Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | A ‘sea change’ for Vermont gun politics; Trump slams Calif. law enforcement agencies; major flooding on many rivers in Midwest; PennDOT urges patience on potholes; and Sacramento mayor pushes major ‘tiny’ house plan.
Here are state and local government news stories that caught Route Fifty’s attention.
GOVERNORS | The National Governors Association’s annual winter meeting is getting underway in the nation’s capital on Friday, but one governor who won’t be there is Republican Eric Greitens of Missouri, who was indicted on Thursday by a St. Louis grand jury on felony invasion of privacy charge for allegedly “taking and transmitting a non-consensual photo of his partly-nude lover.” Greitens, whose lawyers are seeking for the charges to be dismissed, said in a statement published to Facebook: “As I have said before, I made a personal mistake before I was Governor. I did not commit a crime.” The governor, who has been under heavy scrutiny since his extramarital affair became public, called St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner a “reckless liberal prosecutor.” The governor was booked at the St. Louis Justice Center and is due back for a court hearing on March 16. Republican legislative leaders in Jefferson City announced that they will appoint a special committee to investigate the matter further. Some state Democrats have called on the governor to resign. [NGA; St. Louis Post Dispatch; The Kansas City Star; Eric Greitens / Facebook]
In “a sea change” for gun politics in Vermont, the state’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, has joined forces with Democratic leaders at the Statehouse in Montpelier to support new gun control measures. Scott had campaigned for governor pressing an agenda to protect gun rights, but on Thursday declared that his positions had evolved since last week’s Parkland, Florida high school shooting. Four Democratic governors in the Northeast, Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Andrew Cuomo of New York, Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, announced a multi-state coalition, States for Gun Safety, to create a shared database on people barred from buying or possessing a firearm to better prevent them from obtaining a gun or permit. [Seven Days; Route Fifty]
Meanwhile in Illinois, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner had “an awkward onstage appearance” earlier this week where he “drank a glass of chocolate milk to demonstrate his belief in diversity” during a Black History Month event. The “clunky corporate metaphor was the brainchild” of a Hyatt Hotels diversity and inclusion executive. [Chicago Tribune]
MIDWEST FLOODING | Flood warnings are in effect for many rivers across the Midwest, where a combination of rain and snowmelt is sending water levels soaring and causing major problems, evacuations and advisories. That includes the Grand River in Michigan, which crested in Lansing on Thursday night and is expected to “top out and possibly exceed record levels” in Grand Rapids on Saturday.
In Cincinnati, the Ohio River is expected to rise to 55.6 feet, the highest levels seen since flooding in 1997. The river has only risen above 56 feet twice in the past 20 years. [The Grand Rapids Press / MLive.com; @andyschor; Cincinnati Enquirer / Cincinnati.com]
LAW ENFORCEMENT | In comments made Thursday, President Trump criticized California law enforcement agencies, saying police in the Golden State have been soft on gang activity. "I mean, frankly, if I wanted to pull our people from California, you would have a crime mess like you've never seen in California," Trump said. "You'd be inundated. You would see crime like no one's ever seen crime in this country. And yet we get no help from the state of California. They're doing a lousy management job, they have the highest taxes in the nation, and they don't know what's happening out there." Local officials and law enforcement rebuked Trump’s comments. "Nobody takes gang enforcement more seriously than I do or the Los Angeles Police Department does," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said. [Los Angeles Times]
INFRASTRUCTURE | The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is urging patience from motorists as potholes are being filled. One problem area has been East Carson Street in Pittsburgh, which is a roadway under state jurisdiction. Responding to constituent complaints about potholes there, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto nudged PennDOT on Twitter.
Beyond filling potholes that are under their jurisdiction, Pittsburgh officials are currently juggling multiple public works and public safety challenges including local landslides and serious flooding. [@billpeduto; Pittsburgh Post Gazette; KDKA-TV / CBS Pittsburgh; NWS Pittsburgh]
HOUSING | Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency on Thursday announced a request for information from prospective developers who can help build 1,000 “efficiency” dwellings to help house the area’s growing homeless population. The city and housing officials are planning to offer $200 million in subsidies for the tiny house plan. [The Sacramento Bee]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.