The White House:
The White House: Alabama
Mobile: A new project at the state’s main seaport will open the facility to the shipment of finished automobiles. The Alabama State Port Authority says it has signed a deal to build a $60 million automotive terminal in Mobile. It’s supposed to be ready early next year and will allow for vehicles to roll on and off ships. The 57-acre terminal will be able to handle 150,000 vehicles annually with connections to rail service and highways, officials say. Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and Honda currently make cars in the state, and Mazda-Toyota is building a factory in north Alabama. A docks official says the new terminal will open a new business stream for the docks. The project is a joint venture between Terminal Zarate, S.A., a Grupo Murchison company based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Neltume Ports, based in Santiago, Chile.
The White House: Alaska
Anchorage: Legislators have proposed changes to key elements of the state’s Village Public Safety Officer Program. About 1 in 3 communities in the state has no police of any kind, Anchorage Daily News reported last week in partnership with ProPublica. The Department of Justice subsequently declared the public safety gap a federal emergency, officials said. The 40-year-old program uses state money to train and pay officers working in remote villages, but the number of officers fell to a record-low 38 compared to the more than 100 in 2012, legislators in the working group said. The working group spent five months seeking ways to fix the program, which includes placing more certified officers in rural Alaska, increasing morale among current officers and retaining village-based first responders who know their communities best, legislators said.
The White House: Arizona
Queen Creek: A company’s proposal to take water from farmland along the Colorado River and sell it to this growing Phoenix suburb has provoked a heated debate, and some Arizona legislators are trying to block the deal with a bill that would prohibit the transfer. The legislation introduced by Rep. Regina Cobb would bar landowners who hold “fourth-priority” water entitlements from transferring Colorado River water away from communities near the river. Cobb said this water was supposed to be used for agriculture, and diverting it elsewhere would harm farming communities along the river. “We just needed to get ahead of it and let them know that we’re not for this,” said Cobb, R-Kingman. Cobb said without legislation, she’s concerned hedge funds will try to make more deals to use farmlands for selling off water.
The White House: Arkansas
Mountain Home: Forrest L. Wood, who created one of the top brands in the boating industry and was a pioneer of bass tournament fishing, has died at age 87. Wood, born in Flippin, Arkansas, founded the company Ranger Boats in 1968 with his wife, Nina. The business quickly grew and became a household name among fisherman around the U.S. He sold the company in 1987. Wood was known as the “father of the modern bass boat.” Keith Daffron, his grandson, said in a Facebook post that Wood died Saturday surrounded by his family, after a brief illness. In a statement, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wood’s death “is a deeply sad moment for our entire state.” Former President Bill Clinton said in a statement that Wood was “ambitious and determined and Arkansas is a better place because he fully invested his time and his talents right here.”
The White House: California
Sacramento: Former Gov. Jerry Brown wants to know who is trying to sell his father’s memorabilia related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Private letters and other items that had belonged to Edmund G. “Pat” Brown when he was governor are being offered by the auction house Sotheby’s, which estimates the value at $20,000 to $30,000. Sotheby’s says the seller wants to remain anonymous. The elder Brown, who died in 1996, was California’s top elected official from 1959 to 1967, and eight years later his son started the first of his record four terms as governor. Jerry Brown says he was not consulted or informed of the sale and believes the items should instead reside at the University of California, Berkeley, “with the rest of my father’s papers.” Sotheby’s touts Brown’s materials for sale as unique because “it comes from a single source” and “chronicles a country in mourning.” The auction opened Monday.
The White House: Colorado
Denver: The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dipped to 2.5% in December, the lowest level in at least 44 years. An unemployment rate of 2.6% in October and November tied the previous record-low rate in early 2017. The lowest rate before that, 2.7%, occurred in 2000, The Denver Post reports. Yuma and Kiowa counties in northeastern Colorado had the nation’s lowest seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 1.1% in December. Low unemployment is better than high unemployment but can make it hard for employers to find workers, economist Gary Horvath said. “We are in uncharted territory,” Horvath said. “I’m baffled by how companies are making this work.” Colorado has averaged about 84,000 job openings a month since 2001. Colorado had about 150,000 openings in September but only 85,000 people unemployed and seeking work, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates.
