West Virginia will be the first state to use blockchain in a federal election to help secure the absentee ballots of military voters and their families who are deployed or overseas. Under the pilot, active-duty military personnel will be able to vote via a blockchain-based app on their mobile device after biometric verification is obtained. Officials hope that the technology will ease voting for military members, who often do not have access to postal service or, if they do, must mail their ballots at great personal expense. Additionally, the system should instantly and accurately transmit votes to the election clerks. The pilot project is set for the state’s May 8 primary elections and will be restricted to two counties; if it is successful, the state will explore allowing all eligible military voters to use it in the November general elections. Some elections and cryptography experts have expressed concerns about whether blockchain, or any type of online voting system, can provide enough security.
For further explanation of blockchain, please read our blog post on the topic>>
To help address the widening gap between teachers’ salaries and Miami housing prices, Miami-Dade County wants to build residential units on school property for teachers to live there at below-market rates. Current proposals include the addition of a residential unit floor to the construction of a new mid-rise middle school and a larger housing complex with hundreds of apartments adjacent to another school. Miami would join several other cities across the US where schools are providing affordable housing to their workforces on their own land.
The Delaware Division of Social Services is hoping to make it easier for ex-offenders to access social services and increase their chances of reentry success by embedding a social worker and supervisor at one of the state’s parole and probation offices. Normally, clients must travel to the Division of Social Services in order to access the services of a social worker. The embedded social workers will help these ex-offenders with activities such as obtaining new identification, finding employment, and connecting with treatment programs, if needed. Officials hope to eventually deploy social workers in all probation and parole offices statewide by leveraging existing resources.
In order to help increase the safety of bicyclists at intersections in New York City, the city is giving riders a “head start” on cars at red lights under a new pilot program. Cyclists can now ride through the walk signal at 50 designated intersections throughout the city that employ the head start signals, also known as Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs), which allow pedestrians to start crossing the street before drivers are allowed to pass through intersections or turn through crosswalks. Cyclists are still required to yield to pedestrians when turning. Washington, DC, has allowed cyclists to use LPIs since 2013.
As students struggle with outstanding loan debt and the frustrations in dealing with loan servicers, several states have created "loan ombudsmen" offices. In Virginia, the new office has been created to advocate for borrowers, renegotiate loan terms to help them to ease their repayment burden, seek permission from servicers to delay payments, and help borrowers transition into careers where loan forgiveness is an option. Washington, Connecticut, California, Illinois, and the District of Columbia have enacted a student loan “bill of rights” or created an ombudsman office or something similar since 2015 and legislation is pending is several other states. Although representatives of the student loan servicing industry are generally not opposed to the idea of state ombudsmen, they do have concerns with the implementation of loan servicing regulations that vary from state to state.
Across the pond, schools and parks divisions in Britain are developing risk-enhanced playgrounds that allow children to stretch themselves with new tools and situations to increase their resilience and creative abilities in controlled environments. The hope is that these opportunities will help children become more self-reliant and better equipped for adulthood. Shifting from what some have seen as increasingly sterilized playground experiences, these places might include more natural features, climbing towers, as well “play” items such as two-by-fours, loose crates and bricks, and even workbenches with hammers and saws. The agency of Ofsted, which inspects British schools, will now also train inspectors to consider the positive aspects of risk, as well as the negative aspects, when evaluating and considering these spaces. Australia has also recently introduced new standards for playground equipment with similar instructions for its operators, and cities and school districts in Canada and Sweden are also joining the trend.