County News

News from Across the Nation - Aug. 21, 2017

VIRGINIA

The ARLINGTON COUNTY Polie Department starred in a synchronized swimming video to promote a block party to which they played host.

CALIFORNIA

⚫ California counties are battling proposed legislation that the Los Angeles Times is calling “an audacious power grab” by telecom giants. SB 649 would “transfer hundreds of millions of dollars from key government services to the bottom line of the world’s largest wireless companies,” according to the California State Association of Counties. The bill places a limit on how much local government could charge in fees for putting cell equipment on locally-owned infrastructure, and prohibits negotiating for higher fees, or for in-kind services (like free Wi-Fi for a park or library). CSAC estimates a $100 million loss statewide.

The bill would “incentivize companies to terminate their current agreements and unilaterally replace them with the reduced regulatory and fee structures in the bill,” according to CSAC. This would “dramatically cut the fees companies must pay to cities [and counties] for use of public property and allow them to place equipment wherever they want on public assets. It adds millions to telecom company profits, while exempting them from having to spend money on expanded wireless access for underserved communities.”

Similar legislation, designed to speed the build-out of infrastructure for 5G networks, has been passed in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Texas and Virginia, according to a recent article in Axios. The Federal Communications Commission is also considering limiting local authority as a way to remove barriers to building out 5G.

 

⚫ MENDOCINO COUNTY supervisors recently approved a temporary ban on new vacation rentals in residential areas outside city limits. Supervisors hope the 45-day ban will stop erosion of limited housing, as well as control traffic and noise. Nearby SONOMA COUNTY also imposed a temporary ban, following the lead of Healdsburg, a city there that prohibits rentals in residential areas. Mendocino County is trying to get a handle on the number of homes being rented out; a computer program recently counted 169 people — believed to be renting out part or all of their homes in Airbnb-type arrangements without a required business license — who are supposed to be paying a county hotel-bed tax revenue.

 

⚫ No more feeding the wild burros in RIVERSIDE COUNTY. A new ordinance took effect late last month that prohibits people from feeding or interacting with the animals after several traffic accidents injured or killed them. The county says the burros, which have been in the area since the 1800s but aren’t native, have multiplied into the hundreds. The animals migrate down the hills looking for snacks like apples and carrots offered by people driving by in their cars. The county reported 84 incidents last year involving burros — everything from burros invading backyards to traffic accidents. Fines for feeding or enticing the burros range from $100 to $500.

 

FLORIDA

⚫ The immigration issue is heating up in MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, where activists have filed a lawsuit against the county for detaining a U.S. citizen. The American Civil Liberties Union contends that the county detained Honduran-born Garland Creedle, 18, at the request of U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement for two days as a “removable alien” after his bond was posted. Creedle was arrested after an alleged domestic dispute but charges were never filed.

County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has ordered jails to approve all immigration detainer requests, not just for those who face serious charges. He justified the move by pointing to $355 million in government funding the county has received for public housing, transportation and police programs. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has threatened to withhold funding to local governments that don’t cooperate with ICE.

 

⚫ Congratulations to MANATEE COUNTY for being the first county — and the first local government —  in the state to achieve Platinum Certification from the Florida Green Building Coalition. The county’s Green Team was credited by the Board of Commissioners with mapping the way to the designation. “I’m so proud of the Green Team and of what’s been accomplished for this county,” said Commissioner Vanessa Baugh at a recent Board meeting. “This is huge.”

 

GEORGIA

⚫ After receiving letters from local residents about alleged behavior by R&B singer and Grammy winner, R. Kelly, FULTON COUNTY is trying to put a stop to a concert scheduled for Aug. 25. The Office of the County Attorney for Fulton County issued a letter to Live Nation requesting the upcoming performance at the Wolf Creek Amphitheater be canceled. Fulton County owns the 5,420-seat outdoor venue in College Park, Ga.

Parents interviewed for a recent article in BuzzFeed allege the singer is keeping young women in an abusive “cult,” which Kelly has denied. Kelly concerts in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Dallas were recently canceled, although no reason was given, the Los Angeles Times reported. Live Nation is contracted to book and promote concerts on Fulton County’s behalf and has the final say about whether the event will go on.

 

⚫ Is HENRY COUNTY ready for The Shack? Shaquille O’Neal, 45, a four-time champion basketball player and member of the NBA Hall of Fame tells The Washington Post he plans to run for sheriff in 2020. Why Henry County? O’Neal lives in the area; he works nearby as an analyst for TNT and NBA TV, based in Atlanta. O’Neal loves the law: He has been a deputy marshal in Lafayette, La., a reserve police officer in Florida and was sworn in as a deputy in CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga., last year.

