Friday, February 29, 2008

Bob Hedrick Withdraws

This morning's Virginian-Pravda has a blurb (not on their website) that VBTA Vice Chair Bob Hedrick has withdrawn from the Virginia Beach City Council At-Large race.

Okay, the VBTA will almost certainly field another candidate. In addition, the At-Large contest is always crowded, so it's not like Rosemary Wilson will run unopposed.

I anxiously await the June filing deadline so I can see exactly how the dance card fills up.

"There is a high level of fraud and abuse in the system."

You got to love it when Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) executives, who rarely ride the buses themselves, shoot off their mouths about what is supposedly happening on their system. Today's Virginian-Pravda brings us that gem of a quote from HRT Vice President David Sullivan.

So that's what statistics infer? There's an above average number of transfers being issued, so there must be "a high level of fraud and abuse in the system?" Memo to HRT: before trotting such a lame-brained theory out in public and making fools of yourselves, run it past your User Citizen Advisory Committee (UCAC) first. They'd tell you how nutty it is.

Having been a regular bus rider since August, 2004, let me tell you what really goes on. There is some fraud in the system. In downtown Norfolk, a few people will try to sell their transfers for $1-1.50 to cover their bus fare. However, the selling of transfers is limited:

1. They expire two hours after being issued.

2. They can't be used on the same route again.

I've never seen transfers sold anywhere but downtown Norfolk. That's probably because the large number of converging routes covers the second issue.

In at least as large a proportion as that I find unused transfers. Transfers that were issued and discarded without the stamp of a second bus on them. (I habitually read discarded transfers to try to see how people are moving through the route network.)

In addition, this region will always have a high number of transfers. Given the relatively low density and large land area, it often does take more than one bus to get somewhere.

Here's a simple solution: rather than making a mountain out of the abuse mole hill, simply crackdown on your drivers issuing late transfers especially on buses heading into downtown Norfolk.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Resort Area Strategic Action Plan Charete (Round 2, Day 1)

This afternoon there was a Charete on Virginia Beach's pending Resort Area Strategic Action Plan from 2-5 P.M. at the convention center. The meeting was well-attended, with 10 tables of citizens drawing up blueprints for the redevelopment of the Resort Area.

The consulting team from Sasaki had broken up the Resort Area into three sections, with three redevelopment options for each section. Participants at each table then played mix-and-match with the components, effectively drawing up 10 draft plans. There were some common features in a majority of them:

1. Redevelopment of Atlantic Avenue along "the Hilton model": high-rise hotels with adjacent green space on the east side of Atlantic, having parking garages with retail on the west side of Atlantic.

2. Mixed use redevelopment in the Central Beach area extending back to the convention center.

3. A top-notch hotel at Rudee Loop, accompanied by enhanced use of Winston-Salem Avenue.

4. Light rail coming to the convention center via Norfolk Avenue and the Colony Trailer Park.

Groups differed on how to redevelop Colony: single-family homes or multi-family units? (Our table went with the latter, which is more conducive to light rail.)

5. Additional green space for the Resort Area.

The afternoon did have it's humor:

1. Reporting for his table, Mike Barrett spoke on what political opposition the Plan faced, "There's a group that meets at Marian Manor...." Laughter broke out. He then continued, "I hope I didn't step on anyone's toes." No, Mike, the joke about the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) was fun.

2. All three options for South Beach took Councilman John Uhrin's hotel.

The group reconvenes tomorrow from 1-3 P.M. To be covered:

1. Sasaki will present a Plan, drawn from the common elements of our input. They will work Thursday evening and Friday morning to get it done.

2. A transportation plan to connect it all will be done.

3. Strategies for implementing the Plan will be covered.

Can we have a Motion to Recommit?

Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) has completed their Fare Study and scheduled a Public Hearing on the proposed changes for the March TDCHR (i.e. HRT's Board) meeting. The notice and changes

First, I was expecting more. Given the time and talk surrounding the Study, I assumed we would see something much more ambitious.

Second, the proposed changes don't address the connectivity question. Under HRT's fare structure, there are five independent parts that farecards and transfers won't crossover for: mainline buses, paddlewheel ferry, VBWave trolleys, and now the Portsmouth Loop and MAX bus services. A farecard or transfer from one won't work on the other four. HRT Staff told the RAC TPPC that that question would be tackled in the Study. It wasn't.

