Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Max Baucus Drunk On The Senate Floor

Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) rambles on while drunk on the Senate floor on Obamacare. Note how he keeps making the same statements over...and over...and over....

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Predictions for 2010

I go out on the limb and make some predictions for 2010. (Okay, some of them were no-brainers.)

1. Bob O'Connor will oppose each and every Virginia Beach City Council initiative.

2. City Council enters a public-private partnership for an entertainment complex at the Dome site. Redevelopment of the Dome site had been the top Resort Area priority since 2005.

3. Governor Bob McDonnell's transportation plan is killed in the state Senate.

4. Robert Dean is recognized as a master ventriloquist after Bill DeSteph manages to make it through his (losing) City Council reelection campaign without anyone seeing Dean's lips moving.

5. Governor McDonnell pressures SPSA to finally sell it's operation and privatize, ending Hampton Roads' best political soap opera.

6. In The Shock Heard 'Round The World, the USA beats England in the World Cup Finals opener for both teams.

7. The Virginia Beach Transit Extension Alternatives Analysis (AA) comes out. However, people are so preoccupied with Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) management issues that it isn't half the event that people expected.

8. In the November Federal elections, Republicans take control of the House of Representatives and pickup seats in the Senate.

9. Wally Erb's light rail referendum drive finishes short of the necessary number of legal signatures to put a question on the ballot in November.

10. I Can Do Bad All By Myself wins the Oscar for Best Picture of 2009.

11. After no VBTA City Council challenger gets over 12% of the vote, John Moss resigns as VBTA Chairman. Vice Chairman Reid Greenmun moves up to Chair. In turn, Reid names his friend Harvey the new Vice Chair.

12. Al Wallace runs for the Bayside District City Council seat, making for the biggest electoral farce since...uh...well, Al ran for Mayor in 2004.

13. As City Council neither can de jure order a stop nor defund it, the Virginia Beach Transit Extension Study continues despite frosty relations between the Municipal Center and Victoria Boulevard.

14. In another cost-cutting move by The Virginian-Pravda, Kerry Dougherty is given the pink slip. Kerry then becomes a blogger for Virginia News Source.

15. The VBTA churns out another investigative report/White Paper/whatever they want to call it this time claiming a City economic development initiative is a net drain for taxpayers. Rational residents roll their eyes at the piece of garbage.

I'm Here Another Year

Last week I signed the final papers to keep my apartment another year. I now have it through January 31, 2011. Thus, this blog continues as is.

I still hope to add another grassroots inclusionist or two as posters. Maybe I'll meet someone on the 2010 City Council campaign trail.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dead Heat

You split evenly on whether or not the war in Afghanistan is winnable.

In the first look at the 2010 City Council reelection contests, the one race people were commenting on was Bill DeSteph in the At-Large field. Okay, so let's poll it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Newtown SGA Meetings, Round 2

Today began Round 2 of the public meetings on developing a land use plan for the Newtown Strategic Growth Area (SGA).

12:30 P.M. Focus Group

I participated in the second of the four focus groups today. About half of us had been in the 10:30 A.M. focus group during Round 1, and the consulting firm's staff remembered us from there.

The majority of the time was taken reviewing the public input from Round 1. The Strengths, Weaknesses, and Opportunities had been correlated. Staff had developed a set of principles from the input.

The intriguing thing is the City of Norfolk's interest in participating and cooperating. First, Norfolk wants the area southwest of the Virginia Beach Boulevard/Newtown Road intersection incorporated into the study, focusing on the trailer park. Second, Norfolk is willing to work with Virginia Beach on improving Newtown Road itself, with the lion's share of the road falling in Norfolk.

There were two big areas of feedback:

1. We should be aware that in redeveloping, we might be simply moving a problem. If you put new housing on one side of the road but leave the problem neighborhood on the other side, residents from the latter are going to continue to drift through the former.

2. My contribution was to raise the issue of whether we were planning too much Retail for our SGAs. While you want Retail in walking distance of the transit stations in doing Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), start looking at how many square feet of Retail are already in the Resort Area and Pembroke SGA plans. Be careful not to glut.

