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Why Community Paramedicine is an Option for the Opioid Crisis

49 min 12 sec ago

There has been a 400 percent increase in overdose deaths from 1999 to 2008, and opioid overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Medication-assisted treatment, including suboxone and rehab are two options for care community paramedics. But community paramedicine can deliver harm reduction education, like safe needle use, to opioid addicts who are not ready for addiction recovery.

Dan Swayze, Center for Emergency Medicine chief operating officer and vice president, presented community paramedicine intervention as an alternative pathway to respond to the opioid crisis for EMS professionals recently gathered in Salt Lake City.

Swayze’s new program has just received its first group of 20 patients from the health system. Community paramedics are beginning to reach out to the group of patients who meet the criteria for high emergency department drug seeking.

Would you be willing show your heroin user how to shoot up safely? Who is showing them [addicts] how to shoot up? [A community could ask a patient], ‘If you are using and not interested in quitting let’s discuss how to use safely,” said Swayze.

Swayze said the role of community paramedics in the treatment of addiction begins with overdose treatment and continues through post-discharge follow-up and readiness to help addicts receive recovery treatments.

Understanding addiction pathophysiology is critical. Swayze, using several educational videos, described the pathophysiology of addiction. In another video, an addict described his use of heroin not to get high, but just to feel normal. Withdrawal is an unpleasant experience for the addict. EMS providers need to let go of the notion that opioid addiction is a choice that the addict can control and that this is somehow a self-limiting problem, according to Swayze.

Leveraging community paramedic response is based on the language and care techniques of addiction medicine. Swayze’s key points were:

#1 Community Paramedicine Intervention After Discharge

After discharge from jail or mental health services is an extremely vulnerable time for overdose death. A community paramedic can be part of the system of care to help an addict avoid relapse to previous behaviors by helping the patient get to rehab, make lifestyle changes, attend group meetings and keep other outpatient appointments.

#2 Community Paramedicine Intervention for Harm Reduction

Widely available naloxone is just one component of a harm reduction effort for opioid addicts. Community paramedics can also deliver other harm reduction messages, such as not sharing needles. Teaching family members to understand the science of addiction and how to use naloxone is another harm reduction technique to prevent addicts from using heroin alone or in a locked room. Harm reduction is not enabling use — it’s purpose is to keep an addict safe until the patient is ready for rehab and long-term treatment.

#3 Community Paramedicine with Safe Stations 

Swayze described the need for safe stations. EMS, fire and police safe stations are places for addicts who are seeking addiction recovery treatment to ask for help without fear of arrest or incarceration.

Read how some cities are addressing the opioid crisis with community partners:

Maryland Counties Supply Narcan to Schools, Train Nurses

Maine Town Practioners Partner on Opioid Treatment

What Makes Seattle's LEAD Program So Effective?

 

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DOT Secretary Wants to Step Up Autonomous Technologies Adoption

2 hours 6 min ago

WORCESTER BUSINESS JOURNAL

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao challenged the automotive and technology industries on Sunday to help governors and the Trump administration break down public concerns over self-driving cars, drones and other autonomous vehicles, touting their potential to improve lives and safety.

Chao, the former U.S. labor secretary and wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, met with governors on Sunday afternoon during the second day of the National Governors Association winter meetings.

Though Chao said automated technologies have the potential to help under-served populations like the elderly and disabled and cut down on road fatalities attributable to human error, she called public acceptance of the technology “one of the biggest barriers” to its development.

I also want to issue a challenge to Silicon Valley, Detroit and all of the auto industry hubs to step up and help educate a skeptical public about the benefits of automated technologies,” Chao said.

Gov. Rick Snyder, a Michigan Republican, said he was “fired up” to work on the issue, and agreed on the need for education.

Chao said the Department of Transportation has approved 10 applications so far for automated vehicle proving grounds, and sees potential in the technology to lower the number of fatal car crashes, of which 94 percent can be attributed to human error. She also said UPS is testing a drone delivery service in Florida and some states like Kentucky are using drones to assist firefighters and do safety inspections on rail lines.

Many of the governors acknowledged concerns with the technology, but expressed excitement about its potential. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducy called his state the “Kitty Hawk” of autonomous cars, and said he has personally test-ridden in three.

Continue reading the story on the Worcester Business Journal website.

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Flint Charter School Bus Hit by Bullet

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 16:24

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Flint’s police chief says an officer will begin riding a public transit bus for charter school students after a bullet struck it.

Chief Tim Johnson says the ride-along will begin Monday morning as a precaution and continue “for a while.” The school, Madison Academy, was closed Friday.

Johnson has not determined how long an officer will ride the bus.

The Flint Journal reports more than 30 children were aboard the bus when a gunshot broke a rear window on a Mass Transportation Authority bus on the city’s southeast side Thursday afternoon. No injuries were reported.

Flint resident Rebekah Fitch says she was terrified when she got a call from one of her four children on the bus telling her about the shooting.

The incident remains under investigation.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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LIHTC Market Investors Reacting to Proposed Tax Reform

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 16:00

AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE

By Donna Kimura

The specter of tax reform hangs over the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) market, threatening a slowdown in affordable housing production this year.

Even though tax reform may be a year or more away, it’s already triggered major shifts in the industry as LIHTC investors have pulled back since the November election, caused housing credit pricing to fall.

With Donald Trump in the White House and Republicans in control of the House and Senate, the prospects of tax reform have shot up significantly. Trump has called for slashing the business tax rate from 35% to 15% while members of Congress will likely be eyeing a rate in the 20% to 25% range.

“Within a two-week period (after the election), the LIHTC market experienced the most dramatic change this industry has ever seen,” says Mark McDaniel, president and CEO of Cinnaire. “Investors reacted immediately to the possibility of tax reform that would result in significantly lower corporate tax rates.”

Continue reading the story on HousingFinance.com.

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How an Alaska Native Corp. is Stopping Coal — for Profit

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 14:12

On Feb. 16, 2017, President Donald Trump signed a Congressional resolution to disapprove the Stream Protection Rule, finalized by the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement. The rule, in development since 2008, was to provide mine operators with a regulatory framework to avoid water pollution and costs associated with water treatment.

