04.11.2016

If you work for or with local government, chances are you know the face palm. You may have even employed the gesture itself. Today’s buzz pays homage to that requisite expression for bureaucrats, consultants and contractors alike, while looking at America’s largest homeless encampment, the vice that’s getting cracked down on in Las Vegas, and why pot-belly pigs may be making an appearance at the next Planning & Zoning commission meeting.

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Right Now w/ Matt Yager

What I’m Reading: The Greatest Sports Story Never Told by John Green

What I’m Watching: The Next Rembrandt

What I’m Listening to: Call Off Your Dogs by Lake Street Dive

What I’m Doing: Trying to half the clothes in my wardrobe.

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Buzzing

A Beginner’s Guide to Facilitation: f you’re a civic leader, chances are that you’ll have to facilitate a meeting. It could be for a community task force or an intergovernmental planning group. It might be a community visioning meeting or a nonprofit board planning retreat. However it happens, don’t be surprised to find yourself managing a group of people who are struggling toward a decision. You know how decision making works inside an organization or within a political setting, of course. A group makes a proposal, another group might argue against it, and a third group (the boss, the board, the city council) decides.

Hanging Out With the Tech Have-Nots at a Silicon Valley Shantytown: In the heart of Silicon Valley, a stone’s throw from Apple’s headquarters, is a 68-acre homeless camp that’s widely believed to be the largest in the country. The Jungle, as it’s known, is more accurately described as a shantytown: a collection of shacks, adobe dugouts, and treehouses inhabited by some 300 people, many of whom have lived here for years. In a land of million-dollar bungalows, it’s a last place of refuge for many locals who’ve missed out on the booming tech economy. All of that is about to change, however. Citing safety and sanitation concerns, the city of San Jose says the Jungle’s inhabitants must move out by Wednesday; whatever they can’t take with them will be demolished and hauled off before Christmas.

Paid Family Leave Advocates Celebrate A Big Week, But The Battle’s Not Over: It’s been a big week for supporters of paid family leave. The city of San Francisco and the state of New York took groundbreaking steps toward new and more generous leave policies. Advocates hope the moves will create momentum in other places that are considering similar measures. “I do believe this will pave the way for other states,” says Dina Bakst, the co-founder o fA Better Balance, a nonprofit in New York that advocates for family-friendly policies in the workplace. “What we’ve seen in other fights, like paid sick days and our fights for pregnancy accommodations — it starts local and then it sweeps the nation,” Bakst says. “I think we’re on the paid family leave wave.”

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50 Nifty

  • Topeka governing body to discuss city manager’s powers (Kansas): Proposals regarding the Topeka city manager’s powers, the use of transient guest tax revenue and a temporary highway closing are among matters local governing bodies will take up this coming week.
  • In Sin City, an old vice gets snuffed out (Nevada): The professional gambler sat in a puffy tan leather chair inside the mammoth Westgate Casino sports book, a realm the size of a Costco warehouse, with eight super screens showing his favorite sport in colorful high-definition. Here in the place known as Sin City, where vice normally calls the shots, there was something refreshing about the scene. You could almost call it healthy. Nobody was smoking.
  • Maine judge revives referendum on legalizing marijuana: A judge on Friday delivered a victory to supporters of a referendum aimed at legalizing marijuana by overturning the rejection of thousands of signatures by state election officials. The same judge who upheld Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s decision to reject a casino referendum proposal because of invalid signatures on Thursday revived the bid to put the proposal to legalize marijuana on the November ballot. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol disputed Dunlap’s rejection of 26,779 signatures because the signature of the notary didn’t match the signature on file.
  • Missouri House committee addresses Kansas City concerns with municipal courts bill: Few pieces of legislation before the Missouri General Assembly have raised the ire of local officials in Kansas City and Jackson County more than Senate Bill 572. Seen as an effort to rein in Missouri cities that are using court fines as a major revenue generator — and in the process trapping low-income citizens in a cycle of debt — the legislation passed the Senate earlier this year with provisions eliminating jail time for a host of traffic and municipal offenses and capping fines and court costs at $200. Court officials and local leaders vehemently opposed the legislation, arguing the restrictions would hurt efforts to hold scofflaws accountable, especially in regard to vacant and abandoned property.

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  • Mayoral candidates need to debate women’s and girls’ issues (California): Most of the debate in Sacramento’s mayoral race has centered on big-ticket topics like downtown revitalization, homelessness and public transportation. But what if at least one public forum focused on policies to lift up women and girls? Local elected officials – more so than national and state leaders – can drive changes to advance gender equity in our workplaces, businesses and government.
  • Sales tax hike back on ballot in Jackson County (Alabama): Despite Jackson County, Ala., voters body-slamming a 1-cent sales tax hike in an August referendum, county commissioners want to put the idea on the ballot again, this time as a special purpose local option sales tax. If approved, the SPLOST, as it is known in Georgia, would raise about $3.7 million a year for infrastructure improvements and county operations, according to Jackson County Commission Chairman Matthew Hodges. For the last few years, Jackson County, geographically the largest county by far in the Chattanooga region, has been battling a $2 million budget deficit and declining revenues. County leaders have cut courthouse hours, departmental budgets, road maintenance and other services, but have not sought a property tax increase.
  • Why doesn’t Iowa have a national park?: As the National Park Service marks its 100th anniversary this year, Iowa has none to celebrate — despite the efforts of residents and officials who continue to make efforts to protect two significant natural areas and push them toward national distinction. Iowa’s location on the Plains, with the vast majority of its land in agricultural use, leaves the state with a lower percentage of public land (2 percent) than anywhere but Kansas. The nearest of the 58 national parks in 26 states and two U.S. territories is Voyageurs National Park on the northern Minnesota border, a 544-mile drive from Des Moines.Iowa does have a National Park Service monument (Effigy Mounds), museum (Herbert Hoover) and parts of national trail networks, but the prospect for a national park in the future appears unlikely, since it takes an act of Congress or presidential authorization to establish one.

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Local Gov Confidential

Over a hundred panhandle students participate in “County Government Day” (Nebraska): Over a hundred students from all over the panhandle attended Tuesday’s County Government Day program by the American Legion.  The participants were high school sophomores through seniors studying county government in their classes. The day consisted of presentations from county government entities including 911 Communications Center, the county’s treasurer and clerk, and the Scotts Bluff Detention Center.

Scandal ensnares NYPD, City Hall in tangled web of power and greed: The corruption scandal swallowing up City Hall and the NYPD’s top brass is a multi-tentacled affair that raises questions about just how far the almighty dollar will take you in Bill de Blasio’s New York. The feds are probing the cozy relationships two wealthy businessmen had with top cops; how another merchant with NYPD ties allegedly launched a $12 million Ponzi scheme; and exactly how the mayor and his former campaign treasurer solicited campaign cash from the real-estate industry.So far, two de Blasio supporters, four high-ranking police officers as well as a retired top cop, and a restaurateur have been linked to the mushrooming investigation.

Pot-Bellied Pig Owner Seeks Zoning Change (Pennsylvania): A family who recently moved to Luzerne County’s back mountain area wants to change what they describe as outdated zoning laws. It all centers on the family’s pet pot-bellied pig named Gemma.  The family feels stuck in the mud after being told the pig has to go. A Kingston Township zoning ordinance bans farm animals in neighborhoods. But the family considers Gemma one of their own, and according to their attorney, so does Gemma.

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