Monday, March 31, 2008

Cedar Grove Day 2

Today was the second day - and first weekday - of the new Cedar Grove DTC, on the periphery of downtown Norfolk. I went into Norfolk to catch the 2:10 matinee of Drillbit Taylor (not bad), lunch, and a visit to the Kirn Library. Some notes:


I arrived on Route 20 about 11:45 A.M. Surprisingly the bus went past the Salter Street turnoff from Virginia Beach Boulevard, making a loop of the block before coming in. (Apparently all buses are making a clockwise loop of the block.)

After getting off, I took a quick look at things. There are six shelters, with the buses being funneled between posts along one end of the parking lot. On the far side there were 5 Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) employees looking on. I recognized the ranking one in the group and walked over to say hello. I was told things were "going better than expected." I pointed out that the posts entering the lot were too close, with two buses unable to pass, making a choke point. She agreed.

The Route 23 goes down Princess Anne Road (on the north edge of Cedar Grove), and hadn't gone downtown. However, I spotted the 11:50 A.M. 23 in the conga line at Cedar Grove. That's a plus for me, making it easier to go from downtown to Walmart at Janaf (310 to 23).

The "I wish I had a camcorder" moment: at one point there were 11 forty-foot buses lined up at Cedar Grove. A sight to see.

I caught Route 310 into downtown just before Noon. There were 20 passengers, the driver, and a HRT Staffer on board. The HRT Staffer was both doing head counts and assisting with customer problems. There was some confusion by riders as to exactly where the bus stopped downtown. We learned it was essentially the former downtown loop minus the Charlotte Street stops.


On the 310 leaving downtown around 4:30, I drew the same bus, driver, and Staffer. We had 31 passengers going to Cedar Grove. When I said it would take a week for everyone to adjust, the lady beside me retorted, "Two weeks". The driver wanted combat pay for the 310.

With it being rush hour, the Staffers at Cedar Grove were on the same side of the conga line as the passengers, working both the drivers and riders.

My bus (Route 20) was a mess worthy of a major airport. We boarded. A Supervisor told the driver to circle around and come up in the rear of the conga line. As we reentered, curses went up in the back of the bus. We boarded more people. We were then told to hold on Salter Street until time to leave.

The problem is that buses have time built into the schedule for the downtown loop. Now that buses from the east and north are holding at Cedar Grove, they have 12-15 minutes to kill. It really gets wacky on Route 20, which has an additional 15 minute cushion downtown at rush hour.


There are some obvious points from today's observations:

1. Reschedule the buses going to Cedar Grove to shrink the cushion. If done properly, money can be saved and on-time performance helped at the same time.

2. Widen the posts entering to allow one bus to pass another.

3. Bring in portajohns. Please.

4. In hindsight, the free shuttle (Route 310) makes more sense than extending the NET (Route 17) out. The small buses on the 17 couldn't handle the loads the 310 was carrying.

The bottom line: Cedar Grove can work, but needs some tweaking.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dedicated Public Servants

With the move to the new Cedar Grove DTC scheduled for Sunday morning, some Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) administrative personnel were working into Saturday evening to pull it off. Much had to be done given that the City of Norfolk had only sent over the approved plan with one week's notice.

I had e-mail replies from two of them just before 9 P.M. on Saturday night from the Monticello Avenue office. Yes, they were at their desks on a Saturday evening.

Talking to a driver on Route 20 this evening, I was told things at Cedar Grove were "going great" on the first day. As I plan to travel through Cedar Grove tomorrow, I'll post a first-hand report.

Yes, HRT has a history of bungling, losing track of money, etc. However, I've met some good people there. Reforming HRT will be like turning a supertanker: very slow, but doable. Instead of bashing the agency, we should be trying to fix it in order that Hampton Roads may receive the quality mass transit that it needs.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

General Assembly Wrapup

The Council of Civic Organizations (CCO), Virginia Beach's civic league federation, will hold it's monthly meeting on April 9. The April program will feature a panel of local legislators discussing this year's General Assembly session.

These General Assembly members have confirmed that they're coming: Ken Stolle, Ralph Northam, Terrie Suit, Bob Tata, Joe Bouchard, and Bobby Mathieson. Joel Rubin will be the Moderator.

The meeting will be at 7 P.M. in Virginia Beach's Central Library Auditorium. The normal CCO business meeting will be abbreviated to try to give the public an hour of the legislators. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Local Transit News March 29, 2008

The latest on two stories concerning Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) I've already blogged on:


Later in the day Friday the Direct Transfer Center (DTC) was moved back to Pembroke East from the temporary DTC on Jeanne Street.

Taking the 20 Outbound through Jeanne Street at 8:15 A.M. Saturday morning, I got to see it officially closed. A Supervisor came over to talk to the driver of our bus. As he walked away, he removed the temporary bus stop signs that had been there.

However, the utilities work on Constitution Drive still isn't quite finished. Buses are having to loop behind Pembroke Mall to approach the DTC.


I can't overstate what a gift the new Route 310 (downtown Norfolk shuttle) is for bus riders. It gives us the downtown access that the originally announced plans for Cedar Grove didn't.

Taking Route 23 to/from the TDCHR meeting on Thursday, I saw bus shelters being installed at Cedar Grove on the far side of the lot adjacent to Salter Street.

However, the most amazing thing on Saturday was something Michael Ragsdale first tipped me off to on the phone: bus destination signs were already being reprogrammed to read "Cedar Grove" rather than "Downtown Norfolk". I myself saw it on Buses 2021 and 2022. However, getting off of the 2022, the mechanical ACS voice said "Downtown Norfolk Via Virginia Beach Boulevard." Well, I guess that can't get everything at once.

One more thing, Norfolk, and things will be okay for us at Cedar Grove: portajohns. There are no bathrooms anywhere near the DTC. We'll need to relieve ourselves between buses. (At Charlotte Street, you could duck in MacArthur Center or McDonald's.)


For the "nobody rides the bus crowd", you should have been with me this morning. The previously mentioned 20 Outbound was SRO. Route 29 (9:30 at Lynnhaven Mall) was about two-thirds full.

Penance Day

In my parish (St. Gregory's), Confessions are heard on Saturdays at 11 A.M. and 5 P.M. Sometimes if I can make it early for the 6 P.M. Saturday vigil Mass, I'll go to Confession at 5.

Today was one of those times. However, we had lines for both priests stretching nearly the length of the chapel. I had to wait in line for 25 minutes. Everyone getting into a serious state of sin at once?

(Okay, you probably have to be Catholic to get it....)

HRT Route 310

It's on Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) website this morning that there will now be a free shuttle for bus riders going to downtown Norfolk, designated Route 310. As of Thursday afternoon's TDCHR meeting, this route didn't exist.

I'm estatic. It will provide the downtown access that will make the move to Salter Street manageable. Hey, you didn't even have to make it free; I would happily have used my bus pass for it. Kudos to who got this up and running so quickly.

I'm just waiting to see the loads on the 310....

Thursday, March 27, 2008

TDCHR March 27, 2008

This afternoon the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR) met at Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) office on Monticello Avenue in Norfolk. Quite a bit of business happened.

With a Public Hearing on fare changes first on the agenda, there was a manned table outside the Board Room for would-be speakers to signup. A large number of visitors were there, but only three people (including myself) actually spoke.

Before going in, I got a copy of the Presentation that Michael Townes had made to Future of Hampton Roads (FHR) on Tuesday morning. Given FHR's political agenda, I had expected something loaded with light rail. Instead the Presentation looks suspiciously like the one James Toscano recently gave to the Republican Breakfast in Virginia Beach.

