Today’s buzz has a critical look at zoning, a body camera controversy in Minnesota and a WWE wrestler looking to run for mayor in 2020 – plus SNOW!

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Right Now w/ Me

What I’m Reading: Welcome To Colontown, USA by Mallory Pickett

What I’m Watching: Cowboys vs. Giants

What I’m Listening to: Domino by Van Morrison

What I’m Doing: Moisturizing 

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Zoning Is Reducing American Productivity And Making The Poor Poorer: Gallup has released a report called, No Recovery: An Analysis of Long-Term U.S. Productivity Decline that explains that even with modest job and productivity growth post-recession, the productivity of the country is down overall. A big part of the reason for this stagnation and decline is because of the disproportionate growth in costs and decline in value in education, health care, and housing. The Gallup report tells the story that many of us have been repeating for years: we need more housing options. But local governments in fast growing cities have resisted housing production with zoning regulations.

The City of the Dead: Colma, California: In this small city near San Francisco, the dead outnumber the living by a thousand to one. There’s some gruesome history here – and a few questions for the future.

Living the Meme: What happened to Success Kid?: Sammy Griner explains what life is like nine years after his baby picture became a meme.

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50 Nifty

  • Maplewood police argue in court against body camera policy: Are police supervisors placing officers with body cameras under “surveillance”? That’s the argument Maplewood’s police union used Monday to ask for a temporary injunction against the city’s body camera law. The term caused Ramsey County District Judge Jennifer Frisch to smirk and spar. “I’m using a different term than you,” she told attorney Tim Louris, representing Law Enforcement Labor Services, the state’s biggest police union, representing numerous suburban and rural departments.  “I’m using the term ‘supervise,’ not ‘surveil.’ … Supervisors are hired — that’s why these positions exist — to monitor the work of employees.”
  • Health Department to shift focus to mental health, substance abuse next year: The new Cattaraugus County Health Department’s Community Health Assessment and Improvement Plan will add a focus next year of promoting mental health and preventing substance abuse. It replaces the current promotion of healthy and safe environments after feedback from surveys, stakeholder interviews and focus groups. Kathy Roach, project manager for Strategy Solutions, Erie, Pa., outlined the plan for members of the Board of Health on Wednesday. The Health Assessment and Improvement Plan continues a second priority — preventing chronic diseases — that was included in the 2013-16 plan.
  • Columbus to miss revenue projection, Auditor Hugh Dorrian says: Columbus’ revenue picture for 2017 might not be as rosy as initially thought, potentially signaling a looming slowdown in the local economy. City Auditor Hugh Dorrian told council members during a budget hearing this week that he now is having “serious doubts” about his prediction that revenue would grow by 5 percent in 2016. Dorrian issued those revenue projections last month so the city budget office could prepare a 2017 spending proposal. But corporate tax refunds — particularly in November — have eaten into the growth he was expecting.
  • Pet Rescue Group Closing After Dispute With Animal Control: Windsor Demore who runs Gone Rogue Pet Recovery has announced that she will be closing her organization after a dispute with Rock Springs Animal Control.  Demore was able to trap a chow that had been running wild for some time. Demore reported capturing the female chow on December 4th. She then took the dog to Desert View Animal Hospital to be scanned for a microchip. The initial scan revealed the dog had an unregistered microchip according to a note Windsor posted to the group’s Facebook page.

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  • City shifts more TIF risk onto developers: The city of Indianapolis is putting a new twist on TIF financing to spur real estate projects that would benefit neighborhoods but lack the transformative potential of big downtown projects. The Hogsett administration is targeting neighborhood projects that might not have gotten off the ground without a public subsidy—but that help comes with a catch. Under traditional tax-increment financing deals, the city assumes the risk of a bond issue and must make up shortfalls if additional property tax revenue generated in the district falls short of debt payments. With the neighborhood projects, the developer backs the bonds and is on the hook for shortfalls.
  • State’s plan to withhold money could cost El Paso County’s most vulnerable children: Children’s services would be cut and El Paso County would take a huge hit to its recently proposed 2017 budget if state officials move forward with a proposed change. Colorado human services leaders are weighing the idea of withholding more than $6 million in child welfare allocations that are divided between the state’s 64 counties’ Department of Human Services programs. Instead of promptly dispensing the funds to the counties, the state will first handle some of its own costs that include such things as senior level salaries, rent, various programs and more.
  • San Antonio’s First Affordable Housing Bond Moves Forward: San Antonio’s first-ever affordable housing bond cleared a key hurdle Thursday when the Neighborhood Improvements Community Bond Committee voted to send a list of 13 land parcels for recommended development to City Council. Those 13 areas, located in eight of the 10 Council districts, have been identified as suitable for development as affordable housing. The suburban Districts 9 and 10 are not in the project. The committee’s decision was not unanimous. The final vote was 22-4 with one abstention. City Council will discuss the proposed housing bond at its Wednesday, Dec. 14 meeting and vote the following day on whether to include the urban renewal project in the May 6, 2017 city election when voters also will decide on the various elements contained in the $850 million bond, the city’s largest ever capital spending initiative.
  • Traces of firefighting chemical show in town well testing: Results from the Town of Coupeville’s independent testing of its water supply for Navy firefighting chemicals at Keystone and Fort Casey wells came back this week. Mayor Molly Hughes said in a press release today that one of the two chemicals tested for was found at the town’s Keystone well. The Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory level recommends that the combination of the two compounds, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), in drinking water should not exceed 70 parts per trillion.

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Local Gov Confidential

No one tried to bury sewer study, but St. Petersburg’s public works department is dysfunctional: A city-commissioned report concluded high-ranking sewer officials did not bury a consultant’s 2014 report that predicted St. Petersburg’s sewage woes if the city shut down the Albert Whitted treatment plant — which is exactly what the city did in 2015, setting the stage for the current crisis. However, the investigation highlighted dysfunction and discord inside the departments responsible for the city’s sewer system, which are managed by Public Works administrator Claude Tankersley.

WWE Hall Of Famer Booker T To Run For Mayor Of Houston In 2020: Saturday night during “Heated Conversations” on Sportsradio610 WWE Hall of Famer Booker T announced that he plans to run for mayor of Houston. “You heard it, 2020 I’m preparing,” Booker said during his radio show. “I’m preparing myself to run for mayor of the city.” During the show, Booker sought out some advice from WWE superstar Rhyno (Terrance Gerin) – currently, wrestles for Smackdown live – who recently ran for a seat in the Michigan House of Representatives. Gerin shared that he feels, Booker would make a great mayor.

Power line opponents urge county to block project: Opponents of a proposed 33-mile high-voltage power line that would run from northwest of Española to west of Tesuque urged the Santa Fe County Commission on Tuesday to block the project, saying it would threaten the state’s cultural legacy, the environment and public health. The proposed Verde Transmission Project would begin at Public Service Company of New Mexico’s existing Ojo Substation in Rio Arriba County, then run south through the Ohkay Owingeh and Santa Clara pueblos, cross the Rio Grande, then make its way through the Pojoaque Valley before ending at PNM’s Norton Substation. It would replace a smaller capacity line of PNM. The final miles of the line would cross property of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which says it will conduct an environmental assessment of the line’s potential impact, a process that could take at least a year.

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