06.08.2015

Oh yes. Sweet sweet Monday morning is here again.  To celebrate, today’s buzz features sexy water conservation ads in (where else) San Francisco, a story on Cabela’s commitment to its hometown of Sidney, Nebraska, a Music Census conducted in Austin and surprisingly good/awful vanity license plates.

Right Now with Matt Yager

What I’m Reading:  A Book of Ages: An Eccentric Miscellany of Great and Offbeat Moments in the Lives of the Famous and Infamous, Ages 1 to 100 by Eric Hanson

What I’m Watching: Halt and Catch Fire on AMC

What I’m Listening toTeenage Talk by St. Vincent

What I’m Doing: Getting ready to turn 34.  This involves stretching and eating more vegetables.

Buzzin’

Sexy Water Conservation Ads Trump Fines in S.F. Drought Fight: Not surprisingly, municipal utilities have spent the last few months upping their game and switching strategies, from letters reminding residents that their meters are being watched to sprinkler restrictions, hand-watering limits and fine threats that make traffic citations look appealing.  Then there’s the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which has taken a more “Mad Men”-style approach and proved, yet again, that sex can sell anything, even voluntary water conservation.

House Cuts Funding for the Census and ACS: Late Tuesday night, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill (H.R. 2578), severely cutting the Census Bureau’s budget. The House included one amendment that would make the American Community Survey voluntary and another that cuts the Census budget by more than 30 percent. The bill passed 242-183. The 30 percent cut mostly comes out of the Periodic Censuses and Programs account, which covers the 2020 Census, American Community Survey (ACS), and 2017 Economic Census. In addition, the House passed the “Poe amendment” which would make response to the ACS voluntary.

San Francisco’s waterfront freeway was removed 25 years ago. No one misses it: Standing next to the historic Ferry Building on The Embarcadero boulevard along San Francisco Bay, Dave Osgood recalls when his father brought him here as a boy. Once upon a time, this had been the second-busiest transit passenger terminal in the world, the hub of a bustling waterfront port district next to downtown. By then, it was virtually abandoned, but his father wanted to give him the historic tour.

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50 Nifty

  • Oakland gears up for bike-lane buildup: As temperatures rise and more residents warm up to city cycling, Pittsburgh officials are looking into establishing more bike lanes in Oakland this summer. The Department of Public Works is proposing a Bike Share Street Network Plan to help connect Oakland’s current bike infrastructure to bike routes in nearby neighborhoods. While bike advocates are overjoyed at plans to make this high bike traffic area a more comfortable ride, some residents and business owners are concerned about the loss of parking spots and the possible impact on vehicle traffic.
  • Denver developers can’t get lots to market fast enough:Homebuilder David Sinkey looked into his crystal ball about 30 months ago and a disturbing vision appeared. “One of the trends we saw: There won’t be any new-build homes that are affordable in the future,” recalled Sinkey, a principal at Louisville-based Boulder Creek Neighborhoods.  The housing downturn had culled the skilled workforce needed to build homes, creating severe labor shortages and pushing up costs. Just as worrisome, finished lots that once were in oversupply were quickly being absorbed with no easy prospects to replenish them.
  • Wilmington port expansion debate surges, spreads:The New Castle County Council may ramp up pressure on the state to fund a study into creating a private-public Delaware River port. The council on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on a resolution urging the state to direct $250,000 earmarked for the Port of Wilmington into studying the new port. The facility, which could cost up to $600 million, is envisioned on about 176 vacant acres south of the Delaware Memorial Bridge that are part of the Riveredge Industrial Park. Parkway Gravel owns the property.
  • ‘Trickle-down taxation’ is putting a big hurt on municipalities: Since the 1980s, we’ve heard about “trickle-down” economics, but today we are also beginning to learn a lot more about another phenomenon: trickle-down taxation.  We have some firsthand experience with municipal budgets as we have both served as chairman of the Hallowell City Council’s finance committee.The decisions the governor and Legislature make regarding state funding priorities and spending levels significantly affect the budgets of Hallowell and cities and towns statewide. Every time, they cut taxes they have less revenue to meet the state’s obligations. Their state tax cuts result either in cuts to education and other services at the local level, or more often, an increase in the principal municipal funding source — property taxes.
  • Proposed St. Louis minimum wage hike could be headed to court: Officials on Friday readied for a long, hot summer spurred by the filing of a bill to double the city’s minimum wage over the state rate, while lawyers turned their eyes to the courts. The bill, which would create a minimum wage of $15 in the city by 2020, was officially introduced at the Board of Aldermen by Alderman Shane Cohn on Friday. A pending state bill would require the local measure to be approved by the board and signed by the mayor before Aug. 28 — a daunting task for a body that normally takes a two-month summer break during July and August.

