Rural vs. Urban: Who Has it Right?

Not that you care but I wake up between 5:30-6:30am most everyday. My routine’s simple and straightforward: 

1) convince the hound to wake up so I can make his, I mean MY, bed

2) hit the “head”

3) take the myriad pills my doctor forces me to ingest since I’m officially falling apart and

4) grab my Iphone to make sure the world hasn’t “blown up” on Facebook or Twitter while I let the dog out so he, too, can “hit the head.” Fair’s fair right?

It’s my last step in waking up where I usually get “my fix” of useless drivel posted on the Internet that makes the process of morning coffee amusing. Some of my favorites are “Should I add these over ripe bananas to my breakfast cereal or should I make banana bread?” or “Traffic blows today!” or “Why isn’t Matt Lauer on tv today?”. Yes America, this is the crap you write for the entire world to see that adds absolutely nothing to the national dialogue.

Then this morning, something amazing happened: one of my Facebook friends actually vented about how the District of Columbia can’t seem to pick up his trash with any regularity. Normally I’d just keep scrolling down to another banal thought but I began to think back on my time when I rented on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and realized how right my friend Matt was.

And that’s when it struck me (sans coffee): things haven’t changed much since I bought my little log cabin in the mountains.

Washington, DC is actually a small city of only 618,000 residents, none of whom have meaningful representation in Congress but pay one of the highest local tax rates in the entire country. DC residents have the right to vote yet their votes don’t count towards electing our President. They don’t have two Senators like Wyoming, a state with nearly 50,000 fewer residents. Bottom line: DC is the physical seat of power for our country yet its residents are treated like second class citizens. Part of this is Congress’ fault but frankly (and here’s where  my DC friends will get ticked off at me) most of the blame belongs to DC itself.


What is it about a major metropolitan area not getting the basics down? Snow removal, trash pickup, pot holes: the list is endless. I guess when  you have hundreds of thousands of people in cars/buses/trucks using you everyday, you’d have pot holes too. But   trash pickup? I mean, that’s about as simple as it gets right? It just seems small towns and rural communities get it right most of the time, even in a time when state and local budgets are smaller and making do with less. Perhaps it’s just that the people in smaller communities rely on each other more so than larger, more metropolitan areas.

I think this is why I continue to be so saddened and disappointed in the District of Columbia. Nothing has changed since I left her. I mean after eight years, they can’t even get trash pickup right? I’m not sorry to say that’s just plain pathetic. Other major metropolitan areas have some of the same basic problems as DC (namely Detroit, MI) yet others are well-run. I’ve written about the beauty of working in New York City. It gives you everything you want, when you want it, from Central Park to the subway to Broadway to Wall Street. And yes sometimes it gives you things you don’t want: murder, thievery, and endless traffic jams.

I’m lucky that I’m allowed the dichotomy of living two lives: one in a bustling, pulsing big city and the other in a large mountainous county of a mere 7,000 residents. I’m struck by the similarities: we have murder albeit on a smaller scale. We have thievery as well. And we definitely have traffic jams, especially when it’s harvest time and we get stuck behind a huge tractor for miles and miles of non-passable country roads.

Here’s the difference though. The county where I live, there is no trash pickup. Hell, we don’t even have stoplights. Our police force and public schools are paid for from my county taxes but most everything else is volunteer. I traded a life in the District of Columbia where public services were sporadic at best and the cost-of-living was twice as much for where I live now. I traded a life in the city of “easy and accessible” for a rural life  of “get in my car and drive” for even the most basic things. I get my city fix pretty much every week when I go to New York for work but then I get on that plane and head back to the land of lightning bugs and blue-ridged mountains.

To be honest, it’s worth it for me to drive my trash to the local dump where I can talk to the old crusty dudes that have worked there for decades about the lack of rain. It’s worth it for me to walk to the top of my property and look out at Battle Mountain and then look back at my little log cabin built in 1729 in sheer wonderment. And it’s worth it for me to stand in my kitchen with my french pressed coffee, reading inane Facebook posts because every so often, one just jumps out at me and reminds me that we rednecks out in the country can get it right too.

My rural vote counts, as it should for every American. It just seems to me that if we can get even the simplest services right in BFE (and you know what that stands for), then the District of Columbia should be able to get it right too. Until they can even get the basics down pat, then I’m not ready to say our nation’s capitol should become a state and have the same rights as my little county or New York. I mean, if you can’t do only the basics, then how the hell can you manage the major stuff right?

It’s time for Washington, D.C. to figure it out. It’s past time actually. And in the meantime, its residents will continue to suffer and be denied the one thing that makes us such a beautiful democracy: a vote that counts. How un-American.

Posted on by jimmy in Congress 1 Comment