Monday, December 31, 2007

Neat Search Engine

Bored yesterday, I did some random surfing on the Internet. It took me to the Virginia Beach Hotel/Motel Association's (VBHMA) website

Got to love the engine for matching you with a hotel room in Virginia Beach. Choose location, amenities, etc. I ended up with the Sandcastle Hotel.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

You Said "No" To Rosemary

Our latest poll is over and 62% are opposed to reelecting Rosemary Wilson to City Council next November. What I find intriguing is the 62%-38% spread is identical to regionwide for the 2002 Transportation referendum.

Okay, wondering why I'd run an unscientific poll a year out on a Council race? I was trying to gauge the political persuasions of my readership. 62% want reform, while 38% are status quo. It was just a sneaky way of doing it.

The new poll is out of the Resort Area Master Plan Charete: where should the eastern terminus for light rail be? Both answers are covered in various options now on the table. Which one do you want?

Friday, December 21, 2007

2007 Christmas List

It's time to hand out my Christmas presents for 2007:

1. Bob Dyer - reelection next November without a challenge from a developers' puppet. (Bob can fend off a Deaniac easily.)

2. VBTA - realization that the political universe doesn't revolve around reducing the Property Tax rate. People are unhappy about it, but they care about many more issues.

3. Rosemary Wilson - we have a mutual hatred society, but I care even less for the Deaniacs. With VBTA Vice Chair Bob Hedrick already announced as a challenger, I'll write the first attack ad for Rosemary.

The Deaniacs have been over-the-top on Virginia Beach's workforce housing program, which you'll try to take credit for. (Kind of like Al Gore inventing the Internet....) An ad with a picture of a concerned family huddled around. The caption, "All They Want Is A Good Home. Bob Hedrick Thinks That's A Marxist Conspiracy." In the body of the ad, explain the program and quote the Deaniac rhetoric.

4. Daun Hester - success running for reelection in May, if you wish. It's obvious Norfolk's downtown establishment doesn't like you - which is reason enough for the residents to vote for you. (Not to mention for Mayor in 2010.)

5. Reid Greenmun - voted our biggest civic embarassment on this blog, I give him anger management classes. Maybe if he calms down, he'll come across sane politically.

6. Sam Reid - persevernace for the incoming CCO President. The office has become a hot seat, with no recent President living up to expectations.

7. Billy Almond - former RAC Chairman and Chair of the RAC's Planning/Design Review Committee. He alone deserves credit for pushing Virginia Beach into the ongoing Resort Area Master Plan process.

For Billy: an apartment in one of those mixed-use developments in the Resort Area once built.

8. Chris Stolle - a map of my home Aragona Precinct. Carolyn Weems won with 57% here; Joe Bouchard won with 56% here. Chris obviously doesn't know the place.

9. Wawa - more transit-convienent locations in Hampton Roads. Drivers know them for their cheap gasoline. However, Wawa is also a great break for bus riders with clean restrooms, drinks, and good food.

10. Transit riders - that Norfolk's Light Rail Starter Line continues to run under budget, and that Virginia Beach commission a Study for Newtown Road - Dome site in 2008.

Merry Christmas. And don't forget to go to Christmas Mass.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Resort Area Master Plan Charete - Round 1

Monday and Tuesday saw a two-day opening to begin the crafting of the Resort Area Master Plan. A Charete was held at the convention center: 1-5 on Monday, 1-3 on Tuesday. On Monday there was an opening Presentation by the consulting team from Sasaki, followed by input. On Tuesday Sasaki brought back three draft plans for comment. Nobody seemed to like any of the plans in their entirety. A few of us tried to mix-and-match.

What raised eyebrows is that Options 2 and 3 resurrected BRT as a Resort Area-only system. Don't like that? Option 1 had a streetcar running the length of Pacific Avenue. All three plans had light rail coming to the Resort Area from Norfolk, though with different routings and end points.

The development proposed was largely off-the-shelf: convention center HQ hotel, Rudee Loop, Dome site, mixed-use in RT-2 and RT-3, etc. It was the Transportation proposals that broke new ground.

I tried putting together a hybrid from Options 1 and 3 that would have changed the light rail alignment and provided housing for the Resort Area workforce. The head of the Sasaki team liked my idea...until Planning Department Staff pointed out my housing proposal would violate AICUZ regulations. (Darn)

Sasaki will be back in February at which time everyone will try to merge the three options into a single draft plan.

