Responsibility of Local Government

Recently I read a blog post by a Dallas personal injury lawyer that got me thinking. How much responsibility does local government have to keep residents safe? If for example a known dangerous intersection needs a stop light and city council votes down the stop light and a child is killed by a car at that intersection, how much liability does the city bear?

I’ll be exploring this topic more soon. If anyone has any case law to contribute to this topic, please let me know.

UPDATE: Currently getting comments from a lawyer at this firm: https://litsterfrost.com/ten-secrets/

Is Gatlinburg Abusing Their Power

Gatlinburg is often seen as a beautiful tourist area, but in some cases the residents that live in Gatlinburg just want to be left alone. This is very true of some of the residents who live in town who had the very real threat of eminent domain being used to overtake the properties for the use of commercial development. While this is a decision that a lot of people have come to love, the property owners were feeling threatened and so are some of the other residents who live in this town about the choices that are being made by the government.

 

What is key here is the city is starting to take these properties, that in some cases were empty, but other cases are occupied for the development of more commercial properties. Now these properties were ones that were not the best in town, but the decision was made on the council level for the city to take the properties. and compensate people properly for them, but at the same time it does look bad for the city.

 

What the city plans on doing with these properties they have obtained is definitely admirable as they are going to plan on getting the city expanded and starting to develop the commercial district more. This is a great idea, but it comes at the expense of the citizens, but as we mentioned the extra commercial income from the taxes could easily cover the loss of the residential income levels.

 

The problem with this format is it does leave quite a few people who live near Gatlinburg, but are in the commercial districts with there private homes worried. What happens if the city decides to use the same type of force on them? Yes, they would be able to present a court battle, but this cost quite a bit of money to take a city to court. Not to mention in previous court cases, even in Ohio for the development of a shopping mall, the owner of the properties ended up losing, but they were compensated quite a bit more than what the owners who sold out right away were offered.

 

Commercialization of private property is going to happen at some point. In Gatlinburg the city has used their eminent domain to push this into the region at times. The decision was not exactly the best one they made and even stirred up quite a bit of controversy at the time. However, what happens if the city decides to push this expansion agenda again?

Austin City Council To Improve Food Insecurity Issues

 

In an attempt to improve areas within Austin where there is limited fresh food access, the city council met to determine how to handle this problem which is affecting 25% of the people living in Austin right now. These individuals have no idea where they will be able to get access to their next meal. This is what is referred to as a food insecurity issue, a matter that city leaders have determined to be of great priority, specifically for the newly created council in charge of these matters called the Office of Equity.

 

The Problem At Hand

The problem that the city council is facing right now was first reported by the Office of Sustainability. They had presented the idea that a quarter of the population of Austin were facing this food insecurity problem. Edwin Marty, who is in charge of the food policy program, has stated that it is one of the largest concerns that he has heard on a consistent basis from a multitude of different constituents. Specifically, these individuals do not have access to what would be considered healthy and affordable food, a problem that the council believes that they can resolve very quickly.

 

Ways Of Addressing These Disparities

District 2 council member Delia Garza stated that this council has an obligation to addressing the disparities related to food insecurity and that it is necessary to resolve these food access problems which are all over the city. Over the last several months, the city staff has taken part in 11 stakeholder meetings, and has met with over 30 organizations and city departments to increase funding and resources in this area. This would specifically address the use of community gardens which could provide a nutritious food incentive program. They would work by targeting specific ZIP Codes, administering a nutrition education campaign, and would be able to achieve a final preliminary report on the overall cost of this type of project.

 

The Main Problem With The Current Project

The main problem with this current project is the scope of the project itself. Food access has become a significant issue, mostly because of the surrounding areas. According to Shannon Jones who is the director of the Human Services Department, there is an affordability issue due to providing food for those in areas where there is a lack of infrastructure. One solution is utilizing healthy food that will be discarded by restaurants and stores, huge volumes of food that can be used to feed the hungry. Bill Fry, board chairman of Keep Austin Said, is actually able to distribute 30 tons of food every month made available by over 30 donors. By utilizing food that would be otherwise thrown away, this can help with the current budgeting problems. It’s also a great way to gain access to food that actually is healthy and safe to eat that can be given to those that are less fortunate.

 

In conclusion, the Austin City Council seems to have a good idea on how to expand their reach to help those that are hungry. By defining the parameters where hungry people are located in and around Austin, and utilizing the free healthy food made available through local businesses, it is possible to compensate for the ever increasing number of those that need to eat. Once this project goes from a proposal to an actual viable solution, it should help prevent thousands of people from going hungry. As long as they are able to coordinate with local businesses, and receive approval from the city council, there should be no problem at all dealing with food insecurity issues now and in the future.

