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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | A cautionary note on Virginia’s economy … eliminating Indiana’s townships … and Oklahoma City’s new streetcar.
Good morning, it’s Monday, Dec. 17, 2018. Governors lead our Route Fifty’s state and local government news roundup but scroll down for more from places like Chandler, Arizona (where some locals really don’t like autonomous vehicles); Pleasant Grove, Alabama (which is facing a new federal lawsuit); and Honolulu, Hawaii (where Gov. Ige signed an executive order on homeless housing).
ALSO IN ROUTE FIFTY … Sluggish economic output in smaller counties … A tax on inherited wealth could net 33 states as much as $6 billion … Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signs controversial bills limiting powers of incoming Democrats … Watch this state office building twist and sway … and Best Buddies celebrates a reappointment in the California governor’s office.
Let’s get to it ...
GOVERNORS | New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is planning to discuss his legislative policy priorities during a scheduled speech on Monday at the Roosevelt House for Public Policy at the City University of New York’s Hunter College. While the Democratic governor, recently elected to a third four-year term, didn’t go into too much detail during a radio interview on Friday, he did preview an underlying question that will help frame his policy address: “FDR was a very powerful, impatient, aggressive personality who really believed New York should lead the way. And it's an interesting question for me: what would FDR do today?” Cuomo also noted his state’s difficult relations with the federal government. “There is anarchy in Washington. They are not getting anything done. They are hostile to New York.” An issue Cuomo is expected to discuss in greater detail on Monday: marijuana legalization. State lawmakers are looking to “copy and paste” the regulatory structure of Nevada. [1010 WINS; WHEC] … New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday signed off on legislation that would make his state the first to ban elephants and other wild or exotic animals from being featured in circuses, carnivals and fairs. [Bergen Record / NorthJersey.com] … Texas Gov. Greg Abbott honored all those who have served the nation as part of annual Wreaths Across America wreath-laying event at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. [@GregAbbottTX]
TRANSPORTATION & MOBILITY | Oklahoma City officials gathered for a public celebration this weekend to open the highly anticipated new streetcar line, which runs on a 4.9-mile route through the downtown area between Midtown and Bricktown, where the city’s transit hub is located at the Art Deco rail station originally built by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. Mayor David Holt called the new streetcar line a "major assist to economic development and tourism, but it's also a key part of a comprehensive transit system." [OKC Streetcar; The Oklahoman / NewsOK.com] ... Palm Desert, California has temporarily banned all e-scooter operations in the city as they assess regulations and a possible pilot project to introduce them to local streets. [The Desert Sun] … Police in Chandler, Arizona have documented at least 21 incidents in the past two years “where people have harassed [Waymo’s] autonomous vehicles and their human test drivers,” including rock throwing, tire slashing and one Jeep that forced Waymo vans off local roads six separate times. [Arizona Republic / AZCentral.com]
HOUSING | Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek is prepping legislation that would end single-family zoning statewide in municipalities with at least 10,000 residents. "The state's housing crisis requires a combination of bolder strategies," Kotek said in a statement. "Oregon needs to build more units, and we must do so in a way that increases housing opportunity for more people. Allowing more diverse housing types in single family neighborhoods will increase housing choice and affordability, and that's a fight that I'm willing to take on." [Willamette Week; Planetizen] … Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation on Friday “to fast-track the state’s new Ohana Zone initiative” to provide new housing for homeless people across the state, including $30 million in funding for at least three projects on Oahu, where Honolulu is located, and one on each of the neighboring main islands of the archipelago. [Hawaii Tribune-Herald; Civil Beat] … The Host Home program in Los Angeles County is placing homeless youth in the homes of willing hosts for three to six months as a way to transition them to more stable housing. [All Things Considered / National Public Radio; Host Home Program]
GOVERNMENT CONSOLIDATION | It’s been more than a decade since the release of a controversial report in Indiana co-authored by former Gov. Joe Kernan and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard on streamlining local governance. Of the 27 recommendations, only one has been implemented: shifting property tax assessment duties away from nearly all of the state’s townships to their respective county governments. But the most controversial recommendation—getting rid of township government altogether and restructuring counties to have executive leadership instead of three-commissioner boards—was never pursued. [CNHI News Indiana via Pharos Tribune]
ECONOMY | Is Ventura County, California a canary in the coal mine that's signaling gloomy economic times ahead in the Golden State? “We hesitate to the use the word recession, but we don’t know what else to call two consecutive years of economic contraction,” according to Matthew Fienup, an economist at California Lutheran University, which recently relayed “some very negative news” about the county’s economy. [CalLuthern via DanWalters / CALmatters] ... While the economy in Virginia has been humming along—the commonwealth has seen five quarters of continuous growth—Old Dominion University economists warn there could be trouble on the horizon with federal deficits and dysfunction. [The Washington Post]
LOCAL GOVERNMENT | The mayor and city councilmembers in Pleasant Grove, Alabama are facing a federal lawsuit over its use of all at-large council representation, which the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund says has effectively prevented African-Americans, who make up more than 40 percent of the city's residents, from serving as council members. [AL.com] … Officials in Carrabelle, Florida are trying to figure out whether the top municipal manager should be called a “city administrator” or “city manager.” [Apalachicola Times] … Town officials in Normal, Illinois approved a plan to increase the pay of the mayor and council members when their new terms start. Says the current mayor, Chris Koos, whose salary would increase from $18,000 a year to $32,000 should he seek and win reelection: "The scope of the job is described as part-time, but it rarely is. ... The mayor is the go-to to take the temperature of an idea or project, which takes a fair amount of time, and I have to represent the city at a lot of events." [The Pantagraph]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.