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

Good morning, RVA: Teacher diversity, new zoning, and mini golf on Thursday

Good morning, RVA! It's 74 °F, and, hold on to your butts, because that is today’s high. Expect rain throughout the day and temperatures to drop a couple of degrees to the mid 60s. Relief!

Water cooler

The Commonwealth Institute has a great piece up about the lack of racial diversity in Virginia’s teachers: 75% of the Commonwealth’s teachers report as White. Why is racial diversity among teachers important? To quote a bit, “For Black boys in grades 3-5, the presence of just one Black teacher decreased their likelihood of dropping out of high school by 29%” and “Black students in grades K-3 with just one Black instructor were 13% more likely to enroll in college than those who do not.” TCI has some suggestions on how to get more Black teachers into our schools, including how the State can support its HBCUs. But make sure you read the last couple paragraphs about Virginia’s low teacher salaries, because until teacher pay in Virginia is competitive with the national average, it’s always going to be harder to hang on to talented folks.

Zoning update! C. Suarez Rojas at the Richmond Times-Dispatch says that City Council passed the Monroe Ward rezoning last night. I assume that the VUU/Chamberlayne rezoning passed, too, as it was also on the Consent Agenda. This is a big deal for Richmond, and, with these two rezonings in the books, I’m actually not sure what’s next on the list. Maybe a general update/overhaul to bring our current zoning in line with whatever land use Richmond 300 recommends? Anyway, I am especially excited for all of those empty, burning hot parking lots in Monroe Ward to fill up with buildings. Let’s get some shade in that neighborhood ASAP!

The Mayor announced that he’s hired Jason Carangelo as the City’s new Commissioner of Buildings. Sounds boring, I know, but the Commissioner of Buildings oversees the permitting process which is the frequent target of loud (and justified) citizen complaints. The Mayor’s release also says that over the last two years the City has seen a 100% increase in permit applications, and that seems wild. Here’s hoping the new guy can help quickly make the process more efficient, because I certainly don’t think we’ll see fewer permit applications moving forward—especially given the rezonings mentioned above and the public meeting mentioned below.

Emma North writing for RVA Mag has a charming piece about getting around the Arts District without a car. Outside of the Central Business District, this part of town is probably some of the most walkable blocks in the entire city—no reason to spend it trapped in a car!

Tonight from 5:30–7:30 PM at the Science Museum (2500 W. Broad Street), Councilmember Gray will hold a public meeting about the redevelopment of Arthur Ashe Boulevard. From the release: “Councilwoman Gray—in coordination with representatives from the Richmond Department of Planning and Development Review—will listen and respond to residents’ priorities, ideas, and comments concerning the plans to redevelop Arthur Ashe Boulevard, with a particular focus on the section spanning from West Broad Street to Westwood Avenue.” This is an excellent opportunity to get on the record with the 2nd District councilmember about what you’d like to see out of this corridor. There is so much potential here, but only if we build in a dense and urban way! Replacing the Diamond with a suburban-style, parking-lot-ensconced Target would be a huge, huge mistake. Let’s get some for real tall buildings out that way giving folks lots of places to live, work, and shop.

I will fully admit that I am obsessed with yet-to-open Hotel Greene, the fancy indoor mini golf spot Downtown. Karri Peifer at the RTD says they’ll open this Thursday, July 25th, at 5:00 PM. You can learn a little more on their Instagram page and keep an eye on their website. Personally, I just watched Overboard (the 1987 version, obviously) the other night to get myself in the right mini golf mindset.

This morning's longread

The Idea That Eats Smart People

Here’s a fascinating talk about how the singularity isn’t so scary and how maybe we shouldn’t trust the Silicon Valley richdudes who are super into it.

Today we're building another world-changing technology, machine intelligence. We know that it will affect the world in profound ways, change how the economy works, and have knock-on effects we can't predict. But there's also the risk of a runaway reaction, where a machine intelligence reaches and exceeds human levels of intelligence in a very short span of time. At that point, social and economic problems would be the least of our worries. Any hyperintelligent machine (the argument goes) would have its own hypergoals, and would work to achieve them by manipulating humans, or simply using their bodies as a handy source of raw materials.

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

Good morning, RVA: A re-nomination, a cool new trail, and the trailer for HARRIET

Good morning, RVA: A bucket of updates, medical drone deliveries, and a playlist