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LocalGov Academy Offers Municipalities Robust Online Employee Training

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 12:46

Train anytime, anywhere | Manage and assign training easily | Straightforward, affordable pricing

San Francisco, Calif. – Praetorian Digital, the leading digital media company in the public safety and local government market, today announced the launch of LocalGov Academy, a comprehensive online training and learning management platform serving public entities, including government employees at the state, county or city level.

LocalGov Academy offers a robust course library, with 175 courses used and vetted by some of the top risk pools insuring municipalities nationwide and more than 1,000 additional courses and videos available for public safety departments, including police, corrections and fire. This comprehensive library is provided on the powerful learning management system technology behind the PoliceOne and FireRescue1 Academy trusted by more than 1,300 departments.

In addition to market-leading e-Learning content, LocalGov Academy offers an all-inclusive learning and records management system to streamline delivery and tracking of training to employees to ensure compliance, lower liability exposure and mitigate risk. Administrative features allow any municipality to run an efficient and effective training program to improve employee engagement and meet training mandates, including group administration, credential management, custom course creation, assignments, offline training tracking and more – all customized to meet the distinct needs of local government.

With unprecedented reach across public safety and local government, Praetorian Digital is uniquely suited to address the training needs of municipalities of all sizes. LocalGov Academy leverages the content expertise of Praetorian’s EfficientGov.com, one of the leading online resources for municipal leaders, elected officials and city managers. It also extends the reach of LocalGovU, the leading source of training courses for public entity risk pools, insurers and brokers. The launch provides municipalities with access to Praetorian’s public safety online training portfolio, which includes PoliceOne Academy, CorrectionsOne Academy, EMS1 Academy and FireRescue1 Academy.

“The launch of LocalGov Academy solidifies our position as a leading provider of premier online training and exceptional content across all functions of local government and expands our mission of delivering critical resources to help local government be more efficient and effective in serving and protecting our communities,” said Alex Ford, CEO of Praetorian Digital. “There is an incredible need for high quality training content, visibility and records management across all functions of local government – from risk pools and insurance providers to individual departments such as fire and police. We’re excited to add LocalGov Academy as another tool to address those challenges.”

To learn more about LocalGov Academy, visit www.localgovacademy.com.

About Praetorian Digital

Founded in 1999, Praetorian Digital is the leading digital media company in the public safety and local government market. Our properties are visited by more than 6 million public safety and local government officials every month and count over 1.3 million first responders and government personnel as members. Praetorian owns and operates PoliceOne.com, FireRescue1.com, FireChief.com, EMS1.com, CorrectionsOne.com, Military1.com and EfficientGov.com as well as more than 15 topical websites providing resources ranging from accredited online training to grant funding assistance. We are deeply committed to providing cutting-edge information and resources that help first responders, government officials and military personnel better protect themselves and serve their communities. For more information, visit www.PraetorianDigital.com.

About EfficientGov

EfficientGov is one of the leading informational websites geared towards providing feedback and guidance to city managers and elected officials on how to navigate the operational and fiscal challenges facing municipalities today. With cities and counties being tasked to do more with fewer resources, EfficientGov aims to spread the word about the best practices local government can implement to evolve with the changing trends of the industries they service. For more information, visit www.efficientgov.com.

About LocalGov Academy

LocalGov Academy is an innovative online learning solution that drives increased employee engagement through dynamic learning content and technology. With a goal of reducing liability and mitigating risk, we work hand in hand with municipalities to provide high quality training that yields enhanced productivity and effectiveness. Offering 175 online courses for public entities covering topics ranging from customer service to health and wellness, human resources development and more, LocalGov Academy helps meet the challenges of the changing workforce within local government.  For more information, visit www.localgovacademy.com.

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Grants for Combating Terrorism Locally Available in Nevada

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 12:21

The Nevada State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) under the Nevada Department of Public Safety has grant funding to help Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) for planning and training as well as equipment purchases, including shipping costs, for combating terrorism.

Nevada LEPCs may request advance funding for expenses more than $2,000, and allocation requests max out at $25,000. There is no matching requirement.

An additional $4,000 operations grant will be awarded if the LEPC is administratively compliant.

Reimbursements through this grant program will begin on July 14, 2017.

SERC Application Requirements

Include the operations amount in the total amount of the grant request.

If requesting up to 50 percent of operations funds for clerical assistance, include a detailed justification for the use of funds. A copy of the LEPC meeting minutes approving said request and supporting the grant application must be submitted prior to preparation of a grant award.

Applications for combating terrorism locally are due by March 10, 2017.

Access the SERC application kit on its website.

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$3M in Montana Emergency Management Grants

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 12:02

Montana Disaster and Emergency Services has $3 million for local governments and agencies to develop, build and sustain core emergency management capabilities. Montana emergency management grants support resilience in prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery efforts.

The grant funding can be used to help Montana agencies, municipalities and tribal governments:

  • Complete Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA)
  • Strengthen governance integration
  • Develop approved emergency plans
  • Create and maintain multi-year Training and Exercise Plans (TEPs)
  • Target training and verification of personnel capabilities
  • Implement whole community approaches to security and emergency management

Applications are due by March 24, 2017.

There is a 50 percent match requirement.

Additionally, Montana municipalities may also apply by March 3, 2017, for the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP). According to the state’s SHSP program guidance document, the funding amount the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) program will disperse for Montana emergency management needs for financial year 2017 is unknown. However, SHSP funding is expected to be available no later than September 30, 2017. In 2016, FEMA was allocated $402 million in SHSP funds to disperse to states and territories.

Learn more and apply for Montana emergency management grants on FundingMT.org.

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3 Tools Helping Law Enforcement Agencies Stop Sex Trafficking

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 16:51

Ashton Kutcher, founder of Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, is doing more than putting his impassioned, well-known voice before lawmakers — he has tools that are helping law enforcement agencies rescue victims of sex trafficking and slavery.

Kutcher addressed the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee about human trafficking and slavery as a witness in support of anti-trafficking legislation that increases federal support to states and local governments (video below).

