Thursday, August 28, 2008
The most interesting news is that Suffolk has agreed in principle to reintegrate it's local bus service into HRT's network. Suffolk has been leasing buses from HRT, putting it's own drivers on, and operating the routes separately. Talks will now be needed to tackle the details of the change.
The big news of the day was the awarding of the contract for the construction of catenary lines and other electrical work on Norfolk's light rail starter line. Please note, Flat Earthers: the contract is 5.3% below budget!
In fact, only one contract (Contract 40) has come in markedly over budget. That's for the track work from Harbor Park to EVMS, and it's only high because Norfolk decided to do utility work while the impacted streets are torn up. Remove the utility work and there is no cost problem.
Commissioners were warned about fuel costs. While fuel accounted for only 15% of HRT's FY 2008 Budget, by FY 2010 it's projected to be 20%.
Commissioner Jim Wood spoke of a story by Joe Bouchard, former commander of Norfolk NOB and now Delegate from the 83rd District. Traffic in the region is so bad that the Navy was flying
some from Norfolk NOB to Oceana NAS. It's Bouchard's hope that light rail can be extended to allow that trip to be made by train.
Finally, the postponed TDCHR Retreat has been rescheduled for November 7 & 8 at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott.
Farecards are easy to get a finger on: the method of selling them has changed. Some Ticket Vending Machines (TVM) have been removed. There's a greater reliance on retail sales, especially through Sunsations.
Ridership is perplexing. One, hybrid ridership is slightly higher than trolley ridership, so it's hard to blame it on the new vehicles. Two, the route that took the biggest hit (Route 32, Shopper's Shuttle) is the route that should have benefited the most from the vehicle change. Three, hotel occupancy was only down 6% in June, while city parking lot usage stayed about even.
Two recommendations came out of the meeting. First, a robust marketing campaign for the VBWave in 2009. Second, the pressing need for a Survey of VBWave riders to get at the causes.
The meeting ended on reminders of chances to have input on mass transit in Virginia Beach, as well as the new Comprehensive Plan.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The meeting will be hard-pressed to beat the story behind it. First it was going to be early this year, then after the Budget, and now September. First it was going to be 4 town hall meetings, then 2, and now an open house. The really fun part: who pays how much for what?
Regardless, be sure to come. You bet it's on my calendar!
Christine Alvarez Award - for uplifting the region's poor: Empower Hampton Roads
The faith-based group has done good work, pushing issues many politicos are afraid to touch but they are needed.
Rosa Parks Award - for striving towards an inclusive Virginia Beach: Georgia Allen
Some have done as much work, but nobody I know of has sacrificed themselves more towards the goal.
Maury Jackson Award - for civic activism in Virginia Beach: Dan Baxter
1st Vice President (and former President) of the CCO, he has Chaired the Clean Community Commission, served on the Blue Ribbon Budget Task Force, and much more. Given that Jackson recruited Baxter to the CCO, fitting that he's the first recipient.
Urho Kekkonen Award - for statesmanship: Delegate Bob Tata
For HB 6028, the bill that got light rail rolling in Virginia Beach.
Richard Maddox Award - for best City Councilman: tie, Bob Dyer and Jim Wood
I was debating this one, and hoped one of them would distinguish himself - or shoot himself in the foot - at this past weekend's City Council Retreat.
Isaak Mikkanen Award - for best developer: The Dragas Companies
With most developers claiming we can't build affordable housing without a Redevelopment Authority, Dragas has done it on their own.
The first annual list is a short one; under comments feel free to suggest any awards for the 2009 edition.
I had 5 negative awards ready to go, but some involve people I'm currently locking horns with. Therefore, I thought it might be perceived as spiteful for me to make them, even though the decisions had long been made.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
You have to love it! "It is obvious to me that DEVELOPER Scott Taylor is in the race to split off votes from John Moss." Obvious to who else, Reid? Your friend Harvey? Yeah, since Taylor is a developer he must actually be a tool of Sessoms?!? ROFL! Honest to God, how many votes are there to split off of Moss? The two dozen that go to the VBTA breakfast? Reid goes on to wonder why Moss isn't the frontrunner, and then thinks it's simply a case of lazy reporters not knowing that Moss is the man to beat.
Geez, that sure is some wicked Kool-Aid that the VBTA is serving....
