Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | Connecticut’s schools face major budget heartburn; Airbnb bookings for eclipse have extra benefit for Wyoming; and it’s City Hall Selfie Day!
Our daily roundup of state and local government news is compiled by Route Fifty’s staff and edited by Michael Grass. Help us crowdsource link gathering: Flag state and local government news using the Twitter hashtags #localgovwire and #stategovwire.
Leading our roundup ...
TRANSPORTATION | The Trump administration may not have issued a single “Buy American” Act waiver, which threatens the Alaska Department of Transportation’s ability to build a new oceangoing ferry. All steel or iron products used in federal-aid highway construction projects, including marine highways, must be made domestically. The only workaround is a hard-to-obtain waiver from the Federal Highway Administration, and President Trump hasn’t even appointed an agency administrator yet to oversee the vetting process. [Juneau Empire]
With less than one week remaining for the long-anticipated solar eclipse, some state agencies in the path of totality are worrying about worst-case scenarios involving the anticipated traffic mess and wildfires. "For us, if we do have a fire start, it's about putting it out as soon as we can,” a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Forestry. The eclipse is expected to draw 1 million out-of-state visitors to Oregon, which could mean somewhere around 250,000 additional vehicles on roads not built to accommodate such an influx. (Good luck!) [The Oregonian / OregonLive.com]
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has appointed a former General Electric executive as the new general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which operates subway, commuter rail and ferry service in the Boston area. In an announcement, Baker said that Luis Manuel Ramirez “has a proven skill-set that I am sure will serve him well as he joins the team working toward meaningful reforms for commuters and taxpayers.” [Boston Herald]
PUBLIC SAFETY | This weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, has prompted local officials, community stakeholders and law enforcement professionals across the nation to evaluate how they’ll prepare for planned white nationalist rallies in their cities, including in San Francisco and Berkeley, California. “What’s happening now is that since the change of the administration in Washington, these folks think they have a right to come out and assert themselves,” George Holland, president of the local branch of the NAACP in Oakland. “They are trying to bait people into physical violence. They come armed and prepared to fight.” [San Francisco Chronicle / SFGate.com]
There’s a new intergovernmental effort involving the state of Utah, Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City to address drugs and violence in the Rio Grande District, an area of downtown where many homeless services are concentrated. Officials want “to restore law, remove the bad guys, protect our homeless friends and those that reside in, and do business in, the Rio Grande District,” Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said Monday at an event to unveil Operation Rio Grande. [Utah Public Radio]
Meriden, Connecticut: Public school leaders from across the Nutmeg State are sounding the alarm regarding the lack of a state budget two months into the new fiscal year. “No state budget at this point in time is a crucial obstacle to opening school,” Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said during an annual back-to-school gathering. Connecticut’s ongoing budget impasse has prompted many school districts to cut staff and put hundreds of positions on hold. [Connecticut Post; Hartford Courant]
Cheyenne, Wyoming: Thanks to a new tax agreement, Wyoming is set to reap the benefit of a 7,000 percent increase in the number of visitors to the state using the online room-booking platform Airbnb during next week’s solar eclipse. Until this month, the onus to collect lodging taxes and remit those funds to the state fell on Airbnb hosts. According to the Dan Noble, the director of the state’s Department of Revenue, that hardly ever happened. In the new agreement, which took effect Aug. 1, Airbnb will be responsible for collecting the tax funds. Noble said the agreement date wasn’t selected with the eclipse in mind, but that it’s a nice side effect. [Casper Star Tribune]
Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Lawyers for Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards are looking to have his executive order banning government and state contract discrimination based sexual orientation or gender identity reinstated by an appeals court. A lower court ruled the governor had overstepped his authority. Republican state Attorney General Jeff Landry, a possible 2019 gubernatorial challenger, and his lawyers argue gender identity isn’t a defined legal term, which could lead to employer confusion. [The Advocate]
Tuesday is City Hall Selfie Day, organized by Engaging Local Government Leaders. [ELGL]
Here’s Route Fifty’s contributions from different ends of the nation …
First, Mitch Herckis in the town of Dennis, Massachusetts …
… and Michael Grass at Seattle City Hall.
Elsewhere across #localgovwire ...
Lyons, Illinois: Can Christopher Getty, the mayor of this Chicago suburb serve simultaneously as a township supervisor? That’s a question of intergovernmental curiosity that a local lawyer, Ted Bojanowski, asked in a public letter: “I have read all of the relevant case law and Illinois Statutes and the Illinois Constitution. I am convinced that a vacancy exists and that the Lyons Village Trustees need to appoint an Acting Village President.” [Chronicle Illinois, h/t @JeanLotus]
Springfield, Illinois: Also in the Land of Lincoln, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation easing the abolishment of certain local government entities. One measure allows all counties dissolve local governments when they appoint their governing boards and townships dissolve themselves with voter approval, when their boards are coterminous with municipalities. A second measure allows townships in counties with less than 3 million residents absorb road districts with voter approval. "Our families are struggling with the highest property taxes in America," Rauner said. "We need to bring our property taxes down, and one of the ways we can do that is to bring about a consolidation of local governments." [Daily Herald]
Nashville, Tennessee: With time ticking on the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program for children of undocumented immigrants who brought to the United States, Mayor Megan Barry has joined 100 other mayors in calling for the program be preserved. “Our nation’s DREAMers enrich our communities and contribute so much to our social and economic fabric," Barry said in a statement. "Preserving the DACA program is essential to allowing the thousands of children of immigrants across Tennessee and around the country to work, study, and reach their full potential in ours, a nation of immigrants.” [The Tennessean]
Seattle, Washington: City Council members approved an ordinance on Monday that will prevent landlords from excluding people with criminal records in advertisements. Landlords will also no longer be able to inquire about criminal records when taking applications, and they will be barred from rejecting applicants because of their criminal records. [The Seattle Times]
Jeanerette, Louisiana: Who is currently the police chief in this small city near Lafayette? There is disagreement between members of the city council, who fired Chief Jeffrey Matthews last week, and Mayor Aprill Foulcard, who challenged their decision. [KATC-TV]