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.


Anonymous said...

Reason 4: Weren't all the Mayoral candidates on record as supporting a light rail referendum; further, didn't state they would abide with the results of the referendum?

Anonymous said...

IMO: The light rail referendum doesn’t have anything to do with the VBTA. It is about spending our tax dollars AND gauging the public's willingness to fund, subsidize the system and contribute actual use. I think a referendum is the proper platform method to get buy in and hear the public’s voice. Just wait until gasoline reaches $5 and it will be a strong voice again. It is critical that any light rail run to the Norfolk Naval base as otherwise the build will never reach the mass of locals who we need to use it daily. BTW: I support light rail but until the general public agrees to fund it and use it, I do not support building it.

And if you would stop using the VBTA as a platform your discussion it would be a better debate. The VBTA will eventually fade away on its own. They have served their purpose but they are not the demons you continue to claim. BTW: Your personal need for light rail and bus transportaton seems to be as much a factor in this debate as your hatred of Reid and some of the other VBTA folks. Let it go and we’ll get on with the real light rail issues in the transportation debate.

Avenging Archangel said...


The VBTA is the only group out there clamoring for a referendum...but it's somehow out-of-bounds to mention them?

As for me, I'll give you my stock answer. Norfolk's Starter Line process will take 10 years. I'm now 44. I have an illness which gives me a life expectancy of 52. Medical science doesn't expect me to live to see light rail operational in Virginia Beach.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that but I'm healthy and I don't expect to see it in VB in my lifetime either.

My VBTA point was: let them die... They don't even need to be mentioned ever again...

Anonymous said...

Sure we do! But for what it is worth William, I agree with your points about the concent of the taxpayers before embarking on this non-essentail, low volume TOD boondoggle down the NS ROW.

More over, the voters already said "No!". Until they say "Yes" then good government demands that it follows the will of the voters.

The VBTA is far from fading. The support from the community for doing a better job managing our taxes are going to become more important as our economic conditions worsen.

What should concern those reading Henry's position on this issue is his advocating that should the voters reject Light Rail down the NS ROW it should be built anyway.

Anonymous said...

Reid: Sorry to disagree but that group only has a voice because the newspaper needs a "counter point/opinion voice" to make its coverage appear balanced to help attract readership. They really don’t care what you folks think as it is about selling newspapers or the nightly news broadcast. Frankly your attacks on city council do not bring the group credibility with the voters, city council members and the business community as a whole. You can't win an election or a single race and all you have left is to scream about taxes and having to move out of VB. If that were the case, you all wouldn't be here any longer... I give them credit for scaring city council members into cutting taxes but that is not going to happen with Sessoms in the Mayor’s seat. Frankly one of the reasons I helped to move the election to November was to weaken the voice and impact of the VBTA segment of the community. It gets old after you hear the same people, threats and rhetoric year after year from that small group of folks.

If the media stopped asking for the opinion of the VBTA, it would be dead by morning. If that happened, what would Dean & Moss have to do with all their extra time?

Avenging Archangel said...

Oh, Reid's TOD Conspiracy again. The big transit point about LRT in Virginia Beach is the need to relieve Route 20, the busiest bus route in Hampton Roads, carrying 1.1 million passengers annually. In the end we have the need for enhanced transit down the Norfolk Southern Right-of-Way. That's why I was called "BRT's chief cheerleader"; with the region now going LRT, I've jumped on the bandwagon.

The 1999 argument is largely apples and oranges. For starters, the 1999 proposal was over $69 million/mile. Even with the recent increases, Norfolk's Starter Line is only $38.9 million/mile.

Reid commits a common VBTA mistake, believing "unhappiness with City Hall = support of the VBTA." Just because you have problems with City Council doesn't mean you'll embrace the VBTA.

As for William's point, note that THe Virginian-Pravda is trying to get away from using VBTAers for counterpoints.

Anonymous said...

Reid: while my brother and I were living in Boston, we took MBTA buses and trains and choose not to drive

Now that we're back in Hampton Roads, we CHOOSE to use HRT exclusively, even though we CAN afford to drive

Anonymous said...

