Good morning, RVA! It's 61 °F, and, whoadang, we could see highs in the upper 70s today—or even 80s! Expect some rain later this evening that carries on through tomorrow morning.
This morning, City Council will meet for another budget work session at which they’ll hear their final set of presentations. Today’s theme is “Responsive Government” and includes Citizen Service and Response, Finance & Risk Management, Human Resources, Procurement, and Non-departmental—the latter is a bucket for all sorts of things like GRTC, the ambulance authority, and a bunch of other grants to nonprofit-type organizations. Then Council will spend the afternoon discussing proposed amendments which were fairly uncontroversial...until now! Over the weekend, Councilmember Jones tweeted out the latest round of proposed amendments and the first look at how some councilfolk plan to balance the Mayor’s budget without rolling back the Recession-era real estate tax cuts. On the revenue side, Councilmember Hilbert wants to up the proposed cigarette tax from $0.50 to $0.80 and increase the admissions tax from 7% to 12%. This, plus “repeal tax exemptions by designation” (which I don’t understand yet), gets him about $5 million, leaving him to make $16 million of cuts. Here’s what Councilmember Hilbert plans to cut: $2.1 million from street paving (despite an enormous amount of poor-quality streets in the 3rd District); $6.1 million from the City’s contribution to schools; and 1.5% of the budget from every. single. city department (leaving a handful of departments—unrelated to schools, streets, housing, or any of the Mayor’s proposed investments—with less money than they had last year). All of those cuts frustrate me, but it’s the last one that really gets me. I called it “weak and lazy” on Twitter, which, in retrospect, perhaps wasn’t the nicest way to put it—but is exactly how I feel. If some councilmembers don’t want to raise revenue, they should make the hard decisions of where and what to cut. This blanket, city-wide cut feels like a hands-off attempt to distribute the burden equally but is exactly why I talk about the difference between equality and equity. This is the exact definition of an inequitable distribution of resources, and there’s no reason why departments providing services to those who need it most should face out-of-the-blue, unrelated budget cuts.
Related: The Mayor made his case for rolling back the Recession-era real estate tax cuts in the paper over the weekend.
Jonathan Spiers at Richmond BizSense has lots of details on the City’s proposed Airbnb policy aka short-term residential rentals. You can and should weigh in the policy via this survey from the Department of Planning and Development Review. Government: Participate in the process!
Someone on /r/rva asked about a map of protected bike lanes, and, while this is not that, it’s still a handy map of all the bike infrastructure we’ve got in Richmond. We certainly don’t have a ton of miles of safe places for folks to ride a bike, but, if you squint, you can start to see the beginnings of a network. Next step: Build more bike lanes and connect the network!
This morning's longread
We see the benefits of universal design in transportation all of the time. For example, the platform-level boarding at the Pulse stations makes it easier for folks using wheel chairs to roll on to the bus, but it also speeds up boarding for every rider and helps get folks where they’re going faster.
From pioneering DIY prosthetics developed by returning soldiers after WWII, to Oxo’s ergonomic kitchen tools, to today’s 3D-printed wonders, such as custom wheelchairs and limbs, Williamson explores how disability design in the United States has been primarily associated with consumer products and experiences. While design for disability has become more mainstream, including the increased usage and dialogue around universal design—the idea that design that helps any user access space or use a tool helps everyone by increasing overall accessibility—the experience, insight, and innovations of the disabled community still needs to be better incorporated into our design process.
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