There’s a wonderful symmetry to having baseball’s opening day on 4/4, it’s like the bases are loaded and the NCAA tournament no longer matters. In today’s Buzz, we deal with foul balls while also finding out why bike shares are so safe, why drone flying in Augusta just got a bit more regulated, and whether the intrigue around a big Tampa city council decision is really up to the House of Card’s level the Tampa paper claims. Read on!
Right Now w/ Matt Yager
What I’m watching: The return of Major League Baseball.
What I’m reading: Previewing MLB’s Opening Day slate: What to watch for on Monday by Jay Jaffe
What I’m doing: Teaching my daughter the fine art of catching: In the air – “Thumb-Thumb”, On the ground “Little Finger – Little Finger”.
What I want to know from you: Do you have a great foul ball story?
A new study looks at why bike share is so much safer than regular biking: Here’s a remarkable fact: Not a single person has died using bike share in the United States. Bike sharing has seen explosive growth since 2007, with systems in at least 94 cities and more than 35 million trips taken. There have been some serious injuries, yes. But — knock on wood — not a single US fatality from bike sharing yet.* Contrast this with the overall estimated cycling fatality rate of 21 deaths per 100 million trips. (h/t @urbandata)
Migration to Sun Belt metro areas continues to surge: The last decade and a half has been a rollercoaster ride for metropolitan areas in the nation’s South and West. In the early 2000s, migration swelled in many of them, only to fall off during the recession and years immediately thereafter. But census population estimates through July 2015, released last week, make plain that the Sun Belt metro migration lull has not only subsided, as was hinted at last year, but could be on a pace for substantial gains in metropolitan areas in the Southeast, Texas, and Mountain West for the remainder of the decade.
Why Race Matters in Planning Public Parks: Residents approved by ballot referendum a $166 million bond in 2012 to pay for the Bayou Greenways 2020 project, and for improvements to the near-50,000 acres of park space in the city. The goal is to connect the area’s bayous and parks to neighborhoods spanning the region. While this connectivity is the stated priority for this massive parks overhaul, not everyone in Houston is feeling it. In fact, connectivity seems to matter most only to Houston’s whiter and wealthier residents. When the city’s parks and recreation department conducted its Master Plan Parks Survey in 2014, the majority of respondents replied that they wanted their neighborhoods and parks linked to biking and walking paths. The problem with that survey is that about two-thirds of the respondents were white with household incomes over $75,000. This is clearly not a good starting point for Houston, one of the most racially diverse, (and heavily segregated) cities in the country.
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Annexations help boost Walla Walla city population (Washington): New boundaries — not just newbies — has resulted in a spike in Walla Walla population growth last year while the county declined almost as much. The city saw a 3.5 percent population growth from April 2014 to March 2015, according to annual estimates by the Washington State Office of Financial Management. The unincorporated parts of the county, however, saw a decrease of 4.08 percent for the same period. Walla Walla Port District Interim Director Paul Gerola said the county’s losses and the city’s gains aren’t as significant as the numbers would seem to indicate because the city acquired a large section of county land that year.
Anchorage mayors battle it out over tax cap initiative: Anchorage’s current mayor is locked in a debate with his predecessors about how much the city’s limit on property taxes can grow from year to year, the focus of an initiative on the April 5 city ballot. With Proposition 8, a group led by former Mayor Dan Sullivan is seeking to amend city charter — essentially the city’s constitution — and overturn an ordinance passed last fall by the Anchorage Assembly that loosened limits on the growth of the tax cap. Sullivan, conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity in Alaska and other allies say the current Assembly created a “loophole” that undermines the intent of the cap and could open the door to bigger tax hikes in the future. They want voters to pass Proposition 8 and return to a more rigid interpretation of the tax cap.
Augusta bans flying drones over crowds (Georgia): Augusta has approved one of the region’s first local drone laws, which bans the unmanned aircraft from flying in areas where 100 or more people might gather. Officials with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association knew of no local drone laws in Georgia besides the proposed Augusta ordinance, The Augusta Chronicle reported. The Augusta Commission on Wednesday signed the ban into law. The new ordinance “provides a road map for other local communities to model,” as the Federal Aviation Administration threatens to pre-empt local regulation of unmanned aircraft systems, even at low altitudes, Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis said. “I think Augusta has taken the lead on this issue for the state of Georgia,” he said.