And yes this WILL include The Tide

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that the VBTA only wants the majority of qualified voters to decide the issue. Previously the voters said no. The problem is that the government feels that it knows better that the voters and are proceeding with the light rail in Virginia Beach. The government is required by law to solicit the will of the voters on any large project that will place the citizen in debt. Please see the following section of the State Constitution:

Section 6.
Free elections; consent of governed.
That all elections ought to be free; and that all men, having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to, the community, have the right of suffrage, and cannot be taxed, or deprived of, or damaged in, their property for public uses, without their own consent, or that of their representatives duly elected, or bound by any law to which they have not, in like manner, assented for the public good.

Section 10. Debt.
(2) Bonds pledging the full faith and credit of such city or town authorized by an ordinance enacted in accordance with Section 7, and approved by the affirmative vote of the qualified voters of the city or town voting upon the question of their issuance, for a supply of water or other specific undertaking from which the city or town may derive a revenue;

Avenging Archangel said...


The problem with that argument is the primacy of Federal law. The Feds require that the TDCHR - not the City of Virginia Beach - carry any light rail debt. The FFGA would be between the TDCHR and the FTA.

Were that the case, how is Norfolk building without a referendum, how did NoVa build Metro without referenda?

Anonymous said...

Avenging Angel 9:38

Very truly evasive. Government entities whatever their acronyms don't carry debt; taxpayers carry debt. Currently, HRT, one facet of transportation effort, operates on a 71 percent subsidy effort. That percentage will substantially increase with the advent of light rail. That is a tough argument to rationalize in a capitalistic society.

Anonymous said...

William Bailey 5:53
A majority of city council moved the election to November. I fail to see how you helped.
But more importantly, you would have us to believe you did it to dilute the VBTA influence?? I think what it really did was dilute the influence of city workers which were a formidable block in May elections. Now their endorsements make money for the Beacon and have little consequence in the election.

As far as the mayor-elect is concerned, he has offered all groups to the table and quite interested in inputs from groups willing to develop studies and white papers including the VBTA. I don't think the VBTA is going away any time soon.

Avenging Archangel said...


1. You think sitting Council members wanted to dilute the influence of City employees? No, the primary reason for the move to November was to dilute the VBTA vote. It worked.

2. The national benchmark for mass transit subsidy is 70%, so HRT is nearly online.

Light rail won't necessarily increase it. Remember that Norfolk's Starter Line is budgeted at a $1.50 fare...but the MAX express bus fare is $3. Put light rail at $3 and the operating budget would look much better.

Anonymous said...

As you hide from view you want me to explain my actions on moving the elction to November. simple, I asked several councl members to support the move and explained "why" it was important for the city. With those votes in hand, I called the Mayor and asked her to move it for a vote. It was a done deal.

I'm not afraid to step up and lead or be accountable for my actions. You can hide in the dark...and be afraid.

Anonymous said...

Look, as a woman if you don't like my anonymity, you don't have to respond to my post. It is not hiding, it is my choice and an acceptable option for this blog.
But you try to minimize the the value of my opinion because of my selected option? Gee, would you feel more comfortable if I used a nifty, sexy screen name. Men!

Further, there were more reasons for the change to November than I suspect the weight of your opinion and communications with selected council members. The only thing that moving the election to November accomplished is strengthening the influence of partisanship.

For AA, if you agree that 70/30 is an acceptable subsidy, I fail to understand why you consider yourself right of center as stated in your profile.

Just my opinion!

Avenging Archangel said...

Anon 9:54,

While I know the national standard, I don't know how 70/30 was derived. Therefore, I won't take either a pro or con position on it. That said, I think most transit agencies (including HRT) could do a better job of tapping alternative sources of revenue.

However, let me point out it's disingenous of you to make an issue of the ration when the VBTA position is to abolish HRT altogether.

Finally, successive Republican administrations (including Bush) could have changed the ratio and didn't. Being so, I don't see where it's a left/right issue.

Avenging Archangel said...


Ratio, not "ration".

Anonymous said...

Look, Light Rail will be at least partially federally funded.

Fortunately, the VBTA has as much influence on the federal level as they do on the local level!

Anonymous said...

