Connecting state and local government leaders
Also: Pay raises for many Minneapolis officials and Houston’s flood-rescue problems.
TUNICA, Mississippi: Tunica County, like its neighboring jurisdictions in the Mississippi Delta region, has been long defined by its poverty and racial and economic inequality, but the opening of a local casino in the 1990s raised hopes that better days were ahead. Casino taxes have pumped about $760 million into county government coffers over the years. In an in-depth feature, The Washington Post, examines some major missteps in how casino taxes were used, including giant property tax cuts and creating tourist attractions that failed to deliver.
Most U.S. counties depend on taxes to fund basic services. But in this case, the casino money was used as a replacement — helping to subsidize the giant property tax cut. If taxes were kept at their 1993 levels, the county would have had an extra $100 million.
“Who got rich?” said Michael Thompson, who now runs the county. “The plantation owners.”
Now, casino revenues have fallen and Tunica’s problems of inequality are more pronounced. [The Washington Post]
BALTIMORE, Maryland: Following an incident at a street festival on Saturday where a woman “poured a large cup of liquid” over the head of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a mayoral spokesman told The Sun: "She enjoys opportunities like this to engage with the people of Baltimore. This was an odd, random incident. Things like this happen." [The Sun]
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota: If a local government wants to attract and retain top talent, then the local government needs to shell out the money for them. Minneapolis is doing just that for more than 100 top city officials.
According to the Star Tribune:
“We expect a lot from our appointed employees. And if we want that level of talent, we have to pay for it,” said Employee Services Director Tim Giles, highlighting a consultant’s report showing that top manager salaries lag 6 percent behind comparable cities and Hennepin County.
The top-paid appointed position is the city’s convention center director, who will be making nearly $181,000 annually by the end of this year. And that, the Star Tribune reports, is $69,000 more than Mayor Betsy Hodges. [Star Tribune]
HOUSTON, Texas: Rescue crews responding to the massive flooding in the nation’s fourth-largest city on Memorial Day were “hampered by a lack of rescue boats, life preservers for civilians, poor radio communications a slow initial response and a lack of command supervision,” internal fire department documents obtained by the Houston Chronicle show. [Houston Chronicle]
PASO ROBLES, California: How are local public officials in California responding to water-conservation mandates? In San Luis Obispo County’s second-largest city, The Tribune checked in on members of the Paso Robles City Council and found that at their houses, most have browning lawns or have already introduced drought-tolerant landscaping. But it’s hard to cut back everything. The newspaper reports that one council member, Jim Reed, “said he’s reduced irrigation to two days a week with the rest of the city, but has no plans to rip out the lawn in the front or back because his wife likes having a lawn and her rose bushes.” [The Tribune]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty.