Connecting state and local government leaders

Mostly Cut Off, Puerto Ricans Flock to the Few Spots With Cellphone Service

A man stands at a wifi hotspot in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria with many cellphone towers down in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017.

A man stands at a wifi hotspot in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria with many cellphone towers down in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. Carlos Giusti / AP Photo


Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | Amid unrest, St. Louis mayor wants investigation of police actions; report finds mental health care troubles in Kansas; and North Jersey city fumes over mayor’s guilty plea.

DISASTER RECOVERY | With Puerto Rico’s power and telecommunications infrastructure hobbled by the destruction brought by Hurricane Maria, residents in San Juan and elsewhere in the U.S. commonwealth have been, mostly by “word of mouth,” flocking to spots where cellphone towers are still apparently functioning, including along the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge over San Juan Lagoon. But those were the exceptions to the new reality across Puerto Rico: There’s essentially no cellphone service and limited ways to reach friends and loved ones on the U.S. mainland. “We’ve been trying for days, trying to get a hold, checking on [Facebook] Messenger because I did hear that some people had communications through Messenger, I’m not sure how,” said Florida resident Doris Deida, who was waiting for word from her sister on Puerto Rico. “It was the best news I heard. A couple of minutes only—that’s all I needed to know: How were my mom and my dad?” The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, has called for more assistance from the federal government. [Miami Herald; The Washington Post]

LAW ENFORCEMENT | Protests continued again this weekend in and around St. Louis amid ongoing law enforcement-community tensions following a judge’s acquittal of a white police officer who shot and killed an African-American man. Twenty-two arrests came at the Galleria shopping mall in the suburb of Richmond Heights on Sunday. Officials are questioning the St. Louis Police Department’s use of “kettling” last week to control protesters, which resulted in the arrest of an undercover cop—who was “bloodied” by uniformed officers—a St. Louis Post-Dispatch journalist, a Getty photographer, and bystanders who were mistakenly caught up in the action, including a medical school student and an Air Force lieutenant whose apartment was in the vicinity of the police action. On Friday, as a lawsuit was filed against the city on grounds that police violated civil rights, Mayor Lyda Krewson called for an investigation. “The allegations are disturbing,” a spokeswoman for the mayor said in a statement. [St. Louis Public Radio; St. Louis Post Dispatch]


Topeka, Kansas: Health advocates in the Sunflower State have had their concerns about the state’s Medicaid program, KanCare, and mental health care confirmed in a new report published by the Institute for Health and Disability Policy Studies at the University of Kansas. [The Topeka Capital-Journal]

Sacramento, California: State Attorney General Xavier Becerra California announced last week that the state will sue the Trump administration for expediting construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Becerra said the feds have violated environmental laws and played it fast and loose with 37 federal statutes that don’t actually authorize the project in San Diego and Imperial counties. [Los Angeles Times]

Jerome County, Idaho: In the heart of Idaho’s booming dairy industry, “long quiet” in the debate over immigration—is speaking out about their reliance on a foreign-born labor force.” [Boise State Public Radio]


Paterson, New Jersey: Former Mayor Joey Torres pleaded guilty to corruption charges on Friday and many residents of the North Jersey city are angry. “What he did erased all his political and service career. Five years in jail is not enough time. It’s too few,” one resident said. Torres faces a maximum of five years in prison. [The Paterson Press via]

Lincoln, Nebraska: City officials are considering an ordinance that would exempt Uber and Lyft drivers from local taxicab rules, citing consumer demand. Mayor Chris Beutler said he is open to revisiting the city’s taxicab code if those drivers so desire. [Lincoln Journal-Star]

Baltimore, Maryland: A month after Mayor Catherine Pugh “moved homeless people off the City Hall lawn, they remain stuck in a former school in West Baltimore” amid promises to “get permanent housing as quickly as possible.” [Baltimore Brew]

New Orleans, Louisiana: The Crescent City, much of which sits below sea level and behind levees, can’t survive without its pump infrastructure, a reality highlighted by extensive flooding due to heavy rainfall and pump systems struggling to keep up. “A search of digitized newspaper archives shows power-generating turbines required to pressurize the system have been experiencing periodic failures for more than 60 years.” [The Times-Picayune /]

Fort Worth, Texas: A plan to expand bus service in Fort Worth came to halt when City Councilman Cary Moon recently sat out a budget hearing and denying a quorum. Moon thinks the Fort Worth area should instead plan for a regional rail system and eschew buses, which won’t help the city if it wants a chance to land Amazon’s second headquarters campus. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

Sussex County, Delaware: This southern Delaware county is getting a $25 million, 90-bed inpatient mental health facility, putting those services closer to many in the area who need it. The current nearest such facility for Sussex County is in Dover, the state capital, which is located in Kent County. []