CINCINNATI, OHIO — Last year the National Low Income Housing Coalition revealed in the report Out of Reach an affordability gap between the cost of rental housing and the wages of renters. In real estate markets throughout the country — renters do not earn enough to afford a decent, safe home without sacrifice. In that report, however, Cincinnati ranked third among the 50 largest metropolitan areas, with only Boston and Pittsburgh having a better proportion of affordable rentals.
NLIHC is consistent with the Federal standard that no more than 30 percent of a household’s gross income should be spent on rent and utilities, where households paying more than that amount are considered cost burdened. More affordable Cincinnati, based on the 2014 census data NLIHC relied on, competed well in the study with 42 affordable rental properties in every 100 available.
In addition to built affordable housing, the city has been channeling Federal allocations to community partners that create new affordable housing by reclaiming abandoned properties or lots.
Stimulus for Affordable Housing
The city has provided funding for housing development through a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) process, which includes U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development allocations like Community Development Block grants that could be eliminated in President Trump’s proposed budget.
Last August, Cincinnati announced more than $4 million for 10 residential development projects for rehabilitation of aging or otherwise underdeveloped neighborhoods through NOFA. That funding reportedly leveraged private investment by a whopping 12-to-1 ratio, meaning a total of $57 million will create 265 affordable housing units in Cincinnati that people can rent or buy.
The largest is a $15-$16 million project in the South Cuminsville neighborhood, one that is cordoned by highways and a creek. The Commons — 80 1-bedroom apartments with services on site — is supposed to break ground later this year.
The non-profit Working In Neighborhoods is working with the neighborhood to eradicate poverty in the next generation, Barbara Busch, WIN’s executive director, told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
WIN has an Economic Learning Campus in the neighborhood, though works throughout the city. The organization has sold more than 160 homes to low- and moderate-income families. In addition to The Commons, WIN is also redeveloping three single family homes with the NOFA funding in the Cedar Corridor neighborhood, according to Soapbox Cincinnati.
Redeveloping ‘Kinda Tiny Houses’
The city has 52 neighborhoods, with four core focus areas that receive scoring preference through NOFA, including the Northshide neighborhood.
The group Northsiders Engaged in Sustainable Development (NEST) is using its NOFA grants to renovate at least seven units, like this one on Chase Ave., in abandoned properties.
Through another initiative called Kinda Tiny Houses — which are 600 – 1,000 square feet — NEST is creating budget-friendly home ownership units. The renovations are funded through bank financing, along with allocations from the city’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). That program provides up to $14,999 of assistance to low-, moderate- and middle-income homebuyers at or below 120 percent of area median income to purchase single-family homes rehabbed with NSP funds. The funds help qualifying homeowners with downpayment or closing costs, or a principle write-down, in some cases. NSP is funded through the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which the Trump administration is looking to overhaul.
One home, 4137 Witler Street, was completed about one year ago and sold. NEST has several similar projects underway.
In Colorado, Federal employees work on a range of management and research programs that fall under a vast environmental programmatic umbrella spanning numerous agencies. To get a sense of how President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts could effect the state’s workforce, The Colorado Independent looked at how many people in Colorado work for the Federal government on environmental and atmospheric programs.
From popular brownfields redevelopment projects and roughly half the nation’s Superfund sites, to agriculture, public lands conservation, mining, species monitoring and protection, water and air quality improvement, renewable energy research and climate change mitigation — a lot of Federal environmental work the Trump budget aims to cut happens in Denver, Boulder, Lakewood, Loveland, Durango, Grand Junction, Golden and other Colorado cities.
The Independent mined the U.S. Office of Personnel Management quarterly report for September 2016 for data on full-time, part-time and seasonal workers. It showed that Colorado has 13,712 federal employees, not including contract workers, whom could be affected by the deep environmental budget cuts the Trump administration has proposed. Highlights include:
- The U.S. Department of the Interior’s nearly 7,000 workers with oversight of water, ranch land, mining, fish and wildlife, national parks and more. This agency includes National Parks Service, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Indian Affairs and several others.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which employs 610 workers, including Region 8 headquarters in downtown Denver. That’s one of two regional EPA offices that could be consolidated under the administration’s proposal.
- The U.S. Department of Energy, which under its National Renewable Energy Laboratory, has 1,700 Colorado employees that oversee 13 research programs and 684 partnerships.
- The U.S. Department of Commerce, which has numerous employees that work on environmental-related programs, such as the 373 that work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Weather Service, the 482 that report to the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the 1,231 with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which does a great deal of Federal climate research.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has 2,068 employees under the U.S. Forest Service, 290 with the Natural Resources Conservation Service spread across 54 fields offices and more in other services.
“These cuts also will affect real jobs here in Colorado. The men and women who work at federal agencies in our state are doing incredibly important work for the nation,” said Jessica Goad of Conservation Colorado.
Former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, a known clean energy advocate, also reportedly raised concerns about how the Trump budget could affect jobs across the state:
We’re no longer in a situation where you can separate out climate work from other air work and water work and public land use…It all matters…it’s all connected.”
The work of the above agencies also involves universities and other partners, as it tends to dovetail with state and local programs, according to The Independent.
The post How the Trump Budget Could Cut 14,000 Jobs in Colorado Alone appeared first on EfficientGov.
Editor’s Note: As of February 2017, the project continues:
By Mary Velan
EfficientGov – Originally posted November 3, 2015
The city of Detroit is teaming up with RecoveryPark to transform a blighted 22-acre area on the city’s lower east side into a center of urban agriculture. The goal of the project is to provide a place for ex-offenders, recovering addicts and others with significant barriers to employment with an opportunity to gain valuable work experience.
The 60-acre project – which includes more than 35 acres (406 parcels) of city land – is designed to revitalized one of Detroit’s blighted neighborhoods by repurposing vacant land. The city is collaborating with RecoveryPark, a nonprofit organization working to create jobs for people who struggle to get hired.
“RecoveryPark isn’t just about transforming this land. It’s about transforming lives,” Mayor Duggan said. “The city of Detroit is proud to support the work Gary Wozniak and his team are doing to put this vacant land back to productive use and to help ex-offenders and others with barriers to employment rebuild their lives.”
The project is expected to employ 128 individuals within three years, 60 percent of who will be Detroit residents. Consistent with its mission, most of RecoveryPark’s workers will be ex-offenders, veterans and recovering addicts.
The RecoveryPark project wants to leverage Detroit’s underutilized assets while developing a for-profit food business – RecoveryPark Farms – in the local community. To help the project take root and grow, the city is allocated $15 million to the initiative.
Veterans, returning citizens, challenged workers, those in recovery and other marginalized citizens struggle daily for the ability to care for themselves and their families. Recovery Parkwill provide them the opportunity for a meaningful job, to earn a decent wage, own their own business and restore personal dignity, Wozniak said.
