Also: Unpacking New York’s ejection of Amazon, and a short history of Germany’s beloved Schwebebahn.

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What We’re Following

Lay of the land: By declaring a national emergency to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, President Donald Trump is teeing up a slate of legal challenges, potentially including from homeowners along the border whose land has been in their families for generations. The administration may have to use eminent domain—the power of government to take ownership of private property for public use—though House Democrats are introducing a set of bills to protect homeowners who may be affected. Their efforts may even win over small-government Republicans, who have traditionally opposed the quick-and-dirty way the federal government acquires land.

“Our nation has a long and dark history of land seizures targeting poor and marginalized communities who lack the resources to fight for fair compensation under the law,” said Democratic Representative Val Demings, introducing a bill that would set up a legal fund for low-income landowners to fight land seizure. CityLab’s Tanvi Misra has the rundown on the new bills seeking to protect border residents from displacement.

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

Amazon’s HQ2 Fiasco Will Cost the Company More Than It Costs New York

The mega-company has bucked dealing reasonably with New York City, Seattle, and any community that asks them to pay for its freight.

Richard Florida

New York’s Ejection of Amazon Is the Start of a Movement

NYC lawmakers who led a resistance campaign against HQ2 are declaring victory. And already, they have plans to escalate their opposition to tax incentives.

Sarah Holder

Are Reparations Baltimore’s Fix for Redlining, Investment Deprivation?

The solutions to Baltimore’s inequitable financing problems must be as radical as the policies that segregated the city in the first place, says Lawrence Brown.

Brentin Mock

With Trains Like Schwebebahn, No Wonder Germans Love Public Transit

Infrastructure like this makes it clear why Germany continues to produce enthusiasm for public transit, generation after generation.

Benjamin Schneider

A Valentine’s Tradition, Born in the Heart of Boston

In the 1800s, candy helped make Boston an industrial powerhouse. Candy hearts have been a lasting legacy of that era, though their future is less certain.

Sarah Holder


You’ve Got Mail

Millennials get blamed for killing just about everything, from homeownership to breakfast cereal, and the Census Bureau is making sure it’s not next. With an aversion to landlines and physical mail, young urban renters will be some of the more difficult residents to reach for the 2020 decennial count. The statistical agency has plans to use social media and other internet publicity to make sure an undercount, which could affect cities’ political power and federal funding, doesn’t happen. Stateline has the story, featuring quotes of Millennials saying the darnedest things:

“Mail? I feel like that’s a dead thing,” said Tim Slayton, 36, a Washington, D.C., resident for 18 years. “And I don’t have a lot of people randomly knocking at my front door, so I would be a little weirded out. ‘Census Bureau!’ It sounds like a joke. It sounds like you just want me to open my door. So I probably wouldn’t.”

CityLab context: Cities are bracing for 2020 Census chaos


What We’re Reading

The American infrastructure tragedy, explained (Vox)

When a suburb loses its headquarters (Chicago Magazine)

HUD acknowledges recent shutdown slowed pace of recovery aid to Puerto Rico (The Hill)

Why new apartments all look the same (Bloomberg)

Google’s Waymo risks repeating Xerox’s mistakes (Ars Technica)


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