Connecting state and local government leaders

Louisiana Reeling From Unprecedented Flash Flooding; Pipeline Concerns Continue in Michigan

esidents line up on Providence Boulevard in Hammond, La., where flood waters inundated their homes after heavy rains in the region Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016.

esidents line up on Providence Boulevard in Hammond, La., where flood waters inundated their homes after heavy rains in the region Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016. Max Becherer / AP Photo

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Weekend Digest: Tree removal standoff in San Diego; auditing disputes for Minnesota counties; and N.Y. vs. N.J. acrimony continues over Port Authority Bus Terminal.

BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT | While a hurricane may not have caused the historic flash flooding in portions of Louisiana, the disaster that has been unfolding in and around Baton Rouge has prompted a huge response by first responders. “I can’t say it’s worse than a hurricane,” Gov. John Bel Edwards told reporters on Sunday, “but it’s plenty bad.” As of Sunday night, authorities reported that at least four people had died in the flash flooding and 20,000 people needed to be rescued. At least 1,000 cars were stranded along Interstate 12 when floodwaters inundated portions of the highway east of Baton Rouge. More than 10,000 people have shown up at emergency shelters. The Obama administration has granted a request from Edwards to declare the area a major disaster. State offices will be closed on Monday in 27 of Louisiana’s parishes. [The Advocate; The Times-Picayune]

LANSING, MICHIGAN
PIPELINE SAFETY | A former oil industry lobbyist who is the director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality told reporters on Friday that it is premature to call for the closure of an aging underwater pipeline that passes through the Straits of Mackinac. A bipartisan coalition of organizations, environmental advocates and public officials has raised awareness over the risk posed from Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5, which would lead to an unprecedented environmental disaster in the Great Lakes. Enbridge argues that the pipeline is in excellent condition. [MLive.com]

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
TREES | The city has relented in its efforts to remove a 73-foot-tall tree from Ocean Beach—for now. The nearly century-old Torrey pine is in danger of falling, according to San Diego officials, but community opponents say the city hasn’t made a compelling case. Already, one woman climbed the tree to prevent its removal. Two other nearby pines were uprooted by storms last winter, and while this one tree must go, San Diego has plans to plant more citywide to increase its canopy. [KGTV]

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA
AUDITS | Of Minnesota’s 87 counties, 44 will have private accounting firms audit their financial records instead of the state auditor. This comes after a 2015 law change that gave states the option. The state auditor’s office has been around since the 1970s. State Auditor Rebecca Otto is fighting the change in court. State audits cost counties about $50,000, and many have argued private firms are cheaper. [MinnPost]

COLUMBUS, OHIO
EDUCATION | The Buckeye State’s largest online charter school wants records back that it handed over to the Ohio Department of Education. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is accusing the department of a criminal invasion of privacy, and says it’s putting student identities at risk. The kerfuffle over the records stems from a broader dispute between the charter school and the state over how to audit the school’s student attendance. The attendance figures would be used to determine whether the school received the correct amount of state funding for the 2015-16 school year, an amount that totaled about $106 million. [Columbus Dispatch]

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
TRANSPORTATION | A standoff is brewing between New Jersey and New York over replacing the Port Authority Bus Terminal on the west side of midtown Manhattan. The facility handles about 230,000 commuters each day. It began to operate in 1950. Twenty powerful elected leaders from New Jersey sent a letter to top Port Authority officials Thursday saying they expect the new terminal to be built. But city and state leaders in New York have threatened to sue if plans for the new terminal move forward. Some opponents of the proposed project want to see a smaller terminal built away from midtown. New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler argued last month that building a massive new terminal near the current site would require taking properties through eminent domain, and stands to violate health, environmental and historic preservation laws. “If they go ahead with this… they are violating any number of laws and they are setting up a 10-, 15-year legal battle,” Nadler said. [The Record / NorthJersey.com]