Connecting state and local government leaders

Bad Odor Wafts Over Mobile, Alabama


Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Daily Digest: Kentucky’s quandary over old state office building; Montana’s prison population spikes; and increasing diversity in New York state government.

PUBLIC HEALTH | A bad odor emanating from a roofing company has prompted complaints in parts of Mobile, Alabama. “The plant stinks,” according to local resident Sherry Kountz, “it smells like a rotten egg and you can’t keep anything clean, there’s all this thick black dusty looking stuff.” Mobile City Councilmember Fred Richardson has requested that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management investigate the roofing company, GAF Materials, which is the suspected source of the smell. The current malodorous situation is not the only one to have impacted a Mobile-area community: Earlier in March, the Alabama Department of Public Health issued a statement that residents of the Eight Mile area continue to be impacted by the 2008 spill of tert butyl mercaptan, a chemical which has made the area smell. Since the spill, residents have complained of a variety of issues, including “including nausea, headaches, breathing difficulties, dizziness, confusion, [and] eye irritation.” [WPMI-TV;]

EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS | West Virginia’s House of Delegates approved a bill over the weekend that would create a State Flood Protection Planning Council, involving multiple agencies, and a permanent legislative committee focused on flood protection, response and recovery. Floods that swept through parts of the state last June killed 23 people. [Charleston Gazette-Mail]

PUBLIC BUILDINGS | There’s uncertainty in Kentucky over what to do with a 28-story former state office building in Frankfort that has fallen into disrepair. The last remaining tenants moved out last October and there have been reports of concrete falling off the Capital Plaza Tower and water leaks in the parking garage. The state issued a request for proposals for the sale of the building, but did receive any bids. Now, the state is looking for a private developer who might want to make a deal to use the tower, which opened in 1972. [The State Journal]

OPIOID ABUSE EPIDEMIC | Philadelphia’s opioid task force will be turning in its official recommendations to Mayor Jim Kenney in about a month. The group is currently mulling over 20 possible proposals that the City of Brotherly Love might enact to curb the growing drug epidemic. What isn’t clear is whether or not safe injection sites will make it into the task force’s final report. Objections to these sites hinge on legal questions over conflicts with state and federal rules regarding the use of heroin, as well as more local concerns. One task force member, Jeremiah Daley, pointed out the fact that simply finding a location for a facility like this may be enough to stymie any efforts to establish one. "It is difficult enough to get treatment facilities established in many neighborhoods and recovery housing," Daley said. "I can see huge amounts of blowback." [Newsworks]

CIVIC HACKING | A team from tech-nonprofit Code for America will be spending the next seven months using data to try to make job-hunting easier for residents of particular Anchorage neighborhoods. The first priority for the program is the Mountain View section of the city, where Federal census informations showed that the unemployment rate was as high as 22 percent. [Alaska Dispatch News]

CRIMINAL JUSTICE | Montana’s state prison population increased by 11 percent between 2008 and 2015 and is predicted to grow by another 13 percent by 2023. A package of legislation to be considered this session aims to put a stop to that trend. The 12 bills, nine of which are still in play, are the product of a bipartisan committee that spent a little over a year studying the criminal justice policies and procedures that may be contributing to the problem. In total, the bills would have the state spending $1.5 million. The Commission on Sentencing, however, estimates that if all the bills are passed, the package could save Montana at least $59 million in contract bed costs, $11 million in personnel-related savings. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle]

EDUCATION | Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has committed an additional $23.7 million in funding to the Baltimore city schools as part of his second supplemental budget. The city’s public schools are facing a $130 million budget deficit and the additional funding come with some strings attached in the form of "greater fiscal accountability, including a comprehensive audit of the city school system performed by an independent accountant in consultation with the Maryland Department of Budget and Management." [WBAL-TV]

VEHICLES | Valdosta, Georgia is spending nearly $1 million to upgrade its aging vehicle fleet, faced with high mileage and maintenance costs. The police department will get 11 new pursuit vehicles, Public Works a dumpster truck and claw truck, and utilities five crew cab trucks. [The Associated Press via U.S. News and World Report]

DIVERSITY | New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to increase diversity in state government with recruitment pushes, manager trainings and increases in the number of state testing sites. The Governor’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion made the recommendations after finding minorities make up only 26 percent of the state government workforce. [WRGB-TV]