8 practical consequences of Joe Morrisssey getting elected

Ignoring recent allegations, scandals, and controversies…

Editor’s note: This morning, Thad Williamson posted a series of practical consequences to Joe Morrissey getting elected. They’re reposted below with his permission. Below that you’ll find his intro post that gives things some context.

Practical consequence of Joe Morrissey getting elected #1

Many competent administrators and employees who are assets to the City of Richmond will seek alternate employment as soon as possible.

Practical consequence of Joe Morrissey getting elected #2

The new administration will find few talented applicants to fill the positions of those rushing to depart, or existing key vacancies. Quality professionals committed to public service do not want to work for a boss with a terrible track record of staying out of trouble.

Practical consequence of Joe Morrissey getting elected #3

Consequently city government will be staffed not by improving but by declining talent and competence. Services will suffer hurting residents including many of Joe’s voters.

Practical consequence of Joe Morrissey getting elected #4

Nonprofit, philanthropic, university, and business leaders who now are more interested in and willing to work with the City of Richmond, on not only shared projects but collective impact goals such as poverty reduction, will revert to the historic pattern of shunning the City.

Practical consequence of Joe Morrissey getting elected #5

That lack of collaboration in turn will severely damage the City’s hopes of obtaining additional funding via competitive grants from the federal government, as well as grants from the state government and national philanthropic community. These investors have plenty of choices and will not invest in actual or perceived chaos.

Practical consequence of Joe Morrissey getting elected #6

The City of Richmond will face even greater hostility in making requests from the General Assembly—whether the topic is education funding, transportation, or legislative changes to improve how city government works.

Practical consequence of Joe Morrissey getting elected #7

Without internal collaboration and support from external funding as well as political support from the state, the City has no hope of addressing its fundamental challenges in affordable housing, transportation, educational facilities, and, in general, poverty.

Practical consequence of Joe Morrissey getting elected #8

Finally, Richmond will garner the wrong kind of media attention, attention that will severely harm the city’s reputation and put a damper on recent positive population growth. Residents who have choices are willing to come to a great city that has problems but also a lot of civic energy to solve those problems. They are much less willing to choose to live in a city in which public business gets subsumed to the drama and problems of a single person.

Richmonders need a functional government staffed by outstanding people, not a circus of constant political turmoil. Electing Joe Morrissey will take Richmond straight back to the chaotic days of the 1990s—to no one’s benefit except his own.


[Above are] a series of observations on the practical consequences for the functioning of city government of Joe Morrissey becoming Mayor of the City of Richmond. These are intended to be widely shared. But I wanted to take a moment first to clarify the intent:

  1. I have little interest in discussing the specifics of recent allegations, or the many prior controversies involving Joe. The overall pattern, however, is clearly relevant to fitness to serve and likely consequences for Richmond residents of his being elected.
  2. I have even less interest in or tolerance for criticizing Morrissey’s supporters or making crude generalizations about why he is a formidable candidate. I live in the 5th District. Supporters of Joe are literally our friends and neighbors. My assumption (and experience) is many have a clear reason for supporting his candidacy, two prominent ones being the belief and experience that Richmond politics has not worked to their benefit for a long, long time and unlike many political leaders, Joe has made a concerted effort to develop relationships with people in the community.
  3. Local politics at its best is an honest conversation among friends and neighbors about how to move forward on difficult issues. I am in general not comfortable talking with others about someone else’s scandals or personal issues. I am comfortable talking about practical civic consequences in the spirit of “Hey, did you think about this?” That’s the spirit this series of observations is offered in.
  4. The purpose of these observations is not to make the case for a particular candidate, though I will come back to that question at the end (practically everyone reading this already knows my view). But I do think that if you are in the position of A) you don’t think Joe should be mayor, and B) you respect the needs and interests of people supporting him equally with the needs of all City residents, you should look for the remaining viable candidate with the greatest demonstrated commitment to the empowerment of the community and to rectifying the deep structural injustices that characterize life in central Virginia.

Vote “No” on Virginia’s Constitutional Amendments

Always default to “No” on constitutional amendment votes.

Originially posted on taberbain.com

In an exciting general election season, it’s easy to overlook the dreary matter of amendment questions. Virginia voters must approve all amendments, and this year, they’re being asked about two of them.

