Wednesday, November 16, 2011

McLean Found NGRI

Since I know a number of Tyler's family and friends are reading, I have this sad - but not unexpected - story to forward.

Yesterday Michael Jemar McLean was found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity in the May 27 murder of Tyler Lynn-Gainous. McLean entered the plea, Judge William O'Brien accepted it, and Michael was committed to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

The Virginian-Pravda says the evaluations were done by a psychologist and a social worker. Someone was found NGRI without a doctor's evaluation?!? Second, do we want case law stating that a paranoid schizophrenic off his medications can commit murder?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

2.0 Pending

I spoke to one of my friends in the African-American community leadership on Friday morning. They are actively recruiting additional bloggers for Avenging Archangel.

Stay tuned, as 2.0 is pending.

Opening Of The Tide

I've made 43 roundtrips on The Tide as a Data Collector (11 on Opening Day), and some additional trips off-duty. (I'm back on-duty this evening.) I've seen plenty of it, and would like to record my observations.


Among those I've seen onboard are Chesapeake City Councilman & TDCHR Commissioner Cliff Hayes, City of Virginia Beach chief lobbyist Bob Matthias (I explained the passenger counting system to him), City of Virginia Beach Transportation Planning Coordinator Mark Schnaufer, Future of Hampton Roads President Ray Taylor, and The Virginian-Pravda's Debbie Messina. When Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim boarded at Harbor Park on August 20, the passengers gave him a round of applause. Yesterday I ran into HRT President Phillip Shucet as we both alighted at MacArthur Sqaure. (As we'd been sitting in different halves of the train, we didn't spot each other onboard.)

However, special mention goes to the passenger on my train opening night: Reid Greenmun, Chairman of the extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA). Yes, Reid Greenmun rides The Tide! In his habitual arrogance, yesterday on Pilotonline he declared himself an authority on The Tide based on that single trip. (NEWS FLASH: there are some Data Collectors who have been working 6-7 days per week on the trains.)


On August 19, I took the first Cutback Inbound 20 of the morning to Newtown Road Station, arriving at 5:55 A.M. As the bus pulled towards the Station, we could see the place was packed.

Despite the attempt of Virginia News Source to later inflate the figure, there were no more than 20 protesters when I arrived.

My first train was the 6:30 A.M. run that morning. As I waited on the platform for it, a pair of senior ladies spoke to me. One recognized me from St. Gregory's. The other grasped that the objective of the protesters was to keep "a certain element" out of Virginia Beach.


By Sunday, August 21, passengers had begun calculating how they could utilize The Tide. They could save money by taking the train into downtown for shopping, entertainment, and Tides games.

Norfolk State University and Old Dominion University students were taking The Tide to MacArthur Center. The former were going NSU Station - MacArthur Square Station. On Saturday a pair of ODU coeds were on the Inbound Route 16 with me, taking it to Fort Norfolk to catch the train.

Last week there was a party in Ingleside. A group of 8 was on my train going there, and they would have certainly driven prior to August 19.

Saturday a family from Portsmouth was sitting behind me. They had drove over to a park and ride, and spoke of enjoying parking on High Street and taking the ferry over. I pointed out to them that the same $3.50 Day Pass would work on both the ferry and train. (Guess what they'll do next time?)

Yesterday I went downtown for an early dinner. I obviously would never do the 75 minute bus ride for dinner alone, but The Tide comes to within two blocks of the restaurant.


Let me answer some of the arguments against they have come up.

First, an opponent on opening morning was claiming extending The Tide into Virginia Beach would take money away from public schools. Not only false, but the contrary is true. Under the schools funding formula, all mass transit expenses come out of the City side of the Budget. The redevelopment induced by The Tide would increase the money to schools in outlying years.

Second, people will stop riding once the newness fades away. Reread the Utilization section and you'll see where the repeat customers will come from.

Third, the train's speed. However, the TPO would let you know that at rush hour our interstates roll at 25 mph or under, urban door to door travel is 15 mph, and our bridges and tunnels are under 10 mph. That will only get worse.

