Wow, that Stop-and-Frisk Policy Sure Looks Suspicious. Let’s Stop and Frisk It.

Citing Charlottesville Police Department data, the Cavalier Daily, the University of Virginia’s student newspaper, has found that African-Americans are stopped and frisked at a rate nine times greater than whites.

The statistical report from the 2017 calendar year detailed that of the 173 total recorded stop incidents, 70 percent of the individuals were black. Of the 125 stop incidents with search-and-frisk, 91 of the individuals  — or 73 percent — were black.  According to 2016 estimates of Charlottesville demographics, only 19 percent of the City identifies as black or African American.

Predictably, Bill Farrar, director of strategic communications for the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said he found the statistics “alarming.”

Don Gathers, a deacon at the First Baptist Church and founder of Charlottesville’s chapter of Black Lives Matter — said that stop and frisk is a racist policy: “[Stop and Frisk] is a very race-based, racist, failed policy,” he said. “[The police] get … returns from the instability that they create in the community.”

My first reaction (to borrow a line from the Instapundit blog): Why are municipalities run by progressives such cesspools of discrimination?

My second reaction: Maybe there is a problem, but I’m not going to believe it on the authority of the Cavalier Daily, the ACLU or Black Lives Matter. Here’s the obvious counter: If African-Americans in Charlottesville are nine times to be guilty of crimes as whites, then the stop-and-frisk disparity is not unreasonable.

However, the Cavalier Daily did present evidence suggesting that the disparity was real, though not as bad as a nine-to-one ratio would indicate.

In 2016, a more comprehensive report revealed that out of the 97 detentions, 74 of the cases involved black individuals, but only 15 — or about 17 percent — of the individuals were arrested or served summons. Comparatively, out of the 35 white people that were stopped in 2016, 11 — roughly 31 percent —  of them were arrested or summoned to court.

In either case, a minority of those frisked were worthy of arrest. But blacks were only half as likely to be arrested or summoned — a big disparity, to be sure, but far short of a nine-to-one ratio. What we don’t know is if there are legitimate reasons for that smaller disparity. The assumption of racism is often unwarranted. Conversely, the fact that assumptions of racism are often unwarranted does not mean that they are always unwarranted. This may be such a case.

“Another important step is to dig deeper into the data,” said City Manager Maurice Jones. “We’ve got a group of folks who will be doing that with the City Manager’s Office, the police department, the City Attorney’s Office [and] the Commonwealth Attorney’s office as well and getting a better understanding of some of the issues associated with [the data].”

When stop-and-frisk was a hot controversy in New York City a few years back, I sympathized with the police and those who argued that eliminating the policy would make it more difficult to combat crime. I did not think it would end well when Mayor Bill DeBlasio ended the practice. As it turns out, the New York City crime rate has continued to decline. It’s not often that I find myself changing my mind about left-wing politicians, but in this instance DeBlasio proved correct. Stop-and-frisk was causing unnecessary resentment among minorities, and police have other crime-fighting tools that work as well or even better.

Bacon’s bottom line: Let’s see if Charlottesville’s police can provide a convincing defense of the racial disparity in stop-frisks. If they can’t, the practice should end, and the police should devise other tactics for fighting crime.

Virginia Small Business Rating: Fair to Middling

Ranking out of top 177 metros. For an explanation of metrics, see Reward Expert’s methodology here.

Yesterday I opined on the critical importance of tax rates in influencing the flow of corporate and human capital between the states (“Supply Siders Like Virginia’s Economic Outlook“). But I made the point that taxes are hardly the only factor driving economic growth. Another important variable is entrepreneurial vitality — the ability of states and metros to grow their own businesses. Strong entrepreneurial ecosystems have kept states like California and New York in the game despite atrocious tax policies that push businesses and high-income households out of their states.

Now comes a new of “Best and Worst Places to Start a Small Business,” published by Reward Expert, a company that creates reward packages for credit cards. Researchers used a bundle of 30 metrics including office space, demographics and diversity, education, income, transit, housing costs, and venture capital activity, among others for 177 metropolitan areas with populations greater than 250,000.

Under this methodology, the Denver, Colo., and Boston, Mass., metros scored No. 1 and No. 2, while Charleston, S.C., and the Tallahassee, Fla., regions scored the worst.