V-P On Burton Station

The Virginian-Pravda Editorial Board chimed in on Burton Station today, and it's one of those rare times I agree with them.
Burton Station is a political quagmire waiting to happen for the Virginia Beach City Council, one they shouldn't want to enter with our first-ever November Council election less than a year away.

If the Editorial Board wanted to really do us a service, they would ask a simple question "How can Norfolk redevelop Broad Creek without it being a political lightning rod, but Virginia Beach can't touch Burton Station?" The answer, of course, is that Norfolk's ward system has led to the African-American community being seated at the table. In Virginia Beach, the African-American community is often left begging for crumbs from the table given the evil at-large voting system. Were they at the table, a rational plan could be negotiated. I myself have argued that the African-American community's leadership should bargain Burton Station away in exchange for legally protected status for Seatack. Seatack has greater historical significance, a larger population, and is threatened by Resort Area redevelopment.

Now let's see if the Editorial Board can do a follow-up calling for political reform in Virginia Beach that would seat the African-American community at the table, through either a ward system or cumulative voting.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Disability Backlog

The following story appeared in The New York Times and was reprinted in today's Virginian-Pravda.

I myself have received Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) for 15 years now. I won it on appeal, and the 1992 appeal took just over a month. Now read what's become of the system. What's so crucial about the disability payments is work clearance with such a condition. In my case, I had doctor's orders not to work for six months. For many, they never will be able to return to full-time work. It's the payments that cover the bills.

Two things need to be done here:

1. Hire the additional appeals judges.

2. Change the rules for the original cases. If two-thirds are winning on appeal (like I did), obviously the original case standards are too burdensome. That would lessen the number of appeals that need to be heard.

I wish this story had appeared two days earlier. As my Congressperson, Thelma Drake, was at the Light Rail Groundbreaking, I would have given her an earful.

Another Unanimous Poll

Everyone prefers that a leftover grant from Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) be spent on a new hybrid bus for trolley replacement.

The Resort Advisory Commission's Transportation Committee had previously endorsed a position to use the grant to replace the Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) for the VBWave trolley at the Oceanfront. Apparently the position doesn't have traction west of Birdneck Road.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Word From The Light Rail Groundbreaking

Here's The Virginian-Pravda's take on it:

Having gone myself (sat in the 2nd row on the center aisle), I have some notes:

1. The only specific talk of expansion into Virginia Beach came from Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim - who did it repeatedly.

2. Master of Ceremonies Pete Decker arrogantly stated he didn't have to introduce himself as M.C. since he wouldn't be doing the job unless we all knew who he was. (While I'd obviously heard of him, I'd never met him.)

3. Messina's opening paragraph is spin. The loudest cheer of the day was the only standing ovation, given to Governor Tim Kaine at his introduction. The next two loudest were for Congresspersons Scott and Drake, when it was announced their roles in securing Federal funding.

4. The NET's normal route was extended for the day to bring people down to the Groundbreaking Ceremony site, on the easternmost part of the Harbor Park parking lots. (Yes, I took the NET.)

5. Lunch afterwards: barbecque, Italian sausages, chicken wings, cole slaw, and baked beans. I wish they'd given me more than one spoonful of cole slaw....

6. I spotted three Virginia Beach politicos there: John Welch, Bruce Williams, and Louisa Strayhorn.

7. It was announced that Yvonne Miller has been named Senate Transportation Committee Chair by the Senate Democratic Caucus. Let's hope that means a greater emphasis on transit.

8. During his remarks, Governor Tim Kaine took credit for two provisions in HB 3202:

a. an increase in rail funding of over 60%.

b. an increase in mass transit funding of over 40%.

Even as a Republican, I have to admit Tim Kaine has been the most pro-mass transit Governor in Virginia history.

The humorous part of the affair: the day before the event, HRT e-mailed out to invited guests...ahem...parking passes? Parking passes?!? For a mass transit event? At least I took the bus. :)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

How Disingenous Of Bob O'Connor

Bob O'Connor was at it again on Thursday. As usual, he attended the Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) meeting. The RAC was given a Briefing on a proposal for a convention center headquarters hotel.

