TIME Crime

These 4 Cities Show What Federal Intervention Could Look Like in Ferguson

Seattle police fire teargas and pellets at protesters outside the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle, Washington on November 30, 1999.
Seattle police fire teargas and pellets at protesters outside the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle, Washington on November 30, 1999. Andy Clark—Reuters

The Department of Justice has intervened in other cities in the past

In the wake of unrest in the city of Ferguson, Mo., the Department of Justice says it will investigate reports of excessive force by local police. The investigation is in its earliest stages, but the history of the federal government’s intervention in more than 20 cities over the past two decades provides an idea of what Washington’s approach to local police reform might look like if they find wrongdoing in the case.

In response to findings of police misconduct in the past, cities across the country have entered into agreements, called consent decrees, that have allowed the federal government to force police departments to enact policies that curb racial profiling, improper interrogation and illegal search and seizure, among other things. The exact terms and conditions vary in each case, and the deals are lifted only with the approval of a federal judge.

Here is a look at how federal intervention played out in four cities:

Seattle

When Seattle cracked down on protestors at a World Trade Organization meeting in 1999 the world took notice. Just over a decade later, the city’s police found themselves facing more allegations of improper use of force, this time from the Justice Department. The city’s consent decree required the city to rethink its firearm policies. Officers were required to carry less dangerous weapons and to utilize “de-escalation techniques.”

Seattle police fire teargas and pellets at protesters outside the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle, Washington on November 30, 1999. Andy Clark—Reuters

New Orleans

New Orleans, and its scandal-ridden local government, received attention for civilian deaths caused by police in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It also received an unusually far-reaching consent decree. A 2012 Department of Justice investigation found multiple cases of illegal use of force that resulted in death, inappropriate use of “uncontrollable” dogs to find suspects, discriminatory targeting of minorities for arrest, and other violations. The decree mandated extensive officer training, new supervision requirements and data collection to solve the issue. Recent reports suggest that the police department still has a way to go.

New Orleans Police subdue a man who refused to cooperate when he was asked to step out of his car and who was found to have a knife in the front seat, at the scene of a house fire in New Orleans East on July 6, 2006. Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images

Los Angeles

In 2001, a decade after the beating of Rodney King in 1991 and the riots that followed, the Justice Department entered into a consent decree with the Los Angeles Police Department. The beating was one of many allegations of misconduct by the LAPD. A letter to then-Mayor James Hahn from a Justice Department official outlined a number of areas of concern, including the LAPD’s use of excessive force and false arrests. The letter also said that the department lacked procedures to deal with the issues. The consent decree required that department to collect data on police actions like firearm use and its response to cases of resisting arrest. Under the plan, supervisors were then instructed to monitor officers’ action and report potential policy violations. After more than a decade of federal oversight, the consent decree was lifted by a judge in 2013.

Video image of LA cops beating black motorist Rodney King as he lies on ground; taken by camcorder enthusiast George Holliday fr. window overlooking street. Charles Steiner—Image Works/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Oakland

Federal involvement took a slightly different form in the city of Oakland. The city entered into a settlement with more than 100 plaintiffs in 2003 that mandated a number of police reforms. Ten years later the city acknowledged that it had failed to deliver on its end of the bargain and asked the federal government to help. A federal officer, whose powers included the ability to fire the chief of police, was appointed to oversee the department. The overseer also failed, and was removed by a federal judge this year.

Occupy demonstrators clash with Oakland police during May Day protest in Oakland, California on May 1, 2012. Stephen Lam—Reuters
TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 13

1. True rehabilitation: We can reform prisons and reduce recidivism if we treat prison labor less like modern-day slavery and more like on-the-job training.

By Beth Schwartzapfel in American Prospect

2. Drones are a powerful military and civilian tool. Reforms are desperately needed if the U.S. wants to stay at the top of the drone food chain.

By Missy Cummings in Wired

3. Liberia’s fragile democracy may fall victim to the Ebola virus outbreak.

By Ashoka Mukpo in Al-Jazeera America

4. Mayors need the partnership and protection of a UN for big cities to test new solutions and spread innovation.

By Richard Florida in Citylab

5. The biggest barrier to nonprofit innovation isn’t the lack of money. It’s knowing the right way to scale up and spend big infusions of cash.