6 P.M. Public Gallery

This evening's meeting was sparsely attended, though incoming Virginia Beach Vision President Mike Barrett plus Meyera & Roger Oberndorf were there. Staff was working on draft plans, and discussing the early work with us.

While what I saw was preliminary, this is what had been churned out so far:

1. A Town Center Lite development northeast of the Newtown Road light rail station currently under construction.

2. The single family detached neighborhood southeast of the station would be preserved.

3. Multifamily housing would go where the Arrowhead Shopping Center currently is and just west of it. A light rail station would go along the tracks on the northern edge of that land. The multifamily and adjacent ECPI would provide a natural base of walkup customers for the light rail.

4. Office, plus some existing industrial, on Greenwich Road.


Tomorrow night there will be a public meeting on the first draft plans. It will be at Kempsville Baptist from 6-8 P.M.

If you want a say before things go further, speak up tomorrow night!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A First Look At The 2010 City Council Races

With yesterday's recount over and Ron Villanueva now officially a Delegate-elect (by a whopping 16 votes), I can do the promised first look at the 2010 Virginia Beach City Council races.

Bayside District
Incumbent: Louis Jones

There are a number of interests that have problems with Louis. The catch is finding a single candidate that they can all unite behind.

If Jones runs for reelection, he probably wins.

Beach District
Incumbent: John Uhrin

I've heard a couple names tossed around on the grapevine, one who probably now won't run. A quality, well-financed challenge could give Uhrin a run for his money. However, that probably won't happen.

Lynnhaven District
Incumbent: Jim Wood

If you can think of a plausible scenario under which Wood loses next November, post it under Comments. I certainly can't.


Princess Anne District
Incumbent: Barbara Henley

The weakest of the four district seat incumbents. I thought she could be beat in 2002 (I was right), and I think a strong challenge can beat her in 2010.

However, it's not Henley's direct ties here, but who in her inner circle can pull levers. She's stronger that you might think at first glance.

At-Large (2 seats)
Incumbent: Bill DeSteph

This could be where the real fun is.

Council will now have to make an appointment to serve the remainder of Villaneuva's term. Tradition has it that City Council asks the interim appointee not to seek a full term. However, they could appoint someone they want to give a leg up to for next November.

If you thought what happened to Andrea Kilmer in 2002 was ugly, you ain't seen nothing yet! A nuclear-level sliming awaits Bill DeSteph. (It's a given that we'll see that genie photo again.) I would expect to see a PAC formed that would run anti-DeSteph ads.

DeSteph? Parrots the Deaniac line, liked by some at the Republican Breakfasts, despised in top business circles, leading the charge against light rail, etc. Can you say "Don Weeks?" I thought you could.

While DeSteph gets nuked, newcomers will fight it out for the two Council seats. Pull up a chair.

The X Factor

The one looming item that could mean trouble for the incumbents is the FY 2011 Budget. What does Council do, and how do they sell it to the public?

Minority Communities

Something struck me after the fact: none of the incumbents up for reelection in 2010 were at this year's NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet. The red letter event in the African-American community, but no one at all showed up. Say what?

Then, it's not like the VBTA can take advantage of it. Not only are they wrong on too many issues, but only one VBTAer has been endorsed by a major minority organization in the 21st Century. That was John Moss by the African-American Political Action Committee (AAPAC) in 2004, and that endorsement was primarily anti-Rosemary Wilson, not pro-John Moss.


Speaking of our favorite bunch of racist kooks, I expect them to challenge for every seat they can throw a warm body at. However, what issues will they run on? My guess is taxes and light rail, but:

1. Taxes - with assessments set to go down for the second consecutive year, how do you get traction on it? If they couldn't win on it when assessments were increasing double digits annually, they won't now.

2. Light Rail - the SDEIS isn't scheduled to be completed until December, 2010 - after the election. The irony is that all the incumbents have to do is mouth the "wait and see" position the VBTA is pretending to take.

Bottom line: there's nothing there that the VBTA can even start to win Council seats on.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

62% Favor The Pungo Village Plan

The previous poll was about development south of Virginia Beach's Green Line. 62% backed the Pungo Village Plan, 25% want to keep the status quo, while 11% want to push against the Green Line.