As for the proposed changes:

1. Institute a Day Pass (at $3.50)

A no-brainer that I've pushed in a few meetings over the last several months. When Ocean City, MD went to a Day Pass, bus ridership shot up over 40%. A Day Pass makes the bus so easy to use.

2. Eliminate the 10 Ride Farecard

WTF?!? The 10 Ride is the bread-and-butter for the person who rides weekly but not daily. Only an idiot would alienate such a large segment of the market.

3. End Free Transfers

I would never have suggested it, but I can live with it if the Day Pass comes online. A round-trip paying farebox fare is now $3; with the transfers gone but having a Day Pass, you could do it - and then some - for $3.50.

That brings me to the final matter: the $1.50 farebox fare. HRT Staff is wedded to it. In order to keep it, over the past few years they've raised farecard rates while leaving it at $1.50. That's produced a situation where the vast majority of riders save little by using farecards. If HRT wanted to raise revenue while pushing regular ridership, they'd hike the $1.50 while leaving the farecards untouched.

We should be producing a fare structure that encourages regular ridership rather than penalizing it. Keep the 10 Ride, institute the Day Pass, and look at the $1.50 farebox fare if you need money. You bet I plan on being at the Public Hearing!

New Western Bayside Community Center

That's the latest name for the new recreation center that the City of Virginia Beach is proposing to build on the former Williams Farm property on Haygood Road. Ongoing are three days of interviews with community leaders/activists for input on the design.

It was my turn at 9:30 this morning. I was shown a Power Point presentation on the latest in such centers, then asked for my input. First, the professionals there were dismissive of my suggestions when they went against the grain. Second, their ideas are so ambitious that I doubt that such a plan could ever be funded.

Currently the project is in the City's CIP, but no construction money for it is programmed. The Center's Steering Committee meets this evening at Bayside High School.

TPPC February 28, 2008

On Wednesday morning the Transportation, Parking, and Pedestrian Committee (TPPC) of Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met. The bis issue was the ongoing saga of Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) for the seasonal VBWave trolley service.

Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) has started fleshing out numbers for the proposal and has determined that only 5 TVMs can be covered by the funds leftover from an unused Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) grant. In addition, the two campgrounds off General Booth Boulevard (which are among the trolley passes biggest sellers) have agreed to sell passes over-the-counter. Finally, HRT will begin offering a commission for sales, which should draw in additional merchants in the Resort Area.

The TPPC selected 5 potential locations for TVMs and one alternate. It will now be sent to the RAC's Plan/Design Review Committee (PDRC) to look at the sites and design shelter accomodations for the TVMs.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

MAX Service Prelude

Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) Metro Area Express (MAX) is slated to begin operations in June. Replacing the current Route 61 (Crossroads), it will offer express service on special buses with extra legroom, WiFi service, and high-backed seats.

Coming into Pembroke East on the Route 20 this morning, I was surprised to see a MAX bus parked ahead. I got off and headed forward to take a look at it. Pretty nice. The intriguing thing was that it was there, as Pembroke East is not on the pending MAX route for Virginia Beach .

That subject came up on the trip to Richmond last Thursday. I told HRT's Tamara Poulson that the MAX route for Virginia Beach is doomed to failure as configured. It originally started as 19th Street/Pacific Avenue, VB Convention Center, Silverleaf Park & Ride, downtown Norfolk. Somewhere the convention center was dropped. Last August the City of Virginia Beach requested that the MAX go to Town Center (rather than Silverleaf) during off-peak hours. We're left with a 19th Street/Pacific Avenue, Silverleaf, downtown Norfolk route. It's success would require:

1. Plenty of riders going directly Norfolk - Oceanfront.

2. Silverleaf users on a scale much higher than HRT's previous failure there.

Town Center (or Pembroke East) not only brings the Central Business District on board, but makes for easy transfers between the MAX and the Route 20.

It's such a no-brainer that only government couldn't get it right.

191 Uniques On Monday

This blog had 191 Unique Visitors on Monday, more than 3 1/2 times the normal number. Reading the Referers a few times during the day, I know where some of you came from.

Regardless, I hope you now regularly come back.

Monday, February 25, 2008

HRT Staff Using Transit

I've heard the critics of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) make the argument a couple times, "If you think HRT Staff cares about mass transit, just look at their parking lots." I've relayed that argument to HRT before, and something is in the works to deal with it.

In the pipeline is a program to provide incentives for HRT Staff to take transit to work. It would operate similar to the current carpooling program, where small gift cards would be rewarded after x number of documentable trips. (With HRT, the usual method is to turn in a bus transfer from the trip.)