Under the $15 million project, which is expected to take five years to bring to fruition, RecoveryPark will replace blighted, vacant lots with dozens of massive greenhouses and hoop houses to grow produce. The fruits and vegetables grown in these facilities will be sold to local restaurants, retailers and wholesalers. Among the local businesses that already purchase produce from RecoveryPark Farms, includes the restaurants Cuisine and Wright & Co. (Detroit), Bacco Ristorante (Southfield) and Streetside Seafood and The Stand (Birmingham).
The City will lease the land to RecoveryPark for $105 per acre per year. In exchange, RecoveryPark must secure or demolish all vacant, blighted structures within its boundaries within the first year. Here are the terms of the deal:
- Within 120 days of possession, RecoveryPark is required to maintain the entirety of the leased footprint, mowing at least once every three weeks, and trimming trees. This remains continues for the entirety of the lease.
- Within 12 months of a signed term sheet, RecoveryPark will re-locate its Waterford, Michigan operations, to the City of Detroit’s negotiated footprint.
- Within 12 months of a signed term sheet 51% of employees will be Detroit based for the first 36 months. After 36 months, Detroit employment must increase to 60%.
- Within the first 12 months of a signed term sheet, RecoveryPark must secure or demolish any blighted / vacant structure within the boundaries. All demolitions will be in accordance with the City of Detroit’s demolition policy. Recovery Park must also present a plan to the City of Detroit for future use of all structures.
- Within 24 months of possession, RecoveryPark will operate at least 3 acres of greenhouses or hoop houses.
- Within 36 months of possession, RecoveryPark will operate at least 6 acres of greenhouses or hoop houses.
- Within 48 months of possession, RecoveryPark will operate at least 9 acres of greenhouses or hoop houses.
- Right of Reverter – The City of Detroit has the right to take back purchased land without greenhouses or hoop-houses if RecoveryPark defaults or does not meet terms.
“Commercial agriculture in Detroit is an important addition to Detroit’s expanding business portfolio,” sad Gary Wozniak, RecoveryPark CEO. “Mayor Duggan’s economic development team has move boldly and swiftly to align city resources with our company’s expansion needs.”
The post Detroit Turned Blighted Properties into Urban Farming appeared first on EfficientGov.
By Jeramey Jannene
The city is proposing to sell three vacant lots clustered around W. Fond du Lac Ave. and N. 18th St. and totaling 10,360 square-feet to Sharon and Larry Adams. The Adams, in partnership with developer Juli Kaufmann and her firm Fix Development, want to add this land to their existing parcels in the area to create Adams Garden Park.
According to a city report, “Adams Garden Park will be designed as an urban oasis that is tailored primarily to urban dwellers in the immediate and downtown communities. The garden center will showcase strategies for urban gardening and beautifying urban spaces such as porches and balconies. The retail operation will feature unique and specialty items made by local artisans and manufacturers.”‘
Sharon Adams told the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee that “this project literally grew out of listening to neighbors, experimenting and growing, and bringing together an opportunity to create an urban garden collective.” Adams went on to tell the committee that “it will be a retail source for flowers and plants. It will be a training source and a job creation source.” Their plans call for the operation to operate year-round.
See what Detroit has developed on vacant lots:
The post Milwaukee’s Vacant Lot Program to Create Urban Garden Center appeared first on EfficientGov.
SEATTLE — Seattle community centers are providing basic hygiene services to help those living unsheltered. Showers are open to homeless residents at four community centers, which provided 1,000 showers last year through the free shower program.
— City of Seattle (@CityofSeattle) March 23, 2017
The Delridge Community Center originally charged a $3 shower fee when the program started a few years ago. But advocacy work led to partnerships that have resulted in donations, and the showers became free to use for homeless residents lat year, according to the city’s Parkways website.
Shower Program Supports Jobs, Health
Homelessness rates are higher in cities than in other locations, according to a study by the U.S. Conference of Mayors released this year. Seattle’s homelessness rates spiked by 19 percent in a January 2016 report, according to the Seattle Times.
Angie Ramirez, Delridge Community Center coordinator, said “I believe that after these residents are able to shower, feel clean and valued, they have a more positive outlook on life. We have come to know that many of these patrons have a job but their living situations are complicated. When they are able to come here after work and shower, they are able to go back to work feeling somewhat refreshed the next day.”
The city’s community centers also expanded operating hours in neighborhoods with limited recreation opportunities and opened the doors to all:
“Beginning this year we made most of our drop-in activities free after hearing from many community members that even small drop-in fees can be a barrier for people with low incomes,” wrote Seattle Parks & Recreation.
The Seattle Parks & Recreation scholarship program also provides low-income individuals and families with discounts to use facilities and services, including classes, swimming, enrichment programs, school-aged child care for before and after school and more.
The post Seattle’s Free Shower Program for Homeless Residents appeared first on EfficientGov.
By Leana S. Wen, M.D., MSc., FAAEM
As a physician who has treated patients in the emergency department before and after the Affordable Care Act was instituted, I have seen firsthand how it has transformed the lives of many of my patients. And as the health commissioner for Baltimore city, I have seen how it has safeguarded the lives of more than 40,000 residents in my city, and millions more around the country, who would otherwise be uninsured.
But there is more to the repeal of the ACA and its replacement with the American Health Care Act than the potential loss of health insurance by tens of millions of Americans. The act also includes a sustained mechanism to safeguard a healthier, more secure, and financially stable future for America: the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
Created in 2010, this is the first federal funding source dedicated to public health. It directly empowers communities to prevent chronic conditions and helps local jurisdictions be more agile in responding to health crises while reducing long-term health costs.
Wen was also on National Public Radio’s OnPoint to address today’s American Health Care Act vote and how it will affect people that will lose their healthcare coverage under it:
— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) March 23, 2017
Cities like Baltimore are concerned about how the reductions in the public health fund will hamper their abilities to protect public health:
— B’more City Health (@BMore_Healthy) March 23, 2017
The post Baltimore Raises Voice for Public Health Fund & ACA appeared first on EfficientGov.
BELMONT, MASS. — Among courses like chair yoga and opportunities to meet with state representatives, 10 senior citizens in Belmont each year can take a hands-on, introductory computer course and go home with a used computer that’s about five years old.
Dave Petto, the IT director for the town, said Belmont replaces its employees computers on a five-year cycle. His department wipes desktop computer hard drives and then installs basic, free Microsoft utilities and uses them as teaching tools. Belmont donates all of its old desktop computers to children in need as well as seniors.
The seniors’ course has had students as young as 62 and as senior as 96, though the average of the students is about 80.
The biggest thing is to get rid of their fear,” Petto said.
For most people over age 60, computers are not second nature, he added. To move them passed any apprehension, Petto follows a scientific teaching approach with his senior pupils. Ten students begin the course by taking their computers apart, learning the major components, and putting them back together. The process helps the students learn how to talk about computers, he said.
