Elevated Levels of Lead Found in Oregon School District’s Water

Last month, elevated levels of lead were found in the water supply of the state’s largest school district. Why aren’t we talking about this more?

There is a lot of discussion about what role the government should play in any number of different issues, but we can all agree that clean water is a non-partisan, non-political issue that we can all get behind. We all need clean water, and our kids certainly do too, regardless of who they are. Water policy may not be the most interesting thing to talk about, but it’s one of the more important issues policymakers focus their attention on, and it’s one that deserves public discussion.

Children have a reasonable expectation of having access to clean and free drinking water in their public schools, and parents have a reasonable expectation of being able to hold the school district accountable for keeping their children’s drinking water safe. It’s a fundamental right. Clean water is such a basic foundation of life in the developed world that for many people who never think about it, it’s almost superfluous to talk about. Of course, the water my kids are drinking in school is going to be clean!

Except for when it’s not. Portland is not the only city that has been dealing with bad drinking water lately that has disproportionately affected children (we haven’t forgotten about you, Flint), but we should talk about it and all get more passionate about making sure the water our children drink is as safe as possible.

LA County Seeks to Help Felons

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has just approved a package consisting of almost $7 million to help reduce felony charges to misdemeanors. These funds will go toward a one-year campaign which will reach half a million people who qualify to have their felony charges reclassified as misdemeanors.

According to Los Angeles Daily News, this is now allowed under Proposition 47. The funds will be applied to pay for town hall meetings, mailers, and an information line. Having a felony record changed to a misdemeanor is likely to help many former convicts find jobs since only a handful a employers would hire a convicted felon.

Proposition 47 was approved by the voters in 2014. It allows criminal records of nonviolent felonies, including drug possession and theft under $950, to be changed to misdemeanors.

“Although Prop. 47 was passed by voters in November 2014, the level of awareness in the community and among eligible clients is unknown,” claims a report issued by LA County’s Chief Executive Office.

So the aim of this multi-million dollar program is to make those convicted aware about the potential of having their old records changed for better. Some critics, however, say that law enforcement officials claim that those who get released under Proposition 47 tend to commit crimes again.

Some criminals might even choose to commit crimes which carry lesser penalties. Nevertheless, Proposition 47 gives a second chance to the convicts.

Tesla Self-Driving Car With Lidal Spotted in Palo Alto

So far, Google has dominated the self-driving car industry. They’ve got over 70 cars registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, far more than their competitor Tesla, which had a mere eight cars registered as of this March.

But a self-driving car seemingly belonging to Tesla was spotted near Palo Alto recently, and interestingly enough, it was equipped with Lidar sensors.

In the past, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has stated that Lidar isn’t needed for self-driving cars, dismissing it as an unnecessary technology. This recent development makes it seem that he may be willing to reconsider that stance, and it’ll be interesting to see whether Musk revises his position in the future.

The car, a Tesla modal S, was spotted by a Tesla owner in Palo Alto despite the fact that it was apparently disguised to avoid looking like a Tesla test vehicle. In a blog post reporting his findings, the observant man wrote, “The Tesla self-driving test vehicle is disguised as cleverly as possible. A giant Stanford logo on the rear windshield and a Stanford license plate frame with a paper plate. Clearly, Tesla is trying to convince locals that this is part of a Stanford research project. Although Stanford is a very wealthy university, I doubt they would be using a brand new Model S for experimental purposes. My suspicions were confirmed that this was a Tesla corporate vehicle when I saw it enter the back parking lot of Tesla headquarters!”

Feral Cats in Chicago Get Put to Work as Rat Controllers

A major pest control company claimed that Chicago has the biggest rat problem in the country in 2013. However, an animal shelter in the city of Chicago has come up with an environmentally friendly way to both solve some of this problem, and give several hard-to-adopt cats a permanent home. The Tree House Humane Society not only has sweet adoptable cats, but also manages hundreds of feral cat colonies containing thousands of feral cats which they trap, neuter and release. Taking care of these cats cost the shelter a lot of money and time, and since Chicago has a severe rat problem, they thought they should put the animals to work as natural pest controllers.

Residents and business owners who want to take part in the problem must be willing to pay about $500 to $600 dollars to set up three cats. The cats aren’t just rounded up from the streets and released into a new area as they would quickly leave. Instead, they are slowly trained to get used to their new surroundings. Most people in the program notice an immediate improvement to the rat problem as soon as the cats arrive. Business owners say that the program costs are worth it because the cats save them money on rat-damaged merchandise which must be disposed. Currently, there is a 30-day waiting period for those who want to get into the program.

San Francisco To Propose Tax on Tech Companies

You may have heard of this story if you live in San Francisco or have heard horror stories from friends or loved ones about the price of rent there. On July 5th, a member of the city’s Board of Supervisors announced that he is proposing a tax on tech companies in the area to help tackle the issue of skyrocketing rent and rapidly accelerating number of chronically homeless individuals in the city.

For years, the issue of rising rent in San Francisco has been a fact that has publicly been spun as a sign of progress for the geographically small city but is known to have had a pretty impactful effect on the city’s residents, many of whom had been living there for generations before they were priced out of their homes and sometimes even the city by skyrocketing housing prices that incoming tech companies exacerbated and did little to help grapple with.

Economic growth is good, and the fact that the city gave tax breaks to companies that relocated to low-income communities in the city was arguably a good move, but it helped to spur the development of a situation where wealthy tech companies relocated to the city for many different reasons thereby pushing out low-income residents who couldn’t meet the rising price that tech companies’ demand creates in the housing market.

Perhaps this new “tech tax” isn’t the best idea out there, but it’s worth the conversation in San Francisco.

