Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: The Stories That Defined Cities in 2018

The Year in Review

2018 was a year of ups and downs. From NIMBY battles to natural disasters, from elections to electric scooters, the stories that dominated the headlines are sure to resonate in 2019 and beyond. To cap off an eventful year, our writers and editors unpacked some of the issues we’ve been following over the past 12 months, explaining what mattered, what changed, and what to look for going forward.

2018 Was…

The Year Cities Trusted Amazon

After 14 months, Amazon’s HQ2 hunt ended with a split decision in Washington, D.C. and New York City. What did we learn?

Sarah Holder

The Year Progressive Populism Roared Back

Populism was reclaimed by American progressives, as citizen-initiated ballot measures and a Poor People’s Campaign took aim at poverty and voter suppression.

K.A. Dilday

The Year of the Complicated Suburb

The old narrative of city and suburb is dead; in 2018, the spaces outside of cities were revealed in their full complexity.

Amanda Kolson Hurley

The Year of the Scooter

Scooters are dorky, polarizing, dangerous, fun, and maybe even useful. They could also be the kick in the butt that cities need to demand safe streets.

Andrew Small

The Year of the Affected Generation

On issues like climate change and gun violence, younger people demanded a louder voice in 2018.

Nicole Javorsky

The Year 1968 Replayed Itself

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King was assassinated. But the racist housing and policing policies he was fighting are still with us.

Brentin Mock

The Year Some Notable Ideas Died

Sam Adams, Sarah Deer, Stephen Goldsmith, Sarah Ichioka, Emeka Okereke, Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe, Katie Wells, and David Zipper weigh in.


The Year of Europe’s War on Cars

From Paris to Madrid, efforts to curb the use of automobiles formed a battleground across Europe.

Feargus O’Sullivan

The Year of the Smart City Skeptic

Companies like Google, Uber, or Facebook aren’t built to fix society. That includes cities.

Laura Bliss

The Year of the YIMBY

A milestone upzoning plan in Minneapolis capped a year that saw pro-housing forces duel NIMBYs in cities nationwide.

Kriston Capps

The Year of the Aspirational Park

Private funding and high-impact design were recurring themes of parks that opened in 2018. So was the hope that parks can unite, repair, and invigorate cities.

CityLab Staff

Tell your friends about the CityLab Daily! Forward this newsletter to someone who loves cities and encourage them to subscribe. Send your own comments, feedback, and tips to

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: From Singapore to D.C. to Lagos: Global Thinkers on Ideas That Died in 2018

In CityLab’s Perspective section contributors express new ideas, new takes on old ideas, and push us to think boldly about how life in cities can be better and more equitable for all. As 2018 drew to a close we asked our contributors and other thinkers what they saw as the notable “deaths” of 2018. We asked not for deaths of people (although some were noted) but ideas or concepts that died in 2018, and received responses on the topics of equity, transportation, environment, and life.

From varied cities and continents, these are the replies.

Obituary for sustainability (1987 – 2018)

This year it became clear, even to the willful optimists amongst us, that sustainability is an inadequate approach to the compound crises we humans have inflicted upon ourselves and our living planet home. Definitions of “sustainability” abound, but perhaps the most frequently cited in urban practice comes from the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Nearly every self-respecting city government, property developer, architecture firm, and corporation has a sustainability policy. However, as made terrifyingly clear by the International Panel on Climate Change’s “Global Warming of 1.5 ºC” and the World Wildlife Fund’s “Living Planet” reports (to name just two of 2018’s formal ultimatums), our efforts have been insufficient, and will prove increasingly so if we are to avoid the worst consequences of the destructive forces that we’ve already unleashed. Why has sustainability proven insufficient, at least as currently practiced by the majority of us who claim to subscribe to it? Perhaps in part because, as the architect Michael Pawlyn pointed out to me, sustainability has largely been about minimizing harm: doing less bad. I wonder whether sustainability’s focus on future generations, however noble, may also obscure the reality that we are already on the brink of bankruptcy.

Before we can think about “sustaining” the world for the future, we must actively repair the environmental and social damages inflicted by our precursors, from which we have benefitted comprehensively. As designers, planners, and clients of the built environment, we need a more integrated, accountable and proactive approach, one that strives for the understanding, restoration and enrichment of the natural systems within which human society is integrally embedded and upon which our survival is wholly dependent. We need it now. —Sarah Ichioka

Sarah Ichioka is a Singapore-based urbanist, curator, and writer. She currently leads Desire Lines, a strategic consultancy for environmental, cultural, and social-impact organizations and initiatives.

