I didn't think I'd be writing those words until after the November election. However, the colossal scale of their failure in trying to petition light rail onto the November ballot nearly defies description. They needed the valid signatures of 25,227 Virginia Beach voters. They received the signatures of only 1,083 of our 282,307 registered voters. That's only .38% signing their ballot petitions.
Even as outspoken critic of the VBTA as I am, I figured they could collect into the 6k-8k signature range. I feel like a German senior officer at the Battle of Tannenberg, stunned with a victory the size of which could never have been imagined.
I told you so. To complete such a herculean task as collecting 25,227 valid voter signatures, you need an army of volunteers. You have to have people at every public event that registered voters will show up at. When I rarely saw anyone collecting signatures, I knew the effort was doomed.
Most of all, it speaks volumes that they couldn't take advantage of the events at Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) this past Winter. They should have been able to go out and get signatures for the asking. That they failed to do so stands as proof positive that they have zero credibility.
What the "leadership" of the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) doesn't get is that Virginia Beach in 2010 is a starkly different place than the Virginia Beach of 1992, when John Moss and Robert Dean last won City Council seats. One of the most fundamental laws of nature is "Adapt or die". The VBTA arrogantly believed that the voters needed to adapt to them, and now they're going to politically die.
The VBTA is clinically dead. Wally Erb notes volunteers couldn't be mustered for the effort. Now what rational human being would write a check for them or their City Council candidates? I can hear it now, "I'm suppose to stroke a check...so you can get your 1,083 votes?!?" The VBTA may continue to linger on like CACI, which existed long after it was off everyone's radar screens and with most people thinking it had already folded. However, the VBTA is now a non-factor.
Hopefully, this now means that punting light rail to referendum is killed. Candidates might want to pander with populist rhetoric, but why promise a light rail referendum when 99.62% of voters have rejected one? Should the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) come back with the Virginia Beach extension being viable, the fundamental problem with putting it to referendum is that such a campaign would put conspiracy theories and prejudices ("No") on equal footing with real facts and actual needs ("Yes"). That's no way to write public policy!
Last Winter on Wally Erb's blog, I challenged light rail opponents to come up with a constructive and realistic plan to tackle the issues that light rail is designed to. The silence is deafening. Until there is such, light rail clearly falls under Margaret Thatcher's TINA (There Is No Alternative) Axiom.
Also, Wally Erb should withdraw from the Virginia Beach City Council At-Large race. After this debacle, he'd be a laughingstock on the campaign trail.
Opponents have accused supporters of trying to impose light rail on the residents of Virginia Beach. We now know the truth: it's the fringe right that wants to impose a light rail referendum on Virginia Beach voters whether they want it or not - and 99.62% of them don't.