Thursday, April 29, 2010

TPPC April 29, 2010

This morning the Transportation, Parking, and Pedestrian Committee (TPPC) of Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met in an unusually long session. TPPC normally is out in no more than 70 minutes, but today the meeting went nearly 2 hours.

There was an update on the Form-Based Zoning process for the Resort Area. The draft code was originally scheduled to be out tomorrow. Not only will that be delayed, but additions on parking policy may push it back considerably.

Interest is there in pushing forward with a Resort Area Master Transportation Plan, an item recommended in the Resort Area Strategic Action Plan. City Transportation Staff will be invited to the TPPC's May 27 meeting to cover the issue.

Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) senior Staff was there to go over VB Wave issues. Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs), multiday Shuttle passes, and faremedia sales in general were discussed.

Speaking of the VB Wave, seasonal service on Atlantic Avenue (Route 30) begins Saturday morning at 8 A.M. Routes 31 & 32 start on May 23.

The possibility of using LED lighting within the Laskin Gateway Project was talked about. There were questions both as to whether it was the correct option and as to what size foot candles would be used.

Informal talks are ongoing on the possibility of bringing pedicab service to the Resort Area (as a pilot project) during the Summer of 2011.

The TPPC discussed parking fee changes for the Resort Area that are being considered by City Council within deliberations on the FY 2011 Budget.

Finally, the TPPC was presented a rough outline of a proposal by a developer to do a parking space swap with the City. Not only was the item not on the meeting agenda, but only the vague outline was available and there were questions as to the legality of part of the proposal. Therefore, the TPPC deferred action on the matter.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What Is Going On Here?!?

Former Republican Party of Virginia Beach (RPVB) Chairman Kenny Golden has previously announced his intention to run for Congress as an Independent. In fact, the video is on his website this morning.

However, yesterday afternoon I spotted a Golden for Congress sign on a commercial property of Republican Second District Chairman Gary Byler. (It's on Virginia Beach Boulevard just west of Rosemont Road.) When the Red State Read (the RPVB's official e-mail) came out late last night, it was still soliciting volunteers for Golden's campaign.

What is going on here?!?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Slow On The Draw

Yesterday at Pembroke Mall the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants was distributing their 2010 "Financial Fitness" calendars.

That begs an obvious question: would you want people tracking your money who don't distribute their 2010 calendars until April 24, 2010?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

97% Know Reid Greenmun Is Wrong

The poll that just ended had 97% of you rejecting Reid Greenmun's idea that local referenda should be binding, with only 3% agreeing. With people that utterly out-of-touch running the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA), no wonder the VBTA has zero credibility and spends plenty of time accomplishing nothing.

The new poll question is on the dashboard that Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) launched today. How often do you plan to surf it?

TDCHR April 22, 2010

The Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR), the governing board of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), met this afternoon.

The blockbuster was the rolling out of HRT's new dashboard. HRT President Phillip Shucet had launched a similar measure while VDOT Commissioner. The dashboard offers the public an even more complete set of performance measures than had previously been in the TDCHR meeting packets. The only material cost was $100 in software. The dashboard is on HRT's website at

The next reform initiative is eliminating special perks that 22 employees had been receiving. Normally, agency cars can't be taken home. Health insurance is 100% covered for the employee, but additional coverage for family members is charged for. 19 employees were being allowed to take cars home to commute to/from work, 11 were receiving health insurance for family members free or 70% covered, with 8 employees getting both. The car waivers end June 1, with the insurance enhancements chopped 1/1/11 (when the next period begins). Shucet made it clear that they were good employees, but that all employees must be on a level playing field. Most of those employees were given the perks in their offer letter. They were notified last week of the pending changes.

HRT is more than $1.7 million under Budget with just three months left in FY 2010. To point out the obvious, the agency is sitting pretty.

March ridership was up 8.48% over March, 2009.

Finally, the next TDCHR meeting will be May 27, 2010 in Norfolk at 1:30 P.M.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

TPO April 21, 2010

This morning the Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), Hampton Roads' Federally-mandated transportation planning board, met. The meeting was just over an hour, shorter than usual.