The new poll question is on foreign policy: Is the war in Afghanistan winnable? President Obama wants to commit more troops. However, are we in a quagmire there like the Soviets?

Laskin Road Gateway Fallacies

Today the RAC meeting was at the convention center at 3 P.M., with the Laskin Citizen Advisory Committee meeting scheduled there at 5:30. After the RAC meeting, I went over to the Oceanfront Library to blog RAC, then walked back over to the convention center for the Laskin CAC meeting.

It was an overflow crowd, with Staff having to go out and bring more chairs in. Before it was over, I had heard more paranoia and b.s. from the public than I had ever heard in such a meeting before. Therefore, I devote this post to taking on what was said that was wrong:

1. There was no notice given to the public of the pending project.

Actually, what has become the Laskin Gateway Project came out of the public input in the charettes for the Resort Area Strategic Action Plan (RASAP). People looked at the North Beach area and asked "Why can't we have 32nd Street mirroring 30th Street?" So, it was from the public in public meetings, hardly a backroom conspiracy.

2. Doing the Project will increase traffic on Pinewood and Holly Roads.

Why would it do that? Given that there are no plans to change land uses up those roads, where would all those additional cars be going?

3. You shouldn't narrow Laskin Road.

The urban redevelopment envisioned in the RASAP wouldn't occur in the street's current configuration.

4. You should do 32nd Street before you narrow Laskin Road.

The timetable for Laskin is driven by the construction of Beach Centre. To demolish the current buildings and redo the utilities, you have to close Laskin Road.

5. You shouldn't demolish the Surf Rider Restaurant.

Two things would be required to keep the Surf Rider in it's present location. First, the curve on 32nd going to Laskin would have to be a maximum 20 mph for trucks. Second, you would have to cut the Surf Rider's road access from Laskin and 32nd, leaving it's only access from Pinewood Road. Yeah, the same Pinewood the residents in the area don't want more traffic on. Obviously such a situation is in no one's interest.

6. You're putting too much density on Laskin.

The land in that area, like most of the Resort Area, was zoned for such density in the 1960s.

7. There won't be enough road capacity in the Summer...but leave Arctic and Pinewood alone.

You had to love it: some of the same people who thought there wasn't enough road capacity didn't want the City changing some streets. Go figure.

The road network in the Laskin Road Gateway was primarily designed for moving traffic from The North End west out Laskin (and vice versa), yet the very residents who would benefit were loudly complaining. It's on nights like that that I understand why some public officials hate public hearings.

RAC December 10, 2009

Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met this afternoon. The meeting lasted about an hour.

The RAC elected new Officers for 2010. Preston Midgett will become Chairman, with Ken Taylor now term limited out. Preston has served as Chairman of the RAC's Transportation, Parking, and Pedestrian Committee (TPPC) for a few years now. Gerrie West will continue as Vice Chair.

Due to questions raised around the Laskin Gateway Project, there will be a procedural change on communicating positions. Only positions endorsed by the full RAC will be forwarded, with those bearing the RAC Chairman's signature.

Michael Jenkins moves forward with assembling Dome site redevelopment financing. He expects to have everything in line by Spring, with the Dome site entertainment complex due online in the Spring, 2012.

Fun fact: as part of the convention center's green status, all wasted food is bundled and sent to hog farmers to feed their animals. Thus, zero waste footprint.

Finally, there are preliminary discussions with a company hoping to obtain a City franchise to provide WiFi in the Resort Area. The scope is still under discussion, but I thought those of you with laptops would want to know it may be in the pipes.

Transit Station Planning Workshop

Last night there was a station planning workshop for the Virginia Beach Transit Extension at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. I'm told "about 50" people were at last week's session at the Westin. Last night there were about half that number at the opening, with more drifting in later.

The need for such meetings is that 2 of the 3 build scenarios being looked at in the Alternatives Analysis (AA) are BRT or LRT down the Norfolk Southern Right-Of-Way. Both will require similar stations along the ROW.

