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City Leader Wants Residents to Try Balancing the Parks and Rec Budget

Summit Lake in Akron, Ohio

Summit Lake in Akron, Ohio Shutterstock

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Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Federal shutdown delays hurricane recovery funds … another Flint water crisis plea deal …. and confusion comes with Conn. town’s pay-per-bag trash collection proposal.

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. Leading Route Fifty’s state and local government news roundup is something at the intersection of local government budget planning and public engagement, but scroll down for more from places like Flint, Michigan; South Windsor, Connecticut; and Oakland, California. ... ALSO IN ROUTE FIFTY … Setting the Tone for Their Tenures as GovernorsSupreme Court Rejects Challenges Over State Farm Animal LawsSurvey: Americans Mostly Unphased by Facial Recognition Tech

BUDGET PLANNING | In Akron, Ohio, the chairman of the City Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee, Councilman Russel Neal Jr., plans to let residents use a budget-balancing simulation tool from Colorado-based Balancing Act to help them better understand how budget decisions are made at the Akron Parks and Recreation Department. Neal hopes that over time, the exercise can be applied across all city departments down the road, but acknowledges opposition by his fellow council members: “A lot of folks on council have an apprehension of engaging technology.” Akron isn’t the first city to let residents pursue budget simulation tools for residents. In April 2015, Route Fifty featured an interactive tool in Peoria, Illinois that offered residents “a chance to take their own crack at balancing the city’s budget.” [Cleveland.com; Route Fifty]  

DISASTER RECOVERY | The partial federal government shutdown, now in its third week, is having an impact on hurricane recovery efforts in North Carolina, where Gov. Roy Cooper’s office reports that delays in publishing the Federal Register means longer waits for additional Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds that have already been promised. [@NCCapitol / WRAL]

WASTE MANAGEMENT | The mayor of South Windsor, Connecticut, sent a message to residents on Sunday to clarify talk around town about the proposed Pay as You Throw program for trash collection. “I wanted to clarify and help them understand, no, we are not making any changes at this time. But more importantly, I also wanted to share with the people that the cost of management of trash across the state is going up," Mayor Saud Anwar said. [WVIT / NBC Connecticut]

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PUBLIC HEALTH | Another former Michigan Department of Environmental Quality official charged with crimes related to the Flint water crisis took a plea deal on Monday. Liane Shekter-Smith, the former Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance chief, pleaded “no contest to disturbance of a lawful meeting, a misdemeanor, in exchange for the dismissal of other charges.” [Flint Journal / MLive; The Detroit News] … Many states continue to struggle with mental health, including Georgia: “The number of children and adolescents diagnosed with mental health disorders is rising, but for many Georgia youth, mental health care is out of reach.” [The Telegraph / Macon.com]

ENERGY | Shares of San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric “plummeted on Monday amid a wide-ranging internal review by the embattled utility that raised the prospect of asset sales, a management shakeup and even bankruptcy due to mounting legal, criminal and regulatory challenges” stemming from major Northern California wildfires in 2017 and 2018. The utility faces “at least $30 billion” in liabilities from the wildfires.  [Bay Area News Group / East Bay Times; CNBC] … Texas is a perfect place to ramp up renewable energy development thanks to “wind and solar resources that complement each other exceptionally well.” [Vox]

CITY HALLS | Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland, California was sworn into a second term in office on Monday, affirming that violent crime in the city is a top priority. "I am clear that there is nothing to celebrate as long as a single life is taken or harmed. We have much more work to do." [KGO] … In Toledo, Ohio, the city council might pass a 2019 spending plan as soon as Tuesday, “a $268 million operating budget and record-high income tax revenue projections.” [Toledo Blade] … Among the interesting stats from the State of the City address Mayor Mike Thomas of Rock Island, Illinois delivered on Monday: the city increased the number of community garden plots to 20, that produced $65,000 in food sales. [Dispatch-Argus]

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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