TJCOG’s Economic Development District Designation

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) recently designated Triangle J Council of Governments (TJCOG) in Durham, North Carolina as an Economic Development District (EDD). In its EDD role, TJCOG will help lead locally-based, regionally-driven economic development planning and strategies, leveraging the work already underway by the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. They will also be responsible for the implementation of the region’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, a strategic blueprint that increases communication and coordination between regional stakeholders. TJCOG Board of Delegates Chair and Town of Rolesville Mayor Pro Tempore Ronnie Currin said, “We already are a vibrant growing community and this designation will be essential to our continued growth.”

Lawmakers Push for Program to Improve Urban Flood Hazard Maps

Under the newly proposed bipartisan and bicameral Flood Mapping Modernization and Homeowner Empowerment Pilot Program Act of 2018, cities would gain access to a new grant initiative aimed at improving how the nation assesses and manages flood risk. If implemented, three cities with populations over 50,000 would be selected to participate in the FEMA pilot program every year to help develop better methods for mapping urban flood hazards. It would authorize $1.2 million for FY 2019 and a total of $4.3 million for FY 2020-2022 that could flow to state and local governments. FEMA will use information learned from this pilot program to create best practices and improve their flood risk mapping program.

Sens. Alexander, Murray Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Address “Urgent Opioid Crisis”

Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray recently introduced a bipartisan bill to address the urgent opioid crisis in America. The Opioid Response Act of 2018 (S. 2680) is composed of forty proposals, mostly from members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions, that came from seven bipartisan hearings and feedback received from the public. The bill’s proposals include: improving data sharing among states so doctors and pharmacies know if a patient has a history of opioid abuse, making grants available that support state and local workforce boards and communities affected by the opioid crisis, and providing grants for states and localities to collect data and implement key prevention strategies. To learn more, read this summary of the legislation.  The committee expects to mark up the bill tomorrow morning.

Upcoming Brownfields Tax Legislation

Representatives Elizabeth Esty and Peter King joined forces to introduce the Brownfields Redevelopment Tax Incentive Reauthorization Act of 2018, as referenced in their “Dear Colleague” letter. If passed, the legislation would save a brownfields tax incentive that expired in January 2012. According to the letter, the bill would “reauthorize a tax incentive program that would allow developers to fully deduct the costs of environmental cleanups of brownfields in the year the costs were incurred.” The reauthorization is expected to encourage private sector investment to take on brownfields cleanup and redevelopment projects. NARC, the National League of Cities (NLC), the National Association of Counties (NACo), and the U.S. Conference of Mayors recently produced a letter urging Congress to pass the bill.

In Houston, a Focus on Innovation to ‘Build Back Better’

Houston, TX has always had an eye for new technology and innovation. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey; however, local officials learned just how helpful these tools can be during a storm and after when it is time to rebuild. Jesse Bounds, director of innovation for the City of Houston, relayed several examples of the ways Houston residents used technology during and after the storm, including:

  • The local tech community of civic hackers developed ad-hoc technologies to address citizens’ immediate needs;
  • Volunteers used crowdsourcing tools to rescue 7,000 households;
  • Houston-area public agencies used open-sourced platforms and social media websites like Nextdoor to share critical emergency communications; and
  • Houston leaders are currently partnering with The Atlas Marketplace to learn how other cities are building back even better after a natural disaster.

MAPC Selects LimeBike, Spin for 15-Community Regional Bike Share System

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) in Boston, MA recently incorporated a dockless bike share system in their region. MAPC selected LimeBike and Spin as the two vendors that would provide users the ability to pick up and drop off a bike virtually anywhere in their fifteen participating communities. MAPC Executive Director Marc Draisen said, “The new system will incorporate station-less, smart bike technology, and will also feature some pedal-assist electric bicycles, or ‘e-bikes,’ to make cycling uphill and into headwinds less challenging. And, the system will be launched at no cost to the participating cities and towns.”

The Heartland 2050 Winter Summit Held in MAPA Region

The Heartland 2050 Winter Summit Held in MAPA Region
Heartland 2050 is a community-driven initiative by the Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) to pull in stakeholders across the region to think big picture and work toward a common vision for the metro area. This past week Heartland 2050 held its winter summit, where stories were shared about how communities have come together to solve seemingly intractable problems through a new form of collaboration called Collective Impact. Paul Schmitz, CEO of Leading Inside Out and Senior Advisor at The Collective Impact Forum, explains the Collective Impact as “when you align all of the organizations that work on an issue, so they no longer do their work on their own serving people here and there, but rather collectively move to a population level result.”

Farm Bill Advances from House Agriculture Committee

On April 18, the House Agriculture Committee passed the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 out of committee in a party-line vote. The strictly partisan vote resulted from many factors, including the bill’s proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the feeling from Democrats that they were left out of the bill drafting process. The Farm Bill is expected to face similar partisan pressure when it reaches the House floor, which could be as early as the week of May 7. Meanwhile, the Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to release their own Farm Bill next month. The Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts has indicated that the Senate’s Farm Bill draft will not include the House’s SNAP provisions since they will be much more difficult to pass in the upper chamber. Concerns remain about the partisanship surrounding the Farm Bill and whether that will affect the passage of the legislation before it expires on September 30.

Last week, NARC signed onto a letter with the Campaign for Renewed Rural Development (CRRD) – a coalition of national policy advocacy organizations representing a broad spectrum of interests focused on rural issues – to highlight to the House Agriculture Committee the need for a robust Rural Development Title that provides critical investments to underserved communities and enhances rural America’s competitiveness in a global marketplace.

Long-Term FAA Reauthorization Bill Introduced in House

Last Friday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018, which would reauthorize FAA through FY 2023. Attached to the bill are provisions of the bipartisan Disaster Recovery Reform Act previously passed by the House that makes changes to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) policy. The FAA bill does not include FAA air traffic control spinoff provisions. As of yesterday, 40 amendments had been filed. The House is expected to vote on the bill next week. The current reauthorization deadline is September 30, 2018.

THUD Appropriations Member Day

The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations subcommittee had its FY 2019 Member Day yesterday. Several members applauded FY 2018 increases and urged the panel to protect infrastructure and housing programs and increase funding for FY 2019. Members also asked for support in their districts on specific issues, such as housing displacement from Louisiana floods and building Interstate 11 to link Las Vegas and Phoenix. Subcommittee Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) said he is very happy with the 2018 omnibus and that it will be a firm starting point for 2019.