By Mathu Jeyaloganathan Ivey Business Review

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Crime

Protests Build in Missouri Town Where Police Shot Unarmed Teen

TEAR GAS SHOT AT PROTESTORS
A demonstrator throws back a tear gas container after tactical officers worked to break up a group of bystanders on Chambers Road near West Florissant in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 13, 2014. Robert Cohen—St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT/Zuma Press

Pleas for calm go unheeded

Violent protests escalated early Wednesday in the St. Louis suburb where a police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager last weekend, with two people shot despite pleas for calm from officials including President Barack Obama.

One man was critically wounded shortly after 1 a.m. by a St. Louis County Police officer following a night marked by loud, angry protests near the QuikTrip convenience store that was looted and burned following the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. St. Louis County Police Officer Brian Schellman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that authorities received reports of shots fired in the area and armed men in ski masks, culminating in a man pulling a handgun on an officer, who then fired back. A handgun was recovered at the scene and police used tear gas. Also on Wednesday, just after midnight, a woman was apparently shot in the head in a drive-by shooting, also near the QuikTrip. But it’s unclear if the violence is related to the protests. The woman is expected to survive.

The shootings erupted after a tense night between protesters and police in full riot gear, guns sometimes drawn, as they stood in line barricading streets near the QuikTrip. At least three armed SWAT tanks were also on the scene.

The shooting death of Brown has had the town of Ferguson on edge for days, drawing national attention as some hold it up as an example of racial disparities in police action and the criminal justice system. Police have said Brown was killed in a struggle after he reached for an officer’s weapon, an account disputed by one of his friends and by his family.

Ferguson police also issued their first official statement since the shooting, saying Wednesday that they are “working to restore confidence in the safety of our community and our neighborhoods so that we may begin the healing process.”

“We ask that any groups wishing to assemble in prayer or in protest do so only during daylight hours in an organized and respectful manner,” the police department said.

Protests on Tuesday altered between calm and raucous, with protestors throwing bottles at police and sometimes refusing to disperse. In one instance, a man accelerated his car toward the police line, coming within about 30 ft. of authorities before turning around to both cheers and jeers from the crowd.

Throughout the night, crowds mobbed the busy street near the QuikTrip, with some walking sporadically in the street, obstructing traffic, while others peacefully marched on the sidewalk to the church where national civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton preached justice and peace during a town hall meeting.

From noon to midnight on Tuesday, the sound of car horns could be heard near the QuikTrip, with drivers honking in support of protesters yelling, “Hands up, don’t shoot” and brandishing signs that read “RIP Mike Brown.”

Obama called the shooting of Brown “heartbreaking” on Tuesday and called for calm.

“I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding,” Obama said in a statement. “We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”

Community members swept glass shards and bagged debris from the burned and looted QuikTrip on Tuesday. Several businesses that were vandalized reopened, including the Northland Chop Suey, where the inside smelled more like the plywood boarding windows than the crab ragoon customers love.

“It’s been slow,” said Boon Jamg, 60, “I’ve owned restaurants in the area for 35 years and I know people by name, many since they were kids. This is a good community. I love these people. I respect them. I am sad that some people disrespected me by vandalizing my business.”

He said the violence doesn’t represent Ferguson. “People are friendly,” Jamg said. “They care about this neighborhood. I’ve never had any problems until this week.”

TIME cities

Trump Isn’t the Only Loser in Atlantic City

Revel Closing
People walk past the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J. on July 23, 2014. Mel Evans—AP

Four casinos are expected to close this year in the New Jersey gambling destination

How big a loser is Atlantic City? So big that Donald Trump sued to have his name removed from two casinos he no longer controls. He may have to amend the suit, since one of them, Trump Plaza plans to shut down next month. And it will have company. The two-year old, twice-bankrupt, $2.4 billion Revel casino will also close after its owners failed to find a buyer, company officials announced Tuesday. As the saying goes, you don’t throw good money after bad.

Revel’s shutdown brings A.C.’s losing streak to four properties that announced a closing this year. The Atlantic Club was taken out earlier this year and Showboat, owned by Caesars Entertainment, locks down at the end of the month. Through June, revenues at the casinos are down 6.3%, continuing a long-term trend. The city’s casinos brought in $2.86 billion last year compared with $5.2 billion in 2006.