Let me point out the Virginia Beach extension, having no street running, would have a much higher average speed than Norfolk.


Once fares began being charged, two issues popped up. First, people didn't know how to use the TVMs. Second, they didn't know which farecard to buy.

A smaller version of the Tide Guide program has been launched to help deal with those issues.


With the deluge of people opening weekend, the running joke was repeating the opponents "No one will ride it" mantra.

On a Saturday night train, the ACS system was still stuck on Military Highway Station as we approached the Fort Norfolk Station. I quipped to the off-duty Bus Operator standing next to me "You can transfer to the 23 at either one."

As our Outbound Train turned for Harbor Park with a Tides game that evening, a pair of women launched into a terrible rendition of Take Me Out To The Ballgame. A group of teenage girls responded with (to the same tune) Throw Them Off Of The Tide Train.

One evening we could see westbound 264 backed up as we passed. Passengers began yelling "You should have taken The Tide!"


The group that told us "No one will ride it" was left with zero credibility by opening weekend. While no one ever pretended numbers that high were sustainable, it showed that a huge slice of the public is interested in light rail.

In the past week since fares began being charged, ridership has been 1.75 - 3 times the benchmark.

Randy Wright was right. He said if we built a starter line, when people saw it and rode it, they'd embrace it. The regional light rail to be built question was settled on August 19, 2011.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Suspension Or 2.0

As some of you may know (but most probably don't), I've been hired by Hampton Roads Transit (HRT). Given the conflicts of interest that would present as a blogger, I'm either going to take the blog to suspension or unveil Avenging Archangel 2.0. My conflicts as a HRT employee:

1. Obvious on mass transit writing.

2. Legally, HRT is a corporation held one-seventh by each member city. To blog on local politics would be talking about my employer.

3. HRT has a seat on the TPO.

My duties will begin with light rail launch in the morning, which is why I set this to autopost Thursday evening.

2.0 would be for me to fade into the background, chipping in a post where I can, while giving the front seat to my best friends in the African-American community leadership. I e-mailed them over the weekend, seeking at least two additional posters. (A single poster would always be compared and contrasted with me.) This established platform would continue to advocate for an inclusive Virginia Beach, having a given readership base to build on. I'm not holding my breath on it, as I made similar recruitment pitches in the wake of each of Andrew Jackson's campaigns for the Virginia Beach City Council.

I've been hired to be a Data Collector at HRT, doing manual passenger counts on The Tide. Under Federal Transit Administration (FTA) regulations, manual counts are mandated during the first year of revenue service. (In addition, there are automated systems just inside the train doors.) Everyone at HRT is cognisant of the fact that there has been much speculation about how many will ride The Tide. Having completed my training, let me make it clear to everyone: given the methodology and redundancies in the system, it would be virtually impossible to fudge The Tide ridership numbers. The FTA will be watching, and - given the history of the project - will certainly check it anything appears off.

There have been talks between HRT executives and I over the past few months about me possibly joining the team. They began recruiting me once they learned that my previous place of employment was probably going to close. As HRT needed to add dependable additional staff for light rail launch, it was fairly obvious where to put me. In the interim, I put one project for this blog on ice: a political satire series. On the 13th of each month, I was going to chronicle the Really Evil Taxpayers Against Rational Decisions (RETARD). In fact, in my desk I have a scratch sheet with topics for nine installments of the RETARDs.

It's been a fun run. I had been considering blogging for months, but was finally pushed when no one covered a citizens meeting held at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. My one failure was never attracting additional posters, as I never intended to do this all alone indefinitely. While the number of hits on this site has been relatively low, the point is who reads this blog. I've had a virtual who's who cite it back to me. It's been a niche blog, providing information and insights you can't find anywhere else on the Internet.

For we grassroots inclusionists, both status quoers and the extremist VBTA present serious problems. Those of the status quo are usually more subtle. However, I hope others continue to speak out loudly about what the VBTA's sinister agenda really means for Virginia Beach.