CSX gave a Presentation on the National Gateway Project, a Federal program designed to boost the capacity of railroads in order that they may haul double stack freight between East Coast ports and Midwestern cities. CSX asked the TPO for approval of a Resolution supporting the concept, which would aid it's lobbying in Washington. The TPO did so unanimously.

The really intriguing thing: with the expansion of the Panama Canal due to come online in 2014, currently the only port on the East Coast capable of handling the large ships it's designed for is the Port of Virginia. Folks, let's play that one for all it's worth.

Karen Waterman of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) gave a Presentation on the fast ferry service being planned across the harbor between Norfolk and Newport News. (Yeah, Waterman on a ferry service. There has to be a good joke there....) It was simply informational; no action was requested of the TPO at this time.

There was an update on High Speed Rail. So far the work is on time, but information is slow coming from a couple sources. Kudos to Norfolk Southern for acting quickly.

Finally, there was a Briefing on what changes VDOT is making in the region to deal with staffing reductions due to state budget cuts.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Regional Futures Conference

This afternoon there was a Regional Futures Conference at the Crowne Plaza Marina Hotel In Hampton. The event was sponsored by Future of Hampton Roads (FHR).

The keynote speaker was Robert Puentes of The Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program, and an ODU alumnus. Puentes stated that the U.S. has twice the carbon emissions of other industrial nations, and that Hampton Roads was 60th (out of 366) among metropolitan areas in the U.S. for emissions. 65% of our country's population lives in the Top 100 metro areas. Even here in Virginia, 86% of our population and 93% of our GDP are in metro areas. Puentes said Hampton Roads' unique structure (i.e. a number of similar sized cities) was a double-edged sword that we should look at the pluses from. Our structure means no single city having problems can take the region down, and no one really bad city (read: Detroit) can sink the region. In fact, no one at Brookings could think of a similar region in the country.

FHR President Ray Taylor spoke on transportation policy. MPOs were established by the Federal government in response to localities complaining about interstate highway planning in Washington not taking into account local sensitivities. In fact, Federal law mandates that all transportation planning be done on a regional basis. Taylor noted that Puentes had written that you need to reform the previous part of the process before moving to the next. Governor McDonnell ordering of audits of transportation planning and programming will allow us to reform with best practices. In turn, we can then take on funding.

Finally, Newport News Mayor Joe Frank stated the challenge of regional governance was putting mechanisms in place to tackle needs while still keeping government close to the people. If he was Mayor of Hampton Roads (rather than Newport News), he couldn't read to all the elementary school classes and go to all the Rotary meetings that he does. An off-the-cuff comment by Frank during the final segment might produce the biggest long term effect of the conference. His statement on the need to legally reform local and regional governance generated a call for a state commission to take on that subject. It has been long noted the problems with Virginia's archaic tax system; the commission would also look at legal reforms to governance structure and powers.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Feed City Council

Today's Beacon reports that the Virginia Beach City Council is looking to eliminate the dinners it gets at meetings to save a whopping $4,886 per year. It's suppose to be symbolic in this era of budget cuts.

There's a very practical reason residents should want Council fed. Usually meetings begin around 1-2 P.M., with formal session at 6 P.M. If they haven't had dinner, residents going to address Council that evening are going to be facing a grumpy bunch on the dais. I know I'd be seriously annoyed if 7:30 rolled around and I still hadn't had dinner after a long work day.

Let them have a sub or something. Maybe send out for a bucket of chicken or two. Cut the price, but don't eliminate the meal altogether. Remember that Council formerly had cold sandwiches until then-Councilman Richard Maddox pushed for hot meals.

If Council wants to do something to cut costs where they themselves are concerned, take a pay cut. If you're in public service for the money, you're doing it for the wrong reason.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Holy Father!

