Welcome to August. August is usually hot. Today’s buzz asks if we should stop calling the Rust Belt “The Rust Belt”, why is a retiring U.S. Representative running for Public Works Commissioner in Michigan, and how much controversy can a Monopoly themed mural really cause?
Right Now with Matt Yager
What I’m watching: Justice League Official Comic-Con Trailer
What I’m doing: Applying sunscreen and heading to the pool.
What I want to know from you: How do you beat the late summer heat?
It’s time to retire tired talk about the “Rust Belt”: We don’t converse on cellphones the size of bricks anymore, wear slap bracelets or sport big hair. So why are we still using another relic from the 1980s — the phrase “Rust Belt” — to describe a large swath of the U.S.?
We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Zoning and the World Is Getting Worse: This week marks a noteworthy anniversary. The first city-scale zoning law in the United States was enacted on July 25, 1916, in New York City. The New York Times tells the story in an article titled Zoning Arrived 100 Years Ago. It Changed New York City Forever. According to the Times, the law: aimed to prevent an increase of the congestion of streets and subway and streetcar traffic in sections where the business population is already too great for the sidewalks and transit facilities. The Times attributes a reduction of density in Manhattan to the 1916 Zoning Resolution, citing a population density decrease from 164 people per acre in 1910 down to 109 people per acre in 2010. For the record, there were earlier laws that effectively did some zoning. I am not here to wish zoning a happy birthday. I come to bury zoning, not to praise it.
Rural counties across the US becoming a powder keg for HIV outbreak: The CDC has determined a county’s vulnerability with a recipe that includes high rates of fatal overdoses, prescription opioid sales and searing poverty
Conference: Center for Priority Based Budgeting (CPBB) Conference – August 2 to 4, Denver CO
Event: ELGL & CPBB at the Ballpark – August 3, Denver CO
Supper Club: ELGL Supper Club in San Mateo, CA – August 28
Webinar: Future Schedule Technology Efficiency Series – New Webinar Every Month
Event: League of Women in Government Symposium + Networking – September 24, Kansas City Convention Center, Kansas City MO
Macomb public works commissioner race closely watched: When U.S. Rep. Candice Miller announced she was ending her longtime career in Congress, many political observers assumed she had her eye on the governor’s seat. The Republican was well-positioned, coming off a successful tenure in the nation’s Capitol, two terms as Michigan secretary of state and a 12-year stint as Harrison Township supervisor. But Miller surprised the pundits: She would run for Macomb County public works commissioner against Anthony Marrocco — a Democrat who has held the office for 24 years.
- Governor signs bill to limit local government travel expenses: Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law House Bill 4379, which limits the ways local officials can spend taxpayer dollars when traveling. State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Cary, and state Sen. Thomas Cullerton, D-Villa Park, sponsored HB 4379, known as the Local Government Travel Expense Control Act. Aimed at addressing wasteful spending by non-home rule units of local government, community colleges and school districts, this law requires these local bodies to regulate and limit the amount officials and employees can spend and have reimbursed on business travel, meals and lodging. The units of government are required to establish these limitations within the next six months.
- Buzz kills the fun for Bristol Township ham radio operator: When he decided to become a ham radio operator, Charles Dillenbeck, of Bristol Township, went all out for his new hobby. He purchased the Cadillac of radios — an $8,000 model that allows him to chat for a few hours every night with amateur radio enthusiasts around the world. Five antennae surround his house. Then one night this spring, the static he normally heard on different frequencies became much louder, so loud he could barely hear the the people with whom he was chatting. “I can get rid of the noise (by turning down the volume), but then I wouldn’t hear anything at all,” he explained. A few days later, as Dillenbeck — a Navy veteran and retired commercial heating and refrigeration engineer — stared out a window in his home trying to figure out the problem, the street light came on. Immediately, the static started again. Was it the light, he wondered. It turns out Bristol Township installed a new LED fixture in the light in front of his house as part of its plan to replace incandescent street lights with cost-saving LED bulbs.
Edmonton police chief welcomes independent review after union survey suggests ‘culture of fear’ among officers: Edmonton’s police chief said he is troubled by a deteriorating relationship with his union counterpart amid claims that he presides over a “culture of fear” in the Edmonton Police Service. Edmonton Police Association president Maurice Brodeur is calling for an independent review after a survey of union members that he said demonstrates a “toxic” workplace. Brodeur said EPS has some of the highest rates of discipline and most severe punishments of any force across Canada. He said while discipline is important, the way it’s doled out in Edmonton is too harsh. But Chief Rod Knecht disagrees. “I have very little discretion in carrying out those duties as chief of police,” he said, adding that he is bound by legislation. “Each case is judged on its own particular facts. There isn’t a cookie-cutter approach.”
