Local officials from Alabama and Florida traveled to the White House Thursday to discuss a variety of issues impacting their areas. The State Leadership Day offered the elected leaders a chance to talk about their shared priorities among themselves and with federal leaders when it comes to issues like infrastructure, disaster recovery and the opioid crisis. "We can all work together to find results," Commissioner Vanessa Baugh of Bradenton County, Fla., said. "That's what's so exciting about it. It's a great partnership." Director of National Drug Policy, James Carroll, talked to the elected officials about the national initiatives in place to help quell the opioid crisis and tackle recent vaping illnesses.
Red tide algae showed up in test samples again this week, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s weekly report. The microscopic red-tide causing phytoplankton known as Karenia brevis tested positive in high concentrations off the shores of Collier County, and medium concentrations in multiple sites of Lee County, the FWC said. At that level, the FWC said red tide can lead to respiratory irritation for humans, water discoloration and marine life deaths because of the lack of oxygen in the water. Over 40 fish kills associated with red tide algae blooms have been reported since the end of September in Collier and Lee counties with the majority found around Naples, Sanibel and Marco Island waters, FWC showed.
With little room left to widen roads to reduce congestion, Broward County is turning to artificial intelligence to shorten commuter drive times. The county is building a network of cameras and sensors on its roads that will quickly adjust signals to reduce delays as changing traffic patterns are detected. It’s also feeding that intersection information — along with data from traffic apps like Waze and city information on road closures — into a “county brain.” That data repository will analyze what’s happening on the roads to help planners determine where turn-lane changes or other road projects could improve traffic flow. The technology also can be used to make crossing streets safer for pedestrians, let people waiting for a bus use their smartphones to know when theirs will arrive, and connect with automobile computers so drivers will know how long before the red light they’re at turns green.
When the smoke cleared after the Great Recession, the home builders who survived were in a surprisingly strong position. They had fewer competitors and more power in their local markets. They have since built on that advantage, consolidating until many markets are controlled by just a few builders. Their power has exacerbated the country’s affordable-housing crisis, some economists say. U.S. housing debates rarely involve the “O” word. But oligopolies, a cousin of monopolies in which a few powerful players corner the market, are emerging everywhere. From 2006 to 2015, the number of builders who controlled 90% of a typical market dropped by a quarter, according to a recent working paper by economists Luis Quintero and Jacob Cosman of Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins.
Florida is developing a plan to tap into as much as $633 million in federal money to help prepare for future storms. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday that the Department of Economic Opportunity will coordinate the multi-agency effort to maximize what Florida can receive from $18 billion in disaster mitigation money Congress approved last year to help states and U.S. territories affected by 2016 and 2017 disasters. The money is intended for projects like hardening utility lines and structures in disaster-prone areas. Florida is guaranteed to receive at least $317 million once it submits a plan.