Saturday, February 19, 2005

Pork in Portsmouth Part 4

This post can be filed under 'If you don't like the rules...change them'.

Porkopolis details how the City of Portsmouth was given a specific designation to benefit from USDA Development programs for rural areas.

After reading this post along with this article ("A good start to begin reducing America's budget deficit" by Rob Portman) a reader could not be faulted for having images of a pork-barrel politician in fiscal conservative clothing. At best, Congressman Portman voted for a provision that designated the City of Portsmouth as being eligible for grants normally reserved for rural areas. At worst, Mr. Portman specifically sponsored that designation for Portsmouth. In his article, Congressman Portman states: order to control deficits, we must rein in federal spending.
...As I work with my colleagues to craft a sound budget that addresses our most pressing needs while cutting wasteful spending, I will rely on the fiscally conservative philosophies we share here in Southern Ohio.


As this image shows, The City of Portsmouth, Ohio looks like a beautiful Midwestern city:

Yes...those are multi-story buildings depicted there along the scenic Ohio River.

The political entity of the City of Portsmouth had a population of 20,900 in the last census according to the Census Bureau. However the larger 'Micropolitan Statistical Area' (as the U.S. Census Bureau has designated it) had a population of 79,185. In fact Portsmouth was 440 out of the 922 Metro/Micro-politian statitical areas that the U.S. Census Burea tracks. (You can read more about the standards used by the U.S. Census Bureau for designating an area as Micropolitan here.)It's reasonable that 'Statistical Areas' are utilized, otherwise one would be able to point to an arbritrary geographic area and claim that it is rural. Take Central Park in N.Y., for example. Clearly, an area that no one is a resident of, but clearly an urban area.

The USDA itself refers to the Census Bureau statistics in formulating its rules on what is a rural area. The guidelines utilized by the USDA Rural Business grant program are as follows:
The Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS) makes grants under the Rural Business Enterprise Grants (RBEG) Program to public bodies,
private nonprofit corporations, and Federally-recognized Indian Tribal groups to finance and facilitate development of small and emerging private business enterprises located in any area other than a city or town that has a population of greater than 50,000 inhabitants and the urbanized area contiguous and adjacent to such a city or town.
In addition the USDA's has the following on their site regarding rural classifications:

3. ERS [USDA] uses rural-urban continuum codes to distinguish metro counties by size and nonmetro counties by their degree of urbanization or proximity to metro areas. USDA defines codes zero to 3 as metro, and 4 to 9 as nonmetro."1 [e.g., 4 = Urban population of 20,000 or more, adjacent to a metro area, and 9 = Completely rural or urban population of fewer than 2,500, not adjacent to a metro area]

Before you go any further, notice the example that the USDA provides.

[e.g., 4 = Urban population of 20,000 or more, adjacent to a metro area, and 9 = Completely rural or urban population of fewer than 2,500, not adjacent to a metro area]
If one follows the rural-urban continuum codes link above you will be directed to a page that contains the following:
Rural-Urban Continuum Codes form a classification scheme that distinguishes metropolitan (metro) counties by the population size of their metro area, and nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) counties by degree of urbanization and adjacency to a metro area or areas. The metro and nonmetro categories have been subdivided into three metro and six nonmetro groupings, resulting in a nine-part county modification. The codes allow researchers working with county data to break such data into finer residential groups beyond a simple metro-nonmetro dichotomy, particularly for the analysis of trends in nonmetro areas that may be related to degree of rurality and metro proximity.
Following the Rural-Urban Continuum Codes link again leads one to a classification map of the United States and the following link:

Find the rural-urban continuum codes for the counties in your State.
On that page you will find the following link:
Lookup the 2003 code for a county
Stick with Porkopolis, we're almost there. On that page you will find a link for Ohio. Click on that and you will see the entry for the county in which Portsmouth is located, Scioto. The county is listed as having a 2003 Rural-urban continum code of 4 and a population of 79,195. Again, that's 4 as in:

4 = Urban population of 20,000 or more, adjacent to a metro area...

from above!

Moreover, as noted above, this U.S. 2000 Census document clearly lists the City of Portsmouth, Ohio as a Micropolitan with population of 79,195.

So to net it all out so far, Portsmouth, Ohio is a 'statistical' Micropolitan with a population of 79,195. Its Rural-urban continum code is 4, or Urban population of 20,000 or more, adjacent to a metro area.
Porkopolis will leave it to the reader to do a little bit of simple math and determine if 79,195 is more or less than the population guidelines of 50,000 for the Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS) grants noted above.

Which is why Porkopolis was intrigued, to say the least, when it found that the City of Portsmouth was specifically designated as being eligible for rural grant programs along with a select few cities. From page 44 of USDA Rural Development Instructions 1940-L Methodology and Formulas for Allocations of Loan and Grant Program Funds:
Rural Area Eligibility. Program assistance under the Rural Community Advancement Program (RCAP) is limited to rural areas, as defined in applicable program regulations. In addition, the following areas will be considered as rural areas for certain programs authorized under RCAPs, regardless of population, including the Business and Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loan, Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG), and Rural Business Opportunity Grant (RBOG) Programs. These cities will be eligible until the decennial Census in 2010:

- City of Berlin, New Hampshire
- City of Guymon, Oklahoma
- City of Shawnee, Oklahoma
- City of Altus, Oklahoma

Also, the following cities are eligible for funding under all Business Programs this fiscal year:

- County of Lawrence, Ohio
- City of Havelock, North Carolina
- City of Portsmouth, Ohio
- City of Binghamton, New York
- City of Vestal, New York
- City of Ithaca, New York
- City of Casa Grande, Arizona
- City of Clarksdale, Mississippi
- City of Coachella, California
- City of Salinas, California
- City of Watsonville, California
- City of Hollister, California
- Municipality of Carolina, Puerto Rico
- City of Kinston, North Carolina

O.K...for those of you following along so far, this would normally be the place in a Sherlock Holmes story where Holmes would turn to his sidekick and say something like, "Well Dr. Watson, what do you think is the meaning of all this? Why the special designation for these specific entities?"

Porkopolis was very curious about this special designation. In fact, Porkopolis vaguely remembered a mention of Portsmouth while researching all the pork dolled out in the 2003 Omnibus Bill (H.R. 2673).

H.R. 2673 had this specific provision in Section 728 of the Farm Credit Administration appropriations:
SEC. 728. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary shall consider the County of Lawrence, Ohio; the City of Havelock, North Carolina; the City of Portsmouth, Ohio; the City of Binghamton, New York; the Town of Vestal, New York; the City of Ithaca, New York; the City of Casa Grande, Arizona; the City of Clarksdale, Mississippi; the City of Coachella, California; the City of Salinas, California; the City of Watsonville, California; the City of Hollister, California; the Municipality of Carolina, Puerto Rico; and the City of Kinston, North Carolina, as meeting the eligibility requirements for loans and grants programs in the Rural Development mission area.

Well...isn't that interesting! "Notwithstanding any other provision of law..." Unfortunately, the bill doesn't say which member of Congress included this provision in the Omnibus Spending Bill...but Porkopolis has some suspicions. As noted earlier, Congressman Portman voted for H.R. 2673, so at a minimum he knew that the specific designation was going to benefit the city. Porkopolis does not see this as keeping with "the fiscally conservative philosophies we share here in Southern Ohio".

Rest assured that Porkopolis is on the trail of this mystery and will find the actual sponsor of this designation on behalf of Portsmouth. As Drudge would say, 'Developing...'


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