Infrastructure

CityLedes: Campaign Finance Thorns

CityLedes is a weekly roundup of urban-related news happening across the country and globe, as compiled by Mark Bergen, Harry Moroz and David Sparks.

The Lede: After the billionaire Hizzoner denounced a Gotham campaign finance bill, his likely predecessor stalled. A reform measure sat stagnant in D.C., too. L.A. reinvents its skid rows. 7-Eleven as development harbinger. Sandy leaves casinos barren in her wake, and highlights the need for disaster bonds. A mayor is lauded by a media giant; another is demolished. Flood victims in Hoboken and D.C. are kicked while down. Connecticut vies for TOD, NYC vows to go after price taxies. China ups its urbanization game; Amazon urbanization spreads fires. Sydney goes light rail. Seriously, put down your cell phone.

Click to jump to a topic:
Economy and Development
Budget
Transportation and Infrastructure
Housing
Energy, Environment, and Health
Public Safety
Education
Mayors and City Councils
Immigration
International
Culture and other Curiosities

Economy and Development

  • Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy encourages transit-oriented development:

Addressing Connecticut’s transportation challenges is key to growing our economy, creating jobs, and making the state more competitive,” Malloy said. “Fewer [federal] dollars will be coming to our state. What do we do about falling gas tax revenues? How do we build out Route 11 or the 395 interchange or the widening of 95 in the eastern part of the state?”

At least part of the answer is to draw revenue from successful private development around new transit stations as they’re built, the governor said.

  • Subway is catching up to Dunkin’ Donuts in New York City.
  • Economic activity booms in Virginia’s D.C. suburbs. A peek into the preliminary specs for the planned arena for the Atlanta Falcons.

But they’re not your Pop’s suburban 7-Elevens.

Like the corner stores of old, which they recall, these are smaller, urban prototypes with no parking and an emphasis on fresh and grab-and-go foods aimed at downtown dwellers and workers on foot. Like all 7-Elevens, they’re open ’round the clock.

Budget

[L]ast year’s Budget Control Act caps will shrink grants to states from the “non-defense discretionary” part of the budget to far below historical levels. And that’s not counting the automatic, across-the-board cuts (known as “sequestration”) scheduled to start taking effect in January as part of the “fiscal cliff,” which would cut these grants further.

In November, Denver residents approved a ballot measure by 74 percent to allow the city to retain all of its property- tax revenue and remove the city from the restrictions of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

“That will allow us to balance the city’s budget, cure what was forecast to be a long-term structural deficit … and (it) restores essential city services that have been cut over the recent economic downturn,” said Denver chief financial officer Cary Kennedy at a recent council committee meeting.

Providence’s mayor on Friday said he is relieved — and grateful — that the city’s police, firefighters and retirees have approved a negotiated settlement freezing pensions and making other benefits changes that have helped avert a municipal bankruptcy and stave off costly litigation.

The city’s police union was the last to vote, on Thursday, to approve the agreement, which suspends cost-of-living increases for 10 years, caps pensions and shifts retirees to Medicare when they are eligible.

Transportation and Infrastructure

Housing

A 102-unit, $20.5-million complex is being built by stacking pre-outfitted apartments atop one another in a Lego-like fashion, limiting construction costs and fast-forwarding the project timeline. It is believed to be the first multi-tenant residential building in the nation to be constructed this way.

Energy, Environment, and Health

  • The National Flood Insurance Program failed Hoboken, according to the New Jersey city’s mayor. D.C. Mayor Vince Gray and D.C. Water oppose the Council’s plan to reimburse flood victims in Northwest.
  • Two of Atlanta’s largest hospital systems are forming their own insurance companies. The chairman of Miami’s Jackson Health System claims that it is “misaligned” with the University of Miami, its academic partner.
  • The EPA sues Miami-Dade County for allegedly ignoring the Clean Water Act. A zoning hearing on Florida Power & Light’s plans to expand a nuclear power plant is derailed by absent Miami-Dade Commissioners.
  • D.C. grants a medical marijuana dispensary and growing center certificates of occupancy.

