Good morning, RVA! It's 48 °F, which is actually chilly! Expect highs in the upper 70s today and plenty of sunshine—should be a wonderful day in Richmond.
It is PARK(ing) Day! Today, across the city (and world), folks are converting boring parking spaces into tiny, temporary parks. Last year, I helped some folks put together a single parklet for PARK(ing) Day, which was definitely awesome. This year, though, Venture Richmond has stepped in, and now PARK(ing) Day is a whole thing with over 20 parking spots converted into places for people to hang out and relax. Your homework is to take advantage of today’s excellent weather and spend some time walking, biking, or busing around all of Richmond’s newest parks. You can read more about why I think PARK(ing) Day is important over on Streets Cred, see a map of all the parklet locations, and read this piece in Richmond Magazine by David Streever about today’s effort.
Brad Kutner at Courthouse News looks at Richmond’s attempts—and reactions—to desegregating schools in the 70s in the context of the City’s current school rezoning process. Particularly damning is the Massive Resistance-era “Save Our Neighborhood Schools” signs paired right next to the present-day “Save Our Neighborhood Schools” flyers handed out by State Senator Glen Sturtevant at the beginning of this school year. Related, Megan Pauly at Virginia Public Media sorts through some of the garbage Sturtevant has spread around about his opponent, Ghazala Hashmi. It’s so bizarre to me that a state senate race has centered around how the Republican candidate wants to get super involved in a local school board decision. Like, if dude wants to be in charge of school rezonings, he could just get back on the School Board. I assume he has bigger, state-level things he should be working on? No?
The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Mark Robinson has a follow up article on the Mayor’s decision to fire his Chief Administrative Officer after the Inspector General reported that five of the CAO’s relatives had been hired for City jobs. There’s not a lot of new info in this piece, but I totally agree with Robinson on this: “As the extent of the fallout remained unclear, one thing was certain: The report was a blow to an administration that began with Stoney promising to restore public confidence in City Hall.” With other director-level folks involved or implicated in the report, I can’t help but wondering what, if anything, is next. That Inspector General report is still not yet on the IG’s website, but I will keep looking.
Mark Robinson double header! He’s also got a story about the City’s attempts to lease 91 parking spaces at 212 N. 18th Street down in Shockoe 💸 to a developer for 40 years. I don’t really understand what it means, but the ordinance (ORD. 2019-253, PDF) says “[the developer’s] lenders are requiring a long-term lease controlling parking for financing purposes.” Sure, I guess, but as you can probably guess, leasing out a surface parking lot to a private developer for several decades without taking into account any of the horrible history of that part of town was not the best decision on the City’s part. To make matters worse, in 2014, City Council apparently recommended and funded an archeological study of the area to look into its past as one of the primary places enslaved Africans were sold in America. Compounding matters even further, The Shockoe Alliance definitely does exist and has a mission of “guiding design and implementation of concepts and recommendations for the future of Shockoe as a holistic area rooted in history and informed by those with shared interests to advance these efforts.” The Alliance is packed with City staff involved with parking and planning. This whole thing feels lazy and offensive, and, honestly, I think the City can and should do better. One small postscript: I don’t read too much into the fact that the development firm gave $1,000 to Mayor Stoney’s PAC. It’s not a ton of money and they’ve given more cash to both Councilmembers Hilbert and Robertson (which if you’re trying to build a money/influence conspiracy theory, 18th Street is pretty close to the 6th District).
Speaking of money in politics, Del. Lee Carter says that the Democratic Party of Virginia has joined him in refusing to take Dominion’s money. I‘m into it, and like that he also won’t take money from “for profit corporations or industry groups.” There are other massive companies in Virginia that have a lot of power in our politics; it’s not just Dominion.
This morning's longread
As Richmond works to rezone and desegregate our public schools, there are some lessons to be learned from Nashville’s bad-faith attempts in the 70s and 80s.
Nashville’s desegregation plan closed several schools in black communities and opened new schools in segregated white suburbs far from the city center. As black school board member Barbara Mann put it, desegregation in practice communicated that black people lived in places not fit for schools. Partly as a result, black students also spent more time and more years on the bus than their white counterparts. This was an irritation for many families, but it was also a substantial barrier to student success. Many high school students, for example, could not join sports teams and other extracurricular activities — which increased engagement with school, including in academic areas — because they had no way to get home afterward. With schools farther away from home, parents without cars (disproportionately likely to be black rather than white) struggled to support their children at events or parent-teacher conferences. Nashville did not ask white 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds to ride buses out of their neighborhoods, fearing their parents’ opposition. But it made just this demand of black children and families in thousands of cases. Many black families saw desegregation’s benefits, but weighed them against these costs as well.
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