Good morning, RVA! It's 66 °F, and highs today will settle into the mid 80s while we attempt to fly under the radar of any rain. Honestly, sounds like a good day to get outside for a bit!
Mark Robinson at the Richmond Times-Dispatch has an update on the membership of the Navy Hill Advisory Commission after last night’s City Council meeting. Apparently Councilmember Jones, who wasn’t super stoked about the commission’s nominating process, nominated VUU President Hakim J. Lucas as a member, citing a lack of diversity in the proposed group. Diversity is good (and I am kind of shocked that there are zero millennial members of this commission—you know, the people who will actually have to live with a downtown arena for the next generation), but I was unaware that Council had this role in nominating members. While the enabling legislation (PDF) says “The Commission shall consist of nine members appointed by the Council,” it also says that Council appoints the Chair and Vice Chair and then they nominate the remaining seven members of the commission. So, process-wise, I’m not really sure what’s going on. Additionally, the nomination of Lucas is real interesting as he’s a supporter of the North of Broad development and is, at the moment, caught up in the #ghostgaffe op-ed authorship situation. Five Councilmembers supported adding Lucas to the commission, which, I dunno, sure feels like an early list of NoBro yes-votes to me: Addison, Hilbert, Robertson, Newbille, and Jones. Theoretically, Council needs seven votes to pass some of the ordinances required to kick of the North of Broad project, so the Mayor’s team is still looking for two votes. Suddenly, the 5th District special election seems like it’s about to become a referendum on a Downtown arena, right?
Jim McConnell has an absolutely wild story in the Chesterfield Observer about the state of the County’s public school facilities. After they found Legionnaires’ disease in the cooling towers of four different school buildings, the County Board of Supervisors is now debating taking responsibility of school facility maintenance away from the School Board. It definitely sounds like it’s an unclear legal question of if that’s even possible, but that hasn’t stopped the two elected bodies from publicly sparring over it. Two things to note! First, the County cut their real estate tax by a penny two years ago in the face of protests from schools advocates. That’s where I’d point to when Supervisor Jaeckle says “Where is the maintenance budget that should be there?” Second, can you imagine if Richmond’s City Council was openly considering a similar power grab? We’d have a stack of headlines a mile high screaming about yet another embarrassing and dysfunctional story coming out of City Hall. I’m grateful for McConnell (and fellow reporter Rich Griset) for the work they’re doing down in Chesterfield County. It helps give us a more balanced picture of what’s really going on in the region.
Mike Platania at Richmond BizSense says 350 more apartments are proposed for Scott’s Addition in the old Relay Foods warehouse. Sounds like your classic 5-and-1 with retail on the bottom and five stories of apartments on top. 350 parking spaces for 350 apartments is, in my opinion, way too many—but you knew I was going to say that.
I don’t know what it means, but BizSense’s Michael Schwartz has the news that the federal government wants to “seize dozens of properties in and around Manchester” as a result of Michael Hild’s legal troubles. This does include The Butterbean Market & Cafe, Dogtown Brewing Co., and Hot Diggity Donuts.
Richmond Magazine’s 2019 Parks Guide is out and includes a bunch of useful info if you’re trying to get outside and enjoy the wonderful wilds of Richmond. To highlight two: Here’s their guide to mountain biking trails around the region, and, if bikes aren’t your thing, here’s a look at some trails for feet.
This morning's longread
Here’s a fascinating longread in Politico about shady financial/real estate shenanigans going on at Liberty University.
In interviews over the past eight months, they depicted how Falwell and his wife, Becki, consolidated power at Liberty University and how Falwell presides over a culture of self-dealing, directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains. Among the previously unreported revelations are Falwell’s decision to hire his son Trey’s company to manage a shopping center owned by the university, Falwell’s advocacy for loans given by the university to his friends, and Falwell’s awarding university contracts to businesses owned by his friends. “We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund,” said a senior university official with inside knowledge of Liberty’s finances. “We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.”
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