Once that happens, turning the computer on and using it does not seem so intimidating. Petto then teaches the students the basics, such as:
- How to get an Internet connection and go on the Internet
- How to create an email account
- How to Skype
- How to save and edit photos
- How to use the basic Microsoft applications installed
- How to use Belmont’s website to access services and get information
- How to recycle the computer when they upgrade
Petto said Belmont’s IT department takes the hard drives back, and the town has an ewaste collection program. As part of the course, they actually review the recycling section of the city’s website. So, the senior course is not just a way for the town to extend the useful life of its computer equipment, but a way to educate the public about ewaste.
Course Description: Absolute Beginners Computer Workshop
Intimidated by computer classes because you think your questions will be considered silly? This class is specifically for the person who knows nothing about computers but wants to learn. Learn what makes up a computer, how it works and what you can do with it. When the class is finished, you will be given your computer TO KEEP!
The course cost is $50, which is donated to the local senior center, for 12 sessions.
The post Computer Literacy for Seniors that Helps Address a Town’s EWaste appeared first on EfficientGov.
#1 The American Health Care Act is Largely Based on Tax Credits
The American Health Care Act proposal released March 6th relies on refundable tax credits to help individuals pay for premiums. Refundable tax credits vary with age, are to be phased-out for those with high-incomes and grow annually with inflation, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
There are tax credits under Affordable Care Act (ACA) that vary with family income and insurance costs as well as age, which also grow annually if premiums increase.
#2 Health & Human Services Secretary Tom Price Defends Tax Credits
According to The Hill, Price said that independents and conservatives have wanted to “equalize the tax treatment of the purchase of health coverage for folks who get it through their employer and folks who aren’t able to get it through their employer” — and the tax credits scheme in the American Health Care Act do that.
#3 Democrats Don’t See a Clear Goal for the American Health Care Act
Most democrats say they will vote against the American Health Care Act. But former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who oversaw years of committee negotiations and implementation of ACA, probably best articulated why the bill designed by Republican leadership doesn’t work for them: “I’m not sure what the goal is here,” she told The Hill about two weeks ago.
The goal for ACA had been “insure everybody,” she said, adding “They have kept some subsidies, but I would say in sort of the wrong place to the wrong folks.”
#4 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Estimates
On March 13th, CBO released its assessment, and determined that 24 million people would become uninsured by 2026 under the American Health Care Act — largely due to the proposed changes to Medicaid, according to The Hill.
Reaction across the public and social media caused waves of concern over loss of healthcare coverage. Fears over what will happen to seniors and the disabled, as well as low-income families and children, among a populace pressed to understand the nuances of healthcare reform and its costs have not dissipated.
While some of coverage losses would be from people choosing not to buy coverage, according to CBO, the office assumed people would also go without coverage because of cuts to Medicaid and the drop in financial assistance (subsidies) under ACA.
Not everyone agrees with the CBO estimates, of course. The National Review called the report flawed, arguing that CBO assumed that both companies and individuals would leave tax credit money “on the table.” It would be possible for companies to create plans that equal the tax credits, and people would enroll in plans that are paid for by the tax credits.
#5 Medicaid Expansion is a Thorny Component
By putting healthcare insurance regulation back into states hands, states will have to fund or whittle away at this coverage.
Medicaid, currently a shared Federal-state program has ballooned in recent years. The ACA expanded Medicaid to cover those with incomes below 138 percent of poverty level. About one-third of residents in New York state currently have coverage through Medicaid, and costs have pressed lawmakers upstate, according to The New York Times.
Today’s amendments include a work requirement for Medicaid and a new formula New York State would use to take money from counties outside of New York City to finance Medicaid in the capital (being called the “Buffalo Buyout), according to Breitbart News.
#6 Republican Leadership May Not Have the Votes
Even with the “Buffalo Buyout,” Republicans may not have the votes tomorrow.
The Freedom Caucus is calling for elimination of minimum coverage mandates under ACA, called Essential Health Benefits, along with certain language defining a qualified health plan, according to Huffington Post.
Without these demands being met, the bill remains what Kentucky Senator Rand Paul called “Obamacare Lite.” And that’s despite President Donald Trump’s hands-on efforts to negotiate agreements in the bill with caucus members.
The post 6 Things to Know About the American Health Care Act appeared first on EfficientGov.
One of the key architects of Columbus, Ohio’s winning U.S. Department of Transportation Smart Cities Challenge application, Ben Pierce, HDR program manager of autonomous and connected vehicles and the firm’s Transportation Technology National Lead shared his insights on what it takes municipal governments to initiate and implement smart city programs and technologies.
From leadership essentials to lessons from the Columbus plan, Pierce’s advice can help cities understand if they have the mindset and what it takes to launch or drive a smart city initiative.
#1 Learn the Characteristics of Smart City Leaders
Pierce said elected officials don’t have to be technology experts, but the “trademark” of those from smart cities is the knowledge of and willingness to implement new technologies to address challenges facing their cities.
“Smart cities recognize that transportation is the means to solve societal problems and not just a problem in itself that needs to be solved,” he said.
#2 Consider the Best Approach to Developing Smart City Solutions
Pierce said smart cities work with both transportation and other private industry partners. The process results in identifying larger “societal issues and community challenges that transportation solutions can address” while solving obvious transportation challenges.
#3 Take the Critical Step: Analyze & Understand Technology Readiness
Pierce said smart cities are comprehensive and systematic in how they pursue technology investments and make policy changes. Smart city readiness is developing a technology policy out of adoption planning based on actual technology capabilities, as opposed to one developed on technology expectations driven by hype.
Some cities deploy technology in an effort to ‘do something.’ Doing something with technology accompanied by a large press release does raise awareness and can give the perception that a city is advancing. But over-hyping the benefits of technology can result in a backlash when the benefits are not realized,” advised Pierce.
#4 Understand Smart City Technology Trends
Having been involved with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2016 Smart City Challenge, Pierce said that after reviewing the 78 applications, there are four clear trends:
- Connected vehicle technology
- Autonomous shuttle service
- Smart parking
- Mobility on demand
Some common technology elements in the proposals included adaptive traffic signal controls, carsharing or ridesharing and ridesourcing.
#5 Prepare a Winning Deployment Strategy
According to Pierce, Columbus divided their Smart City Challenge project into four deployment districts with broader social goals.
- Residential District proposals focused on reducing infant mortality rates.
- Downtown District solutions focused on preventing unwanted emissions in a dense urban zone.
- Commercial District plans focused on driving employment and economic development opportunities.
- Freight District solves focused improving on safety and economic development.
Across Columbus’s four districts, there will be 11 technology deployments including:
- Connected vehicle technologies
- Wi-Fi access points
- Smart street lights
- Smart parking systems
- Autonomous vehicle shuttles
- Integrated multimodal fare cards and smartphone applications
- Truck platooning, routing and parking solutions
- Integrated data exchange
More than 170 intersections and 3,000 vehicles will also be equipped with Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) equipment.
The post The 5 Steps that Determine if Your City Is Ready to Be Smart appeared first on EfficientGov.
