Above the Fold 04.20.09

How much is Texas worth?…Join the jobless club, your neighbors have…How an ant feels when you take a hose to the hill…Techies rejoice in the hands of the great Aneesh…The FBI likes to collect things: 6.7 million DNA profiles and growing…The danger lying in wait on the northern border…Some states lack size, transparency…

The New York Times this weekend reported on a story that’s been brewing since tea party / teabag tax day, April 15. Texas Governor Rick Perry voiced his empathy for those mad-as-hell Texans who were protesting big government and taxes by saying, “When we came into the Union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that. My hope is that America, and Washington in particular, pay attention. We’ve got a great Union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that?” Although Las Vegas will never take that bet at under 100:1 and anyone trying to make rent or car payments could give a toss, there are two interesting postscripts. eBay was selling Texas for $99 million on Saturday (it’s since been taken down by eBay admin) and according to a story in the Dallas Morning News, House Democrats are playing hardball with the governor over stimulus funds: take them or we’re nixing your operating budget for the next two years ($22 million).

The Wall Street Journal reports that the number of jobless have climbed in 46 states during the month of March, according to new numbers from the Labor Department. Forty-eight states and D.C. posted payroll declines – North Dakota and Mississippi both added a few hundred jobs in March. While Michigan again posted the highest unemployment rate at 12.6%, the new surprise came from California who posted an 11.2% unemployment rate and North Carolina whose rate rose to 10.8%, records for both states.

Wooden water mains still in use in some places of Washington, South Dakota, Alaska and Pennsylvania offer stark reminders of just how badly the United States’ water infrastructure needs an overhaul, the New York Times reports. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers says about 240,000 breaks each year and the number is growing. The Recovery Act provides $6 billion for water projects, but the EPA estimates that the nation’s drinking water system will require an investment of $334.8 billion over the next twenty years. Check out this video of a recent break in Maryland, late last year.

Virginia’s own Aneesh Chopra has been tapped by President Barack Obama to be the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer, the Washington Post says. The announcement came in the President’s weekly radio and Internet address to the nation. “Aneesh will promote technological innovation to help achieve our most urgent priorities — from creating jobs and reducing health-care costs to keeping our nation secure,” Obama. The new technology officer will work alongside newly announced chief performance officer, Jeffrey Zients and Vivek Kundra, Obama’s chief information officer, to develop an overall technology policy.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and fifteen states are combining efforts to collect DNA samples from those awaiting trial and detained immigrants, the New York Times reported this weekend. A debate is building between those who believe the DNA samples will help convict more criminals and exonerate those who were wrongfully convicted, and those who worry about the Fourth Amendment. The FBI’s current database holds 6.7 million profiles and the number is expected to increase by 1.2 million per year by 2012.

The city of Pittsburgh has announced plans to eliminate no-bid contracting, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The overall goal is that each of these professional service contracts will have some sort of competitive process, so the taxpayer gets the best value,” said city Finance Director Scott Kunka. “There’s going to be more work [involved in contract awards], but we think that in the long run, it’s going to serve the taxpayers, and the business community, better.”

Government contractors who may or may not be using illegal immigrants as hired hands can breath a sigh of relief. The Obama administration pushed back the date that all government contractors have to comply with E-Verify, a rule that verifies all employees of a federal contractor are legally able to work in the country. The Federal Register says June 30 is the new deadline, but a court case involving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may see the regulation pushed back a fourth time according to some industry observers. Check out the Federal Times story for more details.

Hearst Newspapers – a syndication used by state and local newspapers – reports this morning that increased surveillance along the Canadian border has yielded lackluster results. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arm of Homeland Security has seen its budget double and its core multiply by a factor of five, but critics argue all CBP created is a backlog of meaningless court cases. “The muddling of counter-terrorism and immigration enforcement is the single biggest mistake we’ve made since 9/11,” said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations.

In the new issue of Federal Computer Week, Alice Lipowicz has a small blurb about how the states are doing with their own Recovery.gov websites. All 50 states have dedicated websites, linked to Recovery.gov, but some of them are not much more than wallpapper. This week CivSource will profile a few of the states to see who’s ahead of the crowd in transparency and accountability.

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