When Wildfires Strike Rural Places Wary of Tax-Funded Firefighting Operations

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Calif.’s secret DMV location for lawmakers … a plan to consolidate N.J. school districts … and a lawsuit over a “secret deal” in Miami Beach.

Good morning, it’s Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. Leading Route Fifty’s state and local government news roundup is a look at what happens when wildfires strike places where residents dislike paying taxes for firefighting services. But scroll down for more news from places like Cass County, Minnesota; Miami Beach, Florida; Commercial Point, Ohio and elsewhere.

PUBLIC SAFETY | In many the tax-averse counties of southwest Oregon, residents have previously rejected proposals to fund firefighting operations. So, when wildfires burn through their area, they “rely on private enterprise and state interventions” to save their homes. But there are challenges of dispatching private firefighters in local communities where not everyone pays for protection. It’s a system that isn’t formally recognized by state fire services.  “It’s a community that does not believe in big government,” Josephine County Commissioner Lily Morgan. “They don’t want more involvement of government in their lives.” [Oregon Public Broadcasting]

  • Washington, D.C.: Sunday’s Unite the Right white-supremacist rally in the nation’s capital, which prompted major law enforcement preparations, was massively dwarfed by anti-hate protesters. Some local officials skewered the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which previously said it would not give the white supremacist rally-goers special treatment for transport into D.C. from Virginia. While WMATA did not provide a private train, transit police isolated them in the last train car to keep them separated from other protesters. [The Washington Post; DCist]
  • Temescal Creek, California: As more of the Holy Fire in Southern California is contained, many evacuated communities got the official green light to return on Sunday. Many school districts in the vicinity of the fire in Orange and Riverside counties are planning to delay the start of the school year. [The Press-Enterprise]
  • New York City, New York: Heavy thunderstorms in and around New York City on Saturday caused flash flooding, which caused major disruptions. In northern New Jersey, cars from an auto dealership floated away in Little Falls, New Jersey. [WNBC / NBC New York; New York Post]
  • Chicago, Illinois: It was another violent weekend in Chicago, with at least 10 shootings on Saturday. [Sun-Times; WBBM]
  • Baltimore, Maryland: A Baltimore police officer has been suspended following the release of a video showing him repeatedly hitting a man while in custody. [WBAL]

HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES | Thanks to a five-year substance abuse grant from the state, Cass County, Minnesota has a full-time person whose focus is the opioid abuse epidemic in the rural county . "We are the only ones in the state with this position who is really focusing on it like this," according to Richie Bean, the county’s Rx prevention coordinator. While the abuse of opioids is certainly a significant problem in rural areas of Minnesota, meth is often a bigger challenge for local officials. "As soon as we started talking to a few county administrators, we found that opioids are a problem, but meth is a bigger problem," said Marnie Werner of the Makato-based Center for Rural Policy and Development. [Forum News Service; Mankato Free Press]

  • Boston, Massachusetts: Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation last week that will create a comprehensive strategy in the state that requires new training for doctors, physicians assistants and nurses for diagnosing and caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Daniel Zotos, director of public policy and advocacy of the Alzheimer’s Association, Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter, said in a statement when the State Senate approved the bill last month: “No other state in the country has passed such a comprehensive bill to address this epidemic.” [AP via Boston.com; The Standard-Times]
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Public health officials in Wisconsin say that a bacteria found in animal saliva has been linked to bacterial infection that led to the amputation of a West Bend man’s hands and legs, a Grant County boy’s fingers and toes and the death of a South Milwaukee woman. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

STATE GOVERNMENT | As Californians continue to complain about long wait times at Department of Motor Vehicles branch locations, state lawmakers are feeling heat over a secret DMV location they’ve been able to use at the State Capitol in Sacramento since the 1990s. [The Sacramento Bee; KTLA]

  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: A recent ruling from Oklahoma’s attorney general has given new hope to advocates of solar power in the state, which may open the door to residents being able to enter into “power purchase agreements that include lease-to-own terms.” [The Oklahoman / NewsOK.com]
  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Gov. John Bel Edwards marked the two-year anniversary of crippling floods that hit parishes in and around Baton Rouge. The governor said in a statement: “All of our citizens are to be commended for their strength, resolve and compassion in the face of such natural disasters. While thousands have been helped by the state’s recovery program, we recognize there are more citizens who need help and are still recovering.” [WBRZ]
  • Trenton, New Jersey: The Garden State is well known in governance circles for its complex patchwork quilt of local jurisdictions and that extends to New Jersey’s school districts. Nearly three in five school districts in the state aren’t K-12 school systems. One proposal put forward by a legislative working group would mandate the K-6 and K-8 school districts into K-12 districts. [WXKW / New Jersey 101.5]

LOCAL GOVERNMENT | A recent lawsuit filed against Miami Beach, Florida by a real estate agent accuses local officials signing “a confidential agreement with German multimillionaire Christian Jagodzinski, who owns a luxury vacation rental company called Villazzo.” Miami Beach has among the strictest bans on short-term rentals in the U.S. [Miami New Times]

  • Commercial Point, Ohio: Before a police sergeant in this small community south of Columbus arrested the mayor at Village Hall, “it already had been a rocky several months between the administration and these small-town officers.” [Columbus Dispatch]
  • San Antonio, Texas: During a visit to San Antonio on Saturday, San Juan, Puerto Rico Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto said that the island’s territorial government has been “complicit” in the inaccurate death toll from Hurricane Maria last year. [San Antonio Express-News / MySA]
  • Waterville, Maine: Using his veto power, Mayor Nick Isgro blocked a city council resolution on Friday that would have but the question of banning single-use plastic shopping bags at large retailers. [CentralMaine.com]
  • Jefferson City, Missouri: Municipal officials will vote on a measure that limits non-commercial signs on private property, which was recently amended to cap the [News Tribune]

ALSO on Route Fifty:

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle. 

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