Good morning, RVA! It's 63 °F, and temperatures are, once again, right in the upper 70s. Things look absolutely beautiful this morning, but do keep an eye on the sky after lunch for an increasing chance of rain.
It’s Bike to School Day! Just one of the million and one RVA Bike Month events, Bike to School Day is an opportunity for kids to feel the wind in their hair, hear the click of the freewheel, and avoid the quiet aggression of the car drop-off line. Some schools have even coordinated a group bike-to-school ride—like a tiny-sized, adorable Critical Mass). If you choose to drive a car around the City this morning or this afternoon, please, please, please pay attention as there will be a bunch more kids on bikes using our streets. Some of them may be a little wobbly, so give them the space and courtesy they deserve.
Speaking of bikes, check out this great profile of Bike Walk RVA’s Brantley Tyndall by David Streever in Style Weekly. Tyndall’s planning to ride his bicycle across all of America, which, I dunno y’all, seems pretty far to me. Despite his totally bonkers-yet-epic bike plan, he’s a great guy that I’m happy to know. Reading through this piece will give you an idea of how much he cares about the safety of our streets and how hard he’s working to make getting around Richmond safer for everyone.
The police officer who yelled inappropriate things to a group of Albert Hill Middle School students has backed out of his promise to publicly apologize. NBC12 has this embarrassing statement from Interim Police Chief Smith: “...the officer signed an agreement promising to attend the school assembly but, since then, he has reconsidered that promise and no longer feels he could handle the much larger setting of a school assembly.” I mean, come on! He swore at children, promised to apologize publicly, and now he can’t “handle” standing in front of them to do so? Ridiculous. I was really impressed with how RPS and RPD worked together to flip the power dynamic between students and police. But this, this is just garbage and sends a bad message to all RPS students, families, and Richmonders in general.
Micheal Paul Williams talks to Christy Coleman 💸, CEO of the American Civil War Museum, about Confederate flags, and she, as always, has something awesome to say. To quote: “A flag on the side of a highway has no context...People will regard them as they understand them historically or experienced them personally — both as objects of the past and contemporary meaning. Their mere presence isn’t history at all, but rather a statement. The question is, what statement is being made?”
Finally! Mechelle Hankerson at the Virginia Mercury says Governor Northam’s office has decided to hire a “chief equity, diversity, and inclusion officer to guide Gov. Ralph Northam through his remaining time in office.” Why this took several months and was not the literal first thing they did on the Monday following the Blackface weekend, we will never know. I hope that this new hire can help change some of the hearts and minds throughout the administration—there’s a lot of work to be done. Even in this article we’ve got the Governor’s chief of staff shifting blame to Republicans: “He said the governor, a Democrat, has worked on issues of inequity for a long time, but efforts have usually been ‘thwarted by the majority.’” That’s not a good look and absolutely misses the tone I want to hear: apologetic, accepting responsibility for their actions, and working to rebuild trust.
Across the country, Uber and Lyft drivers will strike today ahead of Uber’s IPO. I originally learned about this from Del. Lee Carter’s Twitter account, where he says: “Because of the low pay at the General Assembly, I've been driving for Lyft on the side to make ends meet. I'm striking on Wednesday with thousands of my fellow rideshare drivers. Don't cross the picket line. Don't do it. Don't cross the picket line. Just don't.” There’s a lot going on in this tweet! First, consider taking the bus today instead of rideshare. Second, what the heck! One of our state delegates drives for Lyft because of the terrible pay at the General Assembly? This isn’t just a state issue either: Our local elected representatives basically work a full-time job for part-time pay, and it dramatically limits who can run for office. And before you start drafting up an ordinance, we are—because of the Dillion Rule—prohibited from paying city councilmembers a living wage by the state government.
This morning's longread
Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, meaning the City of Richmond can’t do anything unless authorized by the State. Whenever you’re like “why doesn’t Richmond just tax XYZ to pay for schools,” this is the reason. Dillon Rule seems like such a inherent part of life in Virginia that it’s hard to imagine it going away, but West Virginia did it! And some politicians in VA want to do it, too!
Proponents of the Home Rule program noted that it gave communities more flexibility in figuring out how to sort out financial challenges. “Huntington was the first to enact the sales tax under Home Rule,” explained Mayor Steve Williams who spoke in support of the program. “That wasn’t a proposal that came from the city council or the city administration. That was a suggestion from the general public. We were having Home Rule hearings about occupational taxes. That was controversial as can be, as can be. Everybody came out against it.” Moving beyond taxes and revenue, Hardy said Home Rule initiatives have allowed cities to tackle problems unique to their communities. For example, he said, Ranson has ordinances in place to deal with feral cats while Morgantown used Home Rule to deal with the problem of burning couches.
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