Over the past several years, the Spanish town of Jun has used social media, particularly Twitter, to deliver essential public services. Residents use the medium to communicate with local government officials, book appointments with doctors, provide school lunch notices, and alert police to suspicious activity. Town workers also post excerpts of their daily activities on Twitter for city residents to follow. The mayor of Jun claims that he has saved $380,000 annually — 13 percent of the local budget — by driving communications and services through Twitter. Researchers are examining whether lessons from Jun can be replicated on a larger scale.
Toronto may require landlords to be licensed to ensure that tenants are protected from neglectful owners. The proposed licensing system would apply to buildings that have 10 or more units and are three stories and above, and would require owners to ensure that the interiors and exteriors of their buildings are up to certain standards. Landlords would subsidize the system through a $12–$15 fee per unit. Observers note that the costs of a license system may end up being passed on to renters.
In California, San Diego International Airport has brought in Fern Street Circus as a part of its performing arts residency program to lighten people’s moods as they make their way to the gate or out of the airport. A team of eight circus performers, including stilt walkers, jugglers, clowns, and musicians roam the airport to entertain weary travelers. The performers will also be cognizant of people who may not want to be entertained by them and will ensure they are not in the way of people’s movements. The circus’ residency will end in October.
This spring, Massachusetts launched a first-in-the-nation slot machine system that allows people to limit their bets with the goal of preventing players from developing a gambling addiction. The “Play My Way” system is being piloted in the state’s only slot parlor, Plainridge Park, and allows patrons to set up daily, weekly, or monthly betting limits and be alerted when they are approaching those limits. The system does not prevent those people from exceeding the betting limits if they choose.
Connecticut has become the first state to allow for the appointment of courtroom advocates for animals subject to neglect, abuse, or cruelty, functioning in a similar manner to guardians appointed to represent the best interest of children involved in custody battles. Due to a lack of resources, each year thousands of people are charged in animal cruelty cases without resulting in trial or conviction. Under the new legislation, judges can appoint pro bono lawyers or law students to represent the victims. The advocates can then gather information about a case and present it all at once during a trial. While animal rights advocates have hailed the new measure, critics observe that bringing more of these cases may further clog the court system, delaying justice to human litigants.
The Federal Highway Administration is funding a project to help long-haul truckers find easy places to rest and sleep, encouraging them off the roads when they are fatigued and thereby leading to safer driving and less fuel wasted. Researchers have determined that there are not enough parking spaces in safe areas to accommodate the growing number of trucks hauling loads around the county. The project uses cameras and image processing software to monitors parking lots to identify vacant spaces and transmit that information to signs along the highway for truckers to see. The goal is to expand the tally of spaces throughout Minnesota and other Midwestern states and perhaps develop the technology so that the information is transmitted directly to the drivers from their trucks.