The meeting opened with remarks by Jim Wood, City Councilman and TDCHR Chairman. That was followed by three Staffers from HDR, the consultant doing the study. Afterwards, citizens broke out to three separate tables based on segments of the line: Newtown Road - Town Center, Town Center - Lynnhaven, and Lynnhaven - Oceanfront.

With it being my home area, I went to the Newtown Road - Town Center table. There were a couple things of interest:

1. A member of the City's Historic Preservation Committee wants to keep the former Kempsville Building Materials building and use it as the Witchduck Road station. A couple of us thought the idea was nuts.

2. A gentleman was there who claimed he's been part of talks on a Witchduck Road - Great Bridge extension. The discussions reportedly involved the City of Chesapeake and the Commonwealth of Virginia. The rail line would shoot down the Witchduck Road/Kempsville Road Corridor to Greenbrier, then on to Great Bridge. We'll see if such a routing is included in the study that the Chesapeake City Council has requested.

The PowerPoint Presentation given is supposed to be on HRT's website by Friday. There will be another stations meeting in the Spring. WVEC had a camera crew there, so you might find video on their website.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Finnish Independence Day 2009

Finland declared independence from Russia on December 6, 1917. Finland had been a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire since 1809. With the provisional government in Petrograd overthrown by Lenin and his Bolsheviks in October, the Finns weren't going to stick around any longer.

The video below has the playing of Maamme (Our Land), Finland's national anthem. You see in the picture the Finnish flag plus two candles in the window. The significance is that during the final years of Russian rule, many young Finnish men were going to other countries for military service, wanting the training to one day drive the Russians out of Suomi (Finnish for "Finland"). Finns willing to open their homes to any such men in transit would place two candles in the window to signal that they were welcome there.

Friday, December 4, 2009

2010 World Cup Draw

Earlier today the draw for the 2010 World Cup Finals was held. Matches begin June 11 in South Africa, with soccer's World Cup being the most watched sporting event in the world. 32 teams were in the field: 31 had qualified through regional matches, plus the host team (South Africa) always gets a berth. For the first round, the 32 teams are divided into eight groups of four teams each. The basic rules of the draw:

1. The 32 teams were divided into 4 pots, based on seed, host status, and geography.

2. One team was drawn from each pot for each group.

3. In turn, a number was drawn for which numerical slot in the group the team was to get.

4. To prevent "continental clashes" in the first round, two teams from the same continent couldn't be put in the same group through the first three pots. (The fourth pot was made up of unseeded European teams.) For practical purposes, that meant in drawing from the third pot, Group A (which had host South Africa) had to get one of the three unseeded South American teams (Uruguay) rather than one of the five African teams.

The draw itself didn't produce the anticipated "Group Of Death":

Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, and France.

Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, and Greece.

Group C: England, USA, Algeria, and Slovenia.

Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, and Ghana.

Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, and Cameroon.

Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, and Slovakia.

Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, and Portugal.

Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, and Chile.

I watched the draw on ESPN2. Some observations:

1. Pandemonium broke out in the television studio when the USA was drawn to be the second team into seeded England's Group C. Like the cheer after a made penalty kick, things erupted again when the USA drew "C2". That means we play the bloody limeys in our opener (June 12 in Rustenburg).

Anticipation then turned to who would join us in Group C. The next draw was Algeria, a side that barely qualified. Finally there was Slovenia. While Slovenia is the smallest country population-wise in the World Cup Finals, the Slovenians did eliminate the Russians.

Overall, a pretty good group for the USA.

2. Consensus was that the toughest group is Group G. Both Brazil and Portugal are soccer superpowers, while the Ivory Coast was one of two African countries (along with Nigeria) to go undefeated in qualifying.

North Korea need not unpack their bags, as they won't be in South Africa long.

3. Going in, most believed the draw rules benefited host South Africa. Alas, they drew both Mexico and 2006 World Cup semifinalist France into their Group A.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

TPPC December 3, 2009

The Transportation, Parking, and Pedestrian Committee (TPPC) of Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met this morning. It was the delayed November meeting, as the normal November date would have fallen on Thanksgiving morning.

