Up & Coming Weekly

February 19, 2019

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 8 of 36

8 UCW FEBRUARY 20-26, 2019 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM ReConnect NC forums provide facts for North Carolinians by JOHN HOOD OPINION I was born in Char- lotte, North Carolina. But I grew up in rural Mecklenburg County. ere used to be such a place — and, indeed, quite a few such places still exist in our increas- ingly urbanized state. My family lived on 40 acres, mostly forest with a freight-rail track running through it. When the train came by, the engineer waved. We waved back, even after we had piled rocks and coins on the track to see what would happen. We planted beans and shucked corn and picked blackberries. We fished the pond on the other side of the cow pasture. For part of my childhood, we had a box on a rural route, not a street address. I now live in suburban Wake County — sort of. My neighborhood is bor- dered on all sides by farms and stables. It's not unheard of for me to look out my window and see folks riding by on their horses. Our German shepherd snarls and barks at the riders, as if to shout, "How dare you? Don't you know you're in the suburbs?" North Carolinians have been talking for years about the rural-urban divide, and we ought to be. But we don't really live in rigidly separated "rural" places and "urban" places. And the largest share of North Carolinians live in places they and others would call suburban. I spend much of my time doing po- litical analysis, where oversimplifica- tion is commonplace. When politicians and reporters say "urban areas vote Democratic" and "rural areas vote Re- publican" and "the real battleground is the suburbs," they are saying things that are true, in a sense, while not say- ing all that is true about those things. For example, in 2016 Donald Trump won North Carolina with about 2.4 mil- lion votes. Hillary Clinton got about 2.2 million votes. She won almost all coun- ties classified as "urban" while Trump won most counties classified as "rural." But what does it mean to "win" a coun- ty? Based on how exit-poll respondents described their own neighborhoods, as opposed to how others describe their counties, about 620,000 urban North Carolinians voted for Trump. Nearly half a million rural North Carolinians voted for Clinton. And, by the way, Trump won a somewhat larger share of the suburban vote than he won of the rural vote. Did you know that? Pesky details — they're always spoiling things. e Institute for Emerging Issues, based at North Carolina State Univer- sity, is all about "spoiling things," to the extent those things are preconceived notions and faulty definitions that divert or obstruct us from addressing our state's biggest challenges. e institute has developed a proj- ect called ReConnect NC, anchored by a series of six Emerging Issues Fo- rums on the overall topic of strength- ening the ties that bind us all together. e second such event, held Feb. 11 in Raleigh, focused on bridging rural, urban and suburban North Carolina. How are they different? What do they have in common? Indeed, a major theme of the day was that these labels can both inform and misinform. As my personal story illustrates, but other speakers ex- plained with reams of data, our lived experiences often differ in ways that don't align well with county lines or other jurisdictional boundaries. For example, many North Carolin- ians commute daily from rural or suburban to urban, from one city to another, from one suburb to another or some other way. Traffic in freight, information and ideas also tie seem- ingly disparate people and places together in powerful, and sometimes even improbable, networks. e institute's Raleigh forum made the usual news, with legislative leaders talking about emerging needs in rural broadband and school construction while Gov. Roy Cooper pitched an ex- panded Teaching Fellows program and other educational initiatives. But what was transformational, I think, was the overarching theme of rejecting rigid categories and simple explanations of complex problems. What comes next? e next forum is Oct. 15 in Charlotte. I'll be sure to stop at the Hood homestead on my way to put a penny on the railroad track. JOHN HOOD, Chairman of the John Locke Foundation. COM- MENTS? Editor@upandcomin- gweekly.com. 910-484-6200. his outreach 3/8 house ad 1/8 Special anks to Up & Coming Weekly Advertising Grow Your Business For effective advertising, Call 910.484.6200 today! www.upandcomingweekly.com

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