California to Open Vacant State Lands for Homeless Shelters

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state would make vacant state land available for emergency homeless shelters.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state would make vacant state land available for emergency homeless shelters. Shutterstock

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Arizona legislators want to stop the sale of private land to the federal government … Boston mayor announces fund for housing construction … Kentucky attorney general promises movement on child abuse cases.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state would make vacant state land available for emergency homeless shelters, while also urging lawmakers to create a $1.4 billion fund to subsidize rents and build affordable housing for homeless people. Newsom signed an executive order instructing four state agencies to identify land that could be opened to temporary shelters. The properties could include lots next to highways and state roads, decommissioned hospitals, and fairgrounds. The state will also provide cities and counties with trailers and tents for temporary housing. The executive order also creates a state system to track local government efforts to move people off the street. “Homelessness is a national crisis, one that’s spreading across the West Coast and cities across the country. The state of California is treating it as a real emergency—because it is one. Californians are demanding that all levels of government—federal, state and local—do more to get people off the streets and into services—whether that’s emergency housing, mental health services, substance abuse treatment or all of the above,” he said. The legislature would have to approve the $1.4 billion fund Newsom proposed, most of which would be distributed to local social services providers. The state legislature reconvened on Monday, and several state lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Shannon Grove, said that homelessness is the top issue. “There are a lot of things we need to accomplish this year to make California a more affordable and better place to live and a safer place to live,” she said. [San Francisco Chronicle; Los Angeles Times; Sacramento Bee]

PRIVATE LAND | Two Arizona legislators have submitted legislation to the state legislature that would prohibit the sale, gifting, or transfer of ownership of private land to the federal government without the consent of the legislature and the governor. State Rep. Mark Finchem and Sen. Sonny Borrelli, both Republicans, said that the federal government already owns too much land in Arizona, which creates a problem when the state needs to collect taxes. “We’ve only got 16% of our land that we can use for property tax. We can’t afford to have one acre go into federal possession and be off the tax rolls,” Finchem said. Taylor McKinnon, senior public lands campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the legislation would hinder the creation of new and the maintenance of existing national parks. “It’s troubling that legislators in the Grand Canyon state don’t seem to grasp the natural and economic values of Arizona’s spectacular public lands,” he said. [Tucson.com]

HOUSING FUNDS | Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced that the city would invest $500 million into measures to build more affordable housing and create what might be the country’s first municipally-funded permanent rental voucher program. About $100 million will come from the city’s operating budget, and the other $400 million will come from the sale of city-owned garages and the revenue from a not-yet-approved 2% transfer tax on real estate sales of at least $2 million. "This is one of the most progressive housing policies in America, because we believe in a Boston where housing is more than a commodity, it’s our community," Walsh said. More than 47,000 people are on the city’s waitlist for affordable housing. The schedule for the voucher program has not yet been announced, but Sheila Dillon, the city’s chief of housing and director of the Department of Neighborhood Development, said she hopes it will be running within a few months. “We’ll be talking to the advocates. We’ll be doing a lot of homework on this,” Dillon said. [MassLive; NBC Boston]

CHILD ABUSE | Kentucky’s new attorney general made a pledge to work with key stakeholders to reduce the number of child abuse cases in the state. Daniel Cameron, a Republican who was recently sworn into the position, said the attorney general’s office would create a manual to help prosecutors work on child abuse cases. "We are No. 1 in child abuse and neglect, and that has to stop, especially as we move into the new decade. We need to do something meaningful," Cameron said. Dr. Christina Howard, the chief of the Division of Pediatric Forensic Medicine, said such a manual would be useful, but that the state also needs more collaboration. "As a child abuse pediatrician, I, on a daily basis, see the advantage of having a multidisciplinary team investigate these cases. It takes that team in order to prosecute these cases so that decisions can be made in the courtroom with the most amount of knowledge as well as evidence so that they can be successfully prosecuted," said Howard. [Associated Press; WKYT]

POP STAR TREATMENT | After years of unfulfilled public records requests, the city of McAllen, Texas disclosed this week that it paid $485,000 for singer Enrique Iglesias to perform at a 2015 holiday parade. The pop star was brought to the south Texas city on a chartered flight from Mexico and received 24 hotel rooms for two nights. The mystery of how much McAllen paid Iglesias was part of a battle at the Texas statehouse about what exactly governments have to release following state Supreme Court court rulings in 2015 that limited disclosure requirements. The public records law was changed during the 2019 session. In 2016, Mayor Jim Darling acknowledged in a city commission meeting that the city lost more than $700,000 on the parade. [Texas Tribune; The Monitor]

Managing Editor Laura Maggi contributed to this report.

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

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