And Virginia metros? Overall, they put in a fair-to-middling performance. The Washington and Richmond metros ranked 21st and 22nd respectively, both respectable scores but not enough to blow anyone’s socks off. Roanoke was a pleasant surprise at 29th. Lynchburg scored in the top half. Virginia Beach-Norfolk was the only laggard, falling into the bottom half — but nowhere near the bottom.

Metropolitan rankings have become a dime a dozen now, and I haven’t analyzed Reward Expert’s methodology to see if it is better or worse than the others. (I do question how valuable the five-year startup survival rate is as a metric, for instance, for it seems to vary within such a narrow range. And Washington’s low score for educational attainment looks plain wrong.) Just consider the report as one more colorful fragment in the kaleidoscope of data we scrutinize to track our performance.

Combine this report on small business prospects with the “Rich States, Poor States,” which focuses more on factors influencing corporate investment and human capital flows between states, and the outlook is cautiously positive for Virginia. By no means can we consider ourselves an economic development powerhouse, as we were during the glory days of the 1980s and 1990s. And we’re still too dependent upon the vagaries of federal government spending. But our economic fundamentals look better that those of most states.

Welcome Steve Haner to Bacon’s Rebellion

I’m pleased to announce that Stephen D. Haner is joining the ranks of Bacon’s Rebellion contributors. An occasional guest columnist in the past, he will become a more regular presence on the blog.

Steve brings a unique perspective to public policy in Virginia. He started his career as a journalist. When I first met him at the Roanoke Times in the early ’80s, he was a dogged reporter covering the Roanoke County board of supervisors in. He moved on to partisan politics as a Republican Party operative, worked in the Attorney General’s Office, and rounded out his career as a lobbyist, most notably for Huntington Ingalls (owner of Newport News Shipbuilding). In other words, he has observed Virginia sausage making from both the inside and the outside and has few illusions about the process.

Winding down his lobbying practice, Steve has the freedom now to proffer opinions that he once considered prudent to keep to himself. I, for one, look forward to reading what he has to say now that the manacles are off.


Fighting Child Abuse with Predictive Analytics

Dr. Dyann Daley

by Stephen D. Haner

As a pediatric anesthesiologist in Texas, Dr. Dyann Daley saw far too many victims of child abuse in the OR. One horrible case in particular spurred her to move beyond treatment to thoughts of prevention, with a data-driven approach that should fascinate all Baconistas.

Preventing child abuse is not as simple as preventing the flu or even malnourishment. There are plenty of thoughts on the why of child abuse, including the observation that it can be patterned behavior. The insight Dr. Daley and others behind Predict-Align-Prevent brought to the discussion was to focus on the where. Looking specifically at her home of Fort Worth, the group used spatial risk modeling to track a number of adverse outcomes believed to correlate with mistreatment of kids.

The results are shown in two maps – one predictive and the other showing how the next year’s case statistics matched the predictions. That the two maps lined up so well may not be surprising. But Dr. Daley was surprised that poverty was not the strongest correlation with child abuse. Domestic violence, aggravated and sexual assault and children running away from home – those are the other problems with the strongest correlations.

Dr. Daley was at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on Tuesday presenting her work to a child abuse and prevention conference, jointly sponsored by Families Forward Virginia and the state Department of Social Services. Predictive analytics is only worth doing if it then drives decisions on what preventive measures to take, where to focus the efforts and how to measure what is working.

What has been done in Fort Worth is now being done in the City of Richmond, with a similar mapping effort underway down to the half-block level. That goal will be the same, to use the map to encourage the relevant players (social services, police, medical providers and the schools) to cooperate on effective prevention. The data will also locate community assets – schools, parks, services, churches, licensed day care – to see if they have any positive impact and how.

The work is not universally applauded, and people in the audience Tuesday expressed concerns that sections of the city will see additional stigma or stereotyping based on the maps. The researchers reported that getting some of the data they want is not quickly shared, and it is being done inside DSS because at least the child welfare data is already in-house. They also stressed that the data does not deal with causation, only correlation.

Disclaimer: I’m on the board of directors for Families Forward Virginia. It was formed last year through a merger of Prevent Child Abuse Virginia (PCAV) and the Comprehensive Health Investment Project (CHIP) of Virginia, and serves as the state office for three evidence-based home visitation programs all across the Commonwealth. CHIP was a paying client from 2013 through 2017, but now I’m working for free. I guess Jim will chalk me up as another social justice warrior.