Tech Tools That Work

Thorn helped create BEFREE text shortcode to give victims of sex trafficking a way to seek help. The tool has also been used by witnesses to report sex-trafficking related crimes, according to Thorn’s website. Thus far, BEFREE has created 3,808 conversations that led to 3,631 cases with 18 potential victims extracted from their situations.

The company most notably launched a Web app called Spotlight that assists police investigations into trafficking by helping them quickly sift through thousands of classifieds and forum posts advertising escort services from several sites.

Through machine learning that analyzes data, it identifies suspicious ads that might involve minors. The tool matches images so individual cases are easier to track. Spotlight is now used nationwide by more than 4,000 law enforcement officers in 780 agencies to help identify more than 6,300 U.S. victims of sex trafficking. Nearly 2,000 were children.

So far, the top 5 states for Spotlight-assisted investigations are Oregon, Wisconsin, California, Arizona and Texas. One special agent investigator in Hawaii called Spotlight “a force multiplier at every stage of the operation,” noting that the tool:

  • Gathers intelligence
  • Plots trends prior to conducting an operation
  • Helps allocate investigation resources effectively

Tech That Tackles Sex Trafficking

The founder and former chief executive officer for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Ernie Allen, is on Thorn’s board of directors. Blogging for Thorn, he wrote about how the technology is tackling the problems of online child pornography and sexual abuse.

Through the extraordinary Innovation Lab, hackathons and partnerships with the technology industry, Thorn is developing and testing prototypes, putting the successful tools into the hands of those who will use them, and then measuring their impact. It is entrepreneurial, taking a business-like approach to solving one of the world’s most daunting, complex challenges. Thorn is changing the way America and the world respond to the explosion of child sexual abuse images online, the migration of human trafficking from the streets to the internet, the emergence of the anonymous Dark Web, and so much more,” said Allen.

Thorn is targeting global trafficking on the Dark Web through a new tool called Solis. Kutcher said the tool in beta is being tested by multiple agencies and it is crunching the time it takes to research a case from three years to three weeks.

It’s already helped rescue 40 children.

Read the original story on TheNextWeb.com. 

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Top 10 Most Bike Friendly Cities in the U.S.

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 15:32

Cities all over the world — especially Europe — are known for their bike friendliness. But, cities across the United States are making strides in ensuring that their streets are accessible and safe for cyclists. BikingExpert.com has compiled a list of the top 10 most bike friendly cities in the United States for EfficientGov.

Cycling is an incredibly beneficial exercise. Your whole body gets a workout, including your heart, and as a bonus, your exercise doubles as a form of transportation. When you rely on a bicycle instead of a car to commute, you can save money on gas, auto insurance, car payments and parking fees. You can feel good about using your own two legs to get around, reducing air pollution while experiencing the health benefits of biking. The following U.S. cities make it easy for residents to reap the many benefits of bicycle transportation.

#1 Minneapolis, Minn.

You may not think of a congested metropolis as a great place for cycling, but Minneapolis has invested a lot of resources in the infrastructure required to support a large bicycle community. The city has a growing bike share program and network of bike lanes. In 2015, the municipal budget included $750,000 to build protected bikeways around the city, especially to make sure bike lanes stay clear of snow and ice in winter. Minneapolis was the first American city included in the Copenhagenize Index of the most bike friendly cities in the world, and it’s still the only U.S. city to rank in the top 20.

#2 Portland, Ore.

As self-proclaimed “Bike City, USA,” Portland is well recognized for its efforts to support a bike friendly community. The city has programs to supply bike lockers, public bike rentals, free safety information and more. Portland even circulates free maps for tourists wishing to explore the city on a cycling tour. As of 2013, the city had more than 315 miles of pathways for cyclists, including specially designated “bicycle boulevards.” Portland also has the highest percentage of bike commuters to work at 7 percent. Its bike share program includes more than 1,000 smart bicycles.

#3 San Francisco, Calif.

San Francisco provides more than 200 miles of bike lines and low-traffic streets for cyclists, including a raised protective lane on one of the busiest thoroughfares. Many bike racks and garages are provided for commuters throughout the city, and locals have access to a bike sharing program as well. In 2016, San Francisco was named the second most bike-friendly city in the country by Bicycling magazine.

#4 New York City, N.Y.

New York City’s public parks are known for their policies to prohibit vehicle traffic during certain hours and on weekends, making them safer for cyclists. In addition, this highly populated metropolis provides 250 miles of dedicated bike paths, a bike sharing program and other cycling facilities. Approximately 200,000 New Yorkers cycle to work every day, and half a million people bike to work more than twice a month.

#5 Detroit, Mich.

The city of Detroit supports efforts to promote bike tours. Dedicated bike lanes can be found around the city’s best attractions and other heavily trafficked areas, which provide safety as well as recreation for cyclists and tourists. In addition, public and private projects are underway to connect Detroit to other locations in Michigan and Canada, making it easier for cyclists to travel longer distances by bike.

#6 Cincinnati, Ohio

This city has approximately 60 miles of trails and pathways in addition to 250 miles of roads that have been made more bike friendly in recent years. Hundreds of bike racks and garages can be found throughout the city. The Cincinnati city government is dedicated to making biking a more viable transportation option for commuters as well as recreational cyclists. Part of the local cycling infrastructure includes plenty of signage to make vehicles more aware of road sharing and bike lanes.

#7 Philadelphia, Penn.

This city has more miles of bike lanes and paths than almost any other U.S. city at 435 miles. A bike sharing program is great for commuters, and for recreational cyclists, the city promotes a boardwalk over Schuylkill River and waterfront bike paths. A network of 750 miles of bike trails is in the works with about 300 miles completed so far.

#8 Boulder, Colo.

Boulder helps ensure that cyclists stay safe with its city-wide anti-theft program. There are 300 miles of bike lines and paths, a network that has been built up over the years by an active biking community. Home to outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds, Boulder features many winding paths for recreational cyclists as well as protected underpasses for commuters within the city.

