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

Good morning, RVA: Meals tax moves on, Superintendent’s 100-day plan, and microtransit

Good morning, RVA! It's 30 °F, and today’s lookin’ fine. Highs in the 50s and a mostly-sunny sky seems pretty OK to me.

Water cooler

Last night was a big, long night for the mayor’s proposed meals tax increase to fund public school facilities. After hours of public comment and debate, the Organizational Development Standing Committee voted 5-3-1 to recommend the mayor’s proposal for approval at next week’s full City Council Meeting. Vote tally: YES — Addison, Hilbert, Robertson, Newbille, Jones; NO — Gray, Larson, Agelasto; ABSTAIN — Trammell. This is a big step towards funding our school facilities, but it is not the final step. If I were an active and engaged Richmonder who cares about this particular proposal (which I clearly am), I would politely email my City Council representative and tell them I am very thankful/disappointed in their vote (which I will clearly do). Here’s my baseless prognostication: With enough hard work out of the mayor’s office, they could get the final vote on Monday to 8-1 in favor. Anyway, Mark Robinson was at the meeting until the bitter end and has some of the details plus a great picture of Superintendent Kamras standing in line to give a public comment in support of the tax while standing next to a meals tax opponent. Sarah King at Richmond Magazine has even more details and her picture of the crowd includes myself, if you look hard enough.

Speaking of Kamras, while meals tax sparks flew on the 2nd floor of City Hall, he was at his first School Board meeting on the 17th floor introducing his 100-day plan (PDF). It’s only eight pages long, so just go read the dang thing. He focuses on three Core Education Values—Engagement, Equity, and Excellence—and has 10 commitments under each value. Some of my faves (in his words): Hold a Twitter Town Hall, conduct an “equity audit of all RPS functions, visit the Black History museum with my family and the School Board, and launch a new philanthropic effort to raise significant resources to support the new strategic plan. I also love that he explicitly stated the date of his 100th day (May 11th) and asked the School Board (and the public!) to keep him accountable to these commitments. P.S. It should be against the law or seriously frowned upon to scheduled a Council meeting and a School Board meeting at the same time on the same day.

Oh! Also! Kamras wrote this letter to the editor encouraging folks to eat out more in February—celebrating both schools and Richmond’s restaurants. I did this yesterday by leaving the OrgDev meeting early to go to Saison Market for a couple beers. Just doing my part, OK?

Out of kind of nowhere, comes this editorial from the RTD editorial board about microtransit. What’s microtransit, you, who doesn’t read transit PDFs as a hobby, asks? Basically Uber but for (small) buses, sometimes privately-owned, sometimes public-supported, almost always incredibly inefficient and expensive. Transit genius Jarrett Walker says that microtransit typically serves fewer than three passengers per hour, while suburban bus routes can easily do at least ten times that. The concept’s not all bad, though. For example, if Woodlake wants to pay for its own microtransit service to ferry folks out to a (future) frequent bus on Hull Street, that sounds great. But it’s definitely a mistake if we start using the vague promises of microtransit to avoid building high quality, far-reaching, fixed-route bus lines. Every city in America has suburbs and less-dense parts of town, and almost every city in America connects those places with bus service. It’s the frustrating height (nadir?) of Richmond Exceptionalism to think that somehow RVA should be any different. P.S. Kansas City’s Bridj microtransit cost $1000 per passenger to run. Keep that in mind next time someone talks about microtransit as a more cost-effective solution than a regular ol’ bus.

Two events I want to highlight today! First, the Valentine continues their Controversy/History event series tonight at 6:00 PM with a conversation about the Interstate Highway System aka a terrible thing we did to quite literally entrench racial segregation in our city. Second, this weekend, you can join the folks at Peter Paul Development Center for Heart of the East End. This fundraising event for a great institution features food from rad East End restaurants, music from rad bands, and requests that you wear “smart casual attire.” OK!

I don’t understand the economy, but this guy’s face in the WaPo article about the Dow Jones drop does not inspire confidence.

This morning's longread

The C.E.O. Who Called Trump a Racist (and Sold a Lot of Spice Mix)

The Penzey’s email list is awesome and you should sign up for it.

Penzey wasn’t the first C.E.O. to speak out against Trump or to use his position to advocate for progressive values. But he was quite possibly the first to publicly call Trump’s election an “embrace of racism,” and he was definitely the first to do so while hawking a free bottle of Quebec Seasonings with any five-dollar purchase. In a letter addressed to “America’s CEOs” posted to his Facebook page that December, Penzey wrote that, in the two weeks following his post-election e-mail, the “right wing firestorm” cost the company three per cent of its customers—but that online sales rose nearly sixty per cent in the same period, and gift-box sales increased by more than double that. He urged other business owners to follow his lead: “If, as a company, you have values, now is the time to share them. You may well lose a chunk of your AM radio-listening customers, but if you really are honest and sincere, don’t be surprised to see your promotions suddenly, finally, find active engagement with the Millennial generation.”

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Good morning, RVA: Budget season!, the referendum returns, and rockets

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