Happy Wednesday! You only have eight days left to figure out your Halloween costumes...
Today's edition is 1,226 words, a ~4 minute read.
Almost two in three finance officers in large cities are predicting a recession as soon as 2020, according to a new report from the National League of Cities, as weakening major economic indicators and shrinking revenue sources put pressure on municipal budgets.
Why it matters: One of the first signs of changing economic conditions can be seen in city revenue collections. For the first time in seven years — generally seen as the recovery phase since the Great Recession — cities expect revenues to decline as they close the books on the 2019 fiscal year.
Between the lines: The impact of changing economic conditions tends to be felt by cities sooner than at the national level.
What's happening: The annual City Fiscal Conditions report, which will be released Monday, analyzed the responses from financial officers in 554 cities of varying sizes, but all with populations greater than 10,000. (Note: The chart above reflects data from 451 cities, as not all cities collect property, sales and income tax.)
In fiscal year 2018, total general fund revenues increased less than 1% for cities surveyed by the National League of Cities, representing their lowest annual growth rate since 2013.
Why it matters: General fund revenue changes reflect local economic conditions. When revenues coming in can't cover the expenditures going out, city officials have to make hard choices to balance their budgets.
Where the money comes from: Property and sales taxes usually make up the bulk of a city's general fund revenue. Some cities also tax income. Money also comes from utility and other user fees. General fund expenditures, on average, account for more than half of total city spending.
Where the money goes: Infrastructure costs were the top negative budget factor reported, followed by public safety needs and the cost of pensions.
Between the lines: Spending increased the fastest in big cities, the survey showed, and larger midsized cities showed the slowest revenue growth. That may explain why larger cities reported the gloomiest recession predictions.
What to watch: Chicago may be a litmus test for how older cities are dealing with legacy pension costs and dwindling populations. Chicago has an $838 million budget gap, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot plans to deliver her first budget to the city council today, per the WSJ.
An electric vehicle charging station. Photo: Matt Jonas/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
Electric vehicles are getting more popular, yet there aren't enough charging stations installed where people spend their time (at home, at work, at the store, etc.).
The big picture: California's Green Building Standards Code requires 6% of parking spaces in new non-residential buildings to be EV-capable.
There's a reason for that: Equipping parking spots to be EV charging stations is expensive.
Why cities matter: Cities are well-positioned to incentivize more charging stations because they can set building permit requirements.
Tesla and ChargePoint are pushing cities to update their building codes to include EV charging capacity — even if the actual spots aren't yet installed — in renovation permits as well as new construction.
"We're really transitioning away from a gas station model of charging to a model where people expect to be able to charge wherever they park," Smart said. "Not every state has the political capacity or legal ability to set these policies, so cities will be at the forefront."
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
TV station owners are quietly taking over small-town airwaves, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill reports.
What's happening: Under FCC rules, broadcasters can't own more than one top-rated outlet in any market. But those rules don't apply to low-power TV stations, which don’t have the geographic reach of a full-power station, or to multicast channels made possible by the shift to digital television.
The missing housing boom☝️(Axios)
A horrifying glimpse into your dystopian future transit commute (CityLab)
The best and worst states for online privacy (Axios)
Air pollution falls by a third inside London's congestion zone (SmartCitiesDive)
The millennial urban lifestyle is about to get more expensive (The Atlantic)
"It's hard to imagine in the United States a historical event of tremendous importance could almost be erased from history, and it almost was."— Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mayor G.T. Bynum to KTUL News, about the 1921 Race Massacre
The 56.7 million Americans who work as freelancers often don't work in a traditional office setting, so being in a city that has sufficient internet service and is easy to navigate is important, Axios' Rashaan Ayesh writes.
Why it matters: American freelancers contribute about $1 trillion to the economy, per the Freelancers Union.
The worst city for freelancers? Lincoln, Nebraska.
See you next week!