#9 Austin, Texas

While Austin is a great bike friendly city for commuters to work, the city has taken special efforts to promote bike tourism. Cycling maps are available throughout Austin, and the downtown area has four major bike paths. Hundreds of miles of dedicated bike lanes and plenty of bike racks make the city convenient for cyclists. In 2015, Austin was given gold status on the League of American Bicyclists’ list of Bicycle Friendly Communities, making it the only city in Texas with that designation. The city government’s Bicycle Master Plan is dedicated to making the city even safer for cyclists and growing the local biking community.

#10 Chicago, Ill.

In 2016, Bicycling magazine named Chicago the Best Bike City in America. Commuters have access to 200 miles of paths and trails, and recreational cyclists can enjoy a 20-mile trail along Lake Michigan. Chicago is proud to offer thousands of bike racks and parking garages and other cycling infrastructure, especially alongside rail stations to make longer trips easier for bike commuters. The local government also has programs in place to educate the public about bike safety and awareness. By 2020, Chicago plans to have more than 600 miles of dedicated bike lanes in place so that residents in high ridership areas will have more resources.


Locals who have a network of bike paths, parking racks and other resources in their community are more likely to bike for work commuting, recreation and health. To develop our list of the Top 10 Most Bike Friendly Cities in the U.S., we looked at cities with bike sharing programs, protected bike lanes and other infrastructure designed to support cyclists.

To learn about more bike friendly cities, see BikingExpert.com’s 75 most bike friendly cities in the world.

About the author

BikingExpert.com was created to share knowledge about biking — from learning how to bike to recommending certain types of bikes for any occasions.


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$10 Million in Rural Broadband Grants Available

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 12:51

Local governments and non-profit organizations in eligible areas that lack any existing broadband speed of at least 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream (download plus upload) can apply for rural broadband grants from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Community Connect Grants by March 13, 2017.

Grant awards will range from $100,000 up to $3 million. Matching funds of 15 percent — from non-federal sources — are required.

The opportunity is for communities that do not have private sector providers that deliver rural broadband service.

USDA has funding to help rural communities construct, acquire or lease facilities, spectrum, land or buildings used to deploy broadband service to residences, business customers and community facilities like public schools, fire stations and public libraries.

Individual awards can also be used to provide broadband service free of charge to critical community facilities for up to two years.

Find out if your community is eligible by using USDA’s online Broadband Program Mapping Tool.

Review a 2017 webinar presentation on Community Connect Grant Program eligibility and requirements.

Learn more about these rural broadband grants and apply on Grants.gov.

Read about what it takes to provide and operate municipal broadband:

What is Necessary for Successful Municipal Broadband Internet Service?

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King County Parks Tests 311 App for Parks & Trails

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 17:12

KING COUNTY, WASH. — Whether it’s a fallen tree, graffiti or a damaged sign, visitors to any of King County Parks’ 200 parks or 175 miles of regional trails can now quickly report the problem and easily track its resolution, thanks to a free app called SeeClickFix.

A partnership between Parks and SeeClickFix, a leading digital communications system company, lets parks and trails visitors be the eyes and ears on the ground, identifying issues or requesting repairs, using locational, descriptive and photographic information.

King County Parks is piloting this tool over the next several months with the goal of streamlining incoming service requests and improve communications with the public.

Continue reading the story on the county’s website.

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Are Cities Implementing Heart Health Policies?

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 16:41

As part of its heart health mission, the American Heart Association (AHA) is looking at how cities measure up when it comes to health policies. More than half of the largest U.S. cities don’t have the policies in place to improve health, according to an AHA partner.

The news is based on the recent CityHealth Initiative analysis by the de Beaumont Foundation, which looked at public health policies of the 40 largest U.S. cities from Dec. 29, 2014-June 10, 2016. City health studies typically compare death and obesity rates, but the foundation is looking upstream at the inherent factors that contribute to higher rates — factors that municipal policies can help address.

While CityHealth showed some cities are making progress toward meeting AHA recommendations in:

  • Healthy food options
  • Tobacco prevention
  • ‘Complete streets’ actions, which are health policies that support walking and biking on streets

Only 19 cities analyzed rated gold, silver or bronze medals on the initiative’s two-year old scale, which looks at nine policy areas overall. In addition to the AHA-recommended health policy categories, CityHealth also looks at how cities address clean indoor air, alcohol sales control, food safety and restaurant inspections, affordable housing, high-quality pre-kindergarten access and paid sick leave.

Twenty-one of the cities earned three or fewer individual medals in the nine health policy areas.

“Cities across the nation should focus on heart-healthy policy change in all neighborhoods to move their communities forward. Walkable, smoke-free communities with access to healthy foods ensure that families can live healthier lives,” said Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., chief medical officer for prevention and chief of the Center for Health Metrics and Evaluation for AHA.

Tobacco 21 Ordinances

While 36 of the cities have some form of smoke-free air laws, only 13 cities earned medals for having laws that restrict people under 21 from buying tobacco.

A closer look at the CityHealth research protocol and policy document for Tobacco 21 laws revealed that CityHealth used the Westlaw database to search relevant city ordinances.

According to CityHealth, raising the minimum legal sale age of tobacco products to 21 reduces lifelong usage rates.

Research shows that raising the tobacco sales minimum age to 21 years would decrease tobacco retailer and industry sales by approximately 2 percent but could contribute to a substantial reduction in tobacco use and addiction,” according to the foundation’s Tobacco 21 policy breakdown document.

Citing research by the National Academy of Medicine, Tobacco 21 policies account for a 25 percent decline in smoking initiation by 15-17 year olds, and a 12 percent drop in overall smoking rates.

Within five years, 16,000 pre-term birth and low-birth weight cases could be averted. And over 50 years, more than $212 billion could be saved in tobacco-related medical and other costs.

Connected Policies Improve Public Health

It’s not just one policy that earns the CityHealth gold standard. It’s a mix of factors that make it city life healthier.

