Great article in this week's Indy by Jeffery Billman, called What's Driving the NC Senate's Animus Towards the State's Metros? BIllman explores possible reasons our state Senate Republicans dislikes our state's cities. I don't know about you, but I have never heard an urban politician campaign on hurting our urban environments, but to hear what is happening in NCGA, one would think there was a cabal of cities out to destroy the countryside. However, the greatest harm to our rural brethren has come from the Senate Republicans themselves. (I've put a link at the bottom of this piece. Read his article for more.)
There are three things that would greatly help North Carolina's rural counties compete with it's urban centers, and those items are being ignored or actively fought by NCGA Republicans and our GOP Governor.
Money for education. NC's rural counties have always suffered a lack of funds for education. In the mid-1990s, a video made the rounds of education circles showing how rural school buildings were literally crumbling on their foundations. I remember it showing a man's hand reaching under the foundation of a school and bringing back a handful of crumbling wood and sawdust.
Lower property values, and lower income levels, do not allow counties to provide the financial support for education that urban centers can. Better education equals better jobs. Better education brings better employers--there is little incentive for an out of state corporation to locate their business in a region with poor quality public education. There have been lawsuits about this, and still NCGA has not done what it would take to bring rural education offerings up to snuff for the modern age and the Knowledge Economy.
NCGA not only does not help improve rural education but has chosen to cut funding for education all over the state in its desire to privatize it through vouchers and charters. This in spite of the fact that in most of our rural counties, the public education sector is the county's largest employer. (They bite off their nose to spite their face…) NCGA is actually trying to destroy the largest employer in rural counties by replacing it with for-profit charter school management companies whose 'profits' (which are our tax dollars), will go out of state, not to the local economy.
Educated people make better employees.
The expansion of Medicare. Rural counties have less access to health care services than do urban counties. Rural citizens have to drive farther to see a doctor or treat an emergency. Farming is one of the most dangerous activities for on the job injuries. The expansion of Medicare, as planned for in Obamacare (or should I say SCOTUS-care?) would be a great boon for rural North Carolina. It would help keep rural hospitals open and running, as well as providing health coverage for those living in poverty. I won't even begin to mention that the expansion would come with an attendant 23,000 (or more) new, private industry JOBS, many of which would ultimately be located in RURAL AREAS.
Healthy people make for better employees.
The expansion of high speed broadband to rural areas. The information highway runs on broadband. Modern business runs on broadband. Modern education systems run on broadband.
NC's junior Sen Thom Tillis led the way for NCGA to prevent municipalities from competing with Time Warner and Comcast. He may have moved on, but there are those currently serving who believe government should never, ever compete with private industry, even when the private industry sucks. They have said municipalities may build a wifi infrastructure but can only rent it out to private industry, not create their own, less expensive service for their citizens. Meanwhile, the private companies in this business have frequently said they will not run broadband to the rural extremities of NC as there is no profit in it for them. (They don't care about people, only their own profits.) In the 1920s and 1930s, electric companies said the same thing about running power lines miles and miles down dirt roads to America's isolated farmhouses. The Rural Electrification Program was created by government to make sure everyone living in isolated mountain glens and at the end of long dirt roads got electricity. Government incentives and government efforts can be helpful and appropriate. Until the GOP recognizes this, citizens will suffer.
Access to wifi makes people more employable.
Republicans at NCGA, particularly in the Senate, have a decision to make. They can destroy our state or improve it. The policies they have chosen will not lead to the results they claim they want. Destroying urban centers will not improve rural areas. Private industry knows that you have to invest in that which you want to succeed.
I do not know who it is the Republicans at NCGA represent , but it is not the citizens of our state.