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

Good morning, RVA: Facts are broken, tampon tax reduction, and Virginia scoffs at hyperloop

Good morning, RVA! It's 44 °F, and today looks a lot like yesterday, but with a steady chance of rain. Things may dry out after dinner—or maybe they won’t!

Water cooler

One thing that I think about a lot lately is how facts are broken, and social media (starting with talk radio) has done this new and terrible thing to the way we communicate about anything folks could disagree about but, specifically, about politics. For whatever reason, Republicans and Democrats have different communication strategies in this weird, fact-free moment of time—and I’m going to generalize here so don’t email me with #notallrepublicans. The president employs a Childish Sick Burn Strategy and it’s followed by a lot of Trump-adjacent Republicans and by folks who are just continually against things. It’s incredibly effective and almost impossible to address with facts or civil discourse or whatever normal-person thing you might want to attempt. Democrats, in response to a Childish Sick Burn, typically want link to a 300-page PDF with several appendixes of footnotes to prove that the Sick Burn is actually inaccurate and therefore must be rejected. It never works of course, because the audience for Sick Burns is massive and the audience for 300-page PDFs is small. Sometimes, some Democrats (again, I know, I know #notalldemocrats) will attempt to address this communication power imbalance by attempting their own Childish Sick Burn. Graham Moomaw at the Richmond Times-Dispatch gives us an excellent example of how this is almost always a bad idea and usually results in a stupid own-goal. The model for effective progressive communication is, of course, AOC. You can scroll through her timeline to get a feel for the strategy, but it almost always involves 1) speaking to your room not the person who disagrees with you (in her case, her supportive Twitter followers); 2) Making a joke or pointing out something ridiculous the opposition said; and 3) pivoting to a positive position you hold. It is never, ever just hanging a Childish Sick Burn out there with no connection to policy or progress.

Richmond Magazine’s Sarah King looks back to 1979 and how prescient then-Mayor Henry Marsh III was to fear the negative economic impacts of building the I-295 beltway around the City. This story features both highway-building and annexation—two of my favorite topics!

The Governor signed two bills that I’ve written about in this space before into law. First, SB 1355 / HB 2786, the coal ash clean up bill, will require closure and removal of any coal ash ponds in the Chesapeake Bay watershed—including the one in Chesterfield. Second, SB 1715 / HB 2540, the tampon tax bill, will reduce sales tax to 2.5% on, basically, all sorts of personal hygiene products designed to absorb or contain various bodily fluids. This bill reduces the tax rate from 7%, 6%, or 5.3% depending on if you have a regional sales tax for transportation where you live—no joke!

I love this piece in the Virginia Mercury about what Virginia’s state-level transportation officials think about Elon Musk’s hyperloop. “It’s a car in a very small tunnel,” says one. “None of that, I think, is really significant from a standpoint of moving this process forward,” says another. It’s just a whole article of government people finding different ways to say “Bless your heart.” I’m glad the Commonwealth isn’t lining up to throw millions and million of dollars at this rich dude who can’t be bothered to take a train. Sometimes, Virginia’s methodical conservatism around stuff like this is great.

Side by Side, Nationz Foundation, and the Virginia Anti-Violence Project will host a forum focused on LGBTQ+ youth homelessness this coming Sunday, March 24th from 12:00–1:30 PM at Faith Community Baptist (1903 Cool Lane). A while back, I happened to be sitting next to Side by Side’s Executive Director Ted Lewis at a lunch thing, and he blew my mind with the disproportional rates of homelessness experienced by LGBTQ+ youth—especially in our region. It makes sense, and I’d never thought about it before, but youth leave bad situations throughout the state to come to Richmond and sometimes do so without a plan for stable housing. Side by Side’s Host Home program exists to support folks through this very thing, and you can learn more about it on Sunday. The event is free and open to the public, but you can register ahead of time (Facebook).

This morning's longread

‘The Godmother’

Thanks to Patron Alexis for letting me know that this week’s Sunday Story in Richmond Magazine was about Civil Rights leader and Richmonder Dorothy Height. Don’t be like me and not know about this amazing woman!

About a decade ago, Renata Hedrington Jones of Richmond had a chance to meet the civil rights trailblazer in Washington, D.C., during a gathering called the Dorothy Height Social Justice Symposium, where Hedrington Jones was assigned to shadow her. “I’m not usually at a loss for words. I’m always at the front of things,” says Hedrington Jones, who retired from a career in social work with Richmond Public Schools and is a faculty member at Walden University’s Barbara Solomon School of Social Work & Human Services in Minneapolis. “When I met her, I could not speak. And she held my hand, she said, ‘Baby, calm down, it’s going to be OK.’ … She said, ‘You’re going to have to save that energy, because the struggle’s not over.’ ”

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Good morning, RVA: The Chart, the Governor goes to Danville, and GO RAMS GO!

Good morning, RVA: Budget opposition, Dorothy Height, and tournament of journalists