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

Good morning, RVA: Redistricting stalls, education funding, and comics

Good morning, RVA! It's 72 °F, and last night’s storms brought cooler temperatures with them: Expect highs in the upper 80s today. There’s an OK chance of more thunderstorms this afternoon, so expect that, too. And then, kind of expect a similar thing throughout the weekend.

Water cooler

The previous coverage on the General Assembly was dead-on in predicting that yesterday’s redistricting session would amount to very little. Graham Moomaw has a recap in the Richmond Times-Dispatch containing this perfect sentence which explains it all: “With no competing proposal to push, Republicans spent hours Thursday trying to make the Democratic plan seem unpalatable.” Mechelle Hankerson, with the Virginia Mercury talks with Brian Cannon from OneVirginia2021 about how, duh, if you give a politician a chance to redistrict, they’re going to draw a partisan map based on their own self interests. To fix this obviously suboptimal situation forever, Cannon’s group has put together a bipartisan committee of citizens to “draft an amendment to the Virginia Constitution that would ensure fair, non-partisan redistricting after the 2020 Census.” That sounds awesome, let’s do it. Finally, the Virginia Public Access Project has a bunch of neat maps that let you toggle and compare the current and proposed districts under the Democrats’ plan (aka The Bagby Plan). Whew, that’s a lot of links—and after reading them all, I’m not sure I’m super clear on the path forward.

The Commonwealth Institute looks at what a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (PDF) says about Virginia’s schools. Would you believe that our state underfunds schools in high-poverty communities compared to those in affluent communities? I mean, yes, I would totally believe that. Additionally, Virginia ranks 42nd nationwide in the amount the state government gives each district per pupil—which means Virginia localities are on the hook for more education funding than their peers across the country. This also means high-poverty localities in Virginia—those with more needs—are doubly impacted. OK, so, how do we fix this? Here is where I instantly get confused by education policy and start to get the stress sweats, but you can read the aforelinked post and see what the Commonwealth Institute suggests. Apparently, it’s not as simple as “give more money to high-poverty schools.”

I did not know what was inside of The Highpoint (née the Bernie Sander building), and now, thanks to Mike Platania at Richmond BizSense, I do. I’m always skeptical of anything deemed “affordable” in Scott’s Addition at this point, but commercial rent starting at $300 seems pretty affordable. Heck, one of the tenants is a bird taxidermist!

I love comics, and maybe you do, too? Ash Griffith at RVA Mag talks to Norman Krumenacker of Alpha Comics and Games about some of the new books hitting the shelves, if you’re looking for some reading material.

Logistical note! Monday is a federal holiday, so I will see you all again on Tuesday. Enjoy the long weekend if your work situation allows for it!

This morning's longread

American Beauties

I think about / make fun of that plastic bag scene in American Beauty constantly. But, seriously, we’ve got to do something about the single-use plastic items in our lives.

They collect in cars and cabinets and closets, in cities and storm drains and in the “waste lonely places,” in the wilds beside highways and parking lots. You might assume bags like these are “litter” and that their backstory involves a careless or callous human. But most bags enter the waste stream exactly as waste systems were planned and as plastic makers wanted: through the trash. “The future of plastics is in the trash can,” the editor of Modern Packaging magazine, Lloyd Stouffer, argued in the mid-1950s to a group of industry insiders. Stouffer had advocated for the industry “to stop thinking about ‘reuse’ packages and concentrate on single use.” If the plastics industry wants to drive sales, he argued, it must teach customers how to waste. Disposability was still a new idea, born during the Great Depression and at odds with the frugality of the World War II years. It is a social innovation, and it took time to take hold—a systematic rerouting of human behavior and norms. Laying waste to a manufactured item was made possible by cheap plastics, and it was taught (through advertising) to seem conceivable, then acceptable, and eventually (in some cases) unavoidable. Today, obsolescence and disposability are features that have been intentionally built into products by industrial designers.

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Good morning, RVA: Justifiable homicide, school skeletons, and cheese

Good morning, RVA: Redistricting, after-school events, and don’t close a bike lane