One needlessly jams a piece of sound extant labor law into a place where it doesn’t belong, and the other is an ill-considered tax scheme that doesn’t serve meaningful policy objectives.

Both proposed amendments for 2016 deserve to be soundly rejected at the ballot box.

Amending our constitution is a big deal

As provided for in Article XII of the Constitution of Virginia, amending the document requires approval by a majority of both the House of Delegates and the Senate in two separate sessions with a House of Delegates election between them, followed by a voter referendum. Constitutional amendments are one of the few ballot issues most Virginia voters see with any frequency. Unlike states with more populist traditions that allow citizen groups to propose statewide ballot initiatives, only the General Assembly can put matters to such a referendum, and it rarely chooses to do so.

Let’s break this process down to how these amendments wound up in front of voters in 2016:

  1. In 2014, a majority of members of the House of Delegates and the Senate voted for each new amendment.
  2. The Constitution requires an intervening House of Delegates election, which we have every two years, before amendments go back for their second approval. We held this in 2015.
  3. Following that election, the 2016 General Assembly was presented the same measures again. A majority of members of the House of Delegates and the Senate voted in favor of them again.
  4. The amendments were then ordered to be placed on the ballots for voter approval in the November General Election. If a majority of voters vote “Yes” on the amendments, they will become part of the Constitution of Virginia.

If these amendments are approved, it will be the conclusion of a three year process, which is as short of a process as is possible under the constitution. So if later we decide these things we put into the Constitution of Virginia aren’t a good fit for us anymore and we’d like to change them, how do we do that?

Repealing amendments to the constitution, or even changing the wording of them, is a form of amending the constitution. So yes, you guessed right: by putting these matters into the constitution, we’ve moved them from matters we can tweak, adjust, or drop altogether in one General Assembly session to matters that take a minimum of three years to resolve.

Bearing the ardor of approving amendments, they should address matters that can only be resolved through constitutional change, and represent extraordinarily sound, well-designed policy.

Neither of the 2016 amendments rises to that standard.

Question One is already properly defined by statute

Should Article I of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to prohibit any agreement or combination between an employer and a labor union or labor organization whereby (i) nonmembers of the union or organization are denied the right to work for the employer, (ii) membership to the union or organization is made a condition of employment or continuation of employment by such employer, or (iii) the union or organization acquires an employment monopoly in any such enterprise?

The so-called “Right-to-Work Amendment” doesn’t belong in the Constitution.

The Code of Virginia already has an entire article devoted to spelling out the commonwealth’s position that union membership or non-membership shouldn’t be a condition of employment. This article was adopted in 1970, and to date has survived the scrutiny of the courts as consistent with the Constitution.

The assessment of whether the amendment proposed by Q1 is a good idea or not can actually stop with just that one fact: the statute is on the books and it’s worked as the General Assembly intended for nearly half a century. The only reason to embed this language in the constitution would be to make altering it more difficult.

But the proposed amendment actually takes § 40.1 Article 3 even further. While current statute holds that companies can’t make employees join or not join unions, the amendment would merely restrict companies from mandating union membership for employees. That sounds like a dweeby quibble, but it’s a shift from decades of employment policy that favors corporate bodies to the disadvantage of employees.

Whether you think “Right-to-Work” is good policy or not, the Virginia Constitution is the wrong place for it to be defined. Turn this one down.

Question Two helps the wrong people

Shall the Constitution of Virginia be amended to allow the General Assembly to provide an option to the localities to exempt from taxation the real property of the surviving spouse of any law-enforcement officer, firefighter, search and rescue personnel, or emergency medical services personnel who was killed in the line of duty, where the surviving spouse occupies the real property as his or her principal place of residence and has not remarried?

The second amendment before voters is the latest in a string of flawed amendments that would create a weird, caveat-loaded benefit for a tiny number of Virginians. The General Assembly, in advancing this measure, has decided that the best salve for grief is, of all things, property tax relief. The intent is probably OK, but the strictures that come with this amendment ensure it will help few Virginians, and those it does offer relief to aren’t the ones who need it most.

For a person to receive a property tax exemption under the Q2 amendment, they’d have to meet all of these qualifications:

  • Have been legally married to an emergency service worker – specifically, “law-enforcement officer, firefighter, search and rescue personnel, or emergency medical services personnel” – who died while doing their job
  • Own their own home
  • Live in a county or city whose governing body has decided to offer a property tax exemption to spouses of emergency service workers who died while doing their job
  • Remain unmarried if they wish to continue receiving a property tax exemption

With me still? Cool. With that in mind, what’s the purpose of this amendment?

