Welcome back! Thanks to all who attended or livestreamed our smart cities event last night.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Infrastructure, housing and climate change are among the top issues mayors want Democratic 2020 presidential candidates to address if elected.
Why it matters: City leaders aren't satisfied with the 2020 field's attention to concerns that are worsening inequality and undermining the safety and financial security of millions who live in cities.
Driving the news: The U.S. Conference of Mayors and National League of Cities have both released 2020 agendas to call on the candidates to focus on cities' most pressing problems. The lists are long, but a few themes are clear priorities.
1. Infrastructure: Mayors are calling for at least $1 trillion in sustainable infrastructure spending to fix drinking and wastewater treatment plants, bridges and roads, and broadband.
2. Housing: Housing costs have outpaced wages in cities across the country, making rent increasingly unaffordable in many of the biggest job centers and leading to a rise in homelessness.
3. Climate Change: Cities have been leaders in commitments to reduce emissions and promote renewable energy. Local officials want federal resources to help accelerate those efforts and to establish policies and incentives for new and existing buildings to be carbon neutral.
4. Gun Control: Both organizations back universal background checks for gun sales and transfers.
5. Workforce development: Both the League of Cities and Conference of Mayors emphasized the importance of skills training and apprenticeships to help prepare workers for jobs of the future as AI and automation become more pervasive.
Go deeper: Why 2020 has become the mayors' race
Tech-based economic growth has become so concentrated in the top 5% of metro areas that experts are proposing a federal push to jump-start new tech hubs in the heartland.
Why it matters: This divergence of economic realities between the top "superstar metros" and almost everywhere else shows how powerful clusters of skilled workers, jobs and investment have compounded the success of booming cities and left widening gaps among regions.
Driving the news: On Monday, the Brookings Institution and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation released an ambitious proposal to spread the innovation economy more evenly across the country.
How it would work: The proposal suggests federal outlays of about $100 billion over 10 years. The money would be distributed after a "rigorous competitive process" selects 8–10 metro areas that have demonstrated the most promise in becoming tech hubs in their own right.
The national capital region (Washington, D.C., metro area) accounts for 12% of all U.S. workers in the information security field — more than double the San Francisco Bay Area.
Why it matters: "Regions should consider what kinds of skills they need to achieve to support their local economies, and then choose a couple of areas to make bigger bets (based on current gaps relative to where there is demand) to help an area thrive," said McKinsey partner Brooke Weddle, who co-authored a report with the Greater Washington Partnership to evaluate the D.C. region's talent pipeline.
Quick take: Data security and AI are increasingly intertwined, and the potential for adversaries to use AI to automate large-scale attacks is a major threat. So look for these employment clusters to even out as the fields integrate over time.
University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Photo: Don & Melinda Crawford/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
In the age of winner-take-all cities, big metros on the coasts are taking an outsized share of wealth, jobs and talent. But South Bend, Indiana, is bucking that trend, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.
The big picture: "There are a lot of South Bends," says Max Brickman, founder of Heartland Ventures, a VC firm based in the Indiana city. It's one of several smaller Midwestern cities that are using their history of expertise in industries like manufacturing and logistics to bring high-tech jobs in those fields to town.
But, but, but: The city still has a yawning racial wealth gap, and median per capita income is less than $20,000 per year (compared to the national median of about $34,000 per year).
Kansas City, Missouri, is set to be the largest city in the country to offer free bus rides to all of its citizens, Axios' Rashaan Ayesh reports.
The big picture: Kansas City is effectively a guinea pig as other cities wait to see how the free bus ride system will play out.
Why it matters: "I think this is only the beginning for the next step in good transportation equity," Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said.
By the numbers: The entire cost to make the bus system free is about $12 million annually, and the city will have to front $8 million, per NPR. In a city with a $1.7 billion budget, Lucas said enough cost-saving initiatives should make free bus fares possible.
What's next: Lucas hopes the buses will be completely free for all residents by June 2020.
Worth noting: Other places have free bus fare for residents, but it's mainly in college towns as a service for students and university employees such as Chapel Hill, North Carolina, or Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Competition gets fierce in food delivery ☝️(Axios)
Florida Keys deliver a hard message: As seas rise, some places can't be saved (NYT)
Floating cities: The next big real estate boom (Forbes)
Buffalo reassessed: Uneven growth belies citywide renaissance (Buffalo News)
House poor: How price hikes hurt the most vulnerable (Mercury News)
Why your holiday travel is awful (Politico)
New York learns a valuable lesson about subsidies (Axios)
"This initiative will set the stage for the Raleigh of the future and determine what our city will become over the next decade. It’s our moonshot. Something we, as a city, must do.”— Raleigh, North Carolina, Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin in calling for a bond to help pay for affordable housing and parks, per the News & Observer
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Libraries are taking on new duties as resources for people who need mental health help, Axios' Marisa Fernandez reports.
Why it works: "Most people feel very comfortable walking into a library to get information" as opposed to a clinic, New York City first lady Chirlane McCray, who helped spearhead one such initiative, tells Axios.
Details: This month, New York City's mental health initiative partnered with more than a dozen New York Public Library branches to provide free mental health first aid training, social-emotional learning and more — including, of course, relevant books.
Yes, but: Programming and information in libraries is not a replacement for professional treatment, a spokesperson for the New York Public Library notes.
Have a great week!