Rhode Island has become one of the first states to formalize post-election “risk-limiting” audits to ensure that equipment and procedures used to count votes are working properly. Under the legislation, the state Board of Elections would be authorized to manually review machine-counted ballots after an election in an effort to deter fraud, uncover programming errors and equipment malfunctions, and to confirm results or determine whether a recount is needed. Only Colorado currently requires risk-limiting audits.
Columbus, Ohio, recently announced a plan to give downtown workers and residents free bus passes for two and a half years starting next summer. The move is part of an effort to boost bus ridership, cut down on solo driving, and ease parking congestion, which has led to high vacancy rates in downtown office buildings. The unprecedented funding model calls for the passes to be paid for in part by a self-imposed increase in property taxes on downtown property owners.
To combat negative stereotypes about the city and to remind its citizens of their heritage, Detroit recently hired a “chief storyteller,” a local citizen whose job is to shed light on the varied and diverse neighborhoods and residents of the city. Believed to be the first position of its kind, the person hired for the role, who is a popular regional journalist, looks for ways to cover issues and experiences that are not typically discussed in the traditional media. The stories and first-person accounts being assembled by the storyteller and his small staff are being distributed through social media, public access channels, and a website.
To increase transparency, the investigative work of inspectors general (IGs) from across the federal government can now be found in a single online location. The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency has unveiled Oversight.gov, a one-stop shop that collects and aggregates reports from 73 federal IGs that examine waste, fraud, and abuse from across the government. Users can search among the thousands of reports by topic, and a dashboard tracks the types of reports issued and the potential cost savings identified per year. Other federal employees will benefit from best practices and lessons learned that are shared through the site.
Cities across the US are reconsidering the public restroom as a means of keeping cities clean and inviting. Not only do strategically placed facilities offer a place for people to relieve themselves during big events and for the homeless to use on a regular basis, they also encourage more visitors to downtown areas when they know a restroom will be available. Denver places three-stall mobile bathrooms, with lights, running water, flush toilets, and an attendant, at certain areas around the city. Other cities, such as Portland (Oregon), San Antonio, San Francisco, and Seattle have experimented with placing stand-alone restrooms around their cities.
To combat the “heat island effect” that can take hold in the urban corridors of Los Angeles, the city is testing the use of “cool pavement” to lower temperatures. City workers are painting roads with a light-gray reflective surface that can help lower temperatures and energy use, and reduce the threat of deaths linked to increasingly extreme heat waves. Observers note that research still needs to determine whether energy expended and greenhouse gases emitted through the manufacture and application of the surface coating are offset by the benefits.