Three of us spoke on the proposed fare changes, with the other two speakers going largely off-topic. Questions were raised about ending the 10 Ride card and disabled fares on the MAX (Thank you, Jim Wood). In the end, the Commission unanimously passed the changes.

The TDCHR was presented a proposed $76.6 million FY 2009 Budget by CFO Larry Davenport. Please note, Deaniacs: Norfolk Light Rail Starter Line construction continues to come in under budget.

After two months of stormy debate, the TDCHR Retreat dates and location were finally agreed to. It will be July 25 & 26 at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott.

Discussions continue between HRT and the City of Portsmouth over construction of a bus terminal at Victory Crossing. It is hoped things can be finalized soon.

Telling Statistic Of The Day: Hampton Roads is the 31st largest metropolitan area in the United States, but it's 67th in transit spending. That's right: 31st in size, 67th in transit spending.

In the CEO's Report, Commissioners were informed about an AT&T wireless tower at HRT's Hampton headquarters. The ground lease is a revenue source for HRT. Being an AT&T customer, I apparently don't have to worry about a signal when I'm at Victoria Boulevard.

I didn't see The Virginian-Pravda's Debbie Messina at today's meeting. She's usually there, especially if there's light rail news to cover. Bus riders not sexy enough of a story? Hey, Debbie, I had a copy of my remarks ready to give to you so you wouldn't misquote me.

I wanted to give kudos to Portsmouth over officially coming into light rail. Mayor Holley was absent. However, Portsmouth City Manager Kenneth Chandler was sitting two chairs to my left, so I congratulated him.

Off To Cedar Grove

Just when you thought nothing worse than the Pembroke East detour could happen for the region's bus riders, the City of Norfolk decided to outdo it.

With construction of the Wachovia Center about to begin, the Direct Transfer Center (DTC) for downtown Norfolk is permanently going to be removed from Charlotte Street. On Sunday the new DTC will be moved to the Cedar Grove Parking Lot for the medium term. (Norfolk politicians have stated they eventually want a multimodal center at Harbor Park.) The City of Norfolk sent the approved plan to Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) less than a week before it was to begin! Hundreds of bus riders need to be informed and rerouted on a few days notice. Talk about a logistical nightmare!

If that wasn't bad enough, there's the actual details of the plan. One, buses will stop making a loop through downtown. Two, Route 17 (NET) won't be extended to and for the DTC. Three, according to HRT Staff, the wording of the plan would preclude feeder buses from being run to the planned light rail stations downtown.

Over a month ago I was asked about such a framework. I said I could live with it provided that the NET was extended out to the new DTC to give bus riders downtown access. While it shouldn't be a major challenge for bus riders simply transferring downtown, it's a nightmare for those who have downtown as their final destination. Downtown access is supposed to be provided by Routes 6 and 45 going down St. Paul's. If Norfolk thinks that will actually work, they should take a buck and go down to Dollar Tree to buy a clue.

The whole thing smells of a scheme to use Wachovia Center construction to flush bus riders out of downtown.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

UCAC March 26, 2008

The revised User Citizen Advisory Committee (UCAC) of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) gathered Wednesday evening in the Board Room of HRT's headquarters on Victoria Boulevard in Hampton. Attendance was great: not only all current UCAC members, but three people wishing to join.

The biggest story of the night was the outlandish behavior of UCAC Chairman Julian Scott. Scott was on a power trip, running roughshod over fellow UCAC members, Staff, and visitors. Michael Ragsdale reports at HR-Transit Ideas that he was frightened, unable to speak up. I could see Tamara Poulson (UCAC Staff person) was uncomfortable. I quietly chafed, knowing Julian's behavior is writing his own ticket off the UCAC.

The usual city reports were given, noting a number of problems in the system for Staff to investigate.

The proposed fare changes were discussed. The large sticking point was the slated elimination of the 10 Ride farecard. Neither was anyone entirely comfortable with it nor satisfied with Staff's explaination of accomodations for the semiregular rider.

It is hoped that the TDCHR (i.e. HRT's Board) can seat the three newcomers at tomorrow's meeting. There's one each from Newport News, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach.

TPPC March 26, 2008

The Transportation, Parking, and Pedestrian Committee (TPPC) of Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met Wednesday morning.

In the "meeting before the meeting", four of us discussed the detour and temporary Direct Transfer Center (DTC) by Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) on Jeanne Street, behind Pembroke Mall. I learned that HRT had in fact sought to put the temporary DTC in the Pembroke Mall parking lot. However, Mall management wanted "thousands of dollars" and other concessions.

March 26 will be the last time the TPPC meets on Wednesday. It was unanimously decided to move the meetings to Thursdays. Intriguingly, that will put the TPPC on the same day as the TDCHR (i.e. HRT's Board). I'll try to make and report on both. The change was requested by City Councilman and RAC Liaison John Uhrin. Uhrin sits on HRT's Budget Committee, which meets on Wednesday mornings. Given those duties, he asked for a move to Tuesday or Thursday.

Two routes for the VBWave seasonal trolley service will be adjusted pending endorsement by the full RAC. Routes 30 (Atlantic Avenue) and 32 (Shopper's Express) northbound will be shifted from Atlantic Avenue to Pacific Avenue north of 25th Street. That's due to the lack of a dedicated trolley lane on congested Atlantic north of 25th.

The TPPC approved a request for improved lighting along the Norfolk Avenue bike path between the Colony Trailer Park and Parks Avenue. The decision on which lights to use was passed to the RAC's Plan/Design Review Committee (PDRC), which has more expertise in lighting.

An okay was given to a pilot program for more days for the horse riding franchise on the beach. The approved plan would have horse rides from September 15 to June 15. To do so, the Virginia Beach City Council would need to enact a new Ordinance on the matter.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Brian Moran, Reid Greenmun, and Hair Care Products

This morning's Virginian-Pravda brings the story on how Bob McDonnell is now the presumptive Republican nominee for Governor in 2009

Look down to the Comments section and you'll see Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) Transportation Chairman Reid Greenmun declaring, "I cannot vote for Bob McDonnell." So Reid's going to vote for Brian "How's My Hair?" Moran? Yeah, that will certainly get the VBTA's agenda implemented.

I think I'm onto the scenario here. Reid gets the VBTA to help deliver votes in Virginia Beach to Moran in the Gubernatorial election. Governor Moran then starts his own hair care products company - based in Corporate Landing, Virginia Beach. Reid Greenmun goes to work for him, getting a hiring paying job to help cover the Property Taxes in Sandbridge.

Moran is Governor and makes money. Greenmun gets the higher paying job he wants and another company in Corporate Landing, which he regularly talks about. They both win!

MAX Route 960

I earlier blogged on proposed MAX Route 960. Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) now has a PDF file available that you can download on all proposed changes for the Metro Area eXpress (MAX)

I had a long telephone conversation yesterday with Michael Ragsdale, who has an appointment pending to HRT's User Citizen Advisory Committee (UCAC). A large portion was spent covering the MAX, and proposed Route 960. Neither of us believes it will work in it's proposed configuration. Michael has now put up a Route 960 poll on his blog Please vote for reconfiguration.

The prevailing attitude at HRT seems to be that since initial MAX service is being covered by a Federal grant, they don't need to really worry about it. Excuse me, but adding transit service that gets few people anywhere is a step backwards! I have it authoritatively that if payment for the service passes to the City of Virginia Beach, the 960 will be reconfigured.

