Good morning, RVA! It's 59 °F, and today’s weather looks like more of the same: highs in the 80s, plenty of reasons to go outside. There is a chance of rain later this evening that increases going into Friday.
On Monday evening, police found Alexander N. Wynn, 60, shot to death on the 600 block of Bancroft Avenue. This is the 14th murder in the City this year, and you can find a list of the victims on the Richmond Police Department website.
Y’all!! He did it! Rodney Robinson is the NATIONAL TEACHER OF THE YEAR. This is incredibly exciting, and you can watch the short video CBS put together if you want to feel some emotions. What a totally welcomed, 100% needed piece of good Richmond Public Schools news. Take a stroll through Superintendent Kamras’s Twitter timeline for a look at all of the people around the country that are saying great things about Robinson and RPS.
Y’all! They definitely did not do it! Yesterday, City Council met to work through the remaining budget amendments in a day-long meeting that...did not end well. First success: Council withdrew all of the amendments cutting RPS’s funding request. First bump in the road: Five councilmembers agreed to strip the $965,000 of new funding for GRTC—Gray, Hilbert, Larson, Agelasto, and Trammell. Almost the entirety of that conversation centered around fare evasion on the Pulse and the current pilot program with VCU (that is, at this very moment, being renegotiated). I had a lot of thoughts, which you can read in this RVA Rapid Transit Twitter thread, but Councilmember Jones put it well: “I can’t believe we are going to penalize POC, the working class and people who are choosing public transportation as a way to cut emissions simply because we are upset with a lack of agreement with VCU or Chesterfield.” I agree! While five councilmembers agreed to cut the new bus funding, they haven’t officially voted on anything, so perhaps there’s still hope. The day progressed, the conversations continued, and it felt like some sort of compromise was on the horizon...until Council got behind Hilbert’s proposed 1.5% cut to every City department. That, apparently, was a bridge too far. What happened next is kind of in-the-weeds and confusing, but stay with me for a moment. Any new revenue found by Council that was not included in the Mayor’s proposed budget has to be “certified” by the Mayor. An enormous piece of Council’s plan to balance the budget was this $6 million of cash from increased real estate assessments, and when the Mayor’s administration heard about the across-the-board cuts, they told Council that the Mayor would not certify any of that new money. This left an $11 million gap in the budget, even after the across-the-board cuts. It got real bad after that, and the evening ended with six councilmembers (Addison, Gray, Hilbert, Larson, Agelasto, Trammell) agreeing to hire outside legal counsel to look at options for forcing the Mayor to certify that revenue. Since then, the Mayor has softened his position and sounds willing to certifying the new money, which, fingers crossed, could put a stop to this outside legal counsel business. Mark Robinson at the Richmond Times-Dispatch sat through the entire thing and has a helpful recap. So yeah, that’s about as far as you can get from my on-the-record prediction of “$1.25 real estate tax rate with all of the Mayor’s priorities intact.” Shows you what I know! Council will meet again on Monday to...I honestly do not know. Sue the Mayor? Roll back the Recession-era real estate tax cuts? Further cut funding from every City department? Balance the budget? Certainly not all four, but maybe??
As we slog through the sudden morass of budget season, keep the Councilmember Agelasto situation in the back of your mind. Aside from his decision to strip GRTC’s new funding, he’s been, thus far, solidly in the “Don’t Inequitably Cut City Services” camp. Today, Robin Beres from the RTD Editorial Board, has an editorial (almost) calling for his immediate resignation. I have no idea if this has even the remotest chance of happening, but it’d change the makeup of Council and alter the calculus of folks trying to pass or block portions of the budget.
Charlotte Rene Woods at the Virginia Mercury covers last week’s meeting of the Shockoe Alliance, which I’ve written about before. I like this piece because its a good reminder of some of the progress the Commonwealth has made and is making on racial equity—despite all of the serious and recent setbacks.
I love this picture of the Richmond skyline via /r/rva. Dominion is whatever, but their new building is a pretty cool addition to the cityscape.
This morning's longread
Have I shared this longread before? So much of it seemed familiar, but space + human stories is a hard equation for me to ignore.
Inside Mission Control, where the space station's orbit is tracked on a giant screen at the front of the room and technicians sit behind consoles labeled ODIN, OSO, ECLSS, ROBO, and a dozen other things, a debate is unfolding. No one is sure how to tell the crew that Columbia, a shuttle that Bowersox has twice piloted, just came apart in the thin blue-green envelope beneath them. No one is sure how to tell them that seven friends--including Ilan Ramon, who only a few days earlier told Bowersox that he'd give his three children a hug for him, and Willie McCool, with whom Pettit had been playing e-mail chess--are probably gone, too. Jefferson Howell, a retired marine lieutenant general and the plainspoken director of the Johnson Space Center, ends the debate when he sits down at the radio, considers his words, and bounces his voice off a satellite into the space station's dry, recycled air. "I have some bad news," Howell says, and because it's Howell who's delivering it, Pettit and Bowersox know exactly how bad before he gets it out: "We've lost the vehicle."
If you’d like your longread to show up here, go chip in a couple bucks on the ol’ Patreon.