Finally, I'd be remiss not to invite you to come ride light rail on launch weekend - and to become repeat customers. Given that the lion's share of my initial duties will be onboard the trains themselves, part of my training had me out riding The Tide. It has the Wow Factor. The bulk of my fellow Data Collectors aren't mass transit advocates, but simply people looking for good work. However, when we rode as part of our training, they were pulling out their smartphones to take video and photos of the run. They were moved.

It may not be over for me, with either a limited role under 2.0 or coming back full bore here later. (Remember that my initial position with HRT sunsets after one year.) In the meantime, I hope I get interest from others to launch 2.0. Regardless, I plan to keep this blog up, allowing it to serve as an archive of past events. Nakemiin.

Friday, August 12, 2011


In the previous poll question, I asked you all to estimate Tide ridership on Saturday, August 20. That would be the second day of light rail revenue service here. 27% each voted for 4,900 or more, 4,100 - 4,899, and 3,300 - 4,099. 18% chose 2,500 - 3,299, while no one expected less than that.

With a deal to build a headquarters hotel for the Virginia Beach Convention Center reportedly imminent, I'll ask about public support for the City of Virginia Beach entering a public-private venture (PPV) to complete such a project.

McLain Case Hits The Courtroom

This morning the case of Michael McLain was taken up in Virginia Beach District Court, Criminal Courtroom 2, but only briefly. Lawyers from both sides appeared, the Commonwealth filed a motion, and a next date for the case was set. It will be back in District Court on October 7. McLain is charged in the May 27 murder of Tyler Lynn-Gainous. McLain himself never entered the courtroom today.

I made the trip down to the Courthouse this morning. When Michael's mother saw me, she made a few over-the-top comments about my being present. (Last time I checked, trials of adults in this country were public.) However, I shouldn't personalize it, as she's obviously distraught over her son's predicament.

For Tyler's out-of-area family and friends, District Court proceedings in Virginia are conducted with the lawyers, defendant, witnesses, et al standing at the judge's bench. Therefore, it's difficult to hear elsewhere in the courtroom. I think I heard what was being said, but don't want to run with it as a story without being sure. I called the Clerk's office this afternoon, they provided the next court date, but didn't have a scanned copy of the motion. As I know a number of you are depending on me for information, I'll try to verify it early next week.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

There's A Stench In The Pasture

John Moss did a television interview with WAVY on the pending deal to to build a convention center headquarters hotel in Virginia Beach. On the Republican Party of Virginia Beach's (RPVB) Facebook page, Moss claims his opposition to such an agreement is based on it being in violation of the Republican Creed.

Of course, Moss served for years as Chairman of the extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA). The tiny breakfast cult is dominated by members of The Laughingstock Party-er, Tidewater Libertarian Party (TLP).

That begs the obvious question for Council candidate Moss: if he is so concerned about Republican principles, why didn't he spend the last decade working within the RPVB rather than being figurehead for a clique of faux Libertarians?

2011 Redistricting So Far

The Virginia Beach City Council is scheduled to approve a new seven district map for City Council and School Board on August 23. Given what happened at this past Tuesday night's Public Hearing before Council, it's likely to be a map we haven't even seen yet. At this time, I'd like to take a look at issues and events from the process so far.

The first of the meetings was at Green Run High School in June. At that time the City Attorney's Office strongly discouraged any plans other than seven district plans. While other proposals would be accepted, the City wanted to avoid anything that would require a City Charter change. So far we've seen nothing but seven district plans, which might be choking outside of the box thinking.

Another point is the failure to look at alternative voting systems. The debate has pivoted on two questions: how to draw the seven districts, and whether the seven district members should be elected solely within their districts. At the third meeting, I raised the possibility of cumulative voting. It would aid minority representation, while not triggering any of the publicly-stated arguments against a ward system.

Prior to the Chris Felton Plan being submitted on Monday, the source of every plan had been either the Council Liaisons or the NAACP. NAACP1 was the civil rights group's original submission, with NAACP2 drawn to meet objections raised by a quartet of Councilpersons. Those same Councilpersons then drafted another plan, which was sent to the NAACP in search of an endorsement. The "compromise of a compromise" was so watered down from the original intent that no blessing was forthcoming. It has never been officially filed, so it doesn't appear on the Redistricting website.