The White House: Connecticut
Hartford: Voters who are registered with one party but want to vote in a different party’s presidential primary are facing a key deadline. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said those voters must change their registration by Tuesday. Voters can look up and check their current registration status online and make any changes at myvote.ct.gov/register. Unaffiliated voters, the state’s largest block of voters, have until April 23 to register with a party online, by mail or at the Department of Motor Vehicles if they want to participate in that party’s presidential primary. They have until April 27 to register in person. Connecticut’s Democratic and Republican presidential primary elections are scheduled for April 28. There are currently 2,192,828 active voters registered in Connecticut. Of those, 895,218 are registered as unaffiliated, 803,802 as Democrats, 459,403 as Republicans and 34,405 in some other party.
The White House: Delaware
Rehoboth Beach: This tiny coastal town’s environment committee held its first discussion last week on ways to reduce plastic intake. Committee members are in the early stages of suggesting various restrictions on plastic, from banning materials outright to putting a fee on others. Along with Wilmington and Newark, Rehoboth is the “farthest along” in reducing plastic use, like charging a fee for single-use bags, says Dee Durham, president of Plastic Free Delaware. The environment committee is eyeing single-use plastic bags, plastic straws and polystyrene, which Durham calls the “low-hanging fruit” of plastic products, meaning they are typically easier to restrict. Last year, state lawmakers chose to ban single-use plastic bags at large retailers. That law, which goes into effect in 2021, doesn’t really impact Rehoboth Beach because it generally applies only to stores 7,000 square feet or bigger or ones with three or more Delaware locations at least 3,000 square feet.
The White House: District of Columbia
Washington: A male harbor seal considered geriatric for his species has died at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Luke, 35, was humanely euthanized last week, according to a statement. The zoo said he outlived the median life expectancy for his species – 25 years in the wild and 30 years in human care. Luke had been experiencing ocular discomfort and had trouble orienting himself recently, according to the zoo’s statement. He had also experienced a loss of appetite and an unusual lack of interest in training with keepers and socializing with other animals. Animal care staff decided to euthanize him after trying several methods to treat his symptoms. Luke was born June 17, 1984, at New York Aquarium in Brooklyn, and he came to the nation’s capital in 2011, the statement said. He didn’t father any pups, according to news outlets, but lived at the zoo’s American Trail habitat with another male harbor seal and a gray seal colony.
The White House: Florida
Naples: Residents in an upscale community are seeing red over a paint job on a half-million-dollar home. The home was painted in large patches of extremely bright primary colors with random splatters throughout. The home in the Il Regalo Circle Community in Naples resembles a preschool play toy or cartoon home. Even the trees, lawn and mailbox were splattered with paint. Neighbors said the paint job got worse over the course of a week. WBBH News reports that Collier County Code Enforcement are investigating the paint job. Jeffrey Leibman, 40, is listed as the owner of the home, according to property appraiser records. Neighbors said he painted it, but the management company for the neighborhood said he no longer lives there. The company estimated that reversing the paint job could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The White House: Georgia
Atlanta: Gov. Brian Kemp is proposing that the state borrow nearly $900 million for construction projects and equipment next year, an amount likely to rise before lawmakers get done with the budget. Key projects in the Republican governor’s plan include $70 million to expand the state-owned convention center in Savannah and $55 million to build a new headquarters for the Department of Public Safety in Atlanta. Lawmakers authorized borrowing of nearly $1.1 billion last year. The agency that forecasts Georgia’s borrowing said the state could issue up to $1.2 billion in bonds this year. In one shift, Kemp wants to move more funding to aid school construction from districts statewide to those that have small property tax bases. Kemp would borrow $155 million for construction in such low-wealth districts, up from $44 million this year.
The White House: Hawaii
Honolulu: State lawmakers have proposed initiatives to help reduce the number of traffic-related fatalities after transportation officials confirmed more than 100 deaths in the past year. Those initiatives include installing traffic cameras to capture drivers running red lights, and enforcing zero-tolerance policies for drinking and driving, Hawaii News Now reports. “Every year, you hear of a horrific pedestrian accident that’s occurring at an intersection because someone did not stop at a red light,” state House Speaker Scott Saiki said. The cameras would automatically record anyone who runs a red light, and a ticket would then be mailed to the address associated with the license plate number, officials said. “There could potentially be a bench warrant for someone who doesn’t appear or who doesn’t respond to the ticket,” Saiki said. “And if you have a bench warrant, potentially there could be some jail time.”