Already for HRT Staff:

1. There's the "Ride A Mile In My Shoes" Program, which periodically requires Staff to ride. (The requirement is more stringent in some departments than others.)

2. They can ride for free by displaying their HRT ID badge.

Mike Barrett On Homestead Exemption

Today's Virginian-Pravda has a letter by Mike Barrett on the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) and a push for a homestead exemption I've sparred with Mike over issues before, and find much of his political agenda absurd. However, he hits on a couple kernels of truth here:

1. Why is it that the VBTA's only housing concern is over landed homeowners? It's the VBTA that was alone in opposing the City's Workforce Housing Program, stating that government had neither a legal nor moral obligation to provide housing for any group. However, that same VBTA thinks a select group should get a tax break on their housing. (Am I the first person to call them on that contradiction?)

2. I'm an apartment dweller. Given that the hometead exemption wouldn't apply to commercial property, my neighbors and I wouldn't get a break. In the 5 years I've been in my building, rent has gone up annually, as Property Tax increases are being passed onto us.

So the VBTA wants a tax break for wealthy landowners...which would be paid for by us po' folk?Typical of the VBTA's self-serving agenda. If you listen to the VBTA, upper middle-class homeowners should be the focus of the government services model.

If you have a household income under $70,000, remember in November that the VBTA and it's candidates (Moss, Hedrick, et al) don't give a damn about you.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

All 28 Voters Agreed

In our latest poll question, "Is VBTA/TLP/CACI a democratic political movement?" All 28 ballots were cast "No". During the life of the poll, VBTA Transportation Committee Chairman Reid Greenmun was on here to comment on a post ("An Idea"). Even he didn't try to claim it's a democratic political movement.

The seed for this one dates back to the Mayoral preference poll. When I started getting some John Moss votes, I expected the Deaniacs to flood the site. After all, Robert Dean has used his huge e-mail list to throw online polls in the past. When they didn't, I started wondering. It then came to me: the Deaniac leadership doesn't want their minions reading my blog. They watched a vote go down rather than expose the minions to different ideas from the grassroots.

That brings me to this poll question. One, it's an intriguing academic question. Two, someone played games with the bus service poll. (On January 11, hits on the site were nearly double while votes for a 24% cut shot up 233%.) If it was them, it was a fun way to fire back. Third, it was a great way to test my theory from the Mayoral poll. They took the bait hook, line, and sinker.

The new poll question, "Should the Virginia Beach City Council Open Mic session be televised?" On first Tuesdays, citizens can comment on any issue at the end of the Council meeting. Currently the VBTV cameras are turned off before it begins. This is a semi-regular topic at the grassroots level, so I thought I'd poll it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Virginia Beach Public Utilities Truck

Virginia News Source recently ran a piece, with photos, of city vehicles engaged in questionable activities. I had my own expierience today.

Coming home from the previously mentioned shopping trip at Walmart, I passed a Virginia Beach Public Utilities truck. In Norfolk. Truck #787 was southbound on Kempsville Road, crossing Virginia Beach Boulevard at Noon. Granted, the truck was heading in the direction of Virginia Beach, but what was it doing in Norfolk in the first place?

I hope someone has a good explaination.

Newport News Light Rail

Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) has been working on the Peninsula Transit Project for quite awhile now. A Minimal Operating Segment (MOS) has been identified for a light rail line in Newport News.

While in HRT's Norfolk office yesterday, I managed to look at a map of the proposed alignment from Christopher Newport University to just beyond Mary Immaculate Hospital. (I saw an earlier draft at the October TDCHR meeting. ) Actually I was walking through the office when I saw it posted on the side of a cubicle. I stopped dead in my tracks.

The proposed alignment is slated to go to the Newport News City Council in April. If they approve, a Draft Enviromental Impact Study (DEIS) will begin.

Norfolk is building, Portsmouth has asked for accomodations through the second tube of the Midtown Tunnel, and Newport News is looking to jump onboard. Now if we could only get the Virginia Beach City Council to commission a Newtown Road - Dome site DEIS....

They Don't Get The Concept

I'm a regular shopper at the SuperWalmart on Military Highway in Norfolk, going 1-2 times each week. Today is payday from work, so I went grocery shopping.