Third Officer Found Not Guilty in the Death of Freddie Gray

A judge in Baltimore on Monday acquitted a third policeman of any wrongdoing in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man arrested in Baltimore last April. A judge s sitting without a jury found Lt. Brian Rice not guilty of all charges related to the arrest of Freddie Gray. Lt Rice is the fourth of six officers being tried in the death of Gray. Meanwhile, city officials in Baltimore continue to face backlash from the trials.

Gray died of a broken neck after his arrest and a 45-minute ride to a police station in the back of a van. His death ignited protests in Baltimore and around the country. Prosecutor argued that Lt Rice was criminally negligent when he did not seat belt Mr.Gray in the van as was the policy of the Baltimore police. The State argued that as the senior officer on the scene, he was ultimately responsible for the safety of the prisoner. The defense argued that the Gray’s combative conduct made it impossible to secure him in the van. Three other officers are scheduled for trials. One, Officer William Porter, will be tried a second time after an earlier trial ended in a hung jury.

At the same time, the Prosecutor’s office has faced increasing pressure to drop all further prosecutions of officers in the case. “It’s quite clear that the prosecution should not continue on,” said Barry Slotnick, an attorney who has been following the case. Further a law professor at George Washington University, John Banzhaf, is initiating action before the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission to disbar the prosecutors involved in the prosecution.

Boston: Part of A New Mega-City?

If you’ve followed economic trends lately, you may have heard about the development of mega-cities as a serious concept for future economic growth. These clusters of existing large cities would be integrated with more developed highways and transportation routes, and would theoretically work together to improve the economy and accelerate growth in the region collaboratively. One of these mega-cities in the U.S. is the East Coast combination of Boston, New York City, and D.C.

This is an interesting story for me to write about because my mom’s family comes from Boston and so I get protective of that wonderful city. For many Bostonians, the idea of a mega-city may be difficult to swallow. There are so many things that are uniquely Boston that can’t really be transplanted onto New York City and D.C., and many things that probably couldn’t be transplanted onto Boston either. Everything from Boston accents to the best seafood in the world are elements of a shared Boston heritage that most of us don’t want to have to give up or change.

And why would we? Boston is wicked awesome. I’m here to tell you, as a skeptical lover of Boston myself, that the idea of a mega-city would not mean that we have to give up our Boston identity. In fact, working together with New York City and D.C. could give Boston the economic security and political clout needed to remain a world-class city well into the 21st century.

New York City and the Garden Library

A recent article talked about a “BBbb” in the Bronx in New York that not many people know about. As you probably expect, it’s really, really cool. The Mertz Library in the Bronx Garden was founded in 1899 and holds over one million items, including first-edition copies of many books related to wildlife and greenery.

The Mertz Library got me thinking about something New York City used to pioneer, but that has recently gotten less attention as funds have been diverted to other social programs deemed higher priorities by different Mayors over time: libraries. While many think of the large public library in Manhattan when they think of New York City’s libraries, New York City actually has a much larger network of libraries all throughout the city that themselves run vital programs in the community and run successful exhibitions of their most popular holdings all across the country. New York City’s libraries are awesome, and citizens there should make it a continued priority to fund their libraries to the point where they can continue to expand change to effectively meet the needs of a more slowly growing but ever-changing population.

But libraries are important everywhere. If you’re reading this and not living in New York City, libraries in your community are just as important. Your town might not be able to afford mausoleums filled with manuscripts and artifacts, but even the simplest of libraries has the power to profoundly change a community, and you deserve one too.

Denver, Colorado and Juneteenth

A tradition that dates back to when slaves in Texas discovered that they had been liberated by the emancipation Proclamation has taken root and grown rapidly in Denver, Colorado. The recent Juneteenth parade and festival is an important event for many in the African American community and is a great opportunity for folks all around the city and metro area to come together and celebrate culture at least one day every year.

The celebration in Denver is famous for many reasons, not least among them the assortment of different food vendors that show up to cook food popular in the South. You don’t have to go far to get a tasty brisket sandwich, a side of cornbread or hush puppies, a bowl of jambalaya, a side of fried okra, or even a tall glass of Texas sweet tea. The consolidation of this magnificent variety of foods into one park in Denver on a hot summer weekend brings out thousands of people every year.

More important is the showcasing of African American culture through music, dance, and art as well as black-owned businesses and community programs that aim to support African American communities. Oftentimes throughout the year, it can be difficult for an African American-owned business or artist to be treated fairly at trade shows and at venues across the country. Juneteenth in Denver is one small opportunity for everyone to feel welcome, and that’s something we can all get behind.

New York Man Sues Hospital for Millions

It appears to be a large Mt. Delfino Cuautle is suing Coney Island Hospital for $24 million. That’s the price for his lost leg. The plaintiff claims that he was deprived of proper medical attention and, as a result, lost his leg.

As the claim goes, he had to wait for help for 13 hours, and when it came, it was too late. His leg had to be amputated. “Everything that could have went wrong went wrong,” said Andrew Carboy, Mr. Cuautle’s lawyer.

According to Daily News, 46-year-old Delfino Cuautle was hit by a car. The EMS arrived in three minutes and took him to the hospital.

The doctors performed a CT scan and determined there’s no blood in his leg, so emergency vascular surgery is needed to rescue his leg. Since the hospital in Coney Island had no surgeon specializing in this area, the doctors called an emergency number at Kings County Hospital.

Normally, such calls are answered within seconds. But, no one answered that call. Instead, the doctors left a message. It took eight after the accident for Mr. Cuautle to get to Kings County Hospital. What’s even worse, the staff from the previous hospital forgot to send the CT scan, which then needed to be done again.

Finally, 13 hours after the accident operation was performed. By then, it was too late.

Urban Fodder