Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Florida debuts new healthcare website … Minnesota will not ban lead ammunition and fishing tackle … Seattle launches non-emergency help line.
Apple committed $2.5 billion dollars to affordable housing in California. The pledge includes a $1 billion credit fund for companies building new homes for low to moderate income families, a $ billion homebuyer mortgage assistance fund, funding for homeless services, and a promise to allow some of Apple’s land in San Jose to be opened to affordable housing developments. Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, said that the company worked with experts to create the plan. “[The initiative] confronts this challenge on all fronts, from the critical need to increase housing supply, to support for first-time homebuyers and young families, to essential philanthropy to assist those at greatest risk,” she said. Earlier this year, Google and Facebook each promised $1 billion to help address the Bay Area’s housing crisis, which is one of the worst in the country. Andrew Padovani, an economist at the University of California, Davis, said that the companies might be motivated by self interest. “They’re really starting to feel the effects of this. Trying to hire workers for their campuses in the Bay Area is becoming more expensive. They have to pay workers enough to live in the area,” he said. The mayor of Cupertino, where Apple is headquartered, thinks the company is trying to get in the state’s good graces. The nearby city of Mountain View, which is home to Google, recently passed a per-employee business tax to funding housing initiatives. Cupertino has considered a similar measure, said Mayor Steven Scharf. “There’s been talk of business taxes for the whole region. I think they’re trying to get ahead of that and realizing they’re having a big impact on the housing situation,” he said. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has urged tech companies to pitch in on affordable housing, praised Apple’s contribution. “This unparalleled financial commitment to affordable housing, and the innovative strategies at the heart of this initiative, are proof that Apple is serious about solving this issue … The sky-high cost of housing—both for homeowners and renters—is the defining quality-of-life concern for millions of families across this state, one that can only be fixed by building more housing,” he said. [San Jose Mercury News; Associated Press]
HEALTHCARE WEBSITE | Florida debuted a new state website, the Florida Health Price Finder, to help residents understand the prices for typical non-emergency procedures. Prices for various procedures are broken down by state, national, and county averages. The state Agency for Health Care Administration said the website is a “huge step forward in providing consumers with as much information about pricing and quality as possible, allowing Floridians to make more informed health care decisions.” State Rep. Chris Sprowls said that the tool is critically important. “[Health care] is one of the only areas we ask our consumers to purchase and then find out what the price is later. Imagine if we got on Amazon right now and went to purchase something and they said purchase it first, give us your credit card number, we’ll let you know how much it costs afterwards. None of us would make that purchase, and yet we do it every day in healthcare,” he said. [Bay News 9; St. Pete Catalyst]
LEAD BANS | The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources rejected a request to ban lead fishing tackle and ammunition, instead saying the agency would wait for the state legislature to act. The request was brought by several conservation groups. Deb Ryun, executive director of the St. Croix River Association, said that lead is no longer the only option for hunters. “It’s time to stop using this toxic substance for recreational activities because it threatens the health of people and wildlife. There are good, affordable non-toxic alternatives available, and hunters and anglers should be able to quickly transition to those materials once we get lead off the shelves,” she said. So far, 25 states have banned lead ammunition for small-game hunting due to the harm it poses to animals and humans. Minnesota has already banned lead shot in state hunting areas after it was discovered that eagles were dying after ingesting lead pellets. The state DNR rejected the request for a blanket ban on lead though, saying that while “the agency believes the human health and environmental impacts of lead ammunition and tackle do warrant further study,” they are not the appropriate ones to enact the ban. “After careful consideration of the petition and review of more than 20 years of data and stakeholder input related to this subject … the DNR’s conclusion [is] that potential restrictions on the use of lead ammunition and tackle should be considered by the Minnesota Legislature,” a statement from the agency reads. [Associated Press; Duluth News Tribune]
HELP LINE | Seattle launched a new service that will respond to non-emergency 911 calls in certain areas of the city. Called Health One, the system will dispatch firefighters and a social worker to respond to calls about substance abuse, non-emergency medical issues, or requests for public services. “The two firefighters and civilian social worker we’ve assigned to this unit have received in-depth specialized training on how to address the needs of the patients served by Health One. They are equipped with the resources necessary to provide patients with individually tailored services and diversion options,” said Fire Chief Harold Scoggins. The program’s creation comes after an examination of 911 calls made for medical reasons in 2018 showed that 42% were not emergencies. Mayor Jenny Durkan said the alternative option is needed. "As our city grows, our ability to deliver emergency and non-emergency responses needs to keep up," she said. The city has allocated $900,000 for the first year of the program. [KOMO; KING 5]
SEA LEVEL RISE | The New York City Council is considering a $1.45 billion proposal to raze and rebuild East River Park as a storm protection measure. The project would build the area at least eight feet higher. Members of the city council who originally opposed the project have now voiced support following an announcement by Mayor Bill de Blasio of the creation of a community advisory group for the project. "The East Side Coastal Resiliency Project will protect New Yorkers for years to come, and at every step of the way, we will continue to ensure the community is kept informed of progress and that their voice is heard," de Blasio said in a statement announcing the advisory group. Councilmembers Keith Powers, Carlina Rivera, and Margaret Chin, who represent the affected area, said that the creation of the advisory group “helps restore confidence that this is the best plan to move forward with for protecting our communities as quickly as possible from the next Hurricane Sandy.” [Curbed NY; Patch]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.