Bacon Bits: Whistling Past the Graveyard

Feel-good story of the day. Northern Virginia boy scouts have cleaned up the neglected Alexandria cemetery named for abolitionist Frederick Douglass. They raked leaves, trimmed trees, and installed a new sign, according to the Washington Post. The black cemetery fell into disrepair over the years because no Alexandria church or other nonprofit cares for it; the city of Alexandria allocates only a nominal sum for upkeep, mostly mowing.

Boomerang watch. The Mountain Valley Pipeline has suspended all construction activities that could negatively impact four endangered or threatened species: the Indiana bat, the northern long-eared bat, the Roanoke logperch, and the candy darter, reports Virginia Mercury. For the time being, the pipeline company will refrain from tree-clearing, non-maintenance-related road building, grading and trenching, and stream-disturbing activities. Inquiring minds want to know: If such activities are permanently banned in and around habitat of threatened species, will it be possible to build wind turbines anywhere in the Blue Ridge or Allegheny Mountains?

The real structural racism. John Butcher delves into the latest SOL scores for Richmond’s Carver Elementary school, where cheating by teachers and administrators had artificially elevated SOL test scores last year. Now that the testing issues have been resolved, the tragic dimensions of students’ educational under-performance have been laid bare. Students rated as “economically disadvantaged” passed reading, writing, math, history and science at rates in the 20% to 32% range — far lower than the rate for economically disadvantaged children in most other schools. Richmond school officials blame racial bias and under-funding. But the real racism is that poor kids are trapped in a failing because Virginia’s educational establishment does everything in its power to block escape hatches in the form of charter schools or tax-favored scholarships.

A green bank for Virginia? The Northam administration is exploring an alliance with the New York Green Bank, a billion-dollar financier of clean energy programs. Energy News Network examines the pros and cons of such an affiliation here. Apparently, creation of a quasi-public entity like a green bank in Virginia would require General Assembly approval, and Republicans haven’t been much interested. As long as taxpayers aren’t asked to subsidize the loans and are not at risk for bad loans, I don’t see a problem.

The biggest opportunities in energy conservation are in the commercial/ industrial sector, however, and I’m not sure that financing is a significant barrier to getting deals done. I suspect a bigger obstacle is the lack of a legal/regulatory structure that would enable property owners in downtowns and office/industrial parks to pool resources and benefit from economies of scale. Not that the Northam administration is likely to be the slightest bit interested in anything I have to say, but it might well advised to explore enabling legislation for eco-districts. Read more about ecodistricts here.