According to the Cordova Times, undoing the rule could have continued potential impacts on salmon fisheries in the Prince William Sound area of Alaska. The Bering River District produces sockeye and coho salmon for commercial harvesters, as well as sport and other users.

But an agreement reached by the Chugach Alaska Corp. with environmental groups (called the CAC/New Forests deal) will conserve 62,000 acres, protecting the region’s sustainable fish, wildlife and wilderness.

“Local residents recognized the need for comprehensive conservation of the region over 20 years ago, and began approaching parties involved at that time, including Korean Alaska Development Corporation (KADCO), CAC, the Alaska delegation and other potentially interested parties,” said Rick Steiner, a former University of Alaska marine advisor for the Prince William Sound/North Gulf coast region from 1983-1997, who first proposed the deal in 1997.

The Deal that Gets Around Undone Law

While a January 2017 report by the Congressional Research Service identified environmental and health benefits of the Stream Protection Rule — including stream restoration requirements aimed at reducing human exposure to contaminants in drinking water — opponents, including Alaska’s Congressional delegation, cited it as a coal industry and jobs killer.

The CAC/New Forests deal is the first carbon sequestration deal by an Alaska Native corporation, and the first time an Alaskan hydrocarbon resource will be left in the ground — for profit.

It’s a profitable way to avoid the environmental impacts of the coal industry.

Under the agreement, CAC will receive payment from New Forests, a sustainable real assets investment manager, at less than what is considered fair market value for the forests and coal on the land. CAC can then write off the loss on federal taxes.

The coal rights will then be transferred to The Nature Conservancy and the local Native Conservancy land trust, in order to generate revenue through the California cap-and-trade carbon market. CAC will manage and maintain the land, retaining high carbon stocks in the forests, in exchange for the ability to sell carbon credits to businesses regulated under California’s greenhouse gas pollution reduction program.

A coal sale and carbon offset project is a unique opportunity to deliver long-term, sustainable economic and financial value for our shareholders and region,” said Josie Hickel, Chugach shareholder and senior vice president of energy and resources in a prepared statement.

“The agreement shows that efforts to address climate change will continue despite the new administration’s dangerous indifference to the issue,” said Steiner, noting that the hope is that it will be a model for future carbon deals in Alaska and elsewhere.

He also said the deal is just the the first part of a the puzzle in the region.

CAC sold the largest portion of the Bering River/Carbon Mountain coal deposit (Kushtaka Mountain and Cunningham Ridge) to KADCO when it filed for bankruptcy in 1991, so the CAC/New Forest deal does not include that area.

It remains available to be sold or mined. In 2001, EcoTrust of Portland, Ore., offered a deal to retire the patent, but KADCO declined.

Read the original story on the Cordova Times.

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The Advantages of Outsourcing Libraries

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 11:44

The average cost per visit in Arkansas libraries is more than $9, while in Connecticut it’s almost $16, according to Library Systems Services (LS&S) of Rockville, Md., a consultant that has been working with and operating libraries since 1997. By taking the administrative burden off the table, outsourcing libraries is helping cities streamline library operations and expand programs — while lowering costs.

Libraries are important public platforms for economic and workforce development, in addition to promoting literacy and learning. And like any other city service, libraries are in competition for budget dollars.

It’s an area that is ripe for savings,” said Chris Ourand, vice president of marketing and communications for LS&S, which works with 20 library systems across across six states.

The advantages of outsourcing library services are:

  • Single invoice rather than numerous lines in city budgets
  • Lower service costs
  • Management of library staffing and vendors
  • Integrated IT/cloud operations
  • Volume purchasing
  • Faster patron services

Setting a Baseline for Performance

How can cities better understand the cost of their library operations, and learn how to improve patron services while reducing unnecessary costs?

One way is through data.

LS&S uses data from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to show cities, towns and counties trends like, ‘How many library visits are for computer use? What is the percent of the budget spent on books versus staff? How popular are library programs?’

The company provides a Library Vitality Index —  customized, individual reports full of key performance indicators that benchmark a library’s performance against its peers within its state, and across the country. The data identifies what is working well at a library, and which areas need improvement, setting a baseline to track future performance.

Tracking Cost Efficiency

For Leander, Texas, LS&S calculated that it costs the city $3.41 each time a patron walks through its library doors. Nationally, for Leander to rank in the Top 25 percent for libraries serving populations of 25,000-49,000, the city would need to reduce its overall cost per visit by nearly $0.55.

That translates into a potential savings $83,146 per year for the city.

By looking at staffing, circulation, computer usage and program attendance in addition to overall visits over a five-year period, LS&S showed Leander which areas it can focus on to improve its library services.

Like most libraries, Leander Public Library’s computer use and overall visits declined, but program attendance is increasing, according to data LS&S shared with EfficientGov. The city’s Library Vitality Index report indicates the data is consistent with trends across the library industry. Many more people rely on smartphones or have Internet access elsewhere.

For every 100 people that come to the Leander Public Library, 80 come to check out a book, while 14 come to use a computer and six visit to attend a program. About 86 percent of those attending a program are children.

LS&S has been working with the city of Leander since 2006. In a comparison among its peers — libraries in other Texas cities and counties — Leander Public Library is less expensive to run at $135.71 per hour. The public library in Saginaw costs $212.35 per hour, while Crowley and Copperas Cove spend about $180 per hour on their library operations.

The First to Outsource Libraries, Two Decades Later

Riverside County, Calif., became the first government organization to outsource library operations in 1997. Due to an increase in funding for California schools, the county’s board of supervisors found that reduced library system funding levels could not adequately cover the community’s existing services.

Instead of scaling back, the county took the unprecedented step of soliciting proposals to run the system, selecting LS&S in a competitive bid process.

Within the first year, according to LS&S, Riverside County:

  • Decreased operational costs by $900,000
  • Doubled the materials budget from $100,000 to $200,000
  • Increase library operating hours by an average of 34 percent
  • Increased material circulation by 15 percent
  • Scheduled significantly more community events
  • Secured employment for 100 percent of existing staff

In addition to retaining all library employees along with their retirement investments, the county’s move to outsourcing libraries established a 401k, Social Security and merit-based raises.

