Sunday, December 26, 2010

Most Of You Belong

50% said you belonged to a civic league and are active in it, with 25% members but inactive. 16% don't have a civic league in their neighborhood, while 8% haven't joined.

I was scratching for a new question, and a pretty obvious one struck me looking outside this morning: should Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) have a weather contingency plan (or plans)? Many transit systems do. (In a recent discussion, Jessica Clark gave web addresses for a few.) In the wake of the November, 2009 nor'easter, HRT began to work on improving how it got information to riders for such occurrences. However, a few weeks later the second round of light rail cost overruns went public, and that project got pushed to the back burner. Currently, HRT deals with such weather events on a case by case basis.

Upcoming City Council Retreat

The Virginia Beach City Council will hold it's annual Retreat January 21 and 22 (Friday & Saturday) in the conference room of the Department of Economic Development (DED), on the 10th floor of the Armada Hoffler Tower at Town Center. It's scheduled to run from 8:30 A.M. - 5 P.M. each day.

I've attended every Retreat since 2002. I plan to be there again this time, and certainly will blog it. At a previous Retreat, Rosemary Wilson was fretting about trying to get Council's priorities to the public. I said, "I can have them online in a few hours" and did. I've referred to the Retreat as "the Super Bowl of local politics" in that the vast majority of initiatives for 2011 will come up over the weekend and be ranked. It's from those Council discussions and voting that Staff budgets time and money for what the electeds feel is important.


The Retreat agenda is set through telephone interviews facilitator Lyle Sumek holds with Councilmen the week prior. If a single Councilman wants an item discussed, it happens.

Therefore, e-mail any thoughts to City Council no later than January 7. You'll want them to read your comments and have time to digest them before the telephone interviews. That's the main reason I write this post: the vested interests and usual suspects all know to contact Council prior, so why aren't you doing it? (I plead guilty: I've gotten in the custom of e-mailing in my own document beforehand.)


They are long, dry sessions that Jim Wood once compared to watching paint dry. However, for a local political junkie, it's a smorgasbord of prime nuggets. Consume plenty of caffeine beforehand, and even more during the meetings.

There is no opportunity for the public to comment while in session, but you may speak with Council and Staff during the breaks. There will be periodic 5-15 minute breaks, plus the lunch break.

The most important thing to bring with you: something for carrying a load of documents home in. During the full two days, you'll receive a huge pile of paper. Also, something for you to take notes of your own with.

There will be a continental breakfast available in the morning, and lunch is served at midday. Beverages and snacks are normally there throughout the day. Budget cuts in the past couple years have also hit the Retreat spreads, which aren't as fanciful as in the recent past.


While there have been some variations at times, most Retreats follow a simple template.

On Friday morning Council will look at their past goals, and successes of the previous year. Following that, each of those issue items from the telephone interviews will be covered, with some preliminary voting on ranking them.

On Saturday Council's priorities for 2011 will be voted on. The final area of the Retreat will be governance, where internal and housekeeping matters will be discussed.


The Virginian-Pravda will have a reporter there, plus there will be a few political junkies (including myself).

In the recent past interests have had representatives there, but they've dwindled as the City's Budget has tightened. The past couple there's been maybe 5-6 people plus myself, and I've known all but 1-2 of the others.


At the turn of the century, Retreats were held at the Pavilion. That building was booked in 2002, then razed. The 2002 Retreat was at the Virginia Aquarium, an awful location. Noise from the visitors outside the room made it difficult to hear in the meeting. After that, Council went to DED's conference room. The best table and chairs of any of the three, but the space is cramped and the restrooms are a nice hike away. The past couple have been at the convention center.

I'm perplexed by the decision to go back to DED. There's not only more space at the convention center, but the caterer to handle food and beverage. One of the most bizarre sights at Retreats is watching DED employees with postgraduate degrees being utilized as menial labor for the session.


It will probably be a shorter session, adjourning early on Saturday. With all 11 incumbents coming back and money tight, new initiatives should be limited. However, I still expect to see a new major initiative or two floated.

Yes, light rail will come up, and someone (cough...Bill DeSteph...cough) will probably be crazy enough to try to get Council to commit to a referendum. However, until the AA/SDEIS is back and a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) chosen, it shouldn't even be on the table.

The most intriguing may be fiscal policy. After having drawn down the cash reserves in the last two Budgets, and with the election behind them, will there be any tax or fee increases proposed for FY 2012? (Unless the economy improves, probably.)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

No Fifth Meeting!

On Tuesday night the Envision Transportation Working Group held what was suppose to be it's final meeting. Only four were scheduled for the Working Group.

