Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Filed Virginia Beach City Council Candidates

As I mentioned in answering a question in another thread, I've twice e-mailed the Voter Registrar to try to find out who has already filed for Virginia Beach City Council. With no reply, I just called down there and found out the big four have filed for Mayor, while five Council candidates have filed.


Meyera Oberndorf, Will Sessoms, Don Weeks, and John Moss.

Outlook: it's Meyera's race to lose. Weeks and Moss will cancel each other out. Sessoms can obviously draw money from some well-heeled interests, but can he translate that into votes?


Rosemary Wilson (At-Large), Bob Dyer (Centerville), Harry Diezel (Kempsville), Andrew Jackson (Kempsville), and Glen Davis (Rose Hall).

I think readers are familiar with the three incumbents.

Many will remember Glen Davis: he finished 3rd in the 2006 At-Large field. He's moved into Rose Hall District (from Princess Anne District) to challenge Reba McClanan. I first heard about this one through the grapevine late last Fall.

Andrew Jackson is a Navy veteran who has served as Precincts Chair for the Virginia Beach Democratic Committee. He has 20 years experience as a facilitator. Andrew is originally from Cleveland, where his single mother worked three jobs to put him through parochial school.

At a March 15 Virginia Beach African-American Community Leadership Forum meeting, I was the second speaker and Andrew the third. Jackson was impressed enough with me that (as a point of disclosure) he's asked me to work on his campaign. It's going to be uphill, but Rosemary Wilson has noted before how I like the little guy versus the big guy fights. Even if we lose, I'll try to have fun.

CNU Transportation Poll

Needless to say, I got a good chuckle out of this one: a poll on the Transportation priorities of Hampton Roads residents. Additional capacity at the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) topped the list.

However, in second place: expand regional mass transit, including light rail. 60% supported it. People realize simply more asphalt after more asphalt isn't the solution to our Transportation problems. The big problem is that our Transportation model is fundamentally wrong.

As the taxpayers have been heard, will the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) now come out in favor of expanded mass transit? Nah...the VBTA troll said mass transit is a government conspiracy, and that buses carry people who don't look like what's at a VBTA Breakfast.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Only A Fool Would Merge With United

United Airlines (UA) is now in merger talks with US Airways (US), after having been rejected by Delta Air Lines (DL) and Continental Airlines (CO).

There's a reason Delta and Continental jilted United: UA's finances are in the toilet. No airline management team with a responsibility to their stockholders should want them as a dance partner. Does US think, like with the US Airways/America West merger, that they can draw in outside capital on a merger? That's the only way this is even sane. However, with oil prices where they are, I don't know who would want to put their money into a weak airline now.

The best thing that can be done for the airline industry and (most) travellers is to let UA sink. The breathing space that would open up would allow other airlines to pick up UA's passengers.

Monday, April 28, 2008

An Invitation To Ride

Over on HR Transit Ideas, Michael has posted an invitation for any officials to come out and ride the mainline trolleys. He wants to make the point that the mainline routes should draw the hybrids before Route 30 (Atlantic Avenue).

That reminds me of an offer I've twice made to the Virginia Beach City Council, and that no Councilperson has taken me up on yet. I'll publicly do it this time, not only for them but any civic leaders or candidates. (We have a Council election in November in Virginia Beach.) If you want to see bus service here, I'll take you out riding. In my last offer to Council, I mentioned I had three possible treks in mind. They are:

1. Rush Hour Triangle - Routes 36, 25, and the Cutback Route 20. A circle at rush hour largely through Virginia Beach. (You do cross into Norfolk.)

2. The Reba Special - Mrs. McClanan mentioned at a Council Retreat that she occasionally will ride into Norfolk to see how service is running. We can.

3. The Henry Special - this is what I often do on a day off: take the bus into downtown Norfolk for lunch and a matinee at MacArthur Center.

Given movie pass regulations, I have to do it on a free day that I have off work. (I'm ineligible for passes on a requested day off work.) I normally get my work schedule on Tuesday for the following Friday-Thursday, so we can schedule by Tuesday evening for the following week.

Anyone who is interested, let me know.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

2008 NFL Draft

I watched the nearly 15 hours of the NFL Draft on ESPN.

Okay, some background. From 1981-1991, I caught all (or at least part) of ESPN's Draft coverage every year. Since moving to Virginia Beach, I've had a harder time fitting it into my schedule. This year, I had a rare Saturday and Sunday off work, so I realized I had the opportunity to do it again. Some notes from the marathon:

1. My Ravens had "a fairly solid draft" according to Ron Jaworski.

2. The consensus best draft was by Kansas City. The Chiefs had 13 picks and wanted to land at least 6 starters. They probably did.

3. Worst was Jacksonville. Only 5 picks and the first of those (DE Derrick Harvey) was a reach.

4. Nobody from Florida State was taken until the 87th choice overall. (When did that last happen?)

5. Nobody from Alabama was selected.

6. For you Redskins fans, the sharpest debate of the weekend was triggered by the Redskins' selection of Hawaii QB Colt Brennan. He put up great numbers in the Warriors' run-and-shoot, but had a lousy Sugar Bowl, is only average height for a QB, and has a sidearm throwing motion that has him playing effectively shorter.

7. I did leave time for more important matters: I went to 7 A.M. Mass.

8. I can't decide which commercials were worse: McDonald's or Burger King.

9. Okay, I don't normally watch Arena Football, either. However, two undefeateds (Dallas at Philadelphia) play at 8 P.M. Monday on ESPN2 (if you're looking for something to do).

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cedar Grove At Night

A couple of online sites have raised the question of security at Cedar Grove for bus passengers in the late evening. Having gone through there this evening (I was there 9:15-9:30 P.M.). I can start to answer the question:

1. The Transfer Center is pretty well lit.

2. There are buses constantly there.

3. Plenty of people were around (about 45).

In short, anyone should have felt safe there.