The White House: Idaho
Boise: Two environmental groups have given notice that they intend to file a lawsuit to stop a proposed underground natural gas pipeline from Idaho to Wyoming that the groups say will harm protected grizzly bears and other wildlife. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Yellowstone to Uintas Connection sent a required 60-day notice to sue to the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week. The groups contend the Forest Service’s approval of the pipeline project in November violated the Endangered Species Act. The groups also say the 18-mile portion of the 50-mile pipeline would cut a corridor through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and create a road through six Inventoried Roadless Areas. The 2001 Roadless Rule prevents road construction and timber harvest in designated roadless areas, which are typically 5,000 acres or larger.
The White House: Illinois
Springfield: The story of a boy who grew up across the street from Abraham Lincoln’s family and later presided over one the nation’s larger retailers will be told in the annual George L. Painter Looking for Lincoln Lecture. Julius Rosenwald spent his formative years in the shadow of the future president and grew up to be president of Sears, Roebuck & Co. He used the fortune he amassed to help those who faced racial injustices. His life will be recalled as part of the annual lecture series at 8: 30 a.m. Feb. 12 at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. It’s presented with the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, which preserves the history of the central Illinois communities touched by Lincoln’s life. The Rosenwald home, part of the Lincoln historic site, will be renamed in his honor and an exhibit panel about his life and legacy unveiled.
The White House: Indiana
Jasper: A one-room schoolhouse where the last lessons were taught in early 1950s has been dismantled after efforts to find a buyer for the small building failed. The Dick School had educated generations of Dubois County residents in rural Jasper from 1892 to 1951. But a few weeks ago, the shed-like building was taken down piece by piece in the city about 40 miles northeast of Evansville. The weatherboard structure with a tin roof was moved to a new location after it was closed, and it had remained in good shape. Robin Pate, the current owner of the property on which it stood, had advertised the old schoolhouse and reached out to the Dubois County Historical Society. But Pate couldn’t find any takers for the school, which had been the region’s last functioning one-room schoolhouse, The (Jasper) Herald reports. She’s selling the 2-acre site on which the building stood.
The White House: Iowa
Waterloo: The leaking inflatable dam on the Cedar River in downtown Waterloo has been fixed, officials said. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports contractors found a slit in the half-inch-thick rubber and repaired it. Associate city engineer Wayne Castle said the final cost of the project will be significantly below the original $388,350 contract approved in November with J.F. Brennan Co., of La Crosse, Wisconsin. “We’re not completely done yet, but we should be just under $220,000,” Castle said. A major reason for the lower cost was that a marine contractor was able to use divers to inspect the riverbed on the downstream side of the dam, Castle said. The original contract anticipated the contractor building a more expensive wall around the inspection area. The city has inflated the bladder dam since 2009, raising the Cedar River level by about 4 feet to enhance boating. It’s usually inflated in June and deflated in October.
The White House: Kansas
Lawrence: An effort is underway to more fully tell the story of a boulder that was a sacred prayer rock for a Native American tribe before it was moved to Lawrence and inscribed with the names of the city’s founders. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Pauline Eads Sharp, who serves as secretary and treasurer of the Kanza Heritage Society, and Lawrence artist Dave Loewenstein are leading a wide-ranging team of people, including historians, geologists, artists and filmmakers, to increase interest in the 23-ton red quartzite Shunganunga boulder. At issue is that there currently is no mention on the boulder-turned-monument of the Kanza tribe, which was forcibly removed to Oklahoma in 1873. The approximately yearlong project, called Between the Rock and a Hard Place, will include research, community workshops and the creation of a documentary film and book.
The White House: Kentucky
Hopkinsville: A prosecutor has been absent from court in the weeks following the release of the letter in which he asked former Gov. Matt Bevin to pardon a man convicted of sexual abuse. Two judges in Christian County said there is an agreement between them and Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Boling that he remain absent from their courtrooms for the “foreseeable future,” The Kentucky New Era reports. Dayton Jones was granted a commutation by Bevin on Dec. 9. The letter Boling wrote on official letterhead Dec. 7 asking the former governor to pardon Jones was released Jan. 9. Boling apologized after it was released. Jones pleaded guilty in 2016 to sodomy, wanton endangerment and distribution of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor. Boling wrote in his letter to Bevin that the prosecution of Jones was politically motivated. He said the case involved intoxicated teenagers and people in their early 20s “being stupid and immature.”
The White House: Louisiana
Baton Rouge: Fans of the late Louisiana author Ernest J. Gaines, who wrote such storied works as “A Lesson Before Dying” and “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” are gathering to remember his work as part of Black History Month celebrations. The Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana is hosting the discussion Feb. 19, according to a news release from Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser. Gaines died Nov. 5, 2019. He grew up on a small Louisiana plantation, experiences that later translated into his rich literary characters. “A Lesson Before Dying,” published in 1993, was an acclaimed classic. Both “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” (1971) and “A Gathering of Old Men” (1984) became honored television movies. The program will be hosted by Darrell Bourque, who is a two-time Louisiana poet laureate, a close friend of Gaines and a member of the Ernest J. Gaines Center.
