To foster greater civic engagement among their youth, some communities are giving teenagers a voice in the decisions of community boards. Recently, New York City began allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to join 59 boards that oversee public policy issues such as zoning changes, liquor license applications, and city budgeting. Aside from grooming future community leaders, the move will help leaders factor in the perspectives of a younger generation. Critics are concerned the programs undermine the authority of the boards.
To help small businesses navigate the complex municipal regulatory process, San Francisco has launched the San Francisco Business Portal, a one-stop web shop that brings together business registration, permitting, and license information together into a single user-friendly city website. The resource also provides new business owners with introductory information and lessons learned on starting a business, as well as “starter kits” on topics such as hiring, managing and growing a business, disaster preparedness, going green, and winding up a business. The portal is a product of the city’s Department of Technology, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and the Office of Small Business, among other agencies, and took two years to develop.
The US Department of Homeland Security is using GPS-enabled ankle bracelets to keep track of some immigrants caught crossing the border illegally. Under the new pilot program, known as RGV 250, the Department will eventually track 250 “heads of household” caught traveling with their families in the Rio Grande Valley who are released into the country with orders to report to immigration officials. Once those immigrants arrive and report as ordered, officials may remove the tracking device. Officials note that further adoption of this alternative to detention is cheaper than placing immigrants in custody.
Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise is engaged in a high-tech effort to prevent wrong-way crashes on the state’s highways. The state is installing radar-enabled wrong way signs and cameras on 15 highway interchanges in South Florida. The signs detect when a driver is proceeding the wrong way and flashes lights to warn them. If the driver continues to proceed, the cameras take a picture of the vehicle and alert the Florida Highway patrol. Warning messages will also appear on the highway to caution proximate motorists. Officials have recorded several incidents where the signs have lit up and wrong way drivers corrected their heading.
To combat drunken-driving incidents, the Maryland Highway Safety Office has developed a new smartphone app that enables users who have been drinking to determine how inebriated they are, and that encourages them to hail a ride home rather than drive their vehicles. The ENDUI or “End DUI” app lets users enter their gender, weight, number and types of alcoholic drinks they have had and the timeframe for them, and then estimates blood alcohol content. Users can also play interactive games to test their reaction time and cognitive sharpness, and use the app to call designated friends or cab companies for rides home. The app is available for Android and iPhones.
The Manhattan Beach Library will soon have one of Los Angeles County’s first automatic book-sorting machines. Patrons will drop books into an ATM-like box that will scan the books, check them back in to the system, and take them along conveyor belts to be sorted into bins for books bound for other branches, for the hold shelf, or for return to the stacks. The system will free up time for staff to help patrons utilize the library’s resources, as well as allow patrons to have their books checked in instantly.