Turnback tax changes wouldn’t aid all cities equally (Nebraska): The City of Omaha wouldn’t see the same kind of turnback tax gain as Ralston if state lawmakers pass a bill designed to standardize the use of the tax incentive. The CenturyLink Center, an Omaha-owned convention center and arena, receives turnback tax money only from the nearby Hilton hotel and from sales inside the facility. Seventy percent of the sales tax from those two places comes back to the city. The other 30 percent goes into a fund for community projects in smaller cities and towns.
Arizona county’s plight is bad omen for election: It’s bad enough that an outrage was perpetrated last week against the voters of Maricopa County, Arizona. It would be far worse if we ignore the warning that the disenfranchisement of thousands of its citizens offers our nation. A major culprit would be the U.S. Supreme Court, and specifically the conservative majority that gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. In a move rationalized as an attempt to save money, officials of Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, cut the number of polling places for the presidential primary by 70 percent, from 200 in the last presidential election to 60 this time around.
Michigan County Seeing Good Results in Using Septic Waste at Landfill: Smiths Creek Landfill in St. Clair County, Mich., has been utilizing a unique approach to managing municipal solid waste (MSW) by using human fecal waste from residential septic tanks to eliminate waste and create energy, and hoping to change the way MSW is managed in the U.S. Together with legislative, regulatory, and industry partners, in 2008 St. Clair County launched a full‐scale bioreactor landfill Research, Development, and Demonstration Project (RDDP). Leveraging the environmental engineering expertise of the county’s consultant CTI and Associates Inc., the county launched the RDDP to become the first septage bioreactor landfill in the United States.
Growing Southern cities are increasingly targets of state pre-emption: With progressive policy gaining little traction at the state level, the region’s cities have become laboratories for advancing progressive policies, from protections for LGBT people to minimum wage hikes, fracking bans and policies to promote immigrant integration. State lawmakers have taken aim at cities through state-level “pre-emption laws” that nullify local policies. In many instances, they have gotten help from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed advocacy group that provides model legislation. For example, ALEC crafted a model bill, versions of which were passed in North Carolina and elsewhere, that pre-empted local ordinances designed to foster greater trust between local police and immigrants. This city-state conflict has intensified as Southern cities have boomed. Of the 20 fastest growing metro areas in the country between 2010 and 2015, all but six were in the South, according to a Facing South analysis of recent Census estimates.
Wyoming begins public data review: Wyoming’s chief information officer is helping state agencies, counties, cities and towns go through citizens’ data collected over the years that is no longer necessary. It’s part of a drive by the state legislature to help protect personal information. The state’s chief information officer, Flint Waters, says one of the first tasks is to find out what information agencies are holding. He also wants to know why the information was collected and whether it is still needed.
Political intrigue in Tampa’s own House of Cards: Behind-the-scenes lobbying. Rumors of powerful endorsements and political retribution. And the intriguing question of whether some of the voters will factor in that a candidate once implied they were butt-kissers. It’s all there in Tampa’s own House of Cards. Next week’s election of the City Council chair is why some people love politics the way Netflix bingers can’t wait to find out what that crafty President Frank Underwood will get up to next.
Complaint hovers over Henderson’s new assistant city manager: Henderson’s new assistant city manager has some baggage from his last job. The city recently announced the hiring of Gregory Blackburn to replace Fred Horvath as one of Henderson’s assistant city managers who oversees public works, building code and parks and recreation. Blackburn, who worked for Henderson for 14 years before leaving in 2009, is the director of community development and compliance for North Las Vegas. But since last August, Blackburn, 55, has been at the center of a complaint with the state’s Employee Management Relations Board, a body that handles disputes between government employees and agencies. The complaint was filed against North Las Vegas and Teamsters Local 14.
Former Syracuse official: Merge city, county into bigger government: A former top aide to four Syracuse mayors said it’s time to replace the governments of Syracuse and Onondaga County with a new, unified metropolitan government that could better fulfill the community’s dreams. Vito Sciscioli, who spent 32 years at Syracuse City Hall, said he supports the Consensus commission’s call to consolidate city and county governments, but he wishes their report was more ambitious. Consensus placed too much emphasis on saving money, he said. The main point of reforming government is to make it better, not cheaper, Sciscioli said. He argues that our local governments are too small and too parochial to maintain public infrastructure and a high quality-of-life.