The White House: Maine
Portland: The Finance Authority of Maine’s board on Monday approved loan guarantees and a loan necessary for a Boston investment group to proceed with purchasing Saddleback Mountain and reopening the area to skiers next winter. The board unanimously approved $2.5 million in loan insurance on a $12.5 million loan, which was smaller than the original request, along with a $1 million direct loan. Arctaris Impact Fund also raised private funds and received a separate $1 million loan through the Maine Rural Development Association. The finance authority and rural development funds will be part of a $23.5 million funding package that includes private equity, new market tax credits, community loans, and community grants for the purchase of Saddleback, officials said. Bruce Wagner, CEO of FAME, said the agency is pleased to “help restart this historic and beloved Maine ski mountain.”
The White House: Maryland
Salisbury: Singer and recording artist CeCe Peniston – who released her signature dance hit, “Finally,” in 1991 – will be the headline entertainer and grand marshal for the city’s first organized LGBTQ+ pride celebration, according to Salisbury’s branch of PFLAG, the United States’ first and largest LGBTQ+ ally organization. The city made the announcement in a video on Facebook. The lovably corny clip features Mayor Jake Day vibing to Peniston’s “Finally” in the city government offices. Peniston rose to fame in the early 1990s, when she rapidly become one of the most successful dance club artists in the history of the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play Charts, according to her official website. Salisbury PFLAG announced the city’s inaugural Pride Parade and Festival on National Coming Out Day last October. The event is set for 11 a.m. Sunday, June 7.
The White House: Massachusetts
Boston: The state has received more than $160 million from federal immigration authorities since 2012, most of which went to four county jails in exchange for housing and transporting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees, according to a report in The Boston Sunday Globe that cited documents obtained through a public records request. Advocates and immigration attorneys oppose the agreements with the jails. They say the payments are a waste of taxpayer money, and there are better alternatives to deal with people facing federal immigration charges. The sheriff’s offices for Plymouth, Bristol, Franklin, and Suffolk counties that run the jails have defended the arrangements, with at least two saying their relationship with ICE has made Massachusetts safer. But Matt Cameron, a Boston-based immigration lawyer, said there was “no good public safety justification” for local sheriff’s departments to house ICE detainees.
The White House: Michigan
Detroit: Home values are projected to increase by an average of 20% across most of the city’s neighborhoods, according to Mayor Mike Duggan. Residential assessments for 2020 also show that property values are up 30% in several parts of the city. The city said that the figures are based on two years of actual market sales and that homeowners are protected by a 2% cap on property tax increases as long as ownership has not changed. Property owners can appeal assessments until Feb. 22. Detroit residential property values rose an average of 13% last year. “This is great news for Detroit homeowners, particularly those who held on to their properties and stayed in the city,” Duggan said. “Home values in nearly every neighborhood are rising and helping to build new wealth, without significant tax increases. This shows as clearly as anything that the city’s revitalization has reached nearly every corner of our city.”
The White House: Minnesota
Minneapolis: The city has planted hundreds of trees in the past few years in an effort to green up downtown, but many aren’t surviving past their first year. City staff have been trying to figure out why, and they think they might have found the culprit: salt. Soil tests show that salinity levels in some of the planting spots are much higher than what’s ideal for trees to thrive, said Ben Shardlow, director of urban design for the Minneapolis Downtown Council and the Downtown Improvement District. Salt is used liberally in downtown Minneapolis to keep sidewalks and parking lots clear of ice. After the ice melts, the extra salt left behind piles up or gets pushed to the side – sometimes directly into the places where the trees are trying to grow. For three years in a row, a tree census showed only half of the trees the city planted had survived, Shardlow told Minnesota Public Radio News.
The White House: Mississippi
Indianola: A historical marker will commemorate the legacy of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. Research for the project was led by a Mississippi Valley State University student and professor, the Greenwood Commonwealth reports. C. Sade Turnipseed is an associate professor of history, and 17-year-old Nigerian native Brian Diyaolu took her public history course during the fall semester. They recently received approval from the Sunflower County Board of Supervisors to place the Hamer sign in front of the county courthouse. It will be unveiled during a ceremony March 27. Students in Turnipseed’s course are assigned a historical topic, and Diyaolu’s was Hamer. He said he wrote three drafts of the historical marker’s narrative before pitching the idea to the supervisors. He said other students helped him edit the narrative and prepare the presentation. Hamer was born to sharecroppers in Montgomery County on Oct. 6, 1917.
