Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Mississippi governor orders county-owned bridges closed … Kentucky’s new pension law … mapping Alaska’s thawing permafrost … and N.Y.C., Salt Lake City selected for wireless research testing.
Here are state and local government news stories that caught Route Fifty’s attention ...
ENERGY TECH | San Francisco, like many cities looking to cut its power consumption and costs, has been pushing to swap out its traditional light bulbs for more efficient and long-lasting LED fixtures and in an announcement planned for Wednesday, plans to give away 100,000 LEDs, primarily to disadvantaged communities, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The San Francisco Environment Department will distribute 20,000 LEDs via the city’s public libraries, where library patrons will be able to get a free pack of four LED bulbs. Twenty thousand more will be distributed through the city’s public schools while the rest will be handed out through community organizations. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which controls 60 percent of the city’s streetlights, is in the process of replacing 12,500 traditional fixtures with LEDs. [San Francisco Chronicle / SFGate; Bay City News via NBC Bay Area]
GOVERNORS | Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed a controversial pension reform measure into law on Tuesday that was previously OK’d by the legislature and vociferously opposed by the state’s teacher unions. Under the law, new teachers in the Bluegrass State will no longer have a defined retirement benefit but instead have a hybrid plan that has features of both a traditional pension plan and a 401(k)-style savings plan. Cost-of-living increases for retired teachers will not be reduced under the new law. [Courier Journal]
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant “took the unprecedented step” on Tuesday to declare a state of emergency over the deteriorating county-owned bridges. The declaration allows the Mississippi Department of Transportation to close 83 county-owned bridges it has deemed dangerous and have help from the “Department of Public Safety and Highway Patrol if necessary.” [Clarion Ledger]
SMART CITIES | New York City and Salt Lake City have been selected as two wireless research testing locations for a National Science Foundation-led industry consortium of 28 networking companies, universities and other stakeholders looking to “advance the state of the art for wireless technology beyond today's 4G, LTE and emerging 5G capabilities.” In Salt Lake City, the testing location, which will be focused on "dynamic spectrum sharing and advanced wireless antenna technologies," covers the downtown area, the University of Utah and the corridor connecting the two. In New York City, the test location is a one-square-mile section of West Harlem. [National Science Foundation]
- Austin, Texas: A ruling from a federal judge in Texas last week says that workers in the state should have protections from employment discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Judge Lee Rosenthal’s ruling said that Nicole Wittmer, a transgender woman, wasn’t able to prove her discrimination claim against her employer, Phillips 66, but “if she had proof,” she could sue under federal law. [The Dallas Morning News]
- New York City: Two years after it was proposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the future is unclear for a 16-mile-long streetcar line connecting various points along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront, including neighborhoods like Red Hook, Williamsburg, Long Island City and Astoria. The project has faced plenty of big questions, including how to finance it. "Assuming that it does not pay for itself... then we have to decide whether or not this is the right use of capital money for a transportation project," Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said after a talk at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management. [The New York Times; New York Daily News]
- Lansing, Michigan: The state of Michigan’s oversight of the city of Flint’s municipal finances has come to a close. Michigan Treasurer Nick Khouri on Tuesday officially finalized an earlier decision by Gov. Rick Snyder that to repeal “all remaining emergency manager orders.” [The Flint Journal / MLive.com]
- Utqiaġvik, Alaska: A new mapping tool is helping local leaders and residents in the state’s vast North Slope area to get a better handle on the impacts of climate change on the region’s permafrost. Warming temperatures are leading to a thawing of the state’s permafrost, which can create big headaches for communities built on top of it. The map isn’t necessarily a prediction, but a tool to better understand what could happen to infrastructure, like roads and pipelines, and buildings under certain temperature scenarios. [Alaska Public Media]
- Erie, Pennsylvania: Public health departments around the U.S. aren’t done with the current flu season, which is still going strong in some areas. Last week in Erie County, public health officials reported 178 flu cases, bringing this season’s county total to 3,544 cases. [Erie Times-News / GoErie.com]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.