Died, 2018: The myth of poverty’s geographical parameters

The urban legend goes something like this: “Poverty is rising mainly in inner cities among people of color. ” Except that story is harmful and false. Sure, wealthy suburbs exist. Many are getting wealthier. But poverty rates are actually growing faster in the suburbs than in the inner cities. And this problem isn’t isolated to the older, close-in suburbs; poverty is increasing in most newer suburbs, too. The reality is that poor people have been moving from the cities to the suburbs for almost three decades now.

This exodus is happening for a variety of reasons like increasing inequalities, and the rising cost of inner-city life. The decline in local good-paying jobs everywhere for those who are less educated and skilled is an underlying issue. So why does any of this matter? Because the myth that “poverty is mostly an inner-city problem” has resulted in growing suburban poverty that gets ignored, hobbling their upward mobility.  Suburban social services have failed to keep up with the fact that more poor people in the US are living in the suburbs or moving there. That’s why it’s time for this myth to die.  —Sam Adams

Sam Adams is the former mayor of Portland, Oregon, and was the founding director of the World Resources Institute’s U.S. program. He is currently the Director of Strategy for CleanTech Methods, Inc.

Death of a congressional vacancy (1789-2018)

Despite the fact that Native people have been oppressed by federal legislation from the founding of the United States, there have been very few Native people elected to Congress. Native women, in particular, have been the victims of federal laws without having any representation in Congress.

In the historic November 2018 election, the first two Native women were elected to Congress. Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk) will represent the Kansas third congressional district. Davids is an Ivy League-educated lawyer and former White House fellow.

Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) will represent New Mexico’s first congressional district. Haaland is the former Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

With the elections of Davids and Haaland, Native women finally have a “vote” in the Nation’s legislature. When combined with the first Native Supreme Court clerk, Tobi Young (Chickasaw), who began in October as a clerk for Justice Neil Gorsuch), the nation will no longer be able to ignore the voices and faces of the nearly 2 million Native women in the United States. —Sarah Deer

Sarah Deer (Mvskoke) is Professor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and in the School of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Kansas. She is Chief Justice of the Prairie Island Indian Community Court of Appeals.

U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat of N.Y., left, spoke as the New York Taxi Workers Alliance held a protest at City Hall, June 18, 2018. One holds a photo of taxi drivers who have committed suicide. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

A death in transit: Debt and despair fuel a suicide crisis in the taxi industry

Doug Schifter, 61, of New York City posted a lengthy Facebook post about his debt and despair before he shot himself in his car in front of City Hall in early February. For 40 years he had driven taxis and black cars and, for the past four years, written an online column about the plight of professional drivers like himself in the age of Uber. The disruption that Uber had caused in the taxi industry was not some sort of inconvenience. Schifter had lost health insurance, amassed credit card debt, and could no longer cover his medical expenses. Peers struggled with bankruptcies, foreclosures, and eviction notices. Reminiscent of the self-immolating Tibetan monks who protested Chinese rule, the message from Schifter was clear: Local officials had stood by as financial hardships beset a whole industry of professional drivers.

At the year’s end, the number of drivers in New York City who have committed suicide is now eight. Abdul Salah, an immigrant from Yemen, was the seventh casualty. He had struggled to pay the leasing fee on his yellow cab. The eighth casualty was a Korean immigrant named Roy Kim who could no longer find fares to cover the fees for his half-a-million-dollar medallion. In almost every case, the reasons were the same as those that bought Schifter to his death: debt, depression, and Uber. While a bailout may be a long-way off, the recent approval of a new minimum wage and a cap on the number of Uber drivers suggest that Schifter’s last plea actually may have been heard. —Katie Wells

Katie Wells is an Urban Studies Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Georgetown University. She conducts research on this topic with Kafui Attoh and Declan Cullen.

A transit leader takes his final journey

William Wheeler, a longtime leader at New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), passed away on October 27th at 69. Wheeler is credited as the visionary behind MTA’s MetroCard, introduced in 1993. Now a fixture for New York City commuters, the thin, plastic MetroCard replaced metal tokens used by commuters for four decades.

The MetroCard was groundbreaking when it launched, but its user experience has never been smooth as attested by those who have been stopped at subway turnstiles swiping futilely for entrance.  MetroCard’s days are now numbered: In 2017 MTA began testing an app-based fare payment system, and it plans to go to an entirely paperless system by 2020. MTA is hardly the only agency moving toward a digital payment future; cities from Boston to Chicago to San Francisco have done so as well. Innovation marches on. —David Zipper

David Zipper is a Resident Fellow at the German Marshall Fund and a Partner in the 1776 Venture Fund.