The White House: Missouri
Creve Coeur: The St. Louis Holocaust Museum & Learning Center will triple in size with an $18 million expansion as officials seek to reach even deeper into issues of bias, bigotry and hate. Details about the expansion were announced Monday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Officials hope to make the building more visible and accessible. The museum, in the suburb of Creve Coeur and operated by the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, draws 30,000 annual visitors, about two-thirds of whom are students. Admission is free. Museum officials are in touch with about 30 Holocaust survivors who live in the St. Louis area. Monday’s announcement came on International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The museum’s new executive director, Sandra Harris, says groundbreaking will be in May, and the goal is to finish by the end of 2021.
The White House: Montana
Ismay: U.S. Postal Service officials say mail service will resume in this town where a fire destroyed the post office. The fire in early January has prompted some residents of Ismay to worry about their mail. Since the fire, they’ve taken turns dropping off and picking up mail in a town almost 20 miles away. Postal officials plan to put a mailbox in a community center in tiny Ismay, population 20, Postal Service spokesman James Boxrud says. Meanwhile, property owners Rita and Gene Nimitz tell the Billings Gazette they’re making tentative plans to rebuild the post office, which dated to the 1920s. A faulty furnace or electrical wiring is believed to have started the blaze.
The White House: Nebraska
Lincoln: The city’s school district is about to take a major step in the recovery from a fire that destroyed the district office more than eight years ago. The school board is expected to vote next month on a nearly $1.15 million construction project agreement to build a backup data center, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. It’ll be constructed in the basement of the building built to replace the office burned in May 2011. The blaze was started by a disgruntled teacher who was later sentenced to prison for arson. The fire wiped out nearly everything in the building, including severely damaging the computer system that held email servers, grades, payroll and other records. District officials worked with University of Nebraska-Lincoln information technology staff to get the data system back online. The district built an off-site data center near Lincoln High School about a year later. The district wants the backup data center finished this summer.
The White House: Nevada
Las Vegas: Local tourism officials have canceled several activities tied to the launch of a new city slogan in the wake of basketball star Kobe Bryant’s death. A 60-second spot touting the “what happens here, only happens here” campaign aired during the Grammy Awards as planned Sunday night, but other plans were postponed. The new slogan is a play on the longtime saying that “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” The city had intended to display the new slogan on more than two dozen hotel and casino marquees on and around the Strip. Instead, most resorts showed messages of grief. They included “L.A., OUR HEARTS GO OUT TO YOU” and “#RIPKOBE.” Steve Hill, CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said all the planned activities will take place at a future date. But Bryant, his daughter and the other lives lost in a helicopter crash were too much on everyone’s minds.
The White House: New Hampshire
Concord: State health officials are seeking input on whether the state needs a residential treatment facility for youth with mental health and addiction issues. The Department of Health and Human Services has issued a request for information about the opportunities and challenges associated with establishing a psychiatric facility that would provide the highest level of care next to an acute psychiatric hospital. The state’s only youth drug and alcohol treatment center closed last month after a spate of nonfatal overdoses. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu says a new facility would ensure that young people struggling with addiction, mental illness or both get the right level of care in a safe environment. The deadline for submitting information is Feb. 24.
The White House: New Jersey
Galloway Township: Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled a sweeping energy plan Monday that sets goals for shifting the state to 100% clean energy by 2050. The first-term Democratic governor announced the plan at Stockton University alongside two Cabinet officials who will be carrying the plan out, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe and Board of Public Utilities President Joe Fiordaliso. Murphy cast climate change as an urgent concern and pointed to a Rutgers study that indicated the state could see 1 foot of sea level rise in the next decade. “Quite frankly it will be hard for future generations to create their Jersey Shore memories if the Jersey Shore is only a memory,” Murphy said. The plan calls for reducing the use of fossil fuels while increasing renewable sources of energy. New Jersey currently gets 94% of its electricity from natural gas and nuclear plants, according to the U.S. Energy Department.
