Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Six months since Hurricane Harvey; a fatal stabbing in Mass. library; states legislatures with the most women; Penn State alcohol binge strains local ambulance response time; and S.F. ferries are stuffed to the gills.
Don’t miss our ongoing coverage from the National Governors Association’s annual winter meeting in the nation’s capital, including stories on gun violence, the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement and improving health care.
Below is Route Fifty’s weekend roundup of state and local government news stories that caught our attention.
MAYORS | Upon taking office, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey had members of his office staff trained to administer naloxone, which first responders use to reverse a drug overdose. More agencies in Minnesota’s largest city and county are being trained to use naloxone—which is branded commercially as Narcan—including the Minneapolis Police Department, where 125 officers are being trained. “We have to be setting the example. If I’m asking everybody to learn how to administer naloxone, I’d better be able to do it too,” according to the mayor. [WCCO-TV]
Oakland, California Mayor Libby Schaaf alerted the public in the Bay Area of possible Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations to detain undocumented immigrants that her city learned about from multiple credible sources. “My priority is for the well-being and safety of all residents—particularly our most vulnerable—and I know that Oakland is safer when we share information, encourage community awareness, and care for our neighbors,” Schaaf said in an announcement. [NBC Bay Area; Office of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf]
If the sheriff of Jackson County, Michigan doesn’t resign by Tuesday, the Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies plans to ask members of the city council to petition Gov. Rick Snyder for the law enforcement officer’s removal from office. In “damning audio recordings,” Sheriff Steven Rand is heard using offensive words to describe a woman judge and discuss “the creation of a violent pornographic film starring a court employee.” A lawyer for a sheriff’s department lieutenant suing the department for allowing the sheriff to create a hostile work environment made the audio recordings available to reporters.
HOMELESSNESS | In Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, around 57,000 people lack “a fixed, regular or adequate place to sleep.” But only 1 in 10 homeless individuals in L.A. County live on Skid Row, an area near downtown Los Angeles where homelessness has traditionally be concentrated. In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times wrote that “politicians who have for too long shamefully shirked their responsibility to address the festering problems must now exercise real leadership” and “they must stop pandering to the vocal minority of residents who object to housing for homeless and low-income people in their neighborhoods.” Homeless-related costs continue to mount for the city government. Last week, the Los Angeles City Council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee recommended a budget increase for the Bureau of Sanitation that would allow the city to “focus on areas that receive the most requests related to homelessness.” [Los Angeles Times; Curbed LA]
STATE LEGISLATURES | Arizona, Vermont and Nevada lead the nation in the percentage of women serving as in state legislatures, according to an annual survey from the National Conference of State Legislatures. Forty percent of the Arizona and Vermont legislatures are comprised of women; in Nevada, it’s 39.7 percent. [Nevada Appeal]
The Washington state legislature, with “no debate and in less than an hour,” voted to exempt themselves from part of the state’s voter-approved Public Records Act, passing both chambers with veto-proof majorities. [KREM; Spokesman Review]
A bill introduced in the Oklahoma Senate that would require all public schools to display the phrase “In God We Trust” in classrooms, along with the U.S. and Oklahoma flags, won approval in a committee. [KOKI-TV / Fox 23]
DISASTER RECOVERY | It’s been six months since Hurricane Harvey came ashore as a Category 4 storm in southeastern Texas and dumped record amounts of rainfall on the Houston area over multiple days, killing 68 people. Some of the numbers from the storm, half a year later, remain staggering, including 300,000 flooded structures and $120 billion in damage. The highest recorded rainfall totals surpassed 60 inches, making it Harvey the most significant tropical cyclone rainfall event in U.S. weather history. [KPRC-TV / Click2Houston]
The Open Society Foundations this weekend announced a new Mayor Exchange initiative aimed at the sharing of insights and experiences of mayors in Puerto Rico who are helping their communities recover from Hurricane Maria with their counterparts on the U.S. mainland. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is chairing the group, along with Mayors Pedro García Figueroa of Hormigueros and Javier Jiménez Pérez of San Sebastián and Open Society Foundations President Patrick Gaspard. [Global News Wire]
PUBLIC SAFETY | The reading room of a public library in Winchester, Massachusetts became a crime scene this weekend when, according to Middlesex County prosecutors, 23-year-old Jeffrey Yao fatally stabbed a 22-year-old woman and injured a 77-year-old man with a 10-inch hunting knife. Yao’s neighbors said they feared him and “kept their children indoors, kept baseball bats nearby, and locked their doors.” The incident has jarred the local community and residents have said “the attack had an echo of the Florida school shooting in which a teenager who was well known to authorities …” During a press conference, District Attorney Marian Ryan and Winchester Police Chief Peter MacDonnell credited library staff and patrons for corralling the suspect and coming to the aid of the victim. [The Boston Globe; Boston Herald]
In State College, Pennsylvania, students at Penn State University engaged in a daylong drinking event called State Patty’s Day this weekend may not have only been putting their own health and safety in jeopardy. A State College police captain said that due to the spike in alcohol-related calls, unrelated ambulance calls were being delayed by 10 minutes. “What that will do is people who are having heart attacks or other events are being delayed because of the poor decisions of people who are doing other things,” according to Capt. Chris Fishel. [Centre Daily Times]
PUBLIC WORKS | While Portland, Oregon doesn’t necessarily get a lot of snow in an average year, winter weather can pack a big punch. The city learned that the hard way last winter when storms in January and February “turned Portland into nothing less than an apocalyptic scene,” with many roadways impassable by snow, ice and abandoned cars. But recent storms haven’t caused the same level of disruption this time around. The city of Portland and the Oregon Department of Transportation have been using salt to treat roadways, despite concerns about the environmental impact. [The Oregonian / OregonLive.com]
TRANSPORTATION | The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which runs the Boston area’s subway, trolley, bus and commuter rail network, is looking for a chief customer experience officer, a position designed to elevate the “voice of the customer” in leadership discussions and with and public-facing departments. [MassLive.com]
Ferries crossing San Francisco Bay may not carry as many commuters compared to Bay Area Rapid Transit trains via the Transbay Tubes or buses that cross San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. But ferries carry the same number of commuters as three trains and 48 buses crossing the bay. And those ferries are packed during peak periods thanks to a lack of additional capacity. “We leave people behind every day because of a hard cap on our ridership; we have a desperate need to expand capacity,” according to Kevin Connolly, manager of planning and development for the Water Emergency Transportation Authority. [Streetsblog]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.