Connecting state and local government leaders

End of the 'Strong Mayor' in Baltimore?; Illinois Officials' Pay Withheld

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo


Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Daily Digest: Holdout Montana mulls digital billboards; Miami Beach vs. rafters; and cicadas prepare to invade Pittsburgh

MANAGEMENT | City Council seeks to end Baltimore’s “strong mayor” form of government by stripping the executive of control of the Board of Estimates, which approves all expenditures exceeding $25,000, and allowing the body to add spending to the budget. Outgoing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called the bills “fiscally irresponsible” and could veto, at which point 12 of the council’s 15 votes are needed to override. Even then, the measures must also receive voter approval in November. [The Baltimore Sun]

BUDGET CRISIS | If Illinois lawmakers want their paychecks, they’ll need to come up with a balanced state budget. Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger will begin adding the $1.3 million a month in officials’ paychecks to the state’s two-month backlog of unpaid bills, to afford continued payments to nonprofit social service providers and small businesses. The move could light a fire under legislators to solve Illinois’ $6 billion deficit, but it comes at a convenient time for the comptroller, who’s up for election in November and could use a bump in the polls. "I do not relish taking this action," Munger said. [Chicago Tribune]

WATER | A suburb of Milwaukee has asked to draw drinking water from Lake Michigan, raising questions about a decade-old, eight-state compact whereby states agreed not to use water from the Great Lakes. In the coming months, the governors of the states that border the lakes—none of whom was in office when the unusual bipartisan agreement was signed—will have to decide how to share, or not share, the largest source of freshwater on earth. A final vote is expected on May 23, and any no vote will put an end to Waukesha’s request. [Star Tribune]

EARTHQUAKES | A three-mile stretch of San Francisco’s heavily trafficked Embarcadero area could see substantial earthquake damage if its sea wall gives way. Transportation infrastructure may crack and utility services fail, but the cost to secure the sea wall is a daunting $2 billion to $3 billion. Despite ongoing retrofits, most northern waterfront buildings and piers were built after the 1906 earthquake and haven’t been tested by a major temblor. [Los Angeles Times]

CORRECTIONS | People convicted of certain crimes will be able to erase their criminal record in 10 years, rather than waiting 15, under a new state law that takes effect today. Drug addicts who have completed court-ordered rehabilitation programs will now be eligible for expungement, with some exceptions in cases of those who dealt drugs. Advocates of the law hope that speedier expungement will improve reentry into society for eligible offenders in the form of better access to jobs and housing. []

BILLBOARDS | Montana’s DOT is considering a rule that would allow digital billboards on the state’s highways. Of the states that have billboards, Montana is the last holdout on taking these advertisements digital. The new rule would limit the billboards to static images, and the screens’ brightness would diminish as the sun sets so as not to cause any more light pollution than a normal billboard. Some residents are concerned these signs would detract from Montana’s natural beauty and small-town way of life. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle]

WASTE MANAGEMENT | The annual Floatopia raft party managed to make an enemy of two Miami Beach officials, including the city’s mayor, after bringing traffic to a halt and leaving the beach trashed. Tens of thousands of dollars are owed to sanitation and park employees, who worked overtime to complete cleanup. Open containers of alcohol aren’t allowed on the city’s public beaches, but officials can’t close them to groups like Floatopia and must come up with a workaround to contain the event, around since 2012, next year. [Miami Herald]

PUBLIC ART | Many residents and visitors to Amsterdam considered the Minions painted on its downtown bollards the lone bright spot in an otherwise botched redevelopment effort. The city’s new mayor didn’t agree, sending workers to paint over the creatures from the “Despicable Me” movies. It’s just one in a series of instances of Republican Mayor Michael Villa erasing the work of his Democratic predecessor. [Times Union]

SECESSION | The pro-independence activist group, Texas Nationalist Movement, says at least 22 of the hundreds of district and county GOP conventions held in March statewide passed resolutions to secede from the U.S. While state party leadership is doubtful, it’s possible secession may wind up being discussed at the annual Texas GOP conference in May—and quickly dismissed. Still, the fringe movement has clearly grown in recent years. [Houston Chronicle]

INSECT SWARM | The cicadas are coming. After 17 years of dormancy, and when soil temperature warms to 64 degrees, a swarm of millions—possibly billions—of the insects will dig themselves out of underground burrows to mate around the greater Pittsburgh area. Expect four to six weeks of constant screeching. [The Patriot-News]