Sunday, August 24, 2008
The new poll question deals with an idea floated by Councilman Bill DeSteph at this weekend's Virginia Beach City Council Retreat. The proposal: phase out BPOL "over 5-10 years".
1. On the one hand, the tax was enacted originally to pay for Virginia's share of The War of 1812. It's long been paid for. In addition, the way it is applied is cumbersome for businesses.
2. On the other hand, it provides over $42 million per year to the City of Virginia Beach. With the City already facing a $68 million Budget shortfall for FY 2010, some argued that we simply can't afford it.
Have your say.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
IMPROVE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM
1. Better traffic flow, less congestion
3. Better mass transit with increased ridership
4. Safer streets and intersections
5. More alternative modes of transportation
7. Secure transportation funding
Challenges and Opportunities
1. Funding: local, state, and Federal
2. Funding for mass transit
3. Project Priorities
8. Linking bus routes with light rail
9. Acquisition of Norfolk Southern Right-of-Way
10. Local road funding: building and maintenance
1. Roads Funding Plan
11. Neighborhood Road & Maintenance Program: Policy and Funding
12. Norfolk Southern Corridor Mass Transit: Policy, Direction, and Actions
15. Lynnhaven Parkway Project
17. I-264 Strategy and Actions
22. I-264/I-64 Interchange
REVITALIZE NEIGHBORHOODS AND PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
1. Safe neighborhoods
2. Reuse of aging commercial areas
3. Improve neighborhood infrastructure and city amenities
4. More property owners investing in upgrading homes and properties
5. Community vision guiding future development and land use
6. Protection of natural resources and waterways
Challenges and Opportunities
1. Declining Property Values
3. Aging housing stock
6. Criminal activity, deteriorating neighborhoods
8. Code Enforcement
10. Lack of pattern books and design funding
11. Differing citizens values and perspectives
1. Comprehensive Plan: Update
2. Stormwater and Ditch Maintenance Program
5. Dredging for (navigable) waterways
8. Bayside Action Plan
10. Gang Strategy
16. Neighborhood Preservation Program and Plan
17. Agriculture Reserve Program: Evaluation and Funding
BE A COMPETITIVE, FIRST CLASS RESORT FOR RESIDENTS, BUSINESSES AND TOURISTS
2. Become year-round destination
3. Safe and inviting environment for families
4. More variety of activities
6. Optimize potential of convention center
Challenges and Opportunities
1. National Economy
2. Transportation & tunnel relief
3. Improve over competition - amenities
6. Parking and access
8. Lack of weather-resistant activities
11. Taxis and Transit
3. Convention center: business development
5. Sand Replenishment & Hurricane Protection
6. Dome site: Report and Direction
9. Resort Parking
City Council then went back and prioritized the top 19 actions for 2008-09
2. Business Attraction Policy
3. Burton Station Development
4. Road Funding Plan and Policy Direction
6. Mass Transit Funding
10. Comprehensive Plan
17. Compensation Policy
19. Landfill and SPSA
1. Town Center Phase IV
5. Neighborhood Road Improvement Policy Direction
7. Lynnhaven Parkway Project
13. Neighborhood Preservation Program
15. Beach/Sand Replenishment
16. Dome site
18. Total Compensation for New Hires
8. I-264 Strategy and Policy
9. I-64/I-264 Interchange
11. Dredging for Waterways Policy
12. Bayside Action Plan
14. Agriculture Reserve Program
1. It was a great day for mass transit: not only did it make Top Priority, but City Council realizes it needs to make a major new investment in bus routes.
2. Reba McClanan arrived late...as she first went to the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) Breakfast.
3. Best joke of the day: BRT was mentioned as a possibility for the Norfolk Southern Right-of-Way, which led John Uhrin to say, "If it hadn't been for the last time, I'd still have my Saturdays free."
Now I need to get going to 6 P.M. Mass. Enjoy!
Friday, August 22, 2008
After lunch the 5 area headings were taken up: Create a Financially Sustainable City Providing Excellent Services, Grow and Diversify the Local Economy, Improve Transportation System, Revitalize Neighborhoods and Plan for the Future, and Be a Competitive, First Class Resort for Residents, Businesses, and Tourists. They were kept in that order of importance from the previous year, with the first two being tackled Friday afternoon.
