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

Good morning, RVA: School money PDFs, a new RRHA leader, and an old penguin

Good morning, RVA! It's 30 °F, but the expected highs this afternoon near 60 seem pretty great. We’ve got a reasonably dry forecast today and tomorrow, but, then, rain—or some sort of precipitation—as far as the eye can see (or as far as the extended forecast goes).

Water cooler

Ooo, new schools-related PDFs from Tuesday’s School Board Budget Work Session! First you can read the overview slides (PDF), which give us more detail into where Superintendent Kamras plans to cut $13 million from the Central Office. This is kind of incredible: They plan on trimming $75,382 of printer toner and paper expenses. Next, you can look at the FY 20 Capital Project Summary (PDF), and that’ll tell you that the District needs about $21 million dollars for repair and maintenance of their facilities next year. Almost half of that is for HVAC. If you really want to dig in, this final PDF gives you a project-by-project breakdown of that $21 million—for example, Linwood Holton Elementary needs to “replace classroom heat pumps” and that will cost about $450,000.

This is welcome news: Mark Robinson at the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the RRHA will announce its new CEO on Wednesday. Robinson talked to a couple anonymous sources who say that Damon Duncan, the CEO of the Housing Authority of Elgin, Illinois, is our new guy. Duncan, if he takes the job, has a ton of work to do, both in the short and long term, and not a whole lot of community support to build upon.

Bridget Balch at the RTD has a tough-to-read piece about the Catholic Diocese of Richmond naming 42 priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children. The State Police maintain a Clergy Abuse Reporting Form and phone number (1.833.454.9064), and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has resources for survivors.

Have you ever wondered why 90% of the legislation down at the General Assembly you’re excited to read about dies in subcommittee? Ned Oliver at the Virginia Mercury explains the system and how it works to quickly and quietly kill bills for the party in power.

Everywhere I look I see opportunities for the Governor to make racial equity a defining aspect of the remainder of his term—assuming he now intendeds to stick it out until the bitter end. Take, for example, the 2019 Governor’s Fellows Program (open to rising college seniors, graduating college seniors, or students enrolled as degree candidates in a graduate/professional school; applications due March 15th). This program aims to embed smart people into the different agencies of the Executive Branch, building those folks’ networks but also giving them a chance to work on projects and policies. Why not shift the entire focus of this program to racial equity across the Executive Branch? Get some experts (there are a ton, in Richmond even!) to come in and work with the fellows on issues of equity as they explore politics and policy in each of their different focus areas. And this is just the first idea I had this morning! There are lots and lots of opportunities for the entire Executive Branch to do better.

The oldest penguin in the United States lives at the Metro Richmond Zoo? This penguin is older than me! What?!

This morning's longread

Farming a Warming Planet

Fascinating, depressing, and scary. Just how I like to start my Thursday mornings.

Letting plants grow beneath the trees seemed like a squalid, lazy, weed-spreading hazard. When he and his father first began planting between the rows in 2005, it felt taboo. Other farmers would sidle up to them at the coffee shop and ask in an undertone, “What’s going on with your orchard? Is that a cover crop?” A cover crop protects the soil from heavy rains and helps turn it into a habitat for worms, beetles, and thousands of microbes. As we walked through the dappled sunlight, the ground beneath my feet was yielding like a giant sponge. Sayer has calculated that, since first planting the cover crop, his lemon orchard can absorb 2.5 million gallons more water in a downpour. “Since every scenario I’ve seen involves water stress, better soil is going to put us in a better position, because it holds and absorbs more rain,” he said.

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Good morning, RVA: State budget talks, ERA hopes, and a national emergency

Good morning, RVA: Repentance, consequence, and budgets