This Walmart, like many others, has a branch of Woodforest National Bank. On a dry erase board in front of the bank, they had this announcement:

"Account Special, ABSOLUTELY FREE CHECKING, Only $1"

Uh...if it's "absolutely free", why the $1 charge? Would you want to trust them with your money?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

(Belated) Transit Day: The Charge of the Very Light Brigade

I promised I would blog on today's trip to Richmond. A group associated with Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) went to Richmond today to lobby for mass transit funding. I was up at 4:30 A.M., put on a tie (I avoid wearing them), and my "FUND PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION NOW!" button.

Originally 10 were supposed to go from Hampton Roads. When I got to HRT's Norfolk office this morning, I learned only 3 of us were going up. HRT's Tamara Poulson (the new UCAC Staffer) and I left from Norfolk, picking up UCAC Chair Julian Scott (from Newport News) in Hampton. As we rolled up I-64, I learned the official Transit Day had been three days earlier. Three days earlier? Someone at HRT got the idea that, given the content, we need not go up on the official day. So three of us were going to banzai charge the General Assembly? How did I volunteer for this suicide squad?

We arrived in Richmond on schedule, only to be delayed finding a parking space. We finally parked next to St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church. First on the agenda was taking a tour of the renovated Capitol building. Some very good work done. Somewhere along the line Julian got seperated.

Afterwards we found that Julian had gone down to the cafe and started lunch without us. We ate in turn.

Finally, the big thing we went up for: lobbying the General Assembly. We started high and worked our way down floors, hitting the office of every Hampton Roads member of the General Assembly member. In addition, I went for the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee. The highlight was a good chat we had with the Legislative Aide for Yvonne Miller, the Senate Transportation Chair from Norfolk. While we might not get anything this year, we laid the groundwork for future help.

Others I ran into in Richmond: Phil Kellam (Virginia Beach's Commissioner of Revenue), Richard Quinn (Virginian-Pravda reporter), and Bruce Meyer (Republican 2nd Congressional District Chairman).

Once completed, we headed back to the SUV to go home. Julian smoked a cigarette, while I went into St. Peter's to give thanks for the good day and pray for a safe journey home.

Tamara promised we'd go up on the official day next year. I told her we needed to go before Crossover Day, the earlier we got involved the better.

Adios, Christine

Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) Christine Alvarez is leaving to take a job in transportation advertising management in Charlotte. Since HRT's User Citizen Advisory Committee (UCAC) was revived in December, 2005, Christine had been HRT's Staff person to the UCAC. During that time she missed only one UCAC meeting, when her sister flew into town.

Tonight her fellow HRT Staffers are having a farewell dinner for her at Guadalajara Mexican restaurant. As I overheard said in the Norfolk office this afternoon, if we're late to work tomorrow, you'll know why.

Earlier this week I started planning for the annual Avenging Archangel Awards, which will be given each August 27. One will be the Christine Alvarez Award, going to the person who has done the most for the working poor in the region during the previous year.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Happy Birthday Mary Jablonski

A Happy Birthday to Regal Cinemas Columbus Stadium 12 General Manager Mary (MiniMary) Jablonski, who will turn 37 this Monday, February 25. (She looks 15 years younger.) I post this early so you can wish her a "Happy Birthday" if you're going to the movies this weekend.

MiniMary is only 5' 3 1/2" and maybe 95 pounds. As someone once told me after meeting her for the first time, "She's so tiny!" She has a huge complex about her height, normally wearing heels to try to cheat up on it. If you want to get to her, just joke her about how short she is.

Mary says she doesn't like politics. However, remember that in 2004 no Mayoral challengers filed until deadline day. MiniMary was to be the write-in candidate that I was going to push if nobody filed:

1. She's short enough for the job.

2. She's a "from here", born and lived her entire life in Virginia Beach.

3. She has business expierience: GM at Columbus since August, 1998, GM at Surf-N-Sand before that.

The funny thing: from October, 1997 - April, 1998 MiniMary was the tallest manager at Surf-N-Sand. (She had two 5' 2" Assistant Managers.)

If you run into her, be sure to call her "MiniMary". (I tagged her with that one.) If you're feeling really generous, buy her a sturdy pair of heeled shoes. She wears a size 5 1/2.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Point On AAPAC

On this rainy evening, I caught up on some back reading. Among it was the February 7 edition of the New Journal and Guide. It includes this story

This far out Virginia Beach's African-American Political Action Committee (AAPAC) is already gearing up for the November contests. The story notes that African-Americans make up 30% of Virginia Beach's electorate.