CREATE A FINANCIALLY SUSTAINABLE CITY PROVIDING EXCELLENT SERVICES
1. Price of government linked to cost of services and citizens ability to pay.
2. More effective budget and financial planning process - understandable and usable.
3. Greater citizen satisfaction with easy access.
4. Services delivered in the most cost-effective manner.
5. Reliable delivery of daily services
Challenges and Opportunities
1. Forecasting the national economy
7. Reduction in state and Federal funding
8. Energy costs
9. Staffing for Public Safety
12. Interest rates
13. Reduction in assessments
2. Compensation Policy: direction and action
5. Public Safety Staffing
6. Real Estate Tax/Assessment Analysis of Impact
7. Green Initiatives: Actions
13. Animal Control: Direction
15. Total Compensation for New Hires: Policy, Direction, and Actions
24. Landfill/SPSA: Direction
GROW AND DIVERSIFY THE LOCAL ECONOMY
1. Business retention and growth
2. Attraction: new businesses
3. Develop Burton Station as a major business center
4. Expand Town Center
7. Expand military and military-related businesses
Challenges and Opportunities
1. Funding for economic development
4. Transportation and highway network in the region
8. National economy
9. Political will by Mayor and City Council
1. BRAC Strategy
8. Town Center Phase IV
10. Energy-related business attraction
19. Agriculture businesses
20. Job recruitment instructions - local and regional
21. Burton Station
The big economic news of the day was the preliminary report by Assessor Jerry Banagan that Assessment growth for next year will be 0%. That's right: zero. That will leave the projected FY 2010 Budget with a $68 million shortfall to be covered.
As for the FY 2009 Budget, on Tuesday City Council will consider an Ordinance to slash all operating departments by 1.25%, to deal with rising fuel costs.
Transportation will be first up Saturday morning, and it made for the best line of the day. Referring to the overwhelming support at the Community Conversation for light rail, it was said "Last night was the real light rail referendum."
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Each of 13 tables were asked to answer five questions:
Virginia Beach 2008
1. What are City successes for the last year?
2. Why I choose to live in Virginia Beach - assets worth preserving.
Virginia Beach 2023
3. My vision for Virginia Beach for 2023 - my description of Virginia Beach in 15 years.
4. What are the keys to future successes in 15 years - challenges, opportunities, and critical factors?
Action Agenda 2009
5. What issues, programs, and projects need to be addressed by the City during the next year (12 months)?
The input will be compiled and presented to City Council at tomorrow's Retreat session. In addition, the full input will be posted on the City's website ASAP.
The VBTA won't be happy:
1. On the one hand, 12 of 13 tables wanted more mass transit. The vast majority saw light rail as part of the mix.
2. On the other hand, only 1 table brought up greater use of referenda...and didn't vote it out as a priority.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
For the "Nobody rides the bus" crowd, we had 16 passengers on board that late on a weeknight.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Okay, two glaring factual errors in the story:
1. It gets the number of City Council members wrong.
2. You can't single-shot this cycle, as only one at-large seat is up.
Two things the story misses on:
1. Even bigger than the Norfolk court case is the possibility of Barack Obama winning in November. The former civil rights lawyer would have a Democratic Congress to create all the new statutory authority he needs to have voting systems like Virginia Beach's struck down.
2. A cumulative voting system for Virginia Beach would add diversity to City Council while negating every publicly stated reason I've heard for maintaining at-large voting.
The story mentions the 2011 Redistricting process. I drafted 2 of the 7 plans in 2001. If the 2011 process started tomorrow, I'd submit a six district plan and an eight district plan on day one.
Does anyone else remember Councilman Richard Maddox's 2006 reelection campaign slogan? It was "Not Afraid To Lead". This affliction isn't something new to City Council, as it's been there for some time now. The November election has only magnified it.
As much as ordinary residents hated the Will and Bill Era on City Council, at least those two weren't afraid to pull the trigger. Granted, they usually did the wrong thing and for evil reasons, but they acted.
The City has a backlog of pressing needs, but City Council acts largely in symbolism...and that's when they actually care to act. The Virginia Beach City Council reminds me of the Jaruzelski regime in Poland: purge both far wings of the party, then have the government act in half-measures. It obviously didn't work in Warsaw, and it won't work in Virginia Beach.
Monday, August 18, 2008
In pledging to use transit, you become eligible to win a free transit pass for a year. Pledge!
The starter site is fairly basic. Gift of Tourism 1.1 will be up in 4-6 weeks.