Michael Ragsdale And I Win Big At The TDCHR

Thursday afternoon was the monthly meeting of the TDCHR, the Commission that governs Hampton Roads Transit (HRT). The opening order of business was a Public Hearing on pending Metro Area eXpress (MAX) premium express bus service.

There were only two speakers: Michael Ragsdale of HR Transit Ideas and I. As expected, the TDCHR approved the MAX - but on the condition that Staff look at adjusting it based on the Public Hearing comments. We won half the war on Route 960.

Other news from the TDCHR:

1. It looks like Cedar Grove won't be the new permanent downtown Norfolk TC after all. From CEO Michael Townes' Report, "The downtown transfer center will remain at the Princess Anne Rd.-Monticello Ave. area until a permanent downtown transfer facility which will better integrate with light rail can be planned and constructed in partnership with the City of Norfolk."

Since Cedar Grove can't meet the light rail criteria (too far away), it won't be there.

2. HRT's Operating Budget currently has a $2.77 million surplus. In addition, light rail construction is under budget.

3. A contract was approved to supply 5 Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) for VBWave trolley service.

4. The hybrid replacement buses for the NET will begin arriving in two weeks.

5. The planned Military Circle Bus Terminal, if things go as planned, will open in November.

6. The design for the new headquarters building on Monticello Avenue has been pared down to get it within budget.

7. Statistic of the Day: HRT's buses use 3.2 million gallons of diesel fuel per year.

8. Please note, Reid Greenmun: HRT is short 96 bus drivers. They're habitually short, so can you bag the conspiracy theories about hiring?

Our Troll Said It: The VBTA Is For Racists

Three blogs (HR Transit Ideas, Tidewater Musings, and this one) have been attacked by a troll who identifies himself as a member of the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) and who clearly has a knowledge of the group.

As I explained to Michael Ragsdale on the bus to Hampton Thursday, I set a trap for our troll. Under "Cedar Grove Day 25" I posted:

"The 23 was about 70% full and being operated with an [yep] Orion. What our troll's problem probably is: I was the only White on board."

The troll fell for my Jedi mind trick, replying:

"Now I understand why buses don't run in Virginia Beach like they do in Norfolk - as depicted by these Route 23 comments. I see; it's only for their neighborhoods; we don't need them in VB. Now I know our VBTA plan makes perfect sense."

Ironically Michael called to tell me the troll has taken the bait as I was riding a bus (Route 44) across minority-majority Portsmouth. Yes, I was the only White on board again. On my final (and 10th) bus of the day, Michael let me know how everyone was firing back. (I'm glad to know you all have the decency.)

Such shouldn't be surprising from a member of a group that has never had a minority member on it's Board of Directors. (Then, when did either the TLP or CACI?) Our troll said it: supporting the VBTA is about backing racially-exclusionary policies. The only VBTAer to ever be endorsed by AAPAC was John Moss, and that was because he was running against John Atkinson-managed Rosemary Wilson.

I've talked about this issue with minority community leaders before. Now the VBTA's dirty little secret is out in the open.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

TPPC April 24, 2008

The Transportation, Parking, and Pedestrian Committee (TPPC) of Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met on Thursday morning. There were two focus areas in a relatively short meeting.

On a 5-1 vote the TPPC endorsed expanding the horse riding on the beach franchise to year-round. The owners claimed they needed the extension in order for the business to be financially viable. CCO RAC representative Henry Ryto cast the lone "No" vote. Any change would eventually need City Council approval.

Copies of the City's 2007 Parking Report were distributed, followed by discussion. Notable for residents is that Staff is already looking at sites for new structured parking to offset the pending loss of spaces at 19th Street due to Dome site redevelopment.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cedar Grove Day 25

Oh, we're still having fun with the change in buses for downtown Norfolk. Today's movie was EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed (great film!). Some notes from the trip in and out:


The Route 20 taking me to Norfolk was running 10 minutes late. However, it had posted Alerts on both the change to Cedar Grove and Route 310 (free Downtown Shuttle). It was the only one of the seven buses I was on during the day with them.

Coming around, the 2, 6, 9, and 18 were all holding on Salter Street. The 18 was interesting in that the route was recently shortened, as it was running habitually late. With the change to Cedar Grove and it being late morning, it actually had time to kill.

There was repair work being done on the parking lot at Cedar Grove. The TC had been pushed out from the edge, with a new repaved path for the buses. With it being nice weather, most people were sitting out on the jersey barriers rather than in the shelters.

I took the 310 into downtown about 10:45 A.M. There were 15 passengers on board.


Leaving downtown around 3:45 P.M., 14 passengers were on the 310. When we got to two ladies at the Radisson stop on Monticello, they asked "Where's the 20?" hasn't come downtown in 3 1/2 weeks. They joined us for the hop to the Transfer Center.

The 3 was on Salter Street this time.

There were three buses parked ahead of us. As I craned to identify the first one, someone realized what I was doing and told me "23". I replied "That's what I need" and got in line to board.

This time of day, there were 60-70 people waiting for buses.

The 23 was about 70% full and being operated with an [yep] Orion. What our troll's problem probably is: I was the only White on board.

The 9 was again being operated with a 2000 series Gillig low floor.


1. Don't put away the Alerts yet: we still have an information problem.

2. With the parking lot being taken care of, can we do portajohns next?

Virginia Beach City Budget Hearing at Green Run

Yesterday I watched the streaming video of the Virginia Beach City Council's Public Hearing on the Budget, which was held last Thursday at Green Run High School. Some thoughts:

1. Kudos to the Mental Health advocates

You did a great job pushing for a much-needed service. With Terry Jenkins finally gone as Human Services Director (thank God!) maybe we can get around to improving the quality of care in Virginia Beach. (A concept totally foreign to Jenkins.)

