04.19.17

In today’s Buzz: Live streaming on social media impacts crime, communities in North Carolina have contaminated water, and a Chicago neighborhood backlashes in response to recently installed bike lanes.

This Buzz is brought to you by National Hanging Out Day, a day to encourage communities to learn about the benefits of using a clothesline for drying laundry.  Did you know that clothes dryers account for an average of six to ten percent of residential energy consumption?



Right Now with Daniel Soto (LinkedIn/Twitter)

What I’m Listening to – Lord Huron – The Night We Met

What I’m ReadingThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

What I’m Watching – 13 Reasons Why

What I’m Doing – Preparing for a meeting with my Master’s thesis committee


Buzzin’

  • Livestream social media platforms have become channels for horrific crimes: Four assailants tied up an 18-year-old mentally disabled man, taped his mouth and slashed at his scalp with a knife as he cowered in a corner.  A group of men and boys dragged a 15-year-old girl to a bed and raped her.  Both crimes — and others like them — were captured on video and widely viewed on the Internet, which in the age of smartphones and security cameras is not surprising. What made this footage different is that it was shot and posted by the criminals.  They are part of a trend that played out again this week with a killing that captivated the nation: a 74-year-old man in Cleveland was shot by a 37-year-old stranger named Steve Stephens, whose videos first posted on Facebook found an audience of millions.
  • Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, Narrowly Misses Outright Win in Georgia House Race: Jon Ossoff, a Democrat making his first bid for elective office, narrowly missed winning a heavily conservative House district in Georgia outright on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.  It threw a scare into Republicans in a special congressional election that was seen as an early referendum on President Trump.  Mr. Ossoff received 48.1 percent of the vote, just short of the 50 percent threshold needed to win the seat, and he will face Karen Handel, the top Republican vote-getter, in a June runoff.

  • Supreme Court urged to give church schools an equal right to state funds: The Supreme Court, with its conservative majority restored, will hear a major religion case on Wednesday and decide whether states must give church schools an equal right to receive certain kinds of public funds.  The constitutions in at least 37 states forbid sending any tax money to churches, church schools or religious organizations. But those long-standing bans are being challenged in the high court by religious rights advocates who say the funding limits amount to religious discrimination.  In the past, a more liberal Supreme Court said the 1st Amendment’s ban on an “establishment of religion” meant the government could not subsidize church schools.  Now the more conservative court is being urged to rule that excluding church schools from state funding programs that are open to others violates the 1st Amendment’s guarantee of the “free exercise” of religion and denies them the equal protection of the laws.


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50 Nifty

  • Boston’s Data-Driven Bus System Makeover: MIT’s Transit Lab created a ridership model called Origin Destination Transfer (ODX) that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is using to make incremental changes to the region’s bus system.
  • Budget bill defunding Planned Parenthood heads to Iowa Senate floor: The Iowa Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $1.77 billion health and human services budget bill Tuesday that includes provisions to block public funding for family planning programs to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.  Overall, Senate Study Bill 1199 represents a spending reduction of about $28 million in state general funds compared to the current state fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2017. In addition, the bill appropriates $426 million from other funds, representing a decrease of $23 million compared to the current budget year.

  • Creating Inclusive Communities: Notes From a Conference: The Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute annual conference is the region’s premier gathering of planning professionals. This year’s conference explored strategies for building inclusive cities in which everyone can thrive.
  • Dallas Employment Stagnant as Suburbs Boom: Between 1990 and 2016, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metro Area added more jobs than New York City. The overwhelming majority of the new jobs are located in the suburbs.
  • Developers Hope New Maryland Food Map Will Be a Force for Change: The new Maryland Food System Map from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future features more than 175 data indicators and quick, responsive design.
  • Special Districts Outnumber Cities 2-to-1: The most common type of local government is not the city. Not by a long shot.  Cities may be the core blocks of local government in the U.S. and swallow the lion’s share of attention when it comes to technology projects.  But they are not the most common type of local government.
  • The Down Payment Is Too Damned High: In the largest metro areas, saving up for the down payment ranked #1 among all concerns.  And in seven metro areas specifically—Los Angeles, Boston, San Diego, St. Louis, Tampa, San Jose, and Washington, D.C.—well over 70 percent of renters cited upfront costs as the biggest obstacle to home ownership.  But the federal government’s best answer for renters’ number-one obstacle to first-time homeownership could be facing a big reform push in Congress.

  • The Saga of North Carolina’s Contaminated Water: Over the last five years, the state’s GOP leadership consistently cut resources from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (renamed the Department of Environmental Quality in 2015). Former department staffers said the cuts made it extremely difficult to carry out their jobs. And however the drinking water was contaminated, the state confused residents  about its safety, playing down the health risks and pushing back against directives from health officials that instructed families not to drink their tap water.

  • Town meeting crowd challenges Grassley on single-payer health care: Health care dominated U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley’s town meeting yesterday, as southeast Iowa constituents pressed him on insurance affordability and challenged him to embrace a single-payer solution.  Congress is currently considering several proposals with the potential to lower insurance premiums, Grassley said, while a single-payer system in which government supplants private insurers is a nonstarter.


Local Government Confidential

  • 4 Takes On Chicago’s Latest Gentrification Woes: While scholars argue the merits vs. harms—and even the definition—of gentrification, the eternal debate seems to be repositioning front and center in Chicago, even of course, as it never really dissipated. With that being the case, we rounded up four recent essays on gentrification which, to varying degrees of penetration, offer something of a roadmap for where the conversation appears to be headed in the city.

    California high court sets stage for major pension ruling: The battle over reforming California’s underfunded system of pension benefits does not involve any particular legislative proposal or initiative idea at this time but is centered on a coming state Supreme Court battle over an arcane legal concept.  Legislators have largely avoided the pension issue since passage of a reform law that went into effect in 2013, and reformers have struggled to settle on an initiative strategy to take to voters.  That’s unlikely to change.  But last week the high court agreed to review a union appeal of a decision involving an obscure concept known as the California Rule. The decision could change everything.

  • The backlash against the Marshall Boulevard bike lanes is a cautionary tale for planners: Community input and outreach are crucial for avoiding resentment from noncyclists.  As the Marshall Boulevard mess demonstrates, the more neighborhood input taken before protected bike lanes go in, the better. And once the lanes are built, the Chicago Department of Transportation should make it obvious to drivers how to use them by immediately updating street signs; marking parking lanes with thermoplastic Ps; flyering cars with parking tips, rather than parking tickets; and adding temporary signage, such as sandwich boards. These strategies will help ensure a better reception to the lanes from neighbors who don’t bike, so that the department won’t have to downgrade any more bikeways in the future.