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

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

Good morning, RVA! It's 20 °F, which is still cold, but not quite as arctic as yesterday. Highs today will reach a balmy 41 °F—early next week we could see temperatures in the high 60s!

Water cooler

Michael Paul Williams in the Richmond Times-Dispatch has the incredibly sad news that Lillie Estes died yesterday. Estes had an enormous, impossible-to-overstate impact on community organizing in Richmond.

Last night, Mayor Stoney gave his 2019 State of the City Address, which you can read in full (as prepared) (PDF). On the eve of Black History Month, inclusivity was the theme, and Stoney focused on racial reconciliation, schools, and housing. He voiced support for renaming the Boulevard after Arthur Ashe, dinged the state for failing to keep up their end of education funding, and, in the biggest bit of new policy, announced an eviction diversion program (PDF). The proposed Coliseum redevelopment got a shoutout, too, of course.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Budget season is nearly upon us! Just last night I got the draft calendar of Richmond’s 2020 budget process (PDF), a process which begins on March 6th with the Mayor submitting his budget and speechifying in front of Council. I always say this, but I really do believe it, budget meetings are the most important and interesting public meetings out of the entire year and are worth your time. You get to listen to each City department defend their budget requests and then hear how our City Council reacts and values that department. I think folks would have stronger opinions on Election Day if they listened to a couple budget sessions. To that end, I’ll be reviving The Boring Show podcast so folks can easily subscribe and listen to the 10+ sessions (I recommend setting your podcast player to 2x). I swear, it’s fascinating stuff.

This is new and interesting: The Mayor will host a handful of town halls and launch a survey to collect community feedback on who the City should hire as the next police chief. You can take the survey here. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen community engagement from the City for a director-level hire, but maybe that’s something we should do more often? I imagine folks would have interesting thoughts on the long-open Housing Director position or the GRTC CEO spotr (yes, I do realize the second one is not a City position, but still).

Jeff Schapiro at the Richmond Times-Dispatch digs into the political fallout around state-level Democrats’ absolutely inexcusable string of screwups this week. I want every elected Democrat in Virginia and all of their staff to stop what they’re doing and go spend 20 minutes reading AOC’s Twitter timeline. You don’t respond to bad faith questions with a patient explaination of the facts—that’s a sad sentence, but, right now, it’s true. You, instead, reject the premise and talk about how your stuff is awesome. AOC does this masterfully, and anyone can take the framework she uses and execute it in an authentic way, in their own voice. Whatever the facts may be around third trimester abortion in Virginia, it doesn’t matter, and the bad communications this week by Democrats—not bad policy—will have an impact on November’s election.

This morning's longread

The Companies Are in Charge Now

A few folks have tried to get me to read Matt Levine for a while now—I even subscribed to his newsletter recently—but this article from earlier this month is my first foray into his writing.

The thing is, though, that if you find the “Problem of Twelve” sort of creepy and unsettling when applied to issues of corporate governance and profitability, isn’t it even weirder when applied to, like, the environment, or the social contract for U.S. workers? “I didn’t know Larry Fink had been made God,” says Sam Zell, but what if he had and no one told you? What if large public companies are the most effective locus of political power in the world today, and what if Larry Fink is one of the most influential people at a lot of large public companies, and what if he decides to use his influence and those companies’ power to do things that would once have been the responsibility of governments? What if Larry Fink has been elected to a position of vast political power, not by the old-fashioned mechanism of people going to the polls and giving him their votes, but by the new, late-capitalist mechanism of people giving him their money to manage?

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Good morning, RVA: The Governor should resign

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