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

Good morning, RVA: Vision Zero, a budget compromise?, and a trust town hall

Good morning, RVA! It's 48 °F, and we’ve got another stunning day ahead of us. You should expect clear skies, temperatures in the 80s, and a significant amount of time that’d be better spent outside.

Water cooler

Richmond Police are reporting that Yvonne D. Charity, 43, was hit and killed by a person driving recklessly this past weekend on the 2200 block of Fairmount Avenue in the East End. Fairmount is an enormous, fast street and has already been identified as part of Richmond’s High Injury Street Network (PDF). We know that this residential street is dangerous for humans, did nothing substantial to make it safer, and now someone living nearby is dead. This makes me furious and sad.

Earlier this week, a well-know bicycle advocate in D.C. was hit and killed by a driver, which has kicked off a letter writing campaign to get elected officials to do something about these preventable deaths. I’ve talked about Vision Zero and street safety in this space a ton over the last several years, and its time our elected officials do something, too. When a person—one of our neighbors—dies because our elected leaders haven’t moved fast enough (or at all) to implement infrastructure that would have saved lives, we, as their constituents, need to let them know that their inaction is unacceptable.

Please take a minute today and email the Mayor () and your Councilmember and tell them just that: It is unacceptable to do nothing while people die on streets we know to be unsafe. Specifically, ask them what they plan on doing to make Fairmount Avenue safer for folks walking to the brand new grocery store. This Twitter thread from Alex Baca in D.C. will give you some of the language you need to get started.

Expect more on this until the City gets it right.

City Council spent all of yesterday trying, and mostly failing, to come to consensus on a variety of budget amendments that increased revenue, fees, and taxes to help them avoid rolling back the Recession-era real estate tax cuts. Everything but the real estate tax got a good couple of hours of discussion—cigarette tax, admissions tax, utility rates, and vacant property sales—but, ultimately, they couldn’t agree on much. The proposed cigarette tax stands at the Mayor’s $0.50 rate, they couldn’t come to agreement on increasing the existing 7% admissions tax, Councilmember Gray and Trammell’s amendments to keep the utility rates stable all died, and there was a long conversation about vacant properties and development agreements that I didn’t understand but could be worth about $3 million. Basically, the mayor’s proposed budget stands pretty much in tact. Then, after an eight-hour work day, Council settled in for the Big Budget Public Hearing, and, I can say with authority, that it was indeed big and that the room was indeed packed. So packed, in fact, that the City set up two different overflow rooms for folks like myself who arrived too late to get a seat in Council Chambers. Mark Robinson at the Richmond Times-Dispatch has the word from inside the room. So what happens next? City Council will have another budget work session tomorrow to specifically discuss the real estate tax. My prediction: At the end of the day, we end up with all the new investments in the Mayor’s proposed budget fully funded (with maybe a few small cuts here and there) and a new real estate tax rate of $1.25. That’s only possible because of a line item of about $6.5 million called “additional revenue for increased assessments.” I don’t know what that is, how it works, or why it was not included in the Mayor’s original budget, but it’s enough cash—I hope—to get Council to a compromise. You can look through the proposed budget amendments in this PDF—which I think is the most accurate and up-to-date list that exists. Oh, a final data point: While they have different strategies for getting there, Councilmembers Addison, Agelasto, Jones, and Newbille all fully fund RPS’s budget request. I think that’s worth saying outloud.

Ned Oliver has another Virginia Explained piece over at the Virginia Mercury, this one about whether or not a local prosecutor can decide to just stop prosecuting marijuana cases. As with most legal-related things, it’s complicated and some judge somewhere will probably end up deciding.

Tonight at MLK Middle beginning at 6:00 PM, join RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras at a “Trust Town Hall Meeting.” One of the most consistent concerns I’ve heard from people who oppose rolling back the Recession-era tax cuts to fully fund the schools’ budget request (among other important needs), is that folks just don’t trust RPS to efficiently and effectively spend any amount of new money. Tonight Kamras wants “to hear your concerns, talk through what we are doing and can do to address them, and figure out how to partner on behalf of the children of Richmond.“ I imagine there will be lots of hollering and skeptical faces.

This morning's longread

This YouTube Channel Streams AI-Generated Death Metal 24/7

Check out this literal infinite longlisten! I’m shocked by how listenable this turns out to be, but my real questions is: Where are the AI-generated ASMR streams?

For nearly a month, Dadabots has been streaming death metal nonstop on its YouTube channel. While that may sound like a huge undertaking for a typical four-piece metal band, Dadabots is actually an AI generating its own approximations of what death metal sounds like. Dadabots—a fake band powered by deep learning software—was developed by CJ Carr and Zack Zukowski, two musicians and technologists who met while they were going to Berklee College of Music in Boston they told The Outline. It’s based on a recurrent neural network—computing architecture that “learns” patterns in a large amount of input data (in this case, death metal) in order to predict what musical elements and sequences are most common and recreates them.

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Good morning, RVA: A very important budget work session, a councilmember resigns, and a true fact

Good morning, RVA: Budget public hearing tonight!, Rodney Robinson, and Earth Day