“The ability to eat in a restaurant that doesn’t expose you to second-hand smoke is important, just as it’s important to know the food is safe before you go into that restaurant. Eating healthy food in a city facility is important, but so is your ability to walk to that facility or school,” said  Ed Hunter, president and chief executive of the de Beaumont Foundation.

Cities that received five or more CityHealth individual gold medals received a gold medal overall–those cities are Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C. Cities like Philadelphia and several in California received silver overall medals overall, and places like Denver and Kansas, City, Mo., earned bronze overall medals.

The foundation will monitor the progress of the 40 cities analyzed over the next three years and are offering technical assistance to each city to help it improve its health policies.

Read the original story on the AHA website.


Congrats to all cities recognized for #CityHealth heart-healthy policies! https://t.co/HTKcXskmfl @city_health @NACCHOalerts pic.twitter.com/4rFmsVDhkd

— American Heart News (@HeartNews) February 16, 2017

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Politico Survey: Mayors’ Frustrations with Trump Agenda

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 09:59

Politico completed it’s eight annual mayor’s survey and reported that the hot-button issues under the new administration for the mayors surveyed were housing, education, replacing aging sewer pipes to comply with federal water quality rules and health. Overall, the Trump agenda — for the mostly Democratic mayor respondents — was cause for concern in the two weeks prior to the inauguration.

“Few issues raise alarms with mayors as loudly as the threatened repeal of Obamacare,” wrote Politico’s Brent Griffiths.

He said the anonymous, unscientific survey polled a mixture of 46 (42 Democrats and 4 Republicans) mayors from big cities, college towns and urban centers. A full 74 percent indicated the repeal — which has since been set in motion — would not go well, selecting they believed it would be a “complete disaster.”

Here is a summary of the results:

Health Top Priorities

#1 Drug addiction

#2 Lack of health insurance

#3 (tie) Gun violence and obesity

School’s Top Issue

Universal pre-K

Preferred Fix for the National Highway Transportation Fund

Raise the gas tax (President Bill Clinton was the last to raise it)

Preferred Fox for Combined Sewer Overflows

Fix them with Federal funding support and keep the regulations.


When asked what they would tell the president, mayors largely asked the president to listen to them and to work together, but they are also deeply concerned that Trump’s priorities conflict with their own visions,” wrote Griffiths.


The mayors that participated in Politico’s survey are:

C. Kim Bracey, York, Pa.; Noam Bramson, New Rochelle, N.Y.; Marni Sawicki, Cape Coral, Fla.; Betsy Hodges, Minneapolis; John Marchione, Redmond, Wash.; Larry Wolgast, Topeka, Kan.; William Capote, Palm Bay, Fla.; Elizabeth Tisdahl, Evanston, Ill.; Jon Mitchell, New Bedford, Mass.; Javier M. Gonzales, Santa Fe, N.M.; Helene Schneider, Santa Barbara, Calif.; Pauline Cutter, San Leandro, Calif.; Acquanetta Warren, Fontana, Calif.; Nan Whaley, Dayton, Ohio; Adrian Mapp, Plainfield, N.J.; Bob Buckhorn, Tampa, Fla.; Steve Adler, Austin, Texas; Mike Spano, Yonkers, N.Y.; Jeri Muoio, West Palm Beach, Fla.; Claudia Bill-de la Peña, Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Betsy Price, Fort Worth, Texas; Paul Dyster, Niagara Falls, N.Y.; Esther E. Manheimer, Asheville, N.C.; Paul R. Soglin, Madison, Wisc.; Stephanie A. Miner, Syracuse, N.Y.; Jonathan Rothschild, Tucson, Ariz.; Dana L. Redd, Camden, N.J.; Kathy Sheehan, Albany, N.Y.; George Van Dusen, Skokie, Ill.; Karen Freeman-Wilson, Gary, Ind.; Andrew Gillum, Tallahassee, Fla.; Andy Berke, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Marty Walsh, Boston; Madeline Rogero, Knoxville, Tenn.; Marilyn Strickland, Tacoma, Wash.; Robert Garcia, Long Beach, Calif.; Edwin M. Lee, San Francisco; Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles; Jim Kenney, Philadelphia; Ed Murray, Seattle; Alan Arakawa, Maui County, Hawaii; Mike Rawlings, Dallas; Toni N. Harp, New Haven, Conn.; Mark Stodola, Little Rock, Ark.; Denny Doyle, Beaverton, Ore.; Joseph M. Petty, Worcester, Mass.

Read the full story on Politico’s website.

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3 Presidents You Didn’t Know Were Mayors

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 09:52

President Calvin Coolidge Served Many City Offices

As mayor of Northampton, Mass. from 1910-1911, President Coolidge political rise was “methodical and steady.” Coolidge was one of the few American presidents to start their political careers by serving on city council.

Coolidge was a Vermonter than went to Amherst College, graduating cum laude and earning oratory and literary prizes. He stayed in Northhampton and began practicing law, and got involved with local Republican politics. After serving city council, he became city solicitor in 1900, won county clerk in 1903 and was elected to the Massachusetts state legislature 1906.

In 1912, he was elected to the Massachusetts Senate, serving as senate president in 1914, became the lieutenant governor in 1916 and was elected Governor in 1918. He was elected vice president under Warren G. Harding in 1920, and when President Harding died of a heart attack in 1923, “Silent Cal” became president and was elected to second term.

Source: Miller Center, University of Virginia

President Grover Cleveland Exposed City Corruption

As mayor of Buffalo, N.Y. from 1881-1882, President Cleveland was so popular, he was nominated to run for governor, which he served for nearly two years before being elected president in 1884.

“In one year, Mayor Cleveland exposed graft and corruption in the city’s municipal services (street cleaning, sewage and transportation), vetoed dozens of pork-barrel appropriations and set a pace for hard work and efficiency that impressed state leaders in the Democratic Party.”

He served as sheriff of Erie County from 1870-1873, but was practicing law when the Democratic Party tapped him as a “fresh face” to run for Buffalo’s mayor.

