Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Transit Notes December 29, 2008

1. Taking the Route 33 down to the Municipal Center on Monday morning, I was watching the cars maneuvering where Princess Anne Road narrows from four lanes to one lane.

The City has a Budget shortfall? Simply send out the traffic cops to start ticketing your own employees on the way into work. A big revenue source there.

2. For the "Nobody Rides The Bus" crowd, the Outbound Route 29 was standing room only at 10 A.M.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The CIA's Newest Weapon In Afghanistan: Viagra

Yeah, the CIA is paying off village notables in Viagra to buy their loyalty against the Taliban. http://www.newsmax.com/insidecover/cia_viagra_afghanistan/2008/12/26/165498.html

VBTA: The Song

With Christmas over, how about a song on everyone's favorite bunch of idiots? Sung to the tune of The Village People's YMCA (fitting for the VBTGay):

Doofus, you can do politics
They think, doofus, smarts are for heretics
Simple, doofus, positions they'll tell you
Dean will tell you what to believe

Doofus, they're on an insane spree;
Reid says, doofus, all's a conspiracy.
They've yet to win a City Council race
In the 21st Century

Drink the Kool-Aid at the VBTA
Drink the Kool-Aid at the VBTA

No need to be constructive or honest,
You are there simply to complain.

Drink the Kool-Aid at the VBTA
Drink the Kool-Aid at the VBTA

They're never constructive, they're never realistic, it's all about being extreme.

Doofus, don't you want to be extreme?
Don't you, doofus, know kooks hate liberty?
Join them, doofus, no thinking for yourself,
You'll be ordered to parrot them!

They let no one think for himself;
Once there, doofus, put your brain on the shelf.
Check your manhood for the VBTA;
They'll make you a cultist today.

Drink the Kool-Aid at the VBTA
Drink the Kool-Aid at the VBTA

No need to be constructive or honest,
You are there simply to complain.

Drink the Kool-Aid at the VBTA
Drink the Kool-Aid for the VBTA

They're never constructive, they're never realistic, it's all about bring extreme.

Doofus, they have a theory:
Hampton Roads is one big conspiracy!
Never a solution for anything;
They simply oppose everything.

You can pretend to do something.
Once there, doofus, you can claim to belong.
An extremist cult the VBTA,
So much time spent doing nothing.

Drink the Kool-Aid at the VBTA
Drink the Kool-Aid at the VBTA

No need to be constructive or honest,
You are there simply to complain.

Drink the Kool-Aid at the VBTA
Doofus, doofus belong to a group
Doofus, doofus accomplishing nothing

Sane people hate the VBTA
Doofus, doofus you can yell all you want
Doofus, doofus be part of the anti-conspiracy

Thursday, December 25, 2008

80% Want Town Center to Proceed

By a margin of 80%-19% you voted in favor of Virginia Beach continuing with building out Town Center. The next phase was pending before City Council earlier this month only to have them defer.

The new poll question (as promised): does the VBTA really supporting studying light rail from EVMS to Norfolk NOB? At the December 17 MPO meeting, Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) Transportation Chairman Reid Greenmun spoke, claiming the VBTA endorsed such a study. Do you believe him and the VBTA, or was it a ruse?

Why "Avenging Archangel"?

Some have wondered about the name of this blog. This blog has even been linked without mentioning it by name. Now that you know the previous two stories, you should be able to get it.

Public Affairs have become my lay mission. Having been brutalized by the system, I have every motivation in the world to change it. Taking four buses to a public meeting on the Peninsula doesn't faze me. If I can save one person from going through what I've survived, I've paid back. If I can save many more, a rich reward awaits me in heaven.

So fire away. Neither my blog nor I will be silenced. Merry Christmas!

My Religious Conversion Story

What's Christmas without a religious story? I'll let the Lectors at Mass handle The Virgin Birth in Bethlehem. I'll give you my religious conversion story.

