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

Good morning, RVA: Tax relief, downtown sports, and the 100-year-old battle to slow down cars

Good morning, RVA! It's 69 °F, and temperatures will climb up into the mid 80s today. There’s a persistent but small chance of rain throughout the entire day, so plan wisely!

Water cooler

I’ve written before about how the ways in which the City can provide real estate tax relief or exemptions are extremely limited. Basically, the State allows us to create a couple of programs for seniors, folks who have disabilities, and disabled veterans or their surviving spouses. Other than that, without changes to state law, our hands are tied, and there’s not much we can do other than encourage folks who qualify to sign up. Roberto Roldan at Virginia Public Media, looks at a report by Public Policy Analyst Benjamin Paul that estimates only one quarter of residents eligible for those programs apply. We can do better! The report makes a couple of suggestions about how to get more folks enrolled—updates to the City’s website and important communication improvements like including Spanish-language resources. I’d say, though, that to really make people aware of the program and get them enrolled will require some money for shoeleather, which is probably why the Mayor’s original budget included funding for “two additional tax relief program administrators.” City Council ultimately removed the money for those positions in their version of the budget. This should remind you that when City Council passed a budget that they said funded all of the Mayor’s priorities with no increase in taxes, that it was by no mean “free.” The costs were just less obvious and less immediate. The City needs to spend the money now to get as many eligible residents to sign up for these tax relief programs, not only so those folks can save hundreds of dollars but to make sure they’re not impacted when we roll back the Recession-era real estate tax cuts—whenever we finally get around to doing that.

Wayne Epps in the Richmond Times-Dispatch has a pretty lukewarm look at the sports-related possibilities a new arena could bring to downtown 💸. He also says VCU and UR will keep their basketball teams on their respective campuses 💸, which, duh. For whatever reason, it seems like the developers involved in the project don’t have a strong preference for landing an anchor tenant/team—which, honestly, makes them sound kind of bored when talking about it. I get it, I’m kind of bored about it, too. NBA G League and minor league hockey are fine, I guess, and I would love to go to an Atlantic 10 men’s basketball tournament in Richmond, but none of those things do a whole lot to convince me of the need for the arena in the first place.

Karri Peifer, also in the RTD, has a long piece about the state of the Richmond-area restaurant market 💸. My takeaway: Running a successful restaurant is very hard, but lots of folks want to run a successful restaurant. You could read some implications for the North of Broad development into this piece, if you wanted to. On one side, the restaurant market is already booming without a downtown arena. On the other side, it sounds like any restaurant space created by the development would be instantly filled by hopeful restauranteurs.

Over on the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site Facebook page, they’ve written about the obliteration of Jackson Ward that resulted from the construction of I-95 and how a similar thing happened during the construction of Chamberlayne Avenue. If you want to get real bummed, read about her attempts to get traffic-calming measures installed in her neighborhood: “...a lack of speed regulations for the drivers along [Chamberlayne] led to numerous deaths among the Black folks that remained in or near its path. Writing about this in her newspaper, The St. Luke Herald, in September 1922, Walker asked "is the life of a Negro worth that of a dog in old Jackson Ward?" Much to her dismay, a traffic light at Chamberlayne and Leigh would not get installed for another 11 years, though it was her friend Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (a Jackson Ward native) who footed the bill.“ This 100-year-old account sounds depressingly familiar and contemporary.

City Council returns from their summer break for their regularly scheduled September meeting , for which you can find the agenda here (PDF). They’ve got a consent agenda packed with special use permits and a few rezonings—including the Fulton Yard rezonings the Planning Commissions recommended last week. Also of note: a resolution to support the prohibition of conversion therapy (RES. 2019-R028, PDF).

Y’all, last week I got distracted by picking the best possible song for the Better Housing Coalition’s Gingerbread House Challenge and pasted in the wrong link. Here is the correct and true link where you can read all the rules and registration information. You’ve got until October 4th to sign up, and they’re only taking 24 entires, so don’t dawdle!

I love this shot of the Richmond skyline via /r/rva. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a photo taken from this spot before.

This morning's patron longread

Robyn Hightman Found a Life on Bikes. In an Instant It Was Gone.

Submitted via Patron Brantley. This piece in Bicycling was just so, so sad.

Robyn’s love affair with bikes started on a Wednesday night. There’s this bike club in Richmond called DFL—the sort of punk urban bike community that’s flourishing in every American city, fueled by young people who are disconnected from traditional racing culture and instead seek adventure and experience on dark city streets. DFL does its big weekly ride on Wednesday nights, and one evening in the summer of 2017, someone split the crew into two squads and said that whichever team could return to Scuffletown Park with more random people on bikes would win. Mohammad Jamali remembers that evening with a kind of reverence. His team was cruising past the corner of Lombardy and Grace Streets when they came upon a young woman riding a red Schwinn cruiser with a front basket full of yarn. Hightman pedaled with them to Scuffletown Park and went out the next night for a ride through a cemetery and became an instant regular.

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

Good morning, RVA: Commission members, a public Chesterfield spat, and lots of trails

Good morning, RVA: Dorian updates, bus nerd analysis, and gingerbread battles