Two decades later, outsourcing libraries is still yielding achievements for the county. For example, there were no new tax requests for 18 years, until 2015 — despite substantial growth in the county’s system:

  • The number of library facilities increased from 24 to 38.
  • The book budget increased from $180,000 to $1 million.
  • Annual visits increased from 1.9 million to 4.2 million.
  • Program attendance increased from about 20,000 to 141,049 participants.
  • Adult program attendees increased from 1,082 to 66,028.
  • Staff increased through 100 jobs.
  • 15,000 children were enrolled in literacy programs.

Over the course of the public-private partnership, LS&S also spearheaded a shift in technology, implementing a system-wide RFID self-service system by 2010, adding WiFi access at every library and procuring hardware, like the county’s five public 3D printers.

“More than 2,400 libraries nationwide have cut back their hours; many have had to close entirely…In stark contrast to such sad statistics, our library hours, programming and materials here in Riverside County have increased. Additionally, our efforts have been lauded — here in California and by national organizations,” said Gary Christmas, MLS, Riverside’s former chief deputy county executive in an LS&S report about the partnership.

Read about how libraries must adapt to the needs and expectations of modern society in our previous coverage:

What Is A Modern Library?

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LocalGov Academy Offers Municipalities Robust Online Employee Training

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 12:46

Train anytime, anywhere | Manage and assign training easily | Straightforward, affordable pricing

San Francisco, Calif. – Praetorian Digital, the leading digital media company in the public safety and local government market, today announced the launch of LocalGov Academy, a comprehensive online training and learning management platform serving public entities, including government employees at the state, county or city level.

LocalGov Academy offers a robust course library, with 175 courses used and vetted by some of the top risk pools insuring municipalities nationwide and more than 1,000 additional courses and videos available for public safety departments, including police, corrections and fire. This comprehensive library is provided on the powerful learning management system technology behind the PoliceOne and FireRescue1 Academy trusted by more than 1,300 departments.

In addition to market-leading e-Learning content, LocalGov Academy offers an all-inclusive learning and records management system to streamline delivery and tracking of training to employees to ensure compliance, lower liability exposure and mitigate risk. Administrative features allow any municipality to run an efficient and effective training program to improve employee engagement and meet training mandates, including group administration, credential management, custom course creation, assignments, offline training tracking and more – all customized to meet the distinct needs of local government.

With unprecedented reach across public safety and local government, Praetorian Digital is uniquely suited to address the training needs of municipalities of all sizes. LocalGov Academy leverages the content expertise of Praetorian’s EfficientGov.com, one of the leading online resources for municipal leaders, elected officials and city managers. It also extends the reach of LocalGovU, the leading source of training courses for public entity risk pools, insurers and brokers. The launch provides municipalities with access to Praetorian’s public safety online training portfolio, which includes PoliceOne Academy, CorrectionsOne Academy, EMS1 Academy and FireRescue1 Academy.

“The launch of LocalGov Academy solidifies our position as a leading provider of premier online training and exceptional content across all functions of local government and expands our mission of delivering critical resources to help local government be more efficient and effective in serving and protecting our communities,” said Alex Ford, CEO of Praetorian Digital. “There is an incredible need for high quality training content, visibility and records management across all functions of local government – from risk pools and insurance providers to individual departments such as fire and police. We’re excited to add LocalGov Academy as another tool to address those challenges.”

To learn more about LocalGov Academy, visit www.localgovacademy.com.

About Praetorian Digital

Founded in 1999, Praetorian Digital is the leading digital media company in the public safety and local government market. Our properties are visited by more than 6 million public safety and local government officials every month and count over 1.3 million first responders and government personnel as members. Praetorian owns and operates PoliceOne.com, FireRescue1.com, FireChief.com, EMS1.com, CorrectionsOne.com, Military1.com and EfficientGov.com as well as more than 15 topical websites providing resources ranging from accredited online training to grant funding assistance. We are deeply committed to providing cutting-edge information and resources that help first responders, government officials and military personnel better protect themselves and serve their communities. For more information, visit www.PraetorianDigital.com.

About EfficientGov

EfficientGov is one of the leading informational websites geared towards providing feedback and guidance to city managers and elected officials on how to navigate the operational and fiscal challenges facing municipalities today. With cities and counties being tasked to do more with fewer resources, EfficientGov aims to spread the word about the best practices local government can implement to evolve with the changing trends of the industries they service. For more information, visit www.efficientgov.com.

About LocalGov Academy

LocalGov Academy is an innovative online learning solution that drives increased employee engagement through dynamic learning content and technology. With a goal of reducing liability and mitigating risk, we work hand in hand with municipalities to provide high quality training that yields enhanced productivity and effectiveness. Offering 175 online courses for public entities covering topics ranging from customer service to health and wellness, human resources development and more, LocalGov Academy helps meet the challenges of the changing workforce within local government.  For more information, visit www.localgovacademy.com.

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Grants for Combating Terrorism Locally Available in Nevada

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 12:21

The Nevada State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) under the Nevada Department of Public Safety has grant funding to help Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) for planning and training as well as equipment purchases, including shipping costs, for combating terrorism.

Nevada LEPCs may request advance funding for expenses more than $2,000, and allocation requests max out at $25,000. There is no matching requirement.

An additional $4,000 operations grant will be awarded if the LEPC is administratively compliant.

Reimbursements through this grant program will begin on July 14, 2017.

SERC Application Requirements

Include the operations amount in the total amount of the grant request.

If requesting up to 50 percent of operations funds for clerical assistance, include a detailed justification for the use of funds. A copy of the LEPC meeting minutes approving said request and supporting the grant application must be submitted prior to preparation of a grant award.

Applications for combating terrorism locally are due by March 10, 2017.

Access the SERC application kit on its website.

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$3M in Montana Emergency Management Grants

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 12:02

Montana Disaster and Emergency Services has $3 million for local governments and agencies to develop, build and sustain core emergency management capabilities. Montana emergency management grants support resilience in prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery efforts.