Death of the misconception that the modern movement against sexual harassment originated with white women

In 2018 the #metoo movement gained traction, but for me the idea that was laid to rest was that white women birthed it.

As Julianne Malveaux reminded us this year, Mechelle Vinson, a black woman from Northeast, Washington, D.C., laid the foundation 40 years ago. Vinson wasn’t a famous actress with press access, but a young black woman who had dropped out of high school to marry. Vinson started work at Meritor Savings Bank as a teenaged teller-trainee and endured four years of sexual harassment before initiating her case in 1978. Her groundbreaking lawsuit wended its way through the courts until finally, in 1986, the Supreme Court ruled in Mechelle Vinson vs Meritor Savings Bank, FSB, that sexual discrimination resulting in a “hostile environment” is a violation of Title VII.

When Vinson started at the bank in 1974, she was 19 and Washington D.C., was basically a black-white city with few residents identifying with any other racial or ethnic group.

The sun has set on that black-white D.C. and the dawn has given birth to a Washington with a diversity that is as multifarious and complex as the #metoo movement. —Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe

Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe is founder and president of the Women’s Institute for Science, Equity, and Race, a think tank focused on the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of women of color.

Rest. From the series Dream Chamber, Kigali. 2018 (Emeka Okereke)

Kigali 2018: Death of a tragic past

Only 24 years ago, Rwanda was beset by a gruesome event: a genocide that claimed the lives of close to a million Rwandans. Ever since, the country and her people have been deeply marked and regarded by this horrendous chapter in their history. However, visit Kigali today—as I did during the Invisible Borders Trans-African Road Trip—and you will be baffled as to how far things have come. The kind of progress being made in all aspects of the society is nothing short of a miracle when compared to the improbability of their destiny. What’s more, this is a believable progress. In every way, it feels like a ground-up progress. It begins with seamless order and the sparkling cleanliness of the streets and public spaces from the airport in Kigali to Gisenyi, the border town between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This sense of progress runs through the demeanor and consciousness of every Rwandan I met. There is something unprecedented, more so in the context of Africa, about their willingness to work for and sustain their own progress in the spirit of togetherness. I have never felt so alive and so hopeful in a place where many would erroneously want to continue to see as a place of many deaths. There is still a long way to go, but the distance between present-day Rwanda and her past is too exponentially far apart to be measured by any ordinary scale. Emeka Okereke

Emeka Okereke is a Nigerian visual artist and writer who lives and works between Lagos and Berlin. He is the founder and artistic director of Invisible Borders Trans-African Project and a 2018 recipient of the Ministry of Culture of France’s Chevalier De l’Ordre Des Arts et Des Lettres.

Death of silos in governmental administration

In 2018, we witnessed another nail in the coffin of administrative silos, the much-criticized vertical structure of government—one set up around various agencies to advance the needs of the bureaucratic state over the interests of citizens.

Digital tools had already punched holes in the walls between agencies, and this year those tools managed to attack the structure itself. Los Angeles demonstrated progress with its GeoHub that provides a platform for ongoing collaboration around a sense of place and helps erode vertical inefficiencies. Likewise, Atlanta utilized digital advances to produce building permits in record time by altering sequential agency handoffs into concurrent processing. And Chicago city government instituted the role of Design Director, dedicated to creating responsive government experiences around the user, not the agency. While government spent the better part of the past century hardening the edifice of its silos, this year alone managed to mortally weaken many of those bulwarks beyond recognition.Stephen Goldsmith

Stephen Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis and deputy mayor of New York, is the Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government and the director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: When Suburbia Got Complicated

Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.


What We’re Following

“Ah, suburbia, land of the bland. White-picket-fenced realm of white-bread people and cookie-cutter housing. That’s still the stereotype that persists in how many of us think about and portray these much-maligned spaces surrounding cities. But if there was once some truth to it, there certainly isn’t today.

“In the past several years, a much more complex picture has emerged—one of Asian and Latino ‘ethnoburbs,’ rising suburban poverty, and Baby Boomers stuck in their split-levels. And 2018 really drove home the lesson that, when Americans say they live in the suburbs, the suburbias they describe are vastly different kinds of places.

“A century and a half after Frederick Law Olmsted laid out one of the first planned American suburbs in Riverside, Illinois, and seven decades after the builders Levitt & Sons broke ground on the ur-tract ’burb of Levittown, New York, we haven’t fully mapped the contours of modern suburbia—not just who lives there and why, but the role that suburbs play in politics and society.”

