Eighty Five Percent

Voters in Richmond have approved a referendum that would change the city charter to require the Mayor to craft a plan to modernize Richmond Public Schools facilities without raising taxes (This does NOT preclude the Mayor or City Council from coming up with another school modernization plan that does raise taxes.)

Richmonders voted Tuesday on the 350-word referendum, which now must pass through the Virginia General Assembly. According to unofficial results, the referendum passed with 85 percent of the vote. Eighty five percent.

Now that the Put Schools First/Richmond School Modernization referendum has passed, will local environmental and faith-based groups join the Sierra Club Falls of the James in calling for energy conservation, green building, and solar roofs to be part of Richmond school modernization?

We know that Dominion and the Richmond Children’s Museum are partnering to put small, ‘experimental’ solar on a few school roofs, but citizens should be demanding that Richmond install large, ‘working’ solar arrays on public schools (and elsewhere). Other Virginia localities are in the process of doing so now, often at their students’ urging.

Solar School Politics: Sturtevant, Carr, and Magruder

In case you did not know, Glen Sturtevant is Oregon Hill’s state senator for the General Assembly.

This morning, his name appeared on a Richmond Times Dispatch editorial about the Put Schools First/Richmond School Modernization referendum that will be on the ballot on November 7th. (interestingly enough, this column appeared briefly a week or so ago on the Times Dispatch website with Delegate Loupassi’s name instead of Sturtevant’s.)


This summer, dozens of citizens — spurred by the Richmond Crusade for Voters, the Sierra Club and others — braved 100-degree temperatures to gather signatures to put an end to the past six decades of government inaction. A record number of Richmonders — 15,000 — personally signed the petitions needed to get the school modernization initiative on the ballot. It should be crystal clear to all elected city officials that the citizens are tired of talk and want action. The charter change is very simple. It asks the mayor, after consulting with the City Council and the School Board, along with allowing for public input, to develop a fully funded school modernization plan for consideration within six months of the charter change becoming effective.

Although the editorial lauds ‘bipartisanship’, local Democrats continue to be less than welcoming to this grassroots referendum. In contrast, the Richmond Green Party has endorsed the referendum. From their press release this past July:

The Richmond Greens recognize that the decades of neglect and mismanagement of Richmond’s public school system is not solely the fault of the City of Richmond or Richmond Public Schools alone. The actions (or inactions, in some cases) by the Virginia General Assembly have exacerbated the issues affecting our public school system. However, we believe that anti-poverty initiatives need to include the modernization of school facilities to ensure our children have a better opportunity to unlock their utmost potential.

The modernization of our school buildings is not only essential to a quality education, but also promotes economic, racial, and environmental justice. Modernizing our school buildings will give the City the opportunity to invest in solar power and other “green” technologies to help reduce operational costs and combat climate change. It will also free students from the distractions of leaking/falling roofs, pests, and health issues (e.g. mold contamination) that seem to be exclusively present within school facilities mostly attended by African American students. And finally, Mayor Levar Stoney will have the chance to prove his commitment to enhancing education for children in every zip code of the City.

The Richmond Greens support the Put Schools First petition drive and will provide our support whenever possible. Efforts are currently underway to help our candidate, Montigue T. Magruder, win his House of Delegates race. As we inform the public of his candidacy, we will continue to inform voters about the Put Schools First petition to raise help raise awareness. We would like to extend our thanks to the Richmond Crusade for Voters and Sierra Club for leading the petition drive and would like to work with them on future endeavors.

So, a couple of things to watch:
Will Delegate Betsy Carr continue to say that she has not read enough to take a stance on the referendum? She will be at a neighbor’s house this Wednesday as part of a meet’n’greet. Magruder has one scheduled for Nov. 1 at the Bits and Pixels store in Carytown. Will the corporate media continue to largely ignore the political race here between Democratic Carr, Green Magruder, and Libertarian Crocker? (Both Magruder and Crocker support the referendum).

If the Put Schools First/Richmond School Modernization referendum passes this November, will local environmental and faith-based groups join the Sierra Club Falls of the James in calling for energy conservation, green building, and solar roofs to be part of Richmond school modernization?

We know that Dominion and the Richmond Children’s Museum are partnering to put small, ‘experimental’ solar on a few school roofs, but citizens should be demanding that Richmond install large,’working’ solar arrays on public schools (and elsewhere). Other Virginia localities are in the process of doing so now, often at their students’ urging.

