Connecting state and local government leaders
Also: Alarmed in Kansas about a Texas voting rights case and setting up syringe disposal boxes in Maine.
Here’s some of what we’ve been reading today…
CHICAGO, Illinois: It’s the speech elected officials dread, but it has been a long time coming in Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is scheduled to climb the dais on Tuesday and plans to propose hiking property taxes in the city by $600 million, reports the Chicago Tribune. The money would be used to shore up police and fire pensions and undertake needed school construction. Emanuel will also wants to push new garbage-hauling and building-permit fees, as well as levy new taxes on e-cigarettes and taxi and ride-booking trips. [Chicago Tribune]
SAN FRANCISCO, California: Microplastic is making its way up the food chain. The tiny beads found in cosmetics, facial scrubs and toothpastes and that crumble off of fleece clothing are being deposited in water and eaten by fish who get eaten by bigger fish who get eaten by humans. A new study conducted by the San Francisco Estuary Institute has found that nearly 4 million pieces of plastic pour into the bay every day from eight large local sewage plants, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The plastic is piling into the bay at concentrations greater than it does into other major U.S. bodies of water, including the the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay. State lawmakers passed a bill recently that would ban plastic microbeads in cosmetics. Environmentalists say petroleum companies should pay for microplastic clean-up efforts and for higher-grade sewage treatment plant filters. [San Jose Mercury News]
TOPEKA, Kansas: Democrats in the Sunflower State are closely watching a pending U.S. Supreme Court case they fear could fuel efforts to chill voter registration and election participation, reports the Lawrence Journal-World. The case centers on a proposal by Project on Fair Representation, a conservative political group in Texas, that would have voting districts drawn not according to total numbers of residents but according to the number of eligible voters. Jean Schodorf, a Republican state senator who last year ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, said the case strengthens arguments that the work of drawing voting districts should be taken out of the hands of lawmakers and turned over to nonpartisan commissions. “Who do representatives actually represent?" Schodorf said at a Kansas University panel discussion this week. “Only registered voters? Or do they represent all of us citizens?" [Lawrence Journal-World]
Related: Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day. [The Harvard Crimson]
PORTLAND, Maine: In response to growing public complaints, Maine’s largest city is installing “Sharps Secure” syringe disposal boxes in local parks, which they hope will encourage users not to leave their needles strewn about the grass and stashed under bushes, reports the Portland Press Herald. Heroin abuse and overdose deaths have ticked up sharply in Maine, as they have in states around the country. Taking cues from other cities battling addiction, Portland is also increasing the number of nighttime park patrols and taking up programs that steer drug users toward treatment instead of sending them through the criminal justice system. [Portland Press Herald]
COLUMBUS, Ohio: It seems forever ago in the world of election politics and city administration. The candidates have gone their separate ways. The dispute over billion-dollar water and sewer contracts at the heart of the election was settled by a local court. The $300,000 ad campaign targeting independent city councilman Chris Smitherman came and went. But it has come out this week, at last, that the money behind the ad campaign was donated by labor unions led by an organizer who once ran against Smitherman to head a local chapter of the NAACP. This is what a dysfunctional campaign finance system looks like, Smitherman told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s like a political Ponzi scheme … You can’t have ghost entities dropping $300,000. It undermines the process.” [Cincinnati Enquirer]
John Tomasic is a journalist who lives in Boulder, Colorado.