The grant funding can be used to help Montana agencies, municipalities and tribal governments:

  • Complete Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA)
  • Strengthen governance integration
  • Develop approved emergency plans
  • Create and maintain multi-year Training and Exercise Plans (TEPs)
  • Target training and verification of personnel capabilities
  • Implement whole community approaches to security and emergency management

Applications are due by March 24, 2017.

There is a 50 percent match requirement.

Additionally, Montana municipalities may also apply by March 3, 2017, for the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP). According to the state’s SHSP program guidance document, the funding amount the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) program will disperse for Montana emergency management needs for financial year 2017 is unknown. However, SHSP funding is expected to be available no later than September 30, 2017. In 2016, FEMA was allocated $402 million in SHSP funds to disperse to states and territories.

Learn more and apply for Montana emergency management grants on FundingMT.org.

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3 Tools Helping Law Enforcement Agencies Stop Sex Trafficking

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 16:51

Ashton Kutcher, founder of Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, is doing more than putting his impassioned, well-known voice before lawmakers — he has tools that are helping law enforcement agencies rescue victims of sex trafficking and slavery.

Kutcher addressed the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee about human trafficking and slavery as a witness in support of anti-trafficking legislation that increases federal support to states and local governments (video below).

Tech Tools That Work

Thorn helped create BEFREE text shortcode to give victims of sex trafficking a way to seek help. The tool has also been used by witnesses to report sex-trafficking related crimes, according to Thorn’s website. Thus far, BEFREE has created 3,808 conversations that led to 3,631 cases with 18 potential victims extracted from their situations.

The company most notably launched a Web app called Spotlight that assists police investigations into trafficking by helping them quickly sift through thousands of classifieds and forum posts advertising escort services from several sites.

Through machine learning that analyzes data, it identifies suspicious ads that might involve minors. The tool matches images so individual cases are easier to track. Spotlight is now used nationwide by more than 4,000 law enforcement officers in 780 agencies to help identify more than 6,300 U.S. victims of sex trafficking. Nearly 2,000 were children.

So far, the top 5 states for Spotlight-assisted investigations are Oregon, Wisconsin, California, Arizona and Texas. One special agent investigator in Hawaii called Spotlight “a force multiplier at every stage of the operation,” noting that the tool:

  • Gathers intelligence
  • Plots trends prior to conducting an operation
  • Helps allocate investigation resources effectively

Tech That Tackles Sex Trafficking

The founder and former chief executive officer for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Ernie Allen, is on Thorn’s board of directors. Blogging for Thorn, he wrote about how the technology is tackling the problems of online child pornography and sexual abuse.

Through the extraordinary Innovation Lab, hackathons and partnerships with the technology industry, Thorn is developing and testing prototypes, putting the successful tools into the hands of those who will use them, and then measuring their impact. It is entrepreneurial, taking a business-like approach to solving one of the world’s most daunting, complex challenges. Thorn is changing the way America and the world respond to the explosion of child sexual abuse images online, the migration of human trafficking from the streets to the internet, the emergence of the anonymous Dark Web, and so much more,” said Allen.

Thorn is targeting global trafficking on the Dark Web through a new tool called Solis. Kutcher said the tool in beta is being tested by multiple agencies and it is crunching the time it takes to research a case from three years to three weeks.

It’s already helped rescue 40 children.

Read the original story on TheNextWeb.com. 

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Top 10 Most Bike Friendly Cities in the U.S.

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 15:32

Cities all over the world — especially Europe — are known for their bike friendliness. But, cities across the United States are making strides in ensuring that their streets are accessible and safe for cyclists. BikingExpert.com has compiled a list of the top 10 most bike friendly cities in the United States for EfficientGov.

Cycling is an incredibly beneficial exercise. Your whole body gets a workout, including your heart, and as a bonus, your exercise doubles as a form of transportation. When you rely on a bicycle instead of a car to commute, you can save money on gas, auto insurance, car payments and parking fees. You can feel good about using your own two legs to get around, reducing air pollution while experiencing the health benefits of biking. The following U.S. cities make it easy for residents to reap the many benefits of bicycle transportation.

#1 Minneapolis, Minn.

You may not think of a congested metropolis as a great place for cycling, but Minneapolis has invested a lot of resources in the infrastructure required to support a large bicycle community. The city has a growing bike share program and network of bike lanes. In 2015, the municipal budget included $750,000 to build protected bikeways around the city, especially to make sure bike lanes stay clear of snow and ice in winter. Minneapolis was the first American city included in the Copenhagenize Index of the most bike friendly cities in the world, and it’s still the only U.S. city to rank in the top 20.

#2 Portland, Ore.

As self-proclaimed “Bike City, USA,” Portland is well recognized for its efforts to support a bike friendly community. The city has programs to supply bike lockers, public bike rentals, free safety information and more. Portland even circulates free maps for tourists wishing to explore the city on a cycling tour. As of 2013, the city had more than 315 miles of pathways for cyclists, including specially designated “bicycle boulevards.” Portland also has the highest percentage of bike commuters to work at 7 percent. Its bike share program includes more than 1,000 smart bicycles.

#3 San Francisco, Calif.

San Francisco provides more than 200 miles of bike lines and low-traffic streets for cyclists, including a raised protective lane on one of the busiest thoroughfares. Many bike racks and garages are provided for commuters throughout the city, and locals have access to a bike sharing program as well. In 2016, San Francisco was named the second most bike-friendly city in the country by Bicycling magazine.

#4 New York City, N.Y.

New York City’s public parks are known for their policies to prohibit vehicle traffic during certain hours and on weekends, making them safer for cyclists. In addition, this highly populated metropolis provides 250 miles of dedicated bike paths, a bike sharing program and other cycling facilities. Approximately 200,000 New Yorkers cycle to work every day, and half a million people bike to work more than twice a month.

#5 Detroit, Mich.

