Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | New congressional maps approved in North Carolina … Chicago mayor fires police superintendent weeks before retirement … New bill aims to crack down on car break-ins in California.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka’s administration filed a lawsuit against the city of New York and Mayor Bill de Blasio this week, claiming that New York has sent nearly 1,200 homeless people to Newark recently through a rent-subsidy program. The program, run by the NYC Department of Social Services, offers a year of rent to get people off the streets. De Blasio’s administration has directed many recipients into New Jersey rentals, which Newark’s lawyers argue violates federal commerce laws which prevent states from enacting policies that place economic burdens on other states. “This application challenges Defendants’ ill-conceived, surreptitious efforts to shift the burdens associated with the homeless to other communities in this nation, by forcing [homeless people] to accept the proverbial ‘offer they can’t refuse,’” reads the suit. Newark’s corporation counsel Kenyatta Stewart also said that the program is coercing homeless people into uninhabitable or illegal housing that sometimes lacks heat and electricity. “New York has continued to send people despite us having several discussions about our problems with their program. We need to get a judge involved so they can stop shipping people to Newark,” Stewart said. Isaac McGinn, the spokesman for New York’s Department of Homeless Services, said that the cities could work together on helping homeless people. “We of course share Newark’s concern about unscrupulous landlords and we have strengthened our programs to protect those we serve. We look forward to working with Newark on these issues," he said. But Newark is seeking an end to the program, a list of addresses for the families who moved to the city, and a fund to accommodate families who want to stay in Newark after their year of free rent is over. De Blasio said he was surprised by the suit. “I believe and I thought we were all trying to work toward common solutions, and I still want to work toward those common solutions—that’s my attitude,” de Blasio said. [Politico; New York Post; NJ.com]
NORTH CAROLINA MAPS | New congressional maps drawn and passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature will stand for the 2020 election in North Carolina. The North Carolina Supreme Court previously ordered the state legislature to redraw the maps because partisan gerrymandering gave Republicans a 10-3 advantage in the U.S. House of Representatives, despite a nearly even split between Democratic and Republican votes in the popular count. With new maps, Democrats are expected to pick up two seats, but state leaders say the new maps still aren’t fair and need to be redrawn. “North Carolina Republicans yet again ran out the clock on fair maps, denying justice to North Carolina voters and forcing our state to go another election using undemocratic district lines,” the state’s Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said in a statement. The judges ruled that there was not enough time to determine whether the maps were gerrymandered, as candidates soon need to begin filing for the 2020 election. The court also found that the new maps were comparatively better than the “flawed” maps used in 2016. Assemblymen David Lewis and Destin Hall, the Republican co-chairs of the house’s congressional redistricting committee, said that the maps are fair. “It’s time now to stop the endless litigation and out-of-state lawyering around North Carolina’s redistricting process and let the people determine their congressional representatives,” they said. [Raleigh News & Observer; Reuters; NBC News]
POLICE SUPERINTENDENT | Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson on Monday, just weeks before he was set to retire. Lightfoot accused Johnson of lying to her about an incident in mid-October, when Johnson was found asleep in his car a few blocks from his home. Johnson said that he had forgotten to take his blood pressure medication and had a few drinks. “Someone asleep in a car doesn’t mean they’re impaired,” he said at the time. Lightfoot was not specific about the aspects of Johnson’s story that she questioned, saying she did not want to influence an ongoing investigation, but said that things weren’t adding up. "Eddie Johnson engaged in conduct that is not only unbecoming, but demonstrated a series of ethical lapses and flawed decision making that is inconsistent with having the privilege of leading the Chicago Police Department. The old Chicago way must give way to the new reality. Ethical leadership, integrity, accountability, legitimacy and yes, honesty must be the hallmarks of city government,” Lightfoot said. [NPR; Chicago Tribune]
CAR BREAK-INS | A state lawmaker in California introduced legislation to amend a state law that requires prosecutors to prove a car was locked before they can file charges in car break-ins. Senator Scott Weiner, a Democrat from San Francisco, said that a rise in car break-ins spurred him to act. "It's ridiculous that under current law you can have a video of someone bashing out a car window, but if you can’t prove that the door is locked you may not be able to get an auto burglary conviction," he said. Across the state, there were 243,000 thefts from cars last year. The legislation, which has been introduced twice before and failed, has faced steady opposition from the California Public Defenders Association, who say the bill could lead to the incarceration of homeless people. “In an era where our streets are filled with homeless people looking for shelter from the elements this expansion of the prosecution and incarceration time for individuals who have not damaged a locking mechanism of the vehicle to gain entry could negatively impact those with the least of means,” the group said. [KFBK; Los Angeles Times]
ANTI-MEDICARE-FOR-ALL OP-EDS | A Washington Post investigation revealed that three op-eds opposing Medicare-for-All written by state lawmakers were drafted or heavily revised by lobbyists. Montana state Rep. Kathy Kelker, a Democrat, Montana state Sen. Jen Gross, a Republican, and Ohio state Sen. Steve Huffman, a Republican, all admitted that they were assisted by lobbyists, though none of them disclosed this fact in their columns. The Montana lawmakers said they were contacted by lobbyist John MacDonald on behalf of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, a healthcare industry group opposed to Medicare-for-All. Lauren Crawford Shaver, the Partnership’s executive director, would not confirm that the lawmakers got help from the group. “It’s no surprise that elected officials on both sides of the aisle, and many other voices throughout the nation, are expressing serious concerns about these one-size-fits-all proposals,” she said. Larry Noble, who served as general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center and the Federal Election Commission, said that the columns raise troubling ethical questions about disclosure. “It’s disturbing. I think there’s a certain ethical obligation to be upfront about who wrote the editorial,” Noble said. Kelker said the practice of putting a legislator’s name on an op-ed they didn’t write wasn’t unusual. “That’s pretty normal. Actually, most of the time, for legislators, at least in Montana, [they] are written by someone else,” she said. Gross said that legislators don’t have the time to write their own op-eds. "If I could do it over again, I would have spent more time on it and put it in my own words. But I was up against time constraints,” she said. [Washington Post; Common Dreams; WOSU]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.
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