There is the issue of which should be the minority-majority district, Centerville or Rose Hall? While the Council Liaison plans have been based on Centerville, the NAACP plans are based on Rose Hall. The problem with Centerville is the unstable Asian-American concentrations in the southwest. The stunning difference I saw in first looking at the 2010 Census numbers was the change in the Asian-American concentration map from the 2000 Census. While you could draw Centerville as a minority-majority district today, it is highly questionable as to whether that status could be maintained in subsequent redistrictings. In sharp contrast, the minority numbers in Green Run are sustainable, so Rose Hall should become the minority-majority district in a seven district plan.

The root of many comments during the public meetings so far has been The Northwest Crescent, the Beach's densest minority concentration. It runs roughly from the northwest corner of the Virginia Beach Boulevard/Witchduck Road intersection to the Campus East and Burton Station areas. Along the way it takes in Lake Edward, with decent numbers in the periphery at Cypress Point. From a standpoint of minority representation, that concentration needs to be kept intact on one side of the Bayside - Kempsville line or the other. That forces a curved district line that inevitably will put a neighborhood into a district that a layman would think doesn't make sense. When you also consider the policy implications, it makes more sense to put the concentration in Kempsville District. That gives Vice Mayor Louis Jones the Central Business District. Therefore, you loop the line northward in the west, then dip it southward in the east. That puts parts of historic Kempsville into Bayside District, which has led to some civic league complaints. However, failure to get that line correct would be an obvious red flag when an approved plan is sent to the Justice Department for preclearance.

While I drew 2 of the 7 plans in 2001, I haven't taken a shot this time. The efforts of my good friends in the African-American community leadership were so far ahead that I didn't want to do anything that might undercut them. I've done backseat support for their efforts.

You knew I couldn't resist a chance to attack the extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA), didn't you? While the VBTA has always given lip service towards a ward system, the only VBTAer at any of the five public meetings has been previous Chairman John Moss. At the third meeting he endorsed the NAACP's position as an individual. Then, it's probably better for the cause that the village idiots don't invade the Council Chambers.

A largely status quo plan will almost certainly be adopted on August 23. The two baseline needs are keeping The Northwest Crescent intact and drawing Rose Hall District as a minority-majority district.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The City Responds

In my home neighborhood, we've had problems with overflow parking from Knuckleheads Roadhouse (410 N. Witchduck Road). Nice establishment, but on very busy nights, their customers will park on Weaver Drive. Weaver has had no on-street parking since I moved to the neighborhood in 2003. The problem is that the minimal signage probably isn't clear to most bar patrons. Weaver is a narrow, curvy street that is the only access road for two apartment complexes.

After some e-mail traffic, I'm happy to report that the crown jewel to solving our problem is in the pipes. About lunchtime yesterday I received an e-mail from the Mayor's Office informing me that improved "No Parking" signage for Weaver Drive will be installed "in 3-4 weeks". There will be a large "No Parking" sign on each side of Weaver near the entrance, making it clear that there's no on-street parking. (If bar patrons still try to, it would make it much easier for 3rd Precinct to enforce.)

A long term component is probably to punch a second entrance in, either through the backdoor to Northridge, or out to Witchduck (adjacent to Ebbets Plaza.) However, with roads funds scarce, I'm not about to hold my breath on that one.

To look at the big picture here, the lesson to be learned is that you can get things done working the system. You simply need to address your issue in a detailed manner to the right people, being clear and concise in explaining the problem and your position.

Update (August 17): I noticed this afternoon that the new signage is up, early at that.

Friday, August 5, 2011

City Council Goal Setting Workshop

Today the Virginia Beach City Council held a one day Goal Setting Workshop. The 6 1/2 hour meeting was in the Department of Economic Development (DED) Board Room at Town Center.


