This Week in Urban Affairs: Autonomous Car Guidelines, Body Cameras, & Highway Protests

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Our new weekly roundup of the latest reading materials filtered through an urban affairs lens.

(Getty Images)
Body cameras are designed to increase police accountability, a key component of effective police-community relations – but some state governments are pushing back against the trend with new laws that limit or deny the public’s ability to access the footage, a move that could work against attempts to build increased trust between police and city residents. (Getty Images)

Affordable Housing & Homelessness
Next City: Should Seattle Be Building Tent Cities for the Homeless?
July 11
The city of Seattle has sanctioned five homeless encampments, and directly funds three of them, as part of its policy to deal with its homelessness crisis. Proponents say that the tents are a temporary solution that allows homeless individuals and families greater flexibility and self-determination while they seek stability. Opponents such as Barbara Poppe, former head of the Interagency Council on Homelessness and consultant to Seattle on solving its homelessness crisis, has condemned the encampments. She claims they sap the resources and political will from finding long-term solutions.

Climate & Sustainability
GreenBiz: Renewable Energy’s New Dance Partners: Banks, Pension Funds
July 19
Banks and pension funds are increasingly looking to invest in renewable energy projects. The issuance of green bonds in 2016 is on track to double that of 2015, with institutional investors, corporate treasuries and sovereign and municipal governments increasingly purchasing them.

Economic Development
Next City: $65 Million Reasons to Stop Roadblocking City-Driven Job Creation
July 20
City officials in New Orleans, Cleveland and Nashville are all scrambling to defend “local hire” policies from their respective state governments. The row between states and local governments over local hire policies that are meant to solve local unemployment issues and build community wealth are the latest example of state governments blocking city governments’ attempts to deal with issues of economic and racial inequality.

Governance & Data
Government Technology: States Take Varied Approaches to Regulating Body Camera Footage
July 19
Some states are pushing back against the increased public accountability that was meant to come with the use of police body cameras with new laws that limit or deny the public’s ability to access the footage. Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina signed House Bill 972 into law on July 11, which cuts off public access to the videos taken by officer-worn devices and dashboard cameras. Similar legislation is currently going through the legislatures of Ohio and Kansas, and the New York City Police Department is soliciting public feedback on their use of body cameras.

Governing: Participatory Budgeting’s Promise for Democracy
July 19
The participatory budgeting movement is spreading quickly in North America, now with 63 processes occurring in 22 cities throughout the US and Canada. PB offers a new vision of citizen participation in local government, with participants choosing how to spend some of the capital funds available for their communities. A new report from Governing details outcomes from PB processes across the US, finding a wide variation in methods of community outreach and participation among people of color and disadvantaged communities.

Washington Post: Why Highways Have Become the Center of Civil Rights Protest
July 13
This piece explores the nature and the significance of the recent anti-police violence protests across the country that involved blocking freeways. Not only do such protests impede the economic life of an urban region, they also draw attention to how highways have historically segregated black and white communities.

Planning & Development
Fast CoDesign: How Urban Design Perpetuates Racial Inequality – And What We Can Do About It
July 18
The techniques of architecture, urban planning and policymaking have often been used to exacerbate and reinforce racial inequality and hierarchy. This article offers perspectives from architects, urbanists, planners and others on how these professions can be used to create more equitable urban environments. Some suggestions include increasing the racial diversity of the design professions, expanding and deepening public engagement in cities, and changing the way governments’ make decisions.

Public Safety
Planetizen: Pedestrians Need Protection from Motor Vehicles Used as Deadly Weapons
July 16
This piece argues that, in the wake of the Bastille Day truck massacre in Nice, France, public officials need to find ways to protect public spaces where large groups of people congregate from motor vehicle attacks.

Tech & Innovation
Government Technology: Federal Guidelines for Autonomous Cars on the Horizon
July 20
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that his agency will release new safety guidelines on autonomous vehicles this summer. The Transportation Department has been working with Google, BMW, General Motors and other companies to adapt existing safety rules to the new autonomous vehicle technology. Secretary Foxx also announced that his department will create a federal advisory committee to help plan how to “approach autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence more generally” and work with states to come up with approaches to regulation.

About the Author: Justin DeWaele is a Housing Policy Intern with NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research.