I started toying with one of Michael's favorite routes, Route 121. The 121 is an express bus that goes Newport News Transportation Center - Patrick Henry Mall - Williamsburg. With the demise of The Boomerang, what if we extended the 121 -as MAX service - to Virginia Beach's Oceanfront? 19th/Pacific - Town Center - Norfolk Airport - Wards Corner - NNTC - Patrick Henry Mall - Williamsburg? That's a long route, but so is the current 61.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Two-Thirds Against Term Limits

The poll is over and 67% were against term limits for the Virginia Beach City Council. 23% supported a limit of only two terms, the proposal floated by Wally Erb. 10% favored no more than three terms. I derived that one from Ohio's cap of 12 years in the state legislature.

As I said previously, I think the idea recognizes the acute advantages of incumbency, but attacks it in a ham-handed manner. A ward system for Virginia Beach would be a more natural way of leveling the playing field.

So I now ask about Virginia Beach imposing an 1% piggyback income tax. The idea comes out of the Blue Ribbon Budget, Tax, and Spending Task Force's Report. It would be revenue-neutral, allowing the Property Tax rate to be cut. Enacting it would require state legislation.

Interestingly, so far no public statement by the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) on the issue.

V-P Editorial Board On Broad Creek

The Virginian-Pravda Editorial Board chimed in this morning on something that I blogged on ("Broad Creek Turning Point") 9 days ago: the need to build the low-income units that were planned for Broad Creek.

Rodney Jordan is correct: using Section 8 vouchers is of limited utility when there's an acute shortage of low-income units on the market that will accept them. With the number of people slated to be eventually flushed from the St. Paul's Quadrant for redevelopment, the situation is a nightmare.

We need a solution now, not punted until whenever.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Not Again!

Does the Hampton Roads Partnership (HRP) get anything? Are they so powerful and wealthy that they think they can ignore what anyone else would tell them? This morning's Virginian-Pravda brings us the story of a HRP Good Friday Breakfast on Transportation policy

First of all, it was one huge sacrilege to hold such a Breakfast on Good Friday.

As for the content itself, elected officials going to pledge their fealty to the powerful is sick. Worse yet, it was to resurrect the worst parts of the 2002 referendum package that was rejected by 62% of the voters. All on Good Friday.

Okay, here's what's wrong with the proposal:

1. It bumps tax reform for the City of Virginia Beach. One of the Blue Ribbon Budget Tax and Spending Task Force's recommendations was a 1% local sales tax to replace a portion of the Property Tax. If you impose a Sales Tax for Transportation, can you still come back and do one for the City?

2. How it treats the transit-dependent. The original HB 3202 revenue package didn't tax the transit-dependent unless they sold a home. Now the transit-dependent will be taxed on every taxable purchase.

At least in 2002 transit got a portion of the money. Not this time.

3. How do you go back and add regional transit funding later? The obvious answer is a 2 cent per gallon regional Gas Tax, but how does that mix with a Sales Tax?

Yes, we need a replacement revenue package for the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority (HRTA), but not this monster!

There's A Detour, Driver!

I had a 9 A.M. meeting at Town Center this morning. Walking in front of the main office tower at 8:43 A.M., I saw the Outbound 20 Cutback heading for Pembroke East.

The problem is that I saw it. With utility construction on Constitution, Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) is having to divert buses "for 2-3 weeks" to a temporary transfer point on Jeanne Street behind Pembroke Mall. When the driver s-l-o-w-l-y made the turn towards Constitution, I thought he had seen the street barricades and remembered the detour. Instead the bus tried to get to Pembroke East through the Kmart shopping center's parking lot.

I realized then it was probably a driver who normally doesn't do Route 20 but is covering on the weekend. Thankfully Michael Ragsdale (who is slated to join HRT's User Citizen Advisory Committee) had given me the phone number for HRT's Southside Dispatch on Monday. I immediately called the Dispatcher on my cell phone to radio the bus over what was going on.

Friday, March 21, 2008

11th Hour Paranoia

This morning's Virginian-Pravda brings us the latest installment in Norfolk State University's (NSU) 11th hour paranoid campaign over the light rail line that would pass by their campus.

First, Norfolk State has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) over the rail line. Did someone delete the word "honor" from NSU's vocabulary?

Second, a couple of Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) bus routes have long run on the periphery of NSU's campus. Any horror stories there?

Third, students could commute to school on the light rail line. Old Dominion University (ODU) encourages it's students to use transit, offering a semester-long ODU bus pass.

Fourth, what about non-students attending events there? I've taken the bus (Route 9) to see football at Dick Price Stadium before. With light rail there, I'd take the train in.

The bottom line: any changes to the light rail plan at this point require the approval of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). I doubt the FTA would endorse anything that would mean fewer riders on light rail.


This morning's Virginian-Pravda runs a story on The Market of Harbor Heights, an "upscale" store in downtown Norfolk by Farm Fresh.

I've been in there about four times myself. I have just one complaint: chili. They've never had any of Farm Fresh's excellent chili on their soup bar. Chili not appropriate for an "upscale" market?

Please, put chili on the soup bar. I'd obviously buy it when downtown. A large cup for lunch before a matinee at MacArthur Center. Most of all, not that "White Chicken Chili" you've polluted some of your stores with.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Quick Hit

I was riding the bus out of downtown Norfolk this afternoon. Shortly after leaving downtown, a drunk young man boarded. As he passed me, I could smell the liquor on him. The other passengers figured it out, too.

After a few minutes, in a loud voice he called out, "What time is it?" A young lady quickly answered with, "Time for you to go to rehab!"

Dollar Versus Euro

I play Hattrick, an online fantasy soccer game. It has over 900,000 players worldwide. Hattrick Supporter, which gives you extra services, costs 7.75 Euros for three months.

When I last purchased in December, that was $10.90. When I renewed this morning, it was $11.98.

Kaine Town Hall At Virginia Wesleyan

I went to Governor Kaine's Town Hall meeting on Wednesday evening at Virginia Wesleyan College. Here's The Virginian-Pravda's story

I have to wonder whether or not Tom Holden and I were at the same meeting. While some time was spent on Transportation, it was fourth among issues covered. Kaine started by covering this General Assembly session: his Administration's accomplishments, failures, and what he hopes to get done in special session. He then took questions from the audience for 55 minutes. The top areas: Criminal Justice, Gun Rights, and Mental Health. Only a couple Transportation questions.

Thanks to Eileen Levandoski of who drove me there. She also introduced Delegate Joe Bouchard to me. (He's a couple inches shorter in person than he photographs.) Eileen recorded the Town Hall meeting, so the audio should be posted on her blog as soon as she gets the time.

Destroying The UCAC In Order To Save It

Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) User Citizen Advisory Committee (UCAC) is getting an extreme makeover. Plagued by poor attendance and behavior problems of a couple members, HRT Staff has been planning for 7 months an overhaul of the UCAC.

Only three members had their terms renewed. The remainder, including the Vice Chair, were sent letters informing them they wouldn't be reappointed. A few potential new members wait in the wings for their appointments to become official.

A recruiting campaign will begin, featuring advertisements inside the buses for passengers to read. Each of the seven cities in the transportation district has three seats on the UCAC. Members are appointed by the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR), HRT's governing board.

As regular bus riders, UCAC members provide HRT Staff with a picture of what's really going on in the transit network. Everyone recognizes that an effective UCAC can be a tool towards a better quality transit system.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Pembroke Area Transportation Open House

This evening was the Open House covering Transportation issues for the Pembroke/Central Business District area. I was there for the first 75 minutes of the 2 hour event. I recognized many of the citizens and Staff in attendance.