If the purpose is to help partners financially after a sudden loss, then this measure is seriously mistargeted by offering a tax break to those least likely to need one. The median household income for homeowners in Virginia is $81,739, nearly twice the MHI of renter-occupied households, $42,613.

img_1754

By that measure alone, a property tax exemption is the wrong tool to help widows and widowers. But even providing this benefit to spouses comes with issues, as being married in the first place tracks with substantially higher individual and household income. Marriage also comes with vast ethnic disparities. Where 75% of white adults in Virginia are currently married, just 33% of black adults are.

Statistically speaking then, this measure would largely benefit higher-income whites. Does that sound like the kind of benefit that we’d like to permanently embed in our constitution?

Not even mentioning the perverseness of asking widowers who’ve found a new partner to check in with a tax professional to determine if they should claim the tax benefits of marrying them or the tax benefits of the property tax exemption that they would forfeit by choosing to move on from their grief and remarry. That’s just cruel.

Question Two seems like a sensible act of state compassion on its face, but its structurally flawed design means it can’t provide one bit of assistance to many of the neediest families that lose a loved one in service. Vote no on this and ask the General Assembly to design something better.

Always default to “No” on constitutional amendment votes

Constitutions are meant to be compact. They define the powers and limits of governmental authority and the essential rights of citizens, and are supreme over all statutory laws and regulations. As such, amending Virginia’s constitution should only be done with extreme scrutiny and obvious need.

Constitutional amendments are one of the very few matters of policy that most Virginia voters will ever vote on directly. Don’t be afraid to exercise your veto power over them. If they’re really important, the General Assembly can always go back to the drawing board and rewrite them or explain them better, but if voters approve putting bad policy into the constitution, as they did in approving the so-called “Marriage Amendment” in 2006, the fix isn’t nearly as simple.

Happy voting, Virginia!

The RTD endorsement of Jack Berry reminded me of Joe Morrissey

Two tales of two-city rhetoric.

Today, the Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial board endorsed Candidate Jack Berry for mayor. Here’s the language they used to describe the state of the city:

We don’t want to sound too bleak. The city has made much progress in recent years, with a growing population, a reviving downtown, pockets of educational success, a long decline in crime rates, and significant improvements in race relations — especially when compared with the first two centuries of our history.

And yet.

There is a palpable sense of two cities here: One bustles with young professionals, trendy restaurants and breweries, a city of hope and progress. Sometimes only a few blocks away, public housing, unemployment, disappointing schools, business deserts and dangerous streets are the rule. There are no easy or obvious solutions.

It reminded me a lot of Candidate Joe Morrissey’s closing statements at the RTD mayoral debate a while back. Here’s Morrissey with those same remarks to Style Weekly when asked why he wants to be mayor:

Two distinctly different Richmonds live side-by-side:

  • One is public and visible, the other is private and hidden;
  • One is largely white, the other is predominantly black;
  • One is successful, thriving and hopeful while the other is characterized by poverty, despair and hopelessness;
  • One is safe at night while the other suffers from gunfire and violence;
  • One sends its children to dynamic, secure private schools, while parents from the housing projects send their children to crumbling, unaccredited, 50-year-old schools.

Enough.

Unintentional or wonderfully ironic?

Single-ride fares for Richmond’s bike shares

Our bike share system will have single-ride fares! This fills me with joy and gladness!

The other week I was up in D.C. for a thing at the Department of Transportation, and wanted, so badly, to use the city’s bike share system. I saw about a dozen stations as I walked from my car to the DOT—which was quite a walk because I’m a country mouse that rarely ventures into the big city and never really thinks about things like “Northern Virginia Traffic” or “Parking.”

I needed exactly two rides out of their bike share system: to my meeting and back to my car. The cost of a daily membership was $8, and while it would have allowed me infinity rides, all I needed was just the two. Lacking a single-ride fare, the bike share equivalent of a bus pass, I ended up walking. And it was fine. Annoying, but fine.

“Annoying, but fine.” is not how I’d want to describe Richmond’s bike share system to someone hoping to use it.

