To encourage greater civic engagement, the Georgia city of Brookhaven will start offering supervised recreational activities for children while their parents attend city council or other city business meetings. Believed to be one of the first such initiatives in the public sector, the Kids Night In program will feature Parks and Recreation Department staff who will be on hand to supervise as children play games or watch movies, and to assist with homework, no matter how long the meeting lasts. The city will pilot the program for six months to determine if it should become permanent.
Seattle city employees can now receive up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave and they will also get up to four weeks of paid leave to care for family members with serious health conditions. Employees will be eligible for the benefits after being employed by the city for six months. The new policy, which will apply to more than 11,000 employees, is expected to cost the city an extra $3 million a year. According to city officials, the goal of the bill is to ensure that no one is forced to choose between their job and caring for their family, as well as to ease some of the burden of family-care obligations that often fall to women, and particularly women of color.
The Cameroon government and environmental groups are teaming up to train community volunteers to report illegal deforestation through their smartphones. By sending geo-tagged images of freshly cut stumps to the police, forest ministry, and the National Anti-Corruption Commission, these forest defenders can report suspicious activity to be investigated. Making this information available to all three institutions is an important step in curbing the corruption that might occur if the information was reported to just one institution. Unmanaged deforestation has led to billions of CFA francs in lost income to the government and has hurt communities that make their living from the forest.
Ohio will be opening a “step-down” mental health facility to house patients being released from psychiatric hospitals to combat the high rate of post-discharge suicides. The facility, which will be one of the few of its kind in the nation, will prioritize those with the most severe mental illnesses and help them transition out of the hospital. It will also continue to provide services to patients that might struggle to get treatment. Ohio is looking to replicate models that other states have used to save lives and decrease behavioral health incidents. The cost for the facility is being funded through a combination of monies from the state, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and a crowdfund campaign.
Stockholm is seeking to harness the heat generated by citizens browsing the internet by transferring that heat from where it collects in data centers to local heating centers that can power 20,000 apartments. The city then hopes to sell excess heat to its local district heating company or exchange free cooling as a service. In so doing, the energy used to power and cool data centers can actually become carbon positive, potentially reducing emissions by 8,000 metric tons annually. The city is already working with some small heating centers and hopes to use tax credits to incentivize more companies to build data centers. Stockholm’s goal is to get 10 percent of its heat from data centers by 2040.
Iceland is expected to pass a national law to ensure that men and women are paid equally, which would make it the first nation to approve such legislation. The law would require that all companies with 25 or more employees be certified every three years to ensure that they are adhering to equal pay rules. The country expects the law to be fully in place by 2020.