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

Good morning, RVA: The City Charter, combined sewer overflow, and vegetables

Good morning, RVA! It's 41 °F, and today you should expect highs near 70 °F and less of that dang wind. Tomorrow, temperatures could hit summer-time levels! Get excited!

Water cooler

Is it hot in here or is it just BUDGET SEASON? The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Mark Robinson has the details from yesterday’s budget work session. Most interesting to me is this list of amendments from members of City Council. As of right now, we’ve got five folks signed on to Councilmember Hilbert’s proposed amendment to keep the real estate tax at its Recession-era austerity level of $1.20 (Addison, Hilbert, Gray, Larson, and Trammell). Councilmember Newbille, on the other hand, proposed an amendment to increase the rate to $1.25. Adopting either of these amendments would force Council to find $21 million and $9 million of cuts (or new revenue) respectively to balance the budget. So, with five opponents on record, it looks like the Mayor’s proposed $1.29 rate is dead, yes? Not so fast! Alright, hold on to your butts, because we’re going to take a thrilling dive into the City’s Charter. First, City Council must adopt a balanced budget by May 31st (§ 6.05 and §6.11). If they cannot do so “the budget as submitted by the mayor shall be the budget for the ensuing year.” Not only that, but “the ordinances providing additional revenue, if any, as recommended by the mayor shall have full force and effect to the same extent as if the same had been adopted by the council.” So: If City Council doesn’t want to roll back those Recession-era real estate tax cuts, they’ve got to build a five-member consensus on how to cut $21 million from the Mayor’s proposed budget or the Mayor’s original budget becomes the One Budget To Rules Them All. Additionally, and thanks to Mark Robinson for pointing this out, the second paragraph of § 6.11 says that the “mayor shall have the power to veto any particular item or items of any city budget ordinance...Council may thereafter override the mayor’s veto with a vote of six or more of the currently filled seats on council.” I am not a lawyer, but it sure seems like even if City Council could find five votes to make tens of millions of dollars in cuts to desperately needed City services, that the mayor could just veto the whole shebang. I definitely have no idea if there are six Councilfolk that reaaaally want to be forever be defined as the people who cut millions from schools. Anyway, there’s lots of discussion left to be had, and City Council: Endgame is about to get really interesting. Conspiratorial P.S.: Keep your eye on that last bit of § 6.11 that says “six or more of the currently filled seats,” especially after yesterday’s news of further legal action toward removing Councilmember Agelasto from his 5th District seat. I also definitely have no idea if that’ll come into play or not, but those words exist in the charter.

Because it’s fascinating, you should read this article about combined sewer overflow events in Richmond at the Virginia Mercury by Daniel Berti. After reading that and getting a handle on the scope of our sewer-related needs, you should read this piece by WCVE’s Roberto Roldan about Councilmember Gray and Trammell’s proposed budget amendment to cut the planned increases in utility rates.

Mark Robinson, who, like cosmic background radiation, is everywhere you look, was also at last night’s Shockoe Alliance meeting. He’s got a few details, and I await whatever PDFs come out of this process.

Richmond BizSense’s Mike Platania has the word that a new coffee roaster will set up shop on Lakeside. That’s the second new business I’ve read about coming to the area in the last couple of days. Because I can’t help myself: Let’s take away a travel lane on Lakeside and put in a bike lane all the way up to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Today, City Council’s Land Use, Housing and Transportation committee will meet and consider a long agenda filled mostly with 10 requests to authorize the CAO to execute a “Standard Project Administration Agreement” with VDOT. A boring agenda indeed! But these agreements will give Richmond access to federal FAST Act money to fully fund a pretty diverse set of projects—from pedestrian improvements near an elementary school, to bus stop upgrades, to a bucket of money that will shrink too-big roads by adding bike lanes. Almost all of these projects advance the City’s Vision Zero goals, and Mike Sawyer, the City’s Transportation Engineer, is maybe a wizard at finding money for these sorts of things? Scroll down in this ordinance PDF to read through the descriptions of each project.

This month’s Richmond Magazine has an entire section about living a vegan- and vegetarian-friendly life. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants!

This morning's longread

Transit and a Green New Deal

Oh what’s this? A transit-oriented longread?? I loved this piece by some of the folks at TransitCenter about practical ways the Federal government can encourage transit use through a program like the Green New Deal.

Models consistently show that electrifying the motor vehicle fleet will be necessary but not sufficient to achieve targets like net zero emissions by 2050. Only if we shift some travel from cars to transit can we decarbonize the transportation sector rapidly enough to fend off a rise in global temperatures greater than 1.5C. The centrality of transit to effective climate policy aligns well with the goals of the Green New Deal, the ambitious framework to draw down American greenhouse gas emissions while advancing racial justice and economic fairness. Better transit will not only curb driving, it will reduce barriers to employment for low-income Americans and keep household transportation costs more manageable.

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Good morning, RVA: Violence, bus numbers, and music stories

Good morning, RVA: 5th District drama, high school drama, and Shockoe plans