My early religious training epitomized my entire nightmarish childhood. From rugrat to age 10 it was Presbyterian. (My adoptive "parents" former landlord was Presbyterian, and they opportunistically joined the church.) From ages 11 to 17 it was Methodist. I was sent to a year of Baptist Bible School because a neighbor was Baptist. I was sent to two years of Episcopalian Bible School because my adoptive "mother's" best friend was Episcopalian. Needless to say, none of that was going to stick.

I always knew in my heart that there was a God. At age 17 I began reading about other Faiths.

My epiphany was during my residency at trade school when I was 18. Students were from all over the Eastern United States, from many different backgrounds. However, I realized the 3-4 I liked best had one thing in common: they were all Catholic. They had something I didn't, I went looking for it, and found it.

I started taking a Knights of Columbus correspondence course in Church teachings. (Yes, today I'm a 4th degree Knight.) I got Catholic penpals. Finally, I went to the Catholic church in the town I grew up in and caught the pastor in the parking lot. The parish's Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) classes were to begin a week and a half later. (The parish's Deacon believed my timing must have been Divine Intervention.) I became Catholic at Easter Vigil, 1986.

Over 22 1/2 years later, I can tell you becoming Catholic was the smartest thing I did in my life. If searching, go to a Catholic church for Mass. (I'll even join you at St. Gregory's - my parish - to explain the Mass to you.) Parishes should begin forming new RCIA classes after Easter.

Why I Do Public Affairs

I was born the son of a Finnish immigrant, a lady who later repatriated to Suomi. Separated from her first husband at the time of my birth, I was put up for adoption.

At 16 months, I was adopted by a Federal bureaucrat and his crazed tyrant of a wife. Their only purpose for a child was as a prop in their quest for social acceptance. I was subjected to physical abuse and neglect.

By my Junior year of high school, Social Services had discovered what was going on. Their response: simply put me in an in-school counseling program to deal with the damage after the fact. Nothing was done to either stop the abuse or get me out of the house. That would have meant Social Services having to admit their mistake in putting me there in the first place.

Having been adopted into the house of a Federal bureaucrat in a state adoption, at a very early age I came to look at the system as my number one enemy. Accordingly, I grew up to be a reformist politico.

Some in Virginia Beach have attacked me, deluding themselves into thinking they could force me from the political arena. You can no more take away my motivation than you can erase my childhood. Such a strategy backfires, as the attackers become the new abusers, hitting me just like my adoptive "parents" did.

Many of my personality characteristics are left from my childhood. Among those which will show up on this blog:

1. Rosemary Wilson had noted how I love the little guy versus the big guy fights. Remember that as a child I was the little guy being savaged by the big guys.

2. As the textbook child who failed to bond, I'm off in the world of ideas. You'll see me float some here.

3. My going in with guns blazing style derived from rarely getting anything worthwhile as a child without a fight.

4. I'm an acute Introvert who is infinitely more comfortable in front of a keyboard than at a social event.

I disowned my adoptive "parents" years ago. (I celebrate Disownment Day every February 4.) My adoptive "father" died in 2007. (I found his obituary in a web search.) As my adoptive "mother" would be 80 in May, not much longer until she joins him in Hell.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Value City Closes

The Value City department store at the intersection of Virginia Beach Boulevard and Witchduck Road closed on Tuesday. Christmas Eve was spent removing some final items.

This presents the City with an interesting challenge. On the northwest corner of the intersection you have the just-closed Value City. On the northeast corner is a former furniture story, way underutilized as used car overflow. Virginia Beach's long term plans have Witchduck Road as the western gateway into an expanded Central Business District.

How will we get quality redevelopment of empty big boxes in a soft economy? (Psst...I want a nightclub in one of them. Party!)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Slow News Month

With the holidays, I expected news to slow down and that I'd have trouble with blog copy in December. However, a couple things I've been working on:

1. I've long had planned three posts for Christmas.

They should help give you an insight into one of the most misunderstood figures in Virginia Beach public affairs.