The lion's share of attention went to the three road options for the area. In addition, there's a proposal to sink Independence Boulevard under Virginia Beach Boulevard, with a park area over the Independence tunnel. One observer joked that it looked like "The Big Dig" in Boston.

While there were a few noted opponents of City policy in attendance, it was mostly a crowd looking to learn and tweak.

The Study's official website is at

Pembroke East Detour, Day 6

All 6 buses that I observed today used the Pembroke Meadows Detour. In addition, Michael reports that his bus home did.

That means either we had a couple rogue drivers yesterday, or it was considered clear on a Sunday with no construction crews out.

If That's Victory..?

As a Catholic, I'm not one for following divorce cases. However, I got a kick out of reading a press report from Paul McCartney's settlement today.

His now ex-wife, Heather Mills, had asked for $250 million. The court awarded her $48.6 million...and she declared victory to the media afterwards?

If getting less than 20% of what you asked for is victory, what would she think is a loss?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

"The Cartoon Guy" For Candidate?

The poll's over. You were asked "Which Deaniac would you prefer to see run against Rosemary Wilson?", and 83% of you chose Wally Erb.

Barbara Messner's former pencil-pusher, Reid Greenmun, finished in 2nd with 10%. John McMullen, arguably the biggest idiot on the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) Board of Directors, had 5%. Bob O'Connor trailed with 2%.

Erb has run for office three times before. In 1995 he lost the 7th Senate District Republican Primary to Ed Schrock. In 2000 he challenged Margaret Eure for the Centerville District City Council seat. In 2003 he ran as an Independent for Clerk of the Circuit Court, losing to Tina Sinnen. (Someone once mentioned online that he lost a fourth race, but I don't know.)

In striving to try to keep balance, and in honor of Erb's win, the next poll will be about an issue he's raised with Erb's Blurbs on Virginia News Source. Do you want term limits for Virginia Beach City Council members? If so, how many terms?

Personally, I believe term limits recognize the acute advantages of incumbency, but there is a more fundamental way of tackling the problem. However, what do you think?

Resurrection Sunday, Easter, Or....

I'm a Catholic who in my mid-twenties spent 18 months in the discernment process for becoming a missionary religious brother. (I would have been training parishoners how to perform lay ministries in Kenya.) I've served on the Liturgy Committee in two parishes, have been an Eucharistic Minister, and try to make Mass every weekend. Given that, I love a good theological debate.

Today's Virginian-Pravda brings us the ongoing debate over what name the Sunday remembering Jesus' Resurrection should be called.'ll say it:

We shouldn't be refering to that day by a name, "Easter", derived from the name of a Roman goddess. It smells of paganism. When I learned of the origin several years ago, I was mortified.

Will The Vatican ever take up the issue? I hope so. Given the current resurgence of the Tridentine Rite, maybe we can give it a name in Latin....

Pembroke East Detour, Day 5

This is the story that got me in The Virginian-Pravda, so I'll ride it for what it's worth, CNN-style. Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday for you Protestants) was the fifth day of the detour.

Was the detour reconfigured or not? It depended on which Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) driver you dealt with:

1. Outbound Route 20 at 11:15 A.M. - on our way into Jeanne Street, the driver said he wasn't going out through Pembroke Meadows. Instead he would make a right onto Constitution and head for Virginia Beach Boulevard. (I got off at the Mall and went inside, so I didn't see him leave.)

2. Route 61 at 6:03 P.M. - left through Pembroke Meadows.

3. Outbound Route 20 at 6:15 P.M. - it arrived early and I got a chance to talk to the driver. I told him about the morning bus, but he had heard nothing on it. He left through Pembroke Meadows.

4. Inbound Route 20 at 6:15 P.M. - left going down Constitution.

An even split. Did we have a couple rogue drivers? Did HRT fail to communicate a detour change? I have a trip for Monday morning that will take me through there both ways, so I'll have more to report.

Folks, I knew this was going to be a soap opera....

First V-P Quote

Avenging Archangel made today's Virginian-Pravda, with my post on the Pembroke East Detour ("This Obviously Isn't Going To Work") being featured in the Hampton Roads section. I spent the day telling anyone I could about it.

The disappointing thing is that hits today aren't up. Will they be in coming days?

A pro-light rail Virginia Beach blog. No wonder they like me.


I discovered this blog through a BNN link yesterday. The fun part is that he's running a poll on regional consolidation. If you want to vote, go to

Consolidation in Virginia Beach is usually dismissed as some sort of left-wing utopian scheme. That's why it's intriguing that the two blogs that back the idea are the pro-Fair Tax 757 Hampton Roads and the pro-Mike Huckabee and pro-Bob Marshall Avenging Archangel. While I don't think even our children will live to see all 17 jurisdictions of Hampton Roads merged, I do believe we could drastically reduce the number. An obvious first step would be consolidation of the five cities of South Hampton Roads. While that may not happen soon, I believe it will happen within 30 years:

1. Seperate cities made sense as long as they were developmentally and demographically diverse. As they become homogenous, they make no more sense standing seperately than two democratic German states in 1990.

2. With the suburbs heading towards buildout and facing aging problems like the core cities, the region is going to need a large infusion of out-of-area money. A merged South Hampton Roads would be the 10th largest city in the country, and thus would draw that kind of investment.

For those in Virginia Beach who have been loudest against consolidation:

1. Status quoers - Yes, you go from being big fish in a medium size pond to medium size fish in a large pond. However, you'd get a R&HA and many of your longtime public spending schemes would make more sense financially. Also, with the amount of money necessary to run for Mayor, the Hampton Roads Partnership would virtually own the office. You'd get one of your own with a veto.

2. Deaniacs - consolidation would get you district elections for City Council and the higher-paying jobs you support.

In short, consolidation of the five cities of South Hampton Roads probably makes too much sense for it to happen under what now passes for "leadership" around here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Broad Creek Turning Point

As a Virginia Beach resident I shouldn't be constantly commenting on Norfolk affairs, but this story - like light rail - has regional implications. Norfolk, faced with potentially losing Federal money for the slow construction of Broad Creek, is looking to downsize the project. Predictably, it's by dropping low-income units.

The big picture here goes to the question, "Where and how are Hampton Roads' low-income residents going to live?" A statement I read in late 2006 sticks with me: the cities in the region seem to be in a competition as to who can eliminate more services for the poor, trying to dump their poor on their neighboring cities. The powers that be are going to have to come to the grips that they have to live somewhere, and will require some basic services.

That brings me back to Broad Creek. Two low-income housing developments were bulldozed to make room for it. The higher-end units there aren't selling. The region has an acute shortage of low-income units. So Norfolk responds by...wanting to eliminate low-income units? Excuse me, NR&HA, do you have a friggin' clue?!?

Board member Ulysses Turner is absolutely correct: Broad Creek should be completed according to the original plan. Those low-income units are in everyone's best interest.

Getting back home, it's time Virginia Beach seriously looked at tackling the shortage of rental units for the low-income. Given that a R&HA isn't going to happen here, we need a realistic strategy for getting them built.

CCO On Community Legislative Package Process

On Wednesday evening the Council of Civic Organizations (CCO), Virginia Beach's civic league federation, took a stance on the City's Community Legislative Package process. Over the past few years, community input has been deleted by Council, filtered by City Staff, and obscured by meetings not being well-publicized. The CCO Resolution seeks to reform the process to get effective citizen input.

