Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Texas high court blocks unsolicited mail-in ballot applications … Seattle Human Rights Commission calls for mayor’s ouster … Possibility of $200 million in workforce cuts looming in Chicago … Snow days nixed for Bangor students.
Wisconsin is getting ready to open a field hospital at state fairgrounds near Milwaukee to help deal with an upswing in coronavirus infections, state officials said on Wednesday. About 16% of the state’s roughy 11,452 hospital beds were available as of Tuesday afternoon, according to state figures, as the number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients stood around 853—the highest level in the state since the onset of the pandemic. “We hoped this day wouldn’t come, but unfortunately, Wisconsin is in a much different, more dire place today and our healthcare systems are beginning to become overwhelmed by the surge of Covid-19 cases,” Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement. “This alternative care facility will take some of the pressure off our healthcare facilities while expanding the continuum of care for folks who have Covid-19.” Wisconsin isn’t the only place where cases and hospitalizations have been trending upward. In Colorado, officials warned this week of an “alarming” rise in coronavirus-related hospitalizations, with Gov. Jared Polis saying the state had hit a “critical juncture” fighting the virus. “We’ve got to do better to avoid overwhelming our hospitals,” he said. Boston delayed the next phase of a school reopening plan as the positivity rate for the virus among people there topped 4%. Pennsylvania and New Jersey were also reporting cases heading into October that are climbing toward levels not seen since late spring. “I don’t think there’s anything surprising about this,” said Michael LeVasseur, a Drexel University epidemiologist. “The weather is getting colder, we’re doing some back-to-school things, people are spending less time staying at home. I think the question is how bad is this going to get.” [Associated Press, The Denver Post, Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer]
ELECTIONS | Local election officials in Harris County, Texas, which covers Houston, cannot send mail-in ballot applications to all of the roughly 2 million registered voters in the county, the state’s all-Republican Supreme Court has ruled. “The question before us is not whether voting by mail is good policy or not, but what policy the Legislature has enacted. It is purely a question of law,” the court said. There’s been sparring on multiple fronts over voting access in the state in the run-up to the November election. The Houston area is a Democratic stronghold, and there are a number of competitive races in Texas this year. [Associated Press, The Texas Tribune]
CITY POLITICS | Members of Seattle’s Human Rights Commission want Mayor Jenny Durkan to either resign or for her to be removed from office. In a letter, they raise concerns about the city’s handling of issues related to police misconduct, homelessness and income inequality. “It is our belief that we cannot wait until November of 2021 to remove Mayor Durkan from office and replace her with a servant-leader who will uphold their duty to protect the rights of all citizens,” a letter from the commission said. [The Seattle Times]
WORKFORCE CUTS | Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is considering cuts of up to $200 million in city government workforce spending to help bridge a looming $1.2 billion budget deficit, the Chicago Tribune is reporting. The city is now facing its budget woes as the prospect of more federal aid flowing to cities ahead of the November election seems increasingly remote. Lightfoot said all of the meetings with her staff about how to fill the expected financial gap have been "painful." “Every single one, thinking about the hardships that our residents are going to have to endure, and particularly our personnel. I feel every single one of those painful choices," Lightfoot said. "They keep me up at night. They are in my thoughts all day long.” [Chicago Tribune]
JOB LOSSES | Disney World, in Orlando, will cut 8,857 part-time union employees and about 6,700 non-union jobs as Disney moves to lay off 28,000 workers company wide. Theme parks and other tourist venues are getting hammered by the coronavirus outbreak, which has led to public health restrictions and less vacation travel. The anticipated job losses at the Walt Disney World Resort amount to about 20% of a 77,000-person workforce. [Orlando Sentinel]
NO SNOW DAYS | School kids in Bangor, Maine will not have any snow days to look forward to this winter. If foul weather makes traveling to school too hazardous, students will take part in a remote learning curriculum online, from home, which many are already doing as the coronavirus pandemic drags on. School districts in other states, including New York, Virginia and Michigan have announced similar policies. [Bangor Daily News]
Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.