats come with non-GMO seedballs and sell for $79. That’s the kicker. Eighty bucks for a plastic sheet with holes cut in it that tells you where to plant your basil. 

 

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