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Elon Musk wants to create his own city. Here’s how that could work

Samantha Masunaga, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

“For too long our state has watched as many of our neighbors reap the benefits advanced technology industries bring,” he wrote. “Now is Nevada’s time to take a leading role in developing the technology solutions the entire world will use.”

Berns and Sisolak have insisted the project would not be a company town. In his op-ed, Berns noted that the innovation zone would be run by an elected board of citizens who would answer to the state just as Nevada cities and counties already do. But a draft of the proposal obtained by the Review-Journal states that at least initially, the company interested in creating the innovation zone would get to select the candidates for at least two of the initial three members of the zone’s board.

Regardless of government structure, in areas where there is a single major employer, that company holds power over elected officials — and by extension, over its employees, said Zoe Willingham, research associate for the economic policy team at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

They said that in such situations, the big employers also can “suppress wages and working conditions without workers quitting because of the lack of other employment options.”

Sisolak told the Review-Journal that the goal of the innovation zones was “a massive economic development investment in Nevada, and a chance to set down a marker that Nevada is the blockchain technology center of the world.” Blockchains LLC, Sisolak and Berns did not respond to questions from The Times.

Musk’s plans for the city of Starbase are unclear. SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment, and Musk himself has given just a few clues on Twitter. This week, he said that he expects Starbase to grow by “several thousand people” in the next year or two, and that he plans to donate $20 million to Cameron County schools and $10 million to the nearby city of Brownsville for “downtown revitalization.”

 

At best, planning appears to be in the early stages. SpaceX officials mentioned an interest in incorporation during a conversation with the legal department of Cameron County — of which Boca Chica Village is a part — but neither Musk nor the company has turned in the necessary paperwork to start the process, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. said last month.

“There’s a lot associated with incorporating, other than just wanting to,” he said.

For starters, Texas state law requires a potential municipality to have at least 201 inhabitants to incorporate. A Texas Supreme Court ruling also states that there must be a nucleus around which a town can develop, and that the area must be capable of receiving municipal services on a regular basis, said Alan Bojorquez, a municipal lawyer who serves as city attorney for several Texas cities.

Inhabitants would then have to vote on whether they want to incorporate the city.

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