Monday, June 29, 2009

Food Snob

Whenever I can, I go to Knuckleheads Roadhouse for South of the Border Monday. From 5-9 P.M. they have $1.50 Coronas, $2 Margaritas, and 75 cent Tacos.

Tonight a lady ordered a single taco and sent it back to the kitchen! Send a 75 cent taco back to the kitchen?!? Bigger orders, maybe, but a friggin' 75 cent taco?!?

Saturday, June 27, 2009


On Friday I saw this trailer for the first time, and thought it was one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Sacha Baron Cohen, best known for his Borat character, now plays Bruno, a gay Austrian male model.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

James Into The Whiners' Den

James Toscano, Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications (PAC) for Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), is scheduled to be the Speaker at this Saturday morning's Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) Breakfast. The subject will be (guess what?) light rail.

Want a front row seat for this one and to support James? Show up at Marian Manor. (Sorry, but I have to work.)

Update: As I previously knew (but didn't post for obvious reasons), Toscano took the opportunity to shred Reid Greenmun's arguments against light rail. HRT taped the Presentation, and it will be posted on HRT's YouTube channel ASAP.

TDCHR June 25, 2009

The Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR) is the governing board of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT). It held it's June meeting today, and there was great news for we Virginia Beach residents.

With the Fiscal Year (FY) ending June 30, there was the election of new TDCHR Officers for the next year. Under the rotation, Norfolk had the Vice Chair in FY 2009 (Randy Wright), with Norfolk scheduled to get the Chair in FY 2010. Virginia Beach was slated to get the Vice Chair in FY 2010, then the Chair in FY 2011. Randy Wright passed a year on the Chair, and the new TDCHR Chairman is [drum roll, please] Jim Wood. Why? Wright wants to be Chairman when Norfolk's light rail Starter Line comes online. Passing now gives Wood the TDCHR Chairmanship as the Beach's light rail Study begins. Everyone was happy with the swap.

The revised TDCHR By-Laws were presented to the Commission, with a vote for adoption scheduled for the July TDCHR meeting. No major issues were raised.

One of the changes in the new By-Laws will be a Public Comment period before TDCHR meetings at least quarterly (2 on the Southside, 2 on the Peninsula). Virginia law holds that a citizen does not have a right to address a board or commission unless a public hearing is being held. However, HRT Staff has been wanting to include more public comment in the wake of the MPO's scathing Federal review. Therefore, this mechanism was drafted.

Yes, the Commission approved the changes to MAX Routes 960 and 963. However, the wording of the Resolution leaves open the door to off-season midday 960 service should a study show that adding Town Center would make such a route feasible.

At the end of May, HRT was $1.2 million under Budget with just a month to go.

Virginia Beach's light rail Community Advisory Committee (CAC) is slated to hold it's first meeting probably in early August. The hope had been late July, but meeting all the Federal rules may push it back some.

Finally, best wishes to Commissioner Paul Riddick of Norfolk, who is recovering from knee replacement surgery.

TPPC June 25, 2009

The Transportation, Parking, and Pedestrian Committee (TPPC) of Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met this morning.

The meeting began with the Planning Department's Mark Schnaufer giving a Briefing on ongoing light rail developments for Virginia Beach.

Next was the issue of replacing the Bus/Bike signs on Atlantic Avenue. Given that it would be 2010 before the signs would now be up, the TPPC decided to take it's time and allow Staff (VBPD, VB Traffic Engineering, and HRT) all come back with what they want.

With the pilot program for horse riding on the beach during the off-season over, the TPPC moved to have it become a permanent program. In issuing the new RFP, Staff was requested to tighten the language to cover the holes that the pilot program operator had slipped through. (Most importantly, simply not operating on some days advertised.)

Feedback came on the LED lighting experiment: lights on the Boardwalk and south side of 2nd Street were good, but not on the north side of 2nd.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It Doesn't Get Any Better!

On Wednesday the USA defeated Spain 2-0 in a semifinal of the Confederations Cup, the dress rehearsal for next year's World Cup. For those of you not soccer fans, the World Cup is the most watched sports tournament in the world.

