Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | A penny-per-pill opioid fee proposal; more waste-storage eyed for Detroit; a new plan to close Rikers Island in N.Y.C.; and Utah shows off its new connected vehicle corridor.
LAW ENFORCEMENT | During a brief press availability at Baltimore City Hall on Wednesday, Mayor Catherine Pugh threw some cold water on an idea Maryland Del. Bilal Ali has proposed: Disband the scandal-ridden Baltimore Police Department and rebuild it from the ground up like Camden, New Jersey did. “We’re not disbanding the police department,” Pugh said, noting that a federal report by the Justice Department will help steer reforms at the city’s police department. [Baltimore Brew; Baltimore Sun]
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced a plan to close the city-operated Rikers Island jail in phases and relocate inmates to smaller facilities located near courthouses in all of the city’s boroughs except for Staten Island. The mayor said the city will get “new and modern sites that will allow us to do the kinds of things we need to do to create a safe environment and a rehabilitative environment.” But the plan, supported by City Council leaders, is already seeing opposition in some of the neighborhoods that will be impacted by the new jail plan. [New York City Mayor’s Office; amNY; Staten Island Advance]
DISASTER RECOVERY | Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Tuesday that coastal communities of the state impacted by Hurricane Harvey are now able to apply to tap part of $1 billion in federal funding the state is getting for post-storm hazard mitigation work. Cities and counties along the coast will be able to tap for buyouts of flooded structures, retrofitting homes and buildings to withstand hurricane-force winds and pursing storm-surge protection projects, seawalls and dune restoration. [The Texas Tribune]
OPIOID ABUSE CRISIS | Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed a penny-per-pill fee on opioid medication to be paid for by pharmaceutical companies. The fee would fund “an opioid stewardship program for addiction prevention, treatment and recovery efforts.” The governor’s proposal has support from a bipartisan group of legislators, including two lawmakers who have lost children to drug overdoses. [KMSP-TV; The Pioneer Press / TwinCities.com]
Among the places struggling with opioid addiction is Oregon, where Gov. Kate Brown is issuing an executive order that will “call on agencies across the state to align in addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery priorities.” The governor said in a statement: “The ripple effects of addiction devastate families, preventing thousands of Oregonians all across the state from living healthy, productive lives. This crisis will only worsen without improving access to appropriate treatments, collecting data to drive our policies, and reducing stigma.” [Gov. Kate Brown’s Office]
Meanwhile, there’s discouraging news from Memphis, where “every year, overdose patients get younger and younger.” [WREG]
INFRASTRUCTURE | The Utah Department of Transportation has been showing off what’s described as the nation’s first connected vehicle network, which will help speed Utah Transit Authority buses along Redwood Road in Salt Lake County. Radio transponders are installed at 24 intersections along the connected/autonomous vehicle corridor, which can help keep buses on schedule by adapting traffic signals. [The Deseret News]
A state gas tax increase passed last year in Montana is starting to generate new revenue for cities and counties in Big Sky Country. The city of Helena will receive $208,657.45 for the first four months of fiscal 2018 and more than $625,000 over the entire fiscal year. [Helena Independent Record]
Two counties in Florida along with a group opposed to the extension of Florida Brightline high-speed rail service to the Orlando area have filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the privately-funded project. [WESH-TV]
ENVIRONMENT | A “trove of government documents and emails” obtained by The Record and NorthJersey.com shows the extent that chemical manufacturer DuPont “worked behind the scenes for more than three decades to keep secret and then downplay the extent of overall contamination” from a long-shuttered munitions plant. The plume of chemicals that has migrated into local groundwater remains “largely unaddressed.” [The Record / NorthJersey.com]
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is considering a new license for a toxic waste-storage facility on Detroit’s East Side that an Idaho-based company wants to expand ninefold. The company, U.S. Ecology, has other waste-storage facilities in Wayne County and “is now requesting that it be allowed to add dioxins, some of the most harmful chemicals on the planet, into its waste processing stream” at one of them. [Metro Times; Detroit Free Press]
MYSTERIES | What caused more than 100 giant old-growth trees to fall over in Olympic National Park in Washington state? The unknown “thud” on Jan. 27, whatever it was, registered as a small earthquake on seismometers. Some sort of wind event has been suspected, despite light winds and no storm in the area, creating a bit of a weather mystery. “The strong winds were not from UFOs, an angry Sasquatch, a microburst from convection, or some errant meteor,” according to University of Washington climatologist Cliff Mass. “An approaching front produced just the right conditions to produce a high amplitude mountain wave on the upstream ridge, which resulted in a strong rotor that produced powerful reverse flow (northerlies).” [The News Tribune; Cliff Mass Weather and Climate Blog]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.