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Aging water treatment systems, failing pipes and a slew of unregulated contaminants threaten to undermine water quality in U.S. cities of all sizes.
Why it matters: There's arguably nothing more important to human survival than access to clean drinking water.
The big picture: Whatever goes down the sink, shower, washing machine and toilet is transferred to one of about 14,000 U.S. wastewater treatment plants. While those plants are good at neutralizing sewage microorganisms that can make people sick or pollute waterways, they can miss chemicals that are linked with our changing lifestyles.
"There is evidence that we are being exposed to lots of pharmaceutical products at low levels — sub-therapeutic levels. ... We don't know who is drinking it or in what combinations or amounts."— Luke Iwanowicz, U.S. Geological Survey research biologist, in "Troubled Water"
Meanwhile: City leaders are typically reluctant to raise water rates to pay for plant and pipe upgrades out of fear that residents will see it as an increased tax.
What's next: Siegel argues for consolidation of the number of water utilities — there are currently 51,535 drinking water utilities in the U.S., translating to 16 for every county. Los Angeles County alone has 200.
The bottom line: The high levels of public trust local leaders enjoy will likely evaporate when residents become more aware of the health risks in their tap water, Siegel says.
Go deeper: The lead pipe danger lurking underground
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is given a tour of the Capitol by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, January. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call.
The feud between Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and President Donald Trump over reimbursement for last week's campaign rally made one thing clear: Heading into 2020, Democratic mayors are likely targets of presidential tweets.
Why it matters: Being on the receiving end of a Trump tweet suddenly raises their profile, as Frey learned last week when his Twitter following more than doubled overnight.
Catch up quick: Trump called Frey out on Twitter for requesting reimbursement for the $530,000 costs associated with security for a Trump rally taking place last Thursday. Frey fired back, and the city and Trump campaign are still in a "standoff" over the bill, he wrote in a weekend op-ed.
Frey offered some advice for mayors who suddenly find themselves in the cross-hairs: handle it "with civility and a bit of humor."
What's next: Expect more Twitter feuds between Trump and mayors over the next year. The sparring riles up voters in important districts, where Democratic mayors serve as convenient contrasts for Trump's stances.
Photo: Matthew Horwood/Getty
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) plans to introduce a bill today that would assign states, cities and Native American tribes sweeping new powers to set rules for small, low-flying drones. It would also give property owners more control over what happens immediately over their land, Axios' Kaveh Waddell writes.
Why it matters: Lee's proposal would establish new clear rules for the first 200 feet above ground and override Federal Aviation Administration concerns about a "patchwork quilt" of regulations that differ from one locale to another.
The good: States, cities and tribes could tailor drone activity to local needs and preferences.
The bad: The changes risk creating new complications for companies operating drones in many locations for delivery or inspection.
Details: The legislation would allow property owners to control 200 feet of airspace above their land and give states and local governments jurisdiction over the 200 feet above state- or local-owned land.
Flashback: In 2017, Lee co-sponsored the Drone Federalism Act, which had similar aims. The bill never got anywhere.
The cities and towns where Walmart gobbles up more than half of all grocery sales are concentrated in the South and the middle of the country, illustrating a broader division in U.S. retail, Axios' Erica Pandey reports.
Why it matters: Retail has become one of the forces driving American inequality. It's also a key part of how cities think about building mixed-use districts that will attract residents and boost real estate values.
By the numbers:
Yes, but: As politicians and consumers alike raise concerns about the outsized economic power of big companies, Walmart keeps growing — largely under the radar.
Why it matters: "Inequality and the lack of broadband access have become inherently intertwined in the U.S.," Francella Ochillo, executive director of Next Century Cities, writes for Axios Expert Voices.
Go deeper: Broadband's entrenched inequality
A user rides a scooter San Francisco. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
San Francisco legislators have an idea to tackle all the new tech that roams around their streets: an Office of Emerging Technologies.
Why it matters: San Francisco is home to many tech companies that aim to reshape urban life, but the city has often seemed ill-prepared to deal with them.
Details: The office, established in a bill proposed last Tuesday by Board of Supervisors president Norman Yee with the support of city administrator Naomi Kelly, would be housed in the Department of Public Works.
Be smart: Because it would be housed in the Public Works department, the office's jurisdiction would be limited to sidewalks, storefronts and the like. It's not clear if it could regulate, for example, ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft or home-rental outfits like Airbnb.
Visitors look toward lower Manhattan inside the newly renovated 102nd-floor observatory of the Empire State Building, New York City. Photo: by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.
Italian town bans Google Maps after bad directions lead to 144 rescue missions (Travel & Leisure)
SF transit board approves car-free Market Street (San Francisco Examiner)
So you make $100,000? It still might not be enough to buy a home (WSJ)
Inside the turbulent history of Uber (CityLab)
Modern cities become less dense as they grow (Economist)
The Virgin Hyperloop One XP-1 test pod on display on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday morning. Photo: Virgin Hyperloop One
The Virgin Hyperloop One XP-1 test pod made a stop outside the U.S. Capitol this morning as part of its national roadshow introducing people to the technology.
Why it matters: 10 states are competing to become the first with a hyperloop route: Missouri, Texas, Colorado, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington, Illinois, Oregon and Nevada (where the test track is located).
How it works: Virgin Hyperloop One says it's successfully tested the vehicle at scale, using electric propulsion and electromagnetic levitation in a vacuum-like tube.
See you next week!