Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Kansas City looks at MLK airport designation … Mississippi’s yo-yo teacher applicant test requirements … protecting Nashville from flooding … and marketing Maine’s dark skies.
Here are state and local government news stories that caught Route Fifty’s attention ...
POVERTY | Protesters continue to march this week in an updated version of the Poor People’s Campaign headed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968. On Monday, police arrested participants in Washington, D.C., and in states across the country, including Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. This is the second week of the planned six-week action, which aims to draw attention to the way politics and public policy continue to fuel poverty, violence and pollution in ways that disproportionately affect minorities.
Protesters have spotlighted efforts in recent years to curb minority voting rights. They have shut down roads and bridges. In Nashville last week, they blocked the James Robertson Parkway bridge at rush hour. On Monday, they snarled traffic in downtown Albany when they gathered at a major intersection. "I just think the tactics are not really very considerate of working-class people who are just trying to get around in a city and get to their jobs and get to their kids," said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. "Civil disobedience comes from a long tradition of activism," said Rev. Emily McNeill, co-chair of the campaign’s New York chapter. "Part of it is about saying that things have reached a crisis point where we have to disrupt the status quo in order to articulate the crisis that exists." [WNYT 13; Times Union; WRAL-TV, WTVF-TV; PennLive; WXIN-TV; WSMV-TV]
TRANSPORTATION | A Kansas City, Missouri, advisory panel appointed by Mayor Sly James this week recommended renaming the city’s airport after MLK as a way to rectify the fact that Kansas City is one of the largest cities in the U.S. without a public memorial to the celebrated civil rights leader. But the mayor said the panel’s recommendation won’t work. He wants to name the main airport terminal after King instead. "Most people don't know the difference between the airport and the terminal," he said, calling it a “matter of semantics.” The mayor explained that he agrees with Kansas City Aviation Department Director Pat Klein, who wrote told him that dropping “Kansas City” from the airport name would “remove the airport's critical geographic indicator, create confusion among the traveling public and would hinder the Aviation Department's ability to effectively market Kansas City both nationally and internationally." [The Kansas City Star]
- Jackson, Mississippi: The Magnolia State has lowered the standardized test score applicants must achieve to teach math in the state’s middle schools and high schools. The move reverses a get-tough-on-teacher-applicants drive in 2013 spearheaded by education and business leaders that raised the required test score. The new move comes as part of general acknowledgement that something must be done to address the teacher shortage afflicting the state, even though few believe lowering the test score will succeed in wooing a significant number of new applicants. “Mathematics is one of our critical shortage areas and by no means will adjusting the score address that,” said Paula Vanderford, the education department’s chief accountability officer. [Mississippi News Now; AP]
- Nashville, Tennessee: Mayor David Briley is going to bat again to bring a major flood protection project to downtown Nashville. His $125 million proposal, centered around a flood wall, has been pushed in similar form by the last three Nashville mayors only to be rejected by the city’s Metro Council. The project first took shape in the wake of a May 2010 downpour that dumped 19 inches of rain onto the city, killing 11 people and overrunning the business and tourist district on the west bank of the Cumberland River. [Tennessean]
- Lexington, Kentucky: The Democratic primary for central Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District pits Jim Gray, Lexington’s openly gay mayor, against Amy McGrath, a former Marine combat pilot. Tuesday’s election, unlike other Democratic primaries unfolding this year, isn’t about moderate versus progressive, and it’s not about the issues, either, according to the candidates themselves. “He's a good guy and he's a good public servant,” McGrath told CNN. "It's more about this time, this climate, right now. It's very clear that people are looking for more women. It's very clear that people are really interested in candidates who aren't necessarily—that didn't grow up within the political party." The winner of the primary will face incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr. [CNN]
- Portland, Maine: Advocates hoping to draw more tourists to the Pine Tree State are working to promote the state’s dark skies. Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument Executive Director Andrew Bossie said he and others are petitioning the International Dark-Sky Association to designate the state an “International Dark Sky Reserve,” the highest level designation the organization grants. Bossie wants more people to know that Maine includes the largest area free of light pollution in the eastern half of the United States. “You don’t get skies this dark—and contiguous—until you reach Kansas, or some parts of Texas,” he said. In January, Maine Public Radio posted an interview on the state’s treasured darkness and how to preserve it, featuring an astronomer, a mindfulness instructor and a naturalist. [Portland Press Herald, Maine Public]
John Tomasic is a journalist based in Seattle.