The Resolution reads:

"Whereas the City of Virginia Beach holds an annual community forum to solicit input from citizens regarding items to include in the city's legislative package to the General Assembly, and

Whereas both the Virginia Beach Council of Civic Organizations and the City's Blue Ribbon Tax, Fee, and Spending Taskforce has recommended that City Council seek greater input from stakeholders when drafting city policy and determining priorities, and

Whereas the determination about which items from the citizens' input merit inclusion in the city's annual legislative package and the level and weight of city support given to these items has, at times, been a source of confusion for members of Council and a source of frustration and contention for citizens,

The Virginia Beach Council of Civic Organizations does hereby request that City Council:
*direct staff, no later than April 30, 2008 to set a time, date, and location for the 2008 Community Legislative Forum,
*that the format for such legislative forum be similar to the city's Town Meetings, that it be held during the evening as other Town Meetings have been held, and that all members of Council strive to attend the meetings so that they can hear citizen input firsthand and unfiltered by city staff, so that members of Council may be able to judge each citizen recommendation on its own merit when determining whether to include such recommendation in the city's legislative package and when determining the appropriate level and weight of the city's support for such recommendation,
*that the time, date, and location be communicated to citizens and other stakeholders in writing no later than May 31, 2008 and be included on the city website, in future editions of City Page and by other customary means of communications for Town Meetings, and
*that such meeting include a written briefing by city staff on all staff recommendations which staff propose that City Council include in the city's legislative package, so that members of Council may hear feedback from citizens and other stakeholders before voting to support or reject staff's recommendations."

The Resolution was duly passed under Standing Rule 1 unanimously and without amendment.

Councilperson Rosemary Wilson, one of Council's Liaisons' to the General Assembly, was present. She stated she had no problem with what was in the Resolution.

Pembroke East Detour, Day 3

Two posts ago I reported on the Detour that Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) buses were having to make with the Pembroke East Direct Transfer Center temporarily moved to Jeanne Street.

On Friday's travels I saw ten buses on HRT's Route 20, which goes through Pembroke East. 8 of the 10 were running behind schedule. Oops!

The driver who brought me home from work Friday night said she had managed to stay on schedule all day. Good for her; for the sake of riders, let's hope other drivers can figure out how to beat it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Economic Indicator?

Last night at work, we had 6 people apply for a job or inquire about filed applications within a 90 minute period. That's for minimum wage, part-time work. Even bigger, 4 of the 6 didn't fit the usual demographics for such. That desperate for work?

People, that doesn't look good.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

This Obviously Isn't Going To Work

With construction continuing on Constitution Drive, the Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) Transfer Center for Pembroke East has been temporarily moved again, with buses being sent on The Mother Of All Bizarre Detours.

The Transfer Center has been moved to a location on Jeanne Street behind Pembroke Mall "for 2-3 weeks". If the location wasn't baffling enough, you'll have to ride the detour that buses are having to take getting out of there. Rather than turning around in the Mall parking lot, they make a circuit through the Pembroke Meadows neighborhood. (The first time I rode it, I thought the driver must be lost.) They eventually come out beside the Little Israel store, turning south on Independence Boulevard, heading back towards the normal route. It adds about 5 minutes to travel times for bus routings where HRT already has trouble trying to make schedule.

Did anyone inquire with Pembroke Mall management about having the buses temporarily use their rear (rarely used) parking area? It could have been set up like the detour at Military Circle when the circus is at Military Circle Mall.

This will obviously throw everything FUBAR within 21 days. For bus drivers, the Pembroke Meadows circuit and running regularly late. For HRT Customer Service, having to field all the angry calls. For bus riders, late buses and a lousy Transfer Center. For Pembroke Meadows residents, buses racing through their neighborhood 18 1/2 hours of the day. Stay tuned, folks: this will get very ugly before it's over with.

New Town Center Office Tower

Yesterday the Virginia Beach City Council approved, on an 8-3 vote, a non-binding terms sheet for a new office tower at Town Center on the block where the Beacon building now stands.
While I'm supportive of Town Center, I have a couple huge problems with what came out yesterday

First, the City's project manager for Town Center, Mark Wawner was asked by Councilman Bill DeSteph why the City was leasing a floor in Town Center instead of buying it, which would be cheaper. Wawner's answer: to make it easier for the developers to get financing. Hel-lo, Mr. Wawner: who are you working for here, the developer or the taxpayers? If it's the people who cover your paycheck, you don't do something so stupid!

Second, Mayor Oberndorf explaining her "Yes" vote: "When I committed to the project, I assumed we would continue...until it was completed." Excuse me, Meyera, but that's the mentality that got us a mess at 31st Street: signing off on anything just to get a project done. As stewards of the public's finances, you don't play games with other people's money.

I hope the floor purchasing issue can be taken care of before the final contract.


Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) will try to serve where it can and that the localities will pay for. A stark example of that is taking the bus to the airport. HRT goes nowhere near Norfolk International Airport (ORF), but it does go to Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF).

Being the type who likes to stick my head under the hood and look myself, on Tuesday I took HRT to PHF to check out the service. (That's why I was late with the previous post: I didn't have time Tuesday morning, in a hurry to get out the door.) From where I live in Virginia Beach, it was a five bus ride to PHF. (It would have been four buses had I travelled 90 minutes later, but I wanted to leave early.) It's HRT Route 111 that goes to PHF, an hourly service from Patrick Henry Mall, City Center at Oyster Point, and Thomas Nelson Community College.

The 111 was quite busy west of Patrick Henry Mall. Arriving at PHF, the only stop at the airport terminal is a shelter just before the building. A very good shelter with a wooden floor, but - oddly - no bench in the shelter. (The airport has benches just yards away in front of the terminal itself.) The 111 only services the airport one-way: on the Outbound leg, at about 40 minutes after the hour. Just beyond the airport, the 111 loops back the other way. I was able to make the loop without paying fare twice.

Why not ORF? I'm told that the taxi companies are keeping HRT out. The "compromise' discussed about a year ago was to reroute Route 8 to the intersection of Norview Avenue and Azalea Garden Road. That would be off the airport grounds, and a hopelessly long walk away with baggage to carry. In short, the proposed "compromise" was a sick joke.

Some other notes from Tuesday's trip:

1. More proof of my "Build It And They Will Come" Axiom for transit in the region: 4 of the 5 buses I rode in Newport News were full. This was late morning-early afternoon, the slowest part of the day for transit. (The only light loads were on the 111 beyond Patrick Henry Mall.)

Not coincidentally, Newport News is the 2nd largest local contributor to HRT's Budget. Like in Norfolk (tops), people ride a bus system that is there for them. (FYI, Hampton is 3rd, Virginia Beach 4th.)

2. Another day, another case for light rail through The Third Crossing: coming home, the 61 got delayed in traffic on the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel. With light rail, we would have been rolling through on the train.

3. ORF brings us back to the paratransit issue. Under Federal guidelines, paratransit provided by HRT's contractor (P&W Transportation) is required only to operate to destinations within a quarter-mile of HRT's bus routes. That means no Handi-Ride service to ORF.

There's a long solution for the handicapped: fly out of PHF. Matter of fact, I saw Handi-Ride at PHF.