Today on CityLab, Amanda Kolson Hurley explains how the old narrative of city and suburb died in 2018.

More on CityLab

The Fears Behind Amazon’s ‘Eyes on the Street’

The tech company’s proposed facial-recognition doorbell could be a civil libertarian’s nightmare.

Tanvi Misra

Every Tree in the City, Mapped

Researchers at Descartes Labs are using artificial intelligence to make a better map of the urban tree canopy.

Linda Poon

A Documentary Turns Its Lens to Baltimore’s Stoops and Cop Cars

Filmed in the years surrounding the killing of Freddie Gray, Marilyn Ness’s Charm City searches for signs of progress amidst pervasive pain and despair.

Ezra Haber Glenn

Who Wins When Cash Is No Longer King?

It won’t be the poor.

Sidney Fussell

Once Again, a Ban on Matatus in the Nairobi City Center Has Failed

This month, Nairobi tried to ban matatus from the city center. As the privately owned busses are many Kenyans’ only travel option, the ban lasted only a day.

Patrick Gathara

What We’re Reading

The case against making a city “beautiful” (Catapult)

New Orleans turns its last public school into a charter school (Big Easy Magazine)

The hidden history of D.C.’s alleyways (DCist)

What if the National Weather Service really shut down? (Forbes)

“Our deepest anxieties about the future of where we live are embodied in other cities — in Portlandification, Brooklynification, Manhattanization.” (New York Times)

Tell your friends about the CityLab Daily! Forward this newsletter to someone who loves cities and encourage them to subscribe. Send your own comments, feedback, and tips to

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Callout: Have You Gone Car-Free With Your Young Kids in Tow?

Hey readers, we need you. When we first started our series about raising tiny humans in the city, Room to Grow, we asked you all to tell us about your experience living in cities.

Many of you told us you wanted to go car-free but hadn’t figured out how to make it work with a small child. Now, we want to hear from those of you who are making it work.

Please fill out our survey below and/or share with a parent friend who might be interested to share their experiences. Your comments and stories could be included in a future CityLab story.

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: On Ballot Measures, a Progressive Sweep

Yesterday, voters chose new leaders. They entrusted them with the responsibility to draft legislation; and soon, those officials will guide cites, counties, states, and the nation. But, in 155 ballot measures in 37 states—and more on local polls—voters were also given the opportunity to shape policy themselves.

A “blue wave” may not have overwhelmingly swept Congress, but there was undoubtedly a progressive wave across ballot initiatives, even in conservative states and cities: Minimum wages will rise in Arkansas and Missouri. Louisiana reformed its criminal justice system. Portland will fund environmental equity. California will rebalance its budget with housing assistance in mind. Some Seattle public school students might soon secure free education. And, while reports of rampant voter disenfranchisement soured election results in states like Georgia, voters also approved new re-enfranchisement and gerrymanding reform measures. There have, of course, been some exceptions: Among other things, two more cities voted to ban fluoridated water, and Washington state didn’t pass its carbon fee.

We’ll be updating results throughout the day. Below, some of the most noteworthy wins and losses.

Florida will restore voting rights to felons

A full 9.2 percent of residents who would be eligible to vote in Florida are convicted felons—together, they make up 17.9 percent of the black vote, according to 2016 estimates from The Sentencing Project. That’s approximately 1.5 million people who, until today, couldn’t vote, even though they’re out of jail.

After Florida voters passed Amendment 4 last night, that will change. Voting rights will be returned to all previously convicted felons in the state (except for those who committed murder or sex offenses), a cohort of more than 1 million—none of whom could weigh in on the initiative that enfranchised them.

Now, Kentucky and Iowa are the only two states that still ban even felons who have completed their sentences from voting. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Maine and Vermont are the only two states to let people vote regardless of their criminal history or current status. (In another big win for criminal justice reform in Florida, voters also passed Amendment 11, which, among other things, allows the legislature to reduce criminal sentences retroactively.)

Sarah Holder

Gerrymandering lost big

Voters in Michigan, Colorado, and Missouri all approved ballot initiatives to end political redistricting, with approval rates of almost 60 percent to more than 70 percent. One notable thing about these gerrymandering bills was that there was no single model. Missouri passed redistricting reform as part of a greater reform package. Michigan opted to include very detailed language in its ballot measure; Colorado divided the gerrymandering measure into two separate questions. All of them passed. And Utah’s may too.