Boston City Council News

 

On Wednesday, the Boston City Council will go back to work on the proposed budget for the city’s next fiscal year. Education funding has been the most contentious element of the city’s proposed budget for a number of reasons. While the Boston Public Schools are expecting a budget of a 1.032 billion USD (40 percent of the city’s budget), this figure could well increase after the school department finishes some tense negotiations with the Boston Teacher’s Union. Student walk outs protesting elements of the political situation the school system finds itself in have made things more complicated and the city council more desperate to reach a compromise.

 

The 8 June 2016 meeting of the city council began with a number of concerned city Councillors voicing apprehension and dissatisfaction with the school district’s budget and the ways in which it would be distributed. Councillor Ayanna Pressley voted to reject the budget, citing concerns about weighted student funding formulas, as well as the number of trauma trained school nurses. Councillor Pressley also cited dissatisfaction with the school system’s means of funding transitioning special education students.

 

Mayor Marty Walsh tried to balance the matter out by expanding the school system’s budget by 5 million USD to back investment in the school system’s Superintendent Tommy Chang’s program known as “Excellence for All” intended to offer a more challenging curriculum for 13 elementary schools. This program was also intended to extend learning times for special student populations and a new means by which the school system could track transportation data to better track ridership.

 

City Councillor Tito Jackson and other Councillors did not feel that was enough. According to Councillor Jackson, he was dissatisfied with how the additional funding goes to the central office rather than the schools themselves, claiming that his calculations left the school district with a 26 million USD deficit in the school district’s expenses. Councillor Jackson urged other Councillors to reject the budget until the city’s public schools were fully funded.

 

Education problems aside, other elements of the budget have also come under scrutiny. The proposed budget included projections of less public safety overtime spending which many city residents do not agree with. The proposed budget also called for lower spending on utilities, though these reductions were born of reduced usage by the city and lower rates. The city council has until 29 June 2016 to approve a final budget for the city of Boston.

Seattle City Council News And Issues

SHB 1553 Passed

Recently at a committee Council meeting in Seattle, a unanimous vote on SHB 1553 passed, as well as the CROP program which allows employers to have an easier time hiring people with criminal histories, specifically those that require a vocational license. According to the report on the meeting, currently only people without a criminal record can get jobs that require some type of vocational license. For example, someone that would like to get a job as a dental hygienist, or even a barber, would not be able to get this type of job as a result of having a criminal record. This will make it easier for these individuals to apply and potentially receive a job if they have the proper licensing. Additionally, after the governor’s signature had gone through, it became a state wide program that permits an individual to file what is called a civil motion that will clearly show that they have not had any convictions or new arrest since that time, and that they have also met the terms of their sentence. Once this becomes more widespread, people will be able to get jobs that could not before because they had a criminal record. There was another resolution passed that ensures that this will be considered by all employers, something called Resolution 31637.

Resolution 31637 Also Unanimously Approved

One other thing that was able to get passed by the Seattle City Council was this resolution which legally shows the support of the city in regard to the certificate for restoration of opportunity program. In this particular situation, they are requiring the privilege of a prisoner, and also the community corrections departments to work to strengthen CROP. This particular type of work group will identify opportunities that should be made available to these individuals, something that goes far beyond criminal justice agencies. They are also required to develop recommendations that the city can implement to facilitate what is called prisoner reentry. This should remove any possible barriers for these individuals if they need to get housing as well, making this a well-rounded project.

In the event that this continues to move forward, there is the possibility that more jobs will be created for people that are fully capable of doing the work but have had a criminal record. Sometimes these things happen in our lives, and as a result of mistakes that we have made, it can lead to problems getting employment. The passing of SHB 1553 and Resolution 31637 makes it now possible for people in Seattle to have the ability to move forward with their lives if they have been trying their hardest to get previous convictions behind them, and if they have not had any additional convictions since that time.

Sacramento City Council News And Issues

There has been quite a bit of activity in the city of Sacramento, the capital of California, specifically regarding the city Council as of late. They have done many things in regard to approving grants to combat violence caused by gangs, and have also dealt with several other important issues. Let’s take a look at what they have been doing recently, and why it is so important for this Council to continue to discuss matters that are relevant for the safety and productivity of the city of Sacramento.

 

Grants To Help Combat Gang Violence

The first agenda that is worth noting in regard to the Sacramento city Council was that they have actually approve to grants that will affect 18 neighborhood organizations which are specifically designed to help reduce gang violence. It was noted that the city’s ability to offset what is happening with gangs in the city is not doing very well, and they believe that this is a step in the right direction for a long-term solution. The total amount for the grant was $680,000 which is a sizable amount, divided between each of the organizations. It is actually money that was approved by voters, specifically who voted for Measure U sales tax, and is therefore properly funded by an approved by the people.

