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Democrats call for vote on redistricting reforms

Democratic delegates Tuesday called on Republican House Speaker William Howell to revive legislation that supporters say would help take politics out of redistricting.

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By Tyler Hammel – Capital News Service

Democratic delegates Tuesday called on Republican House Speaker William Howell to revive legislation that supporters say would help take politics out of redistricting.

The Democrats tried to put pressure on Howell a day after a Republican-dominated subcommittee voted to kill five redistricting proposals in one swoop with little discussion.

At its meeting Monday morning, the Constitutional Subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee ignored a request from a Democratic member to vote on the proposed constitutional amendments individually. The panel then tabled the redistricting measures on a single 4-3 vote.

Republican Dels. Randy Minchew of Leesburg, Mark Cole of Fredericksburg, Tim Hugo of Centreville and Jackson Miller of Manassas all voted to table the resolutions. Opposing the motion were Republican Del. Jason Miyares of Virginia Beach and Democratic Dels. Joseph Lindsey of Norfolk and Marcia Price of Newport News.

Democrats in the House of Delegates on Tuesday blasted the subcommittee’s action.

“In 2015, every single one of the General Assembly’s 122 incumbents who sought re-election won,” House Minority Leader David Toscano said in a news release.

“House Republicans have now killed every single redistricting amendment this session, including their own. We call upon the speaker to revive these amendments for a full floor vote, as Virginians deserve to know where their leaders stand on this issue.”

Del. Charniele Herring of Alexandria, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, said, “Gerrymandering has distorted election results and diluted the power of individual voters. A system in which incumbents can choose their voters and draw political opponents out of districts is undemocratic. We need a full floor vote on a redistricting amendment now.”

Brian Cannon, executive director of One Virginia 2021, an advocacy group, condemned the subcommittee’s decision to kill HJ 763, which was proposed by Del. Steve Landes, R-Augusta County. It sought to prohibit any electoral district from being drawn “for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring any political party, incumbent legislator, member of Congress, or other individual or entity.”

“This amendment represents the core component of redistricting reform. It is simple: If you think politicians should be able to carve out their political opponents, then you are for gerrymandering and the elimination of competition in our elections,” Cannon said.

“This was particularly disappointing given that Delegate Minchew has previously supported redistricting reform and today he cast the deciding vote in his subcommittee to kill even the most modest efforts to stop gerrymandering.”

Minchew opened Monday’s subcommittee meeting by saying there would be no testimony on the 28 items on the agenda, unless there was a question from a committee member. He noted that the subcommittee had held a three-hour meeting the previous week.

When the redistricting proposals came up, Price requested to have them voted on separately. She was denied.

Then, with one vote, the subcommittee killed:

  • Landes’ resolution and a similar proposal (HJ 581) sponsored by Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Arlington.
  • Three resolutions to create an independent redistricting commission. Those measures were HJ 628, sponsored by Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax County; HJ 651, sponsored by Del. Betsy Carr, D-Richmond; and HJ 749, sponsored by Del. John Bell, D-Loudoun County.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Venture Richmond Offering Up 10k Broad Street Tenant Recruitment Grants

Venture Richmond was awarded a grant from the Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development to help recruit ten new tenants to Broad Street in Downtown Richmond. Each new tenant will get a $10,000 grant for moving in and opening by May 15, 2022.

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From Venture Richmond

Venture Richmond was awarded a grant from the Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development to help recruit ten new tenants to Broad Street in Downtown Richmond. Each new tenant will get a $10,000 grant for moving in and opening by May 15, 2022. Venture Richmond is partnering with the Metropolitan Business League (MBL) to help recruit existing small, women, and minority (SWaM) and immigrant-owned businesses to ­fill street-level vacancies in the area.

​The new businesses will join many galleries, retailers, restaurants, and small businesses who already call Broad Street home, as well as businesses that attract thousands of out of town visitors annually like Quirk Hotel, Richmond Marriott, the Hilton Hotel, and the Convention Center. Gather, co-working space, has a location in the area. A popular neighborhood happening is RVA First Fridays Artwalk which is a monthly celebration of the arts and galleries along and around Broad St. This section of Broad Street is also a part of Richmond’s Arts District and adjacent to Jackson Ward, near the VCU Monroe Park Campus and the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) to the west and City and State offices and VCU Health to the east.

THE CRITERIA FOR ELIGIBILITY INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:

  • Eligible once the business has moved into the space and opened for business by May 15, 2022.
  • Veri­fied 1-year minimum lease
  • Lease street-level space on Broad Street between Belvidere and 5th streets
  • New business to Downtown, not the relocation of an existing business in the General District/BID.
  • Existing businesses in the General District, who want to open an additional location on Broad Street.
  • Existing businesses located outside of the General District, who want to open another location/outpost on Broad Street.
  • Types of qualifying businesses include retailers, restaurants, makers, entrepreneurs, startups, and other creative businesses.
  • One $10,000 reimbursement grant per storefront, if a group of small businesses wanted to share space there would only be one grant available for the group.
  • Only eligible once
  • Availability based on ­first come fi­rst served

FOR MORE INFORMATION OR ASSISTANCE, CONTACT:

Micah White

Business Development Manager

The MBL

804-356-9298

[email protected]

Lucy Meade

Director Economic Development & Community Relations

Venture Richmond, Inc.