In Utah, the fourth state that weighed a gerrymandering bill, the question was still too close to call. Proposition 4 would create an independent seven-member board to draw state and congressional districts, which would boost representation of Democrats in Salt Lake City and other urban areas. At press time, the ballot was winning by a fraction of a percent, with fewer than 5,000 votes separating for and against.

The 2018 midterms provide a roadmap for voters in even heavily gerrymandered states to do the structural reforms that politicians won’t. If an anti-gerrymandering bill can pass in a state like Utah, which is dominated by a single party, then there may not be many states where gerrymandering is safe.

Kriston Capps

A failed bid to repeal a gas tax

Backed by leading congressional Republicans, a ballot measure to roll back California’s gas tax and vehicle fee increase was designed to drive right-leaning voters to the polls. But opponents, which included the state’s construction industry, major labor groups, and Democrats, out-fundraised the effort by more than $40 million.

On Tuesday, 55 percent of voters said no on Proposition 6. The vote means the state will preserve the 2017 statute, which generates roughly $5 billion for road repairs and improvements per year, with a substantial portion for transit.

With their roads in some of the worst shape in the country, many California commuters are breathing a sigh of relief. So are transportation advocates around the country who worried that a gas tax repeal in the vanguard state of progressive causes could spell doom for similar efforts in other parts of the U.S. For the same reason, Proposition 6 could have made it “almost impossible to have a substantive discussion about raising the federal gas tax,” said Scott Bogren, the executive director of the Community Transportation Association, a Washington, D.C.-based transit advocacy group.

Laura Bliss

Wakanda city stays intact

The plot to take nearly half of a black-led city in south metro Atlanta, Stockbridge, and turn it over to a country-club anchored community so that it can create a new city was thwarted last night. The initiative would have approved the unprecedented move of taking land from an already incorporated city, and could have wrecked Stockbridge’s economy by draining it of much of its taxable properties and revenue sources. Leaders of the initiative to sever the Eagle’s Landing neighborhood said they wanted to form a new city so that they could bring more upscale establishments to their area.

Finance agencies such as Moody’s, S&P Global, and Capital One Public Funding, LLC all noted that creating Eagle’s Landing in this manner would have negatively impacted the credit and bond ratings of all cities across Georgia, because of the potential for them to cannibalize, or become cannibalized by other municipalities in a similar way.

While the Eagle’s Landing cityhood ballot was defeated, this does not mean that Stockbridge and Georgia have seen the last of it. Other places in Georgia that have attempted to form new cities also failed to survive ballot referendums, only to later regroup with new blueprints and plans for a new city that eventually passed. Stockbridge Mayor Anthony Ford told the Henry Herald newspaper that he was going to reach out to the people behind the Eagle’s Landing city proposal to discuss with them now “how to best mend the community.”

—Brentin Mock

Minimum wage will rise in two conservative states

With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25 and no signs of changing, the fight for higher local wage floors has been propelled city by city, and state by state. As of this year, 29 states and D.C. had approved minimum wages above federal levels.

Yesterday, two of them decided to raise the floor a little higher: Arkansas voters will raise their $8.50 minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2021; and Missouri voters will raise their $7.85 minimum wage to $12 by 2023. Both Republican-leaning, the states’ choice to expand pay for low-wage workers comes on the heels of other conservative labor victories: Arizona, Colorado, and Maine also voted to raise their minimums earlier this year.

“When it comes to the minimum wage, the biggest gap isn’t between Republicans and Democrats,” said Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of The Fairness Project, in a statement. “It’s between politicians who don’t want to raise the wage and the people they represent.”

Sarah Holder

A step forward on increasing housing affordability in California

Solving the housing crisis in California will likely take more than just a reimagining of state and local budgets. But in a sweep Tuesday night, California voters approved several propositions that would collect billions to try.

Propositions 1 and 2 will free up $6 billion in state bonds and taxes to put towards affordable housing and homelessness initiatives across the state—funding things like housing for mentally ill and homeless residents, mortgage assistance for low-income families, and affordable housing for veterans.

In San Francisco, voters approved Prop C, a hotly contested measure that will charge the city’s largest companies a marginally higher tax to help fund homelessness initiatives. With the estimated $300 million in extra annual funding, the city plans to build 5,000 new affordable units, and create more than 1,000 new shelter beds. Despite millions in opposition funding from Big Tech, Prop C was approved with 60 percent of the vote—but crucially, not the two-thirds needed to protect it from being challenged in court.