4. Finally (but not least), kudos to the three people I dealt with at Patrick Henry Mall on the way home. I had never taken HRT there, while it had been quite some time for the couple I met. A Good Samaritan helped us make a convoluted bus transfer to head back southward.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Our region's Delegates are discussing a new roads plan for Hampton Roads, and it looks very much like what 62% of us voted "No" on in 2002

6 of the 7 projects from 2002, coupled with the same financing mechanism - a 1% regional Sales Tax. Is the Hampton Roads Delegation that arrogant or that stupid? Or both? You can't Xerox the 2002 Plan without a voter backlash! The atrocious part is that the transit funding from the 2002 proposal has been dropped. The good news is that it's not being run through the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC). If you understood what that was really about, you understood the 2002 Plan had little to do with Transportation.

Okay, so what would I do? Essentially go back to where Senator Harry Blevins bill (SB 176) proposed to take us:

1. Keep the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority (HRTA).

I may be one of the few who actually likes the HRTA. However, if we're going to have regional taxing for Transportation, we should have a regional board for administering those funds.

2. Revise the tax and fee package.

The group struck down by the Virginia Supreme Court was a mess. That's what SB 176 sought to fix. The bill was the proposal from the HRTA itself.

I hope when Wednesday's paper arrives in a few hours that I'm not staring at the 2002 Plan all over again.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Allied Tech Fire

This one was a bit spooky. A fire broke out at Allied Tech late Monday morning

Ominously, I was next door at Bill's Flea Market when the fire broke out. Walking from my apartment to Pembroke Mall to see the movie The Bank Job (very good), I ducked in to see if I could find something to pick up cheaply. I was fustrated in that about two-thirds of the vendors were closed. In hindsight, that meant few needed to evacuate the building.

I had crossed Virginia Beach Boulevard from RBC Centura Bank, where my ATM receipt reads 11:20 A.M. The story says the fire broke out at Allied Tech at 11:31 A.M. Nobody in Bill's at the time seemed to know what was going on next door.

Coming back by about 4:50, I saw the fire trucks and smoke. As the initial press reports read "Bill's Flea Market", it struck home. Now that everything has been clarified, I'm glad that they're okay.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dome Site Article: Say What?

Today's Virginian-Pravda brings us a bizarre article by Deirdre Fernandes on Dome site redevelopment:

1. The long article is largely speculation. Is the V-P that much in need of a story?

2. She never mentions exactly what Jenkins proposed for the site. Oops!

3. Jenkins is the front-runner entrant didn't come prepared to answer financial questions, and Cordish didn't even send a representative?

4. Does Armada-Hoffler think they have that much of an inside track with the city? If they do, what does that say?

5. The first comment on was by none other than Reid Greenmun, voted Our Biggest Civic Embarassment on this blog. Surprise...Surprise...he opposes it. Then, he's opposed every Resort Area project except the seawall.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Psychosocial Rehabilitation Reimbursements

Yeah, say that one three times fast. It's been a pet peeve of mine for over a decade, and I started thinking about it during a slow period at work today. In Virginia, facilities providing psychosocial rehabilitation for the mentally ill have no incentive to help their clients get jobs, but actually have a disincentive for doing it. Let me explain.

Psychosocial rehabilitation facilities can bill Medicaid (a state program) for the minutes that each client spends at such a facility. The clients have to sign in and out, with the time records kept for billing.

At the same time such facilities receive no payments or credits for a client going to work. In addition, if a client is at work, those are hours that Medicaid can't be billed for since the client isn't in the facility.

Therefore, the way the reimbursement system is set up, Community Service Boards (CSBs) lose money by their clients going to work, but profit by having them sit around a facility all day doing nothing meaningful. Am I the only one who sees what's so backwards about that?

With Medicaid payments one of the fastest growing areas in the state budget, Richmond could curb spending and improve the lives of the mentally ill in one swoop by fixing this absurdity. With the statewide races next year, will any candidates have the guts to take on the mental health bureaucrats? It's obscene that CSBs win by their clients losing.

General Assembly To Stay Longer

The General Assembly has failed to pass a Budget for Virginia, so they'll be staying additional days. (How much longer? Anyone remember 2004?) It's a widely-reported story, but I have a couple thoughts on it that I haven't read elsewhere:

1. In 2001, we had a Republican Governor, Senate, and House of Delegates. They failed to agree on Budget amendments. The media story was that the Republicans couldn't govern.

In 2008 we have a Democratic Governor and Senate...but fingers aren't being pointed at them? (Okay, I will.)

2. In 2001 the center of the story was Jim Gilmore digging in his heels on the Car Tax.

In 2008, who in the MSM is attacking Governor Kaine for his proposed new spending at a time that Virginia is already short cash? (Yes, some in the blogosphere are.)

Catholic Schools Boom Locally

As a Catholic, I had to smile at this Virginian-Pravda story. Best yet, it features my parish, St. Gregory's.

As I've read in a few Catholic publications, we need to rebuild the Catholic subculture that was largely dismantled after Vatican II. A good Catholic education should reinforce the Catholic identity for these children, which will help much in subsequent years.

Finally, I cross myself when an ambulance (or EMS zone car) passes without any formal training to do it. It's common sense for any Catholic.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Keeping The Cameras Off...Barely

By a slim 52%-48% margin, you voted to refrain from televising the Open Mic session that the Virginia Beach City Council holds at the end of it's meeting on the first Tuesday of the month.
That has been the case since it was instituted.

Personally, I support putting the session on VBTV for the following reasons:

1. You can take every argument against televising Open Mic and use it to claim citizens comments on Agenda items shouldn't be broadcast.

2. As for the possibility of people grandstanding for the cameras, with it at the end of the meeting, nobody is going to be watching unless they specifically want to see it.

3. If you've ever been to a CCO Open Mic night, you know civic leagues learn from each other in hearing the issues of others. I believe the Council session could be of benefit, too.

4. Finally, it's our City government, our television station, etc.

I didn't voice my own views until after you voted, wanting to see how you felt first.

With that done, we go to the next poll question. Inspired by the discussion under the "Bob Hedrick Withdraws" post, I ask "Which Deaniac would you prefer to see run against Rosemary Wilson?" It's a fun poll, so enjoy it.

Bob O'Connor's anti-Light Rail Rant

On March 5 Virginia News Source ran a piece by Bob O'Connor attacking light rail for Virginia Beach, entitled "The City Council That Doesn't Listen - Light Rail". VNS had it up for two days. I've had a copy of it sitting on my desk for two days. Now that I have time to respond, here it goes:

1. "The City Council of Virginia Beach, now in the year 2008, wants to reconsider the plans for light rail."

Good for them. With Virginia Beach's transit and redevelopment needs growing, it makes infinitely more sense in 2008 than it did in 1999 (when I was a "No" voter).

2. "They certainly will not try another referendum because they cannot risk another no vote."

Congratulations! You've figured out what Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance Transportation Chairman Reid Greenmun hasn't. Last month on, Greenmun actually claimed that light rail required a referendum.

3. "Therefore, they will have to try some nefarious scheme to get the light rail project extended to Virginia Beach."

If O'Connor had actually been paying attention to Norfolk's timeline, 3-4 City Council elections will occur between starting the light rail process and construction. It would obviously be an issue every time. It's impossible to build it in a vaccum.

4. "The push for light rail system was emphasized at a recent meeting conducted by City Council to discuss redevelopment plans in the Oceanfront Resort Area."

First of all, only one Councilman (John Uhrin) was at those meetings.

Second, at their Retreat last November, City Council amended Barbara Henley's point for a decision on light rail during this year to simply transit down the Norfolk Southern Right-of-Way. If Bob had stayed for the whole Retreat, rather than leaving in a huff after light rail first came up, he would know that.

5. "Such a wildly expensive undertaking ignores the obvious benefits of telecommuting using satellite offices and urban design."