804-248-8372

[email protected]

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Downtown

Virginia lawmakers propose decriminalizing psychedelic mushrooms

“It is increasingly a recognized treatment for refractory depression and PTSD,” said Del. Dawn Adams, D-Richmond, a nurse practitioner whose legislation would also decriminalize peyote, a cactus that contains the psychedelic compound mescalin. “It’s changed people’s lives.”

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By Ned Oliver

Two Virginia lawmakers have introduced legislation that would end felony penalties for possession of psychedelic mushrooms, citing the drug’s growing acceptance in medicinal contexts.

“It is increasingly a recognized treatment for refractory depression and PTSD,” said Del. Dawn Adams, D-Richmond, a nurse practitioner whose legislation would also decriminalize peyote, a cactus that contains the psychedelic compound mescalin. “It’s changed people’s lives.”

The legislation would reduce the penalty for possession — currently a Class 5 felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison — to a $100 civil fine.

Sens. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Chesterfield, and Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, introduced similar legislation in the Senate.

The bill would put Virginia at the forefront of a nascent decriminalization movement that has primarily been limited to cities, including Washington, D.C. So far, Oregon is the only state to legalize medicinal use of psilocybin, an active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms.

The bill likely faces long odds, especially in the House of Delegates, where the newly reinstated Republican majority has historically resisted efforts to loosen drug laws. That said, Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, who leads the chamber’s Courts of Justice Committee, said he is open to hearing arguments in favor of the legislation.

“That is not something we’ve taken up before,” he said. “I’d be interested in hearing what (Adams) has to say.”

Even if the legislation were to pass, the drug would remain illegal, albeit with reduced penalties. That makes it unlikely medical providers in Virginia would embrace psychedelics as a treatment option, but Adams said it would nonetheless be a step in the right direction.

“If we decriminalize it, it allows people to learn,” she said. “It doesn’t egg people on (to use the drug). It tries to open the door for us to continue to study the positive effects on people’s mental health going forward.”

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GRTC Prepares for Downtown Transfer Plaza Update

GRTC will update the Downtown Transfer Plaza with new bus bay locations on 9th, Clay, and 8th Streets to accommodate nearby construction zones and preserve bus rider connections at night and on Sundays.

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Soon GRTC will update the Downtown Transfer Plaza with new bus bay locations on 9th, Clay, and 8th Streets to accommodate nearby construction zones and preserve bus rider connections at night and on Sundays. Several bus stop shelters, benches, and trash cans will be relocated to new bay locations on Clay and 8th St., and wayfinding maps will be posted nearby for riders. New on-board announcements will explain the bay locations and routes serving them when buses approach the Plaza. GRTC expects the updates may be necessary as soon as February 2022.

Four bays will not change at all – A, B, C, and D. However, Bays E and F relocate to Clay and Bays G, H, and I will relocate to 8th St. Bus Stop #2522 at 9th and Marshall will become Bay J. Because of nearby construction, some pedestrian pathways may be closed. Riders should only use marked pedestrian crossings at the Plaza.

GRTC Chief Executive Officer Julie Timm says, “I appreciate the City of Richmond’s support to help us coordinate necessary operational updates at the Downtown Transfer Plaza so that we can continue reliably serving customers and keep everyone safe from nearby construction zones. We were able to ensure essential infrastructure of shelters, benches, and wayfinding signage will be available at the new bus bays on 8th and Clay Streets. Our riders have been dealing with detours and other service adjustments Downtown recently, and we ask them, once again, to please pardon our dust as we work around obstacles to connect them with their jobs, homes, shopping, health care, education, and other community resources.”

This week, GRTC staff will begin installation of new bus bay stop signs, post new wayfinding materials, and coordinate with construction crews on relocation of shelters, benches, and trash cans in advance of sidewalk closures.

The Downtown Transfer Plaza opened in 2014 on 9th St. to ensure bus service could operate during major events on Broad St. in 2014 and 2015 and remained on 9th St. while efforts to secure a permanent transfer site continued. With the network redesign in 2018, the Downtown Transfer Plaza is now primarily used on Sundays and at nights when connecting buses have lower frequencies (longer waits between buses) and need well-timed connections for bus riders to transfer between 30-minute or hourly bus routes.

Another temporary update to the Downtown Transfer Plaza is expected later in 2022 when bays will move within the 8th St. surface parking lot between 8th and 9th Sts., and Leigh and Clay Sts., fully relocating bus bays from on-street to a designated lot out of the flow of general traffic. The City of Richmond and GRTC are collaborating on the updates in 2022 and continue joint efforts with other stakeholders to plan for a permanent Downtown Transfer Center in the future.

GRTC is a public service corporation providing mobility services in the Greater Richmond area. GRTC’s current operational budget (FY22) of $63.2 million primarily funds daily mobility operations and vehicle maintenance. GRTC provided 7.8 million trips during FY21 (July 1, 2020 – July 30, 2021).

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