Connecting state and local government leaders

Iowa’s Costly Tunnels Cause Ongoing Headache for State

The Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines

The Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Some want Detroit to exclude a recalcitrant suburban neighbor; Bay Area cities gearing up for autonomous vehicles; New Jersey praised for bail system overhaul; souring tribal relations in an Oklahoma county.

Here are state and local government stories that caught Route Fifty’s attention this President’s Day weekend.

FACILITIES MANAGEMENT | State-owned facilities in Iowa, are in need of some overdue tender loving care. There’s $322 million in major maintenance projects that need to be addressed, according to the state’s property manager. And that figure doesn’t include facilities at state universities. Tunnels connecting various buildings at the Department of Human Services need lots of work—they comprise 15 percent of the state’s total facilities maintenance needs—do windows and roofs. A “cavelike berm at the Iowa Veterans Home” also needs to be demolished. Maintenance of state facilities hasn’t been funded by Iowa’s governor or the state legislature in nearly a decade. [The Gazette]

MAYORS | Politico magazine puts a spotlight on South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has been seen as rising star in the world of Democratic Party politics. Talk of a presidential bid have been rampant in recent months—it should be noted that city halls “have traditionally not been a viable launching pad for national politics.”More locally, “Mayor Pete” has focused on turning around his hometown, once deemed a “dying city.” Buttigieg, an openly gay Navy veteran, has particularly focused on a $25 million “smart streets” initiative aimed at creating a more vibrant downtown. [Politico Magazine; CityLab Newsweek; South Bend Tribune]

REGIONAL COOPERATION | The Detroit metropolitan area’s infamous lack of regional transit has been cited as a key reason why the area missed out on Amazon’s HQ2 shortlist. Novi is one of 39 communities in Oakland County that has “walled themselves off from the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation” bus service, creating significant challenges for low-wage workers accessing employment centers. Oakland County’s long-time executive, L. Brooks Patterson, continues to oppose regional cooperation on transit services, along with leaders in neighboring Macomb County. With entrenched anti-transit sentiments north of Eight Mile Road, the Detroit area’s longtime regional dividing line, some are calling for Detroit, Wayne County and Washtenaw County, which includes Ann Arbor, to create their own system and leave Oakland County out of a regional system. [MLive; Crain’s Detroit Business; Detroit Free Press]

Disputes over how to fund a proposed joint economic development corporation in southeastern Wisconsin have brought the initiative to a halt. The objections to the proposal are related to the use of tax incremental districts and a higher tax burden for local residents. [Kenosha News]

AUTONOMOUS INFRASTRUCTURE | Cities and counties in the San Francisco Bay Area are collaborating on efforts aimed at not only easing traffic congestion in the region, but preparing their jurisdictions for the continued roll out of autonomous vehicles on their local roadways. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission this week approved $5 million in grants to six localities—Contra Costa County and the cities of Dublin, Emeryville, Los Gatos, Palo Alto, and Walnut Creek—to pursue projects better connect cars, buses, bicycles and shuttles with traffic signals and other infrastructure, all with the expectation that a future with driverless vehicles is right around the corner. [The Mercury News]  

The Essex County Courthouse in Newark, New Jersey. (Shutterstock)

LAW ENFORCEMENT | Criminal justice reform advocates are praising New Jersey as the state seeks to overhaul its bail system. Judges in the state have largely halted setting bail—which some say perpetuates a system where poor people are chronically detained—and instead are releasing or detaining defendants before a trial based on scored assessments. But those attempts at reform are also leading to attacks from the bail industry itself. [The Philadelphia Inquirer; The New York Times]

New York state’s push for legalized recreational marijuana gained a celebrity booster over the weekend. Talk show host Montel Williams told legislators on Saturday how marijuana helped him to fight multiple sclerosis. Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month “softened” on some of his opposition to legal pot, calling for state funds to study the broader impact of the issue. [Albany Times-Union; Crain’s New York Business]

A program in Los Angeles aimed at retaining well-trained police officers and firefighters has some fundamental flaws. The program—implemented in 2008—allows veterans of the municipal departments to collect their salaries and pensions at the same time, while only being considered on “active” duty for one day. [L.A. Times]

LAND MANAGEMENT | Seventy-five acres of trees and grassland have led to a souring of relations between officials in Osage County, Oklahoma and the Osage Nation Native American tribe. At issue is a desire by the tribe to take that 75 acres it owns and put it into trust with the federal government, thereby removing it from the county tax rolls. [Tulsa World]

RESILIENCY | With the help of a Miami-based laboratory, developers and architects seek to go above and beyond the testing required by many local authorities for the construction of modern skyscrapers. Testing at the Construction Research Laboratory pits building materials against everything from hurricane force winds to torrential downpours. [The Wall Street Journal]