Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Proposal would cut size of Pennsylvania legislature; 75% spike in Los Angeles homelessness; a ‘permanent pollutant’ in Minnesota’s lakes; and an Oregon mayor’s gig-economy sidegig.
Here are state and local government stories that caught Route Fifty’s eye this weekend ...
FIREFIGHTING | Mark Holland may no longer be the mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, but local firefighters apparently still have an ax to grind over a shift-scheduling practice that Hollard had been a vocal critic of. Holland, who was defeated in November, said the practice has led to local taxpayers paying firefighters $920,000 for work that was never done. Since leaving office, Holland has accused firefighters of driving past his house early in the morning to sound their sirens unnecessarily and did something similar outside his church during Sunday services. Local news outlets were able to confirm his account. "I also have received multiple things on Facebook where people say, 'we hope nothing happens at your house, hope you never need us,'" Holland said. "A lot of that kind of just inherent threat that, you know, our family is not going to be protected." The editorial board of The Kansas City Star criticized the interim fire chief, who says the department has investigated the matter, for “a ridiculously tepid statement suggesting that those responsible won’t even be slapped on the wrist.” One of Holland’s neighbors said that actions by disgruntled firefighters is childish. “To harass him after he already lost the election doesn’t make sense.” [KCTV; The Kansas City Star]
PUBLIC WORKS | One central element of Mardis Gras celebrations in the Crescent City are the colorful beads, but those beads create what may be an only-in-New-Orleans public works headache. City crews have pulled 46 tons of beads from sewers. [Boing Boing]
Around 50 lakes in Minnesota are listed as having impaired water quality due to high salt levels thanks to runoff from roads that state and local transportation crews have treated for winter weather conditions. While most of those lakes are in the urbanized Twin Cities metro area, more lakes in northern Minnesota are seeing adverse environmental impacts. "Once it gets into our water, there's no way to remove it, so chloride is basically a permanent pollutant," according to Brooke Asleson, salt prevention program coordinator for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. [Forum News Service]
STATE LEGISLATURES | A legislative proposal in Pennsylvania aimed at finding cost-savings in Harrisburg would reduce the size of the state House’s membership from 203 to 151 representatives. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle note that there are pros and cons with the proposal, including new rural districts that would cover a far larger geography with about 20,000 additional constituents. Districts in more dense urban areas would likely see fewer impacts from a downshift in the size of the legislature. [Uniontown Herald-Standard]
Lawmakers in South Dakota are considering more than 20 proposals that make changes to the way voters can influence policy making, including one that would prohibit citizen-driven ballot initiatives. Republican House Speaker Mark Mickelson has said legislative changes are needed to limit the influence of out-of-state groups trying to influence policymaking in the Mount Rushmore State, something critics have labeled “an unprecedented attack” on direct democracy. [Argus Leader]
Yes, it’s true. Video footage and corroborating interviews with three Arizona lawmakers confirm that supporters of President Trump targeted non-white people entering the State Capitol in Phoenix by accusing them of being in the nation illegally. That included one protester accusing state Rep. Eric Descheenie, who is Navajo and represents a district that includes the Navajo Nation reservation, of being in the U.S. illegally. [Snopes; Arizona Capitol Times]
With Democrats now in control of New Jersey’s legislature and governorship, funding for family planning and health clinics that then-Gov. Chris Christie had slashed is close to being restored. The state Senate voted to do so late last week. Gov. Phil Murphy has pledged to approve legislation on the matter once it reaches his desk. [NJ.com]
HOMELESSNESS | Since a Navigation Center opened last spring in San Francisco’s Mission District to connect homelessness individuals with local services, storage and substance abuse treatment and job training, local residents have apparently “warmed up to the strategy” as a second such facility is preparing to open in a few months near 13th Street, an area that has seen tent encampments in recent years. [Mission Local]
In Los Angeles, homelessness in the city and most of L.A. County has surged 75 percent over six years—from 32,000 people to around 55,000. When the cities of Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach area included—those jurisdictions do their own homeless count—that number rises to around 58,000 people across the nation’s most populous county. Three out of four homeless individuals in the L.A. area live in campers, cars, tents and other makeshift shelter. [Los Angeles Times]
Officials on the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam attribute an apparent drop in homelessness in recent years thanks to federal housing programs funded through the Housing and Urban Development. [Marianas Variety]
A proposal in Daytona Beach, Florida would convert a former elementary school into a new homeless facility for 300 people who currently have no shelter options. [The Daytona Beach News-Journal]
CITY HALLS | In Dayton, Ohio, more than 40 percent of the population is black and more than half are women, but the city’s workforce is 70 percent white and even more are men. City leaders have committed to improving the diversity of the municipal workforce, but long-standing challenges persist in some departments, including in the fire department and police department, where the most recent crop of recruits was the least diverse in a decade. [Dayton Daily News]
The mayor of Scappose, Oregon, a small town about 20 miles northwest of Portland, is also a driver for Uber, already completing 4,200 Uber trips. “I find it really easy to interact with people,” said Mayor Mark Burge, who currently drives a Honda Civic. The mayor’s gig-economy sidegig is also a valuable local intelligence gathering activity, particularly on the pains of getting from Point A to Point B in the Portland area. “Being out on the roads and seeing the transportation system and how its working and how it’s not working is valuable information,” according to the mayor. [KOIN-TV]
MONUMENTS | At the Utah State Capitol, tourists have a hard time not touching the nose of bust of former President Abraham Lincoln, which has worn away a protective patina. The state is considering putting the bust behind protective glass. [KUTV-TV]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.