Greater Richmond Solar Co-op Happy Hour Info Session Thursday

From EventBrite event page:

Live in Richmond and want to go solar? Now’s your chance! Neighbors across the greater Richmond area have formed a co-op with the help of VA SUN to make it easier to save money on the purchase of solar panels, while building a community of local solar supporters. Join us for a happy hour information session at the Three Notch’d Brewing Company to learn about solar energy, as well as how the Greater Richmond Solar Co-op simplifies the process of going solar while providing a discount through its bulk purchasing power.

Thursday, July 20, 2017
5:30 PM – 8:00 PM EDT
Three Notch’d Brewing Company
2930 W Broad St

Editor’s note: I know of at least two neighbors that are part of the Co-op. Looking forward to more solar in the neighborhood!

Utility Message On Gas Safety

From Richmond’s Department of Public Utilities (one of our great advertisers!):

The Natural Gas Safety Awareness Program of the city of Richmond’s Department of Public Utilities is here to educate our customers and non-customers – all those who live, work, shop, worship or play near natural gas pipelines – about natural gas safety.

Please watch this brief 17 minute video that will offer a brief history of the natural gas distribution system, and a detailed overview of the public awareness component of our overall safety program.

Dominion’s Coal-Ash Ponds Leaking Into River; Go Solar!

There are reports that the coal ash ponds are causing more pollution in the James River. From Times Dispatch article:

“We can see things bubbling up, essentially, and our position is this is leaking from the coal ash. We’ve tested the water and sediment here. We found arsenic at incredibly high levels, 282 parts per million right here, which is higher than many Superfund sites that have really bad pollution problems,” he said.

Several rounds of tests in the past year seem to show leaking from Dominion ash ponds, including prior work by the James River Association and separate sampling by a Duke University-led team. The Duke team found unpermitted leaking from coal ash facilities in five states, including at Dominion’s Chesterfield and Bremo Bluff power stations.

Chesterfield officials don’t seem to care and continue to allow Dominion to burn coal.

With Dominion’s poison in mind, it’s more important than ever that area residents push for more renewable energy.

Tomorrow night, VaSun.org is hosting a Greater Richmond Solar Co-op Information Session at the Glen Allen Library.

From their webpage:

Community members across Richmond have formed a solar co-op! From Ruther Glen in the north to Petersburg in the south, Powhatan in the west to New Kent in the east, the Greater Richmond Solar Co-op welcomes homeowners from across the region. Greater Richmond Solar Co-op members can save up to 20% off the cost of going solar and have the support of fellow co-op members and VA SUN throughout the process.

Richmond Residents Form Solar Co-op To Go Solar Together, Get A Discount

From press release:

February 28, 2017
Contact: Ben Delman
202-888-3602 ben@communitypowernetwork.org

Richmond residents form solar co-op to go solar together, get a discount

Richmond, VA – Neighbors across the Richmond region have formed the Greater Richmond Solar Co-op to save money and make going solar easier, while building a network of solar supporters. Drive Electric RVA, the Richmond Temple, RVA HUB, and VA SUN are the co-op sponsors. The group is seeking members and will host two information meetings, March 13 at the Glen Allen Library and March 28 at the Pamunkey Regional Library to educate the community about solar and the co-op process.

VA SUN expands access to solar by educating Virginians about the benefits of distributed solar energy, helping them organize group solar installations, and strengthening Virginia’s solar policies, as well as its community of solar supporters. The group has helped hundreds of Virginians go solar.

“I am excited to work with Richmond residents to educate them about the benefits of solar energy,” said Aaron Sutch, VA SUN Program Director. “If you’ve ever thought about going solar before, this is the perfect opportunity to do so.”

Greater Richmond-area residents interested in joining the co-op can sign up at www.vasun.org/richmond. Joining the co-op is not a commitment to purchase panels. Once the group is large enough, VA SUN will help the co-op solicit competitive bids from area solar installers.

Co-op members will select a single company to complete all of the installations. They will then have the option to purchase panels individually based on the installer’s group rate. By going solar as a group and choosing a single installer, participant can save up to 20% off the cost of their system.

Information sessions

Monday, March 13, 6:30 p.m.
Glen Allen Branch Library
10501 Staples Mill Road
Glen Allen

Tuesday, March 28 6:30 p.m.
Pamunkey Regional Library
201 South Railroad Avenue

Pipeline Protest Tomorrow

And, by the way, the RVA Environmental Film Festival (FREE ADMISSION) will be cranking this weekend. The Virginia film contest winner is Trouble Water: Voices From Bath, will be screened Sunday afternoon. It’s about Virginians facing Dominion Energy’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

It’s important to remember that Dominion officials themselves say they could make money from renewables like solar and wind. Why don’t they? Because they insist on using their regulated monopoly to make just a bit more profit from dirty fossil fuel. They don’t care about the risks to our water and our planet.