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

Good morning, RVA: Take action!, refugee services, and then-and-now photos

Good morning, RVA! It's 30 °F, and today’s highs will top out in the 40s—plus there’s a decent chance of rain later this evening. Boooo! But don’t worry: Beginning tomorrow, the rest of the week looks springlike and incredible.

Water cooler

If you support the hands-free driving bill and safer streets across Virginia, just like the majority of both houses of the General Assembly did earlier this year, take one minute this morning and let Speaker of the House Kirk Cox know. Additionally, if you have a Republican delegate or senator you can use this handy form over on Bike Walk RVA’s site to get them to talk to their good pal Delegate Cox about bringing the amended hands-free bill to the floor for a vote.

Tammie Smith at the Richmond Times-Dispatch was at a panel on food insecurity in the East End yesterday and reminds me that the new grocery story at 25th & Nine Mile opens on April 29th. Smith talks to some folks, including Senator Mark Warner, about how building grocery stores in lower-income areas often isn’t profitable until the area starts to (or already has) gentrified. I think you’re definitely seeing some of that in the northern part of Church Hill today. The big, tough question—as always—is how do we keep folks from being displaced? The smaller, still-tough question is how do we make sure folks have access to healthy food regardless of where they end up living? I’m glad smarter people than me are working on finding answers to both of these questions.

Angela Massino at WCVE has a disappointing story about the closing of Church World Service’s Richmond office. CWS is one of just a few groups in the region that handles refugee resettlement, and with current federal policy limiting and discouraging refugees, CWS hasn’t been able to make the funding numbers work. However, the International Rescue Committee and Commonwealth Catholic Charities continue to do this work in town if you want to get involved with your time or money.

Ooo, I’m into this “occasional series explaining Virginia’s policy debates” from the Virginia Mercury. Today, Katie O’Connor explains Republicans’ push for high-deductible health insurance plans and why the Governor keeps vetoing them. I’m looking forward to reading more of this series!

Check out these then-and-now photos from 30 spots in and around Richmond put together by Richmond Times-Dispatch archivist Nicole Kappatos. The then-photos come from the 60s and 70s, and some of the older ones show a healthier and more-intact downtown that had yet to be punched in the face by Urban Renewal. Depressing but interesting.

Yesterday’s City Council budget work sessions is up and ready for your ears! We’ve got one more work session for hearing presentations and then it’s amendments and discussion all the way until the middle of May.

Speaking of, the Mayor will hold his final budget-related townhall tonight at the Northside Family YMCA (4207 Old Brook Road) from 6:30 PM–8:00 PM. If you still have questions about his proposed roll back of the Recession-era real estate tax cuts, and want to ask him right to his face, tonight’s your night! If you can’t make it, you can learn more (and send a quick email to all of City Council) over on the #MoreBetterStronger site.

OR, if budgetchats are not your thing, join this group of smart people (Bill Martin, Kelli Lemon, Michael Paul Williams, Kelly O’Keefe, and Matthew Freeman) to talk through this question as part of the Valentine’s Controversy/History series: Richmond or RVA (Facebook)?

This morning's longread

Here's How America Uses Its Land

From a while back, here’s a really interesting and neat set of American land use maps. I know we’re all over the map on whether or not cows are bad for the environment, but, regardless of their impact on climate change, they take up a ton of space.

There are many statistical measures that show how productive the U.S. is. Its economy is the largest in the world and grew at a rate of 4.1 percent last quarter, its fastest pace since 2014. The unemployment rate is near the lowest mark in a half century. What can be harder to decipher is how Americans use their land to create wealth. The 48 contiguous states alone are a 1.9 billion-acre jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures that Americans use to feed themselves, power their economy and extract value for business and pleasure.

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Good morning, RVA: Build more housing, tax abatement, and a Squirrels’ history

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