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

Good morning, RVA: Graduation rates, a legislative agenda, and a candidate forum

Good morning, RVA! It's 70 °F, and temperatures are back up near 90 °F. You thought the cool, soothing balm of fall had arrived? THINK AGAIN.

Water cooler

The Virginia Department of Education has released on-time graduation rates for school divisions and specific schools, and you can download the numbers in two huge Excel files. Richmond City has the lowest overall on-time graduation rate in the state, which you can read more about in this Justin Mattingly piece in the RTD. The data is a bit overwhelming, so I want to focus on one detail: I had a more spreadsheet-inclined friend point out to me that Hispanic students (there were 177 of them in the class of 2018) have an on-time graduation rate of just 38.4%, compared to 75.4% district wide. Out of those students, 74% attend Huguenot High School (which itself has a lower on-time graduation rate than the rest of the division). When Genevieve Siegel-Hawley talks about repeating a cycle of segregated schools with bad outcomes for students (PDF), this is the kind of thing that I start thinking about.

Redistricting update! The Governor has said he’ll veto the Republican’s partisan bill coming out of the General Assembly, most likely handing map drawing duties over to the courts. Michelle Hankerson at the Virginia Mercury has the details.

Today at 12:00 PM at the Library of Virginia , “members of Richmond City Council will attend an annual Richmond Legislative Work Summit to discuss Richmond legislative proposals for the upcoming Virginia General Assembly legislative session.” I honestly have no idea how public this meeting is, but, as we’ve heard recently from both the Mayor and the Superintendent on education funding, the City’s state-level legislative priorities are so very important. I continue to think that there’s a ton of latent energy in Richmonders to head down to the Capitol and demand more—more local control, more money, more everything. We just need a smart stack of policies and a couple of leaders to rally around. I wish this particular public meeting was recorded because it’d be one worth listening to.

Tonight at 7:00 PM, ChamberRVA will host a candidate forum for Henrico’s Brookland District (2100 Libbie Lake East Street). Danny Plaugher and Dan Schmitt are looking to fill the seat left unexpectedly vacant by former supervisor Courtney Lynch, and this is probably one of just a few chances to see the two candidates talk policy together before the November election. As it stands now, both Democrats and Republicans hold two seats on the Henrico Board of Supervisors—the eastern and western districts respectively. November’s special election will decide the County’s central district and the Board’s balance of power. Basically, that was a long way of saying you should definitely get out and vote if you live in the District.

Mark Robinson at the Richmond Times-Dispatch has a fairly wonky update on some surplus money the City finds itself with after the books closed in June. Interesting detail near the bottom: Councilmember Larson, one of the five who voted for taking $2 million from the Percent for Arts Fund, is on the record supporting putting some of that money back where it belongs.

Speaking of wonky, is it just me or would everyone love to read every single detail on the City’s plan to retime a ton of traffic signals downtown? I know about leading pedestrian intervals, but, other than that, I’d love to learn more about how signal retiming increases pedestrian safety.

Suzanne Velasco has a bunch of pictures from this past weekend’s Great American Beard & Mustache Championship over on RVAHub. These thing don’t even look like beards! More like strange and hairy cephalopods have taken roost inside these unsuspecting men’s skulls and their bristly tentacles have spilled forth from their victim’s heads!

This morning's longread

The problem with reinforced concrete

Oh, just a big long thing about how concrete works. Turns out, everything is fascinating!

This means that concrete structures, for all their stone-like superficial qualities, are actually made of the skeletons of sea creatures ground up with rock. It takes millions upon millions of years for these sea creatures to live, die and form into limestone. This timescale contrasts starkly with the life spans of contemporary buildings. Steel is often perceived to be inert and resilient too. Terms such as “Iron Age” suggest an ancient durability, although Iron Age artefacts are comparatively rare precisely because they rust. If construction steel is visible, it can be maintained – for instance, when the Sydney Harbour Bridge is repeatedly painted and repainted. However, when embedded in concrete, steel is hidden but secretly active. Moisture entering through thousands of tiny cracks creates an electrochemical reaction. One end of the rebar becomes an anode and the other a cathode, forming a “battery” that powers the transformation of iron into rust. Rust can expand the rebar up to four times its size, enlarging cracks and forcing the concrete to fracture apart in a process called spalling, more widely known as “concrete cancer”.

If you’d like your longread to show up here, go chip in a couple bucks on the ol’ Patreon.

Good morning, RVA: Change for RVA, electric signs, and a good podcast listen

Good morning, RVA: Pointing fingers, fun Master Plan homework, and a new commission