There's no formal citizen comment session at RAC meetings, but the Chair will normally allow anyone to speak who wishes. As soon as the Briefing was complete, Bob raised his hand. Wouldn't the hotel be in an AICUZ zone and thus draw fire from the Navy? City Council Liason John Uhrin pointed out the land is zoned RT-3, allowing by right development of a such a hotel up to 200 feet in height.

What's so wrong with O'Connor's argument? Okay, he knee-jerkingly opposes any Resort spending. However, here is something disingenous: his use of the AICUZ argument. The 2005 R&HA Initiative by the Deaniacs (which O'Connor signed the petition for) sought to undermine any use of eminent domain to save Oceana under the BRAC order. In short, the Deaniacs wanted Oceana closed.

Now in 2007 they want to pose as champions of Oceana to push their "Demonize the Resort Area!" agenda. They hope people have some very short memories.

Happy Finnish Independence Day

December 6 is Finnish Independence Day; I celebrated by going out for a nice dinner this evening. How many others locally celebrated?

This is the 90th Anniversary, as the Grand Duchy of Finland declared independence from the remnants of the Russian Empire on December 6, 1917. Russia was hit by Comrade Lenin's revolution in October, and the Finnish had no intention of sticking around. The Finnish assembly requested German troops, and Germany was happy to sever Finland from Russia. Russia was still at war with Germany (World War I).

In the old country, one would hit the sauna and get drunk on December 6. I don't even know of a sauna in Virginia Beach.

Light Rail In Virginia Beach

There's some movement in the business community on light rail for Virginia Beach

The linked story reports that an endorsement by Virginia Beach Vision (VBV) is looming. As much as I despise VBV, I'll take their clout and partnership in a coalition to bring light rail to Virginia Beach. Nearly every VBV pushed project has become a reality; if they endorse light rail in Virginia Beach, it's huge.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

African-Americans Push Politically In Virginia Beach

The New Journal and Guide ran a story on the African-American Political Action Committee, a Virginia Beach PAC championing the African-American community politically.

Having had a crucial role in getting Bob Dyer the AAPAC endorsement for City Council in 2004, I can testify how the group is non-partisan. (They also endorsed Glen Davis in 2006.) Given the huge hurdles the evil at-large voting system presents, it will be interesting to see exactly what the AAPAC does to promote African-American City Council candidates in 2008. However, with the elections now in November, minority voters will make up a larger share of the electorate than in May. Does that translate into wins?

Well, I've been joking that every political junkee wants to see November, 2008 come along just to see how it changes the campaign model. However, too much shouldn't been read into the results, as November, 2010 will be quite different again. In 2010 there will be neither a Presidential nor Senatorial race on the ballot, changing the dynamics from 2008.

Reminder On Light Rail Groundbreaking

Just a friendly reminder that the Groundbreaking Ceremony for Norfolk's Light Rail Starter Line is this Saturday, December 8. Activities will be from 1-3 P.M., with the rail spike driving and speeches at 1:30.

December 8 is also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. As a Catholic, I've spent the last few weeks trying to draw a paralell between the two; however, I can't come up with a line that isn't sacreligious.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Homeless In The Oceanfront Parks

Aggressive homeless persons in the Oceanfront parks has become an issue on the table at the Resort Advisory Commission (RAC).

Wednesday morning the Transportation Committee (which has oversight of the parks) was briefed on the problems there: panhandling, public urination, fornication, sleeping in the bushes, etc. The problem is worst at 17th Street and lessens as you move northward. The root of the problem at 17th Street is believed to be the number of programs for the homeless nearby: three churches serving food, the Lighthouse Center, and the Judeo-Christian Outreach Center. A proposal was made to close the parks, at least during some hours, but nobody on the Committee could support it.

The Oceanfront Enhancement Committee (which has oversight on Behavior issues) took up the issue on Friday morning. Virginia Beach Hotel/Motel Association (VBHMA) Executive Director Nancy Perry had polled the VBHMA Board and nobody could support park closings. Council of Civic Organizations (CCO) RAC representative Henry Ryto informed the Committee that he had spoken to the CCO Executive Committee about the matter and that everyone was opposed to park closings. Virginia Beach Police Department Second Precinct commander Captain Tony Zuccaro called closing the parks "scattering cats" and reccomended that a security guard (not VBPD) be hired to patrol the Oceanfront parks. In the end, a subgroup was named to come up with a comprehensive solution to the problem.

Watch this issue closely if you want to maintain access to our Oceanfront parks.