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

Good morning, RVA: Gun violence, scooters, and old-growth forests

Good morning, RVA! It's 67 °F, and you should expect a hot, sunny afternoon with highs in the 90s. Get ready for a hot, hot week.

Water cooler

Richmond Police are reporting two murders that took place over the weekend. First, Jerson S. White, 37, was shot and killed in the alley behind the 2100 block of West Cary Street. Second, a child was shot and killed at Carter Jones Park. NCB12 reports that the victim, 9-year-old Markiya Simone Dickson, was caught in gunfire that “came from some men on a nearby basketball court.” This is just so incredibly awful. I don’t know what the City’s response to the killing of an innocent child in a public park will be, but it needs to be something. If it were me, I’d get with a bunch of smart lawyers and start writing and passing progressive gun violence laws at the city level with the hope of having them challenged in court—force our Commonwealth’s gun-loving legislators to explain why, year after year, they do everything in their power to support policies of death and violence.

Last week, the Richmond Times Dispatch’s Michael Paul Williams wrote something that I’ve wanted to say for a while now but was way too scared to do so 💸: “But for Richmond at large, the death of the dog appears to be far more relatable than the death of the toddler.” MPW is, of course, referring to the outpouring of support for Tommie, a dog set on fire and killed, contrasted with the near silence over the murder of 17-month-old Nariah Ivy Brown. Amy Wentz, current candidate for City Council’s 8th District, adds “I’m not saying people should care less about Tommie’s death, but they should definitely care more about Nariah’s...She was a harmless, beautiful little girl. It’s a tragedy. It’s a loss for our city.” I’m sure both Williams and Wentz got more than their fair share of angry emails and tweets after these comments, but I’m definitely glad they made them.

Richmond City Council will gather today for their regularly scheduled meeting to (finally) discuss and pass some legislation that’s not related to the budget. Of note: ORD. 2019-126 which would rename the “Bike Share System Special Fund” to the “Shared Mobility Device Program Special Fund”—presumably now it includes scooters and dockless bikes. Council will also allocate some more money over that way for operating the newly expanded permitting program. However, dockless scooters (or bikes) still haven’t returned to Richmond’s streets, and we’ve already missed a bunch of prime scootering season, so I’m not sure where all this new revenue will come from. Here’s hoping we get some sort of small, electric, dockless vehicles on the ground before the end of the summer and aren’t headed into a RVA Bike Share situation where we just wait and wait and wait and never really end up with anything useful at all. There’s also this story on WRIC about several City departments running out of money before the end of the fiscal year. The article, for some reason, puts the blame on the Mayor’s administration, but Budget Director Jay Brown says Council continued an ordinance that would have shifted the needed money around on May 16th (to June 20th) and now folks are running out of cash. A while back (RES. 2016-045 (PDF)), Council decided that they wanted more oversight on budgeted expenditures, and this is a direct consequence of that decision.

Speaking of Scooters, Richmond BizSense’s Mike Platania says Joy Scooters will launch in four to six weeks. These aren’t dockless vehicles—so they sidestep the above-mentioned permitting process—and will live at five 7-Eleven stores. Neat idea, but completely useless in providing first/last mile connections to where people need to go (unless people need to leave from one 7-Eleven and go to another).

Chesterfield folks! The regional housing conversation comes to your neck of the woods tonight at the Career & Technical Center (13900 Hull Street Road, Room D136) from 6:30–8:30 PM. Remember: This is an opportunity to “discuss the vision and values for [your] communities and what housing challenges residents face.” In Chesterfield, part of the problem is the extremely high transportation costs forced on residents since, regardless of where they live in the County, most folks are forced to own a car to get around. It’s a common suburban problem and you can learn more about using housing plus transportation as an index for affordability over on this neat site by the Center for Neighborhood Technology. After tonight, we’ve got about a month before a second round of meetings that will focus on strategies to address the challenges raised in the first round of meetings.

Next week, the Old-Growth Forest Network will designate the James River Park System as an official™ old-growth forest, and you should read this really interesting press release from the Capital Region Land Conservancy (PDF). Sounds boring, I know, but trust me. There’s a ton of history in there that you’ll find interesting, like: “More than 50 years ago local citizens defeated a proposed highway along the south side of the James River while others such as Joe Schaefer and Jack Keith mounted an effort to acquire parcels of undeveloped riverfront land.” That’s something I’d love to learn more about, for sure.

This morning's longread

Can “Indie” Social Media Save Us?

There’s a lot of hope in indie social media, I think. It’s still a bit too complicated to use, but I’m excited by the potential. Be aware: The author of this article does slip into conflating social media with mobile devices near the end.

I think of this episode as typical of the conflicted relationships many of us have with Facebook, Instagram, and other social-media platforms. On the one hand, we’ve grown wary of the so-called attention economy, which, in the name of corporate profits, exploits our psychological vulnerabilities in ways that corrode social life, diminish privacy, weaken civic cohesion, and make us vulnerable to manipulation. But we also benefit from social media and hesitate to disengage from it completely. Not long ago, I met a partner at a large law firm in Washington, D.C., who told me that she keeps Instagram on her phone because she misses her kids when she travels; browsing pictures of them makes her feel better. Meanwhile, because she also worries about her phone usage, she’s instituted a rule that requires her, before looking at Instagram, to read for at least thirty minutes. Last year, she read fifty-five books. Many of us have similar stories. Even as we dream of abandoning social media, we search for ways to redeem it.

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Good morning, RVA: Working through, public school facilities, and urban gardening

Good morning, RVA: Long weekend, fare evasion, and a new app