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

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

Good morning, RVA! It's 48 °F, and, whoa, get ready for a beautiful day. Highs in the mid 70s that will continue through tomorrow plus a generally dry forecast. We may see some cloudy skies, but the rain should hold off until Sunday. Fingers crossed!

Water cooler

A couple of days ago, Kelly Avellino at NBC12 posted this story about how the 17th Street Farmer’s Market project has run out of money for things like landscaping, benches, and fire pits. There’s a lot going on in that piece, but there a couple things on which I can cut the market some slack. First, the Franklin Street cut-through under the train station is a separate project, and, until it’s finished, breaks a useful connection between Downtown, the Market, and the Capital Trail—and probably makes the northern end of the space feel like a construction zone. Second, the utility shed redesign did have to go through the Urban Design Committee for approval late last year, and I imagine that’s holding up some finishing touches. However, a thing I cannot cut a single bit of slack about is the lack of seating—especially on a day like today, with sunshine and highs in the 70s. Enrichmond, the nonprofit that programs the space, should pull a Janette Sadik-Khan, and throw down a couple dozen lawn chairs today—this morning even. To inspire anyone with a checkbook and the authority to humanize our new public plaza, here’s a quick excerpt from Sadik-Khan’s book, Streetfight, about her pedestrian-focused redesign of Times Square: “We had café chairs and tables on order, but the wheels of municipal procurement didn’t move as fast as our traffic barrels, and it would be weeks before they arrived. The moment called for creativity and a bit of dumb luck. Tim Tompkins of the Times Square Alliance made feverish phone calls to find cheap seats, locating 376 beach chairs in lollipop colors at $10.74 each from Brooklyn’s Pintchik hardware store. The result was an immediate Broadway sensation. Within minutes of the closure there wasn’t a free beach seat in the house.”

Mark Robinson in the Richmond Times-Dispatch has a summary of and the reactions to the new Capital Improvement Plan audit that the City Auditor just released (PDF). This audit focused on the CIP (remember, that’s the budget for capital expenses like sidewalks and schools), and the process through which Richmond Public Schools receives and tracks money for school construction and maintenance. The findings of the audit are right at the top, the recommendations are summarized in a table on page 24. Remember how we all knew that the CAFR existed, a semi-obscure municipal financial document, because the previous mayor’s administration failed to submit it on time for an embarassing long while? That was bad, and it seems like a lot of the bad in this audit stems from that period of time, and some of it continues today.

Mike Barber at the RTD says Mary-Carter Eggert, former Mills Godwin High School student, is one of just three women at Power 5 college basketball programs to serve as director of operations. She’s with the Tennessee Volunteers who lost, in overtime, last night to Purdue.

I keep having my mind blown by the GRTC ridership numbers. I wrote briefly about it over on the RVA Rapid Transit blog, but year-over-year numbers for February are up 23.8%.

I am not a digital privacy expert, but I have read my share of dystopic young adult fiction, and the partnership between Ring video doorbells and the Richmond Police Department makes me uncomfortable—details via Ali Rockett at the RTD. I dunno y’all, it seems like there’s a lot of weird incentives for reporting crimes and sending video of the public space to the police. Surely Richmond is not the first city whose police department has entered into this sort of partnership with a home surveillance company? Maybe someone can point me to a smart thing to read about it?

This morning's longread

Seattle Can Become an Anti-Sexist City

Richmond could work on becoming an anti-sexist city, too. This piece has me thinking about some of the easy things we could do to make our city safer and more comfortable for women.

Urban planning is the field where we articulate what makes our cities function and tick. It is a field dominated by men, which makes no sense, since the single most influential urban theorist of all time is Jane Jacobs; a visionary woman whose writings provided a blueprint for safe, vibrant, holistic cities. Jacobs wrote soaringly of the intersections between street traffic, neighborhood safety, transit and independently-owned commercial storefronts. She observed that when there are more affordable housing options and more street traffic — more “eyes on the street,” as she famously put it — residents feel safer and rates of crime decline.

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Good morning, RVA: School construction costs, cool pavement map(!), and a hands-free driving bill update

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