Two other proposed reforms to the affordability problem, Proposition 10 and Proposition 5, were resoundingly rejected. The first would have lifted restrictions on expanding rent control policies across the state—advocates said it would stop rents from inflating and protect tenants, and the ultimately victorious opponents said it would deter sorely needed new construction. And the second would have lowered the barriers to moving for some older residents, potentially opening up more housing but slashing property taxes in the process.

Sarah Holder

Reconstruction-era Louisiana jury policy reformed

Louisiana voters approved a new state constitutional amendment that would require unanimous agreement from juries in felony and capital crime court trials. Before this, Louisiana was just one of two states (the other is Oregon) that could convict defendants in serious felony trials with less than complete agreement amongst their juries. In other words, a jury could convict someone of a death penalty-eligible crime even if there were one or two holdouts.

Louisiana’s policy stems from a wider package of laws to disenfranchise African Americans in the post-slavery Reconstruction era. Since going into effect in the late 19th century, the law has made it more difficult for black defendants on trial in Louisiana because racial minorities serving in minority capacities in the jury box have been overruled by white juror majorities. Prison reform advocates who fought for the new constitutional amendment say that it was part of why Louisiana has been known as the “incarceration capital of the world” for years.

Norris Henderson, executive director of the organization VOTE who himself spent decades in jail because of a non-unanimous jury conviction, told, “This is probably the most important ballot measure ever in my lifetime.”

—Brentin Mock

Baltimore bans water privatization

Baltimore voters took a first-of-its-kind move on Tuesday, as many cities grapple with how to better treat their water: It banned water privatization. Among the arguments in favor of the ban was that rate hikes often accompany privatization. And the Maryland city has a history of escalating water costs.

Critics warn that stopping future negotiations with water companies will, in turn, halt any modernization of Baltimore’s water grid. But advocates maintain that keeping water public is best for users. “With water corporations circling around Baltimore over the past several years, ramped-up privatization ploys last Spring, and a federal administration hellbent on propping up corporate power over peoples’ rights, it is momentous that the city has voted to keep its water public,” said Rianna Eckel, the Maryland Organizer for water advocacy group Food & Water Watch, in a statement.

Sarah Holder

Portland companies will fund environmental equity projects

An EPA report from earlier this year found evidence of environmental racism, including people of color being more likely to live near polluters. On Election Day, Portland voters agreed to address the inequities of pollution and climate change with the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Initiative, also called Portland Ballot Measure 26-201. The initiative will implement a 1 percent surcharge on retail corporations that have $1 billion in gross revenues nationally and $500,000 locally.

The funds will go toward clean energy projects such as weatherizing homes, installing solar and other renewable energy projects, providing job and contractor training, expanding local food production, and building green infrastructure in Portland while focusing on communities of color and people with low incomes. The ballot initiative, for which a former Portland mayor expressed his support on CityLab, stipulates that at least 50 percent of the projects “should specifically benefit low-income residents and communities of color.”

In a less progressive development, voters in Washington State decided not to impose a carbon fee, which would have funneled millions into clean energy and forest-conservation projects as well as public transit.

—Nicole Javorsky

Keeping money out of politics—and giving it to voters

As the campaign contributions needed to run a successful local race inflate, cities have tried to tamp down on political spending, and help regular (read: less wealthy) people compete with national organizations for political clout over candidates.

On Tuesday, Portland, Oregon, approved a measure that will cap campaign contributions; Denver created a city fund that will match small-dollar donations to local candidates; and Baltimore adopted a “Fair Election Fund,” which will allow for public financing.

Sarah Holder

For Seattle public school students, free college in reach

By raising the property taxes on some Seattle homes, voters have created a new, expanded education fund that will fund subsidized preschool, support programs in Seattle Public Schools—and send a few public high school graduates to community college for free every year.

Mayor Jenny Durkan feared that the levy would be more contentious, clouded by a “hangover” from the city’s war with the business community over another measure that would have taxed businesses to pay for affordable housing and homelessness initiatives in the city. But this education proposal turned out to be widely uncontroversial, passing with two thirds of the vote. One potential reason for its success: While Amazon poured thousands into killing the homelessness tax, it was this measure’s largest financial supporter.

Sarah Holder

Fluoride is staying out of city water

Fluoridated water has become a hot topic in some communities, where residents want it out of their water. The policy had a controversial beginning, when in 1945 the U.S. Public Health Service added fluoride to the water supply in Grand Rapids, Michigan, without residents’ consent. The fluoride addition was an experiment, and the results were resounding: Within 11 years, the rate of cavities had dropped by 60 percent among children in Grand Rapids’ schools, inspiring water fluoridation adoption across the country. By 2014, according to the CDC, about two thirds of the U.S. population lived in places with a fluoridated water supply.

