Connecting state and local government leaders

A Big Burden for Oklahoma’s Poorly Paid Teachers; Wildfire Burns Through California Community


Connecting state and local government leaders

Dallas struggles with its recycling goal; closing arguments in Pa. attorney general’s trial; and Lake Michigan life rings.

Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Oklahoma comes in 49th when it comes to average teacher salaries. There haven’t been across-the-board raises for educators in eight years in the Sooner State. Teachers already pay for many of their classroom materials out of pocket, which is difficult when salaries are meager and school districts have cut back or eliminated their teacher discretionary pay. That includes teachers in Oklahoma City, where in a budget-cutting move, discretionary pay was reduced to $15 per student from $25 per student. The school district saved $260,000. “They’re going to do whatever it takes. And if it takes spending $200 to $300 out of their pocket, they are going to do it” John Cox, president of the Organization of Rural Elementary Schools, said of teachers. “Why should they sacrifice like that, when they’re providing the foundation for everything a child needs for adult life?” [Oklahoma Watch via Tulsa World]

WILDFIRES | At least 175 homes were destroyed in a quickly spreading wildfire that burned through the small rural community of Lower Lake in Lake County, about 100 north of San Francisco. Although the local high school has remained intact, the area surrounding it burned, including a neighborhood of homes. Thus far, 175 homes and businesses have been lost in the fire. This part of Northern California has seen a handful of destructive wildfires in recent years, including the deadly September 2015  Valley Fire, which killed four and burned more than 1,300 homes in two communities. “If you were to stand on Main Street here in Lower Lake and turn in a circle, the devastation would be exactly the same as the devastation you saw in Middletown last year,” said a spokesperson for CalFire. [San Francisco Chronicle]

WASTE MANAGEMENT | Three years ago, city officials set goals for Dallas to cut the amount of waste it’s sending to landfills and by 2020, have 40 percent of its waste diverted from landfills by recycling or other means, but thus far, that diversion rate sits at around 21 percent, according to the Dallas Sanitation Department. “The issue is that we’re still relying on the same voluntary encouragement for these folks to do these programs,” said Corey Troiani, program director at advocacy group Texas Campaign for the Environment. Without City Hall mandates, many businesses, hotels and apartment buildings haven’t adapted. Twenty percent of Dallas households lack a blue bin the city uses for recycling. [Dallas Morning News]

LEAKS | Two ex-aides of state Attorney General Kathleen Kane accuse her of leaking grand jury evidence to a newspaper and then lying about it under oath. In Monday’s closing arguments, the prosecution has argued she was out to embarrass a rival prosecutor and pin the blame on someone else. Kane’s political consultant testified he’d been frisked for a wire by security agents and made to leave his wallet, cellphone and keys behind just to have lunch with her at a hotel—and solidify their story for the grand jury. The first woman elected attorney general of Pennsylvania leaves office in January, after one term, unless convicted or impeached by the legislature. [The Inquirer /;; The Associated Press via Boston Herald]

CAMPAIGN FINANCE | The push for a referendum on new campaign finance laws—making it harder for rich contractors and lobbyists to donate to politicians—seems to have gone unheeded, and mayoral candidate Raquel Regalado blames County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. About 127,000 petitions have gone uncounted while Gimenez has raised $1.6 million for his reelection campaign. The petitions must be authorized within 30 days, but 14 days in and the county hasn’t started. Miami-Dade’s attorney argues the mayor can’t authorize canvassing of the petitions himself, and the county commission hasn’t been able to reach quorum to vote on the matter due to suspect commissioner absences at meetings. "The charter says the board must order the vote within 30 days," said one member of the Accountable Miami-Dade coalition pushing the ballot measure. "It doesn’t say they have a choice to not order it, and it doesn’t say they have a choice to put it off. This is the only option the board has." [Miami New Times]

WATER SAFETY | A safety committee will install 25 life rings around the city’s stretch of Lake Michigan, after the recent drownings of a Napanee man and 14-year-old boy. Tethered with 100 feet of rope, the life rings will also be clearly identifiable. Lake Michigan can have powerful rip currents. “We are often called to Washington Park for rescues, but many of them are at this pier, and unfortunately there have been a number of fatalities,” said Fire Chief Randy Novak. “A life ring is one of the easiest ways to save a drowning victim, especially off a pier. We repeatedly warn the public on the dangers of pier jumping, but we continue to see them do it.” [The Times of Northwest Indiana]