Source: Miller Center, University of Virginia

President Andrew Johnson Career Politician

As mayor of Greeneville, Tenn., from 1830-1833, the almost-impeached President Johnson spent the longest time of any POTUS as mayor. He was a “Jacksonian Democrat” alderman, then a mayor known for his sharp debate skill, wit and ability to please local crowds.

“He gained the support of local mechanics, artisans and rural folk with his common-man, tell-it-like-it-is style,” according to the Miller Center.

He then served as a U.S. Congressman, Tennessee Governor and U.S. Senator. Though Tennessee had succeeded from the union, Johnson was the only anti-abolitionist and southern senator to retain his seat, so President Abraham Lincoln appointed him Tennessee military governor.

With a national election approaching, Lincoln asked Johnson to join a bi-partisan ticket as vice president because he was southern senator that was committed to keeping the union together. Johnson became president when Lincoln was assassinated in his second term, but the Democratic party did not nominate Johnson for further service. Tennessee then voted him back into the U.S. Senate for a second time.

Source: Prairie Roots Center

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The New Civics 101: How to Spot Fake News

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 17:23


By Carolyn Thompson

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. — Teachers from elementary school through college are telling students how to distinguish between factual and fictional news — and why they should care that there’s a difference.

As Facebook works with The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and other organizations to curb the spread of fake and misleading news on its influential network, teachers say classroom instruction can play a role in deflating the kind of “Pope endorses Trump ” headlines that muddied the waters during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I think only education can solve this problem,” said Pat Winters Lauro, a professor at New Jersey’s Kean University who began teaching a course on news literacy this semester.

Like others, Lauro has found discussions of fake news can lead to politically sensitive territory. Some critics believe fake stories targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton helped Donald Trump overcome a deficit in public opinion polls, and President Trump himself has attached the label to various media outlets and unfavorable reports and polls in the first weeks of his presidency.

“It hasn’t been a difficult topic to teach in terms of material because there’s so much going on out there,” Lauro said, “but it’s difficult in terms of politics because we have such a divided country and the students are divided, too, on their beliefs. I’m afraid sometimes that they think I’m being political when really I’m just talking about journalistic standards for facts and verification, and they look at it like ‘Oh, you’re anti-this or -that.'”

Judging what to trust was easier when the sources were clearer — magazines, newspapers or something else, said Kean senior Mike Roche, who is taking Lauro’s class. Now “it all comes through the same medium of your cellphone or your computer, so it’s very easy to blur the lines and not have a clear distinction of what’s real and what’s fake,” he said.

A California lawmaker last month introduced a bill to require the state to add lessons on how to distinguish between real and fake news to the grade 7-12 curriculum.

High school government and politics teacher Lesley Battaglia added fake news to the usual election-season lessons on primaries and presidential debates, discussing credible sites and sources and running stories through fact-checking sites like Snopes. There were also lessons about anonymous sources and satire. (They got a kick out of China’s dissemination of a 2012 satirical story from The Onion naming Kim Jong Un as the sexiest man alive.)

“I’m making you guys do the hard stuff that not everybody always does. They see it in a tweet and that’s enough for them,” Battaglia told her students at Williamsville South High School in suburban Buffalo.

“It’s kind of crazy,” 17-year-old student Hannah Mercer said, “to think about how much it’s affecting people and swaying their opinions.”

Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy pioneered the idea of educating future news consumers, and not just journalists, a decade ago with the rise of online news. About four in 10 Americans often get news online, a 2016 Pew Research Center report found. Stony Brook last month partnered with the University of Hong Kong to launch a free online course.

“To me, it’s the new civics course,” said Tom Boll, after wrapping up his own course on real and fake news at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. With everyone now able to post and share, gone are the days of the network news and newspaper editors serving as the primary gatekeepers of information, Boll, an adjunct professor, said.

“The gates are wide open,” he said, “and it’s up to us to figure out what to believe.”

That’s not easy, said Raleigh, North Carolina-area teacher Bill Ferriter, who encourages students to first use common sense to question whether a story could be true, to look at web addresses and authors for hints, and to be skeptical of articles that seem aimed at riling them up.

He pointed to an authentic-looking site reporting that President Barack Obama signed an order in December banning the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. A “.co” at the end of an impostor news site web address should have been a red flag, he said.

“The biggest challenge that I have whenever I try to teach kids about questionable content on the web,” said Ferriter, who teaches sixth grade, “is convincing them that there is such a thing as questionable content on the web.”

Some of Battaglia’s students fear fake news will chip away at the trust of even credible news sources and give public figures license to dismiss as fake news anything unfavorable.

“When people start to distrust all news sources is when people in power are just allowed to do whatever they want, said Katie Peter, “and that’s very scary.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Coffee Shop Trains Disabled Young Adults for Jobs

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 17:17

PEABODY, MASS. – Through the Massachusetts Turning 22 program, Northshore Arc — which provides job training services and support annually to more than 10,000 disabled people — has opened a new cafe on Main Street in downtown Peabody to train disabled young adults.

Breaking Grounds Cafe employs people with intellectual and physical disabilities to help become participants in the community.

According to the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, Massachusetts spent $7.6 million on Turning 22 last year, but this year Governor Charlie Baker proposed more than $21 million for Turning 22 in the preliminary budget.

Kids that receive special education due to a wide range of disabilities become ineligible for school programs and services at age 22. The Turning 22 funding helps them transition into the adult service system.

Sometimes parents of disabled young adults have to leave their jobs to take care of their adult children, and they can end up isolated from peers at home with nothing to do.

Local agencies like Northshore Arc run workshops, housing programs and services to help disabled young adults achieve a meaningful life.

Tim Brown, director of innovation and strategy for Northshore Arc, told Fox25 news that the cafe is designed to provide basic training and food service experience that leads to permanent hospitality and customer service jobs in the community.

In addition to a range of beverages there are sandwiches, outdoor seating and there will be music on Friday nights.