 

Dealing With The Homeless

The homeless are most certainly in need of help in Sacramento, and the latest City Council meeting has made sure that they are at the top of their agenda. They are going to try to implement similar measures that were approved and utilized in the city of Seattle which could very well work in Sacramento to help diminish the amount of homeless by helping them back into society. Additionally, there would be mandates that need to be followed by the homeless including tent camps that could remain for 90 days at a time. There would be no drugs or alcohol allowed, and those that live there would provide cleanup services and security for nearby neighborhoods, making this a win-win scenario.

Although there are many other issues in the city of Sacramento, helping deal with gang violence and helping the homeless are two priorities that always need to be discussed. The more that the city Council focuses on these problems, and provides solutions for them, it can help those that are involved in gangs find their way out and the homeless can find a way to live in a much more meaningful and dignified way.

Medford City Council News And Issues

 

In the city of Medford, there are many ongoing projects that have been discussed, many of which will also be observed by the mayor.

 

Medford Public Library Position

Recently in an hour-long meeting, many of the counselors that were applying for the Medford Public Library position were concerned about when the position would be filled since the retirement of the former director. There is an interim director, the library’s long-term assistant assistant director, who is also applying for the position. Although it would seem likely that this individual would be more skilled for fulfilling the role of the director of the library, other applicants would indeed be considered.

 

Issues Regarding Senior Workers

Another issue that was very prominent, not only at the meeting, but also in the news, where tax abatements that would be granted to seniors. They would be able to receive these abatements for exchange when working in the community, giving them about 1000 dollars to offset their tax bills. There will be many positions that will be offered to seniors, although the exact nature of the positions was not presented except for greeters that would be at the front of City Hall. This is an easy position that can be done by someone on a part-time basis, and would fully qualify them for the discount on their tax bills.

 

Issues Regarding Social Security

A concern that most seniors have, as well as people that are working right now, is how long Social Security will actually last. It was designed to be there for people that reached the age of 62, providing them with some type of supplemental retirement income, but the longevity of this program is coming into question.

 

Discussion About The Bomb Threat

Finally, school security was a very important topic as a result of a bomb threat that occurred at the beginning of February. This was at the Medford high school, and many parents and teachers have complained about the lack of security and recommended that things be tightened up. It was agreed that it is far too easy for anyone to gain access to the school through the front entrance, whereas at the middle school and elementary schools, they already have protection in place. A meeting with the superintendent would occur to discuss these issues as presented by parents and others that want to have more security at the high school, something that will definitely go through once the funding is there and it is approved by the mayor and council.

Cleveland City Council News And Issues

The Cleveland City Council has been very busy with a number of different issues in recent weeks. The mayor has actually prepared a budget that is thought to pass, which can ensure that jobs will be properly funded throughout the city. Black History Month was also a primary focus, a celebrated theme in Cleveland Ohio. Additionally, there is information about the Cleveland Orchestra that would also played to commemorate Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., something directly connected to the Cleveland Community Relations Board designed to provide public awareness.

 

Infant Mortality Issues

Another issue that was of utmost importance that was discussed recently was the issue of infant mortality. It has been extremely high in recent years in Cleveland, and there are many groups that are designed to get to the bottom of the cause. This could be related to many different issues such as genetics, the environment, stress, and chemicals or pollutants that are in the air. Since it is not known why mortality rates are increasing, it is imperative that a Council meeting be set to discuss these issues regularly to monitor whether things are getting better or worse.

 

Police Officers And Civil Employees

As with many other cities across the nation, issues regarding civil employees and police officers have been quite tense. There have been problems in relation to racial tensions, and dealing with the rights of both the victims and the police officers, all of which was recently addressed. Of great importance was an issue that occurred back in 2012 where six Cleveland police officers were engaged in a chase that ended in tragedy. They have actually been fired in connection with the chase, and the city is trying to recover from this incident. The purpose of discussing this at the Council was finding ways to help those in the police force, and civilians in the city, learn to cope with one another in a much more balanced manner after such a tragic incident occurred.

 

Other Issues Discussed

On a personal level, there were people that have lost loved ones that were part of the Council itself, and more lighthearted issues such as free services for pet owners in the area. This Council is dedicated to addressing as many issues as possible to make all of the residents of Cleveland well aware of problems that may be affecting them, and directly addressing issues that will help everyone stays safe and feel more comfortable living and working in the city.

3 Ways That Technology Is Changing Government In Small Cities

When you take a look at how technology has evolved in recent years, it is clear that life is becoming more convenient for everyone. In no case is that more true than when taking a look at how communication has increased. This increase in communication has been valuable particularly for small cities, which now have more fire power on their side in order to communicate with their residents. This is useful both for better governing and for political reasons, allowing people the opportunity to be more involved in the happenings of their government, and increasing the reach for politicians.

 

Here are three ways that current technology is changing town throughout the U.S.