Today is the 83rd birthday of Pope Benedict XVI. Many more, Your Holiness.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Greenmun At the Summit

I mentioned it in my previous post. Knowing I had a busy week ahead of me, I gave myself leeway with this story that had shelf life. This past Saturday the second annual Hampton Roads Civic Engagement Summit was held at the Hampton Roads Convention Center in Hampton. The affair itself was pretty bland. What was noteworthy, especially if you were from Virginia Beach, was the behavior of Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) Vice Chairman/Transportation Chairman Reid Greenmun. While the other VBTAers there were well-behaved (except for a Robert Dean sidebar beforehand), Greenmun's antics were beyond the pale. Another person who was there described them as "fringe, certainly distracting, and borderline obnoxious". A second-hand comment said "it wasn't pretty, or productive". Eight points:

1. The sponsor covering the speakers was TowneBank. That got TowneBank the right to have their banner behind the speaker's podium.

When I came in and saw that, I chuckled. I then told Hampton Roads Center for Community Engagement (HRCCE) Executive Director Betsy McBride that I couldn't wait for the VBTAers to show up and see that banner.

I was having a conversation with Eileen Levandoski of when I looked forward and saw Reid having his picture taken under the banner. Another Kool-Aid chugger was taking it, with Greenmun gesturing at the banner. I had to laugh.

2. Reid sat front and center right by the podium.

It's not the only meeting I've been to where Greenmun has acted like the speakers were there primarily for his own benefit.

3. Reid took exception to a speaker stating a majority of Americans are pragmatic, arguing that some are "principled".

The speaker was simply speaking of a majority of Americans. He never said some weren't dogmatic. Yet Reid had to throw a fit over the idea that most are pragmatists.

Let me point out that the reason for such a Summit was so residents could sit down and speak to each other civilly on issues. On the other hand, Greenmun would have us dig our ideological foxholes and fire on each other. Entirely counter to what such an event was trying to accomplish.

4. Reid wanted binding local referenda.

As you can see, it's getting voted down big in the ongoing poll.

5. Reid complained our elected officials don't listen.

Damn funny coming from a VBTAer. Yes, City Council has ignored referenda results, but the VBTA ignores City Council election results. No candidate running openly as a VBTAer has won a City Council seat in the 21st Century, but the Kool-Aid chuggers don't heed that message. They repeat the same stale and rejected platform.

6. Reid went running around during the Break because the other speaker used the term "tea baggers".

Actually he said "TEA Party or tea baggers", using both their official name and what critics derisively call them. However, Reid thinks he should define terms for the rest of us, so no critical comments on the TEA Party are to be allowed. Sorry, Reid, but "tea baggers" is a fairly common form of political speech that's protected by the First Amendment.

Then, the tiny breakfast cult thinks the VBTA and it's Board members are above criticism....

7. Before voting began, Reid wanted to know how many present were government employees.

Uh...the HRCCE volunteer running that segment pointed out that was going to be measured with one of the votes.

8. Reid then wanted a count of retired government employees.

It took me a moment to get that one: former HRPDC & MPO Executive Director Art Collins was present. Greenmun has a blind rage towards Collins.

With behavior like that from their Vice Chairman, good thing the VBTA is a sideshow best left for joke material. Then, stuff like that does give me blog fodder....

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Keep The 89 Cent Tax Rate

In the words of Toto, you voted to Hold The Line. 43% voted to keep Virginia Beach's current 89 cent Property Tax rate, 33% want the 92 cent rate City Manager Jim Spore's draft FY 2011 Budget is based on, 23% want higher than 92 cents, while no one voted for below 89 cents.

The obvious problem with that: that would have meant the VBTA trolls didn't vote for a rate cut. At one point someone had, only to change their vote. Just further proof that the VBTA doesn't want honest debate.

Speaking of the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA), that brings us to our new poll question. Vice Chairman/Transportation Chairman Reid Greenmun was one of four VBTAers I saw at Saturday's second annual regional civic engagement summit. The other three were well-behaved, but I plan to blog on Greenmun's antics later this week. In the Reid-length multiple question rant Greenmun hit the speakers with, he called for local referenda to be binding. Do you agree or disagree?