Atlantic City is a victim of the saturated mid-Atlantic casino market, and nearly 8,000 workers are slated to lose their jobs as the price to pay. There will be more closings, and not just in the mid-Atlantic states. In Tunica, Miss., Harrah’s (also part of Caesars) is closing a casino, citing declining gaming revenues due to higher competition.

In Atlantic City, some of those displaced workers will be able to catch on at the city’s remaining seven casinos—who will no doubt see an uptick in business—but the losses and closures are indications that the runaway growth days of gaming are over. Any new casino built in the region—indeed, just about anywhere– will have to take business away from somebody else.

And that’s exactly what’s been happening to Atlantic City– a municipality that never blossomed into the revived seaside resort envisioned when New Jersey opened its first legalized casino in 1978. It has remained mostly a weekend gambling jaunt for many punters, and they have since found other places to play. Oddly enough, north of Atlantic City, from Asbury Park to Long Branch, Jersey’s casino-less shore towns have revitalized and grown, despite taking a hit from Hurricane Sandy.

What’s grown around Atlantic City is competition. Just to the south in Delaware, three casinos are now operating. But one of them, Dover Downs, showed a 10% drop in revenues its first quarter. In Pennsylvania, there are 12 casinos in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, in the Poconos and near Pittsburgh. And revenues in that state have begun to slide in part because of competition from Ohio. The Buckeye state is about to open its 11th gambling den with the debut of the Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course.

Americans threw down nearly $39 billion in gaming halls last year, according to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, but that amount is flat with 2012. Meanwhile, the number of gambling locations continues to rise. As a result, says UNLV, 10 out of the 22 states with gaming in 2007 have seen declines since then. That would include Connecticut. Revenues from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun peaked at $1.7 billion in 2006; they dropped to $1.17 billion last year according to UNLV. Pieces of the pie will only get smaller now that Massachusetts is planning to join the game.

It’s still possible that someone could buy the closed Revel and reopen it as a casino. “We hope that Revel can be a successful and vital component of Atlantic City under a proper ownership and reorganized expense structure,” the company said in a statement. But that doesn’t make much economic sense. Neither does building another casino anywhere in the region, but don’t bet against it. Plans are being hatched for a betting fortress in Jersey City, where the population density might favor the house a little more. And across the border in New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is planning to add four casino destinations in the upstate region to the nine racinos and five casinos already operating. The promise is jobs and more tax revenue, but New York may eventually discover what New Jersey did: that it had four more casinos than it actually needs.

TIME cities

Mystery of Who Placed White Flags on the Brooklyn Bridge Solved

ODD Brooklyn Bridge Mystery Flags
A white flag flies atop the west tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, in New York City, on July 22, 2014 Richard Drew—AP

The culprits appear to have been German artists who are mystified by the reaction the act got in the U.S.

Two Berlin-based artists have taken credit — and provided evidence to back up their claim — for swapping out two giant American flags over the Brooklyn Bridge earlier this summer and replacing them with all-white versions.

After the flags suddenly appeared over the bridge on July 22, numerous people rushed to claim credit for the stunt. But German artists Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke have produced videos and pictures apparently taken from the Brooklyn Bridge that indicate they were, in fact, the culprits, the New York Times reports.

Many in New York City saw the flag stunt as a security breach, and embarrassed authorities rushed to launch an investigation. But Leinkauf and Wermke say they were shocked that the flags were perceived that way. Their actions weren’t supposed to be provocative, they said, but merely intended to celebrate “the beauty of public space.” They pulled off the caper on the anniversary of the 1869 death of John Roebling, the German engineer who built the bridge.

“We saw the bridge, which was designed by a German, trained in Berlin, who came to America because it was the place to fulfill his dreams, as the most beautiful expression of a great public space,” Leinkauf said. “That beauty was what we were trying to capture.”

The pair said that between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on July 22 they carried the homemade white flags in backpacks while climbing the cables to the top of the bridge, where they replaced the American flags with the all-white versions. They did not see security cameras. They ceremonially folded the American flags, they said, and promise to return them.

