Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Atlanta councilman loses access to 16 years of records … Oregon is a “beacon” for families struggling with fertility … Texas city poised to sell off more local parks ... and a Michigan county seeks to divert 90 percent of its trash.
Here are state and local government stories that caught Route Fifty’s attention ...
LAW ENFORCEMENT | Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday announced a series of State Police reforms following a massive overtime scandal involving 30 troopers. One of the governor's moves includes eliminating Troop E, the State Police unit assigned to the Massachusetts Turnpike and tunnels, which has been at the center of the scandal. The governor said that GPS devices would be activated in State Police cruisers and a body-worn camera program would be introduced. The overtime payments for shifts never worked was discovered during the course of an internal audit. "The Massachusetts State Police has a long and honorable history,” Baker said at a State House news conference on Monday. “The men and women who've worked there for generations earned that honor. That history, that reputation, has been tarnished." Dana Pullman, president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, said that the changes shouldn’t amount to “a knee jerk reaction” to allegations involving a small part of the force. [NECN; Office of Gov. Charlie Baker]
Without comment on Monday, Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer approved legislation that would, starting in 2020, require police agencies in the state to publicly disclose property they’ve seized in the course of investigating crimes and how they’ve used it. Critics of law enforcement’s use of asset forfeitures, as it’s called, say the practice incentivizes more seizures. [Wichita Eagle]
CYBERSECURITY | Here’s something local government officials, managers and employees everywhere should be thinking about as the Atlanta’s city government tries to recover from its crippling March 22 ransomware attack, which has caused major disruption at city hall and local courts: Councilman Howard Shook told Reuters that his office lost 16 years of digital records—yes, 16 years of records. "It's extraordinarily frustrating," Shook said. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has stressed that the city is open for business. Atlanta’s ransomware incident FAQ page for city employees includes questions like: “I was signed into the City’s Wi-Fi network on my personal mobile, should I be worried?” and “How will we be notified when we can regain secure access to the City’s network?” [Reuters; Gizmodo; CISO Mag; City of Atlanta]
North Dakota’s chief information officer, Shawn Riley, told a recent gathering of state department heads that they can’t assume that cyberattackers will simply overlook their state because of its size. In fact, North Dakota already a target: “On average, we defend 7.3 million attacks a month. They're comin' after us," he said, noting that the state’s broader IT network, which includes the state universities, supports 252,000 people. [Prairie Public Radio]
- San Francisco, California: March brought a good amount of precipitation to thirsty California, including much needed snowpack to the Sierra Nevada and lower Cascade mountains. The Sierra snowpack, which so many Californians rely on for drinking water, is is “52 percent of average for this time of year.” So, that’s enough to get the Golden State through another year. “These snowpack results—while better than they were a few weeks ago—still underscore the need for widespread careful and wise use of our water supplies,” according to California Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth. [San Francisco Chronicle / SFGate; YubaNet]
- Allentown, Pennsylvania: Ray O’Connell, a former school district administrator and city council president, started work Monday as Allentown’s new mayor on Monday after being appointed to the position last week by the city council. Former Mayor Ed Pawlowski retired last month after pleading guilty to federal charges related to bribery. [The Morning Call]
- Corpus Christi, Texas: City council members last week considered a bill on first reading that would sell three city-owned parks to private entities. The proceeds from the sales will go toward improvements for other parks. Voters approved the sale of 17 city parks in 2014. [Caller Times]
- Knoxville, Tennessee: The chief of the Knoxville Police Department, David Rausch, took “47 trips that spanned 166 days and 15 states, plus Washington, D.C., where he trekked four times. In an interview, Rausch said that his official work travel is “always to benefit this department, to benefit this city and this profession.” [Knoxville News Sentinel / KnoxNews.com]
- Virginia Beach, Virginia: The editorial board of The Virginian-Pilot newspaper took Virginia Beach’s city manager to task for texts that surfaced where he “comports himself like a schoolyard bully while carrying out the public’s business.” That includes, in one message, bloodying the nose of Aubrey Layne, then the state’s transportation secretary. Furthermore, The Virginian-Pilot’s editorial says that as city manager, Dave Hansen “should know that communication such as this is accessible under FOIA since he is a public official ostensibly conducting the people’s business.” [The Virginian-Pilot]
- Bend, Oregon: Because Oregon lacks rules or laws regarding surrogacy, the state has “become a beacon for couples desperate to start a family while struggling with fertility issues.” [The Bulletin]
- Grand Rapids, Michigan: After posting an unusual request for information last month, Kent County waste management officials took a dozen business professionals on a three-hour bus tour around the county to see various facilities that handle trash. The Kent County Public Works Department is looking for creative solutions and “innovative enterprises” to help them divert 90 percent of the county’s trash from landfills by 2030. [The Grand Rapids Press / MLive.com]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.