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

Good morning, RVA: A special session, LGBTQ school policies, and eating fish out of the river

Good morning, RVA! It's 65 °F, and highs today are back up in the 80s. Keep an eye on the sky this afternoon, because the forecast holds a steadily increasing chance of storms starting after lunch.

Water cooler

The Governor has called a special session of the General Assembly to address gun violence. You can read his remarks as prepared here, and I just love this sentence: “I will be asking for votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers.” Here’s the list of what he’s proposing, none of which is anythign earth shattering: Universal background checks; a ban on assault weapons, to include suppressors and bump stocks; an extreme risk protective order; reinstating the one-gun-a-month law; child access prevention; requiring people to report lost and stolen firearms; and expanding local authority to regulate firearms, including in government buildings. As you can probably guess, Republicans in the General Assembly most likely have no interest in any of these things. In fact, House Speaker Kirk Cox has said they’ll focus on mandatory minimums—something that A) doesn’t solve the problem of too many guns, and B) he knows the Governor has committed to veto. I’ll tell you what, though, the classic Republican position of “Gasp! I cannot believe Democrats are rushing to pass laws so soon after yet another gun tragedy, how dare they! So politicizing!” is tired and tone deaf. It may have worked 15 mass shootings ago, but it doesn’t any more. People are traumatized from watching their neighbors die and want the people with the power to prevent it to do something. Again: All General Assembly seats are up for reelection this fall, and you can check your voter registration status here.

Justin Mattingly at the Richmond Times-Dispatch says that the Richmond School Board has approved “a new policy aimed at cutting down on the discrimination faced by LGBTQ students.” 💸 You can read the revised draft of the Student Code of Responsible Ethics (PDF), but it’s a 67-page PDF with track changes turned on—not for the faint of heart! Luckily, Ted Lewis, executive director of Side by Side, says the policy changes are “a big step for the city,” and that’s good enough for me. Stay tuned for a separate policy that will allow students to use a chosen name and their preferred pronouns plus more work on providing gender-neutral bathrooms. Side note: Only 3rd District’s Kenya Gibson and 4th District’s Jonathan Young voted against the proposal, but Mattingly doesn’t really say why and even says Gibson “supports the changes for LGBTQ students.” Also! If you’re a teacher or parent wondering what to do when you learn that someone’s pronouns have changed or are different from what you’ve been using, read this quick and lovely FAQ from Richmonder Erin White. It’s about coming out as nonbinary at work, but a lot of the advice applies more widely.

Yesterday, VCU and GRTC announced that they’ve come to an agreement to continue their bus pass pilot program for three years! This, I think, may move the program out of “pilot” territory and firmly into “a thing that folks just expect from now until forever.” This is excellent news as VCU and VCU Health Systems humans make up a significant chunk of the entire GRTC system ridership—which makes sense as they’re the region’s largest employer and one of the State’s largest public universities. VCU has also agreed to up their financial contribution from $1.2 million to $1.42 million this year, increasing it to $1.57 million and $1.65 million the following years. This seems fair as just way, way more folks are taking advantage of the program than originally expected. Here’s the lesson for the region’s other major employers: Provide access to fast, frequent, useful transit and people will get out of their cars and take advantage of it! Which transit-accessible employer will be next? Dominion? Sun Trust? CoStar?

Richmond Magazine has an interesting history of the area around Scuffletown Park in the Fan. I did not know the Langston Hughes connection!

Here is a picture from /r/rva of a kitchen sink filled with massive catfish, presumably fished out of the James River. Before you freak out about eating fish from James River take a look at the Virginia Department of Health’s fish advisory website. VDH says if you’re catching catfish upriver from the I-95 bridge, you’re good for less than two meals per month. Down river from I-95 though...avoid!

This morning's longread

What Twitter reveals about the differences between cities and the monoculture of the Bay Area

Location-tagged tweets certainly do not make up an representative cross section of an entire city, but this post comparing Twitter content from a bunch of large American cities was real interesting.

My first attempt was to try to create a word cloud of each city based on each token’s frequency. I used Andreas Mueller’s wonderful word_cloud library. There are clear differences among cities. For example, while music is a big part of any city, it’s a comparatively small part of the bios from the Bay Area and Boston, and completely absent in Washington DC. I’ve always thought it strange that people use “music” to identify themselves. Who doesn’t listen to music? How Bay Area of me. A sad thing to note is that “love” is prominent in all cities except Washington DC. Some of the common words in DC bios include “opinion”, “view”, and “tweet”, which come from disclaimers like: “Tweets/views/opinions are my own.”

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Good morning, RVA: Scooter day!, Shockoe Valley, and some public meetings

Good morning, RVA: Guns, elections, and trains