April 12, 2023

🐪 Happy Wednesday! Smart Brevity™ count: 1,285 words ... 5 mins. Edited by Kate Nocera.

🚨 Politico's Ryan Heath will join Axios as global technology correspondent to cover AI and other transformative technologies reshaping our world, alongside Axios chief technology correspondent Ina Fried.

  • At Politico, Ryan created the Brussels and Davos Playbooks, the Global Insider newsletter and podcast, and was editorial director of Politico Live.

Ina reports from San Francisco and Ryan lives in New York, giving our expert coverage a new bicoastal punch.

1 big thing: Suburban housing war

Illustration: Trent Joaquin/Axios

State and local governments across the country are trying to alleviate housing shortages by allowing denser development in areas dominated by single-family homes, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports.

  • Why it matters: That has sparked a backlash from many current homeowners — who like their neighborhoods the way they are.

What's happening: Low-density neighborhoods are often zoned so that only single-family homes can be built there. Advocates are pushing local governments to loosen those rules and allow multiple types of housing.

  • "There certainly is a widespread fear of housing becoming increasingly unaffordable to a large share of the population, and the remedy that is being discussed nationwide [is] changing zoning rules," said Yonah Freemark, a researcher at the Urban Institute.
  • Changing zoning laws is an especially attractive option because it can increase supply at no cost to the government, Freemark said.

Case in point: Arlington County, Va., has been mired in a fierce debate over proposals to allow more "missing middle" housing — buildings like duplexes that aren't single-family homes or large apartment complexes.

  • The county board decided to allow more of that construction, despite loud opposition from some homeowners.
  • Nearby Alexandria launched its own initiative to examine and change its zoning code.

The other side: Some opponents fear the changes could harm existing homeowners through deflated property values and increased stress on infrastructure.

  • They've successfully blocked some rezoning efforts. Arizona's housing push died in the state Senate, although reform supporters are still pushing alternative proposals, Axios Phoenix reports.

👀 What we're watching: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul's housing plan — which includes new housing targets and rezoning measures — is being applauded by supporters as an ambitious approach to the state's housing problems, but comes with major political risk.

  • Some see it "as the policy equivalent of an extinction-level event and a bizarrely self-defeating move from a governor who risks permanently alienating the suburban voters she’ll need to win reelection in three years," Bloomberg reported.

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2. ⚖️ Bragg strikes back

Alvin Bragg speaks after former President Trump's indictment last week. Photo: Manhattan District Attorney Office via Reuters

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has gone public with details of death threats and what he calls "violent and racist vitriol" from Trump allies in the week since the former president was indicted.

  • The raw revelations are contained in an unusual 50-page lawsuit Bragg filed yesterday aimed at House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
  • The suit says the D.A.'s office has received more than 1,000 calls and emails from Trump supporters — "many of which are threatening and racially charged."

Why it matters: The lawsuit is part of the prosecutor's ferocious resistance to GOP efforts to call him to testify, Axios' Stef Kight and Sophia Cai report.

Between the lines: It sometimes took House Democrats years to enforce their subpoenas in various Trump investigations. Now this lawsuit could slow down GOP efforts to investigate Bragg.

  • The suit attempts to block Republicans from demanding certain documents and subpoenaing witness testimony about Bragg's work.
  • The judge in the subpoena case, U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, denied Bragg lawyers' request for a temporary restraining order.

Alyssa DaCunha, co-chair of WilmerHale's congressional investigations practice, predicted the Bragg suit unlikely to prevail, but told Axios it would take time and tie up House Judiciary resources.

  • Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean tweeted: "Brilliant move by DA Bragg to block frivolous subpoenas from House Judiciary Committee by seeking a declaratory judgment in the US District Court" in the Southern District of New York.

Jordan told Fox News "Special Report" anchor Bret Baier: "They are obstructing our constitutional duty to do oversight."

  • Jordan added his committee is planning legislation that would require future, similar cases to be moved to a federal court.

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3. 🐊 Trump says he'll run even if convicted

Screenshot: Fox News

Fox News' Tucker Carlson, during an interview at Mar-a-Lago that aired last night, asked former President Trump: "Is there anything they could throw at you legally that would convince you to drop out of the race — if you get convicted in this case in New York?"

  • Trump replied: "No, I'd never drop out — it's not my thing. I wouldn't do it."

On Biden, 80, running in '24: "I don't see how it's possible."

  • "And it's not an age thing," said Trump, 76. "I have friends that are 88, 89, 92. ... But there's something wrong. ... I don't think he can."
  • Watch the video.

4. 🇮🇪 1,000 words: Biden in Belfast

Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

President Biden starts a three-day visit to his ancestral home of Ireland, meeting this morning with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

5. 🔋 Biden's big EV rules

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The White House has adopted a nuanced posture with its climate rules for vehicles: The proposed regulations ride the currents of existing market trends while forcing the industry to go further, Ben Geman writes in Axios Generate.

  • Why it matters: The EPA draft is aimed at accelerating growth of electric vehicles to fight climate change.

🧠 How it works: The rules set CO2 limits for cars, SUVs and pickups for model years 2027-2032, and heavy-duty vehicles for the same period.

  • They don't mandate specific tech, but instead set declining limits on fleet-wide grams of CO2 per mile.
  • However, they're strict enough to effectively require far more EVs, in addition to better efficiency of gas-powered models.

🧮 By the numbers: The EPA estimates its main proposal would mean EVs rising to 60% of light-duty sales — sedans, SUVs, pickups and vans — by 203o, and 67% in 2032. That's up from roughly 10% today.

  • Electric models would be 50% of sales of new vocational vehicles (such as buses and garbage trucks) in 2032.

Go deeper: EPA summary.

6. 🐦 Musk: Twitter breaking even

At Twitter HQ in San Francisco, Elon Musk had the "w" painted over to alter the name. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Elon Musk said Twitter is "roughly breaking even," with aggressive cost-cutting, including massive layoffs, starting to bear fruit, Reuters reports.

  • The CEO said in an interview with BBC, broadcast live on Twitter Spaces, that Twitter now has about 1,500 employees — a sharp drop from "just under 8,000 staff members" it had before he took it over in October.

Musk said Twitter was in a $3 billion negative cash flow situation and had to take drastic actions, referring to its large-scale layoffs.

  • "We could be cash-flow positive this quarter if things go well," he said in the interview, which attracted more than 3 million listeners.

7. ⛳️ Massive Masters ratings

Jon Rahm of Spain celebrates on the 18th green after winning the 2023 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday in Augusta, Georgia. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The final round of Jon Rahm's Masters Tournament victory averaged 12 million viewers, making it the most-watched golf telecast on any network in five years, CBS Sports announced.

  • The 2018 Masters Final Round (Patrick Reed as champion) drew 13 million viewers.

Sunday's viewership peaked at 15 million from 7 to 7:15 p.m. ET, as Rahm clinched his green jacket.

8. 👟 1 fun thing: Record sneaker sale

The record-breaking sneakers. Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

A pair of signed Air Jordan XIII Breds (black and red) worn by Michael Jordan in Game 2 of the 1998 NBA Finals sold at Sotheby's for $2.24 million, the highest price ever paid at auction for sneakers.

  • Why it matters: It's a new example of sports memorabilia reaching record prices as demand for nostalgic collectibles surges.

M.J. wore this size-13 pair, featuring the Bulls colors, during the 1998 "Last Dance" NBA finals season.

  • "Lines formed at sneaker stores, as fans had one last shot to 'Be Like Mike,'" Sotheby's noted in its auction catalog.

Read the listing ... Share the story by Axios' Rebecca Falconer.

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