I’ll keep my eyes open for more information on the Virginia effort with predictive analytics and pass it on.

Good Idea: Set Priorities for Land Conservation

Virginia Conservation Land Statistics. Table credit: Department of Conservation and Recreation

Through tax credits for easements, land acquisitions for parks, and other means, the Commonwealth spends millions of dollars every year to conserve land. Under a new policy adopted by the Northam administration, the state will focus resources on safeguarding land with the highest conservation value.

This new strategy will rely upon a “data-driven process” devised by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to rank conservation value. The “scientific analysis” will show where the Commonwealth can get the most conservation value for the buck.

“I believe that we need a land conservation strategy that is focused and targeted toward making measurable progress on our natural resource goals, from restoration of the Chesapeake Bay to providing resilience against sea level rise and other impacts of climate change,” said Governor Ralph Northam in a press release.

The administration said it first will prioritize permanent protection of the top 2% of lands with the highest conservation value and aim for protecting the top 10% within the next ten years. Priorities will include: “protecting watersheds and local water quality, securing and recovering wildlife populations and habitats, making sure agriculture and forestry are viable and sustainable, steering development away from vulnerable and disaster-prone areas, providing access to the outdoors, and preserving sites that represent the history of all Virginians.”

The DCR website “Virginia Conservation Lands Database” page notes that of Virginia’s 25.27 million-acre land area, more than 4 million acres, or 16%, has some form of protection. The main vehicle for preserving lands at present is the land preservation tax credit for up to 40% of the value of donated land or conservation easements. Taxpayers were able to use up to $20,000 per year in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and $50,000 per year in subsequent years.

Bacon’s bottom line: This makes total sense. Indeed, I recall having advocated a priority-setting process at some point in the past. If the state is going to hand out tax credits, which are the functional equivalent of budget expenditures, it should optimize the public value of the easements. It’s astonishing to me that it has taken so long to develop a methodology for ranking the easements, but I’m glad it has finally happened. Kudos to the Northam administration for bringing the program to fruition.

Supply Siders Like Virginia’s Economic Outlook

Virginia economic performance over the past 10 years: fair-to-middling.

Virginia’s economic performance has been mediocre over the past 10 years compared to that of other states, finds the 2018 edition of “Rich States, Poor States,” but the Commonwealth’s public policy mix gives it an economic outlook rank of 10th best in the nation.

The “Rich States, Poor States” economic competitiveness rating reflects the analytical viewpoint of supply-side economists Stephen Moore and Arthur B. Laffer and gives heavy weight to tax burden, public indebtedness, size of state bureaucracy, and traditional business-climate factors such as right-to-work and average workers’ compensation costs.

Many other factors influence a state’s prospects for economic growth, such as industry mix, education and skill levels of the workforce, entrepreneurial vitality, cost of living (particularly housing), and the quality of government services. Even so, the attributes identified by “Rich States, Poor States,” now in its eleventh year of publication, clearly have considerable value in explaining differential rates of population and economic growth.

Laffer and Moore elaborated upon the importance of tax burden in a Wall Street Journal column today, in which they made the case that the capping of State and Local Tax (SALT) deductions will accelerate the movement of businesses and people — especially wealthy people — from high-tax blue states to low-tax red states. States with the highest, most progressive tax tax burden like California and New York, they predicted, will be the biggest losers. Conversely, low-tax states will be the biggest winners.

About 90% of taxpayers are unaffected by the change. But high earners in places with hefty income taxes—not just California and New York, but also Minnesota and New Jersey—will bear more of the true cost of their state government. Also in big trouble are Connecticut and Illinois, where the overall state and local tax burden (especially property taxes) is so onerous that high-income residents will feel the burn now that they can’t deduct these costs on their federal returns. On the other side are nine states—including Florida, Nevada, Texas and Washington—that impose no tax at all on earned income.

Laffer and Moore did not discuss Virginia specifically, but according to the “Rich State, Poor State” methodology, the Old Dominion has a favorable tax and business climate. Hence, all other things being equal, economic performance should fare better looking forward than it did over the past 10 years when budget sequestration and defense spending caps squeezed the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads economies.

I would caution against making any judgments regarding short-term performance based on these numbers. Federal spending is the No. 1 economic driver in Virginia, and the state’s fortunes rise and fall to a considerable degree depending upon the vagaries of federal budget policies. Right now, Uncle Sam is in spendthrift mode, so that augurs well for us. But, as I frequently warn, what can’t go on forever… won’t. At some point, the federal spending spigot will close.