 

ILLINOIS

COOK COUNTY’s soda tax is back on track, for now. Delayed by a lawsuit from retailers, it was originally supposed to go into effect July 1. After a judge dismissed the lawsuit, which had temporarily blocked the tax, it went back into effect Aug. 1. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association announced that it is appealing, challenging whether the judge used the correct standards in granting Cook County’s motion to dismiss. A spokesman for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said she had expected a legal battle and will “continue to vigorously defend the ordinance and expect to prevail…”

The county says it expects to bring in $67.5 million this year and $200.6 million next year from the new tax.

 

MARYLAND

With average Comcast cable TV bills hitting more than $150 a month, a free movie-watching service from your library would likely be quite popular. BALTIMORE COUNTY’s library system, which serves 800,000 patrons at its 19 branches, recently announced it was adding a new video streaming service called Kanopy, featuring more than 26,000 titles available to library cardholders.

The library caps usage to 15 movies per month to control costs; Kanopy began marketing to public libraries last year, charging a varied fee for each video streamed. The library said the service will cost about $25,000 its first year. The final amount might be lower depending on the number of videos streamed. Kanopy notes that nearly 200 public libraries around the country now offer the service.

 

MINNESOTA

OTTER TAIL COUNTY residents have submitted hundreds of questions to the County Board about the proposed Shooting Star Casino & Resort being backed by the White Earth Band of Chippewa. Residents of the county — population 57,716 — are raising a lot of questions about the proposed 270-acre complex which would be located about 190 miles northwest of Hennepin County (Minneapolis). The Star-Tribune has pointed out that with more than 1,000 lakes, Otter Tail County is known for its fishing, wildlife, and mom ’n pop resorts. Plans call for the casino to feature 180 hotel rooms, 850 slot machines, a spa, an RV park and a convention center.

The Board is expected to take up the issue Aug. 22. At issue is whether the Board will accept a voluntary Environmental Assessment Worksheet or whether it will order an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Opponents are calling for an EIS, which would trigger a deeper study and slow the project.

 

NEW YORK

The ULSTER COUNTY Legislature will consider a law requiring electricians to be licensed. ORANGE and GREENE counties already established that requirement, and Legislator Hector Rodriguez says it will protect residents and property owners from shoddy work. The law would require all electricians working in Ulster County to become licensed by the county and would permit only licensed electricians to perform electrical work, The Daily Freeman reported.

The seven-member licensing board would be appointed by the county executive. The law would also grandfather electricians who have been doing business in the county for 11 years.

 

OREGON

⚫ Throughout June, CLACKAMAS COUNTY Department of Health, Housing and Human services collected the equivalent of 60,533 pounds of food for the Oregon Food Bank, worth about 45,400 meals. Since 2009, the department’s employees have collected more than 255,000 pounds of food.

 

⚫ MULTNOMAH COUNTY is the latest county to sue pharmaceutical companies, accusing them of pushing doctors to overprescribe addictive opioid painkillers.

The $250 million lawsuit claims Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Johnson & Johnson, Watson Pharma and the McKesson Drug Co., among others, used deceptive marketing practices over 20 years to misrepresent the addictive nature of the drugs and the situations in which they should be prescribed. The suit also includes several Oregon doctors, The Oregonian reported. So far, 19 counties have sued pharmaceutical companies, with two in California settling.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA

YORK COUNTY residents can now check out the cost, status and impact of each road program funded by the Pennies for Progress capital sales and use taxes. The 20-year-old program has accounted for $700 million in spending. The website is an overhaul of an older interface that presented long blocks of text. The new site includes interactive GIS maps.

 

TEXAS

Two similar words are going to overlap thanks to a HARRIS COUNTY pilot program.

The county’s veterinary public health division, which operates an overpopulated animal shelter, will provide pets to the county’s veteran population, particularly those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety.

The county will hold training sessions for the veterans and volunteers will help assess animal compatibility.

“The emotional support provided by a companion animal can help keep a veteran calm when s/he is angry or confused, or may help to decrease feelings of isolation that are often experienced by veterans,” according to county documents about the pilot program.

 

WASHINGTON

Hikers in KING COUNTY will have a ride to some of the county’s most popular trails thanks to a new van service. A pilot program by Metro’s Community Connections Program and King County Parks, Trailhead Direct will leave from a county park and ride lot every half hour starting at 7:05 a.m. and will end its run roughly 12 hours later, stopping at three trailheads along the way. Developed as a response to overcrowding at trailhead parking lots that spilled onto roads, Trailhead Direct will increase access to the trails to people who don’t have cars.

 

WISCONSIN

Ten law enforcement agencies within JEFFERSON COUNTY will cooperate on a newly-formed drug task force. The Board of Supervisors recently approved creating a pool of part-time, non-benefited deputy positions to staff the task force. The task force focuses on combating the growing problem of the sale and use of opioids, heroin and methamphetamine within Jefferson County, The Daily Union reported.


News from Across the Nation is compiled by Charlie Ban and Mary Ann Barton, senior staff writers. If you have an item for News From, please email cban@naco.org or mbarton@naco.org.

 

Contact the Editor

Bev Schlotterbeck
Executive Editor
(202) 942-4249
bschlott@naco.org