Think you can ignore AAPAC? Ask Margaret Eure. AAPAC endorsed and openly worked for Bob Dyer in 2004.

I'm hoping AAPAC endorses by early October. I want to try to hold the Avenging Archangel City Council endorsements until after AAPAC has endorsed, so I can push their line where possible.

Thanks To

In reviewing the new layout at I noticed that they've given a prominent link position to this blog. Thank you very much.

It says much that a Democratic blog would give such to a Mike Huckabee and Bob Marshall-endorsing Republican blog. Over there, they refer to Marshall as "Sideshow Bob" and have nothing nice to say about him.

My post two previous has drawn fire from a well-known Rosemary Wilson supporter. The Wilson camp could learn lessons from

ABC License Issue

Knuckleheads Roadhouse, a restaurant & bar on Witchduck Road, has applied to have it's hours of operation extended under it's ABC license. Currently it is required to close by Midnight on weekends; it is now asking for 2 A.M. Opposition has brewed up among the Northgate Civic League, and the neighboring Aden Park and Ebbets Plaza Apartments.

Since opening, this is already the second time Knuckleheads has applied for additional hours. The first application, for seasonal hours during the Summer, wasn't granted. The Virginia Beach Police Department has raised the issue of a bar in such close proximity to a residential area. A meeting of those in opposition will be held this Tuesday afternoon. The ABC Hearing is scheduled for February 28 in Chesapeake.

I like Knuckleheads and want to see it thrive within it's existing hours. If you've never been, they have very good food.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Rosemary Wilson, Illegal Signs, and the Democratic Presidential Nomination

Wednesday's Virginian-Pravda ran a story on events at polling places during Tuesday's Presidential Primaries. The one note covers the illegal signs posted by Councilperson Rosemary Wilson.

Virginia News Source gave Rosemary their Dumb Ass of the Week Award for the signs. City Ordinance prohibits signs more than 60 days before the election. Case law does allow you to post them on your own private property anytime, but that wouldn't apply with a polling station.

Why the early jump? With November elections, the City Council candidates will have the Presidential race at the top of the ballot. The Democratic nomination fight presents a lose-lose situation for Wilson.

Barack Obama - would bring a plethora of minority voters to the polls, especially African-Americans. Rosemary has a poor record on issues of particular interest to the minority communities. One African-American leader went so far as to tell me Wilson has been on the opposite side of every issue of interest to their community. In 2004, the African-American Political Action Committee (AAPAC) endorsed her chief opponent, John Moss.

Here's the kicker: as a Councilman, Moss voted against the establishment of the Minority Business Council. How did he still get the AAPAC endorsement? Wilson's record is so abysmal that AAPAC endorsed the only viable alternative. It's the only time a Deaniac has been backed by the African-American community leadership.

Hillary Clinton - every Republican and Republican-leaning voter would turn out to slay the beast. Downballot would be a Councilperson (Wilson) who has voted for every tax increase put in front of her during her tenure. Not a good position to be in.

Last month I had someone close to Rosemary tell me she'll win in a walk. I don't think so.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

CCO Opposes Bus Service Cuts

This evening the Council of Civic Organizations (CCO), Virginia Beach's civic league federation, voted to oppose bus service cuts that were pushed by City Staff when they met with Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) Staff on January 9. The Resolution reads:

"Whereas current mass transit service in Virginia Beach is woefully inadequate,

Whereas some City Council members have noted the number of residents who have urged them to increase service,

Whereas in a January 9 meeting City Staff asked Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) to cut current service by $1.2 million in the next fiscal year,

Whereas such funds only amount to one-quarter of one cent on the Property Tax rate,

Whereas such a large cut would mean possibly eliminating entire bus routes and/or weekend service,

Whereas HRT would leave the seasonal service untouched or reduce it as a measure of last resort.

Whereas HRT has a draft plan that would increase current service by twenty percent.

Therefore be it resolved that we, the civic league representatives of the residents of Virginia Beach, do hereby petition the City Council to eliminate the proposed cuts;

If any cuts must be made, the seasonal service should be reduced in at least as large a proportion as the year-round routes."

The Resolution was duly passed under Standing Rule 1 after being amended.

An Idea

This one came to me on the trip to the Huckabee Rally on Monday. The Deaniacs are such pushsers of referenda; why don't they petition onto the ballot a question for this November? To the effect of "Do you wish the Virginia Beach City Council to implement the political program endorsed by the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance on (insert date)?" The VBTA could draft an entire political manifesto covering everything they'd like to see City Council do.

