The Mayor of Reno Is Betting Big on the Blockchain

Hillary Schieve, the mayor of Reno, Nevada, takes my arm earlier than we jaywalk throughout the road from City Hall. She continues clutching it as we traverse the gritty public plaza on the different facet, and doesn’t let go till we attain the foot, or relatively fin, of our vacation spot: a hulking metal and stained-glass sculpture of a humpback whale nuzzling its calf. Its identify is the Space Whale. In 2016 a workforce led by artist Matt Schultz created it for Burning Man, the annual competition held a couple of hours north of the metropolis, as a method of drawing consciousness to “our hypocrisy toward protecting the oceans,” he tells me later. After the competition, the metropolis leased the sculpture for $64,000.

Up shut, the whales are wanting a bit wan. Most of the reachable panes have been shattered, and the steel skeleton is dropping its sheen. Schieve, bundled tightly in a coat, her blond hair whipping in a cold April wind, reaches towards a shard of glass and sighs. “I’m on the save-the-whale campaign,” she says. This was a controversial assertion. The lease on the whale had expired in August 2019. The artists had tried to promote it to the metropolis, which had little curiosity in the $500,000 price ticket, and when the value later got here down, the metropolis insisted the artists pay for repairs. Schultz’s group then tried to promote it on Facebook Marketplace for $1 million. No takers. All the whereas, nobody was giving the sculpture any TLC. In Schieve’s workplace, point out of “the whale” elicits an eye fixed roll. A white whale, beached on the banks of the Truckee River.

But this spring, Schieve (pronounced SHE-vee) devised a possible resolution: a non-fungible token, or NFT, supplied on the market on a blockchain known as Tezos. The new proprietor would obtain a .CAD file and a video from the artist, however the precise, bodily sculpture would keep in that downtown Reno plaza. The proceeds would increase funds for the metropolis to wash up the whale and protect it for the public to take pleasure in. Schieve realized this kind of semi-symbolic sale would possibly require some sweetening. So she was considering providing advantages, like tagging alongside on her annual journey to Burning Man with fellow elected officers. (They don’t keep in a single day, Schieve provides; she didn’t intend to jeopardize any future electoral campaigns with medication and orgies.)

Reno mayor Hillary Schieve

Photograph: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The issuance of an NFT just isn’t, at this level, such a radical factor, even for a authorities. Cities and states throughout have sought at occasions to forge hyperlinks to the blockchain. In 2018, Cleveland declared itself Blockland, although the label appears to have waned. Wyoming has set itself up as the premier regulatory haven for cryptocurrency, a label that different states, together with Nevada, now search to problem. All it takes is a couple of businesspeople and elected officers receptive to “new ideas,” particularly these with a cypherpunk ring. That’s not fairly what’s taking place in Reno. For Schieve, the NFT was a gateway to one thing else.

An early signal emerged in January, when Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami, an individual on a current tear of throwing out tech-friendly ideas and seeing what sticks, tweeted about turning his metropolis right into a “hub for crypto innovation” centered round Bitcoin. Schieve was unhappy. “When are you going to become a $LINK marine?” she teased in reply, cryptically to most readers. She was referring to a blockchain platform known as Chainlink, maybe greatest recognized for its cult following of “marines” who swarm towards any point out of the know-how on social media. Their loyalty is expressed by ranks earned by #HODLing (that’s, holding) the platform’s cryptocurrency, known as Link. Apparently, the mayor of Reno was a member of the battalion—“link pilled,” in the group’s parlance. “It was really sweet,” Schieve says of the meme invasion her tweet impressed.

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