[NYT]

TIME Transportation

FAA Implements No-Fly Zone in Ferguson Amid Unrest Over Killed Teen

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
With their hands raised, residents gather at a police line as the neighborhood is locked down following skirmishes on August 11, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Scott Olson—Getty Images

Police say their helicopter was shot at multiple times Sunday

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a no-fly zone over Ferguson, Missouri, Tuesday at the request of the St. Louis County Police Department.

The St. Louis County Police Department told TIME it asked the FAA for the flight restriction after a police helicopter was fired upon “multiple times” during civil unrest Sunday. Ferguson, located just outside St. Louis, Missouri, erupted in street violence amid demonstrations sparked by the death of Michael Brown, a black teenager who was shot and killed by police on Saturday.

The FAA order restricts flights over the Ferguson area below 3,000 feet to first responders only, including medical and police helicopters. Private aircraft, including news helicopters, are prohibited from flying below 3,000 feet in a 3-mile radius around the town. The rule doesn’t apply to aircraft landing at or taking off from the nearby Lambert–St. Louis International Airport, a major commercial hub. The restriction is in place through August 18.

The order says the flight restrictions were put in place “to provide a safe environment for law enforcement activities.” The FAA would not elaborate further on the reason for the St. Louis County Police Department’s request. “If you want it, file a FOIA,” FAA Spokesperson Elizabeth Cory told TIME, in reference to a Freedom of Information Act request.

It’s not unusual for local police departments to request flight restrictions over potentially dangerous zones, and it’s typically done to clear airspace for police helicopter operations. The Ferguson restriction, however, may make it more difficult for news media to get aerial footage of the town as the Brown story continues to develop.

“If we feel that order is restored we can request ran early termination,” St. Louis County police spokesperson Bryan Schellman told TIME.

TIME cities

Baltimore Tightens Curfew Amid Skepticism and Protests

Protesters demonstrate before community meeting with city officials about new youth curfew legislation in Baltimore
Protesters demonstrate before a community meeting with city officials about new youth curfew legislation going into effect on August 8 at the University of Baltimore Law Center in Baltimore, July 29, 2014. James Lawler Duggan—Reuters

Most major cities have curfew policies, but experts doubt their effectiveness

A Baltimore measure tightening its curfew policy to make it among the most stringent in the United States went into effect Friday amid protests and uproar. But even as a majority of the biggest cities across the country—including nine out of the 10 most populated—maintain curfew policies, experts say such efforts are ineffective at best and that they harm communities at worst.

“It’s just a waste of resources,” said Marie Williams, Executive Director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. “It doesn’t reduce crime. It doesn’t make communities safer. In fact what it might do is contribute to the negative relationship between law enforcement and the communities they’re looking to serve.”

Kenneth Reynolds, a University of Central Florida professor who studied the issue, said the problem is two-fold: the ability to enforce the policy and its overall effectiveness.

“Curfews sounds good but the devil is in the details,” Reynolds said. “When it comes down to a continual enforcement of that policy, most police departments don’t have the resources. And once it’s enforced it’s not very effective.”

Large cities, the types that might benefit from a curfew, don’t have the resources to actually patrol the entire city. Instead, they focus on particular neighborhoods, often leading to racial disparities in enforcement of the curfew, experts say. But even in the neighborhoods they do patrol, opponents the policies are ineffective. During field research in New Orleans, Reynolds found that youth would often just wait for police to depart and then return to the streets.

And most crimes committed by young people occur between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., right after school lets out, according to Laura Furr, a researcher at the National League of Cities.

“Responses to youth crime that are just enforcement response do not address the needs of the youth that are causing the negative behavior,” she said.

Furr, along with groups like the Coalition of Juvenile Justice, advocate for approaches that tend to focus more on involving community members than having the police penalize just being outside.

Some see the problem with curfews as even more heinous. The Maryland branch of the American Civil Liberties Union suggested the curfew might lead to the criminalization of youth and “the use of force.”

“There is real fear that, by giving police officers unfettered discretion to stop any young-looking person after 9 pm and demand ID, this law will devolve into stop-and-frisk for kids, or worse,” said Maryland ACLU staff attorney Sonia Kumar in a statement.

But Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake defends the policy adamantly. She says it’s about protecting young people from the dangers of the streets, rather than keeping them from committing crimes of their own.