2. I've been writing a satire of the VBTA.

Okay, I've beaten that horse before. However, I grasp that readership is overwhelmingly anti-VBTA and I like writing humor.

The disappointing note was that I was unable to recruit additional posters, so it looks like I'll have to carry the load myself into the mid-term.

In January we have the new City Council, the new administration in Washington, and the General Assembly session in Richmond. That should make for plenty of material.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Queen Rania of Jordan Goes YouTube

Queen Rania, wife of Jordan's King Abdullah, has her own YouTube channel. It's at http://www.youtube.com/user/QueenRania It has her commentary on subjects, and a link to her official website.

You have to watch the kickoff video in which she spoofs David Letterman's Top 10 Lists. (I wanted to embed the video on here, but it wouldn't give me the usual code.) It's hilarious!

Update: I found a way to get the link to embed. Here it is:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Where Art Thou Seaboard?

As of this afternoon Norfolk's downtown library was still Kirn Memorial Library. Two weeks after they were supposed to be in the Seaboard Building.

When Norfolk can't even move a library diagonally across the street, no wonder they're having such problems with light rail construction.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Portland Snow Follies

Video of drivers on the streets of Portland, OR after a snowfall.

H/T to HR Transit Ideas

UCAC December 17, 2008

On Wednesday evening Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) User Citizen Advisory Committee (UCAC) held a Strategic Planning Meeting.

Three goal areas were set, with action items under each. The list now goes to HRT administration for review. Once the list is approved, the action items will be assigned to individual UCAC members for bottom line responsibility.

Richmond Is Painful To Watch

I meant to post this yesterday morning, but had to get out the door to the MPO meeting. Governor Kaine released his proposed Budget amendments, and it's an ugly plan http://hamptonroads.com/2008/12/gov-kaine-propose-big-cuts-doubling-cigarette-tax

As for Kaine's plan:

1. How is tapping nearly half of the Rainy Day Fund in a single year sound fiscal policy?

2. Given that the Virginia Constitution mandates that all Lottery profits go to Education, how does Kaine think they can legally be diverted?

3. After the Commonwealth has spent the past 15 years trying to rein in the costs of Medicaid through regulation, where does Kaine think there's $400 million to be found?

Then there was Speaker of the House Howell. His first instinct: defend Fillup Morgues (a.k.a. Phillip Morris). It's political acumen like that that threatens to cost Republicans the House of Delegates next November.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

MPO December 17, 2008

This morning Hampton Roads' Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) held it's December meeting.

First of all, Paul Fraim made an issue out of the name of the MPO itself. He wants one that is more descriptive of what the MPO actually does.

The headline matter of the day was the reorganization of the MPO itself. A recent Federal review hit the MPO with 11 Corrective Actions (CAs) needed. (Most reviews find only 1-2 CAs.) It had been anticipated that the MPO might act on them today. They received a consultant's report. However, their own MPO Committee wanted to move only on minor and urgent matters today, dealing with the major ones at a special meeting in February. The major areas left to tackle are Membership (including weighted voting), Advisory Committees, and the Metropolitan Planning Agreement.

One of the CAs attacked the MPO for lack of public comment allowed at meetings. 4 of us spoke this morning; you should have seen the look on the Staffer's face when I handed her two sign-up cards (one for me; one for another gentleman). Two addressed the governance matters. I spoke on Agenda Item 6, which included extending light rail both Newtown Road - Dome site and EVMS - Norfolk NOB. Reid Greenmun was one of those who spoke on governance; he got in a last minute stab at light rail. (Reid, forget that was on the agenda when you wrote your remarks?)

Speaking of which, the MPO unanimously approved $1.5 million for the LRT extensions study. The funny part: Reid Greenmun said he supported studying the EVMS - Norfolk NOB line. (That Reid would support LRT anywhere in Hampton Roads made for some laughs afterwards.)

The MPO received a Presentation on Gilmerton Bridge replacement. Doing so will require that traffic be reduced to two lanes for a considerable time, leading to much discomfort among members.

