Feds award assistance for transit oriented developments

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the cities of Birmingham, Charlotte, Albuquerque, Omaha and Tacoma will receive support in planning development near transit systems as part of its Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Technical Assistance Initiative. The initiative supports efforts to create mixed-use, walkable communities near transit with a focus on economically disadvantaged populations.

“The Department of Transportation places a high priority on investing in transportation projects that improve the prosperity of low- and moderate-income communities and stimulate economic development in areas that need it,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We are pleased to provide this technical assistance to help local leaders create practical, equitable, community-sensitive development plans.”

The five communities will receive in-depth, long-term technical assistance as they plan TOD strategies. FTA will work with the nonprofit Smart Growth America to provide a variety of planning and analysis tools tailored to the needs of each community.

Alabama’s Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority will receive technical assistance to support an area plan around a new bus rapid transit (BRT) station. The project will develop a plan to maximize TOD potential around the transit center and created a set of tools that can be replicated around other BRT stations.

The City of Omaha will get help maximizing the development potential of the Dodge Street BRT corridor, including helping draft TOD policy language that includes affordable housing and minimizing displacement of small businesses.

The City of Albuquerque will identify financial strategies and ridership tools with assistance to guide future development surrounding the San Mateo Station of the Central Avenue BRT project. The technical assistance will focus on how to finance infrastructure and real estate improvements to bring higher density, as well as how to incentivize ridership.

In Charlotte, the city and Charlotte Area Transit System will receive help developing strategies to preserve established neighborhoods and incentivize appropriate TOD along the western end of the Gold Line streetcar corridor, known as the Historic West End.

The City of Tacoma will receive technical assistance to identify economic development and housing opportunities along the Hilltop segment of the Tacoma Link light rail expansion. The technical assistance will result in an economic and housing market study that projects employment, housing, and property trends in addition to TOD opportunity sites.

Click here for TOD resources.

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Sanctuary cities in danger of losing federal funding

Since president-elect Donald Trump promised to end federal funding to sanctuary cities many city and county leaders around the country have been wondering what that might mean for them. The term sanctuary city doesn’t have a legal definition. Jurisdictions that consider themselves sanctuary cities generally have policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center has identified 364 counties and 39 cities that have policies limiting cooperation with federal immigration officials. For many jurisdictions, this means declining to hold suspected undocumented immigrants past their scheduled release dates. Some jurisdictions have laws preventing police officers from asking the immigration status of residents. Often this policy is implemented to encourage immigrant communities to report crimes or cooperate with police.

The president-elect and many other proponents of tougher immigration enforcement have said sanctuary city policies allow criminals to go free. Undocumented immigrants could commit more crimes that would have been prevented if they had been deported.

The federal funding in danger of being pulled has not been specified. Federal law currently prohibits any agency from restraining the exchange of information among federal, state and local agencies regarding the immigration status of individuals. The code specifies jurisdictions in violation could be denied grants from the justice department. The federal funding in question could be limited to some justice department funds for police departments or a new federal policy could be created to include all federal funding going to jurisdictions designated as sanctuary cities.

San Francisco is a high-profile sanctuary city with $1 billion, or 10 percent of the city’s budget, coming directly from the federal government or from state programs using federal funds. The city has had laws in place to protect undocumented immigrants for 27 years. In 2005, in a case Trump has referred to multiple times as a reason for ending sanctuary cities, an undocumented immigrant allegedly killed a San Francisco woman after being released from sheriff’s custody.

“We have been and always will be a city of refuge, a city of sanctuary, a city of love,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee at a recent unity rally.

The San Francisco Police Department receives around $52 million from the state and $2.8 million directly from the federal government. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department receives around $27.5 million from the state and $100,000 from the federal government.

Federal funding accounts for 25 percent of the budget for the District of Columbia, which makes it the sanctuary city with the largest percent of its budget in danger. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser reaffirmed the District’s designation as a sanctuary city in November. The city has a policy not to ask residents about their immigration status.

Denver received $175 million of its city budget from federal funding. Of that $5.4 million has come from justice department funds. The police department released a recent statement that read “Immigration enforcement is handled at the federal level — not by local law enforcement. The Denver Police Department has not participated in those enforcement efforts in the past and will not be involved in the future.”

