Feb 19, 2020

Axios Cities

By Kim Hart
Kim Hart

Good afternoon, welcome back. Today's edition is 1,626 words, a 6-minute read.

1 big thing: Trump's war on sanctuary cities

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Armed with subpoenas, lawsuits and immigration SWAT teams, the Trump administration has declared war on sanctuary cities, Axios' Stef Kight writes.

The big picture: Trump and his administration have used every available tool to crack down on local governments that refuse to hold immigrants in criminal custody, block immigration agents from working in county jails or deny federal authorities access to immigrants' records.

Where it stands: Just this year, the Trump administration has:

  • Asked the Supreme Court to strike down California's sanctuary laws and filed three additional lawsuits challenging sanctuary-style laws.
  • Suspended Global Entry for New Yorkers, after the state allowed undocumented residents to get driver's licenses. (New York sued in response.)

By the numbers: Immigration and Customs Enforcement has delivered 13 subpoenas demanding information about unauthorized immigrants from local law enforcement in Connecticut, New York and California and Oregon.

  • Former ICE director Thomas Homan told Axios that during his 34 years working in immigration enforcement, DHS never had to subpoena another law enforcement agency.
  • Most of the information being subpoenaed is already available to ICE through the FBI, John Sandweg, former ICE director under President Obama, told Axios. The move is "symbolic of how deep the relationships between DHS and state and local law enforcement have broken down," he said.
  • 100+ Customs and Border Protection agents, some with special technical training, are being dispatched to help ICE agents with arrests in certain cities.
  • "It takes a lot more resources when you lose the efficiency of working inside the jail or getting called to the jail to pick [unauthorized immigrants] up," Homan said.

How we got here: Trump signed an executive order shortly after taking office that called for cutting off federal grants to sanctuary cities, but that move was blocked by federal courts.

  • Last year, however, a federal appeals court allowed the administration to prioritize localities that cooperate with immigration enforcement when it distributes community policing grants.

What they're saying: Proponents of sanctuary cities argue that law enforcement officials in these cities are able to focus on serious crimes and unauthorized immigrants are able to report crimes without fearing deportation.

  • Opponents say the policies lead to more noncriminal unauthorized immigrants being arrested, because ICE agents go out into communities rather than focusing on immigrants in jail.
  • "If you really do care about the immigrant community, let us in the jail," Homan said.

What's next: The Supreme Court has not yet decided whether to hear the dispute between the Trump administration and California.

  • If it does, Trump will be up against a 1997 precedent in which the court ruled the federal government can't force state or local governments to enforce federal laws.

Go deeper: Reducing immigration won't stop America's accelerating racial diversity

2. A small but growing number of cities are tackling climate change

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

13% of nearly 900 cities tracked by the nonprofit CDP get a top rating on climate change action — a fraction of the total population, but roughly double the number of cities on the organization's 2018 list, Axios' Orion Rummler writes.

Why it matters: Cities create more than 60% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and consume 78% of the world’s energy. The 105 cities that received an "A" rating from CDP represent a combined population of 170 million.

Where it stands: Big cities in mostly developed parts of the world — including Europe, North America and Australia — dominate CDP's "A List" for taking steps to reduce heat-trapping emissions and adapt to a warmer planet.

  • Los Angeles, Boston, New York City, Baltimore, Mexico City, Toronto, Paris, Berlin, Cape Town and Athens are among those setting strict emissions reduction goals and seeking to adapt to climate hazards like flooding and heatwaves. See the full list here.
  • The U.S. has the most cities on CDP's "A List," followed by Canada and Sweden.

Yes, but: While these cities have set forward-looking goals like lowering carbon emissions by 2050 and using more renewable power for energy consumption, a lot of these actions haven't yet been executed. CDP scores cities on their intent to follow through, which is far from guaranteed.

The big picture: CDP, a London-based nonprofit that asks companies to record their environmental impact, only gave 43 cities an "A" rating in 2018. This year, that figure was bumped up to 105.

  • City-level action to mitigate the effects of climate change is important, but national and international collaboration to cut carbon emissions is even more crucial for sweeping change.

Go deeper: What your city's climate will be in 2080

3. The next decade of smart city growth

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Global spending on projects for smart cities will reach nearly $124 billion this year, an 18% increase over 2019, according to IDC, a market research firm.

The big picture: Singapore, Tokyo, New York and London are expected to be the biggest spenders, at roughly $1 billion each.

  • While about a third of global investment has come from the biggest cities, IDC expects small and mid-sized cities to continue to spend on smaller-scale initiatives ($1 million or less).

Transportation and utilities will account for many of those projects in the coming years.

