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

Good morning, RVA: Google doodle, housing, and, of course, the meals tax

Good morning, RVA! It's 42 °F, and temperatures are dropping as we speak and will end up below freezing by this evening. Grab your scarf before heading out the door!

Water cooler

Phil? Phil Connors??

Black History Month continues, and check this out: Richmond-based illustrator and VCU graduate Shannon Wright created yesterday’s Carter G. Woodson Google Doodle! Georgia Geen at Richmond Magazine has the details.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Justin Mattingly and Daniel Sangjib Min were at Superintendent Kamras’s swearing-in ceremony yesterday and have video of his remarks. First, I’m struck by how different Kamras’s vibe is compared to the previous superintendent. Second, Kamras called on City Council to support the mayor’s proposed meals tax increase.

Which brings us to today’s edition of Meals Tax News™. First, the mayor’s office released a new website where you can learn a little more about the meals tax increase, why it matters, what it does, and how to contact your councilmember. They’ve also got a list of supporters which includes a bunch of restaurant owners and folks about town. I imagine if you are a restaurant owner (or a folk about town) and are supportive of the mayor’s proposal, he’d love to have you listed. Second, yesterday we were reminded of just how much words matter—a thing I say out loud constantly. Former 3rd District school board representative Cindy Menz-Erb sent out a pro-meals tax email that, in a list of ways to get involved, contained the following sentence: “Only patronize restaurants who support the meals tax.” Jake Crocker, a local restauranteur who’s against this meals tax increase, posted the email on Facebook saying that it was a call to “boycott citizen owned restaurants in our city that don’t support having their customer’s taxes raised.” After that, things kind of spun out of control and ended with Menz-Erb resigning from her position on the Education Compact team. I’m pretty sure, no one would have blinked a single eye if the sentence in question had been rephrased to say something like “Make sure you visit restaurants who support the mayor’s proposed meals tax increase,” or, heck, even just dropped the “only.” Words matter a ton, though, and sometimes even small words have a big impact. A couple of full disclosures: I know Cindy, think she’s rad, do not believe that any of this is a nefarious plot directed by the mayor to ruin Richmond restaurants, but do fully acknowledge that this was a pretty serious misstep at a critical moment in the political work of getting this incredibly necessary meals tax passed. Finally, Michael Paul Williams has some meandering thoughts (and an unnecessary jab at BRT) on this whole episode and ends with something that‘s ultimately the cosmic background radiation to every substantial Richmond conversation: Race.

John Reid Blackwell, also at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, has an article about the economy, an economist, and the Home Building Association of Richmond. I know, I know, sounds boring, BUT, I really, really want you to read the final sentence of this article, and then get excited for the reading list about affordable housing I’m putting together. P.S. Thanks to the handful of folks who sent me a TON of great stuff to read through to put on this list.

Speaking of affordable housing, Richmond BizSense’s Jonathan Spiers says the Better Housing Coalition has reached a settlement over their transit-oriented, affordable housing project at the old Quality Inn on Broad Street. First, check out this quote and then write all of your elected officials about how we need to continue rezoning parts of Richmond to allow for denser development: “Recent changes to zoning in and around Scott’s Addition have increased the property’s value, which now stands at $8.88 million...”—that’s a 51% increase since they bought the property! Dang! Second, I will be bummed if they decide to sell the property to folks who aren’t interested in doing some sort of affordable housing.

If you’re looking for something to do tonight, head over to the VMFA for RVA Hot Sauce, a live event series created by The Cheats Movement. It’s free, will feature excellent DJs, live performances, and two hip-hop cyphers (which I had to Google 😕).

Honestly, with all the local goings on it’s been tough to keep up with whatever new hashtag congressional republicans are tweeting about. Luckily, Vox has an explainer on all the various memos floating around that congressfolk want released or not released or whatever, idk.


Don’t forget, as if that were possible, the Eagles face the Patriots in the Super Bowl at 6:30 PM on Sunday.

  • Rams host Rhode Island tonight at 7:00 PM.
  • Spiders welcome George Mason to Richmond on Saturday at 4:30 PM.
  • Hokies meet up with Miami at 2:00 PM on Saturday.
  • Wahoos and Syracuse also tip off at 4:00 PM on Saturday.

This morning's longread

Squeezed by tight maintenance budgets and rising pavement costs, Minnesota counties consider another option for roads: unpaving them

Putting aside all my thoughts and feelings about cars and roads, this piece is a practical example of how it is really expensive to provide services to folks living far, far away from cities.

For a three-mile stretch like this, County Engineer Guy Kohlnhofer said he has three options: One, resurface the road for about $700,000. Two, grind the asphalt into aggregate and leave the stretch unpaved in one shot for about $50,000. And then there’s a third option: Dodge County is gradually unpaving the road, as the potholes become too pronounced. Kohnlhofer estimates the county’s about a third of the way done unpaving the stretch, one piece at a time. Like many paved rural roads, County Road 6 was paved in the ’70s, when asphalt was a lot cheaper. It was overlayed in the 1990s, when asphalt cost about a third of what it does today, Kohnlhofer said.

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

Good morning, RVA: Meals tax, redlining, and a progressive rollercoaster

Good morning, RVA: Schools, schools, and more schools