Anon: Like somebody is going to track you down by name from this blog… Frankly the readers and posters on this blog are almost all known to each other. If you don’t fit that mold, then I’m sorry and my apology to you.

Anyway, the debate is about light rail not the election. However your comment: "The only thing that moving the election to November accomplished is strengthening the influence of partisanship." is dead wrong. The move to November was intended to bring more many additional voters to the table and it did that. Partisanship didn't play a role in the local election as there were three republicans in the Mayor's race. What other races had R's vs. D's at the school board and council levels? NONE.

While it also reduced the VBTA and employee influence but I believe that was a necessary outcome in order to bring more voters out on local SB and council elections. And the employee groups can easily over come the lost impact in several ways had they followed my recommendations and did what was necessary. They didn’t follow up…

And I'm not going to go into the whole “my influence” with council discussion as that is old news and not worth rehashing as that was a couple of years ago in 2006.

How about that light rail discussion…

Anonymous said...

About Light Rail ... our nation requires the consent of the governed. Light Rail is not a required function or service, it is a "want".

The matter should be presented in the form of a referendum to those targeted to pay for it.

The VBTA studies EIS data and other information and will decide if a project merits our support or not.

Should a Light Rail project be developed that offers taxpayers a reasonable return on our investment and that includes a meaningful reduction in exisitng traffic congestion and a funding formula based largely on "user pays" in regard to the fare structure, the VBTA may well support such a project.

This is why we informed the MPO today that we do not object to a EIS being developed to assess the value and cost of extending the Norfolk "Tide" to the Norfolk Naval bases.

As to the comment about the last election - absolutely moving the City Council election from May to Nov. resulted in a massive political party fight. The significant increase in new voters for this past election was a result of GOP and DEMS and our status as a swoing region in a swing state.

It is not unreasonable to ponder the question of just how well informed on local issues many of the folks that went to the polls to vote for a President were.

For the infamous Sessoms-Obama flyer to have worked at all would have required a certain level of ignorance of local party affilations. The VBTA are well informed. That is in part the value we bring to our community.

Avenging Archangel said...

No, Reid, Transportation is a basic responsibility of government.

Besides, everyone in Virginia Beach politics knows your game now:

1. you demand a referendum on everything you oppose.

2. you don't want a referendum on anything you support.

Please note the VBTA never asked for a referendum on their own Transportation plan. Under that plan's parameters, no light rail referendum would be needed in Virginia Beach (as the cost is under it's benchmark).

Anonymous said...

Henry, have you been hanging out with Bill Clinton (not that I would be surprised) - changing the words used???

I said "Light rail", not "transportation".

Like I wrote:

Light Rail is not a required function or service, it is a "want".

Nice attempt to dodge and weave.

Well, not really "nice", actually it was fairly lame and obvious.

Are you always so dishonest?

Avenging Archangel said...

So light rail isn't Transportation?

Anonymous said...

They are two different words - as you well know.

Helicopers are transportation.

Hot air balloons are transportation.

Private autos are transportation.

Snowmobiles are transportation.

Like I said, LIGHT RAIL is not a required function for government - it is a "want".

Avenging Archangel said...

Calling mass transit a "want" assumes that only moving by car is a "need".

Anonymous said...

I think Reid's comments show exactly why the VBTA has no legitimacy. I would not continue to argue with him/them.

By the way, whatever happened to CACI? Weren't they planning on dissolving the organization? Or were their remaining 2 or 3 members rolled into the VBTA?

Anonymous said...

Henry, calling the proposed Light Rail line connecting the Tide to the Ocean Front a "need" is a false assertion. That is what we have been discussing. That TOD rail project is clearly a “want”. Its most politically influential supporters don’t support it because they consider it to be a “transportation” project, they support it as a “economic development” project.

The word games you are playing here are little more than a feeble attempt at obfuscation. Of course the public realizes that to be the case no matter how much you and your “anon” support team attempt to claim to the contrary.

Avenging Archangel said...

The Public? You mean the same public that polls show a vast majority of support light rail in Virginia Beach/

Some do support LRT for economic development. However, I support it as enhanced mass transit. Interesting that none of the LRT critics can answer the "How do you relieve Route 20?" question.