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

Good morning, RVA: Podcasts, barbecue, and opening night

Good morning, RVA! It's 40 °F, but later today it will be 70 °F and sunny. That sounds wonderful.

Water cooler

The hands-free driving bill predictably died yesterday at the General Assembly, and I’m predictably frustrated. I assume some legislator somewhere will submit a similar bill during next year’s session, which is how these things go sometimes, but I’m still angry about the Republican trickeration that killed a bill which literally passed both houses of the GA. Gah! There are, of course, still policies we can and should implement to make our streets safer at the local level while state-level policies flounder. Take, for example, the recent move to lower speeds on some of our high-injury streets and this announcement from Mayor Stoney yesterday: “I’ve directed my team to begin the work of introducing an ordinance that will add an extra penalty for drivers who are distracted by the use of their cell 📱 while driving in Richmond.” Sounds great! Also, an ordinance requiring sidewalks to remain open during construction is another policy we could pass locally.

Hey, but some good news out of the General Assembly: Virginia will no longer suspend driver’s licenses as a punishment for unpaid court fees, Michael Martz and Patrick Wilson at the RTD have the details. Since our region has yet to fund and build a regional public transportation system, taking away someone’s driver’s license in Richmond usually means taking away their access to jobs. So, of course, folks drive without a license, accrue more fines and fees, and end up further in the hole.

Jonathan Spiers at Richmond BizSense has the update from yesterday’s packed-house Board of Zoning Appeals. The BZA met and denied an appeal about certain aspects of converting the Lee Medical Building into apartments. I got a good clarification from a reader on this yesterday, which I’ll quote a bit here: “What the BZA needs to rule on, and most people have missed, is that the developer is requesting physical changes to the building to be able to add some apartments in the basement. Now that requires a zoning appeal because the zoning restriction does not allow changes to a non-conforming use building that would increase use in a space that was previously unused without an appeal by the zoning board.” Spiers confirms in the aforelinked piece, saying that apartments are still on the way to the building, maybe just fewer or smaller units. Zoning is complicated!

I’m way behind on my podcasts, y’all, and I need to catch up—starting with these two episode of The Cheats Movement podcasts. First, back in March, they sat down and talked with Richmond’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Herring about criminal justice reform. Second, just yesterday, they spoke with the Mayor about his budget.

In what seems like excellent news for users of the Capital Trail, the eponymous Ronnie is back behind the smoker at Ronnie’s BBQ out on Route 5, says Eileen Mellon over at Richmond Magazine. What’s a better motivator to get on your bike and ride than a plateful of smoked ribs?

Tonight at 6:35 PM the Flying Squirrels open their 2019 season, and you can get your tickets online. You should probably expect a ton of weird-yet-delightful opening-day shenanigans during the game with the evening ending in fireworks. Remember, tomorrow is a Friday home game, so the Squirrels will transform into the Ardillas Voladoras for the first time!

This morning's longread

How digital technology is destroying our freedom

I’m still thinking about Feed by M.T. Anderson, and reading articles like this certainly doesn’t help.

In some ways, we’re all hostage to our technologies, or we’re simply at the mercy of this system. We’re being steamrolled by our devices, and the result is a kind of emotional slavery. And we know that billions of dollars are going into applying everything, every nasty trick we know about behavioral finance, to the digital realm. This is what I mean when I call digital technology “anti-human.” If we were using digital and behavioral technologies to help people eat better or not smoke, then at least we could be arguing that it’s intended to help people. When we’re using technology to get people to revert to their most reptilian impulses, to get them to buy stuff they don’t need or to react angrily to stories, we’re in deep trouble.

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Good morning, RVA: Justice, regional transportation funding, and the Ardillas Voladoras

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