Late Monday afternoon the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) released a Statement on Light Rail. I recognized that it largely was the very same light rail Statement the VBTA issued about a year ago. At today's Council Strategic Planning Meeting, an observer called it "the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen." In fact, the Statement repeatedly misspelled the name of Mayor S-e-s-s-o-m-s. Let me get out the pooper scooper here and take on it's absurdities:
1. "VBTA members and Board of Directors (BOD) have no emotional or ideological position on the subject of light rail."
The Statement actually begins with that incredulous sentence...and the Statement's credibility hits the toilet with it. If you believe that, meet it's good friends Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.
2. "VBTA is of the opinion that the only legitimate vehicle for Virginia Beach to change the public's opposition to light rail is another voter referendum."
Multiple polls show light rail drawing the support of a clear majority of residents.
3. "VBTA shares the commitment of Mayor Sessom (sic) that the question of the light rail should not go before Beach voters until a fully vetted and objective analysis of light rail is available for public review."
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) timetable would mean no referendum any earlier than November, 2011. Therefore, if you actually believe that, why put out a Statement 33 months prior?
4. "VBTA trusts that City Council was as disturbed as our members that officials of HRT publicly acknowledged that they removed costs that they knew they would have to add back later in order to meet the federal government's qualifying cost-benefit criteria."
What items that were removed were done at the request of the Bush Administration's Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Same thing happened in Charlotte, Phoenix, and Portland.
5. "VBTA trusts that case studies across the the full spectrum of light rail deployments are documented in HRT's light rail feasibility study."
What goes in light rail studies is mandated by Federal law. The VBTA can't amend Federal law.
6. "VBTA is very much in favor of a light rail proposal that delivers real measurable improvements in mobility and that can recover its capital, operating, and depreciation costs from the users and those receiving measurable direct benefits."
How? First of all, the VBTA later writes "VBTA offers by policy, that no existing residential neighborhoods be included in any tax increment financing district or special service district that may be established to finance the acquisition, operations, maintenance, any recapitalization of light rail and it's associated feeder bus system." To draw a TIF or SSD around the Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) zones of the stations, you'd hit some "existing residential neighborhoods." In addition, Federal law prohibits surcharging users of existing transit systems for capital money of new light rail lines.
7. For all of the VBTA's screaming about light rail's cost, it then asks for 13 additions to any proposal.
Can you say "sandbag"? They want to up the cost to try to induce a public outcry.
8. "VBTA offers the city policy must be that no single family neighborhoods shall be...."
There you have it: unless you live in a single family detached house, the VBTA doesn't give a rat's arse about you. Thanks for the slip, idiots!
9. "VBTA offers that by policy, should a referendum be approved to construct and operate a light rail and feeder bus system, that the City of Virginia Beach should directly manage the acquisition and construction of said system, and then contract out the operation and maintenance under a government owned and operated company construct."
In flagrant violation of Federal law.
10. "2. No real estate tax revenue derive from residential property at the existing or future rate will be used to finance light rail or its associated feeder bus system,"
Besides being grammatically incorrect, that ignores how existing bus service is paid for. I'll take the VBTA seriously on financing mass transit now when they come out for a dedicated revenue source for HRT.
11. "VBTA requests an invitation to any process or committee on the issue of light rail."
Talk about letting the fox into the hen house!
The bottom line: the VBTA put out a statement that tried to sound mainstream in order to steal a seat at the table...and no one is being fooled by the ruse.
The VBTA may be able to get their cultists to believe anything their BOD says, but City Council and the general public wouldn't be duped by such a sham.