The entire Locals Campaign is being paid for by funds from the City's Tourism Growth Investment Fund (TGIF). No General Fund money is being used.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
I've been to every Council Retreat since 2002 and certainly don't plan to miss this one. Watch this blog for coverage.
Yes, the Retreat is open to the general public to observe, but their is no formal public comment session. If you have any concerns, e-mail them to Council this week. The pace is very slow, but you get to see each Councilman run the full spread of issues. It's like a NFL conference championship game for we political junkies. An issue being looked at favorably at Retreat much enhances it's probability for Council passage during the coming year.
Personally, I'm for offshore drilling. However, there's a trump card here: the U.S. Navy. The Navy opposes Virginia drilling offshore, as the waters are their training grounds. I'm not for risking the Atlantic Fleet to get it done.
The new poll question is on NATO expansion into the former Soviet Union. After the recent hostilities between Georgia and Russia, Germany has called for admitting Georgia into NATO. In addition Dick Morris has written that the most important lesson of that conflict was the need to admit Ukraine. One? Both? Neither? You vote.
The poll ends next Saturday evening, after the Virginia Beach City Council Retreat is scheduled to be completed. I should have more polling material out of it.
Friday, August 15, 2008
The 20 minute ceremony focused on the Presentation of a plaque to the City with HJ 6078, Delegate Bouchard's Resolution from the Transportation Special Session. http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?083+sum+HJ6078
Virginia Beach has now opened a portal to try to draw eco-friendly tourists http://www.virginiabeachgreen.com/
A couple interesting sidebars today. One was that when someone came in wearing a Sessoms for Mayor t-shirt, there was a highly negative reaction in the rear of the room. That was from Resort Area business people, whose businesses Sessoms directed tens of millions of dollars to as Vice Mayor.
The other sidebar? Come back late Monday evening, as it should be ready to go by then.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
A young woman started to step onto the bus. She asked the driver "Are you going to Cedar Grove?" As gently as he could, he let her know that to get to Cedar Grove she needed the bus with the sign reading "CEDAR GROVE". (DOH!) Better yet, the driver needed to repeat that to her.
If I hadn't been exhausted, I would have rolled over laughing.
Today was the third time I've gone through a Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) transfer center that had CVP workers registering voters. On none of the three occasions has a CVP worker approached me about registering. Twice CVP workers have walked right past me. This morning a CVP worker blew by me to speak to someone about 15 feet away.
Is the problem that I'm a middle-aged White male? As CVP is hitting virtually everyone around me, it doesn't pass the smell test.
However, where do you go for dental treatment? There's a low-income dental clinic in Norfolk...but it only serves Norfolk residents. There's a tooth extraction clinic in Chesapeake...but they won't take you if you have any health insurance, even if it doesn't cover dental. (Say what?)
I found a great place to go: the PICH Dental Clinic, at 1033 28th Street in Newport News. Payment is based on income, with a three-tier sliding scale. (Before Reid starts ranting about "freeloaders", I'm paying the top tier.) Book ASAP, as I had nearly a three month wait to get in as a first time patient. For those using Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), it's served by both Routes 101 and 104.
The newly opened office in Suffolk also has dental facilities. Their website is at http://www.pich.org
Friday, August 8, 2008
First of all, yesterday the Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) was told there had been no major changes to the Resort Area Strategic Action Plan since the public meetings, and that it would now be going to the Planning Commission in September. The article reports that the proposal has already been put into the SAP.
Second, during the Charettes, I had tried to get the Colony Trailer Park property tagged for workforce housing for Resort Area workers. The Planning Department said "No", pointing out the property falls within the 70 decibel line for Oceana. Therefore, what Sessoms is proposing is also in violation of the City's commitment to the Navy.
This needs to come out of the SAP!
The new poll is on whether Virginia should drill offshore for natural gas and/or oil.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
A concern was that ridership of the VB Wave service on Atlantic Avenue was down 30% in June over 2007. There are a number of possible factors: tourists numbers were down, the ticket selling matrix has been changed, the new hybrid buses have been brought online, etc. Commissioner John Malbon urged that a survey be done before the end of the season to determine what is happening.
There has been a delay in getting the Resort Area Strategic Action Plan to the Planning Commission. Originally scheduled for August, it's now slated for September.
The Oceanfront Enhancement Committee (OEC) has recommendations on controlling behavior problems that are spilling over into adjacent neighborhoods. They will be presented at the September RAC meeting.
