Connecting state and local government leaders

Puerto Rico Devastated: ‘When We Can Get Outside, We Will Find Our Island Destroyed’

Electricity poles and lines lay toppled on the road after Hurricane Maria hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.

Electricity poles and lines lay toppled on the road after Hurricane Maria hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. Carlos Giusti / AP Photo


Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP: More states announce their FirstNet opt-in decisions; Mich. Civil Service Commission gives state more power over its workers; and Louisiana has some good budget news for a change.

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT | Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm, knocking electricity offline across the entirety of the U.S. commonwealth, home to 3.4 million residents. "Our telecommunications system is partially down," Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said. "Our energy infrastructure is completely down." Although Puerto Rico escaped a direct hit from Hurricane Irma earlier this month, that storm damaged much of the island’s power grid. Repairs could take months. "When we can get outside, we will find our island destroyed," Abner Gómez of Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency said at a news conference Wednesday. "The information we received is not encouraging. It's a system that has destroyed everything it has had in its wake." The storm was the strongest to strike Puerto Rico in at least 85 years. [CNNNational Public Radio; The Washington Post; Miami Herald]

Three additional states, Idaho, Maryland and Texas, have announced that they will opt-in to the FirstNet public safety communications network. Those decisions by state IT leaders in Boise, Annapolis and Austin will bring the number of states that will join FirstNet, which is being managed by AT&T for the federal government, to 23. State governments are facing a federal deadline to decide whether they will opt-in to FirstNet or build their own network that is interoperable with FirstNet. Texas is the largest state to join FirstNet to date. “The safety and security of Texas communities is my number-one priority, and I want to provide our first responders with the best technology possible,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. [Broadcast & Cable; Urgent Communications]


Lansing, Michigan: The Michigan Civil Service Commission voted 3-1 on Wednesday to give the state government the power to “override clauses in state employee union contracts during financial emergencies and government managers have more control over how employees are reassigned after layoffs, receive overtime,” in addition to other measures. The new rules impact 50,000 state employees and the vote prompted protests in downtown Lansing. [Lansing State Journal; The Detroit News]

The Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge (Shutterstock)

Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Usually when there’s state budget news out of Louisiana, it’s not good news. But here’s something that’s a change of pace: a budget surplus. The chief financial officer for Gov. John Bel Edwards reported Wednesday that as of June 30, the Louisiana state government had a surplus of more than $100 million. [AP via Times-Picayune /]

Fresno, California: A major water tunnel proposal being pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown, which would replumb the way water moves through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta area, is in trouble after the nation’s largest agricultural water district in the Central Valley rejected it. The Westlands Water District on Tuesday declined to lend its support to the project. That vote is a tough blow for the plan’s supporters as another major water district, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, is gearing up to vote on the proposal. “Westlands’ decision to not participate in the California WaterFix will make it very difficult for other agencies” to sign on, Westlands general manager Tom Birmingham said. [KTVU-TV; Los Angeles Times]

White Pass, Washington: As summer ends and fall begins, snow is falling in some higher elevations across parts of the Pacific Northwest, including this mountain pass near Mount Rainier. [via @WSDOT_East]


Washington, D.C.: What will it take for cities and metro areas to be successful to woo Inc. to their area for the ecommerce giant’s coveted second headquarters campus? “Amazon’s application process is an exercise in which not all cities should—or perhaps should even want to—engage.” Also, “old school marketing tactics and subsidy packages aren’t going to cut it—at least not by themselves. Rather, urban stakeholders need to work together to show off sites that reflect a shrewd understanding of what today’s firms require to succeed.” [Brookings Institution via @bruce_katz]

Tampa, Florida: While Hurricane Irma was no doubt a monster of a storm for all of Florida, the path of its center spared the state’s major cities from direct hits. That included the cities of the Tampa Bay area, which could have sustained far more substantial damage than they did. “With hundreds of lives and billions in property on the line, the way atmospheric forces nudged the storm just a few miles made all the difference.” [Tampa Bay Times]

St. Louis County, Missouri: Members of the county council are considering their legal options in an ongoing dispute with St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger over staffing in the county auditor’s office. Stenger’s administration has, according to a council resolution, obstructed “the interview and hiring process of budgeted audit staff.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch /]

South Bend, Indiana: The St. Joseph River and the rapids of the East Race Waterway served as a backdrop for 23 water-rescue personnel from around the nation to improve their skills ahead of the International Association of Water Rescuers Professionals annual conference. [South Bend Tribune]

Detroit Lakes, Minnesota: Local officials in this northwestern Minnesota city are defending their action to sanction a local bar for violating local noise ordinances, which has sparked a bit of a local backlash and prompted rumor control efforts by city hall. "This wasn't an overnight overreaction, or a knee-jerk interpretation," City Administrator Kelcey Klemm said regarding the situation involving Zorbaz, which has canceled its live music indefinitely. "We've been communicating with them since spring — even last year, with a letter from the former police chief." One point Detroit Lakes is trying to clarify: "It's untrue that the city told Zorbaz it can't have live music anymore." [Duluth News Tribune]