Complaints against public institutions are always the same

This comment on an article about congestion pricing in NYC exactly mirrors the conversations we’re having in Richmond about schools funding. I’ve gone ahead and replaced “subway” with “schools” and “The MTA” with “RPS”:

Yes we need money to fix the schools. But there is no mention of accountability. How will we know that this money won’t be siphoned off to other projects the way it has been in the past? Who will be the trustworthy monitor of this money? RPS cannot be trusted. Talk about it all you want but they must somehow demonstrate trustworthiness and accountability before they get any more money.

Or, as the Superintendent puts it:

“I support RPS. I just don’t trust that the money will go where you say it’s going, or that you’ll use it effectively.” That’s the number one critique I’ve heard over the last several weeks about the Mayor’s FY20 budget proposal. Some of that distrust has its roots in biases about race and class – conscious or otherwise – that still grip Richmond. But some is grounded in our own missteps. For example, we haven’t always used our money well, and when investments havebeen made – whether public or philanthropic – it hasn’t always been clear what difference they’ve made. To those of you who distrust RPS for these reasons, I want to say as clearly as I can: I hear your frustration. We must do better and we will.

Photo Challenge, Week 14: Titles

This week’s challenge was to focus on “the story within the image.” I took this picture of the Governor’s Mansion from the Grace Street overlook in Church Hill. If I had to title it, I’d go with something like Center of Controversy.

I liked the green space surrounding and isolating the Mansion—and the man who sits inside, insufficiently repentant (outwardly, at least) about his history with blackface. The rest of the City (include the State Capitol and City Hall) goes on about its business.

Paying for the thing

If you’re into podcasts specifically or side hustles in general, I recommend subscribing to the Hot Pod newsletter. Every week, Nick Quah gives an exhaustive look at what’s happening in the world’s podzone—lately a lot of that is fretting, consternation, and speculation over paywalled and subscription-based podcasts. As a guy who has a podcast or two and runs a membership-supported daily zoning and rezoning newsletter, I find a lot worth thinking about in Nick’s emails.

This, in particular, from today’s edition, feels exceptionally familiar:

She was able to start paying the actors and production team by the third season, but despite all the work she puts into the show (each episode takes her upwards of 40 hours to produce), she didn’t draw a regular wage — pulling some money only occasionally. “Usually what would happen is at the end of the season I would kind of look at our bank account and look at the next season and think like ‘OK can I give myself a little bonus for the season’ to kind of help me pay my rent, you know,” Shippen said…Despite the popularity and success of The Bright Sessions, the production was always living hand to mouth. This matters, I think, because there’s a perception I’ve encountered a lot in my travels around podcasting that a hit show is enough to put a podcaster, even an independent one, on a sound financial footing. The Bright Sessions is unarguably a hit: critically acclaimed, with a large and loyal fanbase, and a decently-sized crowdfunder. Shippen now has a deal to write books set in the same universe for Tor Teen, as well as that spin-off that will shortly debut on Luminary. Yet she didn’t quit her data entry job until last August.

Seeking a diverse tribe

From Seth Godin’s recent blog about the monopoly of Google search:

While it’s tempting to seek to be picked by authorities and found by strangers, the more reliable path is to organize and connect those that seek to be part of a tribe, to establish better cultural norms and then persist in making promises and keeping them.

I’m into this sentence, but “seek” is doing a lot of lifting. It’s hard work to build an interesting and diverse tribe of people that don’t look like you or have your same lived experiences.

Elizabeth Warren on housing

Take a minute and read though Elizabeth Warren’s housing plan which addresses supply, land use, parking minimums, and the continuing impact of redlining on Black communities.

I’ll tell you what, it’s rad to see a legit presidential candidate talking about land use and parking.

But there’s another driver of expensive housing costs: some state and local zoning rules needlessly drive up the cost of construction. These aren’t necessary rules that protect the environment or ensure that homes meet safety codes. These are rules like minimum lot sizes or mandatory parking requirements. These kinds of rules raise the costs of building new housing and keep families from moving into areas with better career and school choices. My bill gives state and local governments a real incentive to eliminate these unnecessary rules.


My housing bill takes a first step by creating a first-of-its-kind down-payment assistance program. The people eligible for assistance must be first-time homebuyers who live in a formerly redlined neighborhoods or communities that were segregated by law and are still currently low-income If they qualify, they are entitled to a substantial grant they can put towards a down payment on a home anywhere in the country.

The War on Cars in Cincinnati

My pal Cam, from the Better Bus Coalition in Cincinnati showed up on the most recent episode of the War on Cars podcast:

What if you could get around quickly and reliably in a state-of-the-art vehicle that you didn’t have to drive, park, fuel, or insure? No, it’s not an Uber or a self-driving car… it’s the bus! In this episode, we talk to Cam Hardy of the Better Bus Coalition in Cincinnati, Ohio, about why buses are chronically unloved and underfunded.

We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck

I’m going to be thinking about Feed by M.T. Anderson for a long time. It’s mostly a not-too-far-off description of the logical conclusion of social media and capitalism, and was written in 2001 (before social media existed!?) but feels terribly present-day. It’s a horrible prophecy that we should have all heard and then used to repent of our ways immediately.

Outside of predicting the exact circumstances around the demise of American society, I really enjoyed Anderson’s pictures of popularity:

It turned out that my upcar was not the kind of upcar my friends rode in. I don’t know why. It had enough room, but for some reason people didn’t think of it that way. Sometimes that made me feel kind of tired. It was like I kept buying these things to be cool, but cool was always flying just ahead of me, and I could never exactly catch up to it. I felt like I’d been running toward it for a long time.

And death:

It was weird to be in the room with her. It was like being in the room with her if she was wood. It didn’t feel like you were in the room with anyone. You could stand there and you would feel completely alone, like you were just in a room with a prop. You could watch the prop, and not feel anything, or remember anything about how the prop used to joke with you, and how you wanted to kiss it and feel it up. I had thought it would feel like a tragedy, but it didn’t feel like anything at all.

Throughout the book—although some of it is written in Clockwork Orange-style slang—I was really struck by how accurately private feelings, the ones we’re ashamed to admit we have, are described.

To ruin your week, read Feed and watch American Meme on Netflix.

If you build it, they will totally come

Induced demand is the most bananas thing. Via City Observatory:

But what appears to have happened is that the wider I-5 just funneled more peak hour traffic, more quickly into the bridge area. The result is that the roadway jams up more quickly, and that backups occur earlier and last longer, with the result that the freeway actually carries fewer cars than it could if traffic volumes we effectively metered more evenly by a somewhat lower capacity upstream of the bridge.