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

Good morning, RVA: Say thank you, a persistent narrative, and the Innovation Lab

Good morning, RVA! It's 69 °F, and another beautiful day awaits us with highs in the mid 80s. If you’re already making weekend plans, keep an eye on Saturday evening / Sunday morning’s possible chance of rain.

Water cooler

Yeah we’re pretty much done with budget season, but there’s still a few loose ends to tie up and a couple interesting bits of information floating around. First, and most importantly, if you, at any point during this year’s budget process, dashed off an angry/hopeful/kind/critical/less-than-constructive email to City Council about some of the investments in the Mayor’s proposed budget please similarly dash off a thank you email to them for funding those investments. If it were me, I’d also include a bit about how we’re not done raising new revenue to fund critical city services and to get excited for next year. Speaking of next year, what will the Mayor include in that budget? Will we face a Groundhog Day of real estate tax chats until we unstick the rate from pre-Recession levels? Personally, I hope so. But, 2020 is an election year, so that probably means some things. Roberto Roldan at WCVE did a quick interview with Mayor Stoney in which the Mayor says “the funding that will be in this upcoming budget should be the floor, not the ceiling.” I think he was speaking specifically to schools funding, but it gives me hope for schools, streets, transit, and housing, too—whether that new funding comes from a real estate tax increase, the State, rising assessments, abatement reform, or some other smart policy change.

Remember the Richard Meagher piece I linked to a couple of days ago about the racist narrative of Black incompetence at City Hill that the region has built over the last several decades? The flip side of that—deflecting and minimizing stories of suburban incompetence—is part of the same game. Take this story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (which is behind the paywall 🤔): “GOP committee votes to scrap convention in Peace-Wyatt House race, but issue isn't resolved.“ This story is actually about how the process for Republicans to nominate a 97th District candidate has devolved into an absolute, embarrassing, chaotic mess. You wouldn’t know that from the headline, though! For example: A member of the 97th Legislative District Committee, which decides the nomination process, “told people in the room to quiet down. ‘There’s a sheriff’s deputy outside that’ll have your ass thrown out.’” Then, at one point that same member told the committee chair “You are obstructing this meeting,” to which the chair “loudly banged his gavel twice and exclaimed, ‘Adjourned!’” Not a great or democratic process, yet the headline would have you believe it’s biz as usual over in the 97th (which is made up of suburban counties Hanover, King William, and New Kent). Preserving both of these narratives—Black incompetence in the City and White competence in the Counties—is deeply baked into how we operate as a region. Even when you’re aware of the game, it’s incredibly hard to shift your perspective and see what’s really going on.

By the way, Meagher has an end-of-budget-season piece with some musings on the structure of our newish form of city government and a few ideas for making things run more smoothly in the future.

Robert Zullo at the Virginia Mercury has a good editorial in support of local control of Confederate monuments. He does a good job at hitting all the talking points: Lost Cause narrative is pervasive (see above, kind of!), secession documents were real bad, and the complicated desire to protect history.

Ooooo look at all of these pictures of Richmond’s street cars from the RTD archives! Dang, what we could have had but literally ripped up and burned down.

Did you know about the Richmond Public Library’s Innovation Lab? I’ve been wondering what plans they had for the big open space in the Main Library, and now I know! They’ve got a 3D printer, 3D scanner, free use of Adobe Creative Cloud, sewing machines, and some LEGO robotics kits. This sounds exceedingly rad!

Gov. Northam has an editorial in the WaPo about why he won’t sign another mandatory minimum sentence bill during his term as governor. I’m into this! And it’s a real way Northam can make good on his promise to build racial equity into how he uses his power as governor. The closing couple of sentences are good: “I want to give our judges, appointed by the Virginia General Assembly, the appropriate discretion over sentencing decisions. We must remember that punishment and justice are not always the same thing. We are better as a society when we give our judicial system the ability to discern the difference.”

This morning's patron longread

The age of the Influencer has peaked. It’s time for the slacker to rise again

Submitted by Patron Susan. Yes I am an old person who considers 1994 the best year in music, but maybe GenX was right about some things?

But as we settle into our roomier trousers and perhaps take a toke of a legally sanctioned weed pen, there’s a less comfortable question to ask: Is it even possible to truly be a slacker anymore? The neoliberal economic conditions that gave rise to the influencer—and all those side hustles and personal brands—simultaneously have made it harder to attain a normal middle class existence. Even if your goals are of the modest, slacker variety—an hourly wage job, a roof over your head, junk food to eat, and TV to watch—that’s all a hell of a lot harder to come by these days. “Thinking about Reality Bites, I feel like they were relatively privileged, but they were sort of lazing around and they could sort of consist on hardly any money at all,” Scott said. “It’s really impossible to live an urban life on very little money.”

If you’d like your longread to show up here, go chip in a couple bucks on the ol’ Patreon.

Good morning, RVA: Police data by race, Vision Zero infrastructure, and cool snakes

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