Now there is a move to hold a fifth meeting, with the request coming from (ahem) John Moss, Chairman of the extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA). The VBTA wants to present a proposal for a follow-on transportation effort. Yeah, that's the same VBTA that has opposed each and every proposal to build new roads, while calling for the dismantling of mass transit. Given their track record, to reconvene for the primary purpose of hearing from them would be tantamount to entertaining an offer from a pedophile to provide security services for an elementary school.

The Envision Transportation initiative is partly funded by the City of Virginia Beach, to the tune of $63,000. The Working Group meets at the Municipal Center, in Building 19. Considering the source, any proposal originating from the VBTA would be DOA across the street at City Hall.

If the VBTA had something to bring to the table, they could have come to the fourth meeting. While Moss himself was in sick bay that night, certainly others from the VBTA could have brought the proposal in for discussion. Zero VBTAers were at the fourth meeting. In typical VBTA arrogance, they demand center stage for themselves at a fifth meeting, rather than being one among many at the fourth meeting.

Your tax dollars are funding this initiative. Speak up and make it clear there should be no fifth Working Group meeting. It would be a waste of resources.

10 Points Towards An Inclusive Virginia Beach

The war of attrition towards an inclusive Virginia Beach drags on. It faces a potential flashpoint next year with City redistricting. However, no one should have any illusions: the fight will take years more. I offer this list of 10 Points to serve as guidelines on the way there.

1. Reform of Virginia Beach's obscene at-large voting system is The Holy Grail, but it won't come easy.

One of the principal lessons I learned from the 2001 redistricting process is that Virginia Beach's elite craves power above all else. They're ready to see our city reduced to a trash heap as long as they can lord over it when we get there.

I hold little hope we can get City Council itself to back reform in 2011. However, we need to fire a shot across the bow to let them know we're not taking this bullshit sitting down. It will mark the incumbents (and their backers) as anti-inclusion in subsequent years.

2. Keeping a Redevelopment & Housing Authority out 0f the hands of the City of Virginia Beach is paramount.

Listen to what neighborhoods get mentioned when the subject of redevelopment comes up, and note they're inevitably minority neighborhoods. Give a R&HA to our status quoers tomorrow and they'd start bulldozing the minority concentrations.

When Virginia Beach history is written, it may record that the beginning of the end of the status quo was the narrow loss of the 1996 R&HA referendum question. Consider what could have happened if they had won....

That said, it may be prudent to trade the elite a R&HA whose redevelopment powers are limited to the Strategic Growth Areas (minus Seatack) in return for something substantial, like a hybrid voting system.

3. Housing stock is the potential chokepoint, so take on the issue.

Fewer Whites live in Virginia Beach than a generation ago. What population growth we've had has been entirely minority. The key to continuing the influx is to look to making sure there are enough affordable housing units for them to come.

4. Light rail is the second most important piece of the puzzle.

When people can come here from Norfolk (and - later - Portsmouth) via train in minutes at bus fare, it will be a dramatic game changer. That will largely erase the city lines on a practical basis.

5. Pursue board and commission seats.

What good does it do to get to an inclusive Virginia Beach only to not be able to govern it? (See: the Congo after the Belgian withdraw.) There needs to be a cadre of inclusionists with board and commission experience capable of running the government when that prayed-for day comes.

To take Council only to leave the boards and commissions in the hands of status quoers would mean getting status quo reports from them. I don't think so.

6. Advocate for Department of Economic Development (DED) funding.

We're going to have to provide quality jobs for those here and those who want to come.

In addition, we'll need a strong commerical base during the transition. (See: Quebec when the Parti Quebecois took power.)

7. Work through the Minority Business Council towards having a thriving number of minority businesses.

We need a base of businesses friendly towards funding our City Council candidates. (Hey, it's how the elitists do it.)

8. Support greater integration into the region.

Closer ties with minority-majority Portsmouth and tipping Norfolk strengthens our hand here.

9. Don't waste gunpowder fighting plausible City capital projects.

Our elitists have an edifice complex. If they want to build things we can later reap the benefits from, let them.

10. Smash the remnants of the extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA).

The all-White breakfast cult pushes an agenda that would trigger a mass exodus of minority residents from Virginia Beach. Also, they have no intention of doing single or multiple issue partnerships with anyone.

The sooner the demise of the VBTA, the quicker that City Council elections go from being fought primarily over fiscal policy to being contests about inclusion. You want to hear status quo candidates try to rationalize exclusion?

The bottom line: victory is inevitably ours as long as we play our cards smart.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

TPO December 15, 2010

The Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) met on Wednesday. In a much-anticipated move, the TPO approved the transportation project prioritization report. Please note, flat Earthers: the Virginia Beach Fixed Guideway Project is ranked 4th overall among all projects throughout the region.

