The Idaho Department of Labor is taking the unemployment insurance administrative system it developed in-house on the road, modifying and licensing it to the states of Iowa, Vermont, and whoever else is interested. Idaho’s Internet Unemployment System, which cost approximately $7 million to develop, quickly processes unemployment taxes and benefits in a matter of hours, reducing manual worker processing time by more than 2,000 hours. In addition, the system has added usability and access features for employers and claimants along the way. The goal of the burgeoning consortium of states that will use the system is not only to ensure that it meets the specific needs of each state but also to continuously benefit from the lessons learned and shared costs during the implementation in those states, ultimately becoming more efficient for all.
This fall, in the New York cities of Schenectady, Troy, and Albany, hundreds of vacant buildings will be illuminated as part of the Breathing Lights public art project. The goal of the “spotlight” installations is to highlight neighborhoods with high vacancy rates and drive interest in community revitalization. The temporary art installations will complement other events such as building reclamation clinics, neighborhood ambassadors, and regional summits on the blighted properties. The project is being supported by a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
To serve as both a meeting point and a place to encourage creativity and collaboration, the city of Long Beach plans to turn part of a downtown park into “The Outdoor Office,” with free Internet, electricity, flexible seating, and shading so it is possible to look at a laptop. With funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, another benefit of The Outdoor Office will involve providing a business space that can lower start-up costs for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
In California, the San Mateo County Library and Housing Authority are partnering to accelerate children’s literacy and learning in the home by meeting families where they are. Under the Housing Outreach Program, an active learning and literacy play space in the Housing Authority waiting room will be created to enrich children’s learning while their parents receive services. In addition, the partnership will work with case-managed families to sign them up for library cards, provide high quality books for children to build their home libraries, and integrate families into library programs. The program is being funded through a grant from the Pacific Library Partnership.
The New Orleans Redevelopment Authority partnered with the design nonprofit Van Alen Institute to lead a design competition to tackle the challenges of reusing vacant land in New Orleans. Teams thought up ways to combine lots to make them large enough to be business-friendly. Others suggestions included fostering pop-up businesses that would use tents on vacant lots to host visitors for music festivals or Mardi Gras, and partnering with organizations that could use the land as part of broader efforts to provide wildlife habitat, storm water management, public art, and transportation. The Redevelopment Authority is rewriting its strategic planning with some of the ideas and is already implementing others.
Amsterdam has recently announced the appointment of the world’s first bicycle mayor. The bike mayor’s responsibilities will include promoting and protecting cycling in the Dutch city as well as acting as a mediator between city hall, cyclists, community groups, and residents. Although Amsterdam already is known to be a bike-friendly city, backers plan on exporting the idea to other cities where it is needed. The position will likely be funded through a combination of public and private sources.