2. Good going Green Run Homeowners Association

Even came out in your green shirts so Council would have to notice your numbers. You bet they did.

3. Calm down, Robert Dean

You can make the points about the City's atrocious priorities and supposedly doctored numbers without sounding so angry. People will tune out.

4. Billy Almond's a great guy, but...

I had to chuckle when he tried to make the 61st Street Pump Station issue about [yeah] the value of Tourism and the RAC. Yes, Billy is a RAC Commissioner and a former RAC Chairman.

5. If you're going to ad lib, do a better job than Reid Greenmun

With most of his points covered before he spoke late, he chucked his notes and tried to ad lib. He wasn't very effective. Memo to Reid: when I want to change my remarks, I do it in the margins of the copy and on the back side.

6. The shortest speech of Linwood Branch's political career

He got up and made a few generic remarks about economic development.

7. Can you draw the obvious conclusion, Sandy Linkous?

She went on about high oil prices and how demand in China and India will keep them high. What she whiffed on was that such reinforces the need for Virginia Beach to build a quality mass transit system.

8. Marlayne Castelluzzo's bob-and-weave on the Town Center pedestrian bridge

Until she pointed it out, I didn't realize it was to be paid for out of the General Fund. Yes, it should come out of the Town Center TIF, and the TIF's rate cut pared or postponed to cover it.

9. Reverend Flores inviting Council members to spend a weekend at his Lake Edward home

You can bet nobody will take him up on it. More seriously, if Council wants to meet poor people, I can try to arrange a get-together at our apartment complex sometime.

10. The highlight had to be Darl Anderson, who I'm told is running for City Council At-Large

As a VBTAer, he almost certainly backs the VBTA's call for an 80 cent Property Tax rate. He then called for the BPOL tax to be eliminated. Granted, the BPOL is the most absurd tax on the books in Virginia, but he just widened his Budget hole to about $79 million. No problem: he wants to slash the Budget by 10%. (Uh...The DEW Team only called for a $50 million cut and were creamed on it.) Of course, he didn't identify where he'd cut.

Trying to be polite, he thanked Councilman Bill DeSteph for giving him a CD of the Budget...tying DeSteph to a VBTA challenge of a sitting Councilperson. (Wouldn't want to be DeSteph's damage control person....)

Maybe the best part: he opened by saying since there were 8 items on the agenda, he thought he'd have 24 minutes to speak. (Council would be there for a few days if everyone could go 24 minutes!)

Can't wait to see how Brian Kirwin spins that entire fiasco....

Monday, April 21, 2008

It's A Gas Tax And Tolls

Our latest poll is over, and - barely - you voted for a Gas Tax and Tolls to cover our regional Transportation needs.

The Gas Tax plus tolls won with 41%. A Sales Tax, which was voted down in 2002, got 38% - again. 9% each voted to Do Nothing and It's A State Responsibility. 3% supported the package in HB 3202.

That brings us to our new question: what to do with Virginia Beach's Property Tax rate. Have fun!

An Open Invitation To Reid Greenmun

In it's early February statement on light rail, the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) left open the door that it might be willing to support light rail if certain conditions were met. On a slow day at work today, I was hit with this brainstorm: why not have the community set out parameters? If we can agree to caps on light rail, the consultants doing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) would virtually have to abide by them, or the project would be dead on the release of the DEIS.

So I started drafting some caps for a Newtown Road - convention center extension. I came up with 7 for starters; add any suggestions under comments:

1. Maximum $500 million project cost.

That would include rail construction, bridge replacement, feeder bus purchases, and a bus maintenance facility.

2. Maximum $75 million local share.

Based on Norfolk's 15% local share.

3. Major roadways would be bridged.

Not to snarl vehicle traffic.

4. Hybrid buses would be used for the feeder service.

Cutting operating costs 25%.

5. A special tax district along the rail corridor to cover the construction debt. It would be a quarter mile each way, the TOD line.

Not only does Reid support TIFs for Transportation, but a former CCO President asked me about such for light rail last week.

6. Virginia Beach would only construct if Norfolk built EVMS to Navy base via ODU.

During the BRT debate, Reid said the military bases should be first. Vice Mayor Louis Jones has said Virginia Beach needs such, so we ask it from Norfolk.

7. Any Change Orders on construction would require a two week process: public comment the first week, followed by more public comment before City Council votes the following week.

Any "bait and switch" would be out in the open.

Reid, feel free to suggest any objective caps you wish. Hopefully we can agree on a package.

The VBTA is scheduled to meet this (last) Saturday. If we can agree on a package and the VBTA votes it out, the CCO newsletter will be finalized the following week. I can get it in so the CCO can vote on a Resolution on May 14. If both the VBTA and CCO agree, we should be able to get the Virginia Beach City Council to commission a DEIS on those terms.

Okay, many will tell me that trying to bargain with the VBTA on light rail is futile. However, if we can condition it enough that it deals with their biggest fears, maybe we can get them to agree to a DEIS. All I can do is try.

Getting To Williams Farm

This morning's Virginian-Pravda brings us to story of the ongoing battle to secure a recreation center for the Lake Edward neighborhood.

I recently was invited to a meeting on the issue - on 3 hours notice. With my schedule, there was no way I could make it. Yes, activists are going to continue to push for such a center until it gets done. City Council candidates running this November can expect to be asked to pledge such a facility. (The only thing funnier than the incumbents who have yet to deliver it may be getting the VBTA-backed candidates to actually agree to spend money.) Like a ward system, it isn't going to go away as an issue.

Which brings us to the proposed West Bayside Community Center (WBCC). The concept is very nice, certainly much better than anything that will be built in Lake Edward in our lifetimes. One huge problem: getting there. Unless you have a car, you won't.

