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

Good morning, RVA: Housing, crime, and transportation

Good morning, RVA! It's 48 °F. Temperatures today will approach 60 °F, and there’s a chance for a bit of rain on the horizon.

Water cooler

First, a correction! Last week I mischaracterized Housing Families First after they scooped up a big grant from Jeff Bezos’s philanthropic organization. Kelly King Horne, the director of Homeward who knows more about this topic than I could ever hope to, wrote in to let me know that HFF hasn’t provided transitional housing in years and that this is a better description of the organization: “Housing Families First provides emergency shelter for families with consistently high outcomes for housing placements and connections to employment, provides high quality rapid re-housing for families with significant barriers to housing, and have just developed a diversion team as part of a system-level collaborative to help families find safe and stable alternatives to emergency shelter when appropriate. They use data to drive their decision-making and programming and focus on helping households tap into their natural and long-lasting systems of support.” Horne also gave me some insight and context into why it’s a Big Deal that a Richmond area organization won this grant: “The reason HFF was selected (and the reason RVA punches above our weight nationally on homelessness) is because they transformed to a low-barrier, housing-focused emergency shelter and provide rapid re-housing. The recognition they are getting as part of the Day1 Fund is well-deserved for their current work. Their focus on helping households with children experiencing homelessness get into stable housing quickly is worth highlighting.”

By now it should be exceedingly clear that I do not know enough about housing, even though it’s clearly one of the most important issues facing our region. Keeping that in mind, I don’t understand some of the goals RRHA has for a development RFP in Blackwell, via Mark Robinson at the RTD. Specifically, I don’t get this: The housing authority will seek a developer for 96 properties in the neighborhood, with about half of those “developed into market-rate single-family homes in...an effort to build a mixed-income neighborhood.” I get it. Without a substantial fund to help subsidize affordable housing development, it’s hard for developers or nonprofits to make the numbers work and keep 100% of these properties affordable. This just seems like a big missed opportunity—but we’ll see how some of region’s housing nonprofits answer the RFP next month. Possibly ill-informed side note: I feel weird about our housing authority leading the charge to build a bunch of market-rate stuff in a neighborhood that just went through a stressful community-wide conversation about development and gentrification.

This story, from Ali Rockett at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, about a new program designed to reduce violence in Gilpin Court seems significant. Via a $1 million grant from the Department of Justice’s Community-Based Crime Reduction program, a diverse group of stakeholders hopes to address the root causes of violent crime in the neighborhood—stuff like poverty, limited access to education or job opportunities, and poor health. It’s not a strict either/or, but I’m way more into stuff like this than “more surveillance cameras.” You can read the details and look at the pretty impressive list of the folks involved in this press release from the Office of the Attorney General.

I believe this ill-informed editorial from the RTD’s Editorial Board is their first flag-planting against the creation of a regional transit system. Local surveys—not national libertarian think tanks—show that 73% of folks want expanded transit service across our region (PDF). Additionally, over 70% of people want more bus service in Chesterfield and Henrico; Despite whatever CATO report the RTD Editorial Board read over the weekend, our region wants more public transportation. Expect future resistance from them as the surrounding jurisdictions start working together to create a dedicated funding stream for public transportation.

Dara Lind from Vox, who I turn to for immigration expertise, says this, from the LA Times, is the best article about U.S. officials firing tear gas at families crossing the border.

This morning's patron longread

The Best Wooden Pencils

From Patron Kevin, comes this super charming and oddly calming review of wooden pencils.

Call us old-fashioned, but there is a special place for wooden pencils in our pen cases. From the earthy smell of freshly sharpened wood to the smooth feel of their lacquered bodies, we love using them for drawing, sketching, and everyday writing. There are even times when we reach for them over our mechanical pencils and lead holders. Artists, students, writers, and designers alike have long relied on the versatility of wooden pencils for their work. Varying lead grades, flexible graphite cores, and erasability are just some of the reasons why people go back to wooden pencils again and again. Follow along as we explore the world of wooden pencils and all that they offer for the discerning artist or writer.

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

Good morning, RVA: Share your ideas, mayoral support, and pictures from Mars

Good morning, RVA: Holiday break, scooter update, and little trains