The city of Detroit supports efforts to promote bike tours. Dedicated bike lanes can be found around the city’s best attractions and other heavily trafficked areas, which provide safety as well as recreation for cyclists and tourists. In addition, public and private projects are underway to connect Detroit to other locations in Michigan and Canada, making it easier for cyclists to travel longer distances by bike.

#6 Cincinnati, Ohio

This city has approximately 60 miles of trails and pathways in addition to 250 miles of roads that have been made more bike friendly in recent years. Hundreds of bike racks and garages can be found throughout the city. The Cincinnati city government is dedicated to making biking a more viable transportation option for commuters as well as recreational cyclists. Part of the local cycling infrastructure includes plenty of signage to make vehicles more aware of road sharing and bike lanes.

#7 Philadelphia, Penn.

This city has more miles of bike lanes and paths than almost any other U.S. city at 435 miles. A bike sharing program is great for commuters, and for recreational cyclists, the city promotes a boardwalk over Schuylkill River and waterfront bike paths. A network of 750 miles of bike trails is in the works with about 300 miles completed so far.

#8 Boulder, Colo.

Boulder helps ensure that cyclists stay safe with its city-wide anti-theft program. There are 300 miles of bike lines and paths, a network that has been built up over the years by an active biking community. Home to outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds, Boulder features many winding paths for recreational cyclists as well as protected underpasses for commuters within the city.

#9 Austin, Texas

While Austin is a great bike friendly city for commuters to work, the city has taken special efforts to promote bike tourism. Cycling maps are available throughout Austin, and the downtown area has four major bike paths. Hundreds of miles of dedicated bike lanes and plenty of bike racks make the city convenient for cyclists. In 2015, Austin was given gold status on the League of American Bicyclists’ list of Bicycle Friendly Communities, making it the only city in Texas with that designation. The city government’s Bicycle Master Plan is dedicated to making the city even safer for cyclists and growing the local biking community.

#10 Chicago, Ill.

In 2016, Bicycling magazine named Chicago the Best Bike City in America. Commuters have access to 200 miles of paths and trails, and recreational cyclists can enjoy a 20-mile trail along Lake Michigan. Chicago is proud to offer thousands of bike racks and parking garages and other cycling infrastructure, especially alongside rail stations to make longer trips easier for bike commuters. The local government also has programs in place to educate the public about bike safety and awareness. By 2020, Chicago plans to have more than 600 miles of dedicated bike lanes in place so that residents in high ridership areas will have more resources.

Methodology

Locals who have a network of bike paths, parking racks and other resources in their community are more likely to bike for work commuting, recreation and health. To develop our list of the Top 10 Most Bike Friendly Cities in the U.S., we looked at cities with bike sharing programs, protected bike lanes and other infrastructure designed to support cyclists.

To learn about more bike friendly cities, see BikingExpert.com’s 75 most bike friendly cities in the world.

About the author

BikingExpert.com was created to share knowledge about biking — from learning how to bike to recommending certain types of bikes for any occasions.

 

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$10 Million in Rural Broadband Grants Available

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 12:51

Local governments and non-profit organizations in eligible areas that lack any existing broadband speed of at least 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream (download plus upload) can apply for rural broadband grants from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Community Connect Grants by March 13, 2017.

Grant awards will range from $100,000 up to $3 million. Matching funds of 15 percent — from non-federal sources — are required.

The opportunity is for communities that do not have private sector providers that deliver rural broadband service.

USDA has funding to help rural communities construct, acquire or lease facilities, spectrum, land or buildings used to deploy broadband service to residences, business customers and community facilities like public schools, fire stations and public libraries.

Individual awards can also be used to provide broadband service free of charge to critical community facilities for up to two years.

Find out if your community is eligible by using USDA’s online Broadband Program Mapping Tool.

Review a 2017 webinar presentation on Community Connect Grant Program eligibility and requirements.

Learn more about these rural broadband grants and apply on Grants.gov.

Read about what it takes to provide and operate municipal broadband:

What is Necessary for Successful Municipal Broadband Internet Service?

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King County Parks Tests 311 App for Parks & Trails

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 17:12

KING COUNTY, WASH. — Whether it’s a fallen tree, graffiti or a damaged sign, visitors to any of King County Parks’ 200 parks or 175 miles of regional trails can now quickly report the problem and easily track its resolution, thanks to a free app called SeeClickFix.

A partnership between Parks and SeeClickFix, a leading digital communications system company, lets parks and trails visitors be the eyes and ears on the ground, identifying issues or requesting repairs, using locational, descriptive and photographic information.

King County Parks is piloting this tool over the next several months with the goal of streamlining incoming service requests and improve communications with the public.

Continue reading the story on the county’s website.

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Are Cities Implementing Heart Health Policies?

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 16:41

As part of its heart health mission, the American Heart Association (AHA) is looking at how cities measure up when it comes to health policies. More than half of the largest U.S. cities don’t have the policies in place to improve health, according to an AHA partner.

The news is based on the recent CityHealth Initiative analysis by the de Beaumont Foundation, which looked at public health policies of the 40 largest U.S. cities from Dec. 29, 2014-June 10, 2016. City health studies typically compare death and obesity rates, but the foundation is looking upstream at the inherent factors that contribute to higher rates — factors that municipal policies can help address.

While CityHealth showed some cities are making progress toward meeting AHA recommendations in:

  • Healthy food options
  • Tobacco prevention
  • ‘Complete streets’ actions, which are health policies that support walking and biking on streets

Only 19 cities analyzed rated gold, silver or bronze medals on the initiative’s two-year old scale, which looks at nine policy areas overall. In addition to the AHA-recommended health policy categories, CityHealth also looks at how cities address clean indoor air, alcohol sales control, food safety and restaurant inspections, affordable housing, high-quality pre-kindergarten access and paid sick leave.

Twenty-one of the cities earned three or fewer individual medals in the nine health policy areas.

“Cities across the nation should focus on heart-healthy policy change in all neighborhoods to move their communities forward. Walkable, smoke-free communities with access to healthy foods ensure that families can live healthier lives,” said Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., chief medical officer for prevention and chief of the Center for Health Metrics and Evaluation for AHA.

