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

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

Good morning, RVA! It's 36 °F, and you should bring your rain gear or umbrella with you today. Expect highs near 60 °F, but, unfortunately, also expect a bunch of rain starting around lunch time.

Water cooler

Meals tax update! First, and I’m just going to keep asking this, have you contacted your City Councilmember and let them know you support the mayor’s proposed meals tax to fund school facilities? Second, Mark Robinson at the Richmond Times-Dispatch says Councilmember Larson wants to insert a sunset clause into the meals tax ordinance—or, more accurately, it sounds like she wants to put an optional sunset clause in there. Two things: 1) As I understand it, the $9 million raised by the tax increase will go toward paying off $150 million of additional debt. Think of it like getting approved for a bigger mortgage because you started making more money. If you suddenly stopped making as much money (aka if you sunsetted part of your income), you’d have to come up with some new way to pay your mortgage. Full disclaimer, I’m exceedingly dumb about finances and am open to corrections! 2) I’m also a little confused because City Council can pretty much sunset whatever whenever they want. In fact, if they wanted to delete the existing meals tax right now they could do just that. If future City Council wants to sunset the new meals tax increase and find a new way to pay for the debt, as the law-making body in the City of Richmond, they can do that. Like, they can just do it.

But, time has kind of run out to make significant tweaks to the meals tax ordinance, because...one of my most anticipated PDFs of the year is out: the 2019/2020 budget review/amendment/approval schedule (PDF)! Things really kick off on March 6th when the Mayor must submit his budget to City Council. With that PDF in one hand, and Council’s meeting schedule in the other hand, you can see why there’s not a lot of time for fudging around with the meals tax ordinance: Council meets on February 12th and 26th and then again on Mach 12th—six days after they need to have the Mayor’s budget in hand. I suppose, and Robert’s Rules of Order nerds please correct me if I’m wrong, they could introduce an amendment to the ordinance this coming Monday and vote on it at their meeting on the 26th. But, dang, that does not give the Mayor a ton of time to prepare his budget with or with out the additional money for schools. Does he just prepare two versions of the budget? And it’s not like Council must rubber stamp whatever budget they get from the mayor. They’re free to amend it in whatever way—just as long as they’ve got the votes. Anyway, that was a boring paragraph.

I really disagree with this framing of Paul Goldman’s Ballot Referendum by Justin Mattingly in the RTD. The ballot referendum does not “improve school facilities” (that’s what the meals tax does, btw), it requires the mayor to submit a plan to build and renovate new schools (technically that’s the School Board’s job) without raising taxes or admit it is impossible. I’m pretty sure you can count this endless conversation about the meals tax as Stoney’s direct admission that, yes, it is impossible to fund over $700 million of expenses without raising taxes. Mattingly says the Senate version of that bill has made it out of committee (though Richmonders already voted on the referendum, the General Assembly must decide whether or not to enact it, which is an entirely separate eyerolly issue).

Susan Higgins at Richmond Magazine tells you how to make a rain garden. My son’s school has a huge rain garden of which I am continually jealous.

Barcades are the new doughnut shops. Richmond BizSense’s J. Elias O’Neal says a new one is headed downtown.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched their Flacon Heavy rocket yesterday, and now there’s a Tesla flying around through space. Other than just a fun thing for a billionaire to spend his money on, this is a big rocket that allows us to send heavy things in to space—a capability we haven’t had for a while. Skip to about 21:00 into that aforelinked video for the blast off bits. Rich people, though, am I right??


  • Rams rematch with the Spiders tonight at 9:00 PM.
  • Hokies host NC State at 9:00 PM.
  • Wahoos take on Florida State in Tallahassee at 7:00 PM.

This morning's longread


A droll story about killing a chicken.

Well, I killed a chicken. That’s my news. I cut its head off with a hatchet, the way people do. This chicken was the first thing I’d ever set out to kill, that I’d planned to kill over the course of many months, and the truth is it was weird, exciting, and sad. I didn’t kill it to eat (though it was eventually eaten, in a soup); I didn’t kill it because it was a troublemaking chicken (though it was a troublemaking chicken); and I didn’t kill it because it deserved to die (whatever that means). I killed it because I’d never killed a chicken before and I wanted to have that experience on my list of things I’d done, sort of like going to Venice, to be able to say, as I’m saying now, I killed a chicken.

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Good morning, RVA: Change the names, transit funding, and Goldblum BBQ

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