Axios What's Next

Picture of a futuristic looking skyline.

Will cities get into the cryptocurrency business? Miami Mayor Francis Suarez — who's trying to turn his city into a "cryptocurrency innovation hub” — thinks mayors can use crypto to reduce taxes and address income inequality, as Jennifer A. Kingson writes.

🚨Here's exciting news for our readers — spread the word! Axios just announced our inaugural What’s Next Summit.

  • Register here to attend virtual livestream sessions and join discussions on trends that will revolutionize our future.

Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,049 words ... 4 minutes.

1 big thing: Mayors see crypto as a way to address income inequality

Illustration of a torn hundred dollar bill revealing binary code beneath
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

At the U.S. Conference of Mayors' meeting in D.C. this week, there's buzz around the idea of giving cryptocurrency accounts to low-income people, Jennifer writes.

Why it matters: Cities have been experimenting with newfangled ways to address income inequality — like guaranteed income programs — and the latest wave of trials could involve paying benefits or dividends in bitcoin, stablecoin or other digital currencies.

Driving the news: Mayor Francis X. Suarez of Miami — a leading champion of crypto — has vowed that Miami will be "the first city in America to give a bitcoin yield as a dividend directly to its residents" through its MiamiCoin initiative, which started in 2021 as a way to raise revenue for the city.

As the new president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Suarez has been proselytizing for crypto at this week's meeting — and tells Axios that he's been getting traction.

  • Suarez says that the mayors of New York City, Cleveland and Atlanta were among those who were enthusiastic about "how bitcoin can be transformative in their cities."
  • His pitch: "Most people who are poor have their money in a bank account that earns negligible interest," Suarez tells Axios. "With the rapid inflation that we have because of rampant government spending, the people are losing purchasing power — they're actually becoming poorer."
  • "By contrast, if you had a crypto account, you could get a U.S. stablecoin" — a form of digital currency pegged to assets like U.S. dollars or gold — with a yield of perhaps 5% to 6%.

Mayor Suarez is the first U.S. mayor to take his salary in crypto — while brand new New York City Mayor Eric Adams, has become is the second.

  • The African American Mayors Association plans to hold a meeting about crypto so members can learn more about how it works and its potential benefits, Phyllis Dickerson, CEO of the group, tells Axios.

But, but, but: Critics of the idea of paying people in crypto — including a proposal by Suarez to pay city workers in bitcoin — point to the volatility of these currencies, which are unregulated and historically unstable.

What they're saying: The details of how municipal cryptocurrency accounts would work have yet to be hammered out, but Suarez has gained some adherents. "I think he's spot on with this sentiment," Mayor Justin Bibb of Cleveland tells Axios.

  • Bibb sees in cryptocurrency "a unique opportunity to reimagine how we think about financial inclusion, financial democracy."

Details: Miami has successfully courted the crypto industry — most notably through its own cryptocurrency, MiamiCoin, which, in Suarez's vision, is meant to raise enough revenue that the city could stop levying taxes.

  • The Miami Herald reported in November that the program has already netted the city more than $21 million.

Read the full story

2. Robot umpires inch closer to the plate

Illustration of a robot dressed up in umpire gear
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Automated Ball-Strike system (ABS), the tech powering what's colloquially known as robo-umps, is inching ever closer to the big leagues, Jeff Tracy writes in Axios Sports.

Driving the news: The independent Atlantic League — which has partnered with MLB since 2019 — last week announced it was doing away with robo-umps after testing them for the past season-and-a-half.

  • That wasn't because the experiment failed. On the contrary, the league explained that its assessment of ABS was complete and that an MLB affiliate league would continue testing it.
  • Simple sleuthing all but confirms that ABS is coming to Triple-A in 2022: this job posting is recruiting ABS techs in 11 Triple-A markets.

How it works: Though the informal term calls to mind a dystopian future ruled by robot overlords, ABS still requires a human umpire to stand behind the plate all game.

  • Technology from Danish golf startup TrackMan determines if each pitch is a ball or strike. ABS then feeds its call to the ump via an earpiece, and he relays the call to the players.
  • The ump still makes calls like check swings, interference and plays at the plate. ABS simply eliminates guesswork from the strike zone.

Read the rest

3. Charted: Big tech's ballooning deals

Data: CB Insights; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: CB Insights; Chart: Axios Visuals

4. What we're reading

A woman shops for oranges in a supermarket.
A customer picks out oranges in Salt Lake City in October, 2021. Photo: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Orange juice prices climb after forecasts for the smallest crop since 1945 (Wall Street Journal — subscription)

  • 🍊The pandemic has us drinking more OJ — just as orange trees are failing due to "citrus greening, an incurable disease that thins the crowns of trees and saps their vitality."

Smart guns finally arriving in U.S., seeking to shake up firearms market (NBC News)

  • Two companies — LodeStar Works and SmartGunz LLC — plan to introduce "personalized smart guns, which can be fired only by verified users."

5 reasons you should not deliberately catch Omicron to "get it over with" (CNN)

  • "The idea of intentionally trying to catch Omicron is 'all the rage,'" Dr. Paul Offit of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia tells CNN. But don't do it: The virus is worse than a bad cold, you could catch "long" Covid and add stress to the health care system, etc.

5. 1 yak thing: Yaks are catching on

A herd of yaks
Yaks in Montrose, Colorado. Photo: Stephen Osman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Yes, most of them live in Tibet. But a growing number of yaks call the United States home — and this week, they are strutting their stuff at the National Western Stock show in Denver, which was cancelled last year due to Covid, Jennifer writes.

Driving the news: The yak portion of the livestock show culminates today with yaks competing in an obstacle course.

  • In addition to yak agility, there is a yak fiber competition and sessions where yaks are judged based on breed conformation.
  • "We’ve registered more than 240 yaks during 2021, and we’ve introduced many new members to the world of yaks," reads the winter newsletter of USYaks, a registry that records yak lineages and pedigrees, much the way the American Kennel Club does for dogs.

How it works: In case you want to buy a yak, you should probably plan to keep it in a cold-weather place, and you might want to consult iYak, the International Yak Association, which is based in the U.S.

  • Check out some yaks for sale, here! For $8,500, you can buy Armand, an "impressive, handsome, super woolly foundation bull producing quality offspring."
  • "Armand is calm with us in the pasture, respectful in the chute, easy to work," the ad says. "Grandson of famed Chewbacca, Queen Allante & Escalade. In great health."

Was this email forwarded to you? Get your daily dose of What's Next magic by signing up for our free newsletter here.