Today’s buzz pays tribute to 7-Eleven (don’t forget your free Slurpee today) while it examines the challenge of staffing volunteer fire departments, big plans in Atlanta and the sad story of a Public Works director stealing gas from his city.

Right Now w/ Matt Yager

What I’m Reading: Politics on parade: How Black Lives Matter halted a gay pride parade in Toronto by James Kirchick

What I’m Watching: The Green Hornet Strikes Again!

What I’m Listening to: One World (Not Three) by The Police

What I’m Doing: Waiting on a plumber to arrive

What I want to know from you: What is your favorite slurpee flavor?


The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean It Up: James Hoggan has influenced my work for two decades. I find myself quoting his work in many of my public speaking engagements and the lessons he has articulated have shaped MetroQuest and how it is used in numerous ways. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to sit down with Hoggan to discuss his new book, “I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean It Up.” After years of research that included interviewing some of the world’s most profound thinkers on democracy, conflict and consensus-building, Hoggan has cleverly articulated not only what’s wrong with public discourse but also what must be done to fix it. Here’s our conversation.

A 5-alarm Problem: Staffing Today’s Fire Departments: Firefighters still put out fires, but also they must have training in emergency medical response, rescue techniques on land and on water, personal safety education, building construction and more. The future is weighing heavily on the volunteer fire department. The need is as critical as ever — more so now that today’s firefighter is more than a person with a helmet and a fire hose. Modern day firefighters go through months of training to receive basic certification that must be followed up with ongoing education.

After Dallas shooting, U.S. police forces rethinking tactics: Police departments across the United States are searching for new tactics for a more difficult era of racial tension, increasingly lethal mass shootings and global terrorism. After last week’s killing of five officers in Dallas, the deadliest assault on U.S. law enforcement since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, nearly half of America’s 30 biggest cities have issued directives to pair up police officers on calls to boost safety, according to a Reuters survey of police departments.  And one, Indianapolis, said it would consider the use of robots to deliberately deliver lethal force, an unprecedented tactic until Thursday when the Dallas police department used a military-grade robot to deliver and detonate explosives where the shooter was holed up.

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50 Nifty

  • Bloomington considers new $50 million city hall (Illinois): A new $50 million Bloomington City Hall is among options in a long-term financial plan before the City Council on Monday. City Hall, a $50 million operations facility and a $30 million recreation center are the most expensive items in the city’s capital improvement plan, which lays out which projects the city is considering for the next five years. “The public should keep in mind these numbers are preliminary, especially for those bigger projects,” said Communications Manager Nora Dukowitz said. “A lot of the questions you (might) have don’t quite have answers yet.”
  • Area libraries have $35M in economic impact (Ohio):Shelen Stevens said numbers can’t do them justice, but the figures showing the financial impact of Wood County’s libraries are big ones. The libraries that collaborate through WoodLink had an adjusted economic impact of more than $35 million in 2014, which represents a $5 payoff for each $1 invested in Wood County’s libraries, said Michael Penrod, director of Wood County District Public Library, one member of the WoodLink system. Those figures are the local calculations expanded from an earlier report on the statewide return on funding for Ohio’s libraries. State Sen. Randy Gardner said Ohio is best in the country in providing funding.
  • Draft city ordinance would cost owners of vacant buildings downtown (North Carolina): In an effort to rid the city center of chronically vacant buildings, city planners have drafted an ordinance that would hit property owners deep in the pocket if they fail to occupy the buildings. The draft ordinance would require the owners of downtown buildings that have been vacant for at least six months to register with the city. They would have to pay a $1,000 registration fee annually, as well as meet additional maintenance and security standards for their abandoned property. According to the proposal, vacant properties would be exempt if they are “actively listed with a licensed North Carolina Realtor and offered for sale for no longer than one calendar year … at a price not to exceed 20 percent above the assessed (tax) value.”
  • Your county government: Kings County finance dept (California): The Kings County finance department is the starting point for all county departments. It ensures funds are managed, residents pay their property tax and budgets are reported to state and federal officials.  Rebecca Valenzuela is the county’s director of finance. The Sentinel sat down with her to learn about the department and how it works to serve the community.

