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

Good morning, RVA: Property tax, panel chats, and a place for new rockets

Good morning, RVA! It's 51 °F, and, while bright and sunshiney, highs today may not even hit 60 °F. It took awhile, but fall is officially here.

Water cooler

Yesterday afternoon, RPS Superintendent Kamras sent out a middle-of-the-week email, which always means big news. This email, about schools funding, was no exception! First, he announced the MarchForMore, a march on the Capitol on December 8th for more state-level education funding. He wants the state, at the very minimum, to cough up “1) an increase in the percentage of Virginia Lottery proceeds that come to schools; 2) an increase in the "at-risk add-on" for students who grow up in poverty and face other challenges; and 3) a special pot of money for school divisions currently under a Memorandum of Understanding with the VDOE (such as RPS).” With this part, Mayor Stoney is onboard (at least generally—I’m not sure whether he supports Kamras’s specific requests), and it’s nice to see him follow through on his campaign promise to be an advocate for the City at the General Assembly. Second, and more dramatic, Kamras called for rolling property tax cuts back to pre-recession levels: moving the rate from $1.20 per $100 of assessed value to $1.30. He says this would raise $20 million annually, and he’d like “2/3 of this new revenue for operating costs and 1/3 to finance debt for new school construction.” Property tax is the single largest slice of the City’s revenue pie and is the only slice big enough to catch up on our massive underinvestments in transportation, housing, and, of course, schools. So I’m not hear to argue against increasing the property tax, but...maybe we should increase it even more and not dedicate the entire thing to schools? I know it seems like I hate children when I say that, but we’ve got pressing needs on a lot of fronts and, personal opinion, we could get really broad support for a more robust increase in the tax if it was’t all going strictly to schools. Quibbles aside, I’m really glad to see one of our City’s leaders proposing and pushing for bold policy—of course, dudeman doesn’t have to worry about re-election like some of the other folks in town which makes his mid-week email proclamations a bit easier.

City Council committees have some seriously interesting agendas lately. Today the Finance and Economic Development committee will meet at 3:00 PM and consider all sorts of housing-related papers. Top of the list is Councilmember Gray’s ordinance to create tax deferrals for folks whose property values have increased significantly (ORD. 2018-236). I’ve talked about this before and how the lack of an income cap concerns me. Additionally, do property tax deferrals even help prevent gentrification? The abstract of this PDF which I have not yet read in full says not really, “We find some evidence that property tax pressure can trigger involuntary moves by homeowners, but no evidence that such displacement is more common in gentrifying neighborhoods than elsewhere, nor that property tax limitation protects long-term homeowners in gentrifying neighborhoods. We do find evidence that gentrification directly displaces renters.” Also on deck is ORD. 2018-238 which would send proceeds from tax-delinquent property sales into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and a $16 million bond issuance from RRHA (RES. 2018-R093) to pay for multifamily rental housing at 1125 Commerce Road.

Nerd alert! Tonight, from 5:30–7:30 PM come out to Gallery5 and hear me talk transit and Jonathan Knopf talk housing on a panel set up by a bunch of kind planner-type folks.

Rockets are sweet, and the Governor announced that the state will expand the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport to make room for Rocket Lab. Rocket Lab will launch 57-foot rockets that can carry up to 500 pounds of stuff up into orbit.

This morning's longread

The Media is Failing Us on Climate Change

Ahhh, now we’re talking! Here’s definitely the best thing I’ve read on the climate change report.

The biggest problem with the usual climate-change media coverage is that our standard metaphor for a future crisis — a ticking bomb — is completely wrong. Climate change is not something that will happen all at once at some point in the future; its negative effects won’t “go off” when some timer ticks down to zero. Instead, climate change is a process we are already in the middle of; negative effects — like this week’s devastation of the Florida panhandle — are already happening. A better analogy might be smoking. Imagine you’re a heavy-smoking 25-year-old. You’re probably already seeing some effects: You get winded more easily, climbing stairs is harder, and so on. But you can live with that. Then your doctor tells you that if you keep smoking, your odds of dying before you’re 60 go up by X per cent. It might be a heart attack or lung cancer or something else, but your odds of dying go up. Notice what he didn’t say: He didn’t say that you have until you’re 60 to change your ways.

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Good morning, RVA: Property tax takes, big huge pipes, and gingerbread beer

Good morning, RVA: Scooter bummer, Teacher of the Year, and the Sears catalogue