Which brings me to the proposal I want to float: getting bus service to the WBCC. A version of Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) 2030 Plan from earlier in the decade had Route 23 extended from Military Circle to Pembroke East via Haygood Road. (Donald Flayhart posted about it on Talknet.) That would provide access to the WBCC not only for Lake Edward residents, but everyone. Coming from Lake Edward, you'd catch the 23 on Newtown Road to go. With the problem in Lake Edward being in the evenings, that would make evening service a must.

Why was that 23 extension dropped from the 2030 Plan? I don't know, but if it was projected ridership, the WBCC should bring it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

VBTA Supporters Show Their Facist Stripes

There was a recent poll on here "Is VBTA/TLP/CACI a democratic political movement?" There was an unanimous "No" vote.

It looks like you may have had it right. Just over an hour ago the HR Transit Ideas blog was hit with a pro-VBTA cyberattack. The anonymous poster made some false statements concerning blogger Michael Ragsdale, demanded that Michael "respect the VBTA", and pull his blog down.

Anyone who knows Michael knows he is a good kid with a vast knowledge and interest in mass transit. He simply wants to be a transit policy wonk, trying to avoid the associated politics. When the Cedar Grove changes were to take effect, with his own time and money he went out and posted notices on bus shelters that HRT had missed to alert riders to what was about to happen.

I would call on the VBTA leadership to denounce such behavior, but I won't waste my time. Anyone who remembers the 1999 light rail referendum campaign knows that CACI tried to get pro-LRT posters removed from, and pro-LRT posts suppressed on, Talknet. With light rail back on the front burner, it doesn't surprise me to see such behavior again.

VBTA: Light Rail In Virginia Beach Would Require 2,000 Feeder Buses

Yeah, that's straight from the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) Transportation Chairman Reid Greenmun. On he stated light rail in Virginia Beach would require "upwards of a Billion Dollars for a feeder bus service". You can read the hysterical comment yourself at

Uh...the hybrids Virginia Beach is buying to replace the overage trolley fleet are under $500,000 each. For $1 billion, you could buy 2,000 of them. If you bought 2,000, you'd probably get one great fleet discount.

With statements like that, no wonder the VBTA isn't taken seriously. Maybe it's time the VBTA ditched it's anti-Transportation Chairman....

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Remias Gets Job - And Quits

Since this was one of the most commented on stories in this blog's history, I want to hit it with the obvious follow-up

As I hoped, Lyndon was hired as the City's new Auditor, but is having to give up his School Board seat in the process. City Council, like me, thought there was a confilct of interest in trying to do both.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Proper Bus Etiquette

I went to see a matinee of Meet The Browns this afternoon (pretty good movie). Coming home meant taking Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) Inbound Route 20 out of Pembroke East at 3:15 P.M. It was a classic case of the bus subculture and bus riders getting it right - even where the driver was quite wrong.

Preparing to leave Pembroke East, a wheelchair came up alongside the bus. The driver claimed the bus was full and that the 10-16 would have to wait for the next bus. Realizing what was going on, passengers on the right side vacated their seats so they could be put up for the wheelchair. Since the bus was full, that meant standing in the aisle. The driver relented and boarded the wheelchair.

When we made the turn onto Virginia Beach Boulevard, the wheelchair moved. Passengers realized the driver hadn't properly strapped the wheelchair in. She told the 10-16 to put the brakes on his chair on. The passengers insisted that the driver come back and strap it the right way. The driver was forced to at the next stop.

For the hattrick, I got to play my part. It turned out the address the gentleman was trying to find was in my apartment block. I escorted him back from the bus stop.

With Norfolk trying to flush bus riders out of downtown, we have stories like the above to dispel the stereotypes about bus riders.

Okay, Michael, tell us what the driver did that was so wrong....

Budget Trojan Horse

You know it's an election year when you see ideas like this getting floated as serious policy proposals

The obvious problem with it is that while it may have zero budget impact in FY 2009, doubling the size of employee raises would have a great budget impact in FY 2010 and subsequent years.
It's implausible that Councilman Harry Diezel doesn't know that. However, he's up for reelection in November, and the public employee unions are his base. Therefore, he pushes a budget time bomb that would go off July 1, 2009.

Rosemary Wilson used to push teachers' raises from Council, but has stopped doing so. Even she eventually figured it out. Diezel's proposal would have a greater outlying years impact than one of Wilson's raises.

Compass To 2015 Town Hall Meeting

The Virginia Beach school system held a Town Hall Meeting at the convention center Tuesday night in the development of it's strategic plan. At least 250 people were there, probably more.

Participants had three areas to cover:

1. Ranking priorities for the school system.

2. The importance of some issues

3. Coming from the schools, the proverbial essay question

Things ended with participants asked to fill out a feedback form on the event.

Those at my table liked the format. My one complaint was the number of educators who were voting members; at my table, we had a gifted students teacher and a middle school Principal.
That will certainly skew the numbers.

Others at my table were Delegate Bobby Mathieson, former School Board member Jim DeBellis, and the Chairman of the Filipino-American Community Action Group (FilAmCAG) & his wife. As it was the third time Mathieson and I had crossed paths in seven days, we were joking about it. I also recognized present NAACP President Georgia Allen, CCO Previous President Chandler Scarborough, and VBHMA President Linwood Branch.

MIA last night was the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA). The schools make up the majority of the City's operating budget, but our self-anoited "taxpayer advocates" were nowhere to be seen.

The results from last night will "probably" be posted on the schools' website in two weeks.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cedar Grove Day 17

With my bus pass (30 Day ED) set to expire on Friday, I made the trip to Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) Monticello Avenue office to buy a new one this morning. (Why I don't buy them at Silverleaf is another story....) The trip showed me some problems still existed, while some new ones have appeared.


My original plan was to transfer from the 20 to the 23 at Military Circle, taking the 23 to Cedar Grove. (Route 23 has more than twice as many places to go 10-39.) However, the 23 was running about twenty minutes late, so I got back on the 20.