  • Even during rapid expansion, Cabela’s embraces Panhandle city as home: Cabela’s push to triple its number of stores across the U.S. and Canada is paying off in the outdoor outfitter’s hometown, where the company is expanding its headquarters building in a $34 million project and driving a larger wave of development in the small Panhandle city, where it employs about a quarter of the work force.  The homegrown business’s continued growth worsens shortages of housing, child care and skilled blue-collar workers, but those are problems people in Sidney say they are happy to face. The expansion soothes a persistent worry for residents and business owners: the possibility of one of western Nebraska’s biggest employers pulling up its stake
  • Most favor permanent property tax cap: Nearly 60 percent of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll say New York’s property tax cap should be made permanent. Another 31 percent would support that move if it were tied to mandate reform.  In effect since 2012, the tax cap does not expire until 2016, but the enacted legislation was tied to rent-control regulations in the New York City area that are due to sunset this month. The state Senate recently approved a bill that removes that link and extends the tax cap permanently.
  • Building on success of Tulsa Tough, city could become ‘regional hub’ for cycling enthusiasts:The goal from the beginning was to create a major, world-class event that would attract thousands of people to Tulsa, pumping significant cash into the local economy.  Ambitious, yes. But Chris Zenthoefer had seen huge crowds at bicycle races in places like Wichita Falls, Texas, a city roughly one-fourth the size of Tulsa. So why not do it here?  “We knew all along that this was something Tulsa could become known for, if we did it right,” says Zenthoefer, one of the original organizers of the Saint Francis Tulsa Tough, a three-day cycling festival that starts Friday. “We wanted to make a name for Tulsa, and I think we have.”
  • Metro invests $2.9 million in Gulch complete street: Cars will get booted off 11th Avenue, and walkers, bicyclists and skaters will take over for an afternoon later this month.  An almost $3 million investment in the Gulch will culminate in the first Open Streets Nashville festival June 27.  The project transforms a half mile of 11th Avenue — from Laurel Street to the Church Street Viaduct — into what is called a complete street.
  • Laws to change Virginia’s approach to work on roadways: Two new laws are going to change the way the state approaches improvements to its roadways and other infrastructure, Virginia’s transportation secretary said Thursday at a regional transportation forum in Goochland County.  “House Bill 2 for the first time gives the transportation board objective standards for which projects to choose,” Aubrey L. Layne Jr. said. “House Bill 1887 for the first time really aligns transportation funding with the needs of the commonwealth and pushes money down to the communities, where we think better decisions will be made.”

Local Gov Confidential

Mayor Says Austin’s Music Scene Is at a Tipping Point: Music is a vital part of Austin’s social fabric and economy. But according to a recent survey, the people behind the valuable city brand aren’t getting their fair share of the earnings, and the city isn’t doing enough to make sure the industry is sustainable.  The City of Austin Music Office commissioned a survey of about 4,000 Austinites with music-related careers, including everyone from artists to venue owners. According to the office, the newly released Austin Music Census is the first time a city has taken this granular a look at its music industry data.

Cleaner streets for cleaner Puget Sound planned: Copper, zinc, phosphorous and other pollutants build up on Seattle’s streets before rain washes them into storm drains and waterways that lead to Puget Sound. During heavy rains, the sewer system fills up and the problem can worsen. As a solution, the city plans to double the coverage of its street-cleaning program, hoping to scour at least 40 additional tons of pollutants from roadways each year before they can reach the Sound.

Dixon’s former mayor speaks locally about record municipal embezzlement: Before the strange saga of Rita Crundwell and her highly publicized theft of $54 million from public coffers, the city of Dixon was best known as the boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan.  Crundwell’s crime — believed to be the largest municipal fraud in U.S. history — and its aftermath were analyzed by former Dixon Mayor Jim Burke at a business luncheon hosted by Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center Thursday.