After my hours-long car ride home, I sent Jake Helmboldt—Richmond’s Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Trails Coordinator—an email asking if our (still-pending) bike share system would offer single-ride fares. And, it turns out, I should have already know that it totally will! City Council has already approved the fee structure which includes a $1.75 single-ride fare (PDF). Hurrah!

Having a single-ride fare unlocks the bike share for spontaneous trips—and this is what you want out of all your transit systems. Transit genius Jarrett Walker puts it this way in his book Human Transit:

In transit, the real test of freedom is spontaneity. Can I change my plans suddenly? Can I get home if I need to, or to my child’s school if something comes up? Can I simply move freely around my city, following whatever impulse I may feel at the moment? Some transit systems approach that level of convenience, at least in dense cities. In some of those same cities, you’ll find that your car is an encumbrance. If you’ve ever been stuck in traffic on a busy downtown street while pedestrians and cyclists flow past you and subway trains zoom beneath you, you know that sometimes your car can become your prison.

Folks aren’t going to plunk down $8 to avoid walking the mile from their office to the burrito place or walking from the bus stop to their destination. Such a high relative cost removes bike share from the transit toolbox of a lot of regular Richmonders who don’t use the system enough to buy a monthly or yearly membership. Gone are spontaneous trips and gone is that freedom. But with a fare close to cost of a bus pass, it’s totally doable. In fact, $1.75 is exactly the cost of a single-ride-plus-a-transfer bus pass. I imagine that’s intentional!

So, yeah, I’m thrilled about this.

While I had Jake on the digital line, I asked him about bike share launch dates, something that seems to keep slipping further into the future. At the moment, the city is now looking at a spring launch—a bummer for sure, but a bummer that makes sense. The middle of college football season, as temperatures drop, is a terrible time to launch a thing that’s success requires people to be outside.

Remember, too, that a second phase of bike share is coming (like, in a has-been-funded way), and this phase will have electric pedal-assist bikes. No longer will you need to arrive sweaty and gross to your top-of-a-hill meetings! Let the bicycle do the work for you! So this is the silver-lining situation that I will cling to over the next couple of months: When our bike share does launch, it will be a smoother, more linear rollout of the entire system rather than a distinct Phase I and Phase II separated by a cold and dreary winter. It’s something!

I know I keep zzzzing on about buses and bikes, but it’s exciting! All of these pieces are suddenly coming together at exactly the same time, and they’ll completely change how we get around the city. A lot of trips that were once only practical or possible by car will now be unlocked for folks who don’t own car, don’t want to deal with a car, or just happen to find themselves without a car. Transit freedom is on the horizon, y’all!

A note about D.C.’s bike share system and legibility

If you look at D.C. bike share page, you’ll see that there actually is a single-ride fare. It’s new and exists only because of the recent problems with their metro. Since it’s an impromptu thing, there’s no signage at any of the bike share stations I saw, so I had no idea that it was an option. This is a failure of what aforementioned transit genius Jarrett Walker describes as “legibility” of a transit system. Without legibility I can’t understand the system, and if I can’t understand the system I won’t use the system.

The Richmond Transit Network Plan really does exist!

Despite what Candidate Morrissey may think.

In response to a question about addressing the transportation needs of households that rely on biking or walking, mayoral candidate Joe Morrissey gave this non sequitur response implying that he doesn’t know about the Richmond Transit Network Plan.

Here’s the quote:

First of all, we’ve implemented already and approved by city council, a BRT line that has its anchors at Rockets Landing on one side and all the way over to…not quite, far short of where we need to go—we should go all the way to Short Pump. Here’s the problem that I see: We have one main thoroughfare now, we’re going to spend approximately $53 million for it, and we haven’t implemented a plan or even considered how we’re going to connect arteries to that. For example, the corridors on Midlothian Turnpike, Hull Street, Commerce, Chamberlayne Avenue—those folks need to use those roads to get to the BRT main line on Broad Street in order to get to schools, shops, jobs, and return. As mayor, I would implement and send to city council a resolution to create auxiliary arteries so that we will connect south Richmond and those other folks that I just mentioned—Northside, Chamberlayne Avenue—to the main BRT line.

With the opening of the Pulse next October, it does seem like it would make a lot of sense to study how the existing GRTC routes will interact with the BRT—so many of those routes spend so much of their time trundling down Broad Street exactly where the Pulse will run. Turns out just such a study exists; has been in progress for a good, long while now; and it’s official recommendation will drop in just a couple of months. It’s called the Richmond Transit Network Plan, it’s awesome, and a mayoral candidate should definitely know about it.