Finally, there will be an attempt to schedule a joint MPO - Hampton Roads (General Assembly) Caucus meeting on Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel expansion. However, the holidays and the looming session will make that difficult.

Monday, December 15, 2008

No Light Rail Referendum

You voted 52%-47% that light rail in Virginia Beach shouldn't be put to referendum. The Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) has been clamoring for a referendum, but there are several reasons why we shouldn't:

1. The VBTA's position is entirely self-serving. The VBTA is on life support after November 4, and light rail is the only issue looming that could rejuvenate the group. They want to kill light rail at referendum so they can claim credit for it, using that as a tool to market themselves.

2. Anyone think it has anything to do with the consent of the governed? You actually believe that if light rail passed at referendum, the VBTA would jump on the train? No, the day after the victory they'd be complaining at least as loud as the day before. They simply realize they don't have the votes among City Council or the General Assembly delegation to stop it.

3. Light rail is too vital to the future of Virginia Beach. If a referendum question lost, what would we then do to improve our sorely lacking mass transit? How would we redevelop the Strategic Growth Areas? A loss would put Virginia Beach back at least 20 years.

4. Just go to the November 4 election results: all anti-LRT candidates lost, with pro-LRT Mayoral candidates getting over 84% of the vote.

5. The VBTA and it's Board of Directors members have shown they have no intention of being honest about light rail. A referendum campaign would have them running around town telling every lie they could dream up. (Oops...they're doing that already!)

6. In a 2005 Survey, 47% of residents said they'd go to the Resort Area more often if not for parking problems. The local share for light rail to the Dome site would be less than 3 Oceanfront parking garages, and we'd get much more for the money.

The new poll question: should Virginia Beach proceed with the next phase of Town Center? Council deferred the matter for a month.

Friday, December 12, 2008

TDCHR December 11, 2008

On Thursday morning the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR), the governing body of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), met.

The unusual starting time (10 A.M.) was at the request of the City of Norfolk due to light rail eminent domain public hearings. The funny part: no one showed up to speak. Even after the special accommodations.

The annual Audit Report was distributed to Commissioners and explained. They will now read it over, and formally receive it at their next (January 22) meeting.

President-elect Obama's economic stimulus package is slated to have a transit component. Transit agencies across the country have been asked to identify projects to get into the queue. HRT has four:

1. new Southside facility - to replace the aging administrative offices and garage in Norfolk.

2. Cedar Grove replacement - a permanent downtown Norfolk transfer center with light rail access.

3. Norfolk light rail - more Federal funds to help cover the increased cost.

4. Virginia Beach light rail - towards extension of Norfolk's Starter Line to Virginia Beach's Oceanfront.

The Commission unanimously passed a Resolution calling for mass transit to be considered in all major new transportation projects in Hampton Roads.

The revised budget for Norfolk's light rail Starter Line was distributed to Commissioners. A few facts to cut through the doom-and-gloom. First, Charlotte, Phoenix, and Portland have all had similar problems recently due to Federal Transit Administration (FTA) regulations. Second, while The Virginian-Pravda has reported a 24% cost overrun, the actual overrun is under 10%. Over three-fifths of the increased cost are from add-ons, requested by either the City of Norfolk, Norfolk State University, or the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT). Third, speaking of DRPT, they requested $7 million in safety enhancements. Those would be unnecessary for a 7.4 mile line, but DRPT sees a need for the Virginia Beach extension and doesn't want to have them retrofitted later. Yes, the $7 million is all about light rail for Virginia Beach.

Finally, the TDCHR approved the Strategic Plan and Business Plan, which were both originally unveiled at the TDCHR's November Retreat.

Methodists Don't Get It

Taking Route 15 on my way to the Hampton COA meeting (previous post), I went past McKendree United Methodist Church. On their sign, they were advertising free Santa Claus pictures on Saturday.

Excuse me, but what kind of a "church" teaches children that Christmas is about Santa Claus? What next: the Easter Bunny for the Resurrection of Our Savior?

