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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The twin crises of coronavirus and systemic racism in policing have suddenly turned the national spotlight on local governments, and are forcing local leaders to make many of the most important decisions in the country.

Between the lines: Elected city leaders — many of whom do the jobs on a part-time basis — certainly weren't prepared to respond to multiple crises at once. But they have no choice.

Where it stood: For years, national narratives have dominated and overshadowed local agendas.

  • National political fights have subsumed state and local issues, and with local media gutted, readers have been left primarily with national news from Washington and New York, with less understanding of their own communities.
  • High-value industries consolidated along the coasts, draining the inland states of jobs and workers. And the economy's health has been measured with national statistics, often ignoring those being left behind.

Where it stands: Now, though, local governments are calling the shots that will have far-reaching ramifications for Americans, from re-opening their economies amid the coronavirus pandemic, to reforming police departments and responding to protests. And they're back in the spotlight as a result.

  • The crises facing cities are inherently local, requiring a detailed, block-by-block understanding of neighborhoods' needs.
  • COVID-19 has affected communities of color at alarmingly high rates. Police are under fire for mistreating many of those same communities. And lower-income workers have borne the brunt of job losses as local economies have crumbled.

"One consequence of this pandemic is the clear message that cities, and to some extent states, are on their own," said Peter Atwater, an adjunct lecturer at William & Mary who studies the impact of confidence in decision making.

  • "It speaks to inequality broadly, and a sense of voicelessness that goes along with that. You have massive amounts of people unemployed, furloughed, in limbo. Psychologically, people are drowning," he said.

What to watch: The power lies in grassroots momentum, applying pressure to leaders who are close enough to feel it.

  • "Our residents are becoming more concerned about how their local communities are governed," National League of Cities CEO Clarence Anthony said. "As much as they feel they don't have an impact on national policy, they clearly feel they can have an impact on their neighborhood."
  • "This is likely to lead to a massive change in American voice," Atwater said. "Grassroots community civic leaders are the ones that come up from the bottom, who will gain a growing and growing following."

Go deeper

SurveyMonkey poll: Suburbs and the safety wedge

Data: SurveyMonkey poll of 35,732 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 31 to Sept. 6, 2020 with ±1% margin of error; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

White suburbanites who feel "very safe" in their communities are more likely to favor Joe Biden, while those who feel only somewhat safe move toward President Trump, according to new SurveyMonkey polling for Axios.

Why it matters: The findings help illuminate how Trump is using safety as a wedge issue ahead of the election — and why he's fanning fears of violent protests bleeding into the suburbs.

Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults

A vaccination center installed at the Barbara Chapel of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP via Getty Images

Austria's lower house of parliament voted on Thursday in favor of making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for most adults from next month.

Why it matters: The bill is expected to soon pass the upper house and be signed by President Alexander Van der Bellen in order for the law to take effect Feb. 1, per Reuters. It'd make Austria the first EU nation to impose such a sweeping mandate.

Hope King, author of Closer
Updated 3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Peloton pumps its brakes

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Peloton’s popularity is falling as swiftly as it shot up.

Why it matters: Not all pandemic habits stick around. Peloton's trajectory over the past two years exemplifies how challenging it's been for companies to gauge shifts in consumer demand — particularly in sectors heavily altered by the pandemic.