Wildfire Evacuees Face an Already Tight Housing Market

Suzanne Kaksonen, an evacuee of the Camp Fire, and her cockatoo Buddy camp at a makeshift shelter outside a Walmart store in Chico, Calif.

Suzanne Kaksonen, an evacuee of the Camp Fire, and her cockatoo Buddy camp at a makeshift shelter outside a Walmart store in Chico, Calif. Noah Berger / AP Photo

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Minneapolis upzoning … a Florida mayor’s message to Trump … and the nation’s three disconnected power grids.

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018. The continuing California wildfire emergency leads our state and local government news roundup but scroll down for more from places like New Orleans, Louisiana; Palm Beach County, Florida; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Have a good Thanksgiving ...

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES | The deadliest and most destructive wildfire on record in California has put tens of thousands of evacuees in an extremely tough situation. The Camp Fire, now 70 percent contained, has destroyed more than 12,600 homes in and around the town of Paradise, north of Sacramento. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is working with a state task force to figure out short- and long-term housing. The rental market is extremely tight, including in nearby Chico. “There was a 2 percent vacancy rate” in Chico before the fire, Danielle Branham, a real estate agent for Century 21 Select told the Record-Enterprise. “Now I don’t know of a single rental available.” Also not helping the situation: reports of norovirus, bed bugs and lice in shelters. Heavy rains will complicate response and recovery work, including the difficult task of identifying human remains. In a worst-case scenario, rainfall may “wash human remains away, increasing the possibility that workers may be unable to locate and identify victims of the fire.” Of the 81 confirmed fatalities, 56 have tentative identifications; hundreds more remain unaccounted for. [Enterprise-Record; Los Angeles Times; @ButteSheriff]

STATE GOVERNMENT | During a public appearance in Milwaukee on Tuesday, Wisconsin Gov.-elect Tony Evers said he wants to dissolve Gov. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and move its functions back under the state’s Department of Commerce.  [Wisconsin State Journal / Madison.com] ... Idaho Gov.-elect Brad Little has named his transition committee, which will help review applications and make hiring recommendations for members of his administration. [KIVI] … The North Dakota Industrial Commission voted Tuesday to give the oil industry “more flexibility to meet natural gas flaring regulations, emphasizing policies that encourage the industry to invest in gas capture.” [Bismarck Tribune] … The Washington State Department of Transportation is seeking to employ an “artist in residence.” [ThurstonTalk]

LOCAL GOVERNMENT | The Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which would “usher in citywide upzoning, allowing triplexes in neighborhoods currently reserved for single-family homes, and denser development along transit corridors,” appears likely to pass a City Council vote expected on Dec. 7. [Star Tribune] … The Raleigh, North Carolina City Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance to regulate the use of e-scooters in the city. [@NCCapitol / WRAL] ... Mack Bernard, the new mayor of Palm Beach County, Florida, has a message for President Trump who once derided his native Haiti: “I would like to let the president know the new mayor of Palm Beach County is not from a s---hole country. He’s from the beautiful island of Haiti.” [Sun Sentinel] …  Rensselaer, New York Mayor Daniel Dwyer died on Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. [The Record]

LAW ENFORCEMENT | The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is not pleased with a District of Columbia Council proposal that would decriminalize fare evasion on Metrobuses and Metrorail trains. [DCist] … The police chief in Garden City, Missouri has been suspended indefinitely after he spoke out about department layoffs. [WDAF] … New crime data show that Austin had the highest number of hate crimes in 2017 than any other city in Texas. [KUT] ...

PUBLIC HEALTH | Ditch any and all Romaine lettuce as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns of a nationwide e.coli outbreak. [National Public Radio] ... The Houston Public Health Department has voiced its opposition to a Trump administration rules that would discourage immigrants from accessing public benefits, saying the “public charge” rule would “have health consequences for all Houstonians.” [Houston Public Media] …

INFRASTRUCTURE | Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf joined a bipartisan group of governors calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to connect the nation’s three mostly unconnected power grids, the Eastern Interconnection, Western Interconnection, and Electric Reliability Council of Texas. [WESA] … Turbine No. 6, the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board’s most modern water pump, can’t operate when temperatures dip below 45 degrees. [The Times-Picayune / NOLA.com] … The Kentucky Public Service Commission has OK’d the transfer of two smaller sewer districts to the Paducah-McCracken County Joint Sewer System. [KFVS] …

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Route FIfty and is based in Seattle.

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