Specifically, Candidate Morrissey should know about it because he answered questions about it in a pre-Mayorathon questionnaire. Here’s his response to a question about, win or lose, how he would support the RTNP:

Either as the Mayor, or as a private citizen, I will advocate for adoption of this plan as long as it is in the best interests of the residents of Richmond.

If he plans on advocating for the adoption of it, you’d think he’d know what it does!

But for those mayoral candidates and regular citizens not in the know, the Richmond Transit Network Plan can be confusing and overwhelming. While its biggest impact may be the implementation of the first rethinking of our bus routes in 40 years, its impetus was the Pulse.

From the RTNP Choices Report:

  • Develop a long-term blueprint for transit service for the City of Richmond.
  • Examine opportunities to take advantage of the possibilities that open up when The Pulse, GRTC’s new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service, comes into service in 2017.
  • Facilitate a two-way conversation between GRTC the City of Richmond.

This plan is much-needed and would be totally welcomed without the opening of the Pulse, but connecting the existing transit network to our new BRT spine is what brought internationally-known transit genius Jarrett Walker to Richmond to work on the RTNP. He and his team have produced three concepts for what our revamped bus system could look like and how it interacts with the Pulse. Here’s one of them, the High Ridership Concept, that will be similar to their final recommendation:

Look at all of those sweet, sweet connections. Tap for a bigger version.
Look at all of those sweet, sweet connections. Tap for a bigger version.

Note how the 8, 10, 61, and 62 terminate directly into the Pulse (the black line). Then check out how a bunch of the other lines cross Broad Street at BRT stations. This is totally intentional and exactly the point of this study! Given a new, frequent BRT line stretching down Broad Street from Rocketts Landing to Willow Lawn, we needed to create new ways to connect folks to the main BRT line—so that’s what we did.

This is all great news for Morrissey who, if victorious come November, won’t even have to draw up that resolution to send to Council. With any luck, it’ll already have been passed by the current sitting Council. In fact, the Organizational Development Standing Committee received the official policy direction recommendation from the RTNP on October 3rd, which says to me the legislative process is a’ moving.

But wait! Maybe in that Mayorathon quote, Candidate Morrissey was talking with a more regional focus. Maybe he wants to create BRT arterials on the region’s major corridors like Hull Street, Midlothian, Broad Street, and Route 1? Well, turns out, the state is working on another plan about this very thing! It’s annoyingly called the Richmond Regional Transit Vision Plan (RRTVP (not the RTNP)). This plan will give a state-approved vision for a regional transportation network and will include bus services up and down Midlothian, Hull Street, and Route 1—exactly the places Morrissey wants to see it (he was asked a question about this plan in the pre-Mayorathon questionnaire, too).

By next fall we should have an opporational BRT. Shortly after that we’ll have an entirely new bus system that integrates smoothly with said BRT. At some point along the way our bike share system will debut. Suddenly, while we were all busy pumpkin spicing and Folk Festing, Richmond took a whole bunch of steps towards a real-deal transportation system.

Also!

If all of this sounds fascinating to you (or if you’re confused to the point of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯), there’s an opportunity to hang out with internationally-known transit genius Jarrett Walker on October 18th. He’ll be in town to talk about the progress his team has made on the RTNP and to inspire us with what modern transit could bring to Richmond. You should come! It’ll be awesome.

Go Do This: 1776 at the Virginia Rep

This show is hot as hell (in Philadelphia) (but also here).

What it is

1776 is a musical about the Continental Congress and its dithering over declaring independence.

Man, does that sentence sound like I could be leading you down a path of boredom! Fear not, my fellow Americans. The musical adaptation of a Founding Moment and the creation of compromise can be really, really fun. Oh wait, you’re all obsessed with Hamilton, so you already know that.

Sherman Edwards wrote this musical, which opened in 1969, and he wrote it to be informative, funny, inspiring, thought-provoking, and even racy at times.

There’s a whole scene where John Adams and Ben Franklin are literally waiting outside for Tom and Martha Jefferson to finish doin’ it!

So racy, guys!

1776 is also a 1972 movie, starring many of the same people from the Broadway cast (including William Daniels, whom you may remember from Night Rider and/or Boy Meets World, depending on your age).

