Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Supreme Court rejects New York restrictions on religious services … Trump administration denies key permit for Pebble Mine … Baltimore County schools still closed after ransomware attack.
The stainless steel monolith recently discovered in a desert canyon in Utah disappeared over the weekend as mysteriously as it appeared just over a week ago. All that was left of the obelisk was a metal piece from the top of the tower and part of the base, Salt Lake Tribune reporters discovered when they ventured out to the site in San Juan County. The federal Bureau of Land Management said they weren’t responsible for the sculpture’s removal. “The BLM did not remove the structure which is considered private property. We do not investigate crimes involving private property which are handled by the local sheriff’s office. The structure has received international and national attention and we received reports that a person or group removed it on the evening of Nov. 27,” the bureau said. The structure was discovered by wildlife biologists with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources who were flying over the spot in a helicopter while looking for bighorn sheep. The New York Times reported that the Utah Department of Public Safety acknowledged the disappearance with an Instagram post (now removed) that read, ““IT’S GONE!” The agency alluded to a possible alien abduction, using the emoji symbol for extraterrestrials. For its part, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook that it does take any crime seriously, but lacked the resources to “devote much time to the appearance and subsequent disappearance/theft of the structure that was discovered in a remote area of public lands within our county.” The office did include a possible lineup of suspects featuring fictional aliens. (Art historians, however, believe the three-sided monolith is likely an art installation.) [Salt Lake Tribune; New York Times]
RELIGIOUS SERVICES | The newly changed Supreme Court prohibited New York’s restrictions on religious services, saying they violate First Amendment protections of religion in a 5-4 unsigned decision. In a concurring opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch said government limits to contain the coronavirus can’t be more onerous on religious organizations. “It is time — past time — to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues and mosques,” he wrote. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo slammed the decision as just a reflection of the ideological shift in the court. “You have a different court, and I think that was the statement that the court was making,” he said. [New York Times]
PEBBLE MINE | The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied a key permit for a controversial gold and copper mine in Alaska, saying the Pebble Mine is “contrary to the public interest” and violates Clean Water Act guidelines. “Today’s decision speaks volumes about how bad this project is, how uniquely unacceptable it is,” said Joel Reynolds, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. [Washington Post]
LOS ANGELES ORDER | Los Angeles issued a new “safer at home” order, which goes into effect on Monday. All gatherings outside of people’s households are banned, while businesses will now face additional restrictions. Religious services and rules for schools are unchanged, but people are otherwise encouraged to stay at home. [NPR]
RANSOMWARE ATTACK | Baltimore County schools will remain closed Monday and Tuesday after a ransomware attack the day before Thanksgiving debilitated school operations. The system said Chromebooks issued to students by the school system are alright to use, but they need to further investigate whether other equipment can be used. [Baltimore Sun]
Laura Maggi is the managing editor at Route Fifty.