Since some sites have raised the question, I'll give my answer: this was the biggest win in American soccer history. Spain was the top ranked team in the world, and had not lost an international match since November, 2006. The USA's previous benchmark had been the 1950 World Cup win over England in a match played in Brazil.

On Sunday the USA will face either Brazil or host South Africa in the Final.

53% Support International Students

53% of voters support Virginia Beach Resort Area businesses using international students as seasonal workers. 46% were opposed.

The new poll: your opinion of the first six months of the current Virginia Beach City Council. What is your first quarter grade?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ed McMahon Passes Away

Ed McMahon died early this morning. Many sites have noted the passing.

My two cents worth: in high school, I didn't go to bed until after I had watched Johnny Carson's monologue on The Tonight Show. Of course, McMahon was what story described as Carson's "human laughtrack". As such, he was an unforgettable part of my teenage years.

For Catholics like McMahon and I, death is just the beginning. Enjoy the next life, Ed.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Watch This Domain

Yesterday Jeffrey McWaters sent out a letter to recruit volunteers for the statewide Republican ticket. McWaters not only is a member of Bob McDonnell's State Finance Committee, but is looking at running for the 8th District Senate seat should Ken Stolle be elected Sheriff.

Intriguingly enough, the stationary is marked "Paid for and Authorized by McWaters for Senate." In addition, it lists McWaters website address Given his ambitions, you'll probably want to bookmark it.

The Boardwalk Is Where?

I posted the previous post from a public computer at Norfolk's Main Library on Plume Street. Upon leaving, I started walking to the bus stop on Waterside Drive.

I was passing the post office when a car pulled up to ask directions, "What street is the Boardwalk on?" I must have given them one good look, because the lady then asked, "What street is Virginia Beach's Boardwalk on?" When I told them how far away it was, I was met with dead silence.

Connectivity In Downtown Norfolk

I don't like to do back-to-back mass transit stories on my blog, but this one struck me this morning. Coming to downtown Norfolk to see The Taking Of Pelham 123 (a very good movie), I had to transfer buses at the Cedar Grove Transfer Center, on the northeast periphery of downtown. Waiting on the Downtown Shuttle (Route 310), a recurring issue hit me.

Norfolk's light rail Starter Line is on the other side of downtown from Cedar Grove. Therefore, you don't start to have connectivity between the overwhelming majority of buses and the rail system. With light rail going operational next year, what's being done? At the light rail Groundbreaking Ceremony at Harbor Park, Mayor Paul Fraim spoke of a multimodal center at Harbor Park that would handle light rail, Higher Speed Rail, and buses. What is in the pipes to bring that to fruition?

Unless buses and light rail connect, Norfolk's Starter Line will never begin to live up to it's potential. However, senior Norfolk city Staff seem to have the notion that they can have mass transit without mass transit passengers. First they banished us to Cedar Grove, then wanted to hide us on Salter Street. If this glaring hole in Norfolk's system isn't tackled prior to light rail going online, City Manager Regina Williams and Assistant City Manager Ann Odell should go.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The VBTA Endorse Light Rail?

The Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) has trotted out a "We've taken no official position" line on light rail in Virginia Beach. Okay, their Board members have made any number of statements against it, the VBTA opposed the funding of the Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS), and their Transportation Chairman (Reid Greenmun) can't open his mouth without attacking it. Besides, it's nothing but a ruse to try to snag a seat in the Study process to try to sabotage the project.

However, what if the VBTA really wanted to endorse light rail? What would the Statement look like? Well, I decided to write a draft for them:

"The Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA), after much deliberation, has decided to endorse extending Norfolk's light rail Starter Line from Newtown Road to the Done site in Virginia Beach. Such a project would help achieve many goals that the VBTA has championed.

First there is the Beach's acutely unfavorable residential to commercial real estate ratio. Redevelopment along the rail line should produce additional top shelf commercial redevelopment that would help take some of the burden off current homeowners.

Light rail would also be a catalyst for jobs creation, with the additional new businesses in the transit corridor.

