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

Good morning, RVA: RPS budget presentation, environmental justice, and creative protest

Good morning, RVA! It's 30 °F, highs today will break into the 40s, and there’s a chance for some sort of wintery precipitation late tonight. Sounds like tomorrow morning’s commute may be gross and/or outright delayed.

Water cooler

I realize this space has become a very inefficient RSS reader for City Council meetings and the Superintendent’s weekly email. Well, buckle up, because today is no different! Superintendent Kamras’s email from this past weekend has a great explainer on the schools’ budget and how budgets work in general—required reading. Last year, the Mayor gave RPS a one-time $12.5 million pot of money. This year, the Superintendent will cut $13 million from the Central Office (PDF) while asking for $12 million more to fund the next phase of the Dreams4RPS strategic plan (PDF). Then on top of that, he’ll ask for the required $6 million match to get at some state money for teacher raises. Bottom line, as I interpret it: Not including the teacher raise money, which the City has to cough up if they want more cash from the State, RPS will ask for the same amount of funds as last year but with a promise to spend it all on students—as defined by a strategic plan which went through a pretty extensive community engagement process. It seems like some trust-building is going on here. Superintendent Kamras will submit his budget to the School Board for approval tonight, which, spoiler alert, you can read right now (PDF).

Oh, also! You can and should read this op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch by the Superintendent about the funding changes we need at the state government level. He mentions it in the aforelinked email, but I’ll longquote it down here. Look how he appropriately ties state education funding to systemic racism and asks our elected leaders for real, concrete commitments to dismantling the racism that they’ve all had plenty of hot takes on Twitter about over the past couple of weeks: “If the Commonwealth's leaders are truly committed to dismantling racial injustice, they must begin by ensuring that the students who need the most actually get the most. Right now, the exact opposite is true. According to the National Center on Education Statistics, Virginia's highest poverty school divisions—which serve large percentages of children of color—receive 8.3% less in per-pupil funding than the state's wealthiest districts. Is this about race? Of course it is. If all the children in our poorest school divisions were white, I am certain the Commonwealth would have found a way to fix its convoluted and unjust education funding policies so that our lowest-income communities received more.“

City Council’s Land Use, Housing and Transportation committee meets today and will once again consider ORD. 2018-152, which reinstates an unnecessary left turn from southbound Belvedere onto eastbound Broad Street. Left turns have not been permitted in that particular way since at least last July, if not longer. And yet—and yet—businesses in Jackson Ward and on Broad Street continue to do business, the new signal at Monroe Street continues to allow people to turn left onto Broad if they really need to, and the world continues to spin. It’s time for Councilmember Gray to withdraw this paper! Also, a data point: I know it’s only February, but 100% of the LUHT agenda is from 2018 (PDF). Planning Commission meets today as well, and will look at updates to the Richmond Slave Trail (UDC 2019-08) as well as dig into green street improvements—including a protected bike lane—on Minefee Street in Bellemeade (PDF).

Michael Martz in the RTD says Rev. William Barber and Al Gore will host a townhall about environmental justice and the pipeline in Union Hill tonight 💸. Barber, who you’ll remember from that longread in the WaPo which is still worth your time, joins Gore in giving the Governor yet another way in which he could lead from a place of racial justice. Here’s Gore: “It’s such a great opportunity for the governor to really show he means what he says and is re-examining the racial impacts of Virginia’s policies.”

Meanwhile, over the weekend, folks got creative in protesting the Governor in general and the General Assembly’s refusal to pass the ERA. Ned Oliver at the Virginia Mercury has the story and Whittney Evans on Twitter has one well-framed picture.

Next City—a cities-focused, internationally read magazine—has a report about our Confederate monuments and the mObstudiO+Storefront project to reimagine Monument Avenue. You can see an exhibition of how folks across the nation want to reduce, reuse, and recycle our big street of Confederate monuments at the Valentine at this very moment!

This morning's patron longread

One man’s quest to preserve the haunting black history of Pocahontas Island

From Patron Arden, this story from a couple years back about Pocahontas Island in Petersburg. Look closely for the secret link to RVANews!

Slaves and free blacks lived side by side on Pocahontas Island, which was a port on the Appomattox before joining the city of Petersburg. It became an island after a canal was built in the late 1700s. Today, it’s more of a peninsula, as the main channel of the river clogged after a flood in the early 1970s. Petersburg was one of the busiest slave markets in the old South, but it also had one of the highest concentrations of free blacks, attracted by jobs and by the presence of a community of their own. For a time, in the spirit of liberty after the Revolutionary War, a few planters freed their slaves. And Pocahontas Island was where many went to live. That means history has played out here from an African American point of view from before the Revolution until today.

If you’d like your longread to show up here, go chip in a couple bucks on the ol’ Patreon.

Good morning, RVA: Snow(ish), VCU rides the bus, and Silent Reading Parties

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