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Here Comes Gordon: Gulf Storm Expected to Make Landfall as Hurricane

As of 2 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, hurricane warnings were posted for the Alabama and Mississippi coasts, with tropical storm warnings in effect for other parts of the Gulf Coast.

As of 2 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, hurricane warnings were posted for the Alabama and Mississippi coasts, with tropical storm warnings in effect for other parts of the Gulf Coast. National Hurricane Center

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Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Kansas ruling on citizen-initiated grand jury ... Seattle stuck in streetcar purgatory … and U.S. ports fear proposed crane tariffs.

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. I hope you had a good Labor Day weekend. There’s a lot going on this week in the world of state and local government. Leading Route Fifty’s state and local roundup is public safety news, including Tropical Storm Gordon, now moving quickly through the eastern Gulf of Mexico. But scroll down for more news, from places like Terra Alta, West Virginia; Delray Beach, Florida; and Seattle, Washington ...

PUBLIC SAFETY | State and local governments in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi are preparing for Tropical Storm Gordon, which is moving quickly through the eastern Gulf of Mexico and is expected to make landfall as a minimal Category 1 hurricane on Tuesday evening along the north-central Gulf coast. Gordon is anticipated to bring heavy rainfall, storm surge and strong winds. Hurricane warnings are posted for the Alabama and Mississippi coasts. In Biloxi, Mississippi, the city ordered evacuations for local harbors. “Our Emergency Managers are being told to expect tides 2 to 3 feet above normal and a 6-foot storm surge,” Biloxi Port Division Manager Larry Sablich said in a statement. “Ordering an evacuation was the prudent thing to do. We need to make sure boat owners know the potential for damage, and at the same time we’re protecting the public harbors and marinas from damage. We’re seeing good cooperation.” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell declared a state of emergency, closing the city government on Tuesday for non-essential personnel. [City of Biloxi; City of New Orleans; @MSEMA; Sun Herald]

  • St. Louis, Missouri: Five years ago, the city’s police department was returned to local control after 150 years being under the auspices of a state-appointed oversight commission. Was it a good move? According to the St. Louis Police Officers Association union, which had opposed the return to local control, the shift has helped boost police salaries, but St. Louis bureaucracy is another matter: “The city has a sprawling bureaucracy, and Christopher Columbus would have problems navigating it,” according to one union rep. [St. Louis Public Radio]
  • Chicago, Illinois: About a dozen anti-violence protesters who were aiming to block access to Chicago-O’Hare International Airport were arrested by the Illinois State Patrol on Monday on an entrance ramp leading to the Kennedy Expressway. “We cannot allow an airport to be shut down,” Chicago police First Deputy Superintendent Anthony Riccio said on the scene of the protest. [Chicago Tribune]
  • Springfield, Massachusetts: The U.S. Department of Justice has two investigations into the Springfield Police Department underway, putting the city under similar federal scrutiny as Baltimore, Chicago and Ferguson, Missouri. On Thursday, Mayor Domenic Sarno and Police Commissioner John Barbieri laid out “a three-phase plan to purchase and outfit Springfield police officers with body-worn cameras.” [The Boston Globe; MassLive]
Utility relocation along First Avenue in Seattle was already started when Mayor Jenny Durkan paused the Center City Connector streetcar project for more review. (Michael Grass / Route Fifty)

INFRASTRUCTURE | Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration on Friday released the summary of a long-awaited and delayed consultant’s report looking into the Center City Connector streetcar project, which would connect two existing streetcar lines along First Avenue via Pioneer Square and Pike Place Market. Durkan paused the project earlier this year over cost concerns, ordering the consultant’s review just as utility relocation work started. But Durkan hasn’t decided whether to kill the project— which would force Seattle to forfeit $75 million in federal grant funding and “even endanger its ability to receive future grants”—or move forward. The KPMG review of the streetcar line is “positive about nearly everything except capital cost projections,” now estimated at $252 million. If built, streetcars would travel in transit-only lanes along First Avenue, unlike many U.S. streetcar lines which operate in mixed traffic. [Crosscut; Seattle Transit Blog]

  • Charleston, South Carolina: U.S. port operators say that new proposed tariffs on Chinese-made cranes that are used to move cargo to and from large container ships “could delay expansion plans or make them more expensive.”  [The Post and Courier]
  • Phoenix, Arizona: The Phoenix City Council voted last week to authorize the city to study the possibility of diverting money from voter-approved transit expansion projects to local road repairs instead. [Arizona Republic / AZCentral; Streetsblog USA]
  • Middlebury, Vermont: The Vermont Transportation Agency is replacing two century-old bridges that span a railroad line and will replace them with a tunnel. [Construction Equipment Guide]

STATE GOVERNMENT | Kansas is one of six states that allows citizen-initiated grand juries, where petitions can be circulated and if they meet certain legal requirements, can jumpstart a legal inquiry. On Friday, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that Douglas County must summon a grand jury to investigate Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to see “whether Kobach or others in his office had engaged in ‘destroying, obstructing, or failing to deliver online voter registration,’ as well as possessing falsely made or altered registration books, preventing qualified electors from voting, and ‘being grossly neglectful with respect to their election duties.’” Kobach, a Republican who recently defeated Gov. Jeff Kolyer in the GOP primary, has dismissed the allegations. [Lawrence Journal World; The Topeka Capital-Journal]

  • Carson City, Nevada: Due to the staggering numbers of Nevadans who lack a retirement savings plan, state officials are considering “a state-backed retirement savings program that would automatically enroll every Nevada private sector worker without an employer-sponsored program in a basic savings program. [The Nevada Independent]
  • Lansing, Michigan: Voters in the Great Lakes State in November will consider a proposed initiative that would create a citizen-led redistricting commission, a 13-member group that is designed to “exclude some people who have significant political interests or connections from serving on the commission,” including legislative staffers, registered lobbyists and consultants working for political candidates, campaigns or political action committees. [BridgeMI]
  • Palmer, Alaska: Although the public seems to like a proposed new logo for the Alaska State Troopers, which features a bear, some retired Alaska State Troopers think it’s a slap in the face because it “resembles a similar image on a video game and is better suited for a private security firm.” [Anchorage Daily News]

LOCAL GOVERNMENT | It’s been five years since “1,000-year rain over eight days” brought major flooding to communities along Colorado’s Front Range, including in Boulder County. Recovery costs have totalled $500 million in the county. There’s also another $500 million in unmet post-flood needs, according to local municipalities. [Boulder Daily Camera]

  • Terra Alta, West Virginia: The former police chief of this small former coal mining community near the Maryland border, is suing the town’s government, the town council and Mayor Mark Ball, making allegations that the “Mayor Ball does not live in town, but uses his auction business address as his home address.” Ball says he has multiple residences and contends he was cleared by the local county clerk and the state government before his run for mayor. [The Dominion-Post]
  • Delray Beach, Florida: This city in Palm Beach County is an epicenter for recovering addicts, but “conditions that once made Delray Beach the nation’s relapse capital have dramatically improved in the past year” thanks in part to targeted enforcement and city rules that mandate required distance between “recovery residences or ‘sober homes.’” [Sun-Sentinel]
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The owner of a pet-grooming business on Pittsburgh’s South Side is convinced that new safety pylons that were installed by the order of City Council President Bruce Kraus, someone who has “a history of hassling her.” But that’s hogwash, according to Mayor Bill Peduto’s office, which points out the separation of powers in the municipal government. “Council members do not give orders to public works employees, and public works employees do not take orders from council members,” according to the mayor’s chief of staff. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review / TribLive]

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle 

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