HRT COA Meetings

The last two weeks Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) has been holding public meetings to get input from bus riders on it's ongoing Comprehensive Operations Analysis (COA). I attended 3 of the 4 meetings this week.

Virginia Beach (Monday)

After trouble getting into Princess Anne High School and the right room, this turned out to be the most cordial.

HRT is now looking at it's bus stops, looking to space them about a quarter of a mile apart to reduce frequent stopping. One gentleman spoke up against such a long walk.

Virginia Beach's MAX Route, Route 960, initially had equal ridership with the vaunted Route 961 (Southside - Peninsula link), but about 50 more frequencies. The frequencies were reduced in September to put the two roughly in line.

Routes 26 & 29 will look very different within a year. Route 33 is planned to be restructured to help on-time performance.

A Senior services representative was there who gave a couple numbers on the region:

1. 1 in 5 Seniors don't drive.

2. 1 in 7 persons is disabled.

That makes for a waiting mass transit market.

Travis Campbell of Virginia Beach's Planning Department, who also serves as the Beach's alternate HRT Commissioner, came and took notes.

Hampton (Wednesday)

A pleasant surprise: only token congestion on the HRBT riding Route 961 across.

In the meeting before the meeting, I was hit with two telling facts:

1. Newport News' economic development committee has been told how two major corporations looked at coming to Hampton Roads in 2008, only to jilt us over inadequate mass transit.

2. Williamsburg projects that it will need 50,000 additional workers within a decade. It's going to need mass transit from the seven cities to bring up many of them.

The feature of the meeting was representatives of the Virginia Defense League showing up, calling for training of bus drivers in dealing with passengers legally carrying arms. They spoke of an incident in Norfolk where a man reportedly was denied transport even though his gun was legal. One identified himself as being from Virginia Beach...and a John Moss voter. (I rolled my eyes: you can't even get away from the VBTAers in Hampton.)

Finally, WiFi service on the MAX will begin it's test phase in January.

Norfolk (Thursday)

Despite heavy rain, it had the highest attendance of the three. The crowd was lively: scheduled for 90 minutes, hearing all the comments actually took 135 minutes.

I had to laugh when the first topic up was toilets. I've tried making the case for toilets at Transfer Centers with HRT before; now they had an entire room of passengers demanding them. HRT Staff noted that the request had been heard in 4 of the 7 meetings.

About 20 minutes were spent on that mess known as the Cedar Grove Transfer Center.

Before I could say it, a Nauticus employee across the table asked for the Azalea Garden/Robinhood diversion to be eliminated from Route 15 to enhance on-time performance of the habitually late 15. That very same move had been the number one Norfolk issue on my previously-prepared Norfolk submission.

A few issues on making transfers were raised. Many were unhappy with Route 310 (Downtown Shuttle).

Mark Schnaufer of Virginia Beach's Planning Department was present.


While attendance wasn't as good as hoped, HRT got many quality comments which should help churn out a COA that will substantially improve bus service in Hampton Roads.

The COA recommendations are tentatively slated to be presented in a pair (one Southside, one Peninsula) of public meetings the second week of February.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library

This evening the Virginia Beach City Council voted to rename Central Library after our outgoing Mayor. http://hamptonroads.com/2008/12/beach-council-names-library-after-mayor-oberndorf Geez, wonder where they got that idea from http://avengingarchangel.blogspot.com/2008/11/meyera-oberndorf-library.html

My next suggestion for municipal renaming: let's name Virginia Beach's sewage pumping stations after members of the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) Board of Directors. We'll have to give Reid Greenmun one in sight of a bus transfer center or the planned light rail line.

Since this blog is obviously read, what memorial do I want when I'm gone? A poster case-sized display at the Witchduck Road LRT Station. It would have my photo and a brief write-up. My hope is that my fellow transit users would recognize me from the picture, know one of their own achieved things, and it might inspire them to do something in the community.