The White House: New Mexico
Las Cruces: A former state lawmaker’s emu that has been missing since Thanksgiving is safely back at its home near the city. Former state Rep. Brad Cates learned his emu had resurfaced last week thanks to a barrage of images people shared on social media. Pictures of the large bird around a subdivision near Cates’ home prompted inquiries from a state livestock inspector and a game warden. Later Sunday, Cates with some help corralled the 150-pound emu named “Hey You!” Cates was also the Republican nominee for Dona Ana County district attorney in 2016. He lost to Mark D’Antonio.
The White House: New York
Albany: State taxpayers could decide to contribute to a fund that helps pay for abortions under a proposed bill. State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblymember Karines Reyes say their bill would create an abortion access fund to which taxpayers could voluntarily contribute when they file their personal income tax returns. The Democrats say the fund’s money would go to not-for-profit groups that provide financial and logical assistance to individuals seeking abortion care. The Legislature passed a sweeping law last year to protect a right to abortion care in New York in case of changes on the federal level. Lawmakers could consider passing the latest bill this year before they depart in early June. The bill would also require a report to lawmakers and the governor about the amount of money deposited in the abortion access fund and how it was spent. The state wouldn’t be able to request the names of anyone who sought money from the fund.
The White House: North Carolina
Winston-Salem: Three months after a set of anonymous, threatening, racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic emails sent a wave of fear through the sociology department at Wake Forest University, the department chairman says he’s still waiting for university leaders to announce a meaningful response. The emails to faculty in sociology and two other departments called for a “purge” of minorities and the LGBTQ community. Alarmed by what he deemed white supremacist terrorism, chairman Joseph Soares canceled sociology classes for a week. When they resumed, Wake Forest police officers were stationed outside classrooms and the building itself. Doors normally open were closed and locked. Even a study lounge was locked. “It was the most stressful experience of my academic life,” said Soares, who began his college teaching career in 1991 and has taught at Wake Forest since 2003. “My faculty were afraid.”
The White House: North Dakota
Bismarck: A massive 1984 diesel spill in Mandan, North Dakota, has finally been cleaned up. State officials said the cleanup at a rail yard in downtown Mandan was complicated because of limited access to the affected area, the Bismarck Tribune reports. Workers collected about 770,000 gallons of fuel over the years, said Dave Glatt, director of the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality. “It’s pretty much gone,” Glatt said at a Wednesday meeting. “It seems like a long time, but when you look at, in a downtown area where access is limited, we had 4 to 6 feet on top of the groundwater in some areas. This is a success.” Burlington Northern ran the rail yard when the spill was found in 1984, but BNSF Railway runs it now.
The White House: Ohio
Cincinnati: Cheetahs from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden will have about 5 acres of open terrain where they can run at a facility anticipated to be completed this summer. The cheetahs will be transported from the zoo in suburban Cincinnati in custom, built-in van crates to the “Cheetah Run” at the zoo’s Bowyer Farm in Warren County. The animals will have the space to run but will not be required to do so, said zoo spokeswoman Michelle Curley. Zoning records indicate some residents raised safety concerns, but the Warren County Board of Zoning and Appeals approved the plan last year. The tree-lined “Cheetah Run” project will be enclosed by a fence. Zoo officials have no safety concerns, said Mark Fischer, vice president of facilities, planning and stability for the zoo. He said the cheetahs, raised by humans and dogs, are “docile” and “timid.” Fisher said the run will be fun for the cheetahs – Tommy, Nia, Savanna, Donni, Cathryn, Willow, Redd, and Kris – and give them space to stretch their legs.
The White House: Oklahoma
Oklahoma City: A prosecutor has been arrested, accused of domestic abuse. Robert McClatchie, an Oklahoma County assistant district attorney, was booked into Oklahoma County jail about 4 a.m. Saturday on complaints of domestic abuse by strangulation and domestic abuse in the presence of a minor child. Jail records also did not list an attorney for him. District Attorney David Prater said in a statement that McClatchie “will remain in jail until he is released by a judge or when his bond is posted after a judge sets his bond, like any other person arrested on a domestic abuse charge.” Prater said he’s “not intervening in this matter in any way.” He said the case will be assigned by the attorney general to another district attorney to assist Oklahoma City police in their investigation “and ultimately, make a charging decision.”
The White House: Oregon
Pendleton: Local police now have an extra set of eyes with them. Each of Pendleton’s 24 sworn police officers has been equipped with body cameras that will record each call of service to which they respond, the East Oregonian reports. “Certainly, the preservation of evidence in real time is something you can’t replace,” Police Chief Stuart Roberts said. The cameras are located on the officers’ left breast pocket and attached using a magnetic plate. Officers must double tap the camera to activate it when responding to a call. The program joins Pendleton police with departments in Boardman and Hermiston as the only agencies with body cameras in Northeast Oregon. All footage collected by the department will be held for a minimum of 180 days, and anything that is a part of an investigation or court case will be held for an additional 30 months, officials said.