The driver on the 20 had a nasty attitude. Shortly after we left Military Circle, I called the Superintendent of Southside Operations to report an incident from yesterday. Apparently the driver overheard enough of my phone conversation to know who was speaking to who: his attitude dramatically improved, and he started doing everything by the book.

On the bus there were still a few people unaware of the switch from downtown Norfolk to Cedar Grove.

Turning into Cedar Grove, the 3 was directly ahead of us, but it pulled out. I had seen the 1 at the front of the conga line, so I ran for it. It was starting to pull out, but stopped for me. I made the hop up to Monticello on it.

Great time buying the bus pass: a soft-spoken young man did the best Customer Service job I've ever had there.


I walked back to Cedar Grove from the office. Not only did I not want to wait for a bus, but I wanted to test the distance for future trips.

Ominously, a repair crew had come to work on the parking lot. Apparently all those 18 ton buses on it has damaged it. (Not designed for that, was it?)

A lady was still not familiar with Route 310, the free Downtown Shuttle.

I made change for two people needing it for bus fare. That's a regular request you'll get from fellow riders, as the drivers themselves won't make change. (That and I'll get asked to use my cell phone.)

After a wait of about twenty minutes, the 23 Outbound arrived. The bus was surprisingly full for that hour on the 23. About two-thirds full; the 23 normally runs less than half full midday. It and the other two 23s I saw were all operated with Orions. Route 23: Antique Alley.

Unusual sight: the Route 9 had a 2000 series Gillig on it. The 9 is a backwater catch-all route (like the 4) that usually gets older equipment. HRT trying to kiss up to Norfolk State? (The 9 runs on the northern periphery of the NSU campus.)


1. The 23 is FUBAR with the Cedar Grove stop. It needs rescheduled ASAP.

2. Still not 100% awareness on the Cedar Grove changes 2 1/2 weeks later.

South Of The Border Mondays

I've discovered a fun diversion on Monday evenings and thought some of you might be interested. Knuckleheads Roadhouse (401 N. Witchduck Rd.) has South of the Border Mondays. From 5-9 P.M.:

$1 Coronas

$2 Margaritas

50 cent Tacos

$4.99 Cheese Quesadillas

I went last night and had fun. (Enough Corona that I didn't try posting until this morning.) As I plan to try to do them as often as possible, stop in and join me if you want to discuss politics at the bar. I plan to be there next Monday after 7; I'll be the big, bearded guy with Corona and Tacos.

For Knuckleheads' website, try


For those of you who missed it, a recap of the score from last week.

On Wednesday evening, the Council of Civic Organizations (CCO), Virginia Beach's civic league federation, held a wrapup on the 2008 General Assembly session. 5 members of the General Assembly showed to discuss things with civic league representatives.

On Thursday evening, a coalition of anti-tax groups, led by the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA), held a "Town Hall meeting" on Transportation. Every General Assembly member invited refused the invitation.

Everyone now knows who has credibility and who has none....

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Clinton Portrays Herself As A Pro-Gun Churchgoer

Is there any lie that the Hitlery Campaign won't stoop to? It happened in Indiana, and is covered by The Caucus, a blog of The New York Times.

Thanks to The New Nixon Blog, which had this linked up this morning. To my fellow bloggers, please follow suit. This one may be even better than her entering Bosnia under fire story.

Plaxico Burress Day Ceremony

Here's The Virginian-Pravda's short write-up on it

I made it there, but not by design. The CCO Advocacy Task Force was adjourning from it's 10 A.M. meeting at The Daily Grind. As we were coming out, Delegate Bobby Mathieson was walking on the other side of the street and called over to us. He invited us to the Ceremony, and a couple of us went.

The M.C. was Councilman Ron Villanueva, a 1988 graduate of Green Run High School. Mayor Meyera Oberndorf presented Burress the key to the City. Councilman Bob Dyer (a native of Newark, NJ) read the official proclamation for Plaxico Burress Day. Mathieson read a letter from Governor Kaine, which was presented to Burress. Green Run's Principal retired Plaxico's high school jersey. Also speaking were Burress' high school coach and Bruce Smith.

Also part of the festivities from Green Run High School were the band, cheerleaders, and some current student-athletes.

As I was sitting on the aisle Plaxico Burress entered on, I got a low five in with him as he headed for the stage. Everyone had a chance to speak to him afterwards.

The Ceremony lasted about an hour and was the first time many of us had been inside the Sandler Center's theater. For $50 million, they should have bought more comfortable seats.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Economic Indicator? 2nd Edition

This morning I went early to Walmart to go grocery shopping. Along my route, there are two temporary employment offices for day laborers. What struck me: people were already lining up for work at 6:45 A.M. I've never seen them out that early. If people are that desperate for that kind of work....

Why was I shopping that early? Shopping tip: the best time of day to hit Walmart is around 7 A.M. The stockers from the overnight crew are virtually done, while the crowds are yet to come. Full shelves and empty aisles. Knowing what I'm doing, I can get in and out within 15 minutes.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Town Hall Meeting" Tonight At Virginia Wesleyan

A coalition of anti-tax groups, led by the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA), has called a Town Hall Meeting on Transportation tonight at Virginia Wesleyan College at 7 P.M.

For those of you with busy schedules, I'll summarize what will happen tonight:

1. The list of 6 projects out of the MPO will be trashed.

2. Abolishing the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority (HRTA) will be called for.

3. New taxes and fees will be opposed.

4. They'll be unable to draft an alternative list of projects, as they won't have cost estimates.

5. Most of all, they'll never agree on how to pay for Transportation improvements.

There, I just saved you a couple hours.

