Opponents of Strong-Mayor Vote Fear ‘Dangerous Concentration of Power’

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Hawaii rape kit backlog successes … more cases of acute flaccid myelitis confirmed … and crowded commuter trains in Connecticut.

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, Nov. 6. It’s also Election Day. (Go out and vote if you haven’t already voted early or done so from the comforts of home.) While there will be a lot of attention on election results for U.S. House and Senate seats, Route Fifty will be monitoring governor’s races and major state and local ballot initiatives. Stay tuned. … As for today, municipal governance structures lead our state and local government news roundup but scroll down for more from places like Harris County, Texas; Hartford, Connecticut; Hawaii County, Hawaii and elsewhere ...

CITY CHARTERS | While a local voter referendum that would change the city of Miami’s governance structure to give Mayor Francis Suarez more executive powers as chief administrative officer has drawn plenty of attention in South Florida, there’s another strong-mayor vote elsewhere in the state. Local voters in Clearwater will be considering a referendum that would change the city charter and adopt a mayor-council form of government. That prospect has sparked concerns among opponents who fear that “putting daily management power in the hands of a politician swayed by campaign contributions, instead of a professional manager” is a “dangerous concentration of power.” [Miami Herald; Tampa Bay Times]

LAW ENFORCEMENT | Going through a backlog of 1,500 unprocessed rape kits in Hawaii has led to “matches with more than 120 potential suspects in a national offender database.” On the Big Island, the Hawaii County Council recently authorized an agreement with the state attorney general’s office that will allow “the county to receive $280,498 in federal funds to clear a backlog of 189 rape kits.” [Honolulu Star Advertiser; West Hawaii Today]

DISASTER RECOVERY | Some students from areas of the Florida panhandle hit hard by Hurricane Michael have been enrolled in schools in southern Alabama. [WTVY] … While coastal areas of North Carolina and South Carolina got a lot of national attention during and after Hurricane Florence, many inland area sustained significant damage from the storm mostly out of view of news outlets. That includes Robbins, a “tiny” Moore County, North Carolina town that “suffered destruction and was the site of several rescues, but its plight was almost unknown to outsiders.” [Carolina Public Press]

PUBLIC HEALTH | In Pittsburgh, the Allegheny County Department of Public Health has confirmed another case of acute flaccid myelitis, a rare disease with polio-like symptoms that has seen an uptick in cases in children. Two of those cases are being investigated more closely by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Arkansas, the CDC has confirmed three out of five suspected cases of acute flaccid myelitis being tracked by the state’s health department. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; KATV]

JUDICIAL ELECTIONS | All 15 judicial seats up for a vote in Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, are currently held by Republicans. Democrats are making a big push to make gains in the county courts, with the support of those who are advocating for reforms to cash bail in the judicial process. “It cannot be stressed enough that bail reform in Harris County could easily begin with the judges—they could do away with cash bail tomorrow if they chose to do so,” according to Democratic County Commissioner Rodney Ellis. [Texas Observer / The Appeal] … Douglas Keith, counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program, argues that it’s time to stop electing judges. [Route Fifty]

MENTAL HEALTH | Mental health advocates often face deep distrust in African-American communities, something that Joyce Coleman is trying to change in Minnesota. She’s “committed to helping people in the African-American community understand that seeking help for mental illness doesn’t have to be shameful—and that it can result in receiving the needed help. And she’s willing to put her story out there to do that.” [MinnPost]

HOMELESSNESS | San Diego, which currently has the nation’s fourth-largest homeless population, has a long history of trying to create a one-stop center to connect those who are unsheltered with support services. The city touted the opening of Connections Housing in 2013, but “before it opened its doors to all that fanfare, the project had been quietly scaled back as it moved through bureaucratic hoops—from a center where any homeless San Diegan could come and be connected with services to one that served a far narrower population.” [Voice of San Diego]

TRANSPORTATION | The Hartford Line in Connecticut, the Amtrak-owned tracks recently expanded and upgraded to accommodate new Connecticut Department of Transportation commuter rail service between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield, Massachusetts, has been having some growing pains. While the CDOT Connecticut Rail trains have four cars for passengers, regional Amtrak service only has two-car trains. “On two occasions in recent weeks, the [Amtrak] train was so crowded that conductors kicked passengers off the train.” [The Connecticut Post]

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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