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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
While approval ratings of Congress are at all-time lows, people in both parties still largely trust their local and state elected officials.
The big picture: Congressional gridlock and partisan divisions in Washington will likely deepen leading into the 2020 presidential election. But at the city level, officials are able to move quickly to address their communities' problems, from housing zoning to climate change to gun control.
Americans view local elected officials much more favorably than members of Congress, per Pew Research Center.
Local officials are also viewed more favorably than state elected leaders, per a 2018 Gallup poll — the continuation of a 10-year trend.
"Cities can't wait for political change. Cities have problems, and cities develop solutions to those problems. And then they export those solutions."— Andrew Young Jr., former member of Congress, mayor of Atlanta and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaking at a conference in Atlanta last month
What's happening: States have been increasingly active during the Trump administration, with attorneys general challenging policies on immigration, energy and health care.
At the local level, mayors and city councils have passed ordinances to address their communities’ priorities — including issues where national leaders are stuck.
“It’s the worst of times for national America, and it’s the best of times for local America,” says Richard Florida, an urbanist at the University of Toronto.
Reality check: Local leaders aren't unassailable. Similar to how they view members of Congress, U.S. adults have negative opinions of local officials' ability to admit and take responsibility for mistakes, per Pew.
No city is even close to being prepared for the challenges brought by AI and automation. Of those ranking highest in terms of readiness, nearly 70% are outside the U.S., according to a report by the Oliver Wyman Forum.
Why it matters: Cities are ground zero for the 4th industrial revolution. 68% of the world's population will live in cities by 2050, per UN estimates. During the same period, AI is expected to upend most aspects of how those people live and work.
The big picture: Many cities are focused on becoming more efficient and sustainable "smart cities," hoping to attract companies to compete with Silicon Valley.
"What struck me most is just how many cities didn't have this on their radar screens. The thing about AI is that it's fundamentally opaque, and that makes it harder for cities to keep track of it. The overall focus on smart cities almost masks the broader trends."— Timo Pervane, partner at Oliver Wyman, told Axios
What they found: No city or continent has a significant advantage when it comes to AI readiness, but some have parts of the recipe.
Cities to watch:
Reality check: Cities can't deal with the repercussions of AI on their own. National and regional governments will also have to step in with policy strategies in collaboration with businesses.
Go deeper: See how cities measure up
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
In an effort to revive shuttered main streets, empower mom-and-pops and reduce food deserts, a number of U.S. cities are trying to limit the rapid expansion of dollar stores, Axios' Erica Pandey reports.
The big picture: There are about 30,000 dollar stores in the U.S. today — more than the total number of Walmarts and McDonald's combined. And Dollar Tree and Dollar General have plans to open 20,000 more.
The problem is more acute in some cities than others, per a report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
The other side: "We are disappointed a small number of policymakers have chosen to limit our ability to serve their constituents and communities," said a Dollar General spokesperson in a statement. "We believe the addition of each new Dollar General store presents positive economic growth for the communities we proudly serve."
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
New York drivers collectively spend an extra 145 minutes sitting in traffic every time a single car drives into Manhattan during the afternoon rush hour, Axios' Felix Salmon writes.
What we're watching: Congestion pricing will be implemented in New York in 2021. As a new report from the Regional Plan Association says, it's crucial that it gets done right. New York will be by far the biggest congestion pricing system in the world, and it will become the global benchmark by which the idea is judged.
The bottom line: New York's Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority is charged with implementing a fee that will raise some $1 billion per year.
A luxury themed Lego creation is on display at the Lego building event in Helsinki, Sept. 28. Photo: Alessandro Rampazzo/AFP/Getty Images
For your inner Lego architect: A seaside village is one of the very impressive cities built out of Legos at a Finland Lego event held over the weekend.
Natural gas meters outside residential townhomes. Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty Images
A growing number of cities are eliminating natural gas hookups in new homes and buildings as they work to reduce emissions and help meet climate targets, Mike Henchen of the Rocky Mountain Institute writes for Axios Expert Voices.
Where it stands: At least 8 California cities have passed new policies this year to support all-electric new construction, and the trend is spreading beyond the state.
An added benefit: Building all-electric new houses in Oakland, Houston, Chicago and Providence is cheaper than incorporating gas, according to Rocky Mountain Institute research.
Yes, but: As gas use declines, utilities will need new solutions to pay for gas grids that support a dwindling customer base. In many cases, outdated gas infrastructure will need to be decommissioned when it’s no longer needed.
The bottom line: Renewable electricity has become cheaper as it has expanded, helping the U.S. electricity system cut its emissions by 25% in the last 10 years. Transitioning from gas to fully electric power in buildings could further extend that progress.
The global real estate rethink (Axios)
Why U.S. tech investors are so highly clustered (CityLab)
Insurers deploy AI against California's wildfire crisis (Axios)
Former college towns left to adapt to business loss (NBC)
Holland covers hundreds of bus stops with plants as gift to honeybees (Independent)
How cities are driving electric vehicle adoption (Axios)
“With flames on our hillsides and floods in our streets, cities cannot wait another moment to confront the climate crisis with everything we’ve got.”— LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, in HuffPost
Satellite image showing NO2, a greenhouse gas, moving across the globe. Image: Descartes Labs
Major cities are getting bigger and satellites are getting better. That combination means satellite imagery can capture much more detail about urban landscapes than ever before.
Zooming in: Santa Fe-based Descartes Labs collects satellite imagery, weather data, device data, shipping data and other information — and then uses machine learning to predict future outcomes related to the physical world. For example:
See you next week!