Tobacco 21 Ordinances

While 36 of the cities have some form of smoke-free air laws, only 13 cities earned medals for having laws that restrict people under 21 from buying tobacco.

A closer look at the CityHealth research protocol and policy document for Tobacco 21 laws revealed that CityHealth used the Westlaw database to search relevant city ordinances.

According to CityHealth, raising the minimum legal sale age of tobacco products to 21 reduces lifelong usage rates.

Research shows that raising the tobacco sales minimum age to 21 years would decrease tobacco retailer and industry sales by approximately 2 percent but could contribute to a substantial reduction in tobacco use and addiction,” according to the foundation’s Tobacco 21 policy breakdown document.

Citing research by the National Academy of Medicine, Tobacco 21 policies account for a 25 percent decline in smoking initiation by 15-17 year olds, and a 12 percent drop in overall smoking rates.

Within five years, 16,000 pre-term birth and low-birth weight cases could be averted. And over 50 years, more than $212 billion could be saved in tobacco-related medical and other costs.

Connected Policies Improve Public Health

It’s not just one policy that earns the CityHealth gold standard. It’s a mix of factors that make it city life healthier.

“The ability to eat in a restaurant that doesn’t expose you to second-hand smoke is important, just as it’s important to know the food is safe before you go into that restaurant. Eating healthy food in a city facility is important, but so is your ability to walk to that facility or school,” said  Ed Hunter, president and chief executive of the de Beaumont Foundation.

Cities that received five or more CityHealth individual gold medals received a gold medal overall–those cities are Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C. Cities like Philadelphia and several in California received silver overall medals overall, and places like Denver and Kansas, City, Mo., earned bronze overall medals.

The foundation will monitor the progress of the 40 cities analyzed over the next three years and are offering technical assistance to each city to help it improve its health policies.

Read the original story on the AHA website.

 

Congrats to all cities recognized for #CityHealth heart-healthy policies! https://t.co/HTKcXskmfl @city_health @NACCHOalerts pic.twitter.com/4rFmsVDhkd

— American Heart News (@HeartNews) February 16, 2017

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Politico Survey: Mayors’ Frustrations with Trump Agenda

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 09:59

Politico completed it’s eight annual mayor’s survey and reported that the hot-button issues under the new administration for the mayors surveyed were housing, education, replacing aging sewer pipes to comply with federal water quality rules and health. Overall, the Trump agenda — for the mostly Democratic mayor respondents — was cause for concern in the two weeks prior to the inauguration.

“Few issues raise alarms with mayors as loudly as the threatened repeal of Obamacare,” wrote Politico’s Brent Griffiths.

He said the anonymous, unscientific survey polled a mixture of 46 (42 Democrats and 4 Republicans) mayors from big cities, college towns and urban centers. A full 74 percent indicated the repeal — which has since been set in motion — would not go well, selecting they believed it would be a “complete disaster.”

Here is a summary of the results:

Health Top Priorities

#1 Drug addiction

#2 Lack of health insurance

#3 (tie) Gun violence and obesity

School’s Top Issue

Universal pre-K

Preferred Fix for the National Highway Transportation Fund

Raise the gas tax (President Bill Clinton was the last to raise it)

Preferred Fox for Combined Sewer Overflows

Fix them with Federal funding support and keep the regulations.

 

When asked what they would tell the president, mayors largely asked the president to listen to them and to work together, but they are also deeply concerned that Trump’s priorities conflict with their own visions,” wrote Griffiths.

 

The mayors that participated in Politico’s survey are:

C. Kim Bracey, York, Pa.; Noam Bramson, New Rochelle, N.Y.; Marni Sawicki, Cape Coral, Fla.; Betsy Hodges, Minneapolis; John Marchione, Redmond, Wash.; Larry Wolgast, Topeka, Kan.; William Capote, Palm Bay, Fla.; Elizabeth Tisdahl, Evanston, Ill.; Jon Mitchell, New Bedford, Mass.; Javier M. Gonzales, Santa Fe, N.M.; Helene Schneider, Santa Barbara, Calif.; Pauline Cutter, San Leandro, Calif.; Acquanetta Warren, Fontana, Calif.; Nan Whaley, Dayton, Ohio; Adrian Mapp, Plainfield, N.J.; Bob Buckhorn, Tampa, Fla.; Steve Adler, Austin, Texas; Mike Spano, Yonkers, N.Y.; Jeri Muoio, West Palm Beach, Fla.; Claudia Bill-de la Peña, Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Betsy Price, Fort Worth, Texas; Paul Dyster, Niagara Falls, N.Y.; Esther E. Manheimer, Asheville, N.C.; Paul R. Soglin, Madison, Wisc.; Stephanie A. Miner, Syracuse, N.Y.; Jonathan Rothschild, Tucson, Ariz.; Dana L. Redd, Camden, N.J.; Kathy Sheehan, Albany, N.Y.; George Van Dusen, Skokie, Ill.; Karen Freeman-Wilson, Gary, Ind.; Andrew Gillum, Tallahassee, Fla.; Andy Berke, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Marty Walsh, Boston; Madeline Rogero, Knoxville, Tenn.; Marilyn Strickland, Tacoma, Wash.; Robert Garcia, Long Beach, Calif.; Edwin M. Lee, San Francisco; Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles; Jim Kenney, Philadelphia; Ed Murray, Seattle; Alan Arakawa, Maui County, Hawaii; Mike Rawlings, Dallas; Toni N. Harp, New Haven, Conn.; Mark Stodola, Little Rock, Ark.; Denny Doyle, Beaverton, Ore.; Joseph M. Petty, Worcester, Mass.

Read the full story on Politico’s website.

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3 Presidents You Didn’t Know Were Mayors

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 09:52

President Calvin Coolidge Served Many City Offices

As mayor of Northampton, Mass. from 1910-1911, President Coolidge political rise was “methodical and steady.” Coolidge was one of the few American presidents to start their political careers by serving on city council.

Coolidge was a Vermonter than went to Amherst College, graduating cum laude and earning oratory and literary prizes. He stayed in Northhampton and began practicing law, and got involved with local Republican politics. After serving city council, he became city solicitor in 1900, won county clerk in 1903 and was elected to the Massachusetts state legislature 1906.