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Mass. Gov Offers Insights on ACA Replacement for Healthcare

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 12:45

LOWELL, MASS. — Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker spoke with LowellSun reporters about aspects of the state’s healthcare experience — including before and during the Affordable Care Act law — and what insights he offered the Federal government on an ACA replacement plan.

One result of ACA was 350,000 working people, who used to be covered by their employers’ health plans, went onto the state’s health plan, MassHealth. Before ACA, MassHealth was a health insurance program for unemployed people and children that do not have access to health insurance — Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) combined as the state’s healthcare safety net.

That plan, along with the state’s ACA healthcare marketplace the Health Connector, was leveraged when healthcare reform went into effect beginning in 2014.

Flight of Massachusetts Workers to Medicaid Under ACA

One attendee at the talk noted that a former employer offered a stipend to employees that opted to go on MassHealth (the “opt-out” option), instead of joining the company’s group policy. That was allowed under federal law, Baker said.

Baker explained that in two years under ACA, MassHealth went from serving about 19 percent to 26 percent of the people in Massachusetts with health insurance coverage, while employer plans went from serving 56 percent to 49 percent of the covered population. That was also exacerbated when the “Connector broke,” a problem he inherited when he became governor in January, 2015.

“Those two numbers moved exactly in tandem with each other,” said Baker, who noted that the state is dealing with “month-over-month-over-month” movement of people going off private coverage and going on the state’s Medicaid/CHIP program under ACA, which now accounts for about 40 percent of the state’s budget.

The data also shows a significant drop in employer-based coverage opportunities, and the total number of people covered by health insurance in Massachusetts hasn’t changed much at all, he said.

It used to be that Massachusetts’ employers could pay into the Health Connector, and their employees could go on it and buy a plan. The state operated the Massachusetts Insurance Partnership after the state passed a health care reform law in 2006. That was an option for smaller businesses challenged to establish and fund group insurance plans for their employees. Under ACA, Massachusetts small businesses were referred to the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) marketplace.

What Baker Recommends

In a very-detailed, 9-page letter Baker sent to House Majority California Representative Kevin McCarthy last month — which defended parts of the ACA — the Governor indicated Massachusetts would like the flexibility to return to a structure similar to what Baker said worked for the state before ACA. His key point:

“I think if we go back to the firewall, gave people the ability for employers to offer pre-tax funding to people who bought plans through the Connector, gave people the ability to pay with pre-tax money to purchase plans through the Connector, I think we could deal with this and make sure people are covered and have insurance,” and stop the state’s bleeding on this issue.

Baker’s third annual budget reportedly includes a $997 million increase for MassHealth, along with proposed reforms intended to control costs. One of those reforms is an assessment on employers with 11 or more workers who do not offer health insurance.

In the late 1990s, the Massachusetts Insurance Commissioner, the late Linda Ruthardt, appointed Baker chief executive officer (CEO) to Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare to oversee it’s receivership as insolvency loomed.

It didn’t go bankrupt. While CEO, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare’s membership rose from 750,000 to more than 1 million subscribers.

Read the coverage and watch the video from the talk.

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Court Rules Lexington, Ky., Violated Panhandler Right

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 16:41

FRANKFORT, KY. — A panhandler cited for defying a city ordinance while holding a sign asking for money won his case before the Kentucky Supreme Court, which ruled his free speech rights were violated.

The court on Thursday released its unanimous opinion striking down the decade-old panhandling ordinance in Lexington. The local law prohibited begging along public streets and intersections in the state’s second-largest city.

The justices ruled that the ordinance singled out a particular type of speech for criminal prosecution — begging — while allowing other forms of speech.

Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr., who wrote the opinion, said the “true beauty” of the First Amendment is it “treats both Cicero and the vagabond as equals.”

“Someone standing at a prominent Lexington intersection displaying a sign that reads ‘Jesus loves you,’ or one that says ‘Not my President’ has no fear of criminal liability under the ordinance,” Minton wrote. “But another person displaying a sign on public streets reading ‘Homeless please help’ may be convicted of a misdemeanor.”

He said there is “rarely a constitutionally valid reason for the government to filter the topics for public discourse.”

The court’s ruling came in the case of Dennis Champion, whom police cited in 2014 for holding a homemade sign asking for money at a busy Lexington intersection.

Lexington police issued 327 citations for violating the city’s panhandling ordinance in 2015, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. From January to Sept. 31, 2016, Lexington police issued 195 citations, it said, according to data provided by Lexington police.

In its ruling, the court returned Champion’s case to the local court and directed that the charge against him be dismissed.

Lexington officials had said the ordinance was aimed at promoting public safety and ensuring free flow of traffic.

The city also said it has a compelling interest in regulating interactions between pedestrians and motorists.

The Supreme Court said there are “content-neutral ways” the city could achieve the same goals without violating free speech rights.

“For instance, Lexington could prohibit all individuals from approaching stopped motorists — this more directly targets the behavior the city seeks to alleviate and does so without regard to why an individual steps into traffic,” Minton wrote.

Responding to the ruling, city spokeswoman Susan Straub said: “With people asking for help at our intersections, safety has always been our primary concern. We will carefully examine options and work on a strategy that puts safety first for everyone involved.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Hartford: Civic IT Department Merger Means Doing More with Less

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 16:09

HARTFORD, CONN. — In 2002, the city of had a merger between its Information Services department and the Hartford Public Schools’ Information Technology department, creating Metro Hartford Innovation Services (MHIS).

Today, MHIS staff led by a chief innovation officer (CIO) is made up of both city and Hartford Public Schools employees, with a unified financial system, a single user directory system, a single email system and a single phone system, according to a history page on the city of Hartford’s website.

After 15 years, a movement in city operations to unified technology may seem resolved.

“However, as leaders come and go and resources and priorities shift, there is constant tension between the two organizations that created us. Thus, I say that we are an experiment—ongoing, often challenging, never dull, and effective, interesting and always moving forward,” wrote the page author, likely a former CIO.

Within MHIS is the Hartford GIS team, which oversees licenses and data kept throughout the city’s departments, except the police department, and operates the city’s open data portal.