March 2017 Update: In 2015, Harris County commissioners voted to use $5.8 million in local funds to expand the county’s public-safety network to develop additional sites. The network was originally funded by Federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grants under FirstNet, the nationwide public safety broadband initiative. Harris County is anticipating 93 LTE sites by third quarter 2018, according to the county’s website.
SCHAUMBURG, ILL. – originally posted April 23, 2012 – Motorola Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MSI), a leader in the development of Public Safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks, devices, applications and services, has been awarded a $4 million contract to expand the Harris County, Texas Public Safety LTE wide area broadband network. Seven LTE sites will be added to the network for a total of 13 LTE sites delivering enhanced video and data capabilities along with expanded interoperability with Harris County’s existing ASTRO® 25 Land Mobile Radio (LMR) system.
The broadband system, which will comply with standards adopted for the national broadband plan, will provide increased communications initially for the Port region and eventually throughout the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) Region. Harris County first responders will be prepared to meet new threats at the ports and on the street with powerful new Public Safety LTE devices connected to a multimedia command center on an always-on Public Safety LTE broadband network. The county plans to add Motorola’s LEX 700 Mission Critical Handheld to the system when the LTE device begins shipping later this year.
- Along with adding seven LTE sites, the Harris County broadband network will be expanded to include:
- Real-Time Video Intelligence (RTVI) software, enabling live fixed or mobile video to be delivered to and from the field. With RTVI, Harris County agencies will be able to stream video between headquarters, vehicles and handheld devices on the street.
- Broadband Push-To-Talk (PTT) software and servers to allow for increased PTT capabilities between LTE and Project 25 (P25) networks.
- VML 700 LTE Vehicle Modems, MW810 Mobile Workstations and MVX1000 In-Car Digital Video Systems to record audio and video evidence from multiple cameras and microphones to a solid-state drive.
- The first phase of the broadband network has been completed and accepted by Harris County. Motorola successfully achieved milestones on the initial six-site system, validating in the field that the Public Safety LTE solution meets the interoperability requirements of the Texas Department of Public Safety for a regional LTE network.
- The existing LTE network is operational and providing wireless broadband service to vehicles, laptops and handheld devices. Real-time video, including streaming to vehicles and tablets and from vehicles to handheld devices, was among the applications demonstrated by Harris County earlier this month for officials throughout the county and region, including public safety officials from Dallas-Fort Worth, Irving, Baytown and the State of Texas.
- The broadband network is interoperable with the Harris County ASTRO 25 system, allowing LTE handheld users to collaborate using PTT voice communications with others on either the LTE or P25 network. This capability was also successfully demonstrated in the field this month for Texas public safety officials.
- With more than 50 sites, the Harris County ASTRO 25 LMR system provides interoperable communications among more than 170 Public Safety agencies and more than 65,000 users in 13 counties. These agencies will eventually be able to tie into the Harris County LTE system, further expanding LTE to P25 interoperability throughout the region while offsetting costs associated with building multiple independent networks.
- Harris County is maximizing its return on investment by leveraging Motorola’s comprehensive suite of Public Safety LTE Lifecycle Services throughout the system design, build-out and start-up phases of operation.
Why the Enhanced Interoperability Solution was Seminal for Public Safety:
Robert Cavazos, director, broadband services, Information Technology-Mobility, Harris County, Texas
“When looking for an LTE/broadband solution, we took the same approach as we did when looking for a Public Safety Land Mobile Radio solution. We wanted a standards-based, reliable solution designed for the special mission critical needs of public safety. An LTE solution that would allow us to leverage carrier networks for roaming and that could be integrated with our existing P25 LMR network was an important consideration. The goal is enhanced interoperability between our public safety and first responder networks and a robust broadband solution for public safety that would carry us well into the future. The resulting solution will enable Harris County to provide enhanced priority of services to first responders at a granular level, ensuring bandwidth availability for a given person and situation. We considered this crucial for public safety.”
Bob Schassler, senior vice president, Radio Solutions, Motorola Solutions
“Harris County, Texas continues to be at the forefront of Public Safety communications with the expansion of the county’s interoperable Public Safety LTE network. The addition of Motorola Solutions’ real-time video and live data solutions, along with the capability for LTE to P25 PTT voice communications, demonstrates Harris County’s continued leadership in providing first responders throughout the region with the most advanced Public Safety communication systems to help enhance safety and security.”
The post Case Study: First County With Public Safety Broadband appeared first on EfficientGov.
On March 2nd, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul called in the press and wheeled a copy machine all the way to the House of Representatives where his Republican colleagues were working on the healthcare bill now known as the American Health Care Act. Paul calls the bill, updated this week in preparation for a vote in the House Thursday, ‘Obamacare Lite.’
We polled readers to find out if shenanigans like this would fly at City Hall or in chambers. Was this appropriate or inappropriate?
Portable copy machine KY Sen Rand Paul wheeled over to the Hse to try to photocopy still unfinished health care bill pic.twitter.com/etb5tcQiwf
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) March 2, 2017
Poll respondents were equally divided — 50 percent of respondents said yes, and 50 percent said no.
What’s interesting about the tactics we see from political leaders is in-part based on their personalities, according to research by New York University-Abu Dhabi political scientist Adam Ramey. His book, More than a Feeling: Personality, Polarization, and the Transformation of the U.S. Congress, to be released next month by University of Chicago Press, is co-authored by Jonathan Klinger and Gary Hollibaugh.
The researchers looked at how personality and ideology work together to show how legislators make decisions, according to a 2014 article in the Washington Post discussing how computer modeling revealed insights into the behavior patterns legislators engage in.
Which brings us back to Paul and his copier.
In 2014, Ramey wrote:
“In the last few years, we have seen increasing disagreement within the Republican caucus over tactics. While most members of the Republican caucus are ideologically conservative, they pursue their goals in different ways. Some think the best way to pursue to policy goals is to forge compromise. Others think the best tactic is to defund the federal government, taking the floor of Congress and Twittersphere by storm to advance their agenda. Indeed, ideology (alone) cannot explain this variation in behavior that we are currently witnessing.”
This passage eerily foreshadows current arguments within the Republican party to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare — and nearly defines why Paul would lug antiquated technology a quarter of a mile.
It’s easy to see that personality traits systematically affect the outcomes of government.
But the results of our unscientific poll also suggest that expectations of political leaders’ behaviors are also polarized. Perhaps if we expected — or demanded — more appropriate behavior in all levels of government, we would experience less polarization when it comes time to make decisions everyone must live with.
By Laura Faulkner
Coal has been the lifeblood of the economy in Kentucky dating back to the opening of the first commercial coal mine in 1820. But over the past few years, coal production in Kentucky plummeted to a level not seen since the Great Depression. In fact, the decline in coal in Eastern Kentucky has led to the loss of approximately 10,000 coal industry jobs since 2010.
This decline has created challenges for communities in Appalachia that have relied on the coal economy for years. TechHire Eastern Kentucky (TEKY) saw an opportunity to bring opportunity to teach underemployed and unemployed Kentuckians how to code — and then connect them to hiring tech employers.
