Today’s buzz has insights on the upcoming holiday impact on the work environment, lightsabers in use in Indianapolis, a look at the mysterious special district providing water in Central Texas and a few personifications of winter weather.


Right Now with Matt Yager

What I’m reading: Emoji Have a Dual Nature by Drake Baer

What I’m listening to: Jingle Bells by Frank Sinatra

What I’m doing: Starting to plan out 2017

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Send Everyone Home for Christmas. Nobody’s Working AnywayIf you’re running a business, you might as well shut up shop for Christmas now. More than half your employees might be there, but they’re not putting their heart into it. “Christmas seems to be starting earlier every year,” said Dan Rogers, co-founder of Peakon, a Danish startup that collects and measures data on employees. A survey by the company found that 54% of British workers mentally check out for the holidays by today.

Spanish City Installs 3D-Printed Bridge: Alcobendas, Spain, this week unveiled a 3D-printed pedestrian bridge, reports 3ders.org, a 3D printing news site. The approximately 40-foot concrete bridge is made up of eight separate parts that fit together, and was created using an additive manufacturing process. It spans a small canal in Castilla La Mancha Park.

Building Cities to Meet the Needs of Women: Men are often overrepresented in consultations about how city facilities are built. To account for this, planners need to seek out women’s comments and look for ways to better serve them, argues Alexander Starritt.

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50 Nifty

  • When ice hits Indy, a lightsaber and bungee cords help: A man parked on an I-65 ramp on the south side, using an orange lightsaber to warn oncoming motorists of a dangerous pileup. An IndyStar sports reporter, stuck on I-465 for 11 hours after leaving a high school basketball game. And a woman perched atop an overpass on the north side, lowering a gas canister, water and food to her brother and his fiance below.
  • BWL removes Lansing’s last lead water service line: City-owned utility says it has replaced 13,500 to 14,000 lead water service lines since 2004. With BWL’s help, Flint makes progress with its lead removal plan.

  • Denver Pauses on Homeless Policy After Videos Show Police Seizing Blankets in Cold Weather: Denver is suspending some enforcement of its urban-camping ban following criticism over widely shared videos showing police confiscating tents and blankets of homeless people in cold winter weather. Mayor Michael B. Hancock, a Democrat, said over the weekend that the city would make a temporary “cold-weather adjustment” to its four-year-old unauthorized-camping ordinance. The ordinance makes it illegal to use a sleeping bag or other covering to sleep in public. “We never intended to take the belongings that people need to keep warm,” Mr. Hancock said, ordering police to refrain from taking any equipment from the homeless through April.


  • Hogan Says ‘Road Kill Bill’ Would Ax 11 County Projects: Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that 11 Montgomery County transportation projects would be canceled if state lawmakers didn’t repeal a new law that requires transportation projects to be ranked before they receive state funding. The county projects include the construction of the Watkins Mill Road interchange and other improvements to I-270, capacity improvements along the Capital Beltway. Dozens of other road projects around Maryland are also affected.

  • Oklahoma City’s MAPS Is A Model Public Works Program: There have been numerous failures throughout the history of public works initiatives, with different major U.S. cities subject to bureaucracy, graft and poor design. And then there’s the program in Oklahoma City. Since 1993, the state capital has pursued multiple stages of its Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS), funding structures that have been credited with reviving the city. And it has done this the right way, following accounting principles that seem lost on bigger cities. Recently I visited some projects and spoke with officials who were instrumental behind MAPS, to hear what other cities could learn.

  • Firefighters dying from preventable mistakes: Over the last two decades, hundreds of firefighters were killed and tens of thousands injured in incidents that bore a grim connection: They had happened before in almost exactly the same ways. The Kansas City Star, in a monthslong investigation, found widespread problems within America’s fire service. Topping the list was that, in tragedy after tragedy, firefighters paid the price when fire departments didn’t learn from others’ mistakes. “We are sadly unoriginal,” said Kevin Kalmus, a fire captain in Austin, Texas. “We allow the same events to occur year after year that lead to firefighter fatalities.”


#LocalGov Confidential

This mysterious group controls Killeen’s tap water: On the fenced grounds of a sewage treatment plant in northern Killeen sits a squat building painted white with green trim. The nondescript structure is the first to a visitor’s left as he or she enters the compound, and the heavy machinery of the plant is off to the visitor’s right. What’s more difficult to find is any information about the group controlling the area’s drinking water supply and treating the area’s wastewater. The five-member administrative staff for Bell County WCID No. 1 — short for Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 — works within the compound. The district’s five-member board is off the premises and seemingly off the grid.

No better time to discuss big change at City Hall: Right now, for the first time ever, Tacoma can choose its form of government on purely civic grounds. No crisis, no personal attack. Simply a decision on whether a city manager or a strong mayor can better lead us into the future. The opportunity won’t last long. A refresher on forms of government may help. The manager-council form emphasizes professional management. The City Council sets policies and chooses a manager, who carries them out. The strong mayor system balances power between elected executive (mayor) and legislative (council) branches. The council still sets policies, but the mayor can also take initiative.

Jeff Hudson reflects back on years as county manager: Sitting in an education room within the current county health department building, County Manager Jeff Hudson overlooked construction of the new health department building — one of many projects he’s seen brought to fruition since he accepted the position more than seven years ago. “When I went away to college, I never knew I would be coming back here,” the Onslow County native said. He’d originally thought, he said, that in making his career, he’d have to be in a larger city like Raleigh. Instead, what he discovered is that at the local level, county government is where the rubber meets the road.