Connecting state and local government leaders
Also in our State and Local Daily Digest: Montana’s feisty AG; Alabama governor’s scandal again makes headlines; and Minnesota professors want more privacy.
PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND
TOURISM | No, Iceland’s famous Harpa concert hall is not located in Rhode Island. Also, the Ocean State is not home to 20 percent of the nation’s historic landmarks. Those were among some of the flubs discovered in a new but problematic $5 million “Cooler & Warmer” tourism promotional campaign. “Obviously, this is not the preferred way to roll out a campaign,” said Rhode Island’s chief marketing officer. [The Boston Globe]
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
INFRASTRUCTURE | Here’s a good example of where the development of new technology may be moving a bit too fast for our existing infrastructure to accommodate it. When Volvo North America CEO Lex Kerssemakers was demonstrating a driverless car in Los Angeles at a press event, the car had trouble with the roads. "It can't find the lane markings!" Kerssemakers told Mayor Eric Garcetti. "You need to paint the bloody roads here!" Poor quality infrastructure is forcing the development of more sensitive sensors to deal with less-than-ideal road and sign conditions. [Reuters]
FRACKING | The Dallas-Fort Worth metro area didn’t have a single earthquake on record until 2008, when hydraulic fracturing operations took off in the oil and gas drilling sector. Since then, the area has experienced nearly 200 seismic events. Scientists project that Texas’ neighbor to the north, Oklahoma, would continue to experience earthquakes for hundreds of years, even if it shuttered all wells today. “This is a public safety issue, and there’s been a lot of denial and ignoring of the problem,” said one Dallas resident. [Scientific American]
WHISTLEBLOWING | A Jackson Public Works Department employee has been fired for talking to the media about his concerns about lead piping in the city’s water-supply network. “I was disappointed in the decision of the director to, in my view, put the reputation of the city before the safety of the public,” the employee, Jonathan Yaeger, said. “I think what I did is ethically right.” [Clarion-Ledger]
FISTICUFFS | Montana’s attorney general isn’t one to shy away from a fight. Tim Fox held a man, suspected of being drunk and throwing punches at passersby, at bay until police arrived at a hotel hosting the Montana Energy Conference. The AG stepped in after the man took a swing at U.S. Sen. Steve Daines’ chief of staff. “He coldcocked me,” Fox said. [Billings Gazette]
LAW ENFORCEMENT | The officer charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald landed a job as a janitor with Chicago’s police union three weeks ago. The shooting of the 17-year-old 16 times in 2014 was caught on a squad car dash cam, sparking protests and a federal investigation into the Chicago Police Department for use of force and biased policing. Suspended, Van Dyke has lost previous jobs as a result, and his wife’s business has closed. [Chicago Tribune]
SCANDAL | Gov. Robert Bentley’s senior political advisor resigned Wednesday, two years after he was secretly recorded making sexual comments to her on a phone call. The governor’s wife of 50 years divorced him last year, but he reiterated his intention to remain in office—calling a denied affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason “old issues.” [AL.com]
PUBLIC SAFETY | In an example of “tactical urbanism,” DIY speed limit signs reading “20 Is Plenty” have been popping up in the Rose City. The anonymous “vigilante traffic cop” says the guerilla actions are meant to get Portland officials to prioritize projects to make city streets safer for all users. [The Oregonian / OregonLive]
BENEFITS | Local officials are considering major changes to Marietta’s municipal pensions program, after a long-time city employee died a few months before retirement. Current rules prohibit surviving spouses from receiving benefits if the employee died while still working. Such a gap could give the city headaches when trying to attract and retain top employees. “I think we are losing good employees because of this,” said the mayor. “When something slaps us in the face, we ought to look at it.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA
PRIVACY | Public college and university professors using their mobile devices for work should think twice about how. A new policy approved by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities chancellor this month grants schools the right to conduct inspections to protect government data, even on privately owned cellphones. Faculty unions are protesting the measure because the state rarely provides professors with phones, but courts typically uphold such policies—so long as they’re codified in advance. [Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal]
Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor and Michael Grass Executive Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty.
NEXT STORY: Can Hands-On Civics Heal Chicago?