“TechHire Eastern Kentucky — or TEKY — really began as a way to provide out-of-work people with a fast track to earning tech industry-recognized certifications. These certifications will demonstrate skills learned and stand in for traditional two- or four-year college degrees, with the idea that these people will fill available positions in the technology industry,” said Michael Cornett, director of Agency Expansion for Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP), and local project director for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER grant that is helping fund the initiative. “TEKY is harnessing the power of collaboration between the public and private sectors to ultimately build a viable tech sector in Eastern Kentucky from the ground up. No one has really attempted this kind of large-scale effort in our region before, and we’re already learning lessons from our first cohort that we’ll be able to apply to the second cohort of TEKY interns. By the time TEKY is three years old, we hope to have prepared up to 200 people for careers in technology jobs, with many of them going on to work right here in Eastern Kentucky.”
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MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZ. — When Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone ended the practice of “courtesy holds” for Federal immigration detention by his embattled predecessor, former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Federal government labeled the practice as dangerous.
“[Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO)] has implemented a policy which will undoubtedly result in dangerous criminal aliens being released to the street to re-victimize the innocent citizens of that community,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe said in a prepared statement, according to Phoenix 12News.
But Penzone, who was elected by voters reportedly frustrated by legal fees the county faces over court cases involving Joe Arpaio’s immigration practices, said he was advised by County Attorney Bill Montgomery that the long-standing courtesy hold policy — which holds individuals wanted for questioning by ICE for up to 48 hours passed their court-ordered releases — is illegal and could bring on a lawsuit.
We cannot afford in this community to have additional lawsuits nor can we be accepting of violations of the law,” Penzone said on local radio, according to Phoenix 12News.
ICE Detainer Requests Have Proved Expensive
Lawsuits related to immigration practices by MCSO, which has six jails, are estimated to be costing the municipality about $150 million in legal fees and court-ordered monitoring costs.
A columnist for the Phoenix New Times said that for fiscal year 2017, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors “was forced to raise property taxes 5.47 cents to pay for 72 new staff members to help implement the various reforms ordered by the court” from the 2013 case Melendres v. Arpaio.
In December, plaintiff Jacinta Gonzalez Goodman filed a new Federal lawsuit against MCSO for holding her overnight in jail without probable cause when a judge freed her the evening prior, according to the Arizona Republic who had obtained the court filing. She told the news affiliate that she was arrested during a political protest of Donald Trump in March 2016, along with two others, accused of blocking a highway. The two others were released on time while she was detained for ICE, she said.
Gonzalez Goodman is not an undocumented immigrant — she is a Mexican-born U.S. citizen with a Louisiana driver’s license. She is suing on the basis that her Constitutional rights were violated by being held longer than her release date.
New Response to ICE Requests in Maricopa County
Penzone said that he is looking at the best solution that will facilitate ICE requests “in a legal manner.”
While ICE officers will remain at the county jail, MCSO will no longer detain inmates beyond their release dates. The Federal agency will now have to get an arrest warrant if it wants MCSO to hold an undocumented inmate beyond a court-ordered release — or, pick them up on time.
In a social media broadcast, local news indicated that though ICE has a presence in MCSO jails, the agency doesn’t always pick up those it wants to detain in a timely manner. Penzone is making the Feds “do their job,” reported 12News correspondent Brahm Resnick.
It is unclear at this time if the Gonzalez Goodman case filed in Federal court will set a precedent for responding to ICE detention requests.
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By Alicia A. Caldwell with Nomaan Merchant and Will Weissert contributing
WASHINGTON, DC — The Trump administration is naming some names in its efforts to shame local jails that don’t cooperate with immigration authorities. It’s putting the spotlight on Travis County, Texas, home of liberal Austin.
The administration released a list of 206 cases of immigrants released from custody before federal agents could intervene. Roughly two-thirds were from Travis County.
The 206 figure is somewhat murky. It doesn’t represent all the cases in which immigration authorities sought custody of people facing criminal charges, with major cities like New York and Los Angeles underrepresented on the list. It’s also unclear what period it covers. The cases were identified by the administration between Jan. 28 and Feb. 3, but most of the detention requests had been made before then, as far back as early 2014. Also unclear is the status of the immigrants — whether some are in federal or state custody.
The release of the list by Immigration and Customs Enforcement was prompted by an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in January. That order called on the government to document which local jurisdictions aren’t cooperating with federal efforts to find and deport immigrants in the country illegally.
Trump has made immigration a key issue in his administration and has promised to deport “bad dudes” living in the United States illegally. The report highlights a variety of crimes, including the case of a Jamaican national in Philadelphia charged with homicide, along with multiple sex offenses, assaults and driving under the influence cases. The majority of the immigrants whose cases are highlighted are from Mexico or Central America. The Travis County cases also include a mix of convictions and charges ranging from drunken driving to aggravated assault and sexual assault.
Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, a Democrat, was elected last fall after campaigning on refusing to comply with immigration detainers in cases where people were arrested on minor offenses unrelated to their being in the country illegally. Detainers are government requests that an immigrant who could face deportation be turned over to immigration authorities.
Hernandez’s office has continued to honor detainers for more serious offenses, including murder. All but 26 of the declined detainers were issued by the Obama administration and before Hernandez took office.
Jails and police agencies around the U.S. have opted in recent years not to cooperate with immigration authorities, in some cases citing federal court rulings that immigrants cannot be held in those jails strictly because of their immigration status. Other jurisdictions have passed local ordinances barring cooperation.
As a result, the Obama administration dramatically reduced the number of detainers filed annually, a trend Trump’s immigration authorities have pledged to reverse.
ICE said that nationwide, from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, it made 3,083 new requests to jails that immigrants accused of a crime be held long enough for ICE agents to take them into custody. It is unclear how many of those requests were honored.
The number of requests made and declined is likely to increase as the government issues more detainer requests, immigration officials said. The officials briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity despite Trump’s complaints that anonymous sources should not be considered reliable.
Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said that when detainer requests aren’t honored and serious offenders are released, “it undermines ICE’s ability to protect the public safety and carry out its mission.”
Trump has said he plans to crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities” and other jurisdictions that do not cooperate with immigration authorities and has threatened to eliminate access to some federal grants. He also plans to restart the Secure Communities program that used fingerprints collected in local jails and shared with the FBI to identify immigrants who could face deportation. The program was scrapped under the Obama administration amid multiple court challenges and widespread complaints that it resulted in the deportations of people accused of only low-level offenses.
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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By Steve Karnowski
MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. — Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Police Chief Janee Harteau (juh-NAY’ har-TOH’) say the need for better communications is their main takeaway from a Justice Department review of how their city handled 18 days of protests outside a police station in 2015.
The protests were over the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark. The 24-year-old Clark was black and he died in a confrontation with two white officers.
Hodges said at a news conference that her communications with citizens about their strategy for a negotiated settlement to end the occupation peacefully came up short, and she apologized.
The report also found there was a breakdown in the Police Department’s internal communications during the crisis, leaving officers at the station frustrated with the lack of clear orders and inconsistent direction.
