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

Good morning, RVA: SOLs, VCU is back, and historical horse races

Good morning, RVA! It's 65 °F, and, whoa, expect way cooler temperatures today. Expect highs near 80 °F, and there’s not a rain cloud to be seen on the forecast. Things will heat up over the next several days, but, for now, enjoy!

Water cooler

Unannounced, mid-week emails from Superintendent Jason Kamras usually bring with them some bad news, and yesterday’s email ‘twas no different. The Virginia Department of Education released SOL scores for this past year and, I’ll just quote the Superintendent here, “Overall, scores for Richmond Public Schools declined from last year, with pass rates hovering near 50-60% for all subject areas. Math, Writing and History scores decreased by 2, 3 and 5 percentage points, respectively. Reading improved by 1%, while Science remained flat. I'm not going to sugar coat it. These scores are deeply disappointing.” You can see the scores for the entire district over on the VDOE website or use this tool to search for specific schools. Conversations about whether or not SOLs are cool and good aside, I really love the way our new Superintendent communicates. He’s often the first source I read on a given schools-related issue, and his blunt, honest, yet optimistic tone leads me to trust him—or at least give him the benefit of the doubt. This lets him set the tone and narrative instead of having it set by local media (or by local opinion-havers with an email newsletter).

VCU’s fall semester begins today! Welcome back to Richmond, Rams! Like I’ve said a bunch of times before, Richmond feels too sleepy during the summer semesters when the students are gone. It’s good to see people back on the streets, walking around, being all super hip and smart and stuff.

I know I’m late to it, but I’m just now getting to this story about a possible off-track betting site on the City’s southside. Earlier this year, the state approved “historical horse racing machines,” which is gambling on horse races, but horse races from the past. I don’t really understand the mental gymnastics required to be against regular-type gambling but OK with this super similar type of gambling, but, whatever. Anyway, along with the state approval of the new machines, comes draft regulations about how many machines off-track betting sites in certain localities could have. A site in Richmond could have as many as 700 machines, says Graham Moomaw in the RTD way back on July 16th, but it sounds like the City may have some say in that. Moomaw has an update from July 24th which says the Virginia Racing Commission has yet to finalize those regulations, but that was a month ago! I think existing zoning permits this type of use in that particular part of the Southside, but I am super interested to see if and how Council decides to limit the size of a pretty big off-track betting site. Or maybe they already did this while I was on vacation? Totally possible!

I forgot to let you know earlier, but tonight is Breakaway RVA’s August bike ride and I think you can still register as of this moment. This month everyone will end up at the totally awesome Brewer’s Cafe in Manchester. If you’ve got the time—with tonight’s excellent weather forecast—you should make it happen.

My good friend Sam Davies snapped this picture yesterday of red paint splattered all over the A.P. Hill monument. Cleaning crews were, of course, out their scrubbing off the paint ASAP. One does wonder if, at some point, the constant vandalism of these things at least pushes the State to have a conversation about allowing local control of Confederate monuments. Related, Ned Oliver at the Virginia Mercury reminds me that a smaller Confederate monument lives on VCU’s campus just feet away from Shafer Court. These things are everywhere and have insidiously blended into the background of our everyday lives! You know how I feel: They’ve all got to go.

Also from Ned at the Mercury, an update on the archaic yet eternal food-to-alcohol ratio law that prevents Virginia from having true bars. The update: There is no update. This type of thing frustrates the heck out of me. Sometimes, Virginia is all “INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM! WE MUST ALLOW PEOPLE/BUSINESSES TO DO WHATEVER THEY WANT!” and sometimes it is all, and this is literally a quote from a legislator, “Why can’t it be if you drank three beers, you have to buy a hamburger or something.” MADDENING.

Remember how Big Freedia graced the Broadberry with her presence last week? RVA Mag has the photos to prove it!

This morning's longread

The Rural-Urban Divide is Visible in Virginia’s Recovery

Cities, y’all. We’ve got to invest in cities.

Virginia’s non-metro areas seem to have had more difficulty rebounding from the most recent recession than from previous recessions. In 1990, like 2007, the economic downturn caused overall employment to drop in both metro and non-metro areas. But overall employment in non-metro areas recovered from that dip within just a few years and continued to increase through 2000. Since then, job markets in these areas overall have stagnated or shrunk. In 2016, there were more than 900,000 more jobs filled in metro areas than in 1990. Over the same time period, non-metro employment increased by 501 jobs – virtually no job growth.

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Good morning, RVA: Mental health, Broad Street development, and Blackwell

Good morning, RVA: Violence, looking for a Public Art Coordinator, and (of course) scooters