Zoe Saldana's Official Website

My favorite actress has revamped her official website. It was probably done with Zoe Saldana having new movies coming out each of the next two weekends: Death At A Funeral (April 16) and The Losers (April 23). Naturally enough, the website is at

Zoe has two more films scheduled for later in 2010: The Takers (tentative for August 20) and Burning Palms. Also, she's signed to do a Star Trek sequel.

Bob McDonnell For Randy Wright

On April 24 Governor Bob McDonnell is scheduled to be the Special Guest at a fundraiser for Randy Wright's reelection to the Norfolk City Council. It will be from Noon to 1 P.M. at the Bayfront Beach Club in Norfolk. The cost is $150 per person, including heavy hors d'oeuvers.

No, I'm not into promoting political fundraisers. It goes back to the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) trying to make an ideological litmus test out of support for subsidized fixed rail transportation, plus mass transit in general. Republican Governor Bob McDonnell doing a fundraiser for Mr. Light Rail ought to have the breakfast cult spitting up their Kool-Aid. We've had Ken Stolle securing money for the Norfolk Southern Right-Of-Way, not to mention Bob Tata's bill that got the whole Virginia Beach extension process rolling. Now the McDonnell Administration is on board, with Thelma Drake as Director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT).

You would think the Deaniacs would get a clue. Nah, they never learn....

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Virginia Beach City Council Strategic Planning Meeting

On Tuesday the Virginia Beach City Council held it's one day midyear strategic planning meeting. Being the midyear, it's largely about tracking progress on the priorities from the previous Summer's two day goal-setting session. However, it did provide updates on some ongoing initiatives, and a few humorous moments.

1. Budget - The Virginian-Pravda has reported the exchange between Councilman Bob Dyer and City Manager Jim Spore over Spore's proposed Budget. Dyer accused Spore of trying to back Council into raising taxes; Spore "deeply resented" Dyer's statement.

However, the part you didn't read in the paper: Dyer was so worked up over the Budget that at the break afterwards, he started heading towards the wrong restroom. I called to him from behind; Rosemary Wilson, heading for the women's room, wondered if he was going to follow her in. In the men's room, I told Bob he had probably made the lead story in the next morning's Hampton Roads section. (Okay, he ended up at the bottom of the page.)

That's as intense as I've ever seen Bob.

2. Animal Shelter - there are essentially two options on the table:

a. In FY 2011 upgrade the existing facility ($185k) and design the new one. Begin building it in FY 2012 modular, core elements first with others added on later.

b. Go full bore in FY 2011.

Jim Wood (a builder) argued Option A; Rita Sweet Bellitto (a civil engineer) argued Option B.

3. Dome site - Michael Jenkins will probably ask the Virginia Beach Development Authority (VBDA) for another extension this month.

4. Light Rail - the mass transit discussion was under a minute. Jim Wood used a number of acronyms that half the people in the room probably didn't understand. The bottom line: the Virginia Beach Transit Extension Study is an ongoing process. Probably no City Council action will be needed until the Spring of 2011, when Council will need to weigh in on the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). (The legal authority for setting the LPA actually rests with the TPO, which must include it in the region's Long Range Plan for it to be eligible for Federal funding.)

5. Norfolk Southern Right-Of-Way - the state is in the process of issuing bonds to cover it's final part in the purchase, which should be closed on this Summer.

6. Strategic Growth Areas (SGAs) - While supporting planning, Vice Mayor Louis Jones wanted to go slow on actual redevelopment of them. He wanted to focus on one or two at a time, singling out (surprise! surprise!) Burton Station in his Bayside District.

7. VBTA puppet Bill DeSteph - Councilman Bill DeSteph repeated the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance's (VBTA) spin on the City Charter limits on annual debt issuance as fact.

When he saw where DeSteph was going, City Attorney Mark Stiles started shaking his head "No". In turn, Stiles set the record straight.

8. Radar Issue - Deputy City Manager Steve Herbert spoke on gap-filler radar, which may be the heart of a compromise on height restrictions in Virginia Beach.

9. Convention Center headquarters hotel - it's on the back burner until the radar issue is tackled and the credit market improves for financing hotels.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

How Many Rolls Does It Take?