There are some advantages. One, it plays to their government by referendum line. Two, it would allow VBTA-backed City Council candidates to run on a positive note. They'd be the ones going for a "Yes" vote. Three, it would drop the cost of campaigning for them, allowing them to piggyback on the referendum question.

My point: the VBTA would never do it. It would put their extremist agenda to an up-or-down vote, and they know very well that couldn't get 50% plus 1 to go for it. Instead they'll run negative campaigns attacking everything, offering no realistic or constructive solutions of their own.

A Welcoming Sign

Entering Norfolk via Virginia Beach Boulevard, I noticed that Norfolk now has two signs welcoming you. The first has long been there, "Welcome to Norfolk: A Hampton Roads Community." There is a second below it, "Welcome: We're building an inclusive community."

Some thoughts there:

1. Obviously no such sign on the Virginia Beach side of the line. Here it would be comical. Virtually Orwellian.

2. That may make for one of the starkest border divides since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

3. When City Manager Jim Spore finds out, Norfolk better start looking out for the infamous white Corvette. He can't have Virginia Beach residents engaging in "Uppity Behavior." Then, getting those bolted on signs down would be much tougher than smashing Mike Arsuaga's.

4. Think some shrewd Norfolk politicians are poking at Virginia Beach?

Keep it up, Norfolk. Your progress is a reminder of how far Virginia Beach has to go.

A Robocall...When?

Sure enough, I did get another robocall before the Virginia Republican Presidential Primary was over. This one was at (get this!) 6:27 P.M. from the McCain Campaign.

Uh...that's 33 minutes before the polls are supposed to close. Why would you call someone who has probably either already voted (11 A.M.) or probably couldn't at that point? Hearing the message, you would have to sprint out the door and head directly for the polling place.

If the McCain Campaign has money like that to waste, it should rethink what it's spending it on.

Congratulations to Mike Huckabee, who locally won Chesapeake and Suffolk.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Robocall Count

Being a "Hard R" has both it's advantages and disadvantages. With Virginia's Presidential Primary tomorrow, I've been getting robocalled since Thursday. For those unfamiliar with the terminology, a "Hard R" is someone who has voted in at least 4 of the past 5 Republican primaries. A "robocall" is a recorded message dialed to you by a machine.

My count so far:

4 robocalls from McCain

3 robocalls from Huckabee

1 robocall for a PAC backing Huckabee

I still expect to get at least one more on primary day.

In A Close One

The poll question was what did you want to do with Virginia Beach's bus service? 26% want to increase it by 20%, 26% want to keep service at the current level, while 48% want to cut mainline for residents by 24%. So 52% want to maintain the status quo or improve upon it.

I was laughing at this one earlier today: on this issue we have City Manager Jim Spore and the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance in bed together. (VBTA Transportation Chairman Reid Greenmun actually once called for abolishing Hampton Roads Transit.) Politics does make for strange bedfellows.

With the VBTA on my mind, I drafted the new poll question, "Is VBTA/TLP/CACI a democratic political movement?" Yes, they support a ward system for Virginia Beach, which would make for infinitely fairer elections than the current at-large voting system. However, they have quite a history of undemocratic behavior. From 1999-2001, CACI tried to suppress posts on an Internet bulletin board and get posters removed who disagreed with their agenda. The VBTA has heckled and tried to intimidate speakers at City Budget Hearings the last two years. The VBTA behavior is so bad that City Council has discussed it at Retreat. When the VBTA attacked the City for use of the Delphi method at public meetings, The Insider (a then-blog) asked whether the VBTA wanted credit for using it first or royalties. Some critics have gone so far as to refer to them as a cult.

For those outside Virginia Beach, the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance, the Tidewater Libertarian Party, and Citizens Action Coalition are largely the same group of people operating under three different shells. As one consultant once commented, if you took pictures at the VBTA and TLP breakfasts, you probably couldn't tell them apart.

Huckabee Rally

The day before the Virginia primaries, there was a Rally for Mike Huckabee at the Holiday Inn-Executive Center on Greenwich Road. The room was filled even for a Noon on Monday. Following are my observations.

I arrive about 10:55. There is already a line formed to get into the room. I talk with the two people ahead of me; one wants to know about my blog. Volunteers pass out signs to us; they're to be returned afterwards to be used at the next Rally. Crawford Millen comes down the hall and greets me; we were both Nick Rerras volunteers.

