New York: Scott Conger, mayor of Jackson, Tenn., ran on a modest promise to improve local infrastructure. He planned to repair the city’s aging storm-water disposal system, build sidewalks, and open a senior center in his city. Conger, 38, has a new favorite cause as he begins his fourth year in office: cryptocurrencies. The mayor has promised to give city employees the option of converting their paychecks into Bitcoin.
As Bitcoin and other digital currencies have grown in popularity, a strange new political breed has emerged: the crypto mayor. The new mayor of New York, Eric Adams, received his first paycheck in Bitcoin and another cryptocurrency, Ether, and Miami’s Mayor Francis Suarez headline crypto conferences. Today even mayors of smaller towns are incorporating crypto into municipal government by courting startups and experimenting with buzzy new technologies like NFTs to raise money for public projects.
Their increasing popularity reflects the growing mainstream acceptance of digital currencies, which are highly volatile. Mayors rationally want to attract taxpayers who pay their taxes to impose few costs on the municipality, said Joseph Grundfest, a Stanford business professor. It’s unclear whether these local initiatives will ultimately amount to much, as is the case with many ambitious crypto projects. So far, they have mostly been symbolic or theoretical in nature.
Decentralized city governments built on blockchain technology have been a long-standing goal of crypto enthusiasts. But Conger’s crypto ambitions have already been thwarted. He is close to establishing a system for city employees to invest a portion of their paychecks in Bitcoin, but his mining proposal is impossible to implement under existing laws.