This may be symptomatic of why the City of Norfolk is having financial problems. In downtown Norfolk this afternoon, the men's room in the basement of the main library has six rolls of toilet paper in it. For the single stall.

That's right: six rolls. They're in various states of use. It's obvious that you need toilet paper in the men's room, and then maybe a backup roll. However, why did you put six rolls of friggin' toilet paper in the men's room?!? I'd love to hear their public libraries director try to explain that one to City Hall....

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spore To Address The CCO On The Budget

Virginia Beach City Manager Jim Spore is scheduled to make a presentation on his draft FY 2011 Budget to the Council of Civic Organizations (CCO), Virginia Beach's civic league federation. It will be at the CCO's April general meeting. That will be Wednesday, April 14 at 7 P.M. in the auditorium of Meyera Oberndorf Central Library.

The CCO normally meets on the second Wednesday of the month at the same location and time.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

RAC April 1, 2010

Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met on Thursday afternoon. The meeting lasted just over an hour.

The RAC reviewed the strategic priorities it had voted out at it's March meeting. Consideration was given to adding Homeless Behavior to the list, which had only received one vote in March. In the end, as it was deemed the RAC would act on the measure anyway, the priorities list was not amended. The funny part is that there were two votes on the priorities. Combine that with March's meeting vote, and the RAC voted out the same list three times. (Go figure.)

The Plan/Design Review Committee (PDRC) has plenty on their plate. First, JT's Grommet Island Park is now under construction, with a tentative opening date of May 22. Second, the Roland Court Theater building is literally falling apart, with barricades placed on the north side of 17th Street to keep pedestrians away. With that a high traffic area, obviously the matter must be tackled before the season opens. There will be an attempt to devise a plan; if not, the building itself may decide the matter. Third, a nationally recognized firm (Walker) is being brought in to look at the Resort Area parking situation in the context of the redevelopment envisioned there. Fourth, two outdoor cafes have requested modifications of their permits.

The issue of multiday farecards for the VB Wave came to the full RAC. RAC/TPPC Chairman Preston Midgett not only raised the issue of a Shuttle 3 Day pass, but now was pushing a Shuttle 5 Day.

In light of the Obama Administration, on the previous day, not halting the process towards Virginia offshore drilling, the RAC discussed the issue. First, the RAC felt it needed more information in three areas before taking a position: the impact on Navy operations, the environmental issues with bringing energy ashore, and the economic impact on Virginia Beach. Second, some felt the RAC needs to take a "Maybe" position, then try to leverage it for a seat at the table in drafting any offshore plan.

Finally, Bobby Melatti is scheduled to come before the RAC at it's May 6 meeting to give a Presentation on this Summer's Resort Area events.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Warning Walmart Shoppers

The Walmart on Military Highway in Norfolk at Janaf is redoing it's grocery area. The places some items are stocked has been changed, plus the grocery area is being slightly enlarged. It's a work in progress, so items are still being reshuffled and signage is somewhat lacking. Allow extra time for your grocery shopping trips.

When I went shopping this morning, I found out the hard way. After I couldn't find one item, I asked a trio of employees moving goods. None of them knew, but a fourth employee they asked did. Inevitably, it was on the rear aisle at the far end.

I've done my grocery shopping there for over 7 years now. This morning it took me about 50% longer than usual.

The VBTA Merges With al-Qaida

Meeting in the tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan, the leaders of the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) agreed to merge their tiny breakfast cult into al-Qaida. The pact is the fruit of secret negotiations based on contacts gained by Ben Krause during his service in Iraq.

"Both groups have been all about a tiny fringe minority trying to impose their extremist agenda on society by intimidation tactics," explained VBTA Maximum Leader Robert Dean. "The merger was a perfect natural."

"I no longer have to masquerade as a Christian, a faith that everyone knows I never really believed in any of the tenets of," went on VBTA Vice Chairman/Transportation Chairman Reid Greenmun. "I can now begin planning terrorist attacks against Norfolk light rail."

Finally, Bob O'Connor commented, "We'll launch a jihad against the Resort Area. The dress,'s all in violation of sharia (Islamic law)."