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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Alaska meth seizures increase … Portland mayor sets “cleanest” city goal … and L.A.’s new emergency shelter.
Good morning, it’s Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. A mayor’s odd explanation for a controversial social media post leads Route Fifty’s state and local government news roundup but scroll down for more stories from places like Juneau, Alaska; Raleigh, North Carolina; Boston, Massachusetts and San Antonio, Texas. Let’s get to it ...
LOCAL GOVERNMENT | There’s no shortage of examples of local public officials stirring up controversy for comments they have posted on social media. Earlier this week, the mayor of La Plata, Maryland, about 35 miles south of Washington, D.C., apologized for something she posted to her personal Facebook account involving NFL player Colin Kaepernick. “Nike selected Colin Kaepernick as the new face of the company’s ‘Just Do It’ campaign. How disappointing,” Jeannine James posted on Facebook. That, not unexpectedly, stirred up a fiery discussion online, which she said was meant as a classroom exercise for a course she teaches. According to SoMDNews.com:
James teaches an Introduction to Mass Communication course at the College of Southern Maryland and explained the exercise would provide her class with much to analyze as part of a social media assignment. The first day of class was on Tuesday, and James included an image of the syllabus with the social media analysis assignment circled in red.
James concluded her follow-up post with a personal note that she supports the First Amendment in its entirety and is not calling for the boycott of any business. This post received a similar backlash from the online community, mostly with accusations of dishonesty and the covering of tracks.
- Cincinnati, Ohio: Law enforcement swarmed downtown Cincinnati’s Fountain Square on Thursday morning responding to a mass shooting at a bank headquarters building where three were killed and two others were injured. A Cincinnati police officer killed the gunman, whose motive is unknown. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said if the gunman had not been stopped, “he could've killed over 100 people.” "It's heartbreaking," Mayor John Cranley said. "This is not normal, and it shouldn't be viewed as normal. This is abnormal. No other industrialized country has this level of active multiple shooting on a regular basis." [WCPO; The Enquirer / Cincinnati.com; @CityofCincy]
- Portland, Oregon: Mayor Ted Wheeler on Thursday vowed that his city would work to become "the cleanest and most livable city in the United States," and announced a plan for more trash containers in the city center and increased pickups. "We need to come together with a new and aggressive strategy around keeping our community clean and keeping our community livable," Wheeler said, adding: "I don't think it's rocket science." [The Oregonian / OregonLive; KGW]
- Los Angeles, California: The first emergency shelter planned as part of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “A Bridge Home” initiative is preparing to open next week. The shelter—a cluster of trailers near the El Pueblo de Los Angeles National Monument—will house four dozen people and is aimed at serving as a temporary shelter as more permanent housing is secured. Similar shelters have been proposed for sites in Koreatown and Venice. [Curbed LA; LAist / KPCC]
- San Antonio, Texas: The San Antonio City Council on Thursday approved a $18.3 million construction contract to build a “land bridge” to help wildlife safety cross Wurzbach Parkway in Phil Hardberger Park, a project voters authorized as part of 2017 bond proposal. The crossing has been derided by some locally as the “critter” bridge. [San Antonio Express News; Phil Hardenberger Park]
STATE GOVERNMENT | The Trump administration is not too keen on a federal waiver granted to Oklahoma in 1996 that allowed the state use use some of its Medicaid funding on for physician training. In “separate and somewhat conflicting letters from two different offices dated Aug. 31,” the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services informed the Oklahoma Health Agency that it was “disallowing $64.2 million in federal funds” used by two state-supported medical schools in calendar year 2017. [Tulsa World]
- Raleigh, North Carolina: The U.S. Attorney’s Office clarified on Thursday delay subpoenas of state and local voter data until after the November elections, saying they “may not need completed ballots” as part of a grand jury investigation related to U.S. immigration enforcement. The initial request, that “once seemed likely to pull 20 million voting records,” prompted concerns over privacy of voter data. [@NCCapitol / WRAL]
- Columbia, South Carolina: The special prosecutor in the ongoing probe of South Carolina Statehouse corruption has asked a judge to release a grand jury report that had been sealed as a precaution. “There is no longer any compelling reason for the report to remain under seal,” special prosecutor David Pascoe wrote in his motion. The Post & Courier]
- Boston, Massachusetts: A report by Massachusetts Auditor Suzanne Bump found that the Bay State’s Registry of Motor Vehicles “issued 1,905 driver’s licenses to individuals after their date of death” and called on the agency to take more decisive action to prevent “potentially fraudulent forms of identification from being issued.” [Cape Cod Today]
- Juneau, Alaska: While the opioid abuse crisis has prompted a lot of attention by state and local governments across the nation, Alaska is one of the many states where there are growing concerns over methamphetamines. In its annual drug report, the Alaska Department of Public Safety found that although alcohol continues to be the most abused substance in the state, the amount of meth seized by law enforcement officers in Alaska grew fourfold from 2016 to 2017. An Alaska Department of Health and Social Services report in November 2017 found that the number of deaths linked to meth use increased by four times in recent years. [Juneau Empire]
- San Diego, California: State Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the U.S. section of the International Boundary and Water Commission this week for failing to curb raw sewage originating in Tijuana, Mexico from coming over the international border via the Tijuana River. The contamination coming over the border has prompted local beach closures due to harmful water quality. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]
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Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.