This is what happens when you miss a meeting: absent Paul Fraim was named to the High-Speed Rail and Intercity Passenger Rail Task Force.

Delegate Glenn Oder attacked the recent "Ring of Fire" graphic, claiming tolls wouldn't be set as high as depicted. Also, Phillip Shucet called it a "ridiculous waste of resources."

A briefing was given on value pricing of tolls. The practice, also known as congestion pricing, will probably be part of any transportation tolling.

A second presentation on the transportation focus groups, held in part by Christopher Newport University, was given. A series of recommendations was made, including a follow-on public series on transportation.

The TPO now has it's own Facebook page. (I was the 5th person to Like it.)

The TPO will next meet on Thursday, January 20. The TPO will have a Retreat in February.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Dems Will Go Big?

In our latest poll, you were asked how many challenges you expected the Democrats to make for General Assembly seats in Virginia Beach in 2011. 38% said 4 seats, 31% said 3 seats, 6% said 2 seats, with 12% each for 1 and 0 seats.

Just one problem: the Democrats haven't mounted four campaigns for General Assembly seats largely in Virginia Beach in a generation. Possible, but larger than what we've seen in the past.

The new question: are you a civic league member? Active in it? Does your neighborhood have one?

TDCHR December, 2010

On Thursday, the RAC and TDCHR meetings fell in the same afternoon due to holiday schedules. I was at the Oceanfront for RAC, while John Uhrin wasn't there. (I presume he was in Hampton for TDCHR.) I do a short write-up based on an electronic copy of the meeting packet I received.

In October, 2010, both ridership and on-time performance was up on Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) buses from October, 2009. However, raw customer complaints were up sharply from a year prior. (I use the term "raw" as the validity of the complaint can't be determined until investigated.)

HRT is $782k under Budget for the first four months of FY 2011.

The TDCHR will next meet January 27 in Norfolk at 1:30 P.M.

Friday, December 10, 2010

RAC December 9, 2010

Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) held a short meeting Thursday afternoon, lasting only about 40 minutes.

Chairman Preston Midgett and Vice Chair Gerrie West were reelected to their positions for 2011.

In response to TPPC concerns over the draft Form-Based Zoning for the Resort Area, SGA Office Director Barry Frankenfield stated his Office might be ready to brief the TPPC in January. However, there is still work to be done on the draft, with one area being how it deals with parking issues. Also, in recent talks with the Navy, the City is trying to make clear what the draft does with lodging units versus residential units. AICUZ regulations look upon the two differently.

Despite concerns about air encroachments into the public right of way, the Plan/Design Review Committee (PDRC) endorsed Phase III of the Ocean Beach Club. The issue is that there would be overhangs from the proposed building extending beyond the property line. In addition, a law enforcement monument is in the works for 35th Street, done by the same sculptor that did the King Neptune statue at 31st Street. (Don't worry: it will be smaller.) The PDRC worked with how to make the pieces (i.e. Ocean Beach Club, monument, etc.) fit together well.

Neither the Resort Investment Committee, Green Committee, nor Communications Committee met this month.

The first meeting of the task force on Resort event food & beverage sales met on Wednesday morning, and the meeting went well. The Oceanfront Enhancement Committee (OEC) continues with the parking meters to raise funds for the homeless initiative. Roanoke, Norfolk, and Chesapeake have all inquired as to how we put our program together, as they may wish to follow suit.

Speaking of Chesapeake and Norfolk, both have pulled a page from our playbook and established Special Events offices. In fact, Chesapeake has hired one of our employees to run theirs, while Norfolk has interviewed a second member of our Staff. Finally, work is going on at the intersection of 32nd and Arctic to install brick pavers for the pedestrian crossing. It's being done later due to the original base the road was built on.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

2010 Changing Lives Breakfast

This morning the Urban League of Hampton Roads held it's 2010 Changing Lives Breakfast at the Chesapeake Conference Center. About 400 people were in attendance.

There were testimonials on the League's local work, videos shown, and some remarks made. Of course, breakfast was served: scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, assorted breads, orange juice, and coffee.

Of course, the Changing Lives Breakfast is primarily a fundraiser. Not only were there numerous sponsors, but the climax of the program was the appeal for donations. The Table Captains passed out envelopes to those at their tables, and we were asked to contribute. I wrote a small check, and promised more in January. The village nutcases, the extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA), have declared that "Urban = Marxist". Therefore, I got a kick out of giving to what they'd believe was a commie conspiracy.

Prior to today, my only dealings with the Urban League were reading the occasional mention of them in the news, and being a fan of the Urban League of Hampton Roads' Facebook page. I told my Table Captain afterwards that it struck me as a cross between a social services agency and Empower Hampton Roads.