The team has to do more with less — fewer staff as a consolidated department, budget constraints and more devices and tools than when the consolidation idea was first conceived in 1996..

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Texas May Require Cities to Let Fire and EMS Staff Carry Guns

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 15:09

MCLENNAN COUNTY, TEXAS — Texas firefighters and EMTs may soon be permitted to carry firearms while on duty.

State legislators recently introduced a bill that would allow firefighters and EMTs to carry guns while responding to calls, reported the WacoTrib.com.

However, some responders are opposed to the legislation.

“I would be in favor of leaving guns in the hands of police officers,” Waco Fire Chief Bobby Tatum said. “We have a specific mission to save lives and property, and I think carrying a firearm would cross the line in that regard.”

The Waco Fire Department currently prohibits personnel from carrying firearms, but the bill would require local jurisdictions to allow it.

Some responders were in favor of the bill, particularly for volunteer departments who may arrive at a scene before police.

“Being licensed to carry while on a call or doing a fire department function is no different than having the need to carry while you’re a private citizen at home,” Jimmy Rogers, a volunteer firefighter, said. “Those unfortunate situations can arise at any time, even on fire calls. Even during a fire call, there’s sometimes a heightened threat there.”

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There is a Sex Education Resource Where Kids Search Online

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 14:44

It is a doctor-directed sex education sub-site of Pornhub.

But with 70 million daily users — including kids with inquiring minds — Pornhub’s success presented a major educational opportunity.

Our goal is to provide our visitors with a site that has credible and insightful information, rather than have them scouring the internet,” Corey Price, vice president, told Mashable,

Searching Sex on the Web

As unsettling as it may sound, kids as young as 10 are searching for sex information on the Web.

Researchers at the Crimes Against Children Research Center University of New Hampshire spent two years acquiring and studying data from a national telephone survey of 1,500 youth Internet users aged 10 to 17 years. At the time, 2007, they found 42 percent of youth Internet users had been exposed to online pornography. More than half — 66 percent reported unwanted exposure. It’s wasn’t the majority of 10-17 year olds then, but many of those kids were curious enough or had questions they went online with.

What is the Site All About?

The Sexual Wellness Center sub-site has articles on the basics of the birds and the bees, sexual safety, diseases like Hepatitis B & C, relationships and other topics that will develop over time.

Image: Pornhub Sexual Wellness Center Graphic Example Screengrab

The images are graphics-based.

Users can also send questions to Dr. Laurie Betito, the sub-site’s director.

The content also features therapists and other contributors.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 24 U.S. states and the District of Columbia currently mandate sex education.

That means many school districts can choose not to teach sex education in their schools — but the students that go to those schools may have Internet access.

Hear Dr. Laurie’s welcome message:

Additional Resources

The UNH researchers do not just track trends, they also look at  programs designed to increase children’s safety and foster responsible online behavior.

Resources from bullying to violence are available on the Crimes Against Children Research Center homepage.



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Why Low Income Housing Has No Effect on Nearby Home Values

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 11:36

Opponents to building affordable housing — especially in the nation’s least affordable or competitive markets like San Francisco, New York and Seattle — say that low-income housing depreciates nearby home values.

However, a recent Trulia report showed that this ripple effect is actually not the case in most of the country’s aggressively growing regions.

The U.S. Department of Treasury administers a program called Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), which funds low-income housing projects. The data collected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as well as Trulia home value data, determines the validity of complaints about low-income housing depreciating the value of nearby homes.

But in the nation’s 20 least affordable markets, Trulia’s analysis of over 3,000 low-income housing projects, from 1996 and 2006, found no significant effect on home values located near those subsidized housing projects, with a few exceptions.

Trulia’s research indicates that some markets show a slightly more negative home value after the completion of nearby low-income housing. Despite this correlation, more factors are involved to influence a neighboring price drop than might be expected.

Home Values Rise at the Same Rate, Before and After

Further detail shows that home values near potential low-income housing sites and surrounding neighborhoods values rose at the same rate as they did after a low-income housing project was complete. Testing for distance from the project, Trulia considered neighborhoods within 2,000 feet of the low-income housing project, and neighborhoods between 2,001 and 4,000 feet away. These values, again, showed no difference.

Among the cities where there was enough data to measure, San Jose, Calif., was the most aggressive in adding low-income housing units within the 10 years of focus. Nearby Oakland added the fewest units per capita, and yet neither metro found a change in home values, one way or the other.

In fact, in some cases, like Denver, homes located near low-income housing projects registered a positive effect in terms of price per square foot after a project was completed.

Denver’s data indicated a $7.35 per square foot increase in property values in the neighborhood versus the region overall, but this could display other possible causes. Parts of downtown Denver where the low-income projects were built also saw increased development overall in the 1990s, and the construction of the Coors Field around the same time, making these neighborhoods highly sought out real estate.

The Neighborhood Exceptions

In Boston and Cambridge, Mass., low-income housing projects did have a negative effect on nearby homes in terms of price per square foot, but the data may reveal a *region-specific market effect. Subsidized housing projects were concentrated in particular areas in a very short space of time, possibly crowding out other potential development opportunities that might balance those markets.

Despite the few exceptions, Trulia’s research detailed in its “There Doesn’t Go the Neighborhood” report is clear:

In most large metropolitan areas, especially ones that are known for high real estate prices and competition, the construction of subsidized housing has little to no effect on the value of homes in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Written by Dina Hanna on behalf of Trulia.

Trulia is a mobile and online real estate resource that makes finding a home easy and enjoyable by providing insights to make informed decisions about where to live. Trulia prepares distillations of housing market research for EfficientGov.


*Editor’s note: According to the Boston Globe story, Brandeis University researchers found that 79 percent of federally subsidized units in the region are concentrated in moderate- and low-opportunity neighborhoods. In Eastern Massachusetts, affordable housing advocates have filed cases against cities for violating the Fair Housing Act in accommodating neighbors’ opposition in locations where housing projects are proposed.


