Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Okla. schools prepare for teacher walkout … Ariz. governor suspends Uber’s AV testing … Va. Beach city manager’s heated text about a state official … and N.J.’s Pulaski Skyway waiting game.
Here's a roundup of state and local government news stories that caught Route Fifty’s attention ...
CYBERSECURITY | After Atlanta was hit last week with a ransomware attack that locked down certain city data, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Monday that security teams are making progress in helping her government recover and figure out what exactly happened. Atlanta’s municipal courts have been particularly hard hit. The good news: no personal data appears to have been compromised in the attack.
The mayor said at a press conference on Monday.
“This is much bigger than a ransomware attack. This really is an attack on our government, which means this is an attack on all of us and we just want to continue to be thoughtful, and will continue to be thoughtful to make sure that as a city that we are doing all that we need to do to make sure that we are secure going forward. ...
We’ve seen them attack cities, we’ve seen them attack hospitals. … I can tell you that certainly we are no the first city that has faced this issue. I really think it is a test of our national security.”
The city brought in federal assistance from the FBI, Homeland Security Department and Secret Service. Although Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was not impacted by the ransomware attack, its public wifi access was taken offline as a precaution. [WSB-TV; WXIA-TV / 11Alive; Atlanta Journal-Constitution; CIODive]
PUBLIC EDUCATION | If public school teachers walk off the job in Oklahoma on April 2 as they have threatened, the ripple effects would be felt widely in school systems across the state. According to a new statewide survey conducted by the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, United Suburban Schools Administration, and the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools, nearly a half million students would miss at least one day of school and one-third of the state’s nearly 700,000 public school students “would be affected by indefinite school closures.” School districts, in the meantime, are planning ahead for disruptions, including making sure that mandated testing happens. “We have multiple plans in place to make sure students are tested as required. Every plan is contingent upon when school resumes,” according to Bret Towne, the schools superintendent in Edmond. At the State Capitol, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a $447 million tax increase on Monday that would allow the state to increase the pay of teachers, school support staff and state employees. [Tulsa World; Edmond Sun; KFOR-TV]
AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES | Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey sent a letter to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.on Monday saying that the state was suspending the company’s testing of autonomous vehicles after one of them recently struck and killed a person crossing a roadway near the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe. "Improving public safety has always been the emphasis of Arizona's approach to autonomous vehicle testing, and my expectation is that public safety is also the top priority for all who operate this technology in the state of Arizona," Ducey wrote. "The incident that took place on March 18 is an unquestionable failure to comply with this expectation." Following the incident, San Francisco-based Uber suspended its operations in Arizona, where the state had allowed it to test its vehicles with few regulations. The National Transportation Safety Board is reviewing the incident, which is the first pedestrian fatality involving a self-driving vehicle. [The Arizona Republic / AZCentral.com; @BiancaBuono; The Verge]
- Jersey City, New Jersey: After three previously announced reopening dates were postponed, commuters heading toward the Holland Tunnel on the Pulaski Skyway have been wondering when northbound traffic will be allowed to cross the aging structure, which connects Jersey City with Newark and has been partially closed since 2014 for $1 billion in needed rehabilitation work. A Pulaski Skyway is slated to reopen to all traffic by late spring, according to a New Jersey Department of Transportation spokesman. [NJ.com]
- Virginia Beach, Virginia: “In retrospect, I might have phrased things a bit differently,” City Manager Dave Hansen wrote late last week to The Virginian-Pilot, which through a public records request, unearthed a text message he had sent to a deputy city manager where he said he’d like to punch Aubrey Layne, who was Virginia’s transportation secretary at the time, in the face. Layne is now Virginia’s finance secretary. “It is certainly not in the city’s best interest for anyone in the city to send these types of messages out,” Councilman Bobby Dyer told the newspaper. “We can’t be overcome by emotion and not be expected to be held accountable. We have to bring civility and respect back to public discourse.” [The Virginian-Pilot]
- St. Louis, Missouri: A St. Louis circuit judge denied a motion by Gov. Eric Greitens’ legal team to have a trial by judge instead of a trial by a jury. Greitens faces felony invasion of privacy charges related to accusations that he threatened to release a photo of a woman he had an extramarital affair with if she ever disclosed their relationship. Greitens has denied wrongdoing but has admitted to having the affair. The governor’s trial is scheduled to start May 14. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
- Lansing, Michigan: The former dean of the Michigan State University School of Osteopathic Medicine, the boss of the disgraced sports medicine doctor recently convicted of sexually abusing numerous patients, was booked at the Ingham County Jail on Monday on undisclosed charges. William Forsyth, the special prosecutor investigating the child sex abuse scandal at Michigan State University involving Dr. Larry Nassar, is planning a Tuesday news conference at noon local time to provide an update on his investigation. [Lansing State Journal; Deadspin]
- Salt Lake City, Utah: The Salt Lake City Fire Department has been improving its recruiting efforts to boost diversity within its ranks of firefighters and other personnel thanks in part to Darby Egbert, “whose father was the department’s first black captain and battalion chief and whose mother was an Irish immigrant,” as a recruitment and outreach coordinator. The department has been advertising on Spanish-language media and hosting test-prep classes to help applicants be better prepared for required testing. [The Salt Lake Tribune]
- Goodland, Minnesota: For more than 50 years, the seven-county Arrowhead Library System’s Bookmobile “has traversed the Northland to bring the public library to rural communities that don't have a brick-and-mortar library.” While accessing library materials has obvious value for residents of northern Minnesota, library system executive director Jim Weikum said the Bookmobile has another benefit: "A physical library can serve as a community gathering spot and the Bookmobile, in these remoter areas, can often serve in that capacity, in getting people together who wouldn't normally be able to get together or have a reason to get together." [Duluth News-Tribune]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.