Rather, tax and business climate factors make a difference over long periods of time. They facilitate a steady drip… drip… drip… in the migration of corporate and human capital from state to state, metro to metro. A perfect example is the recently announced relocation of Gerber Products Company of its U.S. headquarters from New Jersey to Arlington. The company will invest $5 million and create 150 jobs. By itself, that one move is not terribly significant given the huge scale of the Northern Virginia economy. But if the corporate migration from New Jersey and New York to Northern Virginia is entirely one way — and it is — small investments add up over a long period of time.

Can Medicaid Expansion Address the Doctor Shortage?

Teresa Gardner Tyson, executive director of Health Wagon. Photo credit: Virginia Business

With Virginia on the cusp of Medicaid expansion, it is heartening to see someone asking the obvious question: What good is Medicaid coverage if you can’t find a doctor? Bob Burke at Virginia Business states the obvious:

Getting a Medicaid card doesn’t necessarily mean you have a doctor at hand. Plenty of places in Virginia — especially rural areas — already are short of health-care providers. Oftentimes, people there depend on nonprofit community health centers or free clinics (both of which are chronically underfunded) scattered around the state, or they just go without. This is the true access challenge.

Virginia has a network of clinics, health wagons and other services that provides basic care to poor Virginians, but the system operates on a shoestring, and thousands of people fall between the cracks. An important question is what happens to the existing medical infrastructure for the poor, as inadequate as it is, when Medicaid comes along?

Teresa Gardner Tyson runs The Health Wagon, a mobile clinic that delivers care to people in Southwest Virginia. Medicaid expansion would be favorable to the people she treats, she says, but it’s not a panacea. Some of Health Wagon’s patients are already Medicaid patients — and they can’t find any other health provider.

About five years ago, Health Wagon hired a consultant to run the numbers on how best to take advantage of Medicaid dollars if they started flowing. “We’d have to go back and look at those numbers again” and see whether becoming a Medicaid provider makes sense, Tyson says. “We’re sustained by donations and grants, and at the end of the day, though, we do give free care, [but] the care that we give is not free.”

Here is my question: What happens to those donations and grants if Medicaid expansion is enacted? Will Health Wagon still have a purpose? Perhaps it will, if nothing is done to address the shortage of health care practitioners in Southwest Virginia and there’s nowhere else to go. But if that shortage isn’t addressed and patients still can’t find doctors, is anyone better off?

The Virginia Community Healthcare Association (VCHA), which has 29 member organizations at 147 sites, serves about 100,000 uninsured people every year. CEO Neal Graham estimates that of that number, about 70,000 would be eligible for Medicaid after expansion. He also estimates that expansion will bring an additional 100,000 patients into the clinics and community centers. But it’s not clear at all from Burke’s article that the clinics will have the resources to staff up to meet the extra demand.

There are two problems in rural Virginia: a lack of health coverage and a shortage of health care practitioners. Medicaid expansion fixes the first problem. But as long as the program pays less than Medicare and private insurance — typically forcing medical providers to operate at a loss — Medicaid expansion will do nothing to recruit new practitioners to under-served areas. If lawmakers want the expansion to work, they must address the shortage of doctors, nurses, and technicians. Otherwise, they’re just perpetrating a cruel hoax on Virginia’s poor.

Does Uberization Increase Traffic Congestion?

The ride-hailing market in Washington, D.C. is booming — ridership for Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services have more than quadrupled since late 2015, reports the Washington Post. And that’s a problem, some say. All those vehicles on the road are adding to traffic congestion.

According to figures provided by the Washington mayor’s office, some of that traffic is diverted from traditional taxicab companies. Taxi ridership has fallen 31%, or about 6 million trips, since the ride-hailing boom began in late 2015. As far as traffic congestion is concerned, that’s a wash.

But a Washington Metro consultant last year noted that Uber and Lyft account for much of the commuter bus and rail system’s ridership decline. Average weekday ridership is down 135,000 from the decade-ago peak. Those riders are crowding the roads, while Metro’s revenues are sagging, making it difficult to keep up with maintenance and safety needs. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has proposed increasing the gross receipts tax on “for-hire” vehicles to 4.75% to raise money for the Metro.

