Good morning, RVA! It's 51 °F, and highs today are in the 80s! Yesssss!
Massive news broke, like, twenty minutes after I sent yesterday’s email: The Pulse, and the accompanying system-wide route changes, will go live on June 24th! That means just 53 more days until dedicated bus lanes, a plethora of newly frequent bus routes, and even a new mobile payment app which will launch the same day as all this other stuff (talk about a stressful day down at the GRTC offices). If you wait 54 days—because Henrico does not have Sunday service...yet!—you get a new route to the airport and 30-minute service down Broad Street from Willow Lawn to Pemberton. I can’t get over that IT’S REALLY HAPPENING feeling.
Mark Robinson from the Richmond Times-Dispatch was at yesterday’s budget work session where Council recommended some significant changes to the proposed budget. First, they recommended a seven dollar increase to the vehicle licensing fee which would raise about $1.2 million annually. This, which is one of the few ways the City has to increase revenue, was done with little discussion and zero public outcry about raising taxes. I’m for it, although I’d hoped we could have used those vehicle fee funds to pay for more public transportation, but the difference in process between this and the meals and cigarette taxes astounds me!
Second, Council recommended a program to rebate restaurants 3% of the amount of meals tax they pay to the City—basically covering the credit card transaction fees for them on the meals tax. I want to note that this would cost the City about $1.4 million annually. Since we can’t take that cost out of the new meals tax revenue, it will come out of the general fund (we need to leverage all of the meals tax revenue in order to borrow the full $150 million for school construction (which, obviously, is not the entire school construction need)). Also, this is a rebate of the processing fees for the entirety of the meals tax not just the new, recently added bit for schools. I’m not sure what programs or services will get cut to pay for this rebate, but the Mayor supports it and says Councilwoman Robertson has a plan to fund it through new revenue. Ohhhhhh wait...I’m just now connecting the dots between the beginning of this section and the previous sentence—maybe the vehicle licensing fee pays for the rebate to restaurants?
Anyway, I’ve been pretty intensely in favor of the meals tax, and it’s probably the thing I’ve gotten the most emails in opposition about (all very kindly worded, though). I accept and acknowledge that it is hard to make money as a restaurant, that restaurants are one of the core parts of what makes Richmond great, and that it sucks to be put in the position of “hey, here’s a new expense for you, support it or you hate the children.” But, because there’s no appetite among Council or the Mayor’s Administration to raise the property tax at this moment, the meals tax was the lowest hanging bucket of money to pull from. I imagine that, as a restaurant owner, being described as “the lowest hanging bucket of money to pull from” does not feel great.
So that leaves me here (at least as of this morning): I’m against this particular implementation of reimbursing credit card processing fees to restaurants, but I’d feel OK if we reimbursed them for the fees on just the new 1.5% (at a cost of $277,598.28 annually to the City). How’s that sound?
Whoa, the RTD editorial board said the quiet part out loud and admitted the lens through which they see our hometown: “RINAFU: Richmond Normal — All Fouled Up.” Keep that in mind next time you read something they write about the City.
From /r/rva, a picture of the progress on the new Franklin Street Bike lane! I’m super excited about this project and can’t wait for it to open! Ahhhhhh so much new transportation infrastructure!
Also from reddit, check out these neat Richmond postcards from the 1940s and 1950s featuring some of your favorite buildings. Make sure you scroll down to the last one of a trolley headed over the 14th Street Bridge!
- Squirrels fell to Altoona, 1-3, but will try again tonight at 6:35 PM.
- Nats continue the series against the Pirates tonight at 7:05 PM, after picking up a 3-2 win yesterday.
This morning's longread
Celebrate Janelle Monáe’s new album by reading this profile in the New York Times Magazine.
At its core, “Dirty Computer” is a homage to women and the spectrum of sexual identities. The songs can be grouped into three loose categories: Reckoning, Celebration and Reclamation. “The first songs deal with realizing that this is how society sees me,” she said. “This is how I’m viewed. I’m a ‘dirty computer,’ it’s clear. I’m going to be pushed to the margins, outside margins, of the world.” “D’Jango Jane” is an ode to black power and pride that is also a dirge about the struggles that come with that heritage. The middle half of the album is a raucous party. “It’s like, O.K., these are the cards I’ve been dealt,” she said. These songs include “Make Me Feel” and “Pynk” — the sizzling, sex-drenched songs that titillated the internet when they were released earlier this year. The album winds down with an anthem about being an American, whose sound evokes Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” with lyrics like “love me for who I am,” and “cross my heart and hope to die, I’m a big old piece of American pie.”
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