They start letting us in the room at 11:10. At 11:20 I get the first glimpse of the Secret Service; the big surprise of the day is how little security there was. (Don't they remember George Wallace and Bobby Kennedy?) Around 11:25 the camera crews start setting up in the rear. The discussion in my part of the room focuses on Mitt Romney and Code Pink.

At Noon we start with a few chants, then do The Wave with our signs. Mike Ferris starts things off at 12:08, followed by Duncan Hunter at 12:11.

At 12:15 the man we've been waiting for comes through the curtains. Mike Huckabee gave a 35 minute speech without notes. Some of the highlights:

On staying in the race - party leaders may have tried to declare it over last week, but it's not over until someone gets 1,191 delegates.

On growing up - his Mother grew up in a house with dirt floors, no electricity, and no running water. His Father worked as a fireman during the week and a mechanic on the weekend. Given the dirty work, Lava soap was the only soap in the house. Mike was in college before he learned a shower wasn't supposed to hurt.

On the war on terrorism - if al-Qaida, the Taliban, et al want to give us trouble, "we'll send them to see the 72 virgins."

On national defense - wants to raise defense spending from the current 3.8% of GDP to the Reagan level 6%. With China building three subs for every one we do, we have a problem.

On energy independence - the U.S. would achieve it within 10 years. We can't be beholden to the Saudi royal family, Hugo Chavez, and Vladimir Putin.

On the Fair Tax - will abolish the current tax code and replace it with a national sales tax. For emphasis, he tore up a 1040 form and tossed the pieces.

On expierience - he's the only candidate who has been a government chief executive (Governor of Arkansas).

On illegal immigration - refered to his nine-point plan. Will have a border fence with Mexico built within 18 months of taking office.

The clincher for me: Paul Weyrich called earlier this morning and is endorsing him. The same Weyrich I referenced in my previous post.

The bottom line: Mike Huckabee is a good man and the only real hope of stopping John McCain from getting the nomination. Please vote Mike Huckabee in tomorrow's Virginia Republican primary.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

James Toscano and the Deaniacs

The top speaker at this morning's Virginia Beach Republican Breakfast was James Toscano, Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications. Toscano was the last Legislative Aide for then-Delegate (now Attorney General) Bob McDonnell. James gave a Presentation on HRT's existing transit services, did a brief overview of Norfolk light rail, then took questions.

Two questions came from Deaniacs: Tidewater Libertarian Party Chairman and Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance board member Wally Erb, and Maximum Leader Robert Dean himself.

1. Erb - wondered why rail and transit aren't privitized. He then claimed New York City's system ran better prior to becoming a government service.

With Virginia Beach urbanizing, I've read a biography of Fiorello LaGuardia to see what I could learn from it. Uh...the reason the LaGuardia Administration took over transit services is that two of the private companies were in financial trouble, on the verge of defaulting on bond payments. Hardly such a rosy picture.

2. Dean - challenged Toscano on the financial numbers for Norfolk's light rail line, refering back to the 1999 Norfolk/Virginia Beach numbers. Toscano passed on it, repeating that entering light rail was a decision for the Virginia Beach City Council.

After the 1999 absurdity (which I campaigned and voted against), HRT goes back to the table and puts together a fiscally sound proposal...and Dean wants to complain about it? Oh, any claim that light rail can be done rationally must be some kind of conspiracy! What Dean doesn't get is that if this is to become a regional system, the earlier phases have to be done in a fiscally prudent manner or support will dry up both from the Federal Transit Administration and locally politically.

James Toscano had available for attendees a booklet, Twelve Anti-Transit Myths: A Conservative Critique by Paul Weyrich and William Lind. Weyrich was cofounder of the Heritage Foundation and the one who named the Moral Majority. It is available online and can be downloaded at

Friday, February 8, 2008

Redoing The Route Map

Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) is in the process of redoing it's master bus route map. Riders have been invited in to go over the current map, suggesting landmarks that should be removed or added. Attention should be paid as to their utility to the bus riding population.

It was my turn this afternoon. I went to the Norfolk office and had some fun with it:

1. The glaring ommission: neither Old Dominion University nor Norfolk State University was on there.

When I pointed that out, HRT's Customer Service Manager was embarassed. ODU has a special bus pass that it's students can buy.