Critics of sanctuary cities were quick to respond to statements issued by many jurisdictions indicating no change in policies that could be considered providing sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.

Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke recently wrote an opinion column, published in The Hill, in which he took on the leaders of sanctuary cities. Suggesting leaders of sanctuary cities could be prosecuted for their policies.

“It’s time for stand up for the existing federal rule of law. We must have zero-tolerance for people coming into the United States illegally and setting up residence. The first prosecution and conviction of one of these governors, mayors or university presidents vowing to be a sanctuary for illegal aliens will cause all but those wanting to be sacrificial lambs for the cause to cease this dangerous and willful disregard for our nation’s sovereignty.”

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National resiliency initiatives announced

The White House has announced new resiliency initiatives based on the findings of the 2016 National Preparedness Report, released in March by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The report identified vulnerabilities and areas for improvement in the country’s ability to respond to and recover from natural disasters, technological hazards, acts of terrorism and other threats.

Federal agencies are declaring new actions to help build the capacity of state, local, tribal, territorial, private sector and nonprofit agencies to recover from future disasters.

September is National Preparedness Month
September is National Preparedness Month

The Economic Recovery Training For Emergency Management and Economic Development Practitioners program will provide $1,506,000 for state, local, tribal and territorial emergency managers and economic development professionals to identify and undertake economic recovery and resiliency initiatives. The program is Administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Economic Development Administration.

The Leaders in Business Community Resilience initiative, administered by FEMA, the U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will provide guidance for state-level engagement with the private sector. The initiative creates a platform for businesses to be recognized for building community resilience. FEMA, SBA and Commerce will convene events across the country over the next year to support local efforts to create preparedness partnerships between the private and public sectors.

The Built Environment Resilience Gateway has been added to the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit by the National Institute of Standards and Technology-sponsored Community Resilience Standards Panel, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Forest Service. The gateway is dedicated to community resilience measures for urban communities and infrastructure. Areas of focus include buildings and structures, disaster planning, energy, water and wastewater, social equity, planning and land use, transportation, communications and related topics.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s initiative to Enhance Situational Awareness of Energy System Status enhances the real-time monitoring and predictive capabilities of the Environment for Analysis of Geo-Located Energy Information (EAGLE-I) system.  EAGLE-I will become the authoritative source supporting state and local agencies to track the status of energy systems nationwide. The system will help target and mobilize public and private sector resources during post-incident recovery.

DHS will establish a National Network of Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Resources. The network will consist of trained  infrastructure recovery and resilience experts who can provide assistance to communities in disaster-impacted areas. The network will assist with rebuilding following the August flooding in Louisiana and with future events upon request. Contact IDR@hq.dhs.gov for more information.

FEMA has launched the Community Recovery Resource Portal. The portal will help community leaders access post-disaster recovery resources.

The Support Homeless Persons in Pre-Disaster Planning, Response and Recovery program, administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, offers a toolkit focused on the needs of homeless populations before, during and after disasters.

New training to help cultural institutions in disaster preparedness is also available from the Heritage Emergency National Task Force and the National Endowment for the Humanities. A webinar series will provide training and guidance to emergency managers and cultural stewards on how to strengthen disaster preparedness in the cultural community.

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USDA awards $18.9M for research facilities

Historically black land-grant colleges and universities will be able to build or improve agriculture and food science research facilities with $18.9 million in grants. The awards were announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture this week. The awards were made through the 1890s Facilities Grants program.

“These awards help colleges and universities make improvements that support cutting-edge academic research and foster 21st-century innovation that will shape the future of American agriculture,” said Dr. Joe Leonard, Jr., USDA Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights.

Among the recipients was Tuskegee University. The Alabama university received $952,989. The school will use the funds to help construct a red meat slaughtering unit; a poultry research, teaching and outreach facility; and an integrative agricultural research, extension and teaching complex.

Florida A&M University was awarded $917,871. The funds will be used to help renovate two teleconference centers, one of which is located at the research and extension center at a farm in Quincy, Fla. The centers will be upgraded to support audio-visual aids to improve presentations.

About $1.2 million was awarded to Missouri’s Lincoln University. Funds will be used to construct a 3,000-square-foot addition to an existing research center and build a 2,400-square-foot greenhouse. An 8,000-square-foot satellite extension office is also planned.

Details on the awards can be found here.

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