In 1912, he was elected to the Massachusetts Senate, serving as senate president in 1914, became the lieutenant governor in 1916 and was elected Governor in 1918. He was elected vice president under Warren G. Harding in 1920, and when President Harding died of a heart attack in 1923, “Silent Cal” became president and was elected to second term.

Source: Miller Center, University of Virginia

President Grover Cleveland Exposed City Corruption

As mayor of Buffalo, N.Y. from 1881-1882, President Cleveland was so popular, he was nominated to run for governor, which he served for nearly two years before being elected president in 1884.

“In one year, Mayor Cleveland exposed graft and corruption in the city’s municipal services (street cleaning, sewage and transportation), vetoed dozens of pork-barrel appropriations and set a pace for hard work and efficiency that impressed state leaders in the Democratic Party.”

He served as sheriff of Erie County from 1870-1873, but was practicing law when the Democratic Party tapped him as a “fresh face” to run for Buffalo’s mayor.

Source: Miller Center, University of Virginia

President Andrew Johnson Career Politician

As mayor of Greeneville, Tenn., from 1830-1833, the almost-impeached President Johnson spent the longest time of any POTUS as mayor. He was a “Jacksonian Democrat” alderman, then a mayor known for his sharp debate skill, wit and ability to please local crowds.

“He gained the support of local mechanics, artisans and rural folk with his common-man, tell-it-like-it-is style,” according to the Miller Center.

He then served as a U.S. Congressman, Tennessee Governor and U.S. Senator. Though Tennessee had succeeded from the union, Johnson was the only anti-abolitionist and southern senator to retain his seat, so President Abraham Lincoln appointed him Tennessee military governor.

With a national election approaching, Lincoln asked Johnson to join a bi-partisan ticket as vice president because he was southern senator that was committed to keeping the union together. Johnson became president when Lincoln was assassinated in his second term, but the Democratic party did not nominate Johnson for further service. Tennessee then voted him back into the U.S. Senate for a second time.

Source: Prairie Roots Center

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The New Civics 101: How to Spot Fake News

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 17:23

ASSOCIATED PRESS

By Carolyn Thompson

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. — Teachers from elementary school through college are telling students how to distinguish between factual and fictional news — and why they should care that there’s a difference.

As Facebook works with The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and other organizations to curb the spread of fake and misleading news on its influential network, teachers say classroom instruction can play a role in deflating the kind of “Pope endorses Trump ” headlines that muddied the waters during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I think only education can solve this problem,” said Pat Winters Lauro, a professor at New Jersey’s Kean University who began teaching a course on news literacy this semester.

Like others, Lauro has found discussions of fake news can lead to politically sensitive territory. Some critics believe fake stories targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton helped Donald Trump overcome a deficit in public opinion polls, and President Trump himself has attached the label to various media outlets and unfavorable reports and polls in the first weeks of his presidency.

“It hasn’t been a difficult topic to teach in terms of material because there’s so much going on out there,” Lauro said, “but it’s difficult in terms of politics because we have such a divided country and the students are divided, too, on their beliefs. I’m afraid sometimes that they think I’m being political when really I’m just talking about journalistic standards for facts and verification, and they look at it like ‘Oh, you’re anti-this or -that.'”

Judging what to trust was easier when the sources were clearer — magazines, newspapers or something else, said Kean senior Mike Roche, who is taking Lauro’s class. Now “it all comes through the same medium of your cellphone or your computer, so it’s very easy to blur the lines and not have a clear distinction of what’s real and what’s fake,” he said.

A California lawmaker last month introduced a bill to require the state to add lessons on how to distinguish between real and fake news to the grade 7-12 curriculum.

High school government and politics teacher Lesley Battaglia added fake news to the usual election-season lessons on primaries and presidential debates, discussing credible sites and sources and running stories through fact-checking sites like Snopes. There were also lessons about anonymous sources and satire. (They got a kick out of China’s dissemination of a 2012 satirical story from The Onion naming Kim Jong Un as the sexiest man alive.)

“I’m making you guys do the hard stuff that not everybody always does. They see it in a tweet and that’s enough for them,” Battaglia told her students at Williamsville South High School in suburban Buffalo.

“It’s kind of crazy,” 17-year-old student Hannah Mercer said, “to think about how much it’s affecting people and swaying their opinions.”

Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy pioneered the idea of educating future news consumers, and not just journalists, a decade ago with the rise of online news. About four in 10 Americans often get news online, a 2016 Pew Research Center report found. Stony Brook last month partnered with the University of Hong Kong to launch a free online course.

“To me, it’s the new civics course,” said Tom Boll, after wrapping up his own course on real and fake news at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. With everyone now able to post and share, gone are the days of the network news and newspaper editors serving as the primary gatekeepers of information, Boll, an adjunct professor, said.

“The gates are wide open,” he said, “and it’s up to us to figure out what to believe.”

That’s not easy, said Raleigh, North Carolina-area teacher Bill Ferriter, who encourages students to first use common sense to question whether a story could be true, to look at web addresses and authors for hints, and to be skeptical of articles that seem aimed at riling them up.

He pointed to an authentic-looking site reporting that President Barack Obama signed an order in December banning the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. A “.co” at the end of an impostor news site web address should have been a red flag, he said.

“The biggest challenge that I have whenever I try to teach kids about questionable content on the web,” said Ferriter, who teaches sixth grade, “is convincing them that there is such a thing as questionable content on the web.”

Some of Battaglia’s students fear fake news will chip away at the trust of even credible news sources and give public figures license to dismiss as fake news anything unfavorable.

“When people start to distrust all news sources is when people in power are just allowed to do whatever they want, said Katie Peter, “and that’s very scary.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Coffee Shop Trains Disabled Young Adults for Jobs

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 17:17

PEABODY, MASS. – Through the Massachusetts Turning 22 program, Northshore Arc — which provides job training services and support annually to more than 10,000 disabled people — has opened a new cafe on Main Street in downtown Peabody to train disabled young adults.