- Providence: Six top fire department posts, including chief, still vacant: he Fire Department has both fewer firefighters and fewer administrators, with six upper-command positions vacant, including the chief’s job. For several months, Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré has been acting chief as the city searches for a new department head from outside the city — an effort that has hit some bumps since it began a year ago.
- Jefferson County government faces a tough budget year ahead: Jefferson County government departments have submitted a total of $127 million in budget requests for the upcoming 2016-17 fiscal year, which starts on October 1. County Auditor Patrick Swain is advising county commissioners not to allow any new hires, nor salary increases for employees. He says a decrease in sales and property taxes will make money tight for next year. The reduction in property tax revenue from refineries is a result of the drop in oil prices.
$70M donation ‘game-changer’ for Kzoo: City leaders in Kalamazoo are calling it a “game-changer” in government financing. Various donors have pledged $70.3 million over three years toward kick-starting a new foundation aimed at stabilizing the city’s budget and lowering property taxes. It’s called the Foundation for Excellence. It was unveiled at a city commission meeting Thursday night. “Last night was not about a budget. It was about taking care of a community,” Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell told 24 Hour News 8 Friday.
Lanny Goodwin proud of Murfreesboro parks: Lanny Goodwin saw a lot of attractions created during his 28 years with Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department. “Some of the best memories are the ribbon cuttings of new or renovated facilities where you can see the smiles on the faces and the joy in the hearts of everyone involved, young and old,” said Goodwin, who will retire with the city on Aug. 12 after spending nearly eight years as director. “For example, when we cut the ribbon for the renovation of Patterson Community Center, there was a sense of pride and achievement in the community, and you could feel the excitement of the kids as they ran into the building to play and the wows that were heard as people entered the building for the first time.” Goodwin, who started with the city as assistant director in 1988, became the director nearly eight years ago, succeeding Dennis Rainier, who retired then.
- The pros and cons of serving in local government: We’ve been through this before — defining how government works in the simplest of terms. As State Sen. Amanda Ragan explained to a group of senior citizens last year, it boils down to, “How — and how much?” How are we going to get something done — and how much is it going to cost?” I have referred many times in this space to the late Cerro Gordo County supervisor and legislator Roger Broers, who said the secret to government is convincing people you are doing something for them — not to them. And Roger Bang, the former mayor and councilman in Mason City, who said you need the votes (on the council) to get things done. If you have them, there’s no problem; if you don’t, you need to go get them.
Rutland mayor resolute on welcoming Syrian refugees: Mayor Chris Louras is certain: His push to bring 100 Syrian refugees to Rutland is the right thing to do. Louras’ decision to apply to be a host city for Syrian refugees, announced last April, sparked a whirlwind of controversy and has set him at odds with the city’s Board of Aldermen, some of whom claim he overstepped his authority by leaving them and the city’s residents out of the process. “He’s not the king of Rutland,” said Don Chioffi, a leader among opposing residents. “This community belongs to the people.” The five-term mayor said he’s contrite about communication flaws during the process, but feels it would be a shame to kill the initiative because of a communication problem. Bringing refugees to Rutland, he said, is both the compassionate thing to do and a way to breathe new life into the city.
Questions linger after Jersey City paints over controversial Monopoly mural: The controversy surrounding Jersey City’s Monopoly board muralis as never-ending as a game of Monopoly. The mural, painted on the Newark Avenue pedestrian plaza by Gary Wynans, a.k.a. Mr. Abillity, came under fire first from the local police union, then from a group of city activists who demanded the city alter a portion they found objectionable. When the city made the change against the artist’s wishes, free speech advocates cried foul. In the latest wrinkle, Wynans alleges in a new interview the city asked him to add a reference to local developers Paul and Eric Silverman to the mural after it was nearly completed.
Reno city manager facing allegations of sexual harassment: Reno City Manager Andrew Clinger is under investigation for allegations of sexually harassing three city employees, an investigation that the employees’ lawyer said has been deliberately kept from public scrutiny in violation of state law. Reno lawyer Bill Peterson filed a complaint Friday with the Nevada Attorney General’s Office alleging the Reno City Council violated the Open Meeting Law when it met with the city attorney behind closed doors on July 20. He argued the law requires any consideration of Clinger’s performance be conducted in public. Peterson’s complaint also said the law requires any “allegations of misconduct involving the city manager” be handled by the council.