Barron's rural center sounds like politics
The Center for Rural Alabama that state Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, proposed Monday sounds an awfully lot like Gov. Bob Riley's Black Belt commission.
Thus, the competing ideas for helping rural counties, even though all of them are not in the Black Belt, raises questions about timing, as well as funding, as the state readies for elections next year.
Democrats would like to see the legislation as a companion to another political bill that would take industrial recruiting away from the Republican governor's office.
Alabama's rural counties continue to suffer from brain drain as young people drift off to cities after finishing college. The industrial base in these counties is not sufficient to support robust commercial and retail trade. The quality of medical care and education also suffer in many of these areas. And young people leave.
Sen. Barron represents rural counties in northeast Alabama and sees the disparity between urban and rural areas. He also knows that problems in his district are not always the same as those in Black Belt counties, where poverty is so bad that the area is sometimes referred to as Alabama's Third World.
Black Belt counties have problems so massive and fundamental to quality of life that diverting attention from their needs would kill the Governor's Commission for Action in Alabama's Black Belt before it has time to succeed.
Many small towns would attract more people if the local people did more cleaning up. Basically, the Center for Rural Alabama would be another bureaucracy to tell mayors and commissioners in rural areas what they already know:
Small towns with neatly trimmed lawns and freshly painted houses have charm that big cities lack.