Each Councilperson had a prior telephone interview with Facilitator Lyle Sumek. The following issues were brought up in those interviews by at least two Councilpersons:

1. SPSA and Landfill

2. Schools and Funding

3. Process Improvement

4. Pleasure House Point

5. Revenues: Direction for FY 2013

6. Use of Sponsorships

7. State Revenues to the City: Direction

8. Outsourcing: Recreation Centers, Others

9. Dredging/Spoils

10. SGA: Direction

11. Form-Based Code

12. TMDL

13. Williams Center

14. Convention Center Headquarters Hotel

15. Dome site

16. Sand/Beach Replenishment

17. Gambling/Video Gaming

18. City Redistricting

19. Legislative Agenda: Topics

20. Work Session: Discussion Time

21. Confidentiality of Closed Sessions

22. Burton Station

23. Bike/Trail Plan

24. TOD: Direction


Things restarted after the lunch break with SGA Office Manager Barry Frankenfield giving a status report on our SGAs. He covered the planned identity for each SGA, the proposed infrastructure projects in them, schedules for upcoming plans, etc.

The Rosemont SGA plan is due to be approved by Council September 13. The final three are scheduled for 2012: Lynnhaven (March), Hilltop (June), and Centerville (December).

For those screaming that this is an attempt to totally redo the city, City Manager Jim Spore pointed out that the SGAs comprise less than 2% of Virginia Beach's land area. 98% would remain as is.

Implementation strategy was questioned. Policy has been to slowly work each SGA that has a plan, as we don't know where a potential private investor may want to redevelop. Louis Jones has long wanted to target 2-3 with our finite resources, and he was joined by Prescott Sherrod.

In addition, consensus now wants to designate Princess Anne Commons a SGA. That is to target resources to the area, hoping we can have quality spinoff development from the new Sentara Princess Anne Hospital.

FY 2013

Fiscal policy is always a discussion point, especially in this recession. It is projected that property assessments will be down 5% in 2012. That would mean a loss of $20 million in Property Tax revenue for the City, on top of the already-expected Budget shortfall for FY 2013 of $50 million. (Big, but we've had worse in recent memory.)

Vice Mayor Louis Jones cautioned against slash and burn, warning we could induce our own local economic problems, and he was echoed by Councilman Glenn Davis. Bob Dyer took the middle ground, stating we'd have to tweak and reprioritize. It was pointed out that bond houses base our rating not only on debt load, but what we're doing on economic development in order that we have future debt service capacity. Jim Spore noted Property Tax revenue has been down about $190 million over the past few years, but we've weathered the storm - in part - due to revenue from investments made in the recent past.

Foreclosures have accounted for 27% of home sales in Virginia Beach during the past year.


Give Councilman Bill DeSteph enough time to talk and he'll say something stupid. Today was no exception.

First, under discussion of our City debt situation, he started citing statistics from our Federal debt standing. As if Council was responsible for Federal debt. (Hey, he thinks we do New York City land use....)

Second, he not only wants to revoke the May increase of our City's self-imposed debt ceiling, but wants to lower it below the previous figure.

Third, Mayor Will Sessoms spoke of how road construction can be good for the local economy. We not only get new roads out of it, but it creates jobs for locals. DeSteph retorted there was no latter benefit if the international students who come to work here build the roads. Councilman John Uhrin pointed out he'd never heard of the students building roads here.

Fourth, DeSteph wants to cut economic development initiatives based on the recession. I was incredulous: DeSteph's position boils down to the notion that we're so bad off economically that we should stop trying to create new jobs!

Fifth, he brought up City debt again under Governance, which was out of order. He said he was going to keep talking about it even if no one on Council backed him on it. (Yeah, the other ten all know he's out there.)


The Council Liaisons on the issue (Glenn Davis & Louis Jones) claimed that they had a plan (presumably 2C) that would make everyone who has spoken happy.

