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

Good morning, RVA: We need safer streets, RPS budget weirdness, and History & Culture

Good morning, RVA! It's 33 °F, and today you should expect lower temperatures with highs in the upper 40s and more clouds in the sky.

Water cooler

Yesterday, a driver hit and killed a pedestrian attempting to cross Broad Street at Summit Street near a massive and complete sidewalk closure that I’d just complained about just three days ago. Did this person die crossing Broad Street because the sidewalk was closed and no safe alternative was provided? I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. No one should die in our city because they crossed the street. We can do better. In fact, we tried to do better, but have, obviously, come up short. Back in March, City Council passed RES. 2018-R025 which requested that the City’s CAO “cause to be developed and implemented regulations requiring that temporary sidewalks be provided within the city of Richmond whenever a sidewalk is closed due to construction or demolition.” As a non-binding resolution, this was Council asking the Mayor’s administration to create internal policies that require safe pedestrian passage through or around construction. Obviously, this has yet to be done in a meaningful, citywide way as sidewalks are still closed all over the place—including in some of the most pedestrian-heavy parts of town (the southern side of Broad Street between 3rd and 4th comes to mind). I don’t know if this person would still be alive had the City moved faster in creating a sidewalk-closure policy, but, regardless, we need to be proactive keeping people of all ages and abilities safe as they use our streets. If the Mayor’s administration is unable or unwilling to act on RES. 2018-R025, maybe City Council should pass their own ordinance instead.

Justin Mattingly at the Richmond Times-Dispatch has a weird story about how Richmond Public Schools’ full budget (what I linked to yesterday is a summary from the Superintendent) is still unavailable to the public for privacy reasons. I could totally get behind having parts of the budget deliberations behind closed doors to protect easily-identifiable folks who may lose their jobs. Buuuuut using that to excuse keeping the full budget a secret? Like, y’all already voted to approve it so we’re gonna find out eventually. What is going on here? Did all of the school board members agree to not publish the budget? Is RPS’s attorney telling them they cannot? What’s keeping someone on the Board from just uploading this thing to a website somewhere or sending it a reporter? So weird.

Well, this seems real bad for the nascent Department of Housing, via Mark Robinson at the RTD: “The report states the $3 million that was ‘incorrectly booked’ will count against the Department of Housing and Community Development’s operating budget, originally set at just over $2 million.” So the Department of Housing, which has failed to hire a director, is now a million bucks in the hole because of a confusion between capital and operating money.

Mayor Stoney has appointed his nine members of the History and Culture Commission. You can find the entire list of appointees over on the City’s website, and you will probably recognize some of the names involved if not all of the institutions. Sounds like the nine members will appoint two youth members and then get to meeting later this spring—they’re required to meet at least every other month. If you’re looking for it, the enabling legislation is ORD. 2018-269 (PDF), and it sets out these duties of the commissions: to advise the Mayor and the Department of Planning and Development Review, provide the Mayor and DPDR with “information and recommendations regarding issues of historical, cultural, and economic significance,” and facilitate public awareness of Richmond’s history.

Oh, what was that about protecting spaces for people using the streets? I guess since it’s kind of bike-related, you can take up the whole Franklin Street bike lane to unload stationary bikes?

Penultimate reminder: Mayorathon: Policy Jam is tomorrow. Join a bunch of awesome people and organizations at the ICA from 6:30–8:00 PM for a policy-focused evening with the Mayor. You can RSVP over on the Eventbrite.

This morning's patron longread

Cities: Don’t Fall in the Branding Trap

Patron Mark submits this article that’s ultimately about what your city celebrates about itself. When distilled way down, what is the essence of Richmond and how should that impact our policies and investments?

The problem with the typical approach extends beyond just marketing. It has tangible consequences. A brand is really a city’s conception of itself. By selling itself as a facsimile of something its not, a city ends up turning that into reality. Thus, so many urban places today seem vaguely the same—a blur of Edison-bulbed eateries and mid-rise “one plus five” apartment buildings (in which up to five stories of wood frame construction are built atop a concrete first floor). These buildings, which all look vaguely the same with their multi-shaded exterior panels that seem destined to date quickly, are now obligatory elements in densifying urban neighborhoods, as critics have observed.

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

Good morning, RVA: Policy Jammed, eviction laws, and conversations about racism

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