Using a light rail line to induce redevelopment of the Strategic Growth Areas (SGAs) puts off the issue of a Redevelopment & Housing Authority, an entity that we adamantly oppose.

Jump-starting redevelopment of the SGAs will aid the City in holding development at the Green Line. Remember that environmentalism was one of the three core principles of now-defunct CACI, a forerunner of the VBTA.

An enhanced mass transit system in Virginia Beach would help people get to work. In fact, 70% of trips on Hampton Roads Transit are people commuting to/from work. That means fewer citizens on entitlement, and a lessening of the social ills associated with high unemployment.

The additional housing units in the Newtown and Pembroke SGAs would provide market-based relief for homeowners. Should the number of new units start to dry up with greenfields dwindling north of the Green Line, assessments on existing homes would skyrocket. Simple Law of Supply and Demand: if Supply evaporates, price goes up.

In addition, such new units would provide opportunity for "come heres". Many of our Board of Directors members are transplants to Virginia Beach, and we'd be hypocrites to deny future generations the same chance we took and enjoyed.

Finally, light rail is an instrument of political change. When one can get on a train elsewhere in the region and travel to Virginia Beach in minutes for bus fare, things at the Beach will change dramatically.

Therefore, we encourage the Virginia Beach City Council and Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads to proceed with Virginia Beach light rail quickly but prudently. Since our endorsement clears the last possible noteworthy organized opposition to the project, no referendum is necessary."

Of course, it's inevitable that the VBTA will officially oppose the project, no matter how good the DEIS looks. Their "wait and see" position is one of the most transparent political lies since "Gorbachev is ill in the Crimea."

My point? Light rail even achieves many of the VBTA's goals. The problem is that they're too blinded by their own dogma and prejudices to get it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

60% Will Attend Both Scoping Meetings

60% of respondents will attend both proposed Scoping meetings for Virginia Beach light rail. 25% will go to neither, while 15% will attend one.

The new question: should Resort Area businesses bring in international students as workers? Some say we shouldn't with Americans needing work. On the other hand, the students leave at the end of the Summer, so we don't have the problems of the off-season unemployed to deal with in their case. In addition, some will do work (such as clean Oceanfront public toilets) that most of our own youth wouldn't want to do.

Deeds And The Transportation Formula

One of the areas of Virginia government in dire need of reform is the transportation funding formula. It's rural bias has made for good roads in the western part of the Commonwealth while Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads choke on congestion. Conventional wisdom is that population shifts will mean more General Assembly seats for urban areas with redistricting, allowing for the formula to eventually be changed.

Just one problem: the Democratic nominee for Governor is from rural Virginia. In fact, the smallest county in the Commonwealth. Any attempt to correct the funding imbalance would probably be met with a veto by a Governor Deeds.

Just another reason to vote for Bob McDonnell for Governor. A vote for Deeds is a vote to continue to send our Gas Tax revenue to rural Virginia while we struggle to get by.

Friday, June 12, 2009

MAX Routes 960 and 963

Maybe dry for non-bus riders, but this has been a big issue in transit circles recently. Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) had proposed eliminating Route 963, and running Route 960 only on weekdays at peak periods October - April. Today HRT's Operations & Oversight Committee (O & O) met to hear Staff's final recommendations to report to the full Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR).

963 riders and their families (Yes, you Jessica) can breath a sign of relief. Only 1 of the 3 trips on the 963 will be eliminated. 2 of 3 runs between the Hampton Transportation Center and the Navy base in Norfolk will be maintained. Route 963 will be monitored closely thereafter for 6 months to determine if other tweaks are necessary.

The 960 was the disappointment. Staff's recommendation was approved with two caveats. First, two trips each direction will be kept on off-season weekends for Resort Area workers. Second, Staff will study adding Town Center to Route 960. The latter was pushed by Commissioner John Uhrin, Chairman of O & O.

Therefore, October - April Route 960 will look quite different. On weekdays it will have Route 962's template. On weekends it will look like former Route 24 in the off-season. Disappointing.

Next up for bus service in Virginia Beach: boosting to meet the Beach's own Federally-mandated light rail requirements, plus feeding into Norfolk's Starter Line.

