This Week in Urban Affairs: Taxing Marijuana to Tackle Homelessness, D.C.’s ‘Smart City,’ & Drone Fences

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Our new weekly roundup of the latest reading materials filtered through an urban affairs lens.

(Getty Images)
The city of Aurora, Colorado, used the additional revenue generated by its marijuana tax to allocate $4.5 million dollars to the homelessness issue over next three years. Aurora Homelessness Program Director Shelley McKittrick says her goal is to end homelessness by looking at nation best practices and applying them appropriately to Aurora. (Getty Images)

Affordable Housing & Homelessness
9News: How Aurora is Tackling Homelessness
August 16
Aurora, Colorado will allocate $4.5 million in revenue from the marijuana tax to tackling its homeless problem over the next three years. The new Aurora Homelessness Program Director Shelley McKittrick says her goal is to end homelessness in the city, implementing national best practices such as rapid re-housing.

Climate & Sustainability
CityLab: The Importance of Targeting Heavy-Duty Vehicle Emissions
August 17
On Tuesday the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation rolled out new regulations that will make trucks, buses and other heavy-duty vehicles more fuel efficient. Once they’re implemented, the new regulations are expected to cut fuel spending by about $170 billion, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 1.1 billion metric tons and reduce oil consumption by tens of billions of barrels. Trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles currently account for over 20 percent of transportation-related fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

Finance
Governing: The Growing Urgency for Serious Public Pension Reforms
August 18
This opinion piece calls for bold pension reform to help solve public pension insolvencies and poor performance. Arizona is used as an example for strong and effective reform. Among the reforms the state implemented are a reduction in the maximum salary for purposes of pension calculations from $265,000 to $110,000 and splitting current and future pension costs evenly between employers and employees.

Infrastructure
NY Times: Why Are the Streets Always Under Construction?
August 18
This piece explores New York’s uniquely complex infrastructure challenges. Unlike other local governments, the New York City government does not control the energy, telecommunications and electricity infrastructure underneath its ground—private companies have their own networks. The city has aging water, gas and steam piping, some of which is over a century old. City officials are trying to figure out ways to reduce the enormous amount of permit requests they gets each year, and incentivize utilities companies to upgrade their infrastructure.

Planning & Development
Washington Business Journal: Two Major Local Players Join Microsoft as Partners in Washington Area’s First ‘Smart City’
August 15
George Washington University and the Center for Innovative Technology have partnered with developer 22 Capital Partners to bring the D.C. Metro-accessible Gramercy District project to fruition. The District, branded as an ecosystem of smart city technology, will be located in Ashburn, Virginia. The District will supposedly be a prototype for a platform that links together all aspects of real estate development with a preconfigured, intelligent framework.

Public Safety
Washington Post: ‘I’m Going Home to See if I Have a Home’: Louisiana Flooding Leaves 11 Dead, Forces Thousands from Their Homes
August 16
At least 40,000 homes have been damaged and 11 people have died since historic levels of flooding hit the southern part of Louisiana last Thursday. 10,000 people are in shelters, and Governor John Bel Edwards said it will be difficult to identify the number of people stranded and still needing rescue. The Obama Administration’s federal disaster declaration has extended to 20 parishes and shelters are opening across the state.

Tech & Innovation
Route Fifty: 3 Gigabit Cities Using High-Speed Broadband for Civic Engagement
August 16
The cities of Raleigh, North Carolina, Austin, Texas, and Louisville, Kentucky, will each receive a $30,000 grant from Next Century Cities to leverage high-speed broadband on civic engagement projects. Next Century Cities is a universal broadband coalition of 145 U.S. city representatives, which chose projects it said were replicable in other cities. Austin’s project will help public housing residents near transit hubs access online services, Raleigh will develop a citizen planning tool, and Louisville will wire a community center in an underserved neighborhood with high-speed Internet.

GovTech: Virtual Barriers, Manipulation Tools Enlisted to Keep Drones at Bay
August 17
As amateur drone operators increasingly fly over corporate headquarters, sports venues and the private homes of tech celebrities, emerging counter-drone technologies are being put to use with increasing prevalence. Bay Area tech companies are protecting their headquarters with “geofences” that block drones that are programmed to respond to the fence. Robi Sen, founder and chief technology officer of communications and security company Department 13, said that drones can be used to steal trade secrets, so his firm is helping other companies implement technologies, like geofences, to thwart drones.

About the Author: Justin DeWaele is a Housing Policy Intern with NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research.