The meeting ended on a discussion about Bobby Melatti's departure from Live Nation. There are still four major events this year; can Live Nation pull them off without Bobby? Live Nation's contract with the city requires three full-time employees; who is the new third? The contract has a single one year option left; without it, the contract expires January 31.
The best part: he implicated the VBTA in his cyberattacks. Under "TPPC July 31, 2008" he wrote in response to use of the term "Messnerism-Greenmunism", "And why does Henry insist on bringing up the past!?" Uh...that's VBTA Transportation Chairman Reid Greenmun's stock answer when you bring up his ties to Barbara Messner: angrily claim it's all in the past. In short, the VBTA Troll has talked to Reid and it's implausible that he doesn't know who the Troll is.
Then again, the Troll is doing more than anyone else to discredit the VBTA. So let him engage in outrageous behavior, coloring the VBTA as racist, anti-free speech, idiots, etc.
They were attacking my Delegate, "John Bouchard", for voting to increase taxes for Transportation during the recent General Assembly special session. The caller wanted me to contact Bouchard's office in protest.
Uh...if you're going to do such calls, at least get Joe Bouchard's name right. You know how many 83rd District voters are now laughing at Americans for Prosperity? Though you might want to join the fun.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
The evening started with me running into Mayor Meyera Oberndorf in the corridor where we had about a 10 minute conversation.
The meeting itself had two main sections: reports from General Assembly members on the 2008 sessions and previewing the 2009 session, then residents comments and General Assembly answers. The latter ran so long that the group never got to individual submissions for the 2009 Package.
Plenty of elected officials were present. From the General Assembly: Frank Wagner, Harry Blevins, Bob Tata, Bob Purkey, John Cosgrove, Sal Iaquinto, and Joe Bouchard. The entire Virginia Beach City Council was there except Reba McClanan. In addition, School Board Chairman Dan Edwards attended.
The big story was the attendance of about 100 people. In the past there has been maybe 15-20 people. Tonight was a pleasant surprise for we veterans of the meeting.
Cosponsors were the City of Virginia Beach, the Council of Civic Organizations (CCO), the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Beach Vision, et al. Signage at the convention center billed it as the "General Assembly Community Leaders Roundtable Meeting." Since VBTA/TLP/CACI weren't cosponsors, they aren't "Community Leaders". (I couldn't resist, especially with the VBTA Troll back.)
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I wanted to greet them and welcome them to our country. However, they were busy with the guide, then kept to themselves. As a first generation American, I didn't want to do anything to make them uncomfortable.
Anyone familiar with the IOM? I had never heard of them. Figuring any group worth it's salt has a website, I Googled up their's http://www.iom.int
Sunday, August 3, 2008
1. "The rest of the story is history as the 'Sportsplex' is a white elephant...."
The big problem is that the Mariners were saddled with ownership that had ambitions much bigger than their bank accounts, and 3 of the 4 ownership groups were absolute idiots.
2. "The ridership will not sustain the debt service, operating and maintenance cost without a subsidy from the taxpayers pockets, higher taxes."
First of all, Hedrick obviously doesn't understand light rail economics. It's not the "ridership" that will sustain the debt service, but the tax revenue off the redevelopment it induces.
Second, there isn't an unsubsidized mass transit system in the U.S. So Hedrick's point is...what?
3. "We the people' voted against light rail in 1999 and if light rail was put forth on a referendum again it would garner the same results, a majority vote of NO."
Hedrick knows that's not true. John Moss has trotted out a "wait and see" light rail position for his Mayoral campaign. If Moss knows he can't run for Mayor as openly anti-light rail, why does Hedrick want to pretend a clear majority is opposed? (Okay, other than that line playing well at VBTA breakfasts....)
4. "I was in Houston, Texas, several months ago and saw the light rail system ...almost empty."
Yeah, that poor Houston system: it's 2007 ridership was ahead of 2020 projections. http://www.lightrailnow.org/facts/fa_lrt_hou.htm In Virginia Beach we hope to have that kind of "failure"....
5. "Virginia Beach City Council spent our tax dollars on a consulting company to look at our city for the feasibility of a light rail system. The consulting company said the answer was no, the population was spread out over a geographical area that was not suited for light rail."
Of course, all prior to December, 2003. That's when our current Comprehensive Plan was adopted, which put in Strategic Growth Areas along the Norfolk Southern Right-Of-Way in order to facilitate it's use as a mass transit corridor.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and the VBTA."