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

Good morning, RVA: New Council president, an election report, and campaign contributions

Good morning, RVA! It's 44 °F, and the clouds and rain are back. Starting around lunchtime and continuing through to tomorrow, we’ve got a good chance of showers while temperatures will stay just under 50 °F. Sunday, though, things should warm up and dry out.

Water cooler

Richmond Police are reporting two murders from earlier this week. First, in the afternoon of January 2nd, officers were called to the 4500 block of Norbourne Road and found Michael E. Halford, 43, shot to death. Later that day, police responded to a shooting on the 100 block of W. Brookland Park Boulevard. James Moorehead, 18, was taken to the hospital with a fatal gunshot wound.

Resolution: In 2019, I’m going to try and get better about tracking and following all of the interesting and important legislation that makes its way through our City government. I still need to figure out a good system to make that happen, but, with any luck, I can design it in such a way that y’all will benefit from whatever I land on. For now I just have this screenshot of an ugly HTML table. Stay tuned. While I’m on the subject, get excited, because City Council elects a new president and vice president on Monday (and reappoints Council’s committees). Councilmember Hilbert has said he’s done with the job, which leaves the spot open for a new person willing to take on additional responsibilities for their already meager and insufficient salary. In my opinion, it’s Councilmember Newbille’s job to lose (she is the current VP, afterall), but I’d throw Councilmember Gray and Jones in the mix, too. I, as always, have no insider knowledge, but am excited to look either smart or dumb based on what happens Monday night!

Graham Moomaw at the Richmond Times-Dispatch covers a report from the State Board of Elections on the 2018 election—he’s mostly focused on large precincts with higher-than-normal turnout that local jurisdictions may need to shrink (the precinct, not the turnout) to comply with state law 💸. It took a bit of digging, but I found the actual report buried in the Board’s December meeting minutes (PDF), and this thing is fascinating! Here are just a few of the interesting chartsandgraphs I pulled after a quick scan of the report: New voter registrations in 2018 nearly doubled those in 2014, total turnout approached presidential levels, and long lines were the #1 complaint on Election Day. Also, Chesterfield County, which Moomaw cites as having a significant percentage of the Too Big Precincts, accounted for 35% of total voter complaints (165), and, out of those, 76 were about long lines. I feel bad I never knew about this post-election report until this morning!

Yesterday, the Governor announced “legislative proposals to improve Enviornmental quality and strengthen protection of Virginia’s natural resources.” Sounds zzz, but the second of those proposals, the Water Quality and Safety Act, will “end Virginia’s moratorium on closing coal ash dumps in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and require that all of the material is removed from unlined pits and either recycled or transferred to a safe, lined landfill.” Figuring out what to do with toxic coal ash waste, including some in Chesterfield County, was one of last year’s big enviornmental issues, and you can get all the background you need from Katie O’Connor at the Virginia Mercury. As the 2019 General Assembly season kicks off, keep an eye out for how/if this bill progresses.

I’m mostly 🤷‍♀️ about Mayor Stoney’s reluctance to say he’ll refuse campaign contributions from Dominion. Some personal context: I believe that campaign contributions do influence politicians and that the campaign finance system is dreadfully broken. I also believe that huge corporations, like Dominion, have too much influence over our world—usually with negative and anti-progressive results. But it’s hard for me to get my hackles up over the gubernatorial political strategies of people who may not even be on the ballot for a decade. Sure it’s a bad look (and probably bad strategy) for the Mayor, who’s already deeply tied to Dominion because of the proposed Coliseum redevelopment, but...I just have a hard time caring at this point? Let me know when folks out there running for statewide office start refusing campaign contributons from all corporations. Or, better yet, let me know when there’s actually an election to care about. Here’s Michale Paul Williams’s take on the matter in the RTD, which got me thinking this morning.

Marketplace did a short piece on Richmond’s ultra-high eviction rates and some of the folks in town who are working to lower that rate. That NYT data-driven report on evictions from last April continues to have real world impacts in town! Journalism is important!

This morning's longread

Der Spiegel journalist messed with the wrong small town

From Patron Julie, comes this excellent dunking on a reporter who fabricated out of whole cloth a story about rural America.

What happened is beyond what I could have ever imagined: An article titled “Where they pray for Trump on Sundays,” and endless pages of an insulting, if not hilarious, excuse for journalism. Not only did Relotius’ “exposé” on Fergus Falls make unrecognizable movie-like characters out of the people in my town that I interact with on a daily basis, but its very basic lack of truth and its bizarrely bleak portrayal of the place I love left a very sick, unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach. There’s really nothing like this feeling — knowing that people in another country have read about the place I call home and are shaking their heads over their coffee in disgust, sharing the article on Facebook and Twitter, and making comments on the online article like “creepy,” and “these are the people who don’t believe electricity exists.”

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Good morning, RVA: New Council prez, coal ash update, and a fun legislator database

Good morning, RVA: The year in violence, Brook Road bike stories, and ballpark business