The Urban League of Hampton Roads website is at

Monday, December 6, 2010

Finnish Independece Day 2010

December 6 (St. Nicholas Day) is Finnish Independence Day. The Grand Duchy of Finland declared independence from the Russian Empire on December 6, 1917. The Provisional Government in Petrograd had been overthrown in October, and the Finns weren't sticking around for Comrade Lenin's "great proletarian revolution."

Finland's national anthem is Maamme (Our Land). I've had a couple renditions bookmarked on YouTube, but found this one last week. I thought you'd love to have the schoolchildren sing.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

TPPC December 2, 2010

The Transportation, Parking, and Pedestrian, Committee (TPPC) of Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met this morning for about 75 minutes.

The premier topic was street signage in the Resort Area. First, surveys done by TPPC members showed that while signage could be pared down some, the vast majority will need to stay. Second, there are a number of signs that have been tagged with unauthorized stickers. TPPC wondered about removal and enforcement. (It was later determined that defacing a traffic sign is a Class 1 Misdemeanor in Virginia.) Third, the TPPC voted to replace the VB Wave logo on the Atlantic Avenue bus lane signs with Resort sector designations, borrowed from the gateway traffic signs.

A preliminary look has been taken at improving the Rudee Loop Transfer Center of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) prior to 2011 seasonal service. An estimate was given on paving the gravel shoulder where the buses now stop. Rudee Loop is the meeting point for Routes 30, 31, and 32. While no bus shelters are currently available to be deployed to Rudee Loop, the depth of the property probably means you couldn't fit a full-size shelter on it anyway. TPPC (and RAC) Chairman Preston Midgett once again raised the matter of a Shuttle 3 Day farecard, but HRT officials raised technical objections that would probably preclude it.

A formal request has been accepted by the City Attorney's Office to have the revision to the Surrey Ordinance placed on the City Council agenda.

Finally, the TPPC expressed exasperation over being bypassed so far in proposed revisions to city parking requirements. At least three entities are now considering changes, with none of them yet to come to the TPPC.

Pre-Tax Transit Benefit In Danger

Unless Congress acts prior to December 31, transit parity under the Federal tax code will be gone. Currently up to $230 per month can be provided to an employee (either through payroll deduction of wages or as a fringe benefit) towards mass transit tax-free. That's the same amount as is exempt for a parking space. If Congress fails to act, it would revert to the pre-2008 ceiling of $120.

Currently, the most expensive farecard offered by Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) is the 30 Day MAX at $95. However, two things. First, it's the principle of the matter. If the Federal government wants to reduce the number of cars on the road, why give drivers a tax break nearly twice as large as transit riders? Second, should HRT pull it's fare review off the back burner in 2011, you might see that 30 Day MAX end up in the $120 range.

Draft Transit Vision Plan Meeting

Last night the Southside meeting on the draft of Phase II of the Regional Transit Vision Plan was held in the Board Room of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) in Norfolk. It drew a standing room only crowd.

4 additional areas of the state have added mass transit, as employers are making it a prerequisite to locate their businesses there. Currently 40% of people movements in Arlington are by mass transit. Automobiles are the second largest expense in household budgets. In auto dependent areas, automobile expenses comprise 25% of the budget; in transit rich areas, only 9%.

Reid Greenmun, Vice Chairman/Chairman of No Transportation of the extremist VBTA, has tried to claim mass transit is part of a conspiracy to take cars away from people. For anyone foolish enough to believe him, Amy Inman of Virginia's Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) told the gathering, "We'll always have the automobile." (Yes, Greenmun is a paranoid nutcase.)

From the draft Transit Vision Plan:

1. By 2025 - Norfolk's light rail starter line would be extended to Virginia Beach's Oceanfront and Naval Station Norfolk, with high speed ferries across the harbor.

2. Between 2025 and 2035 - commuter rail to from Newport News to Toano, Newport News light rail, light rail from Norfolk to Chesapeake's Greenbrier area, and a streetcar from the Harbor Park multimodal station to downtown Portsmouth.

Additional measures are laid out beyond 2035.

Comments, both written and verbal, were taken after the Presentation. Also, comments may be e-mailed to DRPT.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

By A Narrow Margin

On a 52%-47% vote, you voted against the proposed Eden nightclub on 32nd Street.

Personally, I believe we have too few nightclubs in Virginia Beach, especially on the west side. If we reject proposals like Eden, what are young people visiting our beach going to do at night? (Okay, besides that....) Better there are such venues where they can have a good time in a monitored atmosphere.

The new question: how many General Assembly seats (largely) in Virginia Beach will the Democrats mount challenges for in 2011? Republicans now hold all resident member seats in Virginia Beach, though the Democrats hold a few (5th & 6th Senate and 90th House) that overlap out of Norfolk.