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

Good morning, RVA: Hands-free bill, redistricting commission, and an end to this year’s General Assembly session

Good morning, RVA! It's 42 °F, and, today, we’ll see the sun! With any luck, plentiful sunshine and highs in the 50s will dry out the soggier parts of Richmond.

Water cooler

Virginia’s hands-free driving bill officially died yesterday. Here’s an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch that doesn’t really get at why the billed died and instead quotes only Republicans who shrug and lament that a compromise couldn’t be reached. Well, it was Republicans who intentionally killed the bill using a procedural strategy that I still do not fully understand. At one point, legislators introduced an inconsequential 3-word amendment to trigger a thing, which then led to more language that allowed holding a phone in your hand (?!) while talking into it, which then led to concerns about equitable enforcement. So frustrating, and I don’t see how citizens and advocates get involved in a process specifically designed for maximum subversion (if you don’t believe that, read this by Megan Rhyne, the executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government). Distracted drivers kill people with their cars, and I don’t understand why Virginia’s Republicans were unwilling to pass something that would help save lives and has broad support from pretty much everyone.

In more pleasant state government news, the General Assembly voted to create its first redistricting commission. OneVirginia2021, the experts in this matter, say the compromise is good progress: “And although this bipartisan plan does not reflect every provision we urged in our original proposal, make no mistake: This reform will end partisan gerrymandering in Virginia.” Next up, since this would would amend Virginia’s Constitution, it’s gotta get through next year’s General Assembly session, and then pass a statewide referendum in November 2020. Exciting news, and Mechelle Hankerson at the Virginia Mercury has some quotes and reactions from lawmakers.

In one of the final acts of this year’s General Assembly session, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax gave a short speech about the sexual assault accusations he faces. Fairfax decided to frame the speech around lynching, which, Ned Oliver at the Virginia Mercury says, “was met with silence on the floor and Democratic lawmakers declined to comment as they left the chamber.”

City Council meets tonight at 6:00 PM for their regularly scheduled meeting. You can read through the agenda as it currently stands (PDF). Tonight will feature a lot of continued papers, some Special Use Permits, a bit of rezoning, an interesting resolution (RES. 2019-R006) asking that the Mayor put $150,000 in his next budget for “consulting services to advise and provide the City Council with analysis on such matters as the Council may see to be in the best interest of the City.”, and a very thin regular agenda that includes RES. 2018-R013 which would “request that the Chief Administrative Officer cause the Director of Planning and Development Review to develop a process for preparing school impact statements for new developments in the city of Richmond.” That resolution specifically mentions looking at bus stops (although I imagine it’s talking about school bus stops) and pedestrian infrastructure. I have to think that PDR already looks at this sort of thing, but maybe doesn’t get Council an impact statement on each and every development. Seems like a lot of impact statements.

This seems rad and overdue: Members of the Richmond 34 had their criminal records expunged over the weekend.

You can read through the full list of winners from last night’s 91st Academy Awards over on Wikipedia. My Twitter timeline had a lot of thoughts about Green Book taking home Best Picture, so I fully anticipate a flotilla of think pieces early this week!

This morning's longread

This is an emergency, damn it

Pair this piece that sets the context for the Green New Deal with the this recent tweet thread by the author, and you’ve got your morning motivation to do whatever you can to slow climate change.

The GND does not want to repeat those mistakes. So alongside the decarbonization targets for electricity, transportation, industry, and buildings are a series of provisions ensuring that everyone can get a job, that everyone can access health care regardless of their job situation, and that the benefits of public investment will be channeled toward the most vulnerable communities. It says to Americans: we are going to do something really big, fast, disruptive, and ambitious, but during the transition, you will not be left behind or forgotten. You will be able to find a job and a role to play; you will be not be threatened with homelessness or lack of healthcare. We are going to do this big thing together, all of us, and through it we will lift each other up.

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Good morning, RVA: RPS budget, affordable housing strategy, and the James River Flood Report

Good morning, RVA: Del. Jay Jones’s speech, equity vs. equality, and invasive species