Barry Frankenfield gave an update on the Laskin Gateway Project. The sticking point is the configuration of 32nd Street. One of the consultants (Kimley-Horn) is working on a hybrid of the first two options. That hybrid is slated to be presented to the Laskin Citizens Advisory Committee at it's December 10 meeting. On the one hand, land takings are trying to be avoided; on the other hand, such would require some serious engineering of the curve swinging 32nd Street over to Laskin Road.

Speaking of Traffic Engineering, the TPPC was briefed on the Pedestrian Signs installed on Pacific Avenue. (Similar signs are on Shore Drive.) Through a Federal grant, signage was purchased for 7 intersections along Pacific to alert drivers of crossing pedestrians. The signs are topped with solar-powered lights that can be turned on at given times to enhance the effect. Data from automobile/pedestrian accidents on Pacific was used to determine which intersections, though other locations were disqualified because encroaching buildings wouldn't have permitted enough sunlight to reach the solar units.

Concern was expressed by some over the appearance of the units, whose poles and light units don't meet the design recommendations for Resort Area signage. Traffic Engineering retorted that you wouldn't want them to blend in too well, as that would defeat the purpose. In the end, it looks like the wooden poles and light units might be painted gray.

Intriguing fact: for all the media about people being hit by cars on Shore Drive, there are actually more such accidents on Pacific Avenue.

Finally, while everyone seems to agree that the long term goal should be to replace the existing light units on the Boardwalk with LED units, Budget constraints will probably prevent any such work in FY 2011.

Wally Erb, Light Rail, and Race

Nothing like a trip back through the microfiche. Wally Erb is heading up the VBTA front group trying to petition a light rail referendum question onto the ballot. I have a good memory for detail, and recalled an article from the 1999 light rail campaign, Sure enough, I found this doozy of a quote from Erb in the October 22, 1999 edition of The Virginian-Pravda:

"There's going to be all sorts of people. There's going to be people who are coughing and not everybody is earning $45,000, $50,000 in a business suit and has a laptop computer. You're going to have some people who are bag ladies. That goes along with it. I'm not saying that it's wrong, but people who ride it have to be aware that they're going to meet a lot of people that they didn't meet before and that they're going to have to tolerate a lot of things that they wouldn't normally have to tolerate or even thought of."

In short, Erb fears light rail means having to tolerate people other than middle class Whites. While Erb goes on to deny any racial implications, no rational person can read them out of that. After all, the ridership of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) is about 80% minority. When you realize that, reread Erb's quote and see how racially loaded it is.

Still, you have the right to sign one of Erb's ballot petitions. The volunteers will stand out: they'll be the ones wearing the white sheets and hoods.

In addition, at the September, 2005 monthly breakfast of the Tidewater Libertarian Party (TLP), Wally Erb and Robert Dean identified themselves as members of the radical John Burch Society.

You may want to stay clear of those guys.

"The Miss Of The Century"

It's only 2009, but this blown play by English soccer player Rocky Baptiste has already been dubbed "The Miss Of The Century". Baptiste takes a pass, gets past the goalie...only to have the ball squirm loose on him and hit the outer side of the goal.

I played a couple years of soccer myself in high school: Midfielder later converted to Center Forward. As a Center Forward, you dreamed of having scoring opportunities like this. That Baptiste blew this one is inexcusable!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

You Like Rosemary By A 2:1 Margin

By a 2:1 margin you like Rosemary Wilson's chances against Jeff McWaters in Saturday's "firehouse primary" for the Republican nomination in the 8th Senate District special election.

Anyone who knows me knows I wouldn't vote for Rosemary if she was running unopposed. However, I think McWaters may have sunk his own chances when he came out for universal health care. (Then, I live in the 7th, so I can deal with Frank Wagner.)

The new poll question comes out of tonight's Public Hearing on the draft Comprehensive Plan: what should Virginia Beach do - if anything - south of the Green Line? Many grassroots activists want to maintain the status quo. The City had the Urban Land Institute do the Pungo Village Plan as a means to cluster suburban services at a single point in the south - at Pungo. In addition, Councilman Bill DeSteph has argued that the Green Line is a barrier to the natural progression of the City.