2009 ISOP Student Orientation

On Thursday afternoon , there was the first of three orientation programs for international students working in the Resort Area for the Summer. It was cosponsored by the Virginia Beach Hotel/Motel Association (VBHMA), the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association (VBRA), and the Resort Retailers Association (RRA). The meeting was held at Virginia Beach Baptist.

After poor turnouts when this was tried in 2008, over 40 students attended yesterday's session. There were Presentations on safety (by VBPD), bank accounts (by Bank of America), Internet access, two on English classes, where they can purchase bikes, housing, Visitors Information resources, bus riding (by me), then general questions from the students.

A great turnout. I was warmed when I noticed two girls taking notes during my talk on buses. If you're a student or know one, meetings will be held the next two Thursdays (June 18 and 25) at 3 P.M. at Virginia Beach Baptist.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hansen At CCO On Animal Shelter

Last night Deputy City Manager Dave Hansen was the speaker at the June meeting of the Council of Civic Organizations (CCO), Virginia Beach's civic league federation. His Presentation was on efforts to replace the Beach's Animal Shelter, an often-discussed issue this Spring.

Hansen stated that if Virginia Beach doesn't build a state-of-the-art new facility, we'll regret it in subsequent years. Shelters should be inviting places that you should want to go to, and should make you feel warm upon arrival. When Cuyahoga County built their new facility, visits shot up 78% and volunteers jumped from 6 to 165.

The sticking point is funding. Hansen wanted the CCO to spearhead a fundraising effort to raise money to build a state-of-the-art facility. He noted both the Virginia Aquarium and the Sandler Center are partially supported by private foundations. In addition, last week Armada/Hoffler submitted an unsolicited PPEA offer to help with constructing a new shelter, which would seek donated building supplies while offering construction labor at cost. Hansen, who has three cats (dogs rule!), stated only 10-12% of pets in Virginia Beach are licensed. All license revenue goes to the Animal Shelter.

Critics had a couple problems with Hansen's stance:

1. With other recent City spending projects (i.e. Town Center Phase IV, Norfolk Southern Right-Of-Way, Laskin Gateway Project) going forward, why is the community being asked to pass the hat for an Animal Shelter?

2. How much influence is Armada/Hoffler buying with the City? They already have the Town Center partnership, and are one of two finalists for the convention center headquarters hotel.

Building a new state-of-the-art shelter would require at least 3-4 acres. Sketches of the proposed building were shown. The site preferred by Staff is adjacent to the Doylestown neighborhood, southwest of the I-264/Lynnhaven Parkway intersection. The runner-up is next to the current SPCA facility. (As it would require removing soccer fields, as a former high school soccer player, want to know what you can do with that idea?)

One resident asked about retrofitting an existing building. Hansen said "a dozen" had been looked at, but none lent themselves to such a purpose.

Dave Hansen was asked how the cause would be publicized. He noted me sitting in the second row, and wanted a blog story. Okay, Dave, you have it, but next time I want something much juicier than an Animal Shelter.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thanks Demonrats

Well, you got one right. You passed over the shameless pablum-pushing of Brian Moron and Terry McAwful in order to nominate Creigh Deeds for Governor.

However, you showed what idiots you really are in nominating Jody Wagner for Lieutenant Governor. Yeah, the imbecile who - as Secretary of Finance - couldn't start to get the budget numbers right. We're going to have fun the next five months reminding Virginians of how math-impaired she is. Thank you! Most of all, Bill Bolling thanks you.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Economic Indicator? 4th Edition

The reason I was in Newport News this morning was to go to the Peninsula Institute for Community Health (PICH) Dental Clinic. I finally got the last of the work done fixing my teeth. (Thank you, PICH!)

PICH also runs a pediatrics clinic in the same building. (Their Administration offices are on the 2nd Floor.) I've never seen more than 10-12 waiting in the lobby at one time before, but we had 22 today.