Public Safety

The FBI has identified the Philadelphia-Camden hub as a “high-intensity trafficking area” owing to its easy access to interstate highways and international airports in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.

A federal judge signed off Wednesday on Oakland’s agreement with civil rights lawyers that stops short of a federal takeover of the city’s troubled police force but places it under the close supervision of a court appointee with powers to spend city funds, change policies and – with judicial approval – fire the police chief.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, who has overseen Oakland’s decade-long effort to address complaints of police brutality and racial profiling, approved the plan while signaling he was willing to go further if necessary.

  • Criminal’s find an easy target in Atlanta’s Beltline. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD takes over security at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The Seattle City Council will lobby the state for a ban on assault weapons. New Orleans-area emergency response radio transmissions will soon be scrambled to prevent the public from listening in.
  • Obama won’t go after pot users in Washington or Colorado…or will he? The U.S. District Court in Seattle experiments with specialized drug programs.

Education

  • Newsweek gives New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu a pat on the back for education innovations of which he has little control. Changes in the city’s Recovery School District for next year are beginning to take form. The Houston ISD gives Superintendent Terry Grier a surprise extension and a bonus.
  • D.C. releases the results of the nation’s first standardized test on health and sex ed:
“In a city with such high rates of HIV, teen pregnancy and STDs — let alone obesity and other diseases that plague our community — we’re not where we should be,” Tenner said in an interview.
  • The District’s third-graders haven’t improved in math or reading since 2007. A D.C. task force recommends that charters that move into closed D.C. public school buildings should give admission preference to neighborhood kids, but other charters shouldn’t.

Mayors and City Councils

Christine C. Quinn, the speaker of the City Council, has delayed action on a bill that would loosen regulations on spending by unions and advocacy groups in New York City elections, as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg denounced the measure as “a terrible idea” and “really not good for democracy.”

In an interview on Tuesday, Ms. Quinn said Mr. Bloomberg and other critics did not fully understand the proposal and insisted that she had no intention of creating a loophole in New York’s campaign finance system, as the city’s Campaign Finance Board had charged….

The measure would allow advocacy groups like unions to work directly with candidates on political communications with their members, who often make up influential voting blocs in city races. The costs for those activities would not be counted against a candidate’s spending limit, leading critics to argue the bill would unleash a torrent of unchecked spending by outside groups.

  • Atlanta Mayor Reed allows a 50 percent pay raise for City Council members to become law and also wants raises for the rank-and-file. New Orleans will likely cap emergency overtime pay for city officials.
  • The D.C. Council fails to pass even the simplest of campaign finance reform propositions. In other news, Marion Barry compares Council Chairman Phil Mendelson to Southern segregationists in the ’60s. A D.C. Council member wants to extend the District’s library hours.

Immigration

  • Two South Florida lawmakers are pushing very different ways to handle immigration reform.

International

The NSW government will push ahead with a light rail line from Sydney’s CBD to the eastern suburbs, ignoring recommendations of its own infrastructure advisory body for an underground rapid bus system.

A $1.6 billion light rail line will be built between Circular Quay and Randwick to reduce congestion in the city, as part of the final 20-year transport masterplan announced by NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell on Thursday.

Urbanization is a historic task with the country’s modernization drive, and a main driver to boost domestic consumption, according to the conference, which charts the course for the following year’s economic work.
Over past decades, many areas of the forested Amazon basin have become a patchwork of farms, pastures and second-growth forest as people have moved in and cleared land—but now many are moving out, in search of economic opportunities in newly booming Amazonian cities. The resulting depopulation of rural areas, along with spreading road networks and increased drought are causing more and bigger fires to ravage vast stretches, say researchers in a new study. The study, focusing on the Peruvian Amazon, is the latest to suggest that land-use changes and other factors, including possibly climate change, are driving increasingly destructive wildfires in many parts of the earth.

Culture and Other Curiosities

After making his comments Mack greeted director of public property Harold Hall and the two walked away conversing.

As a condition of his bail after his initial arrest in September, a federal judge ordered Mack not to talk to potential witnesses in the case. Hall is among those witnesses, according to a preliminary witness list provided to The Times last month.

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