Ah, yes, O'Connor on telecommuting again. Let me point out again that none of Virginia Beach's three largest industries (military, tourism, and agriculture) lends itself to telecommuting on a sizeable scale.

As for "wildly expensive", the local share for light rail Newtown Road - convention center would be about one-quarter of the cost of the convention center itself.

Finally, "urban design" is part-and-parcel of Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). By far the quickest way to get "urban design" in Virginia Beach is to build light rail!

6. " dependent on developers who know mainly how to do the same thing over and over again and are incapable of designing new people-friendly enviroments."

TOD is hardly the "same thing over and over again." It would be quite different from anything currently in Virginia Beach, with the possible exception of Town Center.

Most of all, TOD is all about "new people-friendly enviroments", producing walkable spaces within a quarter mile radius of the train station.

7. "Wake up, council join us in the 21st century."

Yes, and in the 21st Century oil prices will hover at levels never seen before, pretty much a given due to new demand in China and India. Therefore, we need to fundamentally change our transportation model, going to one with transit and (yes) rail at it's core.

The irony was that in his previous piece for VNS, Bob O'Connor attacked City Council for not doing more for our local roads. As no new sizable amount of money for secondary roads will be available anytime soon, our only realistic option is to build a much-improved transit system to move people. Virginia Beach could fund good bus service for a year for the cost of one medium-size secondary road project.

No, Bob, you and light rail opponents need to join us in the 21st Century, moving to a transit and rail-based transportation model.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

RAC March 6, 2008

Today Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) held it's March monthly meeting. There were two areas of note covered.

1. Lynn Clements of the Virginia Aquarium gave a Presentation on a proposed Master Plan for the Aquarium. She wants to bring it up to a national-level facility. Two things that would require is boosting attendance to 1 million per year (now at 643,000), and a new Animal Care Center.

Virginia Beach Hotel/Motel Association President Linwood Branch led a charge to have the contract for the ongoing Resort Area Strategic Action Plan amended to contain a land use study from the Rudee Inlet bridge to Birdneck Road (including the Aquarium).

Clements earlier in the week had gone to two RAC subcommittees: the Plan/Design Review Committee (PDRC) and the Resort Investment Committee (RIC). She made the statement, "I want it to come from the community, not me." Clements requested RAC endorsement for drawing funds from the Tourism Growth Investment Fund (TGIF) to cover the Master Plan's costs. It was for no more than $150,000, for 50%, with the other 50% coming from the Aquarium's Foundation.

Council of Civic Organizations (CCO) RAC representative Henry Ryto cast the lone "No" vote. His reasons:

a. It had been the Aquarium that had been involved in spying on Dolphin Liberty and the PETA FOIA case. Has the institution been reformed? As a grassroots representative, he shouldn't be voting funds to it until sure.

b. Lynn Clements' statement was an insult to the CCO (Virginia Beach's civic league federation) and every civic league out there. Clements spoke of "community", but the only "community" she was dealing with was the RAC and it's subcommittees. Apparently "the little people" west of Birdneck Road don't count in Clements' world.

2. On Wednesday the Resort Investment Committee (RIC) voted to add a convention center headquarters hotel to the priorities voted out at the RAC's January 16 Strategic Planning Meeting. They also voted to drop Future of Transit in the Resort Area, which had been Ryto's submission.

The change was passed, with Ryto sitting quietly seething and not voting.

Afterwards RAC watcher Bob O'Connor got documents from Resort Administrator Mike Eason, so expect Resort policy to be attacked (again) soon in The Monitor (the Citizens Action Coalition newsletter) and Virginia News Source.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pembroke Area Transportation Study

There will be an Open House to cover options for enhancing Transportation in the Pembroke/Central Business District area. It will be from 5-7 P.M. on March 17 at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts.

To be covered are roadways, highway flyovers, transit, pedestrian bridges, etc. Sounds like fun.

Mental Health Commitment Standards

The General Assembly has sent to the Governor's desk bills to restructure Virginia's mental health system in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy.

On the one hand, I've known of people in the past that could have been helped under the new "substantial deterioration" standard. As is, in Virginia someone has to hit rock bottom before you can require them to get treatment. If this becomes law, all you'll have to do is demonstrate that they're sliding that way.

On the other hand, it's going to make for a huge mandate to fund. When Virginia began shutting down the state hospital system, the money saved was supposed to be sent to the localities to cover private hospitalization for those who previously would have been sent to a state facility. Given state financial difficulties, there's never been enough to cover entirely. As such a change would mean more commitments, the financial challenge would be that much larger.

My optimistic side hopes people can receive the help they need earlier, before a full-blown meltdown. My pessimistic side fears making it easier to commit people, as such powers will almost certainly be abused by some.

Monday, March 3, 2008

SB 798

In the wake of the taxes and fees to fund the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority's (HRTA) projects being struck down by the Virginia Supreme Court last week, today Senator Frank Wagner introduced SB 798. The bill has the commonwealth imposing the revenue streams for the HRTA, clearing the constitutional hurdle.

The big problem is that Friday is the last day of this year's session. Can the General Assembly ram it through in five days? If not, that would mean later coming back for a special session.

Let's hope they can send SB 798 to the Governor's desk. While not perfect, it's the most reasonable plan on the table.

Finnish Kids World's Smartest

A series of tests were given to school children around the world. Not only did Finland rank #1 in math and science, but an unofficial tally placed Finland #1 overall.

How much money was spent for something I could have told them for free? In Finnish, "sana" is the love of learning. In statistics I read years ago (probably now outdated), Finland led Europe in per capita bookstores.

You will never outsmart the Finnish!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Sign Of What Our Society Is Coming To

Where I work, we have a dry erase board adjacent to the timeclock. It's used for announcements to employees, shift swapping, etc.

When I went in today, there was a single message on the dry erase board. In the handwriting of the second-in-command, there was a quote for everyone. She was trying to inspire the Staff with...Hannah Montana lyrics?

"Life's what you make it, so let's make it rock!"

HRT Sued Over Sexual Assault of Minor

The lead story of the Hampton Roads section in today's Virginian-Pravda covers a $10 million lawsuit that has been filed against Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) and one of it's drivers over a sexual assault of a 13 year old 1 1/2 years ago in Virginia Beach.

The timeline in the story is wrong, and HRT's lawyers may want to use it to quash the lawsuit. The last bus on Route 20 going to the Oceanfront would pass Little Neck (if on schedule) about 12:35 A.M. (There's a time point at the adjacent Denny's for 39 minutes after the hour.) It should terminate at 19th Street and Pacific Avenue at 12:57 A.M. The last bus heading back westward to Little Neck would have already passed before the child boarded.

Some quotes from the story and my comments:

1. "The negligence lawsuit, filed last week in Circuit Court, contends that the bus driver, Kokou Fedy of Chesapeake, allowed the then-13 year old girl to board the bus after the city's 11 P.M. curfew and never called dispatchers or police."

First of all, a driver would never call police himself. If he has an incident on board, he radioes the dispatcher. The decision to call police is made by others.

Most of all, are drivers supposed to refuse to board children trying to make it home late at night? While a policy of refusing to board unaccompanied minors after curfew may have prevented this tragedy, it would set the table for others to come. Do you want HRT stranding children at bus stops at night?

2. "The driver helped her pay the fare."

Drivers as a rule don't help people pay fares. If anything, it shows he probably thought she was trying to find her way home.

3. "She thought (the bus) would circle around and return to her stop at Virginia Beach Boulevard and Little Neck Road."

