Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Colo. wildfires … San Francisco mayoral race still in limbo … Lyme disease on Staten Island … and Va. Beach council members want city manager fired.
Here are state and local government news stories that caught Route Fifty’s attention …
- Seattle, Washington: During a special meeting planned for Tuesday afternoon, the Seattle City Council is set to vote on a proposal that would repeal the city’s controversial head tax on large employers like Amazon. that would fund new homeless services and affordable housing units. City Council President Bruce Harrell announced the proposal “without warning” on Monday and “vowed to move at lightning speed to kill the measure,” which has faced major opposition from the business community, including Amazon and Starbucks. That included a business-backed signature campaign to put a head tax repeal before voters. Mayor Jenny Durkan and seven council members issued a joint statement on Monday explaining their reasoning for their retreat. Part of their statement: “It is clear that the ordinance will lead to a prolonged, expensive political fight over the next five months that will do nothing to tackle our urgent housing and homelessness crisis. These challenges can only be addressed together as a city, and as importantly, as a state and a region.” [The Seattle Times; SCC Insight; Crosscut]
- Flagstaff, Arizona: As parts of the American Southwest continue to experience extreme drought conditions, there’s hope this week that monsoonal moisture coming up from Mexico associated with Hurricane Bud will bring much needed rainfall northward. [U.S. Drought Monitor; Arizona Daily Sun; KAFF; USA Today ]
- Denver, Colorado: The dry conditions are currently fueling multiple wildfires in Colorado, including blazes near Durango and Dolores in the southwestern part of the state and another near Interstate 70 in Eagle County, where authorities are searching for “three men in a red-and-white pickup linked to the start of a 415-acre fire.” The U.S. Forest Service has closed all of the San Juan National Forest to the public due to the fire danger. [The Denver Post; Western Slope Now]
- Santa Fe, New Mexico: The Holy Ghost flower, which “only grows naturally along a two-mile stretch in Holy Ghost Canyon,” is extremely rare. It’s also faces extinction from a future wildfire. State Botanist Daniela Roth, along with the U.S. Forest Service and firefighters have worked to keep fires away from the canyon and “ensure it didn’t get trampled during firefighting efforts.” The flowers were nearly consumed by the path of a wildfire in 2013. [Santa Fe New Mexican]
- San Francisco, California: Last week’s mayoral race is still unresolved as approximately 17,000 ballots are counted in the city’s ranked-choice election, which currently has Board of Supervisors President London Breed with a slight lead over Mark Leno, a former state senator, assemblyman and San Francisco 8th district supervisor. Local elections officials expect the final votes should be counted by Wednesday afternoon. [SF Weekly]
- Boston, Massachusetts: The mayors of seven cities in Western states that have legalized cannabis on Monday announced a new coalition calling on Congress to protect state marijuana laws during the U.S. Conference of Mayors 86th Annual Meeting. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock led the coalition. “With 46 states having some form of legalization, the reality is legal marijuana is coming to a city near you. As mayors of cities that have successfully implemented and managed this new industry, we have hands on experience that can help Congress take the right steps to support other local governments as they prepare to enter this new frontier,” Hancock said in an announcement of the coalition. “We all will face common challenges when it comes to legalizing marijuana, and those challenges need federal solutions so implementation can be done smoothly, safely and effectively.” Joining Hancock were the mayors of Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and West Sacramento. [Westword]
- Virginia Beach, Virginia: Two city council members are calling for City Manager Dave Hansen to be fired over an email he sent to a developer about a closed-door council meeting to discuss a proposal to build a new Oceantfront pier. “I think Dave Hansen should be terminated,” Councilwoman Jessica Abbott said. “I think he has acted inappropriately. I don’t think his actions are acceptable.” [The Virginian-Pilot]
- Newark, New Jersey: Police in Newark “have taken an extraordinary step that few, if any, other departments in the country have pursued.” With surveillance cameras an “inescapable fixture of the modern city,” officials in Newark “have opened up feeds from dozens of closed-circuit cameras to the public, asking viewers to assist the force by watching over the city and reporting anything suspicious.” [The New York Times]
- Klickitat County, Washington: Public rangelands under the jurisdiction of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources are being eyed for long-term leases for “utility-scale solar arrays from 40 acres in size on the low end to potentially as large as 2,400 acres.” Some of the lands are currently leased for cattlegrazing, which generates far less revenue per acre compared to what a solar array could generate. The lands in question are mostly in Klickitat County, but are also in Yakima, Grant, Douglas and Kittitas counties, all in central Washington. [NW News Network]
- Staten Island, New York: Of New York City’s five boroughs, Staten Island has seen the biggest jump in cases of locally acquired Lyme disease, according to the city’s Health Department. Most of the city residents assessed by the Health Department who contracted Lyme disease did so while traveling outside New York City. But on Staten Island, “half of borough residents interviewed reported no history of travel during the incubation period of the infection,” raising concerns about deer ticks, which spread the disease. [Staten Island Advance]
- Arlington County, Virginia: Officials in Virginia, the District of Columbia and federal government are narrowing in on final designs for improving freight and passenger rail infrastructure through an aging East Coast chokepoint that connects Virginia with Washington, D.C. and points northward and westward. The current two-track Long Bridge over the Potomac River would be expanded to four tracks—two on a parallel replacement bridge span and the other two either on the existing span or on a second replacement span. CSX, the freight railroad, recently wrapped up construction on the expanded Virginia Avenue tunnel in Washington, D.C’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, which was built to accommodate double-stacked railcars. Neighbors have raised concerns over vibrations of trains passing through the tunnel. [ARLNow; The Washington Post]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.