Good morning, RVA: 900↗️ • 11↘️; adjusting your plan; and regional transportation money

 
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Good morning, RVA! It’s 53 °F, and, whoa, look out! Expect highs in the mid 70s after some morning fog. You should expect some pretty great weather over the course of this new week.

Water cooler

Richmond Police have identified the victim of a murder two Sundays ago. Late morning on October 11th, officers responded to the 100 block of Erich Road and found Ricky G. Seldon, a man in his 30s, shot to death. You can see the police department’s full list of murder victims over on the major crimes section of their website.

As of this morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports 900↗️ new positive cases of the coronavirus in the Commonwealthand 11↘️ new deaths as a result of the virus. VDH reports 84↗️ new cases in and around Richmond (Chesterfield: 17, Henrico: 24, and Richmond: 43). Since this pandemic began, 385 people have died in the Richmond region. We’re more than seven days out from VDH’s reporting backlog situation, and the state’s seven-day average of daily new cases has hit four digits for the last seven days. We’re also seeing hospitalizations tick back up towards 50 per day. Locally, the rise in cases matches the statewide rise. We are not over and through this pandemic yet, folks! If you, your business, or your organization relaxed your coronaprocedures over the summer, it might be worth putting some time into thinking about how you’d tighten things up again as winter approaches. Better to have a plan and not need it than to have no plan at all, right?

The Richmond Times-Dispatch dropped both their 8th District questionnaires, and you can read the City Council version hereand the School Board version here. I’ve added both of these—and a few others—to my Big List of 2020 Candidates Trello board. This is by far the best set of resources I’ve ever had before a local election, and I’m kind of stoked on it. Just a couple weeks left, y’all!

Richmond’s Planning Commission meets today and will consider ORD. 2020–222, which would have the City accept $60,000 from St. Catherine’s School to install a pedestrian hybrid beacon (aka a HAWK) at the intersection of Grove and Somerset Avenues. Sounds great, and a real HAWK (rather than a flashing yellow light like we’ve got on Dangerous Dock Street) would show an actual red light to drivers so pedestrians could safely cross. That $60k from St. Catherine’s only covers half the cost, by the way. These things are expensive! Also of interest, ORD. 2020–217, Councilmember Gray’s ordinance to convert Monument Avenue medians into official city parks. I am still ultra skeptical of this ordinance, and these brief, one-line letters of support from the Historic West Grace Association and the Monument Avenue Preservation Societydon’t do anything to assuage that skepticism. My main concern with this ordinance is that parks close from sunset to sunrise, and this ordinance sounds like an easy way to give police selective control over who has access to this public right-of-way. I see no letters of support from any of the people involved in making Marcus David-Peters circle an actually hospitable place for people to spend time, nor from any of the people involved in the advocacy for getting rid of the Confederate monuments. I don’t see any plans or vision for these spaces in the staff report (PDF), and it’s kind of shocking that MDP Circle isn’t even mentioned in how these parks will work, considering, according to the New York Times, it is the most influential work of American protest art since World War II. Where was the community engagement—something that keeps coming up in public comment when we talk about rezoning portions of Broad Street—for this idea?

The Central Virginia Transportation Authority and its committees, the regional body that will figure out how to spend all that new sales and wholesale fuel tax money on transportation, have started meeting. Thrilling, I know! Honestly, it’s all a little too much for even me to follow, and I’m nervous about whatever governance structure pops out at the end of the process. However, something easy to understand: Page 18 of their Finance Committee agenda has a draft budget which includes newly-updated anticipated tax revenues. The CVTA now expects to bring in $84.3 million in sales tax and $52.6 million in fuel tax for a total of almost $137 million. In the Before Times, I’d seen anywhere between $152 million to $166 million tossed around as the amount of new cash the region would have to spend on transportation projects. So, after about a 10% reduction in total funds (which, honestly, could be way, way worse), that gives the region around $20 million to work with for public transportation specifically. How to spend that money on bus system that needs an influx of probably ten times will, I’m sure, be a delightful conversation to have.

Richmond’s School Board meets tonight and the RPS Chief of Staff, Michelle Hudacsko, will give a presentation on a few of the District’s Health and Safety Enhancements (PDF). I thought this was an interesting PDF to show you what kind of practical changes a school district can make in their facilities to reduce the risk of spreading virus, and I wonder how much of this stuff will just stick around after COVID-19. It’s not like we’re getting rid of viruses anytime soon. I’m sure a slightly more interesting version of this PDF exists for both Henrico and Chesterfield County public schools since the latter already has a group of kids back for in-person instruction and the former has a pretty short timeline for making that decision. I’d love to read those PDFs if you’ve got 'em!

Books: Check 'em out. Or, in this case, Books: donate a couple bucks to this virtual book drive to get reading material into the hands of kids ages birth to five in Richmond, Henrico, and Chesterfield. There are lots of good partners involved in this effort put together by Smart Beginnings of Greater Richmond, so take some of that money you’d buy garbage candy with and put it toward books instead.

Via /r/rva an enormous post full of the particulars for voting in-person or by dropping off your absentee ballot in the Richmond region. This post is worth bookmarking.

This morning’s longread

Inside the Fall of the CDC

As coronavirus case counts rise across the country, this is an absolutely brutal longread to start your week with.

When the next history of the CDC is written, 2020 will emerge as perhaps the darkest chapter in its 74 years, rivaled only by its involvement in the infamous Tuskegee experiment, in which federal doctors withheld medicine from poor Black men with syphilis, then tracked their descent into blindness, insanity and death. With more than 216,000 people dead this year, most Americans know the low points of the current chapter already. A vaunted agency that was once the global gold standard of public health has, with breathtaking speed, become a target of anger, scorn and even pity.

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

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