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CDP Cities Platform Helps Track, Compare & Disclose Environmental Data

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 17:49

More than 500 cities, 100 states and regions and 5,800 companies are on CDP Cities, according to the 2017 kickoff webinar.

This global environmental disclosure platform for cities helps them measure, manage and disclose environmental data in a standardized fashion. Data is available through CDP’s Open Data Portal. Compiling all environmental data in one place is a free service — whether a city chooses to disclose its information publicly or privately.

And according to CDP, disclosure works to help cities generate emissions reduction targets. About 33 percent of first-time CDP Cities establish reduction targets, but by the third time, about 56 percent of cities that use the platform establish emissions reduction targets.

CDP also said their tool makes it easier for cities to report to the Global Covenant of Mayors, and the data is accessed by C40 Cities and other partners.

Key CDP Cities features are:

  • The City Snapshot dashboard is user friendly overview of responses cities complete in their initial survey.
  • The Cities Analytics panel allows cities to compare their data to others to benchmark performance and learn about what other cities are doing.
  • The Matchmaking Service connects cities to investor networks with more than $100 trillion in assets.

Matchmaking can help cities address credit worthiness, aggregate smaller projects and create understanding for data urban mitigation projects.

Accredited service providers can also help cities improve performance.

Using CDP Cities

The city of San Antonio, Texas, uses CDP Cities for reporting and to compile data to help its city council understand what’s behind proposed climate action plans, according to Douglas Melnick, AICP, CNU-A, chief sustainability officer.

Melnick’s tips for using the CDP Cities platform are:

  • Identify where data is
  • How much time is needed to gather and report data
  • Identify staff that will collect and enter data
  • Double check data accuracy
  • Publicize the information disclosure

Financial Analysts Use the Data

Moody’s Investors Services uses CDP Cities to assess a city’s credit worthiness because it offers a “more systematic and transparent manner when it comes to ratings, research and analysis,” said Henry Shilling, senior vice president.

Since 2015, Moody’s has stepped up its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) efforts using the data to create things like heat maps that identify levels of environmental risks, publish green bond assessments and assess emissions scenarios of particular industries, said Shilling.

Moody’s factors in ESG risks when they are likely to affect the probability of default and recoveries, he said. Further, ESG considerations are explicitly scored factors in some of Moody’s methodologies.

Moody’s seven fundamental ESG disclosure principles are:

  1. Present relevant information
  2. Be specific and complete
  3. Be clear, balanced and understandable
  4. Be consistent over time
  5. Be comparable among entities within a sector, industry, portfolio
  6. Be reliable, verifiable and objective
  7. Be provided on a timely basis

Others like Breckinridge Capital Advisors use the platform — among others — in its New City/County Framework, which is a first-of-its-kind attempt attempt to combine measures of economic sources and social progress, according to the firm’s Abigail Ingalls.

In the framework, Breckinridge is looking at 100 data points just on sustainability, Ingalls said.

CDP Cities 2017 questionnaires are due by March 17th.

The next webinar is Feb. 28, 2017, at 12:30 pm

Learn more and register for the next CDP Cities webinar on data collection tips.


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City IT ‘Onion Strategy’ Neutralizes Ransomware

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 16:39

WESTLAND, MICH. — When a Westland public safety employee received an email from what he thought was the city’s human resources department, he innocently clicked on the attachment. Luckily a multi-pronged mode of action known as an onion strategy protected the city from this ransomware attack.

According to a State Tech report, Westland’s Chief Information Officer Dan Bourdeau said what looked like a routine HR form unleashed ransomware on the employee’s computer. It locked up the machine and easily made it’s way to a network server.

The hackers wanted $25,000 per device — and Westland reportedly has about 350. Bourdeau said the IT team’s onion strategy neutralized the threat.

As a result, Westland’s servers were not shutdown — and no ransom was paid.

Westland’s onion strategy is:

  • Isolation
  • Assessment
  • Reporting
  • Evidence preservation
  • Recovery
  • Forensics

The First Layer in Action

Westland’s IT department uses email whitelisting, strong anti-virus and malware protection, backup and recovery technologies and some human processes that meet threats like ransomware head-on.

When the first level of email security did not catch the phishing email, endpoint protection detected that it was amiss and sent an alert to isolate affected devices.

The city’s system never went down with two infected devices isolated in six minutes. Then, backup made it possible to wipe them before restoring all lost files, minimizing the impact.

Filtering & Restoring Files

Although anti-virus programs and firewalls are considered first line cybersecurity, ransomeware can get by when phishing emails are shared.

When an employee of Janesville, Wis., received a branded letter from a legal vendor, it was forwarded to several colleagues. Luckily the launched ransomware never encrypted because of a packet-filtering device and fast response by the IT department.

Janesville’s Gordy LaChance, IT Director, said his team needed to work quickly to delete several ­million affected files in order to contain the cybersecurity threat.

“We moved those files and, out of an abundance of caution, air-gapped our network for six hours. We then pulled all of the files from the location and deleted them,” said LaChance.

All Janesville’s lost files were restored from a recent backup.

In Westland’s incident, all files were back within eight hours with a backup solution that replicates to three secure locations in the United States and one overseas.

No Tears for Employees

Bordeau’s team was also notified by the Westland employee who made the mistake.

“We don’t want employees to hide anything. I want them to feel comfortable calling IT if they have any problems. I want them to know they are going to be received and helped,” he explained.

Westland makes it a policy not to embarrass staff for being a victim to a socially-engineered attack like ransomware.

After the cybersecurity incident, the city implemented quarterly evaluation of permissions inside its Active Directory and reinvigorated the education process, reasserting that the city would not discipline any employee for opening ransomware.

IT now engages Westland’s staff on cybersecurity two to three times per month and is creating training videos.

“You have to use education and show people how to use critical-thinking skills to make the best choices they can make, but don’t punish someone if they make a mistake. And that’s what it is. It’s a mistake,” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance.

Read the original story on the StateTech website.

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