Harteau told reporters the big lesson learned is “communication, communication, communication” across all levels in the department.
A federal review released Monday of an 18-day standoff outside a Minneapolis police station following the fatal shooting of a black man in 2015 found problems with the city’s coordination and communication but praised officers for their professionalism and the peaceful end to the protest.
The Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services conducted the review at the city’s request after the shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark on Nov. 15, 2015. His death in a confrontation with two white officers sparked an occupation outside the station on the city’s north side and other protests that were largely peaceful, though one on Nov. 18 included skirmishes between officers and demonstrators.
Some witnesses told police that Clark was handcuffed at the time, but an investigation by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension found the officers were unsuccessful in handcuffing Clark, and he was shot after one of the officers shouted that Clark had his hand on the officer’s gun.
Clark’s death came at a time of heightened tensions nationwide following protests over the killings of black men by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere. Yet no protesters were arrested at the station during the Minneapolis protest and the only serious injuries occurred when a group of alleged white supremacists fired at demonstrators, wounding five, the report said. The protests cost the city over $1.15 million, mostly for police overtime.
Nevertheless, the Justice Department review found a lack of a coordinated response among city and police officials and said law enforcement didn’t have a plan for managing the civil disturbance as it became a long-term event.
“Strained relationships, lack of clearly defined roles and responsibilities, public disagreements and lack of consistent internal communication” hampered the response, it said. And it said the department “experienced multiple breakdowns in internal communications and messaging” during the occupation.”
The report praised other aspects of the response, saying officers “demonstrated extraordinary resilience and professionalism” despite verbal abuse and threats to their physical safety from bottles, bricks, Molotov cocktails and other objects thrown over the fence around the station. Black officers were particular targets of verbal abuse, it said.
“The commitment of the city, the police department and individual officers to a peaceful, measured response played a large role in keeping the occupation from escalating into violent riots,” the report said.
The report also noted that elected officials decided to resolve the impasse through negotiations — a strategy it said was consistent with best practices — without including the police leadership in the discussion. That and poor internal communications contributed to frustrations for officers at the station who were left with no clear orders and inconsistent direction.
City and department leaders should have put a higher priority on the officers’ physical, mental and emotional well-being, the report said.
Mayor Betsy Hodges and Police Chief Janee Harteau have scheduled a news conference for Monday afternoon. Nekima Levy-Pounds, a protest leader who was president of the Minneapolis NAACP at the time and is running against Hodges for mayor, said she would comment after the news conference.
The head of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, Lt. Bob Kroll, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
State and federal prosecutors declined to charge the two officers involved, and they were cleared in the department’s internal review.
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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By Sam Hananel
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A divided Supreme Court struggled on Monday over a property rights dispute that could make it tougher for state and local governments to limit development in coastal areas.
The case involves a family’s effort to sell part of its riverfront land in Wisconsin. The family planned to use the money from a vacant lot they own to pay for improvements on a cabin that sits on the parcel next door.
But county officials nixed the sale for violating local conservation rules and treated the lots as a single property that can’t be split up. The family says that’s unfair and claims the government should pay what the vacant parcel is worth — up to $400,000. The government argues that when viewed as a whole, the land remains quite valuable and the family is owed nothing.
The case has drawn interest from property rights and business groups that say such rules let the government avoid paying landowners for restricting land use. The Constitution requires compensation if regulations take away a property’s economic value.
During a one-hour argument, the court’s four liberal justices seemed to side with state and local officials, while conservative justices were generally more skeptical. Justice Anthony Kennedy — often a swing vote in close cases — asked tough questions of both sides.
The court’s ruling could affect more than 100 cities and counties across the U.S. that have similar “merger” restrictions.
The Murrs’ lawyer, John Groen, told the justices the lots should be viewed as “independent, discrete, and separate parcels” because that is how they originally were drawn up and have been taxed for years.
But Justice Elena Kagan said the Murrs seem to rely on state law as it originally drew up the property lines, but ignore revisions to the law that treat side-by-side lots as a single parcel if they have the same owner.
“If we’re looking to state law, let’s look to state law, the whole ball of wax,” Kagan said.
Wisconsin Solicitor General Misha Tseytlin argued that the two lots “have merged for all relevant purposes under state law.” He said state officials also considered the reasonable expectations of the property owners.
Chief Justice John Roberts said it seemed “a little quirky” that the Murrs can’t treat the properties separately, but if they had purchased them under separate names they would be in “an entirely different situation.”
The case began in 2004, when four siblings in the Murr family wanted to sell the vacant lot on the banks of the St. Croix River. Their father had purchased the two 1.25-acre lots separately in the 1960s. They were later transferred to his children in the 1990s.
County officials blocking the sale point to regulations passed in 1976 that bar new construction on lots in the area to prevent overcrowding and pollution. A “grandfather” clause exempted existing owners. But the county won’t apply that exemption to the Murrs’ empty lot alone, since it is connected to the family’s other land.
A Wisconsin appeals court sided with the county, saying zoning rules did not take away the property’s value because the Murrs could still use both lots as a vacation property or sell them as a whole.
The county argues that a ruling against it would undermine its ability to minimize flood damage and maintain property values in the area. It argues that the family has treated both parcels as a single lot and says they could build a new home on either lot.
Justice Anthony Kennedy criticized lawyers on both sides. He said the family’s argument seemed to ignore “market factors.” But he also said the state should have to consider “the reasonable investment-backed expectations of the owner.”
The high court took the case up more than a year ago, but waited several months before scheduling arguments. Property rights issues often divide the high court along ideological lines and the delay prompted speculation the justices were waiting for a ninth justice to join them.
Yet only eight justices heard the case on Monday, the same day that confirmation hearings began for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. He could be confirmed in time to sit for arguments in April.
A ruling is expected by June.
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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While International Women’s Day recognizes and praises the achievements women have all over the world, many cities in America are watching women close the gap on homeownership, education and pay every single day.
On a national level, women have become equal players in homeownership. Trulia’s women’s equality study found 46.1 percent of women surveyed were homeowners, which is only 4.2 percent less than surveyed men are. More women are also going to college and completing degrees — about 30 percent of both men and women have four plus years of college.
While the pay gap has decreased by 7.1 percent since 2008, out of the 100 largest metros, 55 percent have actually seen some level of decrease in the income gap.
In certain cities, women are gaining ground in the workforce.
Where are Women Winning?
City statistics are indicating a bright future ahead for women as many markets have made positive changes on the sides of gender equality. Three key areas have determined this climb towards success include the change in gap pay, college enrollment and the percentage point in homeownership.
Albuquerque, N.M. in particular has seen remarkable progressions. The pay gap between men and women decreased significantly by a whopping 25 percent from 2008 to 2015. Additionally, women in Albuquerque are 1.15 percent more likely to have a degree and are 1.18 percent more likely to be homeowners than men are. Metros like Honolulu, Hawaii, Tacoma, Wash., and Orlando, Fla. are right behind Albuquerque as metros making leaps toward well-rounded equality.
