Connecting state and local government leaders

Scott Walker’s Battle to Cut Univ. of Wis.’s Budget Continues; More State Layoffs in Conn.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Weekend Digest: San Francisco police chief resigns; Chicago Fraternal Order of Police scrutiny; and D.C. suburb’s big fight over a swing-set.

HIGHER EDUCATION | Cutting the budget of the University of Wisconsin System along with instituting tenure reform have been top agenda items for Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican colleagues in the state legislature. There have been layoffs across the university system and cutbacks in course offerings and student services. Democrats and Republicans are gearing up to use the university budget cuts as a point of debate in advance of this November’s elections. Democrats say the cuts are hurting the university system and economic development in the state, with Republicans trumpeting tenure reform and making the university leaner and more affordable for students. [Wisconsin State Journal]

STATE GOVERNMENT LAYOFFS | There’s been an additional wave of layoffs for state workers in Connecticut. On Thursday, cuts were made to the Department of Developmental Services, which lost 24 employees. The State Ethics Office and the Freedom of Information Commission both lost two employees each. The Correction Department and the Office of Chief Medical Examiner both lost one position each. [CT News Junkie / New Haven Register]

RESIGNATION | Police Chief Greg Suhr resigned at the request of Mayor Ed Lee hours after the city’s third controversial police shooting in the last six months. Two officers pursued a black woman driving a suspected stolen sedan until she crashed into a utility truck, when a sergeant fired a single shot—killing her despite no evidence of a weapon or an escape. The tragedy comes on the heels of the discovery some officers in the department had been exchanging racist and homophobic text messages. Lee named Toney Chaplin, an African American deputy chief overseeing professional standards and principled policing, acting police chief while a national search for a permanent replacement occurs. “These officer-involved shootings, justified or not, have forced our city to open its eyes to questions of when and how police use lethal force,” Lee said. [San Francisco Chronicle]

CITY HALL VISTAS | Should the view of Mount Rainier from a public balcony at City Hall be protected from taller buildings that could be built in Bellevue’s densifying downtown? Sound Transit’s East Link light rail line is expected to connect Seattle with Bellevue and Redmond starting in 2023, which will bring more downtown development. The city is studying the impacts that future development may have on the ability to see the 14,411-foot Cascades Range volcano from City Hall. The big question: Is it worth it to scale back transit-oriented development to protect a partially obstructed view of the mountain that’s only visible 80-90 years? [Seattle Transit Blog]

ZONING | Up to 40 percent of the buildings in Manhattan could not be built today under current zoning regulations, either because they are too tall, they have too many apartments or they have too many square feet dedicated to commercial uses. The zoning code in the Big Apple, the first such set of rules to be written in the country, turns 100 this year. Since the zoning code was first approved in 1916, it has changed many times. As a result, whole sections of the city stand in defiance of current zoning mandates. If a new New York City were built today, it would have to be less dense and shorter. [The New York TImes]

LAW ENFORCEMENT | Starting from the first time Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police began negotiating its contracts with City Hall 35 years ago, each side of the bargaining table had a goal in mind. City Hall traded stipulations in the contract that would give police officers robust protections if they are investigated for misconduct—an issue that was key to the FOP. And, in return, the mayor’s office kept a tighter hold over the amount of pay that officers could receive. Now, as outrage has built in response to a system in which officers are rarely held accountable for misconduct—notably after police-involved shootings—critics have honed in on the portions of the FOP contract that protect officers from scrutiny. But, if the city wants those contract rules to change, it may hurt their bottom line. In an interview, FOP President Dean Angelo Sr. said that if City Hall comes to the union looking for changes to the officer protections in the contract, “we’ll tell them to pony up.” [Chicago Tribune]

INFRASTRUCTURE | When it rains, the state’s stormwater systems—connected to sewage treatment plants—can overflow sending sewage into rivers. But prevention will cost about $40 billion, said Bob Briant, Utility and Transportation Contractors Association CEO. “This is going to be an effort that will take some revenue," he said. "We just don't have it in the federal general fund to do this." [NewsWorks / WHYY]

TELECOMMUNICATIONS | Residents in this affluent enclave south of Charlotte are steamed over a company’s plans to plant 30-foot-tall signal towers on or near their lawns. The towers would be part of “small cell nodes” designed to improve phone and data service in the city. Charlotte permitted 82 such poles or towers last year, but some residents worry about their health effects. “It’s not a Piper Glen issue,” said one neighborhood opponent. “We are first, but they are coming for everyone else.” [The Charlotte Observer]

MUNICIPAL REGULATIONS | A children’s swing set that doubles as a wisteria arbor has run afoul of local property covenants in this well-manicured, leafy suburban village bordering the District of Columbia. The problem? The swing set is located within the 25 foot strip of land between residences and the street, an area that’s supposed to be devoid of things like swing sets.The village government, which has already had three hearings and a vote by the Board of Managers on the swing-set placement issues, could end up suing a resident over the play structure. [The Washington Post]