 

#1: People Are Registering To Vote In Greater Numbers

When taking a look at how technology has helped city government, one of the major ways is that voting registration has increased. With people getting more information about how to register to vote online and even being able to register to vote online, it does away with some of the barriers and allows people to take it upon themselves to register. People are also becoming more informed about government, thanks to political blogs and podcasts. This is why you see an increase in government participation on all levels.

 

#2: People Are More Quickly Informed About City Wide Happenings

When there are road closures, street detours, delays, emergencies and other situations, people need to be informed. Not everyone can be by a television or radio around-the-clock, nor do they always read the paper. But with technology, people can sign up for text message and email alerts that will be sent straight to their phone. This way, people will be able to be informed instantaneously in order to make the proper decisions. This is also great for emergencies, as cell phone providers send out Amber alerts to all phone carriers within the geographical area of the Amber alert.

 

#3: People Are Paying Taxes And Fulfilling Other Legal Obligations Online

Technologies also excellent in terms of one very important issue – taxes. There are even apps now that allow people to quickly and conveniently file their taxes by taking a picture of their return. This way, the government can more quickly and conveniently collect the money that they need to carry out the goods and services of the locality. People can also take care of DMV chores like registration renewal online now, cutting down the crowding and queuing that used to make people dread these chores.

Highly Anticipated: Pittsburgh City Council Cuts Punishment on Possession of Marijuana

It was all smiles as the final meeting of the 2015 session for the Pittsburgh City Council drew to a close last Monday. In a yet unprecedented decision in the Allegheny County, the council approved a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The bill allows police to enforce a fine of up to one hundred dollars on those who were found carrying less than 30 grams of unprocessed marijuana or 8 grams of the more chemically potent hashish. This is keeping with the trend of further decriminalizing marijuana that has been observed in the motions made by city councils all across the country.

The marijuana decriminalization bill passed by a vote of 7 to 2. It was penned by councilman Daniel Lavelle, who expressed the hope that the bill would be instrumental in reducing the number of police incidents that were centered around the recreational substance. Another councilman told reporters that the passing of the bill was a response to the long overdue reduction of punishment on this now common activity, and that the general public sentiment seemed to reflect the idea that charging a misdemeanor for holding small amounts of illicit substances is not prudent.

The decriminalization of marijuana has been a prominent political trend within the last few years. Many states have experimented with the legalization of marijuana for medical treatment purposes, generally with the caveat that participants in medical programs must attain a prescription from a licensed doctor. Other states, including Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, have even opted to completely legalize the substance for all types of usage, including recreational use. In these places, marijuana use generally follow the guidelines set by local liquor or tobacco laws.

States cite different motivations for legalizing marijuana. Some tout its numerous medical usages, as it has been shown to reduce pain levels in subjects suffering from conditions as diverse as arthritis and glaucoma. Others say that the underground trade of marijuana is nigh impossible to pretend anyway, which means legalization is the only way to ensure that the practice is safe and free from corruption. It doesn’t hurt that municipalities get a handy bit of extra sales tax revenue, of course.

Still, marijuana legalization is a divisive issue, and even bills aimed at decriminalizing the substance have their detractors. This debate will surely appear in the upcoming elections, and in the term beyond that.

Boston City Council Accused Of Violating State Laws

In any city or town council situation, the local government is required to give the public notice of any initiatives that are going to be voted on, so that they have a chance to attend and voice their concerns in the form of a public hearing. Well, the city of Boston is being accused of breaking such laws. The city of Boston has laws on the books that prevent their council from being able to vote on anything unless the public is given two days notice. However, the city council recently put a measure on the meeting agenda and voted that day.

The city is being accused by an organization that is fighting for marijuana advocacy. A lot of medical marijuana groups have sprang up recently, due to the fact that so many jurisdictions are passing laws to legalize marijuana, either for recreational use or medical use. The city of Boston will soon have a measure on its ballot which will vote for medical marijuana. This measure is set to go to vote during the November elections. The most recent meeting note for which the city of Boston is being accused of breaking state openness laws also revolves around medical marijuana.

This most recent measure was a buffer law. A buffer law means that medical marijuana dispensaries would not be able to exist within about a half a mile of each other. This way, people will not have to worry about their neighborhoods being overrun by medical marijuana dispensaries. The medical marijuana advocacy group followed its complaint recently, accusing the city Council of not being open. The city Council also had the chance to respond to the complaint in the press, saying that it all boiled down to a simple mistake.

They said that the mistake was due to a typo on the city Council meeting posting. They also claimed that the online version of that had the proper agenda without the typo. We will have to see how this measure plays out, as openness in government is something that is serious business and must be upheld. This will also play a huge role in how the growth of medical marijuana will play out throughout the city of Boston. This is an issue which could shape the landscape of that struggle throughout the city as well, so it will be worth paying attention to.