The Top 10 Cities Where Women Have Closed the Income Gap:
- Albuquerque, N.M.
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Tacoma, Wash.
- Orlando, Fla.
- Las Vegas, Nev.
- Portland, Ore.
- Philadelphia, Pa.
- Los Angeles, Calif.
- Columbia, S.C.
- Raleigh, N.C.
Where can Women Improve?
Surprisingly, certain cities are still a little further behind despite the major strides to promote women’s equality. The study showed a pay gap increase in 41 cities that coincidentally included tech hubs like San Francisco, San Jose, Calif., and Seattle, Wash.. The tech industry has attracted fewer women, according to studies of secondary and post-secondary education in both the United Kingdom and United States. Also, a disproportionally low number of women are looking to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering & mathematics) fields. Furthermore, many believe a gender gap in the growing tech industry today could be a major contributor to job loss opportunities for women tomorrow.
Another discouraging factor of the income gap is the amounted difference men are making, compared to women. As of 2015, a woman was making only 72 cents to every dollar a man makes, which could play another discouraging factor of women pursuing their careers.
However, cities nationwide are looking for ways to solve the gap. Whether it’s passing a bill to protect employee rights or offering training plans to help women negotiate raises, cities across the country are doing their part to decrease the gap and promote gender equality. Here are a few examples of government taking initiative:
- California bill prohibiting companies from retaliating against employees who inquire about co-workers’ wages and requiring employers to provide equal pay for similar jobs that may have different titles
- The City Council of Phoenix equal pay ordinance that aims at pay discrepancies with city contractors and vendors.
- Phoenix training plan for women on negotiating raises
- Employee recruiting plans in San Francisco geared to hire women in industries where their voice is lacking (i.e. public safety, information technology)
In total, it is clear that women are paving the way towards greater equality on a national level, and the country continues to see improvement.
By Doug Wylie for CorrectionsOne.com
Under the direction of Michael Wilcox, MD, an innovative program in Minnesota is leveraging these professionals to improve the care provided to individuals held in the county jail while at the same time also reducing total costs for health care for those individuals.
“I provide a clinic in our Scott County Jail, where I work with two of our nurses to provide patient care and we have a clinic that occurs twice a month,” Wilcox said.
“We have also — as part of our healthcare team, a psychiatrist — a mental health specialist and various types of nursing folks work with us. But then along with that, we’re adding the community paramedics now to do work in this facility. What they’re doing is they’re spending additional time in the facility to do patient care. They’re extenders — they aren’t independent providers of care. They need to work under a medical director’s license in order to do this work,” Wilcox said.
Better Care and Lower Costs
The Scott County Jail is made up of six pods, four containing male inmates and two pods for females. The average population is 130-150 inmates at any given time, with ages ranging anywhere between 18-75 years old.
According to Wilcox, a large number of these inmates are characterized as “homeless” upon their admission, many of whom come from the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul by a free bus service provided by a local casino.
Under Wilcox’s license — and, importantly, his direction — the community paramedics at Scott County Jail are enabling the facility managers to extend the hours during which on-site medical care is available to the population. For example, there are two nurses that work in this clinic. Their hours start at 0600 and end at 1600. But patient needs in that setting occur 24/7. Under the community paramedicine program, facility managers are able to offer significantly extended hours during which service is available.
“Our CPs start working at 10 in the morning and they end up working until 10 in the evening and they can provide patient care on days that the nurses are not available, including weekends,” Wilcox said.
Community paramedics take calls at the facility and Wilcox backs them up on calls — if they have questions they can reach the doctor via phone.
The thought is that having more additional hours of this kind of provider in-house should provide better quality of care, number one, and then along with that, should cut down on the expenses of having these individuals go into an urgent care setting or an emergency care setting for issues that can be dealt with right there in the facility. So that’s the premise this is built on and that’s what we’re moving to do in this program here in Scott County,” Wilcox said.
There are four community paramedics currently participating in the program at Scott County Jail. Wilcox said that they will probably expand on that number if there’s a need to provide additional hours.
The four community paramedics presently working in the jail are addressing a host of medical matters that one might expect in the correctional setting. Many of the inmates have chemical dependency issues, as well as diseases that are tied in with their chemical dependency — blood-borne pathogens such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS.
Many of the inmates have significant dental health issues. Others have skin related problems, such as wounds and abscesses, related to the chemicals they’ve been abusing or shooting up.
Inmates’ medical needs don’t cease while they are weeks or months away from trial or release.
“Some of them, actually, when they’re sentenced, if they have a sentence that’s less than a year, they’ll end up spending that entire time in our jail there in Scott County to complete their sentencing,” said Wilcox
The Scott County Jail also has boarders — inmates who come in from other counties or when the state prison system has overflow issues.
When Wilcox presented an overview of the community paramedicine program being tested at the Scott County Jail to an assembly of EMS providers, he highlighted three principal benefits.
1. The community paramedic placed within a correctional facility can contribute greatly to the level of services provided by the healthcare team.
2. By adding the community paramedic, the correctional facility could achieve a higher level of in-house care by increasing efficiencies and reducing overhead costs.
3. By adding the community paramedic, additional time could become available for the healthcare team to develop a discharge plan of care (a continuum of care).
Wilcox imagines this program to be something that can — and probably will — be replicated elsewhere.
“Look at the number of patient care providers that we’ve got now. There are not enough nurses … not enough docs. There are not enough nurse practitioners and PAs to provide care for patients in various settings. I think folding into our care team a community paramedic is going to be a unique opportunity to expand what EMS can do for us in the area of community health. If you look at the jail setting — the penal institution setting — in particular, I think there would be a place for them to do this work within this setting as well,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox and his team are examining the efficacy of their program. The team is currently gathering data —six months before and six months after the beginning of the program — so they can evaluate the quality of care and financial savings. Specifically, they are going to assess whether the quality of care has increased for the inmates and whether they have been able to save money for the county by preventing the need for transferring inmates to urgent care clinics or emergency departments.
Once Wilcox and his team have assembled and analyzed that data, we will revisit this topic in this space. Meanwhile, take a look at these articles about correctional health care and community paramedicine.
About the Author
Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of CorrectionsOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. An award-winning columnist — he is the 2014 Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column — Doug writes feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community.
Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA) and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today awarded a $100 million grant to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to fund drinking water infrastructure upgrades in Flint, Mich. The funding, provided by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016, or WIIN, enables Flint to accelerate and expand its work to replace lead service lines and make other critical infrastructure improvements.
“The people of Flint and all Americans deserve a more responsive federal government,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “EPA will especially focus on helping Michigan improve Flint’s water infrastructure as part of our larger goal of improving America’s water infrastructure.”
“I appreciate the EPA approving this funding to assist with Flint’s recovery,” Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said. “Combined with the nearly $250 million in state funding already allocated, this will help keep Flint on a solid path forward. It’s great to see federal, state and local partners continuing to work together to help with infrastructure upgrades and pipe replacements for the people of Flint.”
