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Mayor Bryan Barnett of Rochester Hills, Michigan, pictures a city where everyone lives within 3 minutes of a park. Photo: Erica Pandey/Axios

AUSTIN — The conversation about the future focuses on dazzling advances. And when it comes to the U.S., nearly all of that discovery is concentrated in superstar coastal cities, where the bulk of jobs, talent and wealth can be found.

But spending the weekend at the South by Southwest conference, I learned from mayors across the country that they feel stuck in the past. They said they are still grappling with questions like how to fill town squares after the exodus of retailers, and how to replace parking meters with apps if large parts of the local population doesn't use smartphones.

One solution, per Jake Dunagan of the Institute for the Future, is to get mayors to think like futurists.

What's happening: At the conference, Austin Mayor Steve Adler invited counterparts from 24 second-tier cities to have a chat. Over three days, futurists, architects and activists urged the mayors to think about the things that the superstar cities long ago began to figure out, like how to deal with the challenges brought on by innovation over the next decade.

  • One exercise, a game developed by the leaders of Carnegie Mellon's Situation Lab, took a lighthearted approach to weighty topics like AI, gentrification and autonomous tech.

I sat in on a brainstorming session between Mayors Steve Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina, Tim Keller of Albuquerque, and Chris Cabaldon of West Sacramento, California. Their team was thinking of the most ambitious way to change zoning and jazz up their downtowns.

  • Cabaldon asked his teammates: In a world where people can increasingly get everything delivered to their doorstep, how do you get people out of their houses and preserve downtown as a gathering place?
  • What they came up with: Outlaw private vehicles downtown and eliminate the parking garage. In their place would be charging stations for public electric vehicles, places to eat and mingle, and food trucks parked in a long line.
  • In 2030, Benjamin said, "the last parking meter in the city will be gone."

Go deeper

Tech scrambles to derail inauguration threats

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech companies are sharing more information with law enforcement in a frantic effort to prevent violence around the inauguration, after the government was caught flat-footed by the Capitol siege.

Between the lines: Tech knows it will be held accountable for any further violence that turns out to have been planned online if it doesn't act to stop it.

Dave Lawler, author of World
4 hours ago - World

Uganda's election: Museveni declared winner, Wine claims fraud

Wine rejected the official results of the election. Photo: Sumy Sadruni/AFP via Getty

Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of a sixth presidential term on Saturday, with official results giving him 59% to 35% for Bobi Wine, the singer-turned-opposition leader.

Why it matters: This announcement was predictable, as the election was neither free nor fair and Museveni had no intention of surrendering power after 35 years. But Wine — who posed a strong challenged to Museveni, particularly in urban areas, and was beaten and arrested during the campaign — has said he will present evidence of fraud. The big question is whether he will mobilize mass resistance in the streets.

Off the Rails

Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”

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