The film version was one of the handful of musicals I fell in love with at a young age and watched over and over—jury’s out on whether that INFORMED my love of all things Founding Generation or whether our frequent trips to Colonial Williamsburg and Philadelphia did. Who cares. Sit down, John, we’ve got one of the most fun musicals ever to discuss.

Scott Wichmann (John Adams) and cast. Photo by Aaron Sutten.
Scott Wichmann (John Adams) and cast. Photo by Aaron Sutten.

The musical has John Adams as its hero—an obnoxious and disliked representative from Massachusetts with independence on his mind. He teams up with Ben Franklin and Jefferson to try to convince the rest of Congress to just declare independency so they can form a new nation already, dammit. Jefferson is whatever about helping out because he’s trying to get home to his young wife, but they convince him to stay and write something or other. Meanwhile, the rest of Congress is rolling their eyes, then taking it a little more seriously, then discussing some tricky issues, and then finally…well, I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say, we live in the country they created.

The music is beyond catchy, the lyrics are clever as all get-out, and the whole thing goes from impassioned to funny to tender to transfixing-in-a-legal-drama-way so smoothly that you wonder why Sherman Edwards didn’t go on to write a thousand more treasures.

Who’s behind it

Virginia Repertory Theatre, who has a brand new Artistic Director, Nathaniel Shaw. It’ll be interesting to see what he can do with this already top-notch company. So far, so good.

As far as the cast goes, I was thrilled to see Landon Nagel back as Jefferson—he had me at his performance in Firehouse’s Maple and Vine last year. I’ve got a major soft spot for ol’ TJ and his individualistic and enlightenment thinking, despite the best efforts of all my Hamilton-loving pals, and this show comes from a time when it was still cool to be into Jefferson.

Scott Wichmann’s performance as the little, fiery Adams was undoubtedly the casting high point. One would hope that he started his acting career planning for this role, because he was certainly made for it. Likewise Alexander Sapp was perfect for his performance of the sometime villain but actually pretty logical Edward Rutledge (representative from South Carolina who convinced everyone to keep the infamous “let’s get rid of slavery” clause out of the Declaration of Independence). Dude’s drawling confidence gave me chills.

Alexander Sapp (Edward Rutledge) and cast. Photo by Aaron Sutten.
Alexander Sapp (Edward Rutledge) and cast. Photo by Aaron Sutten.

Worth noting also is Jason Marks as Ben Franklin (funny if somewhat overacted) and Sarah Kate Walston as Abigail Adams (sweet if somewhat underused).

My favorite part in the movie, though, was also my favorite part in the play—a small but heart-wrenching ballad featuring the courier who keeps bringing messages from George Washington. It’s a rare moment of 100% seriousness, when we remember that it’s not just about these men bantering in Philadelphia. There are also men dying in Washington’s Continental army. Really young men, who often weren’t even old enough to leave their mothers. And now they’re crying for them as they die, forgotten, under a tree.

Even thinking about it makes my stomach hurt. Keaton Hillman, who played the Courier and who just graduated from William and Mary, sang with the voice of an angel. I can’t believe I just said “voice of an angel,” but he made me cry, so, there it is.

And lordy, those sets (Rich Mason), those lights (BJ Wilkinson), and those dang waistcoats (Sue Griffin)—intricate, super useful for marking time, and gorgeously detailed, respectively.

Director Debra Clinton, you’ve done a wonderful job. 1776 is one of those shows that has to be directed well for it to remain fresh (it’s a lot of actors sitting and standing in one room). But from the very first drumbeat, I was like “Oh noooooo, that’s one drumbeat closer to the end. AND IT SHOULD NEVER END.”

Where it is

The November Theatre, Marjorie Arenstein Stage, aka that big place on Broad Street with the well-lit marquee. 114 W. Broad Street.

Park where you can on the street or in Jackson Ward. Or, take public transit. Or an Uber, like I did!

When it is

1776 runs through Sunday, October 23 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights as well as Sunday afternoons. Oh, and some Wednesdays. Just look at the schedule, please.

How much it costs

$36 – $60 depending on your seating requirements. I don’t really see any reason to choose extra premium seats. Get tickets here or call the box office at (804) 282-2620.

