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✊🏙 Transport gets a boost in US midterms, Amazon poised to announce HQ2... and 3, & much more!

Hey urbanists, US midterms are over, but what does that mean for cities? Rumour is that Amazon knows
November 11 · Issue #59 · View online
Radical Urbanist
Hey urbanists,
US midterms are over, but what does that mean for cities? Rumour is that Amazon knows where it will be setting up it’s new headquarters — and it’s the two major East coast cities where it already has the most employees. As always, there are a bunch of other great reads at the end, and a photo from North Korea to make you think: wouldn’t society be better if transit stops featured art instead of ads? I think so.
Have a great Sunday.

Good and bad outcomes in US midterms
The US midterm elections took place on November 6. The Democrats took back a number of governorships, won more seats at all levels of government (many by women and minorities), and took back the federal House — but the Republicans still hold the Senate.
Among the ballot measures passed on Tuesday were many to maintain or increase funding for transportation, along with a number of housing-related initiatives.
  • The attempt to repeal California’s gas tax increase failed, while a number of measures to help housing affordability passed. However, the measure to repeal restrictions on rent control — which Wall Street spent a lot of money to oppose — failed. Prop C in San Francisco, which divided Silicon Valley billionaires, passed; it will add a small tax to the city’s largest companies to fund programs to help the city’s homeless.
  • Baltimore banned the privatization of its water system.
  • Washington voted down a carbon tax and Arizona opposed a mandate for utilities to have 50% renewable power by 2050 after the races were flooded with fossil fuel money.
Meanwhile, prominent democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest women to be elected to Congress and shared a very millennial problem: she can’t afford to rent a place in Washington, DC until she has a salary. Those rents are high!
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
40% of ALL Americans currently struggle to pay for one basic need like food or rent.

As much as @FoxNews likes to mock the working-class, the real scandal is that at the wealthiest point in our history, we are at one of our most unequal.

Most Americans are barely scraping by.
Amazon HQ2... and 3?
While the official announcement has yet to be made, it looks like Amazon has chosen the location of its second headquarters… and its third. Based on a number of reports, it looks like Long Island City in NYC and Crystal City in Arlington, VA (just outside Washington, DC) will each get half of the jobs and investment that Amazon promised would accompany its HQ2.
Honestly, the choice of NYC and Greater Washington makes the whole process look (probably accurately) like a sham. Amazon got a ton of great PR as cities around North America — remember, Canadian cities were in on the competition too — competed with incentives to attract the ecommerce giant, its jobs, and investment.
Now, after getting up the hopes of so many cities, the HQ is being split between the city with the most corporate HQs in the country and the seat of the federal government — both are already among the most expensive places to live in the country. As Emily Badger wrote in NYTimes, this decision makes the superstar cities bigger and richer — NYC and DC accounted for half of the net increase in businesses across the US from 2007 to 2016 — but it will also make some of the most unequal cities even more so.
Streetsblog has a couple pieces on how transit served as a key factor in the choice of both of these locations. Curbed also looked at whether LIC is ready for such a big influx of workers — Cuomo said he’d change his name, but how about fixing the subways?
And what about all those subsidies? How much will Amazon reap from the governments in these two cities/states? As Seattle Times’ Mike Rosenberg pointed out, Amazon used the process to squeeze subsidies out of the two cities that are already its largest East Coast offices. But Google and Facebook got no subsidies for their NYC offices, so why should Amazon, one of the largest publicly traded companies in the world?
Will Oremus
I know I'm late to this, but the reason Amazon's HQ2 was a farce is not just that they picked two cities. It's that they raised the hopes of cities across the country that could really use an infusion of economic vitality, then picked the two that need it least of all.
Other great reads
🤦🏻‍♀️ Elon Musk says his tunnels could “fundamentally change the equation for city planning.” Is he aware we’ve been running train in tunnels for more than a century?
🏬 After hollowing out town centers across the US, Walmart wants to build its own town centers around its big-box stores
🇫🇷 Paris plans to have world’s largest e-bike fleet and rent them at €40 a month for residents
🇬🇧 Since 1979, 10% of British land has been transferred from public hands to private ownership
🇳🇿 Auckland’s city center is being “rebalanced towards people” with investment in transit, cycling, and pedestrian infrastructure
🇨🇦 How Montreal redesigned its Bonaventure Expressway to create plenty of green space, public art, and walkable areas
🇦🇺 Australia’s right-wing government wants to divert immigrants from the cities to the regions. Their plan will fail.
🚌 NYC mayor Bill DeBlasio argued that congestion pricing would penalize the poor. But the fact it would significantly speed up buses shows the opposite.
🇬🇧 Analyses of Brexit often ignore the geography of decline and disinvestment that turned people against the status quo
🛴 Some business in San Francisco want more e-scooters
💰 Ford bought e-scooter company Spin
UN Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing Leilani Farha says global housing crisis driven by financialization: “housing has lost its social function and is seen instead as a vehicle for wealth and asset growth. It has become a financial commodity, robbed of its connection to community, dignity and the idea of home.”
✊️❤️ Thanks for reading. You can follow me on TwitterMedium, or Instagram for even more!
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