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

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

Good morning, RVA! It's 65 °F, and, like yesterday, today looks wonderful. Expect highs in the mid-80s and sunshine for most of the day. This weekend, rain could move in late Saturday evening and continue into Sunday.

Water cooler

Police are reporting two murders in the City over the last few days. On Tuesday night, Reginald K. Addo, 40, was shot to death on the 2200 block of Chateau Drive. Then, on Wednesday night, Trequan R. Hardy, 35, was shot to death on the 2100 block of Fairfield Avenue.

Ali Rockett at the RTD has a thorough and disturbing look at the racial breakdown of who Richmond police officers interact with 💸. Thanks to the Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project’s work in getting tens of thousands of police contact reports out of the Police Department, we now know things like “Black individuals accounted for 66 percent of all reports of suspicious activity and 71 percent of all suspicious people” and “There were only three categories, out of 35, in which white people outpaced black: nuisance reports for a party house, noise ordinance violations, and homeless encampments.” Not good for a city that’s 45% White. Great reporting by Rockett, though, on a complex topic.

I write a lot about Vision Zero in this space and how the City (and the Region) needs to change the way our streets fundamentally work to prioritize the safety of people over the convenience of cars. Over the past few months, several streets in the Fan—each part of the high-injury street network where the most injuries happen on our roads—have seen cool new safety upgrades. First, scattered throughout the area around VCU near Lombardy are freshly painted high-visibility crosswalks which let drivers know, “Hey, there may be a person in this space, maybe you shouldn’t run them over with your vehicle.” Second, curb extensions along Main Street slow traffic down and keep parked vehicles further from the intersection so humans can actually see if a car is coming before they cross the street (a street which is still way too scary and fast, but this is a start). Third, signal timing! Leading pedestrian intervals give pedestrians a head start getting into the intersection, increasing their visibility. Notice how the walk signal starts a couple of seconds before the traffic light switches to green. I love seeing actual progress being made with actual infrastructure actually on the ground. It’s exciting!

A while back, a Richmond police officer yelled some totally inappropriate things at a group of Albert Hill middle school students. Justin Mattingly at the Richmond Times-Dispatch describes the process that students, family, police, and RPS staff went through to make things right, and I’m just so impressed by it. Talk about flipping the power dynamic! I know this was a terrible and regrettable (and probably not unique) incident, but it definitely seems like a big success for the nascent focus on restorative justice at RPS.

I love this snake-positive article in the Virginia Mercury by Rex Springston. Other than the copperhead, you don’t have much to worry about in Richmond—so don’t freak out next time you see a snake chilling in the river, OK? As for the eastern garter snake, the official snake of Virginia, Springston describes it as an “ornery, wiggly, little guy that bites and exudes a stinky, poop-like musk when it’s scared.” Just like some of our elected officials, am I right???? High oh!

Turns out Governor Northam will not veto budget language restricting Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a regional carbon cap and trading network. Robert Zullo at the Virginia Mercury has the sad details—sad for all of us, but especially for Hampton Roads which we’re actively trying to give back to the ocean at every turn.

Two events this weekend that should already be on your calendar, but I thought I would remind you about anyway: Tonight, at 7:05 PM, the Ardillas Voladoras return to the Diamond with a cool wristband giveaway—and, presumably, some baseball. And then, on Saturday, the American Civil War Museum will celebrate their Grand Opening with guided tours, walking tours, artifact encounters, and a guest appearance by the BackStory podcast at 10:30 AM.

This morning's patron longread

An Unusual Way to Bridge the Town-Gown Divide

Submitted by Patron Casey. First, I didn’t know about the term “town-gown divide” and will now use it constantly. Second, although this idea is probably illegal in Virginia for 60 different reasons, it’s still fascinating.

Schools were closed; teachers were laid off; academic-quality ratings fell. Finally, in December 2017, the state of Indiana declared the Muncie schools (like those in Gary) to be a “distressed political subdivision,” and put them under direct state-government control, through an emergency manager. The following month, in January 2018, Geoffrey Mearns, then less than a year into his Ball State tenure, made a surprising proposal on Ball State’s behalf. He said that the university would assume responsibility for the city’s schools, transferring them from the state’s emergency manager, if the structure of the school board could be reconstituted. The announcement was enough of a surprise that, in initial news accounts, many officials said they couldn’t comment, because they hadn’t yet seen the plan. (For instance, from the first-day news in the Ball State Daily: “‘I was caught off guard because I had no idea the amendment [authorizing the switch] was in the works,’ said Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie. ‘I think [Ball State is] making a very nice offer. But it has been sprung on us.’”)

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Good morning, RVA: Checking in with the National Teacher of the Year, Storm drain art, and a river adventure

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