Elected officials have been invited. My over/under betting line on the number showing up is 3.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

General Assembly Delegation At The CCO

Wednesday evening saw members of the local General Assembly delegation come to speak to the April meeting of the Council of Civic Organizations (CCO), Virginia Beach's civic league federation. In attendance throughout were Terrie Suit, Frank Wagner, and Ken Stolle. Arriving late was Ralph Northam. Leaving early were Joe Bouchard and Bobby Mathieson.

The first question was on the Homestead Exemption, which was killed in the Senate. While Suit voted for it, in hindsight, she says it was probably a mistake. Ken Stolle went farther, stating an Arlington Board of Supervisors member who testified on the Senate side stated that it would be used unevenly. Frank Wagner commented that it could be used to effectively do the work of a Redevelopment Authority by imposing harsh taxes on an area a city wants to take, while granting exemptions in an area a city wants to promote. It was agreed an improved Homestead Exemption Amendment will probably be brought forward in the 2009 Session.

The big issue was Transportation. Frank Wagner said tolls will probably be part of any solution, and that you couldn't raise statewide taxes high enough (given the state's formula) to tackle Hampton Roads' Transportation problems. Therefore, there will have to be a regional component. Joe Bouchard stated "We can't spend our way out of this mess", and "It's time to get smarter."

Ken Stolle had a couple quotes on Transportation that would make the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance livid. He said, "If you think there's enough General Funds to fund Transportation...everyone up here at this table (i.e. the delegation) is going to disagree with you." In addition, "If there's anyone up here saying I can build you roads for the future without raising taxes, they're lying."

Since it's been an issue in the blogosphere, I had submitted a question (intended for Bobby Mathieson) on Governor Kaine's death penalty moratorium. However, Mathieson left early and the question was never asked. (I tried.)

Other bloggers present that I recognized were Eileen Levandoski of and Brian Kirwin of Bearing Drift & Reagan's GOP.

No, Lyndon, You Can't Do Both

The Virginian-Pravda brings us the story of the two finalists for the now-independent City Auditor's position

One of the finalists is Lyndon Remias, the School Board member from Princess Anne District. However, he should have to resign his School Board seat to serve as Auditor. In comes down to one fact: the majority of the City Operating Budget is the school system's. Therefore, he'd have a clear conflict of interest auditing most City spending.

I first met Lyndon about 4 1/2 years ago, and feel fairly confident that he could do an outstanding job. On the other hand, given that Chris Ford's career advancement has been due to City Manager Jim Spore, you'd have a very tough time convincing the general public that the Auditor was truely independent and working for the public good.

So Council should hire Lyndon. After he resigns his School Board seat, the School Board should appoint (if interested) former Princess Anne District rep Al Ablowich to serve out Remias' term.

Portsmouth to MPO: Bring Us Light Rail

According to this morning's Virginian-Pravda (not on their website), last night the Portsmouth City Council voted 6-0 to request that the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) include light rail in the plans for a second tube for the Midtown Tunnel. One Councilman was absent.

Norfolk is constructing, Portsmouth wants in, while Newport News is planning it's first segment. Notice the missing name? Yeah: Virginia Beach. We hope to be working on that one....

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Cedar Grove: The Song

On a slow day at work today, I wrote a song for Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) newest Transfer Center. It's to the tune of The Doobie Brothers' China Grove.

When Wachovia Bank wanted to build a
Center, Norfolk downtown,
Charlotte Street Transfer Center was in the way,
O'Dell pulled it down.
They flushed out bus riders like me
to downtown's periphery.

Well, you're talkin' bout Cedar Grove,
wo, oh. oh, oh. Cedar Grove.

HRT had one week's notice,
fifty five hundred to be rerouted each day,
tried to reach them through Alerts, Internet, and Staffers,
couldn't reach them all, no way.
The first week chaos was a shame;
somehow Norfolk largely dodged blame.

We're talkin' 'bout the Cedar Grove, wo, oh,
oh, Cedar Grove.

Inhaling fumes at Lot 39,
waiting to catch the 310 downtown.
Buses now have time to kill,
diesel being wasted,
and no place to take a 10-39.
There's talk it may become permanent;
how would you get to rail?
Go multimodal at Harbor Park!

Talkin' 'bout the Cedar Grove, oh,
Cedar Grove.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Bob O'Connor Wrong On Transportation - Again

Today's Virginia News Source brought us a piece by Bob O'Connor on Transportation. Bob's quickly becoming my whipping boy. Well, if he keeps making statements like these, someone is bound to call him on them:

1. "The Southeastern Parkway Greenbelt (SEPG), fraudulently claimed as a needed escape route from a hurricane, is in fact primarily for future development."

Bob, have you actually looked at a map of the route? First, the only place it goes south of the Green Line is the western portion of the Transition Area - the same area virtually sealed against development by the BRAC Ordinances. Second, much of the rest of the route falls in AICUZ areas.

2. "A tunnel to Portsmouth would not be needed if Navy presence in Norfolk is reduced as well as civilian employment."

Predicating your Transportation strategy on the region's largest employer downsizing is simply bizarre. In addition, given the congestion at the Downtown Tunnel, added capacity at the Midtown Tunnel would see traffic divert there regardless.

3. "Light rail will encourage more high density development and perpetuate the last century approach to live in one city and work in another."

Followed by:

"Our city and state officials owe taxpayers assurances that any future projects are designed to invigorate Smart Growth...."

Bob, do you have a friggin' clue as to what Smart Growth is?!? Smart Growth features "high density development" in transit corridors (locally: "light rail"). Urban areas within a quarter mile radius of the train station, with lower density outside of that. Smart Growth without transit is nothing but "high density development" without the added Transportation to deal with the numbers!

4. "The people at the Virginia Business magazine get it. In an article in their October 2002 issue they stated 'The state's tax structure promotes sprawl"...."

