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

Good morning, RVA: Meals tax, State of the City, and more on the RRHA

Good morning, RVA: Meals tax, State of the City, and more on the RRHA Blurb: Rainy for a while, but sunny later.

Good morning, RVA! It's 60 °F, and rainy. You can expect the rain—and possibly some thunder—to continue throughout the morning. After that, things should clear up nicely.

Water cooler

Richmond Police are reporting a homicide that occurred on the 1800 block of Gordon Avenue this past Thursday. Officers arrived and found Randy L. Jones, 61, shot to death.

Police are also reporting that a driver turning left from E. Cary Street onto 14th Street hit a pedestrian attempting to cross and sent them to the hospital with life-threatening injuries early Friday morning. Pedestrians have been hit by drivers at this intersection at least five times since 2015.

Ahead of the State of the City Address (6:00 PM tonight, does anyone know if I can watch or stream this thing?), the Mayor announced his plans to propose a meals tax increase to pay for “the renovation and replacement of public school facilities in the city.” The 1.5% increase (for a total of 7.5%) would raise $9.1 million per year and increase the City’s debt capacity. If you remember way back to 2016, the meals tax was identified as one of the potential sources of revenue for schools (PDF)—along with a medium-sized list of other alternatives like admissions tax, cigarette tax, and a state Payment In Lieu of Taxes.

‘Twas a facepalmy night last night in City Council Chambers. Staff couldn’t get the sound system to work properly, so the meeting was rescheduled for February 5th at 5:00 PM. Additionally, no one from the RRHA showed up at the informal meeting when former CEO T.K. Somanath had been scheduled to update Council on the state of heating and repairs in Creighton Court.

Speaking of, Ned Oliver at the Richmond Times-Dispatch says the RRHA will appoint an interim director today. And Michael Paul Williams gets it right in his column about the whole situation, saying, “Whoever replaces Somanath has a major trust-building job ahead. He or she must be a humanitarian at heart...Whoever takes the helm must communicate effectively with every stakeholder.” I’m still stuck on bad communications being one of the major factors in leaving RRHA leaderless at a pretty critical time. Williams also pins the future success of whomever replaces Somanath directly on the Mayor, which I totally agree with. Running the desperately underfunded RRHA is an incredibly hard job, and that person will need all the help they can get from the City’s leadership. I know Mayor Stoney likes to say he’s the education mayor, but it looks like he’s going to have to become a housing mayor, too—and quickly.

The Faustian bargain media companies had with Facebook comes due! As the social media company tweaks their algorithm to show less content from news publishers (despite spending years convincing publishers that Facebook was the way to reach humans with their news), media folks are forced to run stories like this one in RVA Mag about how to flip all the necessary switches to makes sure Facebook will still surface their content.

Transit fans! GRTC will hold their quarterly Pulse Project Information Meeting today. Two sessions, both at the Children’s Museum, one at 9:00 AM and one at 6:00 PM.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, the GOVERNMENT IS BACK (for now). Vox has the details on the wheeling and dealing to make it so.


  • Rams head to Saint Louis tonight at 9:00 PM.
  • Hokies knocked off UNC, 80-69.
  • Wahoos host Clemson tonight at 7:00 PM.

This morning's longread

Slow the Cars

Do you know the difference between a street and a road? What’s a stroad?

Designing our streets as if they were roads creates three fundamental and interrelated problems. First, it’s really expensive. We spend a lot more money on everything from engineering to asphalt when we overbuild our streets. And because poorly designed streets suppress demand for biking and walking — two lower cost alternatives to driving — they actually induce even more demand for transportation spending. Second, poorly designed streets drive down the taxpayer’s return-on-investment. In general, the more auto-oriented a development pattern is, the higher the cost to provide public services and the lower the value per acre. The kind of streets that are typically located in auto-centric areas are not only less financially productive, they also tend to be less adaptable, less flexible and thus more financially fragile. The financial struggles our cities face are directly related to the poor financial productivity of our auto-based development pattern.

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Good morning, RVA: The State of the City, the meals tax, and the insurance market

Good morning, RVA: Violence, RRHA resignation, and government shutdown.