“We are excited and very grateful to receive these much needed funds,” said Flint Mayor Karen Weaver. “The City of Flint being awarded a grant of this magnitude in such a critical time of need will be a huge benefit. As we prepare to start the next phase of the FAST Start pipe replacement program, these funds will give us what we need to reach our goal of replacing 6,000 pipes this year and make other needed infrastructure improvements. We look forward to the continued support of the EPA and federal government.”
The WIIN funding supplements EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF), a federal-state partnership. In addition to the federal funds announced today, the State of Michigan is providing the required 20% match of $20 million. Over the years, EPA has provided more than $32.5 billion to states for infrastructure upgrades through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.
Under President Trump’s budget blueprint SRF remains fully funded, and the proposal provides robust funding for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program to finance critical drinking and wastewater infrastructure.
For more information on the grant: www.epa.gov/flint.
The post EPA To Send Michigan Promised $100M for Flint Drinking Water appeared first on EfficientGov.
By Ashley Fruechting
City and county government leaders across North America are well aware of the demands of today’s mobile citizens. But living up to those expectations for timely, relevant and personal interaction is not just a challenge… it’s a responsibility.
More than 97 percent of the 435 local government leaders who participated in our 2017 “What’s Next in Digital Communications for Local Government” survey agree. That’s the number who said they believe they have a responsibility to keep pace with ever-changing technology. The positive response to this forward-looking survey question has trended upward each year — from 94 percent in 2015 and 95 percent in 2016.
So what will drive local government’s digital interaction with citizens in 2017 and beyond?
In the three years Vision has commissioned this survey, results have shown a dramatic shift from an internal staff focus to one centered on the citizen experience.
The majority of local leaders in our survey identified “expand citizen engagement” as their top priority for 2017. While they clearly recognize their responsibility to engage citizens, it’s equally apparent that many have obstacles to overcome in order to reach that goal.
“The information highway is changing all the time,” said an economic development official in Texas. “We have the responsibility to provide information quickly, but it’s hard to do without up-to-date software applications.”
Only 5 percent of survey respondents rated their agencies “outstanding” in effective citizen engagement, while 18 percent said they were “below average” or “poor.” In fact, respondents overwhelmingly cited “limited citizen engagement” as the top issue with their current websites.
“Our first responsibility is to serve the public, and increasingly the public is choosing to be served through the technology around them,” said a management analyst in Michigan.
To help community engagement take off, local leaders should involve their communities in the website design process and make sure that messages are consistent across all platforms. They can begin by asking residents for opinions on small, everyday issues and providing feedback on how resident input impacts decisions. In addition, creating local blogs and videos will make local stories more interesting and help spark increased interaction.
Effective Community Engagement Begins with a Well-Designed, Citizen-centric Website
For the past three years, the majority of local government respondents have consistently described their agency website as “integral to their overall communications and public service strategy.” This year, over 93 percent responded that it was either “essential” or “important.” However, the number of respondents who rated their agency’s website as “highly effective” showed a notable drop in 2017– to 26 percent from 34 percent in both 2015 and 2016.
Why? In comments, many respondents said their sites are difficult to navigate or not mobile ready.
A finance officer in Michigan noted, “Our website information doesn’t easily show up on a cell phone; a computer works better, but I think it isn’t the most used tool by citizens.”
And a computer services director in New York commented, “The overall quality of the user experience is minimal. Newer technologies are developed to provide better services in a better way – this can and should be used for the benefit of our constituency.”
The good news? Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of our survey respondents predict their local gov websites will be highly effective in 5 years. So what can local leaders do to get started? They can explore low-cost ways to analyze usability, like Google Analytics and user surveys, and continually refine their websites based on this feedback. The most effective websites are organized to reflect the needs of residents, rather than the internal structure of government.
Content Strategy is Key
Creating a website that allows citizens to do government business online, remains a challenge for many local government leaders. While only 8 percent gave their website an “outstanding” rating in this area, that’s double the number recorded in our 2016 survey. So progress is being made. At the other end of the spectrum, 16 percent of respondents said their website was “below average” or “poor,” while just over three-quarters (76%) said their website was “average” or “good” in delivering online services.
A community development director from Oklahoma wrote, “The website appears to a viewer to be outdated, as if not given much attention by the community. This can cause outside investors looking at the community to become dissatisfied.”
Overcoming this challenge requires an effective content strategy focused on clear, succinct and actionable information. Tips for ensuring success include training content contributors to write effectively for the web. This means eliminating legalese and presenting information in plain language that can easily be understood.
Cybersecurity Concerns on the Rise
Another area keeping local government leaders up at night is cybersecurity. “Minimize cybersecurity risks” was cited as the second highest priority for local government leaders in 2017.
“Security is a huge concern,” said a communications manager in Washington State. “Open-source software doesn’t cut it anymore. We might as well have a huge target on our foreheads. If we do not keep up with the rapid pace of updates, we become vulnerable. Proprietary software will vastly improve our security profile.”
State and local governments are especially vulnerable to cyber attacks and other security breaches. According to Accenture’s 2016 Cybersecurity Report government organizations rank at the bottom of all industries in terms of security. To increase cybersecurity on the local level, agencies need to stay current on the potential risks and threats. They should have clear policies covering data breach notification, disaster recovery, IT service continuity, remote access, employee departure and acceptable use.
Web Accessibility Knowledge Gaps Remain
With new rules on Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) website compliance expected in 2018, a serious knowledge gap continues to exist among local government leaders. Nearly 9 out of 10 (87%) of Vision’s survey respondents said they have moderate, weak or no knowledge of government web accessibility requirements. Despite nearly 20 years of laws governing digital accessibility, this is only a 2 percent improvement over last year.
“It’s our duty to communicate with all audiences,” said a communications coordinator from Iowa.
“Too many departments, too much information to have to make easily accessible,” noted a senior advisor in Policy & Communications from Utah.
How can citizens access the Internet if they have difficulty seeing a computer screen, strain to hear sound, or struggle to use a keyboard?
Accessibility should be built into websites from the ground-up. The newest accessibility guidelines require processes, functionality and content deliverables not currently provided by many agencies and their existing websites. Design styles that work well for assistive readers need to be chosen, and the tools must be used in a particular way to provide content that is user friendly. To help local government officials make online services accessible to citizens with disabilities, Vision Internet has developed a Digital Accessibility Checklist.
While local government leaders continue to grapple with internal and external challenges that prevent them from being as effective and transparent as today’s technology allows, the opportunities and tools to increase satisfaction, build trust and foster engagement are greater than ever. The good news from this year’s Vision survey is that local government leaders are increasingly aware of what needs to be done to improve citizen engagement and are moving in the right direction.
About the Author
Ashley Fruechting is Sr. Director of Marketing & Strategic Partnerships for El Segundo, Calif.-based Vision Internet, a leader in government website development with more than 700 government, non-profit and education clients across the U.S. and Canada. For more information visit www.visioninternet.com.
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