To boost its city storefronts, Allentown, Pennsylvania has unveiled a “Shark Tank-like” competition that will connect prospective retailers with access to downtown retail space, up to $15,000 in forgivable loans, and professional help at discounted rates. The city’s “Retail Mosaic” program aims to open 10 new retail locations by the end of the summer and will provide legal and other business assistance to small business developers at reduced rates. Winners of the contest must create at least two full-time jobs for low- to moderate-income workers within three years.
The White House intends to share software created in and for federal agencies with the public and other agencies. Under the new Federal Source Code Policy, at least 20 percent of custom code developed or paid for by the federal government will be made available for reuse across federal agencies. Additionally, the policy would require a portion of that new custom code to be released to the public as open-source software. The goal of the new policy, which is out for commenting, is to avoid duplicative software acquisition, promote collaboration across federal agencies, and release code with potential public value to the broader community.
To help brothers and sisters who have been separated by their placement in foster care maintain their bonds, the Maryland Judiciary’s Administrative Office of the Courts is funding Sibling Connections. Children circulating through the foster care system can often experience a “threefold trauma”: abuse or neglect from a parent or guardian, separation from the home, and then separation from siblings who could provide them with emotional support. The program, a partnership between Washington County’s Court Appointed Special Advocates and its Department of Social Services, will work to create spaces where siblings can meet frequently for games or meals, and will provide transportation, activity planning, and supervision. Lessons that children might receive in traditional family settings, such as sharing, helping with chores, and taking turns will also be introduced. Similar programs exist in Massachusetts and elsewhere.
France is planning to install 1,000 km of solar panel-paved roads over the next five years. Following a practice first developed by the Netherlands, the goal is to provide enough clean energy for 5 million people, or 8 percent of the current French population. The panels to be used are glued straight onto the road and are sturdy but not slippery. The benefits of installing solar panels on roads are that they are constantly exposed to light and the land upon which they might otherwise be placed can be put to different use.
Boston recently launched Neat Streets, an interactive public space installation that aims to deter littering. In its first iteration, the city is installing custom-made cigarette butt receptacles, which prompt smokers to dispose of their cigarette in a slot on a board by voting for the question being posed at the top of the board, such as “Which superpower do you want? Flight or Invisibility”? or “More essential Boston winter gear? Hats or boots?” Neat Streets is modeled after a similar initiative in London.
State and local governments are finding creative ways to deliver government services to its citizens without requiring in-person visits. Video-conference tools, such as Skype, are increasingly being used to provide remote, yet face-to-face assistance. Last October, the Development Services Department of Pima County, Arizona began offering a video inspection program for clients that need rapid building inspections on simple issues, such as electrical reconnects or water heater replacements. Some Texas county correctional institutions have also implemented video visitation systems. And, in Boston, out-of-state residents can now contest their parking citations using Skype.