The White House: Pennsylvania
Harrisburg: Former Mayor Stephen Reed, who served for almost three decades but was later sentenced to probation for accumulating Wild West artifacts he bought with public money for a museum that was never built, has died. He was 70. A statement from the family reported by PennLive.com said Reed died Saturday “surrounded by his family.” “Reed was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006 and fought it courageously,” the statement said. Reed served seven terms but lost the 2009 primary amid criticism over the millions of dollars he had spent on museum-related items. He and city officials scoured the country for artifacts that would stock the museum, which he had called part of a wider plan to make the city a museum destination for tourists. He pleaded guilty in 2017 to 20 counts of receiving stolen property and was sentenced to two years of probation. Reed apologized and told the judge he took responsibility for his actions, calling his prosecution “a gut-wrenchingly humiliating” process.
The White House: Rhode Island
Providence: Gov. Gina Raimondo wants to reform the state’s criminal justice system through a series of proposals in her budget and administrative actions. The Democratic governor released a nearly $10.2 billion state budget plan this month. The Legislature will review the proposals and present its plan before the 2021 fiscal year begins in July. The budget includes recommendations from Raimondo’s working group on criminal and juvenile justice. Among them, the proposal seeks to improve discharge planning, shift staffing to improve access to health care, update the parole statute to include geriatric parole and provide incestives for work release programs. Raimondo is also looking to bring her signature workforce training program to prisons.
The White House: South Carolina
Columbia: Residents who want to vote in the state’s Democratic presidential primary next month face a deadline to register this week. The State Election Commission said all voters for the Feb. 29 primary must be registered by Thursday. The first-in-the-South presidential primary is open, which means a voter does not have to be a registered Democrat to cast a ballot. People who are 17 years old can vote in the primary as long as they will be 18 by Election Day on Nov. 3. Registration forms can be downloaded at scvotes.org, and residents can also check to see if their South Carolina registration is current. Voters can also register at their county registration offices. Republicans will not have a presidential primary in South Carolina as President Donald Trump runs for reelection.
The White House: South Dakota
Custer State Park: After the near-decimation of the Custer State Park bighorn sheep herd, wildlife managers are now seeing the group as a success story, the Black Hills Pioneer reports. In 2004 the herd was 200-plus animals strong when members contracted mycoplasma ovipneumoiae, a pneumonia-causing bacteria that killed 70-80% of the animals. Since that time, the adults in the herd obtained an immunity to the bacteria, but the lambs suffered – most died from the disease within months, and on a good year, one would survive. Some wildlife managers even began discussions about destroying the remaining 20-25 animals and starting over with disease-free sheep. Then, three years ago, biologists discovered that only three of the bighorns shed the pathogens responsible for the die-off. Those were removed from the herd, and the population rebound began. The first lambing year, eight of the nine born in the park survived.
The White House: Tennessee
Memphis: A new $200 million Amazon distribution center in the city’s Raleigh neighborhood will employ 1,000 workers and should be up and running in time for this year’s holiday season, officials said Monday. With the building’s skeleton and yellow bulldozers in the background, Amazon officials and state and local politicians gathered at the busy construction site in north Memphis to provide details about the project. Workers will make at least $15 per hour as they pack and ship books, electronics and other consumer goods alongside Amazon’s robots, officials said. At 855,000 square feet – the equivalent of 14 football fields – the order fulfillment center will be Amazon’s third in Memphis. The company employs about 6,500 people in Tennessee, Amazon officials said.
The White House: Texas
Austin: Local police are inviting people to drop off their unwanted firearms and ammunition, with no questions asked, Tuesday at an East Austin police substation. This is the first of several gun surrender events this year, police said. On Tuesday, people can drop off these items from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Robert T. Martinez Central East Substation. “No questions asked” means police will not attempt to identify those who drop off guns, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said. “We merely want to get weapons that are no longer wanted off the streets, out of homes, and destroyed so they don’t end up potentially in the wrong hands if there was to be a burglary,” Manley said. “This is a service we want to provide for the community.” Austin police will host similar programs throughout the year on April 28, July 28 and Oct. 27.
