Once upon a time I ran a news site, now I just have opinions on the news. 

Good morning, RVA: Bad bus legislation, marathon doping, and another friendly Ross

Good morning, RVA! It's 45 °F, and today's highs are back up in the 60s, and the sun is back up in the sky. Excellent work, weather forecast!

Water cooler

Councilwoman Kim Gray has introduced a resolution (PDF) that would encourage the Mayor to ask the state use about a million bucks of leftover incentive money from construction of the Pulse to provide "financial assistance to compensate for declining customer traffic and sales due to extended construction activities and impediments resulting from the construction of the Broad Street Bus Rapid Transit project." This resolution is...not great legislation.

First, it references that "local media outlets have reported that numerous business have been adversely affected by the project's construction." The most comprehensive reporting about the impact on business that I can remember is this piece published on October 1st in the RTD by Ned Oliver and Robert Zullo. In it they talk to six businesses up and down Broad Street, and here is what each said about the construction:

  • Sally Bell's — "Business has been good...It's sort of a mild annoyance."
  • Savory Grain — "Overall, it's been a nightmare...It's been very hard for us businesses."
  • Nick's International Foods — "It's been more of a headache than a dent in sales."
  • Rider Boot Shop — "It's the city. You're always under construction. It's part of the deal and, in the end, you have better infrastructure."
  • Jefferson Loan — "...has seen business grow month over month through construction."
  • Red Books and Coffee — "...his business has continued to grow, albeit not at the same rate it was prior to construction."

Note that the owner of Savory Grain, the lone business who said construction has had a negative impact on business, also says this: "She also wants the city and the Virginia Department of Transportation, which is managing the project, to consider using all or some of the $3.25 million early completion incentive that Lane will not get to help businesses that may be struggling through the construction." Sounds similar to the legislaton introduced this week, no?

Second, is there even a way to measure the direct, negative impact of the Pulse on these businesses? As folks on Twitter pointed out, will we give financial assistance to business along the similarly lengthy construction on Forest Hill Avenue? Or anytime the City plops down some barrels, gets rid of some parking, and temporarily closes a sidewalk?

Third, introducing legislation like this does have political consequences. When the Richmond Times-Dispatch reached out to Transportation Secretary Aubrey Lane for comment he was not super stoked: "Layne said the request was an affront to the state, which helped salvage a foundering project." Pissing off the State is not something I'd want to do at a time when the Richmond region needs more resources to expand our transit network, build more bike lanes, and improve the safety of our streets.

Finally, there are just better ideas out there to help businesses during the construction of major infrastructure projects. Check out this really clever idea from Indianapolis: Small loans provided to businesses impacted by construction—in coordination with their Chamber of Commerce! These businesses ultimately stand to benefit the most from projects like this, so something like a loan makes a ton more sense than free money. Working with our Chamber of Commerce to get a program like this off the ground sounds like a great way for Councilwoman Gray to address her constituent's concerns.

Justin Mattingly at the RTD has the follow up on Paul Goldman's Ballot Referendum, which, until now, was in search of a patron at the General Assembly after Del. Loupassi lost his job.

I'm super interested in how this new Office of Equity and Diversity at Henrico County Public Schools turns out. It's encouraging to see that the County's response to the racial and sexual abuse that took place at Short Pump Middle School has extended beyond forfeiting a couple of football games.

Catherine Amos Cribbs writing for Richmond Magazine reminds me that Pasture's Beth Dixon is one of my favorite bartenders in town. Cribbs takes a look at and a sip of a new drink Dixon created called The Nelson, based on Virginia-made whiskey. Now to plan my next happy hour meeting...

Whoa, look at this bizarre story in the RTD by Tim Pearrell about doping in the Richmond Marathon. If you're thinking, "What? Who cares enough to cheat at the Richmond Marathon?", that's exactly the scam! An agent will register these elite runners in lower-tier marathons that have decent prize money but no drug testing—for a cut of that sweet, sweet prize money, of course.

Also on the sports tip, Richmond BizSense reports that the arena racing league—which features tiny, half-sized NASCARs that race around a tiny track inside the Coliseum—has canceled their upcoming season. The league's owner blames the recently announced RFP for a new Coliseum.

The closest, possibly-habitable planet to Earth is named Ross 128 b, and I just thought you should know that.


  • Hokies (roundball) head up to New York to take on Saint Louis tonight at 7:00 PM.

This morning's longread

Cuphead and the Racist Spectre of Fleischer Art

By sidestepping this kind of over the top caricature, Cuphead attempts to represent the best of the jazz era’s relationship with cartoons. And there is a lot of good to be found. Calloway is an electric performer and cartoons like the Fleischer’s 1933 films The Old Man of the Mountain and Betty Boop in Snow White do far better justice to his inimitable style. At the same time, these examples feature his voice in the body of an old white man and a white-faced clown, respectively. When it comes time for cartoons to represent him as a human being, his lips balloon up, his eyes grow, and he is forced into the minstrel mold, the only way that animation studios seemed to be able to envision black characters for decades. That Cuphead follows the path of the Fleischers and hides what could have been his likeness behind an anthropomorphic talking dice is historically in line with black representation in animation. Once it became faux-pas to depict black characters as minstrels and racist caricatures, then the solution appears to be not depicting them at all.

Good morning, RVA: Foster care, budget season, and important school board meeting

Good morning, RVA: Commission next steps, Chesterfield's lack of transit, and a clay army