Connecting state and local government leaders
Also: More criticism of Port Authority management in New York and New Jersey and white nationalists buy up land in Kansas and Nebraska towns.
Here’s some of what we’ve been reading this weekend …
MIAMI, Florida: Late last week, teams from the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust and partner organizations set out on an outreach effort around downtown Miami to identify members of the city’s homeless population that could be eligible to be housed in nearly 100 new apartments and shelter beds being made available through a new “housing first” initiative. The Miami Herald details the efforts to find more stable and secure housing options for the city’s roughly 1,000-person homeless population, which, according to a headcount survey done January, has shown a 20 percent increase from the previous year, particularly downtown. Those homeless residents who are moved into the new apartments and shelter beds will be “surrounded with social services,” with the aim of getting them back on their feet in 90 days. If successful, the project will be replicated when funding is available. [The Miami Herald]
CARSON CITY, Nevada: Good news from the Silver State! After a hot and dry summer that brought high-risk fire conditions, cooler temperatures and increased precipitation prompted state and federal officials to lift fire restructions on most public lands in the state. As the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports, compared to other western states, Nevada weathered this summer’s fire season relatively well. As of late last month, only 42,000 acres have burned in wildfires this year compared to 59,000 acres in 2014 and 163,000 acres in 2014. [Las Vegas Review-Journal]
NEW YORK CITY, New York: Surprise! Major capital projects overseen by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey come with delayed-plagued timetables and skyrocketing price tags. A Staten Island Advance columnist points out that the Port Authority’s ongoing and complicated $1.3 billion project to raise the level of the Bayonne Bridge to accommodate taller ships will be delayed by two years and will be nearly $200 million more expensive.
“[I]t's a reminder of just how often these public works projects go over schedule and end up costing more than originally anticipated,” columnist Tom Wrobleski writes. “Can't anything be brought in on-time and on-budget anymore?”
With Port Authority projects, that’s a silly question to ask and one that doesn’t instill much confidence with some of the current planning for future trans-Hudson rail tunnels needed to replace Amtrak’s deteriorating tunnels connecting New Jersey with Manhattan.
Benjamin Kabak of the New York City-area transportation blog Second Avenue Sagas bemoans the inclusion of the Port Authority in the project to replace the trans-Hudson tunnels, saying “that too many cooks are stirring the soup” on such an important infrastructure initiative that already involves Amtrak and New Jersey Transit:
From where I sit, the Port Authority is never the best agency to oversee construction projects. Of late, their best and perhaps only successful projects have been massively overbuilt and insanely expensive buildings that have little transportation value. The Port Authority board recently admitted that it has no idea how to rebuild its Manhattan bus terminal, as one New Jersey-based commissioner said, “We are so out of our league, we don’t know what the hell we’re doing.”
SMITH CENTER, Kansas: A neo-Nazi who previously irked a North Dakota community by buying up land in 2011 to establish an enclave for white nationalists is now doing the same in two small towns in northern Kansas and two small towns in south-central Nebraska. Craig Cobb tells The Kansas City Star that he intends to sell the property at deep discounts to young white couples. But his plans are raising concerns. The Star reports:
Once Cobb’s identity was discovered in the small towns, word circulated quickly and residents warned owners to be wary of selling property to him. In Red Cloud, Neb., dozens gathered for a town hall meeting.
“There was a good showing of the people, good attendance,” Mayor Gary Ratzlaff told The Star. “Let’s just say everyone is concerned.”
Cobb says his property acquisitions in Kansas and Nebraska are far more extensive than his previous efforts in North Dakota. [Kansas City Star]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty.