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

Good morning, RVA: State of the City, abortion politics, and interesting updates

Good morning, RVA! It's 14 °F?? POLAR VORTEX! Sure, that’s not as cold as many places across the country, but it’s pretty dang cold for Richmond—and cold enough to delay area public schools by two hours. If you must go outside, be careful and wear a ton of clothes/coats.

Water cooler

Tonight, at 6:00 PM at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, Mayor Stoney will give his 2019 State of the City Address. I don’t know if any local TV media will broadcast or stream it, but the full text of the speech is usually posted on the City’s website afterwards. You can, of course, follow along live on Twitter—probably your best bet is to dip into the #rvacouncil or #rvamayor hashtags. If I were to guess, schools first and affordable housing second will be the priorities in this year’s speech. I also don’t think he can get away without at least mentioning the proposed coliseum redevelopment.

I mostly agree with this post from Richard Meagher on RVAPol.com about the proposed Coliseum redevelopment plan. The central question of this whole thing, “Do we even want/need a new downtown arena”, is something that we should have discussed as a community way before putting together an RFP. Unfortunately, and unlike Meagher, I’m not confident City Council will send us back to the drawing board to have those conversations.

I spent most of yesterday away from the news and missed this entire situation about abortion, Delegate Kathy Tran, and Governor Ralph Northam (via Katie O’Connor at the Virginia Mercury). If you really want to punish yourself and dig deeper into the gross way Tran’s words supporting her bill to a subcommittee were instantly twisted and used as political weapons—even by the president himself—you can read this very thorough piece by Graham Moomaw at the RTD. Make sure you read all the way through to the end and see how an experienced and popular legislator was treated by her colleagues over a similar bill and then tell me this isn’t about politics and the forthcoming elections.

Remember when a private citizen bought an island in the middle of the James River last year? Here’s a story, by Mel Leonor in the RTD, about what could have been a better outcome: “Woman donates three islands in the Appomattox River in Chesterfield to land conservancy.”

Richmond BizSense’s J. Elias O’Neal says 106 townhomes my be headed to the 1800 block of Semmes Avenue. That’s a lot of homes adjacent to a couple frequent bus lines that head right into downtown. Now, if we could just get some bike and pedestrian infrastructure improvements at the intersection of Semmes and Route 1, then we’d really be talking!

You can now go read what the Virginia Public Access Project’s David Poole had to say over on his AMA (that’s Ask Me Anything, which I forgot to explain yesterday). If you’ve ever wondered how VPAP works—or how running an independent quasi-news, quasi-research organization works—you’ll find lots of his answers worth your time. Reading through his response is also a nice reminder that a lot of the important places we go to learn about the world are powered by regular ol’ people like you and me. I think that’s inspiring.

Shows how much I know: The bill to shift the smoking age to 21—which has bipartisan support in the General Assembly—is not supported by the American Cancer Society. Read the aforelinked op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch for all the details of which I was unaware! Thanks to reader Alexsis for the heads up.

This morning's longread

Fighting with Fire: Switch Heaters at A-2

It’s so cold in Chicago they’re setting the train tracks on fire! That’s not exactly the case, but, honestly, yes it is. Here’s an explainer on why you keep seeing pictures of burning railroads.

Snowstorms and winter weather affect more than the road conditions in the Chicagoland area; they affect the railroad, too. One particular issue caused by winter weather is snow- and ice-clogged switch points, which can bring a train (or several) to a halt until the blockage is cleared. At A-2, Chicago’s busiest interlocking, clogged switches could cause rolling delays that upset many people’s commutes. How do we combat this? One way is with fire.

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Good morning, RVA: Lillie Estes, State of the City, and rejecting the premise

Good morning, RVA: 🤷‍♀️, 21 to smoke, and teenage advocates