  • Research firm Kantar predicts that greener modes of transportation will represent nearly half of all trips taken in cities in 2030. Globally, cycling will increase by 18%, walking by 15% and public transit use will increase by 6%.
  • Micromobility options like electric scooters and bikes are getting the most attention. Lime has committed to using 100% emission-free vehicles by 2030.
  • 50% of utilities expect to significantly increase the amount of grid-scale solar through 2030, according to Utility Dive's 2020 State of the Electric Utility Survey.

What to watch: Cities hosting the Olympics — such as Tokyo this year and Los Angeles in 2028 — are investing heavily in infrastructure to accommodate the deluge of visitors, and will be seen as test beds for what works.

  • 5G — a market expected to be around $700 billion by 2030, per market research firm IDTechEx — will increase these projects' capacity and efficiency.
4. Why some cities are scaling back recycling

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The economics undergirding the U.S. recycling system have fallen apart. Unable to absorb the extra cost, some cities are opting to kill recycling programs altogether — just as public concerns about climate change are ratcheting up.

China, the biggest buyer of U.S. recycled materials, has closed its doors.

  • "The market for recycling has had a lot of shock," says Marian Chertow, a professor at Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. "Cities are thinking, 'Hmm, is this really worth it?'"

What we're seeing: The Manassas, Virginia, recycling center operated by Republic Services operates up to 22 hours a day to process about 550 tons of recycled material.

  • Despite the heavy machinery and increased automation involved, the process is still extremely dependent on humans. On each shift, 28 "sorters" sift through the material as it rolls down a series of fast-moving conveyor belts.
  • Contamination is a huge problem. People throw surprising things — Christmas trees, old carpet, shoes, diapers and even cinder blocks — into their recycling bins.

Other cities are struggling to make recycling work.

Cities have to renegotiate their contracts with recycling providers, many of which are 30 years old, to find a viable business model, said Richard Coupland, VP of Municipal Services for Republic Services.

  • That includes charging consumers for curbside pickup of recycled materials. Now that consumers are convinced of the environmental value of recycling programs, most are willing to pay for them.
"There’s not a silver bullet — it’s going to take a number of factors. Reducing the waste stream, reusing more, rethinking how we’re packaging things, and education. What we've learned is that you can never stop trying to educate the public."
— St. Petersburg, Florida, Mayor Rick Kriseman
Bonus: ♻️ Recycling mistakes

Recycled materials on a conveyor belt at a processing facility. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images.

Some consumers are so eager to recycle that they throw items in the recycling bin even if they aren't sure they are recyclable.

News you can use: Here are a few recycling tips from companies that operate recycling facilities.

  • Paper can't be recycled if it's mixed with other materials, like bubble wrap or plastic windows in envelopes. Remove the nonpaper parts first.
  • Remove paper and plastic labels from cans and bottles.
  • Bottle lids are too small to recycle by themselves, so put them back on containers or throw them away.
  • Never put items in a plastic bag. Leave them loose in the recycling bin.

The bottom line: "When in doubt, throw it out," is the line used by waste disposal company Republic Services.

5. Urban files

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Cities' transportation tunnel vision (Axios)

Yelp ratings reveal the cost of racism for businesses in black neighborhoods (NextCity)

Amazon has 37,000 job openings — maybe its most ever — in Seattle, India and across the globe (Seattle Times)

Designing gender-inclusive cities that work for all (Modern Diplomacy)

Reducing street sprawl could help combat climate change (Scientific American)

6. 1 bird thing: Amsterdam, NY, has a crow problem

Photo: Peter Steffen/picture alliance via Getty Images

City Hall in Amsterdam, New York, has been overrun by more than 18,000 winter roosting crows, and city officials have enlisted wildlife experts to scare them away.

  • "The non-lethal harassment methods used to disperse the crows will include pyrotechnics, spotlights, non-harmful lasers and amplified, recorded crow distress calls," per a city press release announcing the U.S. Department of Agriculture's plans.
  • The scare tactics are running each evening through Friday. Residents are advised to put lids on trash cans and to use flashlights to scare crows roosting in trees.

The area surrounding City Hall has been ravaged by crows during winter months for so long that it's known to some as "Crows Hill." A previous mayor installed machines on the buildings' roofs to make crow distress calls — but that didn't deter the migratory birds, according to an entertaining story in the Daily Gazette.

  • The birds are attracted to cities because they are "heat islands" that are warmer than forests, USDA supervising biologist Ken Preusser told the paper. Cities are also free of horned owls, crows' natural predators.
  • Amsterdam Mayor Michael Cinquanti told ABC News10 that people have to run to dodge the bird droppings to enter the building. "It's really a health hazard," he said.
Kim Hart

Have a great week! See you next Wednesday.

Not a subscriber yet? Sign up here.