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

Good morning, RVA: BigTIF, electric buses, and High Life on tap

Good morning, RVA! It's 59 °F, and, look out!, highs today will hit 76 °F. Yeah, it’s November, but, whatever! Expect clear skies until tomorrow when some rain shows up.

Water cooler

Whoa, Mark Robinson at the Richmond Times-Dispatch has a big update on the proposed Coliseum redevelopment plan. The TIF is now a BigTIF. First: Take all of the words that follow with a grain of salt as we still have not seen the official proposal from the Mayor’s office and are working from Robinson’s early FOIA and comments made to him by four unnamed members of City Council. Next, some background: To pay for all of the many things the Mayor included in his RFP for the redevelopment of the entire neighborhood around the Coliseum, developers have proposed a TIF district (that’s a Tax Increment Financing district). It works like this: The City begins to redevelop a district and just the increase in tax revenue from that district (which ostensible comes from all the new stuff being built) goes towards paying off the redevelopment. So technically the City is not paying for anything out of its general fund, but there is, of course, an opportunity cost of what could have been done with any organic increase in tax revenue from the District. The original size of the Coliseum TIF covered just the area of redevelopment, then it was expanded to included Dominion’s new towers a bit further south, now the new BigTIF captures half of Downtown, Monroe Ward, and Jackson Ward. I don’t know how big TIFs typically are in other American cities, but, dang, this is a massive expansion and would dedicate all new tax revenue in most of Richmond’s downtown toward a single neighborhood and do so for a long, long time. I understand that the North of Broad area (aka NoBro) has an extremely limited tax base due to all of the land owned by VCU, the City, and the State, but I have a hard time seeing how tax revenue generated in the newly rezoned Monroe Ward, or the currently exploding Arts District, needs to be linked to an arena and the surrounding neighborhood for decades. To be fair, we don’t yet know what the new revenue in the BigTIF will pay for—more affordable housing, better transit, new schools, all things I love and am in favor of. The most important question, though, is could we do more of those things I love if we forgot about replacing the Coliseum, let Downtown grow organically, and dumped all of the tax revenue into the general fund? I don’t know the answer to that question.

Here’s another piece by Mark Robinson in the paper, that is...something to keep an eye on. I guess?

Yesterday, the Governor announced that 15% of Virginia’s share in the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust (remember when Volkswagen lied to everyone about pollution?) will go to fund electric buses! Electric buses are clearly (and cleanly) the future, and I’m hoping GRTC’s grantwriters are at the ready to snatch up some of this funding to begin the process of converting their fleet to electric. They’ve already done a great job moving away from diesel to compressed natural gas, and this seems like the obvious next step.

IMPORTANT BREAKING NEWS! Cobra Cabana, the new restaurant in the old Black Sheep spot, has High Life on tap! This is rare indeed and just proves that more bars should be run by metal dudes.

Mike Platania at Richmond BizSense says Pepsi has bought Health Warrior, the local chia-seed bar company based out of Scott’s Addition. I bet that feels awesome.

This morning's longread

Nestlé Is Sucking the World’s Aquifers Dry

I dunno, this seems bad.

The Michigan operation is only one small part of Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company. But it illuminates how Nestlé has come to dominate a controversial industry, spring by spring, often going into economically depressed municipalities with the promise of jobs and new infrastructure in exchange for tax breaks and access to a resource that’s scarce for millions. Where Nestlé encounters grass-roots resistance against its industrial-strength guzzling, it deploys lawyers; where it’s welcome, it can push the limits of that hospitality, sometimes with the acquiescence of state and local governments that are too cash-strapped or inept to say no. There are the usual costs of doing business, including transportation, infrastructure, and salaries. But Nestlé pays little for the product it bottles—sometimes a municipal rate and other times just a nominal extraction fee. In Michigan, it’s $200.

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

Good morning, RVA: Coliseum conversations continues, Medicaid expansion goes live, and clocks

Good morning, RVA: It’s Halloween, drive slowly, please