General Electric to Pay Back State Incentives After Backtracking on New Headquarters

Boston's Seaport District, where General Electric had planned to build a new headquarters building, sits adjacent to Fort Point Channel.

Boston's Seaport District, where General Electric had planned to build a new headquarters building, sits adjacent to Fort Point Channel. Shutterstock

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Ann Arbor dioxane plume … Norfolk’s recycling quandary … and the Bay Area’s new managed toll lane agreement.

Good morning, it’s Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. Economic development leads Route Fifty’s state and local government news but scroll down for more from places like Durham, North Carolina; Topeka, Kansas; Olympia, Washington; San Mateo County, California; and Missoula, Montana. … ALSO ON ROUTE FIFTY … How a Health Department Is Working to Contain a Measles OutbreakThese States Collect the Highest Sales Taxes Per Person Managing the Risks Inherent to Smart CitiesManaging the Risks Inherent to Smart Cities

Let’s get to it …

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT | With Thursday’s big news about Seattle-based Amazon to no longer pursuing a second headquarters campus in the Long Island City area of Queens, New York, there’s some other big corporate headquarters news that may go overlooked on a busy news day like this one: General Electric plans to sell its future headquarters property in Boston’s Seaport District and “scale back its ambitions” in New England’s biggest city, The Boston Globe reported Thursday. Formerly headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, GE will return $87.4 million in Massachusetts state money that was used in site acquisition and preparation costs. While GE won’t build its planned 12-story headquarters along Fort Point Channel, it will be maintain a smaller office footprint in Boston. [The Boston Globe; WBUR; Reuters]

The James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago (Shutterstock)

GOVERNORS | Weighing options to ease the state’s enormous pension burden, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration is potentially interested in selling some state assets, like the James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago, and the Illinois Tollway system. [Chicago Tribune] … A fact-finding report from the Alaska Department of Law “supports some, but not all” of the charges Gov. Mike Dunleavy cited in his decision to fire Hollis French, the chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission. Members of the commission can only be removed for cause. [KTOO] … State university leaders in Kansas say that Gov. Laura Kelly’s proposed $9 million budget increase for higher education is “not enough.” [Lawrence Journal World] … Vermont Gov. Phil Scott is not opposed to a proposal from the state’s health commissioner to raise the state’s smoking age to 21. [VTDigger] … Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Thursday approved opioid abuse legislation that he says will make his state have the broadest naloxone-access law in the nation. [Idaho Press-Journal]

ENVIRONMENT | Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s recent executive action to restructure the state’s troubled Department of Environmental Quality has been overturned by the Republican controlled legislature. Whitmer and her Democratic colleagues argue that blocking the action “harms state’s ability to protect water and air quality at a time when Michigan is emerging from the Flint water crisis and actively grappling with PFAS contamination.” Meanwhile in Ann Arbor, state and local officials are conducting new tests to monitor the growth of the 1,4-dioxane plume that’s been spreading through groundwater in the West Park. [Michigan Advance; Michigan Radio]

Durham, North Carolina (Shutterstock)

CITY HALLS | Seven North Carolina mayors have written a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials calling on enforcement raids to end. “The ICE raids have struck terror in the hearts of many of our valued community members. They have broken apart families, separating parents from their children,” according to the letter, written by Durham Mayor Steve Schewel and signed by the mayors of Asheville, Burlington, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Greensboro and Fayetteville. [The News & Observer] … Among the state legislative priorities for Mayor Jorge Elorza of Providence, Rhode Island: allow the city to sell or lease the Providence Water Supply Board and and restore cuts to the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program and “increase state aid earmarked for distressed communities by 3% to $12.75 million.” [WPRI] … In Palmer, Alaska, the City Council gave the thumbs up to help fund an effort by the Alaska Municipal League to study how municipalities can “properly collect online sales tax in the wake of the Wayfair vs. South Dakota Supreme Court decision.” [Mat-Su Frontiersman]

WASTE MANAGEMENT | Norfolk, Virginia is the latest city to be facing big decisions when it comes to the future of its recycling services. Amid increasing costs brought about by China’s decision to stop importing recyclable materials that’s subsequently disrupted the global recycling sector, city leaders are getting ready consider new options, including new fees on residents to continue the program. [The Virginian-Pilot]

A Metrorail station in Arlington, Virginia (Shutterstock)

TRANSPORTATION & MOBILITY | The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s proposed solution to late-night workers impacted by the D.C.-area agency’s plan to permanently cut late-night Metrorail service: subsidize Uber and Lyft trips up to $3 per ride. WMATA officials, who cut late-night service to deal with a serious backlog in repairs, have argued about the necessity to have enough overnight hours available to do vital maintenance work, but officials in the District of Columbia, have grumbled over the impacts on the nightlife economy and service-sector workers who rely on transit. [The Washington Post; DCist] … In the San Francisco Bay Area, an owner-operator agreement for the forthcoming managed toll lanes that will be added to Highway 101 in San Mateo County “will likely belong to both” the San Mateo County Transportation Authority and the City/County Association of Governments. [The Daily Journal] … In New York’s Hudson Valley, the city of Kingston is looking at a bus system merger with Ulster County. [Daily Freeman]

PUBLIC HEALTH | The Hawaii Department of Health continues to track down how people living on or visiting parts of the Big Island contracted rat lungworm, a parasite found in rodents, which is challenging since “[d]etermining the exact source of infection in any individual is challenging since it requires a deep dive into a person’s food consumption history as well as where they may live, work, travel and recreate,” Bruce Anderson, the state’s health director, said in a statement. According to the state’s most recent accounting, nine cases were recorded in 2018 and one confirmed case so far in 2019. [Hawaii.gov] … Arizona health officials report that 10 babies in the state died in 2018 due to congenital syphilis cases, a dangerous sexually transmitted infection. That’s three times the number of STD-related baby deaths in 2017. [Outbreak News Today]

HOMELESSNESS | A Washington state senator, Republican Curtis King of Yakima, has introduced a bill that “would prevent cities, towns and counties from allowing homeless encampments within 1,000 feet of such learning or child care facilities.” [Tacoma News Tribune; Yakima Herald-Republic] … The recent annual point-in-time homeless count in Mount Airy, North Carolina, conducted on Jan. 30, was “stymied by frigid temperatures and technological glitches.” [The Mount Airy News]

LAND MANAGEMENT | A University of Montana study has found that since 1999, “only 6.8 percent of fuel-reduction treatment areas in the United States were subsequently hit by wildfires,” throwing cold water on President Trump’s December executive order directing federal land managers to “treat 8.45 million acres of land and cut 4.4 million board feet of timber” as a way to reduce wildfire risk. [Missoulian]

LAW ENFORCEMENT | In a blog post, Madison, Wisconsin Police Chief Mike Koval says that a review of three years of the department’s enforcement data at high schools suggests that the “school-to-prison pipeline” narrative cited by some of the department’s critics “is simply not supported by the facts.” [City of Madison] … A Dallas Area Rapid Transit police officer who was wounded in the July 2016 ambush attack in downtown Dallas that killed five other officers is suing Facebook and Twitter saying the companies provided terrorist group Hamas “with accounts to use its social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds, and attracting new recruits.” [Dallas Morning News]

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

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