  • Davidson County sheriff to cut inmate phone call charges (Tennessee): In a move aimed at reducing the financial burden of jail on inmates and their families, the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office plans to cut charges for all inmate phone calls from 13 cents to 5 cents per minute. Sheriff Daron Hall is set to announce the change Monday, a decision that comes amid an ongoing national dialogue about the costs of inmate phone calls and who ultimately gets the money. “The need for an inmate to communicate with family members while incarcerated is critical. Research proves a strong support system improves the likelihood of success upon release. It is important to me we do all we can to ensure those relationships continue and relieve some of the stress and burden placed on family members,” Hall said in an email sent Friday and obtained by The Tennessean.
  • Atlanta planning chief, BeltLine creator explain city’s new urban plan: Atlanta planning commissioner Tim Keane and BeltLine creator Ryan Gravel explained their work on the city’s new urban plan to the Buckhead Community Improvement District board on July 6 at Tower Place 100. They fielded questions about transportation and discussed an upcoming affordable housing demonstration project. Keane is overseeing a massive overhaul of the city’s planning and development processes. He brought on Gravel, an urban planner, to lead the Atlanta City Design Project, a long-range, citywide plan for what is expected to be a “much bigger city.”
  • South Florida cities struggle to collect millions in code enforcement fines: A homeowner in West Palm Beach owes the city more than a million dollars in fines that date back more than a decade. In Davie, a property owner owes $415,500 for maintaining an unsecured facility and overgrowth on the property, a lien that was imposed this year. And in Pembroke Pines, a residential property with numerous violations dating back to 1998 has fines on it totaling over $3 million. While cities throughout South Florida use fines to prod homeowners to correct code violations, collecting payment is often a struggle. Cities cannot seek foreclosure on residences with a homestead exemption. So most offer ways to dramatically cut what is owed as long as the violation is taken care of.
  • Northern Utah County in ‘crisis’ as traffic woes threaten economic development: One of the fastest-growing areas in Utah is facing a crisis, and it’s causing some businesses to stay away, state leaders say. Lehi, the once small town in northern Utah County, has experienced tremendous growth during the past few years. It’s become known as a technology corridor with high-paying jobs and lots of new people. But the area hasn’t kept up. Just ask Brian Emery. He lives in Lehi’s Traverse Mountain neighborhood and works just across the freeway, less than two miles away. That’s a commute of just five minutes — on a good day. Trouble is, those good days are becoming much rarer. “It can take 20 to 30 minutes to get from my garage to the parking lot,” Emery said as he prepared to leave for work.

Local Gov Confidential

ICMA Member Spotlight: Susan K. Thorpe: Susan K. Thorpe is the county administrator of Yuma County, Arizona, and a member of ICMA since 1983. Tell me a little bit about how you got started in local government.  I took a course in college called public administration and decided that I wanted to be a city manager after learning about local government through that course. When I became the city manager of Bedford, Texas, my dad was the city manager in Universal City, Texas. As far as I know, we were the first father-daughter pair of city managers at the same time in Texas.

Former Merriam Public Works director sentenced to 18 months probation: A former Merriam Public Works director is sentenced to 18 months probation after agreeing to plead guilty to official misconduct for stealing city gas.  Randy Carroll spoke publicly for the first time about the case at his hearing Thursday. At first, he declined comment. But when pressed by the judge, Carroll did offer an apology.  “I made a mistake, your honor, and I feel a lot of remorse,” he said in court.

City attorney to clarify city manager government: The city attorney will give the mayor and the City Council a presentation about the council-manager form of government Monday. The council-manager form of government, also referred to as the city manager form of government, was approved by voters in 2004. The structure is designed to streamline the management of city staff and departments by allowing a city manager to execute the policies developed by the City Council. The presentation fulfills one of the remaining items of a 13-part corrective action approved by the council following the results of an ethics investigation regarding City Manager Tommy Gonzalez.