“There were far too many kids who were out there that there was need,” she said. “We share the view that we don’t have a spare child.”

The policy requires children under 14 to be off the streets by 9 p.m. Children between 14 and 16 have until 10 p.m. during the school week and 11 p.m. on weekends and during the summer.

In pushing the curfew law, Rawlings-Blake emphasizes what the city calls Youth Connections Centers. In the centers, staffers will try to connect curfew violators with the appropriate social service providers. It’s a positive approach that doesn’t criminalize youth, she says.

Judging by the protests and outcry the new curfew has prompted, many locals disagree. Demonstrations have arisen across the city, and protestors have interrupted official meetings to contest what they say is a draconian law.

Rawlings-Blake said that despite the protesters, the majority of the city is on her side.

In Baltimore, she said, it’s about “connecting vulnerable families with the resources they need.” She deflected when asked about other cities and broad critiques of curfew policies.

And while researchers have criticized curfew policies broadly, they acknowledge such measures play out differently in different places.

“In some communities, you might be able to enforce it,” Reynolds said. “It’s very hard to generalize.”

TIME cities

Cities Get Their Goats to Be Newest Employees

A goat gives birth at the Iowa State Fair on August 6, 2014 in Des Moines, Iowa.
A goat gives birth at the Iowa State Fair on August 6, 2014 in Des Moines, Iowa. Scott Olson—Getty Images

The animals are now seen as a cost-effective and eco-friendly way for towns to clear areas of unwanted vegetation

American cities big and small are turning to an unlikely new kind of employee in hopes of saving money and improving local streets and parks.

Last month, Boston became the latest city to introduce goats to its workforce as six of the cloven cud-chewers began making a meal of poison ivy and weeds, opening up the latest frontier in urban goatscaping, which has been spreading around the country like so many weeds that the goats have been hired to destroy.

“They’re eating almost everything but the ferns,” says Boston Parks and Recreation Department spokesperson Ryan Woods about Cole, Chester, Christopher, Cassandra, Dalia and Delia—Alpine and LaMancha goats hired to munch through all sorts of unwanted vegetation that have made parts of an area park virtually impassable for humans. The rate for the goat sextet is $2,800 for the eight-week project, one normally reserved for Hazmat suit-wearing humans. It’s being funded through the non-profit Southwest Boston Community Development Corporation, and the group’s executive director Mat Thall estimates that the job performed by regular workers could cost upwards of $8,000.

Goats have become an increasingly cost-effective and eco-friendly way for cities, parks and natural resources departments, and private property owners to clear areas of unwanted vegetation. Outside of Philadelphia, Haverford College has hired goats from the Maryland-based goat purveyor Eco-Goats to eat invasive vines and shrubs. A Madison, Wisconsin-based company called The Green Goats has recently rented the animals out to suburban parks around Chicago. In Victoria, Texas, goats have been unleashed to clear brush in the town’s Riverside Park. Thirty goats were dispatched in a Pittsburgh park to eat weeds and invasive vines, and more than 100 goats were recently used to consume blackberry bushes behind a mall in Lynnwood, Wash.

“If they’re managed properly, goats are a great tool to get in places that are almost impossible to get into with chemicals,” says Ray Holes, who’s been renting out goats in western U.S. towns and cities for close to two decades and is widely known as the Goat King. “And on the whole, it’s probably cheaper, too.”

Goats have a knack for eating all the vegetation humans don’t want around while leaving the good stuff, like grasses, and they can often be trained to acquire a palette for certain invasive species. Goats can eat about 4% of their body weight a day by gobbling up a number of woody plants that are anathema to humans, like nettles, poison ivy, buckthorn and wild parsnip.

While there are dozens of goat-renting companies throughout the U.S., Holes’ is the single biggest purveyor of goats in the country and is considered the Goat King for a very good reason—he owns 9,000 of them that are almost continuously on the job throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

Holes charges anywhere from 75 cents to $3 per goat per day depending on where they work and the kind of munching they’re required to do. And he’s increasingly taken on inner city jobs throughout the the western U.S. In the Los Angeles neighborhood of Sun Valley, for example, Holes recently brought in goats to clear areas near hiking and biking trails.