City officials concede, however, that they don’t have hard data on how many trips the ride-hailing services are providing, or how many passengers they are carrying. Calculating the impact is a challenge because, for Uber at least, a growing business segment is comprised of shared-ridership services. When riders share trips instead of riding solo, they take vehicles off the road.

In other big ride-hailing markets such as New York, San Francisco, and Boston, there is growing concern that the Uberization of transportation is cannibalizing mass transit and putting more vehicles on the road. Not only is the trend bleeding business from mass transit, it might even be creating new trips.

Bacon’s bottom line: I’m a big believer in the disruptive potential of Uberization (by which I mean the entire panoply of ride-hailing services encompassing Uber and all of its competitors and offshoots), but I acknowledge that the trend poses complex trade-offs.

The obvious benefit of Uberization is that people wouldn’t be flocking to ride-hailing services if they didn’t offer a superior value proposition. Do we really want to a tax 21st-century transportation mode to subsidize a 19th-century mode (commuter rail) and a 20th-century mode (buses)? Another plus is that if more people ride Uber, they won’t need to park their own car. Reducing the demand for on-street parking could free up space for other uses such as bicycles.

On the other hand… If Uberization does, in fact, put more vehicles on the road, the trend adds to traffic congestion, which imposes a social cost on other drivers. Arguably, more vehicles also equals higher CO2 emissions — at least until cars are powered by solar- and wind-generated electricity. Finally, given urban political realities, if Uberization undermines the economics of mass transit, taxpayers could wind up paying more to subsidize the failing transit systems.

The Washington Post article creates the impression that there is a growing backlash against Uberization. I worry that the backlash might become powerful enough to stifle the industry’s growth, experimentation and evolution into new forms. We’re still in the very early phases of the 21st-century transportation revolution, and as far as I’m concerned, the transportation future can’t come soon enough.

Fix the State Windfall from Federal Tax Reform

by Stephen D. Haner

Governor Ralph Northam recently announced the nomination of about two hundred economically-challenged portions of Virginia to become federal Opportunity Zones, a special designation similar to an enterprise zone created by the recent overhaul of federal tax laws. That’s good. But the economic opportunities available to all Virginians from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 are still in limbo.

Like most states, Virginia bases its tax code on the federal tax code – a practice called conformity.  The rules on income, deductions and credits that determine your federal taxable income serve as the starting point for your state taxes. Until 2002, Virginia’s conformity to the IRS Code was automatic. Starting in 2003 Virginia became a fixed-date conformity state, leaving it to the General Assembly to review and cherry pick from new federal tax provisions. It has chosen to de-conform from only a handful. Until now.

The 2018 Virginia General Assembly, following the advice of the administration, voted to conform to none of the tax changes for 2018. Individual and business taxpayers looking at the May 1 deadline for their first quarter state tax payments are having to base them on the 2017 federal tax code.

The federal changes were made late in the calendar year and their impact is still poorly understood at both the federal and state level. A decision in February to fully conform at the state level could have made state revenue projections less reliable. But it is not too soon for the state’s leaders to declare that their policy going forward is to conform to as many of the federal changes as possible, and to resist the temptation to let federal changes automatically result in a state tax increase for Virginians.

Full or almost full conformity to the rules should be the goal, with the tax brackets or rates then adjusted to produce revenue neutrality. If there is to be a revenue windfall, let it come from actual economic growth.

Inaction will produce higher state tax bills for many individuals due to changes to the federal standard deduction. Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne recently told a legislative committee that a consultant has estimated more than 600,000 Virginia taxpayers will switch from itemized deductions to the standard deduction at the federal level for 2018. That will require them to also take the standard deduction at the state level.

At the federal level new lower tax rates offset the impact of losing those deductions. But with state tax rates staying the same, every $1,000 in lost deductions produces $57.50 in higher state income taxes. Even taxpayers who continue with itemized deductions at the federal level may see them shrink because of new limits, producing a higher state tax bill for them as well. To prevent a windfall the General Assembly will need to either increase the state standard deduction or lower individual rates.

The confusion caused by delayed decisions on conforming on business tax provisions is even greater, because the 2017 federal bill really reshuffled that deck.

A Virginia Department of Taxation presentation to the Assembly in January and one from the Division of Legislative Services highlighted new rules on losses claimed by businesses, on interest deductions, and on the amortization of research expenses.  There is a major new deduction for income from pass-through entities. The federal law doubled the expensing deduction for buying equipment from $500,000 to $1 million, one of the provisions expected to quickly juice the economy. The new law eliminates the domestic production activities deduction as a trade-off for lower federal tax rates.

