How states are co-opting city power during Covid-19

CityLab Daily

Power trip: As U.S. cities attempted to pass public health measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, some state governments sought to override local efforts through their preemption powers. In the early days, a few states discouraged and even blocked cities from passing stay-at-home orders that were stricter than statewide policies. Then, as businesses began to reopen, states like Texas, Florida and Arizona barred municipalities from setting mandatory mask rules. (They've since allowed some narrowly tailored mask ordinances amid a resurgence of U.S. infections.) Meanwhile, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, a Republican, has yet to walk back his threat to withhold federal coronavirus aid from any local government that orders residents to cover their faces.

These moves are all part of a long-term trend of state governments taking authority away from local leaders. Instead of helping cities protect their people, writes Brooks Rainwater at the National League of Cities, states are playing "politics with public health." Today on CityLab: States Are Abusing Preemption Powers in the Midst of a Pandemic

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What we're reading

  • In "the Blackest city in America," a fight to end facial recognition (CNET)
  • Seattle mayor orders "occupied" area cleared; police arrive (AP)
  • Focus on opening schools, not bars (New York Times)
  • Puerto Rico's troubled utility is a goldmine for U.S. contractors (Huffington Post)
  • The remaking of Manchester, the U.K. city that was the global epicenter of the Industrial Revolution (Places Journal)


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