Axios Richmond

Picture of the Richmond skyline.

August 17, 2022

It's Wednesday. How's it going?

๐Ÿ˜Ž Today's weather: Mostly sunny, with a high near 82.

Situational awareness: Richmond police chief Gerald Smith broke his silence on the alleged July 4 mass shooting plot Tuesday, sitting down for separate interviews with WTVR, NBC12, WRIC and the RTD.

  • He mostly reiterated his earlier claims that the plot targeted Dogwood Dell, but said the department โ€œcould have communicated things better.โ€
  • The interviews, which come a week after he said he was done taking questions, follow criticism of the departmentโ€™s lack of transparency by local, state and federal elected officials.

Today's newsletter is 896 words โ€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Post office closed over segregation exhibit

the outside of an orange building that looks old timey and says montpiler on it.
The Montpelier Depot. Photo: Ron Cogswell/Flickr

The U.S. Postal Service abruptly closed a rural Virginia post office in a historic train depot over objections to an exhibition highlighting the building's segregated past.

What's happening: The Montpelier Depot outside of Orange, Virginia, has housed a post office for 110 years.

  • The other half of the building once served as a waiting area for passengers and, more recently, was transformed into an exhibit on Jim Crow-era segregation, which included the reinstallation of signs over the once-segregated entrances โ€” one labeled "White," the other labeled "Colored."

What they're saying: USPS spokesperson Philip Bogenberger said in a statement to Axios that the 12-year-old exhibit only recently came to the attention of the postal service's senior management.

  • He said USPS worries customers may conflate the segregated entrances to the exhibit with the post office's operations on the other side of the small building, and "thereby draw negative associations between those operations and the painful legacy of discrimination and segregation that marked prior historical eras."

The other side: The Montpelier Foundation, which oversees the estate of James Madison and also owns the nearby depot, says it was blindsided by the post office's sudden closure in June.

  • Interim-CEO Elizabeth Chew tells Axios that Montpelier first heard about it from customers, and the only explanation the group has received to date came via a statement USPS provided to the Culpeper Star-Exponent, which first reported the closure earlier this week.

Why it matters: The dispute presents yet another example of difficult conversations that continue to surround racial reconciliation and remembrance.

  • It's an issue the Montpelier Foundation has struggled with in a very public way after initially failing to make good on a promise to offer descendants of people formerly enslaved at the estate equal representation on its board.

What's next: Bogenberger says USPS is trying to find "suitable alternative quarters in the community" for the office, which he says had one employee and operated for four hours a day.

Meanwhile, the Montpelier Foundation has no plans to alter the exhibit's entrance signs, which Chew says are clearly contextualized with signage throughout.

  • "It's such a basic point of the exhibition, to show how the Jim Crow segregation works," she says. "The doors are clearly labeled, white and colored, and the facilities are so clearly not equal. That's the whole point of the exhibition."

2. Richmond's fastest growing companies

Illustration of three briefcases getting progressively larger
Illustration: Aรฏda Amer/Axios

Richmond is home to dozens of companies that rank among the nation's fastest growing.

What's happening: A total of 38 Richmond companies made this year's Inc. 5000 list, which ranks businesses based on revenue growth over a three-year period, from 2018 to 2021.

Why it matters: Collectively, these 38 companies added 3,711 jobs over the past three years and drove $1.2 billion in revenue, according to Inc.

The companies run the gamut from advertising firms, like Dotted Line and Brandito in Henrico, to consumer services and restaurants, including the Vape Guys in Colonial Heights and Chesterfield-based DJB Hospitality Sedona Taphouse.

Zoom in: Local companies that provide IT, business services or staffing were the most represented industry sector on the Richmond list, including Summit Human Capital, a 4-year-old IT staffing firm.

  • In three years, Summit has grown 14,413%, according to Inc., and ranked as the fastest growing company in the state โ€” and No. 20 in the nation.
  • Last year, Summit expanded to Northern Virginia to launch a government IT staffing arm.
  • Summit founder and president Glenn Diersen tells Axios the D.C.-area expansion helped fuel the company's growth, as well the pandemic-era business disruptions that forced most companies to focus on technology.

3. The Current: Second Virginia officer sentenced over insurrection

Illustration of the letters rva written in cursive and flowing like a river.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

๐Ÿš“ A second Rocky Mount police officer who stormed the Capitol was sentenced to 59 days of home confinement. (Washington Post)

  • Prosecutors said they sought a lighter sentence against the man because he testified against his commanding sergeant, who was sentenced to eight years amid allegations he led the pair into the building and later destroyed their phones to hide evidence.

โš–๏ธ Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Colette McEachin says she's choosing not to release dozens of records related to an alleged July Fourth mass shooting plot. (WTVR)

๐Ÿ“š The Biden administration is forgiving $140 million in federal student loans taken out by former Virginia students to attend the now defunct ITT Technical Institute. (Washington Post)

  • The school is accused of making misleading claims about the quality of its programs.

๐Ÿ›๏ธ The ACLU of Virginia is suing the state over a last-minute decision that blocked the early release of hundreds of inmates earlier this summer. (Associated Press)

โœˆ๏ธ Gov. Glenn Youngkin is making another out-of-state campaign trip, this time to headline the Michigan state GOPโ€™s convention. (Washington Post)

4. D.C. to crack down on weed "gift" shops

a pouch with 2 weed buds coming out
Marijuana from Try High Speed, which gifts cannabis to its cold-pressed juice customers in D.C. Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez/Washington Post via Getty Images

A D.C. task force is planning to crack down on shops that gift marijuana to customers who make expensive, supposedly unrelated purchases, like $45 T-shirts or $60 motivational speeches.

Why it matters: With no legal way to buy recreational marijuana in Virginia, the shops have long drawn customers from Virginia.

Driving the news: A "Joint Cannabis Task Force" will start unannounced inspections next month to ensure they abide by D.C. laws, Axios' Chelsea Cirruzzo reports.

  • The effort follows complaints by licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, which unlike gift shops are taxed and regulated.

Be smart: When lawmakers in Virginia passed legislation legalizing possession and cultivation of marijuana, they took pains to close any loopholes that would allow a "gifting" marketplace similar to D.C.'s.

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๐Ÿ‘€ Ned is reading about workplace surveillance and the rise of worker productivity scores.

๐ŸŒ… Karri is sad to learn the sunset is going to start happening earlier than 8pm. Bye, summer.