On a Roll Toward Lower Fuel Costs
City workers who spend most of their time behind the wheel may have more power than you think to control fuel costs. The City of Yonkers, New York, has enlisted the help of Ecodriving Solutions to train their fleet drivers in “eco-driving,” safe driving skills that maximize miles per gallon while reducing emissions. The concept was first developed in the 1990s, and is largely based in knowledge of modern engine technology. Efficient driving skills are credited with reducing fuel consumption by 5 to 20 percent in the government and corporate fleets that embrace it. Learn more about ecodriving at www.dot.ny.gov/ecodriving.
To Hear, Loud and Clear
A new Minnesota nonprofit, Loop Minnesota, wants to bring better assistive hearing technology into the council chambers of Minnesota cities. While traditional hearing aids crank the volume on all noise, the wish of those with the most common forms of hearing loss is to turn down the background chatter while amplifying the voice of a speaker. Loop Minnesota wants cities to know that technology called an induction/hearing loop is now available to help achieve this clarity. An induction/hearing loop was recently installed in the City of St. Louis Park’s council chambers. There the technology is used not only by citizens in the audience, but also by one of the councilmembers, who said the technology dramatically improved his ability to hear speakers. For more information, visit www.loopminnesota.org.
A Tastier Downtown Red Wing
The City of Red Wing’s downtown was in need of additional restaurant spots to fill empty storefronts and feed hungry visitors. So the city’s Port Authority and the nonprofit Red Wing Downtown Main Street created the “Red Wing Restaurant Challenge” to do just that, and successfully attracted two new restaurateurs. Organizers of the challenge put together a cash and incentive package, nearly $40,000 in value, which was offered up to the best restaurant concepts received by the spring deadline. The bulk of the package was funded through a grant award while local businesses that would also benefit from additional activity downtown pitched in with professional services, including advertising, legal counsel, apparel, and an energy audit to get the new businesses off the ground. Four finalists presented to five judges before first- and second-place winners were named, according to PostBulletin.com. Organizers say the contest may have contributed to several other lease signings in the area.
Bank Accounts Against Crime
A police department in Langley Park, Maryland, has teamed up with local banks and a nonprofit to reduce violence and crime targeted at undocumented workers, according to National Public Radio (NPR). Undocumented workers in the U.S. are often reluctant to open bank accounts, opting instead to keep their pay in their pockets, according to the report. When targeted for their cash earnings by thieves, these “walking ATMs” are also reluctant to report the crimes—even when they are hurt—for fear that police will ask about their immigration status. While police are increasing patrols and educating officers about the problem, a local nonprofit has started hosting seminars where workers can open bank accounts using a passport or a U.S. taxpayer identification number, which is obtainable regardless of immigration status. By reducing the number of cash-carrying migrants and creating more awareness, community leaders say they have reduced known robberies in half and increased arrests, creating a safer community for everyone. Read the NPR story at http://n.pr/1rfZ1eK.
A Bee-Safe Resolution
The City of Shorewood has become the first city in Minnesota to pass a resolution dedicated to the health of the honey bee population. Shorewood’s “Bee-Safe Resolution” prohibits the use of systemic pesticides on public property and makes it a priority to provide education about the importance of pollinators to the food supply and ecosystem. The use of systemic pesticides, specifically neonicotinoids, are under the microscope as a possible contributor to dramatic dying off of honey bees over the past decade. The city will also support the planting of clover in three city parks to provide bee-friendly habitat. This wouldn’t be the first time Shorewood has been a “first,” according to the Star Tribune. Shorewood and Minneapolis were the first Minnesota cities to ban the use of fertilizer with phosphorous, which contributes to contamination of groundwater.
Innovation in Government
We all know that innovation in government is one key to healthy democracies and thriving communities. But what prompts innovation in government, how does it succeed, and what are the usual suspects that stand in the way of public-sector evolution? Author Sandford Borins, a public management professor and a research fellow in government innovation, analyzed 20 years of government innovation to identify some recurring answers to these basic questions and more in his latest book, The Persistence of Innovation in Government. Learn more at http://bit.ly/1wMHxpU.
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