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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Utah sexual assault evidence tracking … Pennsylvania weatherization funding … and a Guam official’s teachable moment.
Good morning, it’s Wednesday, July 11. The long-simmering intergovernmental tensions in New York City regarding the subway system leads Route Fifty’s state and local government news roundup, which also includes stories from Detroit, Michigan, Hagåtña, Guam and New Haven, Connecticut.
INTERGOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS | The new head of the struggling New York City subway system, who has been on the job for almost six months, met for the first time Tuesday with Mayor Bill de Blasio. The visit was prompted by a recent New Yorker profile, in which Andy Byford acknowledged it was a “bit weird” that he hadn’t yet sat down with the mayor. A British transit expert, Byford has the seemingly impossible challenge of remaking the city’s subway system, which remains vital to residents even as it is plagued by delays. Unlike in other cities, the state government controls the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which de Blasio emphasized before the meeting with Byford, disputing the idea it is weird that they hadn’t previously met. “When it’s an agency I don’t control, I’m going to put my focus on the things I can control,” he said. De Blasio is often locked in political combat with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the two have different ideas on taxes that would be necessary to pay for rebuilding the subway system. (Cuomo last week blasted the mayor for the failure to meet with Byford, saying it showed he didn’t care about the “lifeblood of the city.”) After the meeting, Byford told reporters he pressed the mayor about the need for city contributions to his plan to remake the subway, while also setting up quarterly meetings. For their part, the mayor’s office told The New York Times that de Blasio “pledged his support” for Byford’s proposal and offered his hope that the transit head will have “success in his challenging mission.”
LAW ENFORCEMENT TECH | Sexual assault survivors in Utah would be able to track online how far along law enforcement is in evaluating evidence under a new bill approved by the state legislature. The legislation also calls for so-called “sexual assault kits,” which contain evidence collected from victims during examinations by medical professionals, to be processed within 30 days. Under the bill, an online system would be created that they could look at to see the status of the case. Katherine Aguilera, director of advocacy at the state’s Rape Recovery Center, said the tracking system “really meets the client and honors that experience and communicates, ‘We believe you and we’re doing everything in our power to make the system better for everyone.’” [Utah Public Radio]
ENVIRONMENT | The journey to and from Mexico made by Monarch butterflies is now informing how often mowing will happen along Oklahoma highways. The idea is to preserve milkweed, which the Monarch exclusively eat, as part of an effort by six states to conserve the butterflies’ habitat. The state Department of Transportation has cut back on how often it mows back along roadsides like Interstate 35, particularly in the spring and fall, often reserving the work for “safety” situations. “Generally, the goal is to mow less during the time the monarchs are laying their eggs, April-May and September-October,” said Lisa Shearer-Salim, a public information manager with the Oklahoma agency. [Tulsa World]
- Denver, Colorado: To combat the escalation of rents in fast-growing Denver, city leaders want to try out a new program where they will pay part of the rent for certain low-and-middle income families. The $1.2 million pilot program is expected to help 125 families over two years. Recipients will get subsidies to make sure they only pay 35 percent of their income on rent. [The Denver Post]
- Detroit, Michigan: Since 2000, there has been a steep decline in the percentage of African-Americans in Michigan who own their homes, according to a new report. Much of the loss was seen in Detroit, the Urban Institute found. [The Detroit News]
- Hagåtña, Guam: Guam Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio said he grabbed a police officer’s holstered firearm at a party over the weekend as a “teachable moment” because he noticed it wasn’t properly secured. The incident is being evaluated by the Guam Police Department. [Marianas Variety]
- New Haven, Connecticut: The New Haven Board of Alders are considering stripping $483,172 in raises to department heads and other non-union employees that Mayor Toni Harp has proposed. [New Haven Independent]
- Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: The state of Pennsylvania failed to spend more than $5 million in federal funds to provide weatherization services like insulating homes for low-income families, a state auditor found. The Department of Community and Economic Development needs to do a better job administering the federal grants, the audit said. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
- Chicago, Illinois: Environmental groups in Illinois consider pushing for a plastic straw ban, which was recently adopted by the city of Seattle. [Block Club Chicago]
Laura Maggi is the managing editor at Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.
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