But the most common job for goats is often creating fire breaks—areas made barren of any natural flammable materials. We Rent Goats, a smaller Wilder, Idaho-based business that does exactly what its name says, often works with power companies around the state in clearing those areas. Co-owner Lynda Linquist says 100 of her goats can eat through an acre a day, and they’re almost always a hit.

“Anytime we bring goats in, usually people are thrilled,” Linquist says. “Some will throw huge parties that are tented and catered.”

Linquist, along with her husband Tim, currently rent out 700 goats, mostly to cities that often need help with just a few acres at a time. (We Rent Goats charges $375 an acre.) The goats are generally kept in place by temporary electric fences. But they’re not goat-proof. In Boise, Idaho, about 500 of Linquist’s animals recently got loose.

“They’re goofy gals,” Linquist says. “They’ve busted out of fences. Sometimes they’ll push each other down and steal what the other one’s eating. Sometimes they’ll just go stand in the middle of the road. You’ve got to be thinking one step ahead of them.”

And they’re not always a welcome sight. In June, a hedge fund manager brought in 20 goats to eat through overgrown weeds on abandoned lots in Detroit, but the animals were kicked out two days later by public officials. (It’s illegal to have farm animals within Detroit’s limits.)

And there are at least a handful of landscapers upset by the growing goatscaping economy, as highlighted by The Colbert Report.

Holes, the Goat King, says about half his clients these days are public entities. And he says his business would be even bigger if it wasn’t so difficult finding managers who not only knew how to wrangle hundreds of goats but were also willing to be on the road for weeks or months at a time.

“We have people calling us constantly wanting us to bring our goats in,” Holes says. “But you have to be willing to be away from home. The goats don’t care your kids are having a birthday.”

 

MONEY Health Care

Here’s One Thing That’s Cheaper in the City, and It Will Help You Live Longer

New York City Cityscape
Hint: It's not rent. Charles Taylor Crothers—GalleryStock

In some states, rural residents are paying far more for health insurance. Here's why—and why that might change next year.

By many measures, city living is a racket: skyrocketing rents, expensive food, and pricy entertainment options can make for a high cost of living. But a new study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds that city residents have the slight edge on one metric: this year they had access to cheaper individual health insurance plans on the state and federal exchanges that were created under Obamacare.

Nationally, rural residents pay only slightly more: A 50-year-old nonsmoker from a rural county is spending $387 a month on average for a mid-tier silver plan in 2014, while a city denizens pay $369 for the same kind of plan, the study found. But in some states the gap is much wider.

In Nevada, for example, residents of rural counties must spend an average of $554 a month for a silver plan—57% more than their urban peers. In eight other states, country consumers are charged at least $50 a month more for the same healthcare coverage.

A chief reason for higher premiums, researchers believe, is a lack of competition. Rural areas are home to fewer doctors, which makes it hard for insurers to score discounts for their policyholders. And rural residents have fewer health insurance options. This year, on average, urban health-care shoppers had their pick of five insurers on the exchanges, the study found; those who live in rural areas had only 3.8 options. Also, urban shoppers were able to choose from one of 17 plans on average, while rural consumers saw an average of 14.2 plan options.

Another problem is that insurance is sold on a state-by-state basis, says Janet Weiner, associate director for health policy at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. Take Nevada. In a few rural counties bordering Utah and California, there aren’t that many doctors and hospitals, and many of the closest ones are out-of-state. “The insurers do not sell multi-state plans, and so even if there are more providers close by, but across state lines, they cannot expand their provider networks,” Weiner says. “This limits the ability of insurers to drive discounts and keep costs down.”

The potential good news? Rural residents could see some relief in 2015 as more insurers join the exchanges (open enrollment starts on Nov. 15). While some states, including Florida and California, have already announced premium hikes for next year, new insurers could inject some much-needed competition into the marketplaces. For instance, both Cigna and Aetna have announced plans to expand into Georgia, a state where rural customers currently pay 24% more than urban customers do for the same kind of plan. UnitedHealthcare, the nations’ largest insurer, has announced that it will sell policies on far more state exchanges next year. “If insurers see a business opportunity, rural areas may be in luck,” Weiner says.

