Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Swearing in New Orleans’ first woman mayor … why Amazon poopooed Detroit for HQ2 … Chicago suburb looks to outsource firefighting … and Iowa’s state auditor sets record pace in hunt for fraud.
Here are state and local government news stories that caught Route Fifty’s attention …
DISEASE CONTROL | In a report published last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that disease spread by bites from mosquitoes, ticks and fleas tripled in the United States between 2004 and 2016. Illnesses spread through bug bites include Lyme disease, West Nile virus, plague and Zika. “The data show that we're seeing a steady increase and spread of tick-borne diseases, and an accelerating trend of mosquito-borne diseases introduced from other parts of the world,” said Lyle Petersen, director of the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases at the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. Here’s a state-by-state breakdown from the report. [CDC]
The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Indiana, localized the news. There were 153 cases of Lyme disease reported in the Hoosier State in 2016, 14 more cases than the year before, the paper reported. Megan Wade-Taxter, spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Health, said her office is working to better surveil tick species in the state. She added that warming temperatures in the climate-change era are a likely factor in the uptick. “It is impossible to predict from year to year how bad a season it will be for vector-borne diseases, but when temperatures warm up earlier in the season and last later into the season, there is more time for residents to potentially be exposed to bites.” [The Journal Gazette]
MAYORS | LaToya Cantrell, who will be the first woman to serve as mayor of New Orleans, will be sworn into office on Monday. That means Louisiana’s three largest cities will all be run by black women. Baton Rouge is led by Mayor Sharon Weston Broome and Shreveport by Mayor Ollie Tyler. Black women are also mayors of Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte and the District of Columbia. [The Washington Post]
Meanwhile in North Texas, Lori Barnett Dodson won a special election on Saturday to become Garland’s first female mayor in 30 years and only the second female mayor in the city’s history. But on the same day residents of nearby New Hope voted out interim Mayor Jess Herbst, who had hoped to become the first openly transgender elected official in the state. [KERA News, The Dallas Morning News]
PUBLIC TRANSIT | As has been widely reported, online corporate giant Amazon has narrowed its search for the location of its second headquarters to 20 finalists out of 238 applicants. The company has let it be known that the winner will very likely boast a strong public transportation network, including a major airport with flights to its current Seattle headquarters. While Detroit has eagerly courted Amazon and boasts direct flights to Seattle, southeastern Michigan’s transit network is bare bones, if that. According to the Wall Street Journal:
In Detroit, assistant Wayne County executive Khalil Rahal got a call from Amazon’s Holly Sullivan, head of the HQ2 search, telling him Detroit wasn’t going to make the list of finalists.
Ms. Sullivan agreed to a conference call with other city leaders to further explain where it fell short. A key issue she raised was the lack of a regional transportation network, Mr. Rahal said. The city itself didn’t have enough tech workers to fill 50,000 jobs. Because of that, it was essential that the city had a way—besides cars—to bring in workers from outer counties. But Detroit’s public transportation system provides limited options for those outside the city.
- Providence, Rhode Island: Forbes published a list of 100 questions sent last week by the state’s retired teachers association to General Treasurer Seth Magaziner concerning investments that have led to billions in pension losses. The authors voiced concerns about “apparent internal control failures, potential violations of law and breaches of fiduciary duty involving the Investment Commission overseeing the pension, pension staff handling day-to-day investment matters and third party investment services providers to the pension, as well as sought reassurances from the Treasurer’s office.” [Forbes]
- Calumet Park, Illinois: Speaking at a town hall on Saturday, Mayor Ronald Denson told residents in this Chicago-area suburb he was considering outsourcing the city’s fire department as a response to shrinking tax revenue. “What I’m looking at is, how can we maintain a fire department with the revenue that we have?” Denson said. “If the revenue is not there, where are we going to get it? Where are we going to get the salaries that they require?” He dismissed suggestions that the city move to an all-volunteer firefighting force. “I don’t think we can come up with enough volunteers in Cal Park that’s gonna do that,” he said. “We can’t even get enough volunteers to do a lot of things now. Do you think people would volunteer to come be on the Fire Department?” Denson said he had also weighed outsourcing the Public Works Department. [Chicago Tribune]
- Oskaloosa, Iowa: Early last month, Iowa State Auditor Mary Mosiman's office completed more than 100 special investigations, a milestone reached over five years, speedier than any state auditor in Iowa history. "If you're going to want to handle taxpayer money inappropriately, you will get caught," Mosiman told reporters. "We are going to actively keep investigating and reporting on fraud. That's a given. We're going to do that. That's our job.” She added that her office also would “like to do something to help reduce the potential for fraud happening… Because if you look at the dollar impact, it's over $13 million of taxpayer money that should have gone toward the operation of a government entity.” [The Oskaloosa Herald]
John Tomasic is a journalist who lives in Seattle.
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