Agreed. However, I'll only take O'Connor seriously at wanting to tackle the problem when he runs a piece calling for the local Property Tax to be abolished, replaced by a local income tax. Until then, he's simply hiding behind the tax code as an excuse to do nothing.

5. "The people who wrote the document 'A CONSERVATIVE TRANSPORTATION ALTERNATIVE' get it."

You mean the same "document" that Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) Transportation Chairman Reid Greenmun has attacked? Maybe first the Deaniacs should caucus and decide whether they're for or against the "Alternative".

82% Back A Piggyback Tax

The poll is closed and 82% of those who responded favor Virginia Beach enacting an 1% piggyback income tax to replace a portion of the Property Tax. Such was a reccomendation of the Blue Ribbon Tax, Fee, and Spending Task Force.

I'm adamantly in favor of it, as changing how you tax will change city policy. Everyone engages in rhetoric about higher-paying jobs; however, given the Virginia tax code, the cities can tax spending infinitely more than they can tax income. Thus, cities have a small Return On Investment (ROI) for going after higher-paying jobs.

As a transplanted Marylander, I can tell you in my native state you pay 20%-50% on top of your state income tax to your county for local government. The rate varies between counties, and can only be changed with General Assembly approval.

That brings me to the new question, "How would you pay for the 7 regional transportation projects?" Five options are offered.

Cedar Grove Day 9

Another Monday off, another Monday trip into downtown Norfolk for a matinee. Leatherheads is a flat soda: the content is there, but no fizz.


I took Route 23 today, which was 10 minutes late leaving Military Circle. We drew one of the newer buses, Bus 2020, a low floor Gillig. Coming in about 10:50 A.M. to Cedar Grove, I saw the previous 310 (Downtown Shuttle) pulling out. Just missed it.

There were two Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) Staff vehicles at Cedar Grove: a van and a car. A second van joined them. There were 45 people waiting for buses. The half-dozen shelters were full with people trying to avoid the drizzling rain.

The 310 I took downtown had 24 passengers, a HRT Staffer, and the driver on board. The bus was an Orion, ancient rustbuckets that HRT keeps in service due to their large capacity. (The oldest Orions in HRT's fleet are 12 years old, and served in Atlanta as part of the transit fleet for the 1996 Summer Olympics.)


It was surprising for 4 P.M.: only 10 people on the 310 going to Cedar Grove. Staff was once again on board to do counts. Another Orion.

This time I got very lucky: entering Cedar Grove, we came up right behind the Outbound 23. I only had a bus length to walk. Yet another Orion, and it was SRO at rush hour. True to form for a bus it's age, it had a mechanical problem: the rear door wouldn't shut properly. Everyone had to exit out the front.


It reinforced a couple from last week:

1. Reschedule the buses going to Cedar Grove, with the now regularly late 23 getting high priority.

2. The portajohn issue. With that many people waiting at Cedar Grove, they can use that time to go 10-39.

Put Grammar Check On That Paint Brush!

This afternoon I was entering Military Circle Mall through the rear entrance. At the end of the entrance concourse, there is a vacant store boarded over. A sales message has been painted on it:

"Why pay for more than what you need?

The Gallery at Military Circle Mall Gift Cards has NO purchase fees!"

Today's Burton Station Story

It was in today's Virginian-Pravda

I've posted on Burton Station twice before: V-P on Burton Station (December 19) and "There You Go Again" (October 26). So the City of Virginia Beach thinks it will be different this time because...uh...they've decided to include some residents in the process? As the story relates, some of those who were there are opposed to what the City is doing. That the Virginia Beach City Council would do this in an election year demonstrates the contempt that some on Council have for the African-American community.

As Council will probably be adopting the redevelopment plan prior to the November election, hearing the incumbents who are up rationalize this will be priceless.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Faithful Citizenship

I went to 12:45 Mass at St. Gregory's (my home parish), and we had a bulletin insert on "Faithful Citizenship". The basics of what Catholics should do in civil society.

There was a website address on the insert, so I naturally checked it out after getting home. It's by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Enjoy!

Property Tax Fun Time Again

Today's Beacon brings us that annual rite, the ad on the Property Tax rate. Under 58.1-3321 of the Code of Virginia, the 89 cent rate rolled back to 86.66 cents. The City Manager's Budget would reinstate the 89 cent rate.

Okay, everyone knows there will be howls from the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA). You can bet the mortgage that they'll play it for all it's worth - and then some - in an election year. Their campaign last year was for a 78 cents. What will they demand this time?

As thin as the Budget is stretched, does anyone outside the VBTA expect an appreciable cut this year? Maybe a couple cents in an election year, but I'd be shocked to see anything under 87 cents. Given the services that are needed but not funded in the proposed Budget, there isn't room to go much lower.

2007 Citizen Satisfaction Survey

On this quiet Sunday morning, I surfed to and read the City's Survey. As critics have pointed out, many of the numbers are too high to be credible. However, City Council should note the low scores on development management and traffic flow. Yes, they should be issues in this year's election, and challengers who can offer a realistic alternative have a chance.

However, one thing obviously caught my eye:

There were no questions or classifications on the Survey about mass transit.

Would love to see that satisfaction number. As one of those surveyed, that was my top area where I thought the City could do better - but it doesn't appear in the end listings. Lumped together with traffic flow? It shouldn't have been.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Spearing The Lion In The Lion's Den

On Virginia News Source today, Mike Barrett launches an attack on the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA). First, he never gets the name of the group right. Second, gutsy to take them on on their quasi-official website. (The VBTA itself has a website at As of this evening, it hasn't been updated in over two months.)

Mike ends with the statement, "if that means turning back the clock 100 years to one room school houses, dirt roads, and one officer of the law on a horse, that's fine with them." Actually, I think Mike gives them too much credit:

1. "one room school houses" - Libertarians would abolish public schools.

