Following on the success of a suicide prevention program that allows people to reach out via text message, St. Louis County, Minnesota, wants to make intake of people who are homeless or on the brink of homelessness more seamless through its state-funded “Text Homeless” pilot program, leveraging the fact that many people who are homeless have access to cellphones. Under the pilot program, citizens first text 85511 and type in "homeless"; immediately after, the person receives a series of yes or no questions that allow coordinators to arrange the more detailed in-person screening that can lead to transitional housing. Information can be collected 24 hours a day, attendance at appointments is boosted because there is a contact number on file where meeting reminders or other follow-up queries can be sent, and users do not have to use any valuable calling minutes to obtain service. Officials intend to launch a media campaign to publicize the service.
Innisfil, Ontario, has become the first town to partner with ride-hailing service Uber to provide full on-demand transit service. Residents of the town with a population of 36,000 will be able to book trips anytime, with certain destinations having a flat rate. The town, which has set aside $100,000 Canadian dollars for the six-month pilot, will subsidize the fares. The move responds in part to the potential costs of adding formal transportation to the town — estimated to be around $1 million for purchasing two buses, hiring drivers, and putting in bus stops. Critics note that ride-sharing services may decrease public transit usage and resources and increase rush-hour congestion.
San Diego is launching a new “operational excellence” academy to help its workers learn how to cut costs and streamline operations in order to reduce the need for layoffs or service cuts and to improve service delivery. Building on a 2015 program where hundreds of city employees suggested ideas that now save the city around $1.3 million a year, the academy will help employees not only to generate ideas but will also teach them how to implement those ideas independently. The voluntary instruction will also provide employees with the tools to analyze every step that goes into completing a task, to search for ways to compress or eliminate some, and to educate them about common inefficiencies that can occur in agencies. Officials’ initial goal is to have 1 percent of the city workforce charter at least one efficiency project each year.
New York City’s residential organics collection program, already the largest in the country, is slated to further expand, with officials planning for all city residents to have a way to recycle their food scraps as well as leaf and yard waste by the end of next year. Aside from transforming these tons of organic matter into compost, the city will soon be converting a significant portion of the waste into biogas. New York’s rollout will also serve as a proving ground for other cities looking to implement their own ambitious food scrap recycling and organic waste diversion process.
In Nebraska, students at for-profit colleges will now have additional protections if those schools suddenly close. For example, students attending such schools will be able to recover lost tuition and fees if a school closes mid-term. Their records will also be transferred to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to ensure they are able to seamlessly further their education, either at that university or elsewhere. The law was passed in response to last year's nationwide shutdown of ITT Technical Institute, which left 340 students in Omaha struggling to obtain their transcripts and refunds.