Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | New concerns over the Bourbon virus in Missouri; S.D. hospital stops sending unregulated medical waste to city landfill … and a progress report for Baltimore’s big bus realignment.
Here are state and local government news stories that caught Route Fifty’s attention …
- Sacramento, California: A controversial “triage” shelter for homeless individuals in North Sacramento—one that “does not require sobriety and welcomes partners, possessions and pets”— has delivered some very promising results in a few months time. Of the approximately 300 people who have made their way through the “low barrier” shelter since it opened in December, one third have since moved to more stable housing arrangements. While Emily Halcon, the city’s homeless services coordinator, says that rate is “on par” with other shelters, there’s an important takeaway to highlight: The number of chronically homeless people who now have found a stable housing situation. A Sacramento Bee analysis of the 100 homeless people who moved to more stable housing options showed that the group had “lived outdoors for an average of four years, but some of them were homeless for decades. Nearly 90 percent of them had physical disabilities. Sixty percent had mental illnesses.” Says Halcon: "Considering the short amount of time we have been operating, and the types of folks that we're seeing, I think it's pretty impressive what we and our partners have been able to do." [The Sacramento Bee]
- St. Louis County, Missouri: After a state park worker died after contracting a rare but sometimes fatal virus last year, there are new concerns from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services that ticks may be spreading the Bourbon virus throughout the state after a man “with symptoms matching the virus was bitten by a tick” in southwestern St. Louis County. That man recovered. [KWMU / St. Louis Public Radio]
- Rapid City, South Dakota: After reports that Regional Health Rapid City was “sending unregulated medical waste to the local dump,” the city government confirmed recently that it has "not received any waste loads from Rapid City Regional Hospital for approximately the past month." Hospital officials said in a statement: "The steps we have taken have ensured that we are meeting all city, state and federal standards." [Rapid City Journal]
- Klamath Falls, Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown signed legislation on Saturday at an Air National Guard base that would make members of the Oregon National Guard eligible for state tuition assistance when pursuing degrees at public universities and community colleges in the state. [Statesman Journal]
- Raleigh, North Carolina: The North Carolina legislature approved a bill last week to keep in place eviction-related fees that a state judge had questioned in a recent ruling. The judge found a Raleigh man shouldn’t have to pay about $200 in fees because he settled with the landlord before an eviction. Landlords pushed lawmakers to move on the issue, which passed through both the House and Senate within 24 hours. Under existing state law, landlords can charge a 5 percent fee when they file for an eviction but settle the case. They also can charge a 5 percent late fee. Under a change to the proposal, landlords would only be able to assess a fee for payments made to attorneys based on what they actually spent. [The News & Observer]
- Detroit, Michigan: Only 16 percent of the city’s fund to tear down blighted houses has gone to black-owned contractors, according to a Detroit Free Press analysis. The Hardest Hit Fund has spent $148 million in federal money as of June 6. Two large companies have received almost half that money, the newspaper found. The Michigan Minority Contractors Association said there are dozens of qualified contractors that can do demolition work. “It’s egregious,” said Jason Cole, a former executive director of the Detroit chapter. “Sixteen percent is concerning for folks because we have people—we have contractors in this demolition space.” Officials in the majority-black city acknowledge they would like to promote more diversity among contractors, but say they are somewhat restricted by state and federal rules. [Detroit Free Press]
- Baltimore, Maryland: A year after the Maryland Transit Administration revamped Baltimore’s bus network, state officials say the system is more reliable and complaints are down. Ridership decreased right after Gov. Larry Hogan’s launch of the $135 million BaltimoreLink bus system, but has since rebounded. Riders took 5.9 million trips in May. Buses arrive and depart on time about 68 percent of the time, short of the 80 percent goal. Some users and advocates are skeptical that the system is improving, saying the agency stopped measuring average times of rides because the numbers weren’t good. But officials say there will be more improvements coming, including GPS that will allow riders to track when their bus will arrive. [Baltimore Sun]
- Opelika, Alabama: In his 14 years as mayor, Gary Fuller, has traveled overseas more than 30 times on business trips to help lure foreign investment in his city. The trips have been a good investment, according to local economic development boosters. “Fuller has helped recruit and create 3,361 jobs and more than $1.32 billion in capital investment during his tenure as mayor,” according to Opelika Economic Director Lori Huguley. And from 2011 to April 2018, “1,820 new jobs and approximately $934.9 million of capital investment have resulted from the efforts of Fuller and city leaders.” [OANow.com]
- San Juan County, New Mexico: In a county already struggling economically, the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s plans to shutter the San Juan Generating Station in four years, is unwelcome news to the workers at the adjacent coal mine. Hundreds of good-paying jobs at the mine and power plant are on death row.” For a county that has been through plenty of energy-related economic swings, “San Juan County is used to booms and busts, but this is a different kind of down, a much deeper decline.” [Santa Fe New Mexican]
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The first phase of the highly anticipated Rail Park, which transformed an abandoned section of the Reading Railroad’s former viaduct through Philadelphia’s Callowhill neighborhood into an elevated park, opened to the public this weekend. Here is what Rail Park, which has been compared to the High Line in Manhattan, looks like from the air. [Billy Penn]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle. Route Fifty Managing Editor Laura Maggi, based in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.