2. "dirt roads" - VBTA Transportation Chairman Reid Greenmun would demand a referendum on the dirt road package. Greenmun would claim the selected projects were about opening up new farmland, not equestrian congestion relief. Finally, he would state the Mule and Pony Organization (MPO) was hijacked by special interests.

3. "one officer of the law on a horse" - the only places the Virginia Beach Police Department (VBPD) uses mounted officers are at the Oceanfront and Town Center. The VBTA demonizes the former, and derides the latter as the "Town Center Food Court." Therefore, they'd oppose "law on a horse".

That said, I believe the VBTA wouldn't turn back the clock that far. As one of my axioms goes, what they advocate might make sense had Virginia Beach taken a sharp right a generation ago. In 21st Century Virginia Beach, they're fish out of water.

That's the key difference between them and I: the VBTA looks backward 20 years, while my agenda looks forward 30 years.

Pembroke East Detour Over

Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) buses have returned to using the regular route to access the Pembroke East Transfer Center. During utilities construction on Constitution (still not quite over), four different detour configurations were used.

With this over, will HRT now throw the kitchen sink at fixing Cedar Grove?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

RAC April 3, 2008

On Thursday afternoon Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met in a brief meeting that lasted just under an hour.

Unanimous approval was given to:

1. Mission Statements for the 5 RAC Subcommittees - the RAC itself has long had a Mission Statement, but none of the Subcommittees has had one - until now.

2. Trolley route changes - as previously reported, northbound traffic on Routes 30 and 32 north of 25th Street will be diverted from Atlantic Avenue to Pacific Avenue

A Locals Campaign has been developed. A Presentation will be given to senior City Staff on April 18 to try to gain approval and funding to move forward.

Commissioners were informed that the Virginia Beach Development Authority (VBDA) had postponed choosing a developer for Dome site redevelopment.

Finally, a nugget for those who think the RAC spends money wildly. I previously reported on the issue of lighting for the bike path on Norfolk Avenue between the Colony Trailer Park and Parks Avenue. Well, the RAC's Plan/Design Review Committee (PDRC) came back with a proposal that would install only one new light pole, using existing utility poles. A thrifty solution to a public safety problem. (Bet Bob O'Connor won't report that in The Monitor.)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Let's Get The MAX To Town Center

With April Fools Day over, I want to take up a serious issue that I've blogged on before: Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT), the pending Metro Area eXpress (MAX) service, and getting it to Town Center.

With 22 days until the TDCHR (i.e. HRT's Board) is scheduled to vote on it, we need to make a push to get Route 960 reconfigured. Here's the Public Hearing Notice: The TDCHR needs to know there is a building consensus in Virginia Beach to include Town Center on the MAX network. Reconfiguring the 960 would provide express service from Town Center to the Oceanfront and downtown Norfolk. Also, reintroduce the convention center stop that was dropped.

The Public Hearing is April 24. Any written comments need to be in by April 18. Let's let everyone know that Virginia Beach takes transit seriously.

Talknet 2.0?

Talknet was an Internet bulletin board hosted by until March, 2006. With obsolete software and behavior problems, Talknet was pulled down.

During a phone conversation late Tuesday afternoon, I was tipped off that discussions are taking place about starting a similar, new service. I don't know how urgently; the comment was made in passing.

Just wanted you all to know so you can put it on your radar screens.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

VBTA Endorses Light Rail

In a move that took all of Hampton Roads by surprise, on April 1 the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) endorsed light rail for Virginia Beach, as part of a regional light rail network.

VBTA Chairman John Moss explained, "Over the past several months we've been working with anti-taxers throughout the region: the Portsmouth Taxpayers Alliance, Norfolk Tea Party 2, Tricia Stall's Senate campaign, etc. Many NTP2 members are pro-light rail, given the group's ties to Randy Wright. Wanting to do something positive and constructive for a change, we've decided to advocate for light rail."

VBTA Communications Director Robert Dean went on, "Light rail is such common sense that even I eventually figured it out. Workable solutions for our community should come before dogmatic ideology."

Finally, VBTA Transportation Chairman Reid Greenmun added, "It's about time that I cared about something other than rich White folks in Sandbridge. My political agenda should be about the needs of people other than the one I see in the mirror."

The VBTA is sending a letter to the Virginia Beach City Council asking them to proceed with light rail without a referendum.

Rosemary Wilson Endorsed By Satan

Satan held a Press Conference at the 31st Street Hilton to announce his endorsement of Rosemary Wilson for reelection to the Virginia Beach City Council in November, 2008. He stated, "On the School Board, Rosemary was a puppet of the Virginia Beach Education Association (VBEA). On City Council, she's a puppet" When reporters expressed shock, Satan went on, "No, Rosemary doesn't realize it, but she takes her marching orders from people owned by me. Her voting record on City Council is overwhelmingly evil."

Asked to elaborate on his interest in Virginia Beach politics, Satan explained, "I've taken a special interest in Virginia Beach politics every since Will Sessoms and Billy Harrison were on Council trying to make the city Hell on Earth for it's residents. Speaking of Sessoms, I wholeheartedly endorse his candidacy for Mayor. I'm hoping to put together a Satan's Slate of Sessoms, Wilson, and a challenger to Bob Dyer. I obviously can't stand a man as great as Bob. If I can't con a developer's puppet into running in Centerville District, I can certainly dupe a Deaniac. After all, the VBTA has redefined self-defeating."

On whether or not Rosemary Wilson was going to Hell, Satan said, "I already have a room waiting for her, right next to Brian Kirwin's. That way the 'world shaker' can continue to try to spin for her in the next life. Best part is that neither of them gets the joke."

Questioned as to what degree he could impact the City Council election, Satan told reporters, 'Virginia Beach's at-large voting system was designed by me. I'm the only one who could rationalize expecting a candidate to reach 430,000 people over a 308 square mile area when much fairer methods exist. At-large voting is 110% Satanic."