2. Two closed hospitals were on there: Norfolk Community and TPI.

3. It had Chesapeake's Municipal Center, but not Virginia Beach's.

4. Social Security offices weren't on there, even though they're a well-used stop.

In all I went 2 1/2 pages of legal paper, double-spaced. I look forward to seeing the new map.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

RAC February 7, 2008

This afternoon Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met. From that meeting:

1. With the Virginia Beach Development Authority (VBDA) meeting Friday morning with 2 of the 3 finalists for Dome site redevelopment, the RAC unanimously voted out a letter to the VBDA emphasizing the importance of Dome site redevelopment and some baseline criteria for it.

Under discussion, concerns were raised as to how much input the RAC will have in the plan for the Dome site.

2. The priorities voted on at last month's RAC Strategic Planning meeting were reviewed. Four of the top five were fleshed out. (The fifth was defered for lack of time.)

RAC Chairman Ken Taylor now wants the RAC's committees to review the priorities, potentially overturning the full RAC's earlier vote. (Say what?!?)

3. About 25 minutes were spent trying to wordsmith the priority on Dome site redevelopment. Everyone was joking about it before things were over.

4. Former RAC Chairman Billy Almond continued to push for a Resort Development Office. It would be a "one stop shop" for developers looking to redevelop the Resort Area under the pending Resort Area Strategic Action Plan. Norfolk (for downtown) and Hampton (for Town Center) have similar offices.

5. CCO RAC representative Henry Ryto cautioned the RAC on interim use of Rudee Loop. The city owns most of the property, and some Resort interests are pushing for an interim use until the city redevelops it. As parking is already scarce at times, Dome site redevelopment would eliminate the surface lots there, and Rudee Loop has some parking, Ryto is concerned that parking may not be available for residents who want to enjoy the Resort Area.

A survey by Continental Research found that nearly half of Virginia Beach's residents would visit the Resort Area more often in-season if only parking was easier.

6. You want me to take a potshot at Bob O'Connor, don't you? During introductions, he refered to himself as "Bob O'Connor, taxpayer." If you listen to the Deaniacs, you would believe only the fringe right pays taxes.

Monday, February 4, 2008

New Hit Counter

I just mounted a new hit counter on this blog. I had been using a remote service...which was repeatedly telling me I was getting four hits each and every day. I don't think so.

We'll see if this one does better.

The V-P, The Mayor's Race, and "The Little People"

Today The Virginian-Pravda ran an editorial on the Virginia Beach Mayor's race It's the usual pro-Sessoms line that has been previously pushed in Inside Business.

The huge hole in the argument is that to get a Mayor who is pro-services, we need to elect a shameless elitist (Will Sessoms) as Mayor. As Vice Mayor, Sessoms regularly showed his contempt for "the little people". Do we actually want a Mayor with such disdain for the residents?

With Virginia Beach urbanizing, I believe we have to go to an urban services model. That will mean greater resources for some areas (i.e. transit, housing, etc.) than has been devoted in the past. However, it's ludicrous to think we can go to developmental urbanization without political urbanization. Yet Sessoms and his buddies are adamant about going to urbanization while maintaining an archaic political system.

We need a Mayor who is both a champion of an urban services model and the little people. None of the four declared candidates so far (Sessoms, Oberndorf, Weeks, and Moss) is. That's why we need a fifth Mayoral candidate who is and who can appeal to those who have been traditionally politically marginalized in Virginia Beach.

Bob Marshall for U.S. Senate

I'm formally endorsing Bob Marshall for United States Senate, the seat now held by the retiring John Warner. Bob would make not only a better Senator, but a much better matchup against Democrat Mark Warner in November.

Over the past few years, Bob Marshall has been leading the House of Delegates on legislation covering moral issues. Most notable is his patronage of the Marraige Amendment, which prohibits gay marraige and civil unions in Virginia. Jim Gilmore has been absent on such issues.

Jim Gilmore is too easy for the Democrats to beat in November:

1. Mark Warner's big legacy as Governor is the largest tax increase in Virginia history. As one blog commenter pointed out, Warner can deflect Gilmore's attacks on it with "You made me raise them." Game over.

2. As for Gilmore's legacy, all Warner would have to do is roll footage of "No Car Tax" from 1997. Then cut to a Car Tax bill, with "You're still paying it, aren't you?" Ouch!

If you're a Republican who wants to win in November, you need to back Bob Marshall. I hope to make it to the state convention as a Marshall delegate.