But the anti-fluoridation movement remains strong. Last month, NBC News reported that anti-fluoridationists, who aim to reverse this trend of water fluoridation, have been circulating conspiracy theories online about fluoridation being part of a “communist plot to dumb down Americans.” On Election Day, residents of Brooksville, Florida voted to keep fluoride in their water supply (according to early results) and Houston, Missouri voted to stop fluoridation. And Springfield, Ohio, voted no on adding fluoride to their water supply. Some 74 other cities have banned water fluoridation, according to the American Dental Association.

Nicole Javorsky

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Watch the Live Stream for CityLab Detroit, Day 2

Every year, The Atlantic, the Aspen Institute, and Bloomberg Philanthropies hold a global meeting for urban and community leaders. This year’s convening is happening now in Detroit, where the focus is on how cities can create equitable opportunity.

Among this year’s participants are Mayors Mike Duggan of Detroit, Jenny Durkan of Seattle, Giorgos Kaminis of Athens, and a host of other city officials, scholars, designers, and innovators. Also on Tuesday’s itinerary: Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff on his prototype for the urban future. And Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs on the universal basic income experiment.

Key panels and discussions for day 2 of the convening are being streamed live, below. Tuesday’s watch time runs from 9 a.m. eastern time to about 1:30 p.m.

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Welcome to CityLab Detroit

Every year, The Atlantic, the Aspen Institute, and Bloomberg Philanthropies hold a global meeting for urban and community leaders. This year’s convening is happening now in Detroit, where the focus is on how cities can create equitable opportunity.

Among this year’s participants are Mayors Mike Duggan of Detroit, Jenny Durkan of Seattle, Giorgos Kaminis of Athens, and a host of other city officials, scholars, designers, and innovators. Also on Monday’s itinerary: How do you design cinematic worlds for films like Black Panther? And how is the MIT Media Lab using city sounds to create the “Opera of the Future?”

Key panels and discussions are being streamed live, below. Monday’s watch time runs from 9 a.m. eastern time to about 5:30 p.m.

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: What Local Climate Actions Would Have the Greatest Impact

A landmark report released by the U.N. last week has laid out the stakes of a warming planet more starkly than ever. Warming of just 1.5 degrees Celsius could bring on the most severe consequences of climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Many cities and states are leading the public charge to address this, particularly in the U.S. after President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord. But it’s not yet clear what their tangible and collective impact has been.

So we asked some leading thinkers on local action and the environment: What is one thing a city or state could do to cut emissions significantly, fast?

From left to right: Annise Parker (Courtesy of LGBTQ Victory Fund), Shelley Poticha ((Courtesy of NRDC), and Vishaan Chakrabarti (Courtesy of PAU).

Focus on transit and transportation

Annise Parker
former Mayor of Houston and president & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund

Transit and transportation systems are significant contributors to greenhouse-gas emissions. There are immediate regulatory and organizational changes possible, to be followed by intermediate and long-term initiatives. Immediate actions: Cities have regulated tailpipe emissions, limited idling, and created car-free zones. They have eliminated subsidized parking for privately-owned vehicles and restricted parking availability for businesses.

Longer-term, cities can optimize, expand, and align transit and transportation systems with an understanding of future technology trends. An example is Houston reconfiguring its bus system, which led to better service and ridership, as well as feeding its light rail system. Another is working with trucking firms to better route trucks to and from the Port of Houston.

Create ‘go zones’

Shelley Poticha
managing director, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program, Natural Resources Defense Council

We have built giant energy-wasting buildings, produced millions of tons of methane-producing garbage and waste, relied on a carbon economy, and failed to prioritize infrastructure that helps mitigate extreme storms and temperatures. As a result, cities and local jurisdictions know they are now facing crises on a number of fronts—from climate change to affordable housing—and that their very survival as centers of commerce, community, innovation, and vitality is at stake. The IPCC report only makes that more clear.

But if cities consume more than two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for over 70 percent of carbon emissions globally, they are also key to the climate change solution. Immediate steps by cities to make themselves more sustainable and resilient are possible, and many are already acting: committing to renewable energy, setting emissions targets, and pledging to stick to the Paris climate agreement goals.