Read more about the impact of health reform:

 

TIME cities

The Rise of Suburban Poverty in America

Rooftops in suburban development in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Rooftops in suburban development in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Blend Images/Spaces Images/Getty Images

The suburbs aren't the middle-class haven many imagine them to be as new numbers show 16.5 million suburban Americans are living beneath the poverty line

Colorado Springs is often included on lists of the best places to live in America thanks to its 250 days of sun a year, world-class ski resorts and relatively high home values. But over the last decade, its suburbs have attained a less honorable distinction: they’ve experienced some of the largest increases in suburban poverty rates.

The suburbs surrounding Colorado Springs now have seven Census tracts with 20% or more residents in poverty, according to a report released Thursday by the Brookings Institution. In 2000, it had none. In those neighborhoods, 35% of residents are now considered to be below the poverty line, defined as a family of four making $23,492 or less in 2012.

“We’ve seen this all over the state,” says Kathy Underhill of Hunger Free Colorado, a statewide anti-hunger organization, referring to the growth of suburban poverty. “But I think the American public has been slow to realize this transition from urban poverty to suburban poverty.”

Poverty in the U.S. has worsened in neighborhoods already considered to be poor, but it’s now becoming more prevalent in the nation’s suburbs, according to the Brookings report.

“Poverty has become more regional in scope,” says Elizabeth Kneebone of the Brookings Institution and a co-author of the report. “But at the same time, it’s more concentrated and it’s erased a lot of the progress that we made in the 1990s.”

In the last decade, the number of Census tracts considered “distressed” — in which at least 40% of residents live in poverty — has risen by almost 72%. The number of poor people living in those neighborhoods has grown by an even faster rate—78%—from 3 million to 5.3 million. In 2000, the percentage of poor people who live in economically distressed neighborhoods was 9.1%. Today, it’s 12.2%.

Those areas are leading to what Kneebone calls a “double burden” for impoverished residents—being poor while living in a low-income area that often has failing schools, inadequate healthcare systems and higher crime rates. And as those areas are increasingly located in suburban areas, low-income Americans don’t have the kind of social safety nets often found in urban centers.

The numbers of suburban poor are growing at a more rapid rate than those in urban areas. In 2012, there were 16.5 million Americans living below the poverty line in the suburbs compared with 13.5 million in cities. The number of suburban poor living in distressed neighborhoods grew by 139% since 2000, compared with a 50% jump in cities. Overall, the number of poor living in the suburbs has grown by 65% in the past 14 years—twice as much growth as in urban areas.

It’s easy to pin the growth of concentrated and suburban poverty on the recession, but the spread of poverty throughout the U.S. has broader and more varied explanations. The numbers of suburban poor have been swelled by low-income residents who might once have lived in urban cores, but have been priced out of gentrifying cities, and have moved into affordable housing more prevalent in the suburbs.

Suburban areas also tend to be centered around industries most affected by the economic downturn, like manufacturing and construction, and the jobs that have taken their place are often low-paying, like retail and service positions.

There are also few social programs to help the suburban poor ascend the economic ladder. In the counties surrounding the Denver and Colorado Springs area, for example, many charitable organizations and anti-poverty programs have historically been focused on urban cores and haven’t caught up to changing demographics.

“The charitable infrastructure over the decades have focused on the inner city,” says Underhill of Hunger Free Colorado. “They’ve traditionally not had big case loads and aren’t accustomed to the level of service that’s needed.”

The Brookings report highlights a few suburbs that have seen decreases in poverty, including those around El Paso, Texas; Baton Rouge, La.; and Jackson, Miss. But they were outliers. In North Carolina, three suburban areas—Winston-Salem, Greensboro-High Point, and Charlotte—saw significant increases in both the number of economically distressed neighborhoods and the percentage of poor in those areas. Atlanta now has 197 areas with poverty rates above 20%, up from 32 in 2000.

“Suburban areas are no longer just homes to middle- and upper-income households,” says University of New Hampshire demographer Ken Johnson. “There were always poor suburbs, but much of the outflow of population from urban cores to suburbs has historically been middle- and upper-income. That is less true now.”

Kneebone agrees, saying the perception that suburban areas were some sort of middle-class haven “was always a bit too simplistic.”

“Poverty is touching all kinds of communities,” Kneebone says. “It’s not just over there anymore.”

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