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

Good morning, RVA: FIVE NoBro updates, electric school buses, and impeachment

Good morning, RVA! It's 54 °F, and we’ve got another absolutely beautiful day ahead of us. Expect highs in the low 80s, tons of sun, and a spectacularly good chance of seeing me zoom by on my bike. Get out there and enjoy it!

Water cooler

As usual, I’ve got some North of Broad updates!

First, it feels like a million years ago, but last week I put together this set of aerial images of “the competitive set of the new arena” as identified by a Hunden Strategic Partners report from last year. After listening to many, many hours of public NoBro meetings (more on that in a minute), I wanted to put together another set of aerial images of the downtown arenas the NoBro folks have pushed as most comparable to our current situation: Allentown’s PPL Center, Kansas City’s Sprint Center, Los Angeles’s Staples Center, and PNC Arena in Columbus. Unlike the first group, these arenas are all generally in downtowns and (mostly) not surrounded by seas of surface parking. I’ve never been to any of these spots, so I have no idea if they’re worthy comparables or not.

Second, City Council’s first NoBro work session and Informal Meeting from Monday are up on The Boring Show (you can subscribe here). Early on in this process and I think we have over 12 hours of audio—it’s a lot, it’s overwhelming, and I don’t blame most of the public for not knowing what the heck is going on. I do, however, think it’s important to at least listen to this week’s City Council work session or the two Planning Commission meetings (Part 1, Part 2) from a couple weeks back. They’ll form the foundation of things you need to know for conversations moving forward. Just listen at 2x speed, and you’ll burn right through it in no time!

Third, as if this wasn’t all enough, here’s an enormous PDF of the presentation given to Planning Commission (PDF). There’s a lot of photos from those comparable cities in there that’ll help give you some context.

Fourth, Roberto Roldan at VPM has an interesting story about how a successful downtown arena project could actually reduce the amount of funding Richmond Public Schools gets from the State. Remember, just yesterday, when I wrote about how the State’s school funding formula needs changing (PDF)? Yeah, that. I’m not ready to sound the alarm on this yet, though, as no one in the article seems to know what the actual impact NoBro could have on school funding in Richmond. Plus, regardless of how you feel about a downtown arena, we want property tax revenue to go up—especially Downtown where we have tons of opportunities for dense, tax-generating development. This issue with the State school funding formula is something we’ll have to deal with, and it certainly shouldn’t prevent us from converting wasteful surface parking lots into useful places for people. That said, I’d still love to know what the actual impact to school funding will be.

Fifth—honestly, how many more updates could there possibly be??—the Richmond Times-Dispatch has dueling columns from outspoken arena opponent Justin Griffin and head of Richmond Region Tourism Jack Berry. From the former, this sentence resonates with me: “Cities succeed when they focus on their naturally occurring unique features and when they embrace the values of the people who make their city great.” And about the latter: Y’all, the tourism/convention folks get a lot of benefit out of this proposed arena project. I don’t doubt for a second that they really do need a bigger hotel to compete for bigger conventions—having talked to enough folks, I am 100% convinced that is true. However, the Convention Center is a regional project, and if the region needs a hotel to attract conventions and conferences, maybe the region should help pay for it? These two columns are fascinatingly different in their view of NoBro, and I’m glad the RTD decided to run them paired like this.

Sometimes you forget about the Commission of Architectural Review, a City Council committee that usually concerns itself with sheds, porches, and decks in historic districts. Luckily, Justin Mattingly at the RTD did not forget and has the news that CAR delayed approval of tearing down George Mason Elementary School in the East End 💸. The most important sentence of the entire article: “Darin Simmons, the school system’s chief operating officer, said Tuesday’s vote wouldn’t affect the target opening date of fall 2020 for the new school.” Whew.

The Governor announced that he’ll spend $20 million from the Volkswagen Enviornmental Mitigation Trust, that time they lied to us all about emissions, on an electric school bus project. This probably pairs well with Dominion’s recently-announced program to do a similar thing. I’m all for getting rid of old, dirty, diesel buses, so let’s do this, but, dang, this seems like the lowest of low-hanging fruit. We’ve got to electrify our public transit fleet ASAP (which, to be fair, the Gov allotted $14 million of the same Volkswagen money to electric transit buses), and, most importantly, we’ve got to shift folks away from driving their cars everywhere. That’s the hard work.

Impeachment is the big national political news from yesterday, and Vox has a long explainer on how we got here and what’s next.

This morning's longread

One Thing We Can Do: Drive Less

I know, I know, there have been a lot of #bancars longreads lately, but it’s all I’m thinking about—especially in the context of climate change. One thing I’m noodling on: What would a local campaign to go car-free one day a week look like? Something like #meatlessmondays but #anythingbutacartuesdays. Definitely needs some workshopping...

What would happen if everybody in the United States cut back on driving? We’re not talking about getting rid of your car, just using it a little bit less. It turns out that even driving just 10 percent less — if everyone did it — would have a big impact on greenhouse gas emissions. That’s because Americans drive trillions of miles every year, helping to make transportation the biggest contributor to United States greenhouse gas emissions. In 2017, light-duty vehicles in the United States (including cars, S.U.V.s, pickups and most of the vehicles used for everyday life) produced 1,098 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. That’s about one-fifth of the country’s total emissions footprint.

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Good morning, RVA: Ripple, ballet, and the Mercury

Good morning, RVA: Education funding, commission members, and bus-stop seating