Connecting state and local government leaders
Also: The Internet makes public sector conservation a success, Florida’s Rick Scott making the public pay to be shunned and a Miami neighborhood halts spillover gentrification, for now.
BILOXI, Mississippi: People are excited in the Magnolia State because the movie people are coming—the movie people are coming! It’s the latest installment in the national long-running series about the wisdom of using state tax incentives in competition against other states to lure job-creating business, including business from Hollywood. In the American South, states are vying to lure picture makers after Louisiana decided to cap tax-breaks at $180 million. The Hattiesburg American captures some of the movie madness gripping Mississippi in a report that barely slows to catch its breath. Bruce Willis! John Grisham! “Precious Cargo!” “The Help!” [Hattiesburg American]
MODESTO, California: Give us your kitchen water, your shower water, your toilet water yearning to run free. Or, as they say on California’s parched farms, desperate times call for desperate measures—or, more accurately, desperately overdue measures. Farmers all around this Central Valley city are looking to tap its treated sewage to irrigate thousands of cracked and dry fallow fields. The city has the technology and now it has the will to effect what, according to KQED, would be “the largest urban-to-agriculture water recycling project in the state.”
Even though the water would cost four to five times normal prices, farmers are happy to pony up. It’s a small price to pay for reliability, is what they told KQED. “When something like this comes up, you don’t have to think about it twice.” [KQED]
NATIONWIDE: The twisty light bulb, thermal-glazed window revolution in government buildings around the country is running all herky-jerky, as Justice Scalia might put it. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline, even though states have been trying to implement energy efficiency measures for years, much of the work is directed by executive order, which is less than an ideal approach. Administrations come and go, priorities change, targets shift, reports fail to materialize. In Iowa, for example, Gov. Terry Branstad axed a plan drawn up by his predecessor Chester Culver, who had replaced an initiative put in place by his predecessor Tom Vilsack. Stateline writes that using the Internet to make energy use tracking more transparent makes a big difference. Once the numbers go online, a culture of conservation develops. After years of failure, Alabama began using an online tracking tool provided by the EPA and, between 2011 and 2014, public buildings in the state reduced energy consumption by 52 percent. As the EPA’s Mike Zatz put it: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” [Stateline / Pew Charitable Trusts]
TALLAHASSEE, Florida: Multi-millionaire Gov. Rick Scott chose not to take a salary when he was elected to office, but he is costing state taxpayers a bundle anyway. As the Tampa Bay Times reports, Scott is using public money to pay what will likely reach a million dollars in legal fees and settlement costs to defend himself against charges he has flouted state open records laws. The governor battled discovery requests for years in one of the cases. He turned recently to settlement negotiations, however, in the wake of a court order that directed Google to turn over information on private email accounts Scott and his staff had been using to do state business.
"Clearly the fight to enforce the public's constitutional right comes at a high cost," said St. Petersburg lawyer Matthew Weidner, the lead plaintiff in the case. "There is no real penalty. Elected officials make a business decision to violate the constitution whenever they want to, and the only threat is a very weak judicial system that has no desire to enforce the laws.” [Tampa Bay Times]
MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin: More labor trouble in union-busting presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker’s Badger State: Frustrated bus drivers and mechanics on Tuesday walked out of contract negotiations with the Milwaukee County Transit System, leaving tens of thousands of commuters in the state’s most populous metropolitan area to fend for themselves for the duration of the planned three-day strike. The transit system increasingly has been leaning on retired drivers to work part time, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Part-time drivers receive no benefits or pension. Union members fear the system is moving toward hiring a majority workforce of part-timers. It’s the first transit strike in the city since a walkout in 1978 stretched for 39 days. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]