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

Good morning, RVA: A bananas meeting, the school closing thought process, and Chinese bushclover

Good morning, RVA! It's 38 °F, and today you should look forward to sunshine and highs in the upper 40s. Rain heads our way later this week, but, until then, enjoy the clear skies!

Water cooler

Police are reporting a murder on the 1300 block of Coalter Street. At 11:50 PM on Friday, officers arrived and found Antoine R. Orange, 27, shot to death.

I think this is the 48th murder in Richmond in 2018. For some of the context (certainly not all of it), the City saw 67 murders last year.

Y’all. I do not even know where to begin with last night’s epically long (adjourned at 12:17 AM!) and totally bananas City Council meeting. I guess the big news is that Council approved the Navy Hill Development Advisory Commission (ORD. 2018-297) and decided to hire someone to do their own independent study of the proposed Coliseum redevelopment project. The latter bit was decided informally at the informal meeting, because formally amending the ordinance and allowing the public to comment on a new version of it would have pushed things back. You can read Mark Robinson at the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s recap or, if you’ve got all the time in the world, scroll back through @RVADirt’s hourslong Twitter thread. I think I have two main takeaways after watching most of the meeting on TV. First, I’m unconvinced folks—myself included—understand how municipal finance works in general but specifically as it applies to the proposed Coliseum redevelopment. While it is complicated, I don’t think there’s anything innately unfathomable about it, it’s just been poorly communicated from the get-go by the Mayor’s administration and the NH District people. On the regular I hear vastly different explanations of the mechanics and consequences of this possible project from supporters and opposition alike. Second, bad public process was a theme for the evening: A single meeting in December, a massive agenda with chunks of it continued at the informal meeting immediately beforehand, nine awards to get through, completely abandoning the public comment process and allowing a late Chuck Richardson to bustle his way in and yell at Councilman Agelasto (or Councilman “Angelo” as Richardson said), and publicly debating regular agenda items into the next day despite the public having gone to bed. I disagree with what some folks said on Twitter, that this terribly unfriendly process is a feature not a bug—something to keep regular folks uninvolved. I think it’s much less conspiratorial: Our Council, for whatever reason, is a part-time Council with a full-time work load, and that has a lot of real and bad consequences on the legislative process. Oh, a third thought: Every second that the Mayor’s administration does not release the Coliseum redevelopment proposal it gets harder and harder for folks to keep an open mind. If I were in charge, I’d get that thing out the door yesterday.

Still other things happened at the interminable Council meeting, if you can believe it, and Mike Platania at Richmond BizSense has some of the less sensational updates.

Micheal Paul Williams digs into Councilmember Agelasto and his decision to live in the 1st District while serving the 5th District, calling Agelasto “the first at-large Richmond City Council member in four decades 💸.” Idk about that particular rhetoric, but this current situation really is bizarre. We’ve got our most rules-focused councilmember blatantly violating the spirit of our district-based system, and everyone seems generally meh about it. I like Agelasto and really value the particular voice he brings to Council, but I’m with Williams on this one. He’s setting a dangerous precedent, and he should probably just move back into the 5th District.

Another week brings another good Superintendent Kamras email. In this edition he talks about how he decides to close schools during inclement weather. Things he considers when doing so other than safety of the roads: that schools are often a primary source of food for students and that many Richmond teachers have children that attend schools in the surrounding counties. As always, it’s a thoughtful email.

Governor Northam continues to tease his budget ahead of the full reveal later today at the Joint Money Committee at 9:30 AM. This latest and last tease includes an additional $19 million to the state’s Housing Trust Fund!

Ned Oliver at the Virginia Mercury has a fun story—although probably annoying to the folks working at our state parks—about Chinese bushclover. The Department of Conservation & Recreation wants to get rid of the invasive species while VDOT wants to keep using it to stop erosion.

This morning's longread

Dollar Stores Are Targeting Struggling Urban Neighborhoods and Small Towns. One Community Is Showing How to Fight Back.

Well this is depressing. Make sure you check out the maps of Dollar Store locations compared to income vs. race.

There are no fresh vegetables, fruits, or meats in most dollar stores. And yet, as limited as their offerings are, dollar stores are now feeding more Americans than Whole Foods is, and they’re multiplying rapidly. Since 2011, the number of dollar stores nationwide has climbed from about 20,000 to nearly 30,000. There are now more dollar stores than Walmart and McDonalds locations combined. Although dollar stores sometimes fill a need in places that lack basic retail services, there’s growing evidence that these stores are not merely a byproduct of economic distress. They’re a cause of it. In small towns and urban neighborhoods alike, dollar stores are leading full-service grocery stores to close. And their strategy of saturating communities with multiple outlets is making it impossible for new grocers and other local businesses to take root and grow.

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

Good morning, RVA: State budget, Arthur Ashe, and cheesemongering

Good morning, RVA: Final Council meeting of the year, budget analysis, and it’s full of stars