Carroll County, Iowa, columnist Douglas Burns asks if his county can “survive generational surrender.”
Burns looked at the age of the people who voted in the latest Carroll municipal elections. There were 774 voters. Of those people, only 11 were 30 years old or under.
On the other end, 85 percent of the voters were over the age of 50 — and half were over 65. In the large 31 to 49 category, there were 105 voters, or just 14 percent of the total in the city election.
Burns had recently backed a bond vote for a new library that went down in flames and he is eying the reluctance of any politician to raise even a penny of new tax. He sees a connection between the no-new-tax attitude of the electorate and the tenuous nature of retirement finances. He writes:
So, yes, older voters have real reason to be wary of candidates or initiatives that can be linked to even a rusty nickel’s increase in property taxes.
This isn’t to say all older voters make decisions based on short-term self-interest or self-preservation. Some see progressive candidates and referendums as rousing up tides that will lift all our boats. Many seniors, blessed with golden streaks of altruism, think of their kids and grandchildren, a community’s legacy, at the polls — their own pocketbooks be damned.
But the fear is there. And it isn’t to dismissed or mocked.
That said, this reflexive conservatism should be balanced by the interests of other voting demographics — 28-year-old moms who want off the waiting list at the Carroll Area Child Care Center, 40-year-old fathers who’d like to see their high school boys play football on a marvelous field like the one Spirit Lake has or 49-year-old business owners who support aggressive investment in Carroll’s infrastructure.
Effective democratic government demands competing interests.
Instead, in Carroll, Iowa, today we have a clench-fisted dominance of one demographic and the blithe disengagement of another.
Carroll County isn’t alone. A school bond failed in Fayette County, Texas, in November, the second bond to be voted down in the last two years. The very good local newspaper, the Fayette County Record, looked at the age of who voted. It found that the electorate was dominated by older voters.
• India is no longer welcoming Walmart.
After two weeks of protests from local merchants, the government said Wednesday that it was suspending a proposal to allow foreign companies, such as Walmart, into its retail market.
The small retailers who dominate India’s markets protested. And won, at least for the time being.
Walmart backers say the India retail market is chaotic and inefficient. As much as 30 percent of fruits and vegetables grown in the country is lost between farm and market.
• West Virginia is showing some self-respect. The state is refusing tax credits for MTV’s latest reality show, Buck Wild.
The show would give viewers a “singular and fun glimpse at this generation’s experience as we go into Appalachia to capture the lives of a lovable group of dynamic young people,” according to MTV’s programming chief. State law forbids tax credits for films that show West Virginia in a “significantly derogatory manner,” a line Buck Wild apparently crossed. (You can imagine.)
Last month New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie revoked a $420,000 tax credit awarded to MTV for Jersey Shore.
• Ken Ward Jr. notes what was missing in the reaction to the report yesterday that the April 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 workers was entirely preventable. Missing, Ward writes, were any questions about why federal inspectors and mine safety rules didn’t prevent it.
After all, Ward finds, the company had encountered the same conditions that caused the 2010 blast at least three times before. Both the company AND the federal mine safety agency knew this.
• This has nothing to do with rural, but we found it interesting that there are three cereals with more sugar per cup than a Hostess Twinkie.
They are Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, Post Golden Crisp and General Mills Wheaties Fuel. In more than three-dozen brands, sugar makes up more than a third of the cereal by weight.
• Republicans in Congress continue to fight the farm dust rule that doesn’t exist.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has been saying for months that it doesn’t intend to regulate dust kicked up by farming, that such rules are a “myth.” But House Republicans are still moving ahead to pass a bill barring such a bill.
• The Obama administration and Congress have “lost faith” in advanced biofuels, Philip Brasher writes in the Des Moines Register.
“There will probably be hardly any money” in the bioenergy section of the next farm bill “because we’ve lost faith” in that sector, said Rep. Collin Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Ag Committee.
• Louisiana has the highest percentage of residents who live in the state in which they were born, according to a recent Census report.
Mark Ballard, writing in the Baton Rouge Advocate, sees the good and the bad in this statistic. The good is that there’s a local culture that’s firmly rooted. The bad is that things remain the same — “roux, thickened to concrete,” says political consultant Elliott Stonecipher of Shreveport.
• Lots of people are going back to community colleges to tune up their job skills. Trouble is, nearly 4 in 10 find that they are unable to enroll in a class they need because the class is full.