Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Philly’s sloppy accounting … high eviction rates in rural Minnesota … New Orleans short-term rental freeze … and Jersey City clears newspaper box “clutter.”
Here are state and local government news stories that caught Route Fifty’s attention.
- Chicago, Illinois: Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has been pushing allies at the Illinois General Assembly to allow the Chicago Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to deploy drones for “legitimate public safety purposes” at public gatherings, including for monitoring crowd movements at demonstrations, protests and other events. But “Chicago’s police and political leaders have a long, troubled history of snooping on groups exercising their First Amendment rights.” With public safety drones in Illinois, what’s the oversight? “Each department would have to submit an annual report to the state on its drone usage, but otherwise would largely be able to create its own policies.” The drone bill has not yet been sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner. [ProPublica Illinois; S.B. 2562]
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: An audit released by City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart indicates that Philadelphia has the worst accounting practices of any of the nation’s 10 largest cities and found $924 million in bookkeeping errors last year. According to Rhynhart’s office, 2017 audits did not turn up similar errors in Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston, while “Phoenix had one deficiency” and San José had “one material weakness and five significant deficiencies.” [The Inquirer / Philly.com]
- Austin, Texas: Following Gov. Greg Abbott's recommendations on school gun safety, members of a Texas Senate committee on school violence “debated the efficacy of expanding programs that already arm faculty and school staff” at the State Capitol on Tuesday. [Texas Tribune]
- Hawaii County, Hawaii: Lava emerging from ground fissures fed by the ongoing eruption of Kilauea continues to move across areas in the southeastern portion of the Big Island and has destroyed at least 700 homes and other buildings in Puna-area subdivisions, including Leiliani Estates and Vacationland. Local educators are worried about air quality if the eruption continues through the summer and sends volcanic ash and fog into impacted communities as schools reopen in August. Kilauea’s recent lava flows have created 250 acres of new land as they’ve entered the Pacific Ocean. Since the start of the new lava flows in early May, the Hawaii County government has spent at least $3 million on the local disaster response; the state government has pledged $12 million to assist the county. [Honolulu Civil Beat; Hawaii News Now]
- New Orleans, Louisiana: Following the New Orleans City Council’s recent decision to freeze some short-term rental licenses in some of the city’s most popular neighborhoods, like Bywater, Faubourg Marigny, Treme, Mid-City and Uptown, San Francisco-based Airbnb last week stopped helping hosts in the city from applying for the licenses through the “pass-through registration” process. [The Lens NOLA]
- Le Sueur County, Minnesota: While the impacts of evictions are commonly felt in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, “[n]on-urban counties, where rental housing is scarce to begin with and services are fewer and further between, can have eviction rates that are on par with—or exceed—those of the big cities.” That includes Le Sueur County, a rural jurisdiction about 60 miles southwest of Minneapolis, which has the state’s third-highest eviction rate after Anoka County, located north of the Twin Cities, and Ramsey County, home to St. Paul. [MinnPost]
- Big Sur, California: By the end of July, travelers on California’s coastal State Route 1 will be able traverse a section of the scenic road that was closed by a massive landslide last year, CalTrans officials announced on Tuesday. The May 2017 Mud Creek mudslide necessitated a $54 million project to rebuild the road across the 5 million cubic yards of earth that slid into the ocean. The road had been scheduled to reopen in September. [San Luis Obispo Tribune]
- Jersey City, New Jersey: Last week, city officials started clearing more than 200 newspaper distribution boxes from sidewalks, which has sparked complaints from community publishers that the municipal government was stifling free speech. Mayor Steven Fulop tweeted that many of the newspaper distribution boxes were “non functional” and were simply sidewalk “clutter.” [Gothamist; @StevenFulop]
- Anchorage, Alaska: Three companies involved in oil and gas extraction and exploration in Alaska, including ExxonMobil, sued the state in Anchorage Superior Court last week over a change in tax policy that could cost them tens of millions of dollars. [Anchorage Daily News]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.