Can Cities Go It Alone?


In Today’s NewCo Daily


Here’s a round up of the top stories in the NewCo world today, from the NewCo Daily newsletter:

Right now, the urban/rural divide that fractures U.S. politics looks awfully clear and simple. But the deeper you look into it, the more complex it gets. While race, gender, and other factors also play big roles, the country-city split that dates back to the nation’s founding may still be the most powerful axis on which our government, economy, and culture all revolve. Here are three illuminating new angles on this division.

First, the Brookings Institution finds that, while Donald Trump touted his own vitality and mocked his opponents for their “low energy,” the places that supported him just don’t pull their economic weight. They represent “low output” communities; “high output America” overwhelmingly came out for Hillary Clinton. The nearly 500 counties that voted for Clinton generate 64 percent of U.S. economic activity, while the more than 2600 counties that went for Trump are responsible for only 36 percent.

Now turn to urban scholar Richard Florida (Medium), who argues that productive urban centers in the Trump era won’t get their fair share of resources and investment unless they demand a devolution of power from the federal and state capitals to city halls. That, of course, could be great for cities — but since it would strip rural backwaters and “low-output” regions of the subsidies they currently receive, it’s not going to happen without a huge fight.

Finally, as these conflicts play out, take a look at these fascinating visualizations of the U.S.’s continuously reconfiguring urban regions based on an analysis of commute times (PLOS One). These maps suggest how meaningless the state and county borders our ancestors drew up have become — and how much work lies ahead of us to redistribute economic bounty according to contribution and need rather than by antique systems and outmoded boundaries.

History is a Practice. Anyone Can Benefit.

A lot happened over this past weekend! The U.S. president elect spoke on the phone with the leader of Taiwan, breaking four decades of tradition and picking a fight with the Chinese government. In Austria, a far-right candidate almost became president (but didn’t), while in Italy, the prime minister lost a referendum and resigned. In the U.S., Native Americans and environmentalists protesting the Dakota Access pipeline won a reprieve from the federal government.

Maybe your phone buzzed you to notify you of these events. But you’re unlikely to make much sense of the torrent of headlines without a grasp of the longer story that individual events reinforce (or undercut). What you need, writes Marie Myung-Ok Lee (Quartz), is a grounding in history.

To distinguish fake news from fact, or manipulative nostalgia from the ambiguity of evidence, you need more than data. You need the kind of understanding you get from reading and grappling with the work of historians — that collection of fact-based narratives we tell and retell, confirm and debunk, as we try to understand how we got here. Today, enrollment in history is down, as we push students to embrace STEM. Tomorrow, we may regret that.

Airbnb Throws In The Towel in New York

Airbnb gave up its fight against a New York state law that fines people who advertise illegal rentals on its service (The New York Times). The company got the state to say that the fines, of up to $7500, would be levied against individual Airbnb hosts rather than the platform. Airbnb opponents in New York maintain that the company has built a business by enabling landlords to illegally turn affordable housing units into short-term hotels.

Airbnb has now protected itself, but risks alienating the users who make it valuable. Then again, it’s hard to build a successful housing business long-term while thumbing your nose at local government and laws. Next question: What does new Housing and Urban Development Secretary nominee Dr. Ben Carson think about all this? Anything?

Amazon Has Seen the Supermarket Future, and There Are No Lines

Amazon Go is a new retail food market in Seattle where you walk in, sign in with an app, take what you want from the shelf, and walk out (TechCrunch). Sensors, your phone, and Amazon’s giant cloud brain do the rest. Amazon employees in Seattle can enjoy this whizzy shopping experience today; everyday Seattleites can join in beginning early next year.

Go isn’t the only effort out there to create checkout-less shopping, but Amazon’s experience and retail muscle make it a formidable entry in the clerk-free retail market. The user experience sounds dreamy — but there goes yet another entry-level job category!

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