Breaking Grounds Cafe employs people with intellectual and physical disabilities to help become participants in the community.

According to the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, Massachusetts spent $7.6 million on Turning 22 last year, but this year Governor Charlie Baker proposed more than $21 million for Turning 22 in the preliminary budget.

Kids that receive special education due to a wide range of disabilities become ineligible for school programs and services at age 22. The Turning 22 funding helps them transition into the adult service system.

Sometimes parents of disabled young adults have to leave their jobs to take care of their adult children, and they can end up isolated from peers at home with nothing to do.

Local agencies like Northshore Arc run workshops, housing programs and services to help disabled young adults achieve a meaningful life.

Tim Brown, director of innovation and strategy for Northshore Arc, told Fox25 news that the cafe is designed to provide basic training and food service experience that leads to permanent hospitality and customer service jobs in the community.

In addition to a range of beverages there are sandwiches, outdoor seating and there will be music on Friday nights.

 

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Mass. Gov Offers Insights on ACA Replacement for Healthcare

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 12:45

LOWELL, MASS. — Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker spoke with LowellSun reporters about aspects of the state’s healthcare experience — including before and during the Affordable Care Act law — and what insights he offered the Federal government on an ACA replacement plan.

One result of ACA was 350,000 working people, who used to be covered by their employers’ health plans, went onto the state’s health plan, MassHealth. Before ACA, MassHealth was a health insurance program for unemployed people and children that do not have access to health insurance — Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) combined as the state’s healthcare safety net.

That plan, along with the state’s ACA healthcare marketplace the Health Connector, was leveraged when healthcare reform went into effect beginning in 2014.

Flight of Massachusetts Workers to Medicaid Under ACA

One attendee at the talk noted that a former employer offered a stipend to employees that opted to go on MassHealth (the “opt-out” option), instead of joining the company’s group policy. That was allowed under federal law, Baker said.

Baker explained that in two years under ACA, MassHealth went from serving about 19 percent to 26 percent of the people in Massachusetts with health insurance coverage, while employer plans went from serving 56 percent to 49 percent of the covered population. That was also exacerbated when the “Connector broke,” a problem he inherited when he became governor in January, 2015.

“Those two numbers moved exactly in tandem with each other,” said Baker, who noted that the state is dealing with “month-over-month-over-month” movement of people going off private coverage and going on the state’s Medicaid/CHIP program under ACA, which now accounts for about 40 percent of the state’s budget.

The data also shows a significant drop in employer-based coverage opportunities, and the total number of people covered by health insurance in Massachusetts hasn’t changed much at all, he said.

It used to be that Massachusetts’ employers could pay into the Health Connector, and their employees could go on it and buy a plan. The state operated the Massachusetts Insurance Partnership after the state passed a health care reform law in 2006. That was an option for smaller businesses challenged to establish and fund group insurance plans for their employees. Under ACA, Massachusetts small businesses were referred to the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) marketplace.

What Baker Recommends

In a very-detailed, 9-page letter Baker sent to House Majority California Representative Kevin McCarthy last month — which defended parts of the ACA — the Governor indicated Massachusetts would like the flexibility to return to a structure similar to what Baker said worked for the state before ACA. His key point:

“I think if we go back to the firewall, gave people the ability for employers to offer pre-tax funding to people who bought plans through the Connector, gave people the ability to pay with pre-tax money to purchase plans through the Connector, I think we could deal with this and make sure people are covered and have insurance,” and stop the state’s bleeding on this issue.

Baker’s third annual budget reportedly includes a $997 million increase for MassHealth, along with proposed reforms intended to control costs. One of those reforms is an assessment on employers with 11 or more workers who do not offer health insurance.

In the late 1990s, the Massachusetts Insurance Commissioner, the late Linda Ruthardt, appointed Baker chief executive officer (CEO) to Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare to oversee it’s receivership as insolvency loomed.

It didn’t go bankrupt. While CEO, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare’s membership rose from 750,000 to more than 1 million subscribers.

Read the coverage and watch the video from the talk.

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Court Rules Lexington, Ky., Violated Panhandler Right

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 16:41

FRANKFORT, KY. — A panhandler cited for defying a city ordinance while holding a sign asking for money won his case before the Kentucky Supreme Court, which ruled his free speech rights were violated.

The court on Thursday released its unanimous opinion striking down the decade-old panhandling ordinance in Lexington. The local law prohibited begging along public streets and intersections in the state’s second-largest city.

The justices ruled that the ordinance singled out a particular type of speech for criminal prosecution — begging — while allowing other forms of speech.

Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr., who wrote the opinion, said the “true beauty” of the First Amendment is it “treats both Cicero and the vagabond as equals.”

“Someone standing at a prominent Lexington intersection displaying a sign that reads ‘Jesus loves you,’ or one that says ‘Not my President’ has no fear of criminal liability under the ordinance,” Minton wrote. “But another person displaying a sign on public streets reading ‘Homeless please help’ may be convicted of a misdemeanor.”

He said there is “rarely a constitutionally valid reason for the government to filter the topics for public discourse.”

The court’s ruling came in the case of Dennis Champion, whom police cited in 2014 for holding a homemade sign asking for money at a busy Lexington intersection.

Lexington police issued 327 citations for violating the city’s panhandling ordinance in 2015, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. From January to Sept. 31, 2016, Lexington police issued 195 citations, it said, according to data provided by Lexington police.

In its ruling, the court returned Champion’s case to the local court and directed that the charge against him be dismissed.

Lexington officials had said the ordinance was aimed at promoting public safety and ensuring free flow of traffic.

The city also said it has a compelling interest in regulating interactions between pedestrians and motorists.

The Supreme Court said there are “content-neutral ways” the city could achieve the same goals without violating free speech rights.

“For instance, Lexington could prohibit all individuals from approaching stopped motorists — this more directly targets the behavior the city seeks to alleviate and does so without regard to why an individual steps into traffic,” Minton wrote.

Responding to the ruling, city spokeswoman Susan Straub said: “With people asking for help at our intersections, safety has always been our primary concern. We will carefully examine options and work on a strategy that puts safety first for everyone involved.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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