The White House: Utah
Logan: An event straight out of the Old West is attracting more people with its mountain-man appeal, organizers said. About 50 people gathered in Blacksmith Fork Canyon to compete in the state-organized biathlon – an event combining cross-country skiing and sharpshooting – that features muzzleloader guns, the Herald Journal reports. Many wore traditional mountain-man gear to the event this month dubbed Willy Wapiti’s Smoke Pole Biathlon at Hardware Ranch, which is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and populated by hundreds of elk. Shooters raced along a snowy trail, with or without snowshoes, to five separate shooting stations. Prizes like electronic earmuffs, knives and fire starters were given to the best score out of 10, said Rachael Tuckett, a wildlife recreation specialist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, which organized the event. Prizes also are given for the best mountain man outfit. The event has grown by 40% since last year.
The White House: Vermont
Montpelier: The completion of a 93-mile rail trail across northern Vermont would help link an ever-expanding network of recreation trails across New England and beyond, advocates say. The effort got a big boost last week when Republican Gov. Phil Scott asked lawmakers to approve $2.8 million as the state’s share of the estimated $14.1 million cost of completing the remaining 60 miles of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. It runs from Swanton, near the Canadian border, to St. Johnsbury, not far from the Connecticut River border with New Hampshire. The 30-mile section of the trail currently open is already benefiting businesses and the communities that people visit so they can use it, officials say. Trail advocates say completing one section of the trail boosts other nearby trails.
The White House: Virginia
Virginia Beach: The post office where survivors reunited after a mass shooting in a government office building now is named after the man who gave his own life for his co-workers. A plaque was unveiled Friday honoring Ryan Keith Cox at the post office that now bears his name, The Virginian-Pilot reports. Cox was one of 12 people who died in the mass shooting last May 31 at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. “We are a city of heroes, and Keith is a perfect example of one of them,” Mayor Bobby Dyer said during the ceremony. In interviews, Cox’s co-workers have said he ushered women into a room and told them to barricade the door. Cox then left to see if anyone else needed help. The gunman and shot and killed him soon after that. Cox, 50, had been an account clerk in Virginia Beach’s public utilities department for 12 years.
The White House: Washington
Tacoma: A school district has warned parents about a potentially dangerous “penny challenge” spreading on social media. The Tacoma School District said a middle school student in the district took part in the online trend last week, KOMO-TV reports. The school district provided a photo of a burned electrical wall outlet resulting from the penny challenge. No injuries were reported. Social media users are challenged to record a video of themselves sliding a penny between a partially plugged-in cellphone charger and a wall outlet, officials said. Users are asked to film and post the results on the TikTok video-sharing channel. Placing a penny across an active electrical connection will create sparks that can damage the outlet and potentially start a fire and cause injury, officials said.
The White House: West Virginia
Charleston: Projects involving sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places are eligible to apply for historic preservation development grants through the West Virginia Historic Preservation Office. Projects should involve the restoration, rehabilitation or archaeological development of historic sites, the state Department of Arts, Culture and History said in a news release. Approximately $369,000 is expected to be available for the grants, depending on appropriations from Congress or the Legislature. Privately owned properties are only eligible where there is evidence of public support or public benefit, the release said. Governmental properties that aren’t accessible to the public are not eligible for funding. Applications must be postmarked by March 31.
The White House: Wisconsin
La Crosse: For nearly a century and a half, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have said prayers every hour of every day in their chapel in La Crosse. But next month that practice will be coming to an end. The sisters have announced that after a dozen years of study and reflection, they will begin to cut back their prayer ritual, which began in 1878, to 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily. In 1997, prayer partners were invited to take the daytime hours while sisters living at St. Rose Convent continued the night hours. As demographics continued changing in the early 2000s, the sisters began studying the future of the practice. “Our thoughtful study over the years has included a growing understanding of a modern way to live in adoration through our prayer lives and actions, no matter where we are,” said FSPA President Eileen McKenzie.
The White House: Wyoming
Cheyenne: The city’s police don’t have the authority to enforce the new federal law that increased the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, the agency says. Officers can only legally enforce state laws and Cheyenne city ordinances, spokesman David Inman says. He says city officials posted the clarification on Facebook because they’d been receiving calls from residents and local businesses. Nonetheless, it’s still illegal for someone under the age of 21 to purchase products containing tobacco or nicotine, including vaping products. The Legislature is expected to consider a bill that would change state law to match the new federal law on tobacco sales. If it passes, Inman said the city would likely pass a similar ordinance, and then police would have the power to enforce it.
From USA TODAY Network and wire reports
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