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

Good morning, RVA: School construction costs, government software (!), and the French Film Festival

Good morning, RVA! It's 27 °F, but later this afternoon we’ll see temperatures in the mid 60s! Sounds great, can’t wait.

Water cooler

Listening to one of the recent episode of the Boring Show, probably March 18th’s, I heard a couple councilmembers bring up increased costs for the three new schools currently under construction and funded by the recent meals tax increase. Last night, I got this combo statement from both the City and RPS (PDF) about those costs now that the procurement process has wrapped up. The total for all three schools is up by $30 million from the 2017 estimates, and the two administrations point to increased construction costs industrywide, an increase in the size of E.S.H. Greene Elementary (which accounts for $7 million of the increase), LEED Silver requirements, and “a 2% contingency.” From this statement, I also learned of the existence of the Joint Construction Team, which seems like legit group of folks, meets week, and has their minutes uploaded to Board Docs (IMHO they should be in Granicus, too, see below). I don’t know anything about school construction, so I have absolutely no idea if these increases seem obvious or out-of-whack. I imagine we’ll hear more about this over the next week or so.

Today, City Council’s Governmental Operations committee will meet and hear a presentation titled Granicus Opportunities (PDF). What is Granicus? Oh, it’s only the software that the City uses to publish all of the agendas, minutes, and PDFs I’m always overly excited about. It is literally one of two bookmarks that I keep in all of my browsers, and I’ll tell you what: I’m overly excited about this presentation. There are all kinds of features buried in the software that the City isn’t using that could increase transparency and accountability—top on my list: how votes went down on each ordinance or resolution! If I were King of Richmond for a day, I’d also encourage/force every one of the City’s bodies, committees, commissions, boards, and hangouts to use Granicus and publish a minimum set of documents. It’s more work for City staff, sure, but don’t you want to know what’s going on at, say, the Safe and Healthy Streets Commission?

Sarah King at Richmond Magazine talks to the folks involved with the work of properly memorializing the people whose remains were used in 19-century medical studies at what would eventually become VCU Medical Center. It’s now almost 25 years after the discovery of these bodies in a well near the Egyptian Building, so this is definitely a righting of an old wrong a long time coming.

I’ve enjoyed Richmond Magazine’s looks back at 1979 to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Today, check out this short piece, also by Sarah King, on Project One, the development project that tore down a several-block chunk of Downtown to make way for the convention center.

Michael Martz at the Richmond Times-Dispatch has a nice summary of the budget amendments proposed by the Governor. I’m not sure I love the framing of how he’s “found a new budget tool for regaining some favor with African-American legislators.” That guy needs to regain favor with us, with Virginians, and these small budget moves (plus things like eliminating driver’s license suspensions for folks who don’t pay court fines) are small steps in that direction. Ned Oliver at the Virginia Mercury has a similar summary but with an explicit focus on equity.

The French Film Festival begins in earnest today, and I truly believe that it is one of the best things about Richmond. It’s expensive—$115 for an all-access pass—but spending an entire weekend at the Byrd, watching movie after movie, is close to how I’d like to spend eternity. Which films are great? Which are bizarre? Who knows! Just watch them all!

This morning's patron longread

I Rode an E-Scooter as Far From Civilization as Its Batteries Could Take Me

Submitted by Patron Arden. As we wait for dockless scooters and bikes to show up in Richmond, read this charming tale of a man and his scooter.

Mostly, people said they were bad. That they are dangerous, block pedestrian pathways, pollute our beautiful rivers and streams, and are run by VC-backed tech companies that will leech away the health of our public transit infrastructure to make a quick buck. The few upsides—they could maybe potentially reduce car traffic, they’re cheap (temporarily, until one company controls the market), they’re useful in areas without reliable public transit options—seem weak in comparison. I just wondered how far they could go. Could a scooter be used to escape? Would it be possible to ride one out into nature, beyond the reaches of human civilization and its petty entanglements, at 25 cents per minute? I decided to find out.

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

Good morning, RVA: 17th Street seating, a new audit, and digital privacy

Good morning, RVA: Believe Black women, hands-free bill returns, and elk meat