Other things to note

In an election year, we should all be made to watch this film. In an election year in which a live version of this musical is available for your eyes to see, we should all be made to go. The play is very critical of conservatives (although throws in some nice Virginia jokes that perhaps mollified the bow-tie crowd, although who knows what they went home and posted to Facebook about it. Not me!), and there’s one whole musical number devoted to calling them overly money-minded and too absorbed in their own self-interest.

Fun fact: In the film, that musical number “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men” was deleted! Nixon was in office and, according to the internet, his anti-conservative regime put some pressure on the film’s producers to nix-on the scene.

Musicals pissing off presidents! I love it!

It’s really difficult to dislike 1776. Well, it’s difficult to dislike it and remain friends with me. What would we even talk about, you know?

Watch the Mayorathon from the comfort of your own pile of blankets

Like you need another reason to stay in bed.

Perhaps you live under a rock, or maybe just haven’t roused yourself from bed in a while, but this past week Richmond Magazine and a group of nonprofits put on the most policy-based mayoral forum in all the land.

Named by some sort of naming genius, The Mayorathon packed, like, 800 folks into the VMFA for what I thought was going to be an exceedingly dry night of wonky discussion. In the hours before the event, I started to worry that normal people—people who don’t spend their free time elbows deep in PDFs—would find questions about regional transit funding, the master plan process, and the Roanoke 40 to be…boring? Turns out I was so super wrong, and folks are way into the details of how a city is run and who should be running it! Two lessons I learned:

  1. If you’re planning a mayoral forum, put on the forum that you yourself would like to attend.
  2. Come up with an awesome name for it.

Watch the full forum, including the candidates’ self-chosen walkup music, below:

P.S. I work for RVA Rapid Transit, one of the nonprofits involved, and spent a lot of time watching in amazement as very talented and organized people (double shoutout to Ruth!) pulled off this very amazing thing.

Improved transit headed your way, get on board!

Three things that get me excited about Richmond’s Transit future.

Earlier this week, I rode my bicycle from the Northside where I live to the Fan where I work. Then I took the #24 bus down to 14th Street, grabbed a transfer to the #43 and took it up into Church Hill for a meeting. After the meeting I hopped on the #52, headed west to my final meeting of the day on Grace Street and then walked back into the Fan to get my bike and ride home.

Whew!

That exhausted me just typing it all out, and I wouldn’t wish that day of travels on most folks. Luckily, I won’t even be able to wish it on anyone as Richmond’s transit system is about to get a lot more efficient, easier to use, and more useful. Three super big deals are on the horizon and will totally transform our transit network.

First! The GRTC Pulse, RVA’s first bus rapid transit line, will open for business almost one year from now—if you head out to Broad Street you can see crews working on the stations right this very minutes. The Pulse will provide service every 15 minutes up and down Broad Street from Willow Lawn to Rocketts Landing. It’ll have cool-looking stations, off-board fare collection, and run in its own lane for a good portion of the route. Generally speaking, it’ll be the most rail-like bus you’ve ever seen, and it will form the backbone of a new transit network that’s going to be way less exhausting for everyone to use.

Second! The Richmond Transit Network Plan will totally transform our existing bus lines. The point of the plan, put together by the City and GRTC, is twofold: 1) take advantage of the Pulse’s backbone and consolidate some of the zillions of bus lines that run down Broad Street right now, and 2) free up hidden capacity in the system by spacing out the bus stops. Across most of the current system the bus stops every. single. block. By spacing out the stops we can unlock capacity and do amazing things like make most bus lines in the city run every 15 minutes! If you’re a bus rider, I’ll pause to let you put your jaw back together after it shattered all over the floor. If you’re not a bus rider, in the current system very few buses run anywhere close to every 15 minutes—with most running every 30 or 60 minutes.

Third! In the immediate future, Richmond will have its own bike share system, adorably called The B. Bike share is intended for short trips, not all-day rentals; you just pick up a bike at one station, ride it around, and drop it off at the next station. It helps solve all sorts of last-mile problems, and lets you still get around with the convinence of a bike without all the sweat you might work up riding into town.

These three things—the Pulse, the Richmond Transit Network Plan, and The B—will dramatically transform public transportation in Richmond. Remember that long exhausting trip I describe in the first paragraph? In the very near future all of the complicated parts will be replaced with “take the Pulse.” All of the walking parts will be replaced with “grab a bike share bike and go.” How awesome is that?

