Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with the Axios AM and PM newsletters. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to the Axios Closer newsletter for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with the Axios Sports newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Des Moines newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Giants like Alphabet, GE and Cisco are building tech that they claim can transform a city stuck in the past into a futuristic paradise, but their early projects have resulted in unelected companies making what typically are City Hall decisions.

What's happening: Across the country, mayors are issuing open calls for smart city tech. One reason, as we've reported, is that second-tier cities are desperate to attract jobs and people — and boost their flagging and sometimes dire circumstances. The effort is to beat a trend in which the best talent and money are going to so-called "superstar cities."

  • To get there, they are loosening regulations and inviting companies to use their streets as living labs for nascent technologies.
  • They are letting the companies into every part of city operations, from managing citizens' data to building affordable housing.

But the results so far are mixed:

  • Cities like Las Vegas have made development a free-for-all of Big Tech, and ended up with urban hodge-podge and no coherent look.
  • Others, like Toronto, have handed over responsibility to a single tech company and are finding their decision-making power usurped.
  • Such cities are giving "an incredible amount of control [to] tech companies ... that certainly don't have the same general interest as what their governments should be focused on," says Ben Green, a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Klein Center.

Driving the news: Toronto teamed up last year with Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet's smart city company, giving the firm a 12-acre piece of waterfront to develop however it saw fit.

  • After that, Sidewalk Labs proposed broad data policies for the neighborhood — assuming the patina of lawmaking authority typically exercised by local government.
  • Protests have erupted since it was revealed that Sidewalk Labs proposed taking a cut of property tax revenue from its redevelopment. Sidewalk Labs argues that it is only seeking reimbursement for its proposed investments in public infrastructure like a high-speed rail and waste collection — services that will be essential to the new neighborhood but may not be built as quickly with just the city’s money.
  • "I'm not convinced that the project will go through," Green says. "Toronto might have to pull an Amazon HQ2."

Sidewalk Labs told me that 40% of the area that it redevelops will be devoted to high quality affordable housing built from sustainable materials. The company maintains that it will move ahead with its plans and that public debate will make the project better.

  • What to watch: In a matter of months, the company will release a master plan that will then be considered by a number of public boards and agencies.

Some other examples:

  • San Diego faced a public backlash when it was revealed that a network of smart streetlights installed by GE had cameras affixed that police were using to watch citizens.
  • The city said there is no image recognition capability in the streetlights. "Nevertheless, once the infrastructure for the surveillance state has been built, it's very difficult to prevent government from eventually accessing it irresponsibly, or worse, oppressively," says Dave Maass of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
  • Kansas City, Missouri is looking for a single company to install “a fully integrated suite of sensors, networks, and data and analytics platforms." Now, it's sifting through 15 proposals, says Chief Innovation Officer Bob Bennett.

Then there are the cities that have thrown open the door to all comers:

  • Las Vegas has given the green light to nearly every company that has approached it. The result is a patchwork of pilot programs on its streets: cameras from Cisco, trash scanners from Microsoft, and sensors from NTT. Officials are "not trying to impose any sort of broader vision of what the city is trying to accomplish," says Green.

The other side: There are a number of cities that have shown skepticism from the start, says Karen Lightman of Carnegie Mellon's Smart Cities Institute.

  • Boston has a public manifesto setting the terms of technology pilots. "It's a little snarky, like, 'We don't care that you have the best thing since sliced bread. Show us the value,'" Lightman says.
  • Columbus, which recently won a federal smart cities grant, identified a problem before throwing technology at it, she says. The city used the funds for a self-driving shuttle that takes mothers-to-be from Columbus' poorest neighborhoods to hospitals for prenatal care.

Go deeper

Jan. 6 panel subpoenas "alternate" Trump electors

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) addresses the media after a House Jan. 6 select committee hearing in July 2021. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on Friday announced subpoenas for more than a dozen people who led groups of "alternate electors" for former President Trump.

Why it matters: Slates of fake electors organized by pro-Trump forces in the wake of the 2020 election have come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks around the one-year anniversary of the attack.

Swastikas found outside Union Station in Washington, D.C.

People walk through Union Station on Jan. 16 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Drawings of swastikas appeared etched around the entrance to Union Station in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning.

Driving the news: "An investigation is underway with Amtrak Police and the Metropolitan Police Department after swastikas were reported on the exterior of Washington Union Station on Friday," Amtrak spokesperson Kimberly Woods said in a statement to Axios.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker