A morning roundup of the day’s news.
The Amazon reality show: The bidding for Amazon’s HQ2 turned America into “The Bachelor: Corporate Edition,” writes Slate columnist Henry Grabar, as the public groveling and courtship from U.S. cities now gives way to the “quieter, more private seduction of dozens of bids promising land and money to America’s 12th-largest company.” Grabar reflects on the irony of enthusing for the company that’s flattened local retail in cities nationwide:
More striking is the lack of critical voices—among U.S. mayors, who are almost all Democrats—about Amazon’s business. Amazon accounts for 43 percent of everything that’s sold online in the United States, and 5 percent of all retail sales (excluding food, and before the Whole Foods acquisition). Bezos’ company decided years ago that it would pay sales taxes, but that’s small compensation for its brutal effect on local, independent retail. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a think tank that advocates for small businesses, estimates that Amazon’s market share has vacated more than 135 million square feet of retail, or about 700 empty big-box stores and 22,000 Main Street businesses. You may think that is a good trade for ever-cheaper consumer products at your doorstep in days or even hours—or that the American romance with small-business owners is overdone. But its consequences—starting with the elimination of customer-facing retail jobs and rise of their warehouse counterparts—will be cataclysmic. Even withdrawal letters from San Antonio and Little Rock were full of general admiration for the company.
Lyft’s great week: The ride-hailing company is flying high this week, now operating in all 50 states and snagging a $1 billion investment from Alphabet, parent company of Google—which was among the early investors in ride-share rival Uber. (Smart Cities Dive, AP)
Connected city: San Francisco is churning forward with plans to create a $1.5 billion city-owned fiber-optic network to connect every home and business in the city to “blazingly fast” Internet service. If it succeeds, the city will be by far the largest in the country to operate a municipal fiber network. (San Francisco Gate)
- See also: The Nation highlights how grassroots community efforts in New York City are filling the void that government can’t or won’t step into with bridging the digital divide.
Seek out the trees: A long-term study finds that city dwellers who live near forests are more likely to have healthy brains that can better manage the stress and anxiety associated with urban life. (Forbes)
Regional bike-share: A new effort in the Boston area is working to create a regional rather than city-based network for bike-sharing for as many as 16 small towns and cities surrounding—a movement that takes its cue from regional models in the Bay Area and New Jersey. (Next City)
Barbers battling STDs: In St. Louis, more than a dozen barber shops and beauty salons have expanded their services to include … sex education. The “Fade Out” program, named after the popular haircut, launches from the local health department’s efforts to reduce the city’s notoriously high STD rates. (Governing)
Pot tax: In Colorado’s busiest ski county, voters will decide next month whether to support a 2.5 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana to fund up to $1.2 million a year in mental health and substance abuse services. (Route Fifty)
The urban lens:
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