In just about a year, folks living in all parts of town will have a more efficient, easier to use, and more useful transit system. The existing bus lines will be reconfigured to interact smoothly with the Pulse. The Pulse itself will directly connect one side of town to the other (and take about half the time to do it). Bike share will provide convenient (and adorable!) connections between neighborhoods. How can you not get excited about all of this?

And these things are just the first step! Later this year the state will release their Richmond Regional Transit Vision Plan, a vision for public transit across the entire region. Imagine being able to take a frequent and fast bus from the West End to the airport for a business trip, or from the Northside to a job at Chesterfield Towne Center, or from Downtown out to see family in Mechanicsville. This kind of stuff lies directly in our future! Now all we’ve just got to do is ask our leaders in the City and Counties to grab the plan by the horns and implement the dang thing! If you’re interested in grabbing some horns, learning more, or joining the effort for a truly regional transit system, you can learn more at rvarapidtransit.org.

Introducing This Dang Wiki

The encyclopedia of small-scale Richmond urbanism.

It feels like there are about a million and a half projects going on in Richmond right now, doesn’t it? We’ve got giant rings coming to the riverfront, bikelanes spiderwebbing their way across the city, and a hellacious cement public space retrofit with the semblance of a Terran atmosphere. These things make the city a better place to live for sure.

But what about all the little, small-scale neighborhood nuisances? Stuff like the intersection near your house with no crosswalks, the road on the way to work without a bike lane, basically all of Scott’s Addition and its lack of sidewalks. No one person could keep track of all the millions of tiny things that need to be fixed—and I say that as a guy who spends his free time voluntarily putting stuff like that into his brain! It’s all very unfortunate because these small things make a practical difference to the lives of folks living nearby.

What we need is, to borrow a term from the productivity world, an external brain—a place where we can collectively document the shitty things in our neighborhoods that bother us.

So, without further ado, I’m exited to introduce This Dang Wiki: A Place Where We Can Collectively Document the Shitty Things in our Neighborhoods that Bother Us.

I’m still working on that tag line, but something like this probably better: The Encyclopedia of Small-Scale Richmond Urbanism.

This is a place for folks/nerds who care about the city to document what needs fixing in their neighborhoods, brainstorm solutions, and find effective strategies to get those solutions implemented. If this project interests you, there are a couple of ways that you can get involved:

  1. Add stuff! What bugs you about your neighborhood? What makes you feel unsafe? Add it to the wiki!
  2. Make things look pretty! There are folks out there in the world who love nothing more than to format things to make them look beautiful. If you’d like to do that, more power to you!
  3. Document! Go out, grab some pics, take some measurements, plot Scott’s Addition’s missing sidewalks on a Google map. Then make sure to dump all that info into the wiki!
  4. Find primary source material! What ordinances, studies, and master plans relate to the topic at hand? What laws will limit the scope of a solution? If you are a master of PDFs, this is the job for you.

Don’t worry too much about doing things “the right way.” For the moment, there isn’t really a right way—that’s for us to figure out as we go a long. So go forth, sign up, and let’s build an encyclopedia of small-scale Richmond urbanism!

The Boring Show highlights: This is what it sounds like to love your neighborhood

Art Burton on segregation, public process, and Creighton Court redevelopment.

I’m going to need you to listen to Art Burton’s public comment at the September 12th City Council meeting:

“When you talk about providing 23 part time jobs and we’ve already provided 150…When I look at the people who sit over there—their passion, their commitment—and know that we are being spurned, left out of the process, and intentionally excluded from acting in our own behalf..something’s gotta change y’all.

The big focus of that meeting, and a lot of the committee meetings leading up to it, was the East End grocery store. Pretty much a decade in the making, the store will bring a desperately-needed, full-service grocery store to the area. It’s a big deal and is tied to the much bigger deal of East End Transformation and Creighton Court redevelopment.

But Bigger Deal Things (like tearing down and rebuilding a very old public housing neighborhood) involve lots of money, lots of organizations, and lots of sticky bits. Art speaks directly and passionately about seggregation, public process, and about bringing in The Community Builders to do some of the work that his organization—a local one—does and has done for much less cost.

Honestly, there are so many moving parts to this and so much at stake that I continue to feel confused, uninformed, and generally helpless. In my view, this is one of the biggest yet somehow most undercovered (or covered in a fractured and disjointed way) issues in town.

Listen to the entire council meeting over on The Boring Show.