Monday, December 8, 2008

For All You Redskins Fans

Your sorry excuse for a football team lost to my Ravens 24-10. http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/football While we prepare for the Playoffs, Redskins fans prepare for...uh...another Dan Snyder screw-up.

For anyone wanting to jump on the bandwagon, try http://www.baltimoreravens.com

Monday Morning Funny

Today is Sinead O'Connor's 42nd birthday.

Insert your own joke.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Saturday In P-Town

Today I went to Portsmouth. There was the last in a series of public meetings on the redrawing of Portsmouth's Master Transportation Plan.

1. The meeting at Norcom High School was pretty well attended for a Saturday. There was a reporter there who took my picture and name.

The plans were only in the embryonic stage. That included no recommendations on mass transit yet. The two Staffers working on that portion and I had a nice talk.

What struck me was the excellent land planning. It was classic urban: focus points with Transportation corridors connecting them, mixed-use in the corridors, etc.

However, where Virginia Beach could learn a lesson was in how the public involvement is being handled: earlier in the process, more public meetings, given more latitude, etc. If we used the Portsmouth model at the Beach, we might not have the public outcry over some of the City's proposals....

2. Leaving the meeting, I walked from Norcom back to the High Street Ferry Landing. (Great exercise.) On the last portion, I went via London Street. There were two "For Lease" signs and one "For Rent" sign. After a few minutes something struck me: no "For Sale" signs either on London or the streets heading north.

Here's the rub: the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) is constantly telling us that people are being taxed out of their homes at the Beach. Uh...Portsmouth has by far the highest Property Tax rate in the region. By the VBTA's logic, Portsmouth residents should be selling their homes in droves. Why was no one at all selling?

3. If you have problems with the 7-11s in Virginia Beach, don't shop 7-11 in Portsmouth. You've been warned.

Everyone Wants A Playoff

All voters wanted NCAA Division I-A college football to institute a playoff system.

Now the VBTA will call for going back to the single wing and leather helmets.

The new question: should Virginia Beach put light rail to referendum? A referendum on whether there should be a referendum.

Finnish Independence Day 2008

Finland, which had been a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire since 1809, declared independence on December 6, 1917 in the wake of the provisional national government having been overthrown in Petrograd.

More on Finland's declaration of independence at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finland's_declaration_of_independence

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"Jump-Starting Economic Development"?

Thursday's Beacon contained an interesting tidbit in Bill Reed's column. On Page 14 (Bayside edition), Reed wrote:

"In a flier circulated in November among the members of the Virginia Beach Hotel-Motel Association, (Mayor-elect) Sessoms, a banker and former vice mayor, said his primary focus will be reviewing city operations with and eye towards cutting spending and jump-starting economic development in the city."

How do you cut spending and jump-start economic development at the same time unless you're thinking of issuing debt for a plethora of new capital projects? Why leaflet the VBHMA unless Resort spending will be a top priority of the program?

Can't wait to see this program publicly unveiled....

RAC December 4, 2008

Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met Thursday in what was a brief 35 minute session.

The Plan/Design Review Committee (PDRC) reported on two building proposals on Laskin Road. Both involve demolishing existing structures to build new restaurants. The hitch is that both involve drive-thru windows, which the City's planning documents want to eliminate in the Resort Area. That produced a lively discussion at the PDRC.

Councilman John Uhrin, Council's Liaison to the RAC, spoke on City Council adopting the Resort Area Strategic Action Plan on Tuesday night. It passed Council 10-1, with the lone "No" vote by (you guessed it) Reba McClanan.

The RAC endorsed a proposal for multipurpose sports facilities at Sportsplex. CCO RAC representative Henry Ryto cast the only "No" vote. As a former high school soccer player, Ryto refused to endorse a plan that would put artificial turf on all soccer fields, including the existing Sportsplex pitch. It enacted quickly by City Council, the field house could be open as early as November, 2009.

All RAC committees were asked to brainstorm strategic priorities for 2009.