When Virginia has refused to conform since 2002 it has usually been on business provisions like these and it may be tempted to do so again – putting Virginia companies at a disadvantage. It may also be tempted to try to tax all the off-shore income that Virginia-based companies are going to bring home and add to their federal returns.

Compare today’s lack of decision and discussion with the situation in 1986, when Congress passed the last major reform of federal taxes. There was an immediate push in Virginia to prevent a state-level revenue windfall. The push came from then-minority Republican legislators, and despite their minority status the issue struck a cord and the General Assembly responded with several positive changes to state tax brackets and personal exemptions.

The 1986 changes were not as complex and were not as focused on business taxes. But that focus on the business side this time around makes Virginia’s response all the more important. It is time to start this debate.

As his lobbying activities wind down, my former Roanoke Times colleague Steve Haner may again become a regular contributor to Bacon’s Rebellion, with a focus on some of the state and local issues that were the center of his career for four decades in Richmond. He will remain in business as Black Walnut Strategies for the near future. 

Henrico’s Housing Whack-a-Mole

Delmont Street property to be demolished

Henrico County, following the priorities of its new Democratic Party majority on the Board of Supervisors, has created a $2 million fund to head off neighborhood blight by financing renovations and redevelopment of the county’s aging housing stock, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

As an example of what the fund can do, county officials pointed to a boarded-up property on Delmont Street near the Richmond Raceway that has been the site of nine fights, 26 firearm violations, and 13 vice incidents over the past five years. Three murders have happened nearby. County administrators will ask the board Tuesday to buy the property for $50,000 and demolish it.

Let us concede up front that such a development surely will be welcome to law-abiding residents of the neighborhood. In my younger days I lived in a neighborhood with dilapidated crack houses on the block where murders occurred, and I welcomed any action by Richmond city authorities to clean them up. I can sympathize with the Delmont Street neighbors.

But let us not delude ourselves that we’re doing anything more than playing whack-a-mole. Henrico can demolish the building on Delmont Street, but that does nothing to reform the behavior of the derelicts who caused the problems in the first place. The drug addicts, prostitutes, and criminals who turned the building into a hell-hole will just move to another location — perhaps an abandoned building, or if none is readily available, into a neglected property charging the cheapest rent.

At heart is the question: Do run-down buildings create poverty and the anti-social behaviors associated with poverty, or do people displaying anti-social behaviors gravitate toward run-down buildings and hasten their ruin?

The conventional wisdom among the professional caring class suggests that improving the housing stock will not only ameliorate the material conditions of poverty but address poverty directly. But that ignores why housing conditions deteriorate in the first place. Broadly speaking, the housing stock degrades for two reasons. First, because poor property owners lack the financial resources to keep up with the maintenance. Second, because certain classes of tenants, especially those inclined toward criminality, subject their houses to greater abuse.

Unless public policy addresses those realities (1) by fostering higher employment rates, incomes and spending power for poor people, and (2) by discouraging criminal and anti-social behavior, spending public funds to combat blight is as futile as a dog expecting to catch its own tail. This should be obvious by now. As a society, we have spent untold billions of public and charitable dollars combating urban blight by tearing down or renovating run-down buildings, and we have been doing this for decades. Yet the blight never disappears. It just moves from one location to another.

This is an iron law of economics: As long as poor people and the criminally inclined are with us, they will gravitate to the lowest-cost neighborhoods because that’s all they can afford. When they take over a neighborhood, the criminally inclined will run the buildings into the ground, those with financial means will flee, and the law-abiding but poor will lack the resources or incentive to maintain their properties.

Sadly for Henrico, it is on the receiving end of this migration pattern. Older neighborhoods in Richmond, being closer to the vibrant city center and benefiting from walkable streets, are being gentrified. Poor people are being displaced. And they’re moving to the old, non-walkable subdivisions of cheap, ugly, 50s- and 60s-era ranches where nobody else wants to live, mainly in Henrico and Chesterfield.

Henrico will need a lot more than a $2 million fund to cope with that reality.

Meanwhile, if we want to truly do something to improve the quality of the housing stock, we should stop throwing away money on futile efforts to eliminate blight and start investing in programs that address incomes and criminality.