For my fellow Virginia Beach residents, two things on PICH. First, they now have a low-cost health care clinic at the Beach. Second, PICH is the one place for a Beach resident to go for low-cost dental care in Hampton Roads. (They also have a dental office in Suffolk.) Their website is at

NNTC TVM Is Operational - Sort Of

The new Ticket Vending Machine (TVM) at the Newport News Transportation Center (NNTC) is now operational. I was there this morning, but the machine was taking cash only. It's designed to also take bank cards, but that will probably take further IT work.

FYI, Michael Ragsdale, it is programmed to sell 30 Day Senior & Disabled (30 Day ED) farecards, and also 1 Day EDs, 2 Ride ED, and 1 Day Shuttle ED.

(Correction: the farecards in the above paragraph have been corrected from the original post.)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Roof Repairs At St. Gregory's

For those of you who missed Mass (or left early) this weekend at St. Gregory's, there was one big announcement. Starting tomorrow, the church roof will be repaired and reshingled. Due to that, there will be a few temporary changes in our parish.

The small parking lot adjacent to Clearfield Avenue will be closed, as that's where the construction materials will be kept. The Guadalupe Garden will also be closed, as the roof slopes into it on three sides, making for a safety hazard.

Work is scheduled to begin about 7 A.M. Monday - Friday mornings, and sometimes on Saturday. That means work will be going on during 8:30 A.M. daily Mass, so there may be some noise. However, the crew will halt for any funerals during the period. Given the materials being used, a smell is expected to drift into the church building.

The roof is expected to be done by the end of July, possibly longer depending on what is found as the current roof is removed. Once completed, it is planned to begin repainting the interior of St. Gregory's in phases.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

80% Don't Think There Will Be A Tax Increase

Recently Virginia News Source said the Virginia Beach City Council would enact a "massive" tax increase in 2010. 80% don't believe it. Neither do I: Council raise taxes in an election year?

The new question: How many Scoping meetings do you plan to attend? The Scoping meetings this Summer will allow for public input prior to Virginia Beach's light rail study getting underway. Two meetings are tentatively being discussed.

RAC June 4, 2009

This afternoon Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) held it's June meeting. Despite a long agenda, the meeting lasted only about 70 minutes.

There were two Presentations to the RAC. First was on the Laskin Road Gateway project (CIP 2-043), the four-phase $28.42 million plan to transform the roads, utility lines, and sidewalks around the Laskin Road entrance to the Resort Area. The Presentation was by Barry Frankenfield, who will officially become Strategic Growth Areas Manager on July 1. The second was on the Noise Ordinance enacted by City Council on May 12. The Ordinance is effectively an interim ordinance, enacted when the Virginia Supreme Court struck down the previous Noise Ordinance as too vague. The new Ordinance will be reviewed and probably amended at the end of the Summer, based on this season's events.

The RAC was asked to begin to think about taking positions on offshore energy options, with Commissioners asked what additional Presentations they would wish. The RAC may hear Presentations from Dominion Virginia Power and Virginia Natural Gas at it's July meeting, a session that will be attended by the City's chief lobbyist, Bob Matthias.

Speaking of Matthias, the RAC's committees were asked to prepare submissions for the 2010 Community Legislative Package.

Resort Administrator Mike Eason informed Commissioners that a number of properties in the Resort Area are beginning the process of being redeveloped, the first fruits of the Resort Area Strategic Action Plan.

RAC Chairman Ken Taylor asked Commissioners if they wished to keep the July meeting on the planned date of July 2, and no objections were made. The RAC normally meets on the 1st Thursday of the month at 3 P.M., and each year someone inevitably complains about the RAC meeting as Resort Area businesses are gearing up for the Fourth of July holiday. (Therefore, I wouldn't chisel that July 2 date in stone even after today's decision to not move the meeting.)

The RAC was told that talks were "close" to allowing horse riding at Fort Story during the Summer. The same company operates along the Resort Area beach in the off-season, but safety concerns (i.e. horses in proximity of that many tourists) have led the City to not permit rides there during the Summer.

After a hiatus of several months, Bob O'Connor attended today's RAC meeting. Also present was former City Councilman Jim Reeve.