A surgical strike by cities to cut emissions would be to quickly introduce and pass a supply-and-demand payment system for using congested roads. London, Singapore, Milan, and Stockholm have all had success with such programs. When Stockholm introduced congestion pricing in January 2006, traffic to the city center dropped by 20 percent literally overnight. London had a similar improvement. Stockholm also reported a 47-percent drop in child asthma and the pricing model produced a revenue stream that pays for transit and walking infrastructure.

Some U.S. cities are ready to jump on board with this commonsense approach that not only reduces pollution but helps people get places at a fair cost in a reasonable amount of time. As we’ve learned since we were sold the idea that cars were a ticket to freedom, driving isn’t free, and it isn’t easy when we pay the price in deadly pollution and choking traffic.

This is but one response that can be undertaken to address the urgency of climate change. At the local level, doing so is complex and takes an understanding that many approaches are interrelated, but there is much that can be done—and be done immediately, so that we can give our cities back to people again.

Take pressure off the central business district

Vishaan Chakrabarti
Founder of Practice for Architecture & Urbanism (PAU) and author of A Country of Cities

One big action that cities can take in the face of climate change is to rethink what and where a central business district is in the 21st century. Urbanites and rail-based suburbanites tend to have lower carbon footprints due to their use of mass transit and smaller dwellings. But as our cities have grown they have become a hot mess, with unaffordable housing and office space dominating most downtowns. Technology can shift that dynamic, both because tech companies are seeking interesting locations outside of traditional business districts, and because the technology of mobility is changing with the advent of e-bikes, scooters, zero-emission buses, and an age-old biped technology called walking.

Cities should embrace this transformation through zoning, tax, and transportation policies in order to shift pressure from overtaxed central business districts to other interesting and more affordable urban neighborhoods where people can live, play, and work. By encouraging these new workplaces off the beaten path—often in old historic warehouses or in distinctive new architecture—residents can have shorter commutes in walking or biking distance from their existing communities, helping to save both their pocketbooks and the planet.

From left to right: Jameson McBride (Courtesy of the Breakthrough Institute), and Emma Stewart (Courtesy of the World Resources Institute).

Mandate clean energy

Jameson McBride
energy and climate analyst, the Breakthrough Institute

At the Breakthrough Institute, we’re excited to see real action on an ambitious state policy idea: clean-energy standards. They’re simple legal mandates for a certain share of a state’s electricity to come from carbon-free sources by a certain year. For example, in the clean-energy standard signed into law recently in California, the state mandated 100 percent clean energy by 2045. Arguably the best part of these policies is their flexibility. Utilities can meet the mandate with any mix of zero-carbon technologies, including wind, water, solar, nuclear, and even fossil fuels with carbon capture. Many studies (here’s one) have shown that a mix of low-carbon power technologies will provide the fastest, cheapest, and most politically likely path to decarbonizing our electricity. Clean-energy standards enable states to set really ambitious climate goals that are also achievable—while supporting emerging technologies that will be needed for climate progress.

Require buildings to be carbon-zero

Emma Stewart
director of Urban Efficiency & Climate, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities

Cities represent roughly 70 to 75 percent of global emissions. Upgrading homes to greater energy efficiency and enticing residents into transit or more efficient vehicles are the best ways cities can make a meaningful impact. If I had to pick only one, the evidence shows that the greatest opportunity lies in deep improvements to the energy demanded by buildings, where Westerners spend 90 percent of our time and which are leaking both carbon and money.

Setting a target for zero-carbon building construction by a certain date accomplishes multiple objectives. It A) tackles the greatest source of cost-effective urban emissions reductions (i.e. buildings), B) improves air quality and occupant experience, C) provides developers and owners a hedge against rising electricity (and in some places, carbon) prices, and D) transforms buildings into new and distributed sources of clean energy and storage, necessary to capitalizing on the full societal potential of electric vehicles. Win, win, win, win.

Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Watch Video from CityLab Paris, Day 2

The fifth CityLab summit is happening now in Paris. Hosted by the Aspen Institute, The Atlantic, and Bloomberg Philanthropies, it’s a global annual meeting of city leaders and experts in urbanism and city planning, economics, education, art, architecture, public-sector innovation, community development, and business.

Key panels and discussions that took place Tuesday Paris time are rebroadcast below. View the full itinerary.

Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Watch the Live Stream from CityLab Paris, Day 2

The fifth CityLab Summit is happening now in Paris. Hosted by the Aspen Institute, The Atlantic, and Bloomberg Philanthropies, it’s a global annual meeting of city leaders and experts in urbanism and city planning, economics, education, art, architecture, public-sector innovation, community development, and business.

Key panels and discussions from Tuesday’s itinerary are being streamed, live, below. View the full itinerary.