Oh, puh-leeze! For any bus regular, that's a "been there, done that": someone gets on the bus not knowing the route(s) and/or schedule, then it's everyone elses fault. That probably would have produced rolling eyes.

4. "Fedy told the girl to leave the bus at about 1:45 A.M...."

If that's the case, the bus took about twice as long as scheduled to make it to the Oceanfront.

Moreover, everyone is asked to get off the bus at the end of the line. The bus would have been preparing to "deadhead" back to the 18th Street Garage in Norfolk via I-264.

5. "You can't tell me that no one could foresee this happening."

Excuse me, Mr. Roper, but you owe every bus rider in Hampton Roads an apology. By inference, every late night bus rider is a potential rapist.

The first comment to be posted on was by a veteran transit rider who realizes everyone is required to disembark at the end of the line and doesn't hold HRT liable.

Yes, what happened was very unfortunate. However, IMO, the only potential case here would be based on what - if anything - was said directly between the driver and the girl at 19th Street. Did she ask for help and he refused? If not, you can't blame HRT or the driver.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Talk About A Serious Problem

Over the past few months, the blog Not Larry Sabato has been painful to read as Ben has gone to ludicrous lengths to try to spin for Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign.

However, today he hit on one very serious issue that's getting overlooked by Virginia's budget writers: filesharing of child pornography. It is estimated that $32 million/year is needed to combat this evil. The Senate budget only contains $1 million; the House budget nothing.

Sadly, Virginia Beach (as the state's largest city) leads Virginia in cases. While sitting down, you may want to watch the linked video on YouTube.

RPVB Chair's Race and Organizational Meetings

At this morning's Republican Breakfast, Chuck Smith let it be known that he was not running for reelection as Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach (RPVB) and was endorsing Kenny Golden's (current Vice Chairman, Operations) candidacy to be the next Chairman. This will make Chuck the third consecutive one-term Chairman of the RPVB (following Colin Stolle and Mark McKinney). Has the job become that much of a hot seat? The upcoming Republican organizational meetings:

RPVB Mass Meeting: Saturday, April 5 at Cape Henry Collegiate School, 10 A.M. To be chosen will be the new RPVB Chairman, the entire Republican City Committee, and the Virginia Beach delegations to the 2nd Congressional District Convention and Republican Party of Virginia state convention.

Any Virginia Beach registered voter who professes Republican principles may attend and vote. (Others may simply attend.) However, to stand for RPVB Chairman, City Committee member, 2nd District delegate, or state delegate, you must prefile the official registration form by March 21. The forms are available at RPVB Headquarters.

2nd Congressional District Convention - May 3 at Tidewater Community College's Virginia Beach campus.

Republican Party of Virginia state convention - May 30 & 31 at the Richmond Convention Center.

That's where we select Bob Marshall to run for U.S. Senate. If you support Jim Gilmore or Bob Berry, you don't want to go to Richmond.

Bob Marshall At Republican Breakfast

Saturday morning's Virginia Beach Republican Breakfast covered the U.S. Senate race. Speakers for all three candidates for the Republican nomination were heard.

Shortly after returning from the buffet line with my breakfast, a woman came to my table with Bob Marshall literature. I asked her if she had lapel stickers. (Jim Gilmore's people did.) It was his wife. When I introduced myself, she remembered the e-mail I had sent the campaign, and called Bob over to speak to me.

Bob Marshall's 10 minute speech had two primary focuses. One, why he was the candidate best positioned to beat Mark Warner in November. Two, his solid conservative record of accomplishment in the General Assembly.

Marshall beat the other two speakers hands down. Leo Wardrup was Jim Gilmore's proxy. Leo avoided details, and was stumped when asked for them. Bob Berry is a good conservative, but doesn't have a snowball's chance in this field.

The bottom line: Bob Marshall is not only a strong conservative, but our best shot at beating Mark Warner in November.

Trying To Be A Good Person, Or How To Kill Time On The Bus

With the Charete over, I quickly walked two blocks south to catch Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) Route 24 (Laskin Road Express) into Norfolk. It's an express bus that runs (2x off-season, 3x in-season) between Virginia Beach's Oceanfront and downtown Norfolk. The clientele is largely hotel housekeepers, leading some to call it the "Sheetshaker Express". (I once used that name in a RAC Transportation Committee meeting, to which a HRT Staffer replied "We won't advertise it as that.") I got to MacArthur Center in time to grab a quick fish and chips dinner on the Lenten Friday before watching the 5 P.M. showing of Vantage Point. (A must-see for action/suspense movie fans.)

Getting home meant about an hour ride on Route 20. Boarding the bus, sitting in front of me was an electrician. He wanted to talk. With little else to do and the trip ahead of me, I figured I would indulge him and listen. He spent the entire segment to Military Circle going on about a 104 year old house he was on the renovation crew for. He hit me with electrical details, some of which went over my head. (What's a 12-2 and a 12-4 and the difference?) East of Military Circle, he started with basic electrical, then basic plumbing, before more basic electrical. I reached my home stop with him still heading onward.

Morals of the story. One, in this self-absorbed world, try to think of someone other than yourself. He was boring me, but he obviously had things he wanted to get off his chest. Two, as I've posted on before, there's a subculture among bus riders. Here was somebody who needed someone, and I tried to do what I could.

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

Friday saw the continuation of the Resort Area Strategic Action Plan Charete. The session started with Sasaki (the consultants) presenting their draft plan for redevelopment of Virginia Beach's Resort Area, based on Thursday's input. Afterwards each table discussed transit options, later reporting back to the full meeting.

Politics is often described as the art of compromise, and the draft plan was a hybrid that was a compromise of the options that had been discussed. For North Beach, the previously mentioned "Hilton model" was chosen for the 100th and 200th blocks, but mid-level redevelopment for the 300th block. For Central Beach, green space along 19th Street was a hybrid of a full park just behind the Dome site, but a linear park in the next block west. In addition, housing adjacent to the light rail line is multi-family beside the track, but single-family behind it. For South Beach, some tweaks were made to cover concerns voiced on Thursday.

Under transit, the consensus now is that the eastern terminus for light rail will be on the south side of 19th Street just across from the existing convention center building. That decision was based on needing to double-track the end of the rail line (difficult at the Dome site) and the obstacles in running LRT down 19th Street. The drawing had rail coming through the center of future convention center expansion, raising alarm bells with some. That could be solved by an option discussed at our table, which brought LRT north along the eastern edge of the Colony property, terminating on the west side of the proposed convention center headquarters hotel.

There was room for political fun with tweaks to the redevelopment plan. On the one hand, I quickly noticed the Rudee Loop project footprint had been pulled back from Councilman John Uhrin's hotel. (How much lobbying did the Beach District rep have to do?) On the other hand, the draft plan selected an option to extend the 31st Street Park northward...taking the Days Inn owned by Linwood Branch's family. (Branch is a former Councilman and current President of the Virginia Beach Hotel/Motel Association.)

Sasaki will be back with a further refined plan for more public input in April.

34 Posts In February

The month is over and I ended February with 34 posts, my most prolific month yet by far.

As I told an elected official, I don't plan to make the largest number of posts. I look at this is a niche blog, giving news (i.e. RAC, transit, etc) and views that you won't find anywhere else. I hope to average a minimum one post per two days, so I was pleasantly surprised with 34 posts in 29 days. I'm not going to put up junk just for the sake of posting.

The program does allow me to add additional posters, which I may do in the future. (I'd obviously love someone from AAPAC.) In the meantime, I hope to help keep you informed in an interesting way.