When I got home, I had to e-mail my good NAACP friends ASAP to let them know what a bunch of happy campers we're suppose to be. First, 2C makes Centerville District minority-majority, while NAACP1 makes Rose Hall District minority-majority. Second, anyone who knows both the Census numbers and civil rights law grasps that Council offering 2C as a reasonable alternative to NAACP1 is disingenuous at best. Third, NAACP1 has two additional districts that are influence districts.

It's disgusting, but the Virginia Beach City Council rejecting inclusion was virtually a foregone conclusion. I plan a post sometime August 10-18 to cover the process more in depth. (That's why I refrained from covering Redistricting in Random Thoughts August 4, 2011, as I already had the post in the pipes.)


Things wouldn't be fun unless I threw out a couple nuggets for my favorite whipping boys, the extremist VBTA, to choke on.

First, the percentage of income that the average citizen pays to local government in taxes and fees today is at the same level as 1958.

I can hear the knuckle-draggers yelling, "Where did that come from?!?" MoveOn? Organizing for America? No, it's actually from a report by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Second, City of Virginia Beach revenue in 2011 is at 2007 levels, with a dip (see: Assessments) expected in 2012. Next time they claim we're on a spending binge....


1. Council decided not to include video poker authorization in the 2012 Community Legislative Package. It was noted that what gambling bills that passed the General Assembly in 2011 were all about raising the penalties for illegal gambling, so video poker legislation wouldn't have a snowball's chance in Richmond.

2. The new animal shelter is ahead of schedule. Due to open in January, it may be ready in December.

3. The number of applications for services from the Department of Human Services has doubled in the past five years.

4. The City will look at outsourcing our recreation centers, as it did with municipal golf courses and Sportsplex. However, a couple Councilmen had reservations about the idea.

5. The proposed bike trail in the periphery of the Norfolk Southern Right-Of-Way has been on hold pending completion of the Alternatives Analysis of the Virginia Beach Transit Extension Study. The issue is that LRT and BRT require different widths, so it can't be engineered as such until a transit mode is chosen.

Rather than the initial talk of acquiring additional land where the ROW is too narrow, the preferred option now is to look at diverting the bikes to parallel neighborhood streets in such areas.

6. Michael Jenkins' option on redeveloping the Dome site expires September 30. He either needs everything square by then, or to request another extension from the Virginia Beach Development Authority (VBDA).

7. The Virginia Aquarium Area Plan is scheduled to go to Council on November 8.

8. Two additional Councilmen expressed opposition to the proposed tent city for the homeless.

9. The best joke of the day was by Jim Wood. When Council discussed selling tasteful sponsorships for City facilities and events, Wood suggested "Kellam High School, brought to you by Towne Bank".

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Communists Endorse Obama Reelection

In last week's edition of People's Weekly World, Communist Party USA (CPUSA) endorsed the reelection of Barack Obama as President in 2012. While Chairman Sam Webb noted that the CPUSA would like to see an united third party on the left, and has differences with Obama on both foreign and domestic policy, they also note that there are differences between Republicans and Democrats.

H/T Conservative Byte

68% Look Favorably On Interracial Marraige

68% of you, more than two-thirds of voters, look favorably on interracial marriages. For the 31% unfavorable, wake up and smell the 21st Century! Such arcane beliefs belong in the landfill of history.

As a Catholic bachelor in this area, I long thought I'd end up married to a pinay. Between having lived in an 85% African-American neighborhood for over eight years, and utilizing a mass transit system where ridership is about 75% African-American, it's African-American women who now dominate my personal life.

The new poll question: estimate ridership of The Tide on August 20. Launch day is August 19, which is a Friday. Being a weekday, that should dampen crowds. The following day is a Saturday, service will be fare-free, and people will want to see it for the first time. What's your guess on ridership? (2,900 is the average weekday benchmark.)

Random Thoughts August 4, 2011

1. The City of Norfolk has a Department of Parks & Urban Forestry. Isn't "Urban Forestry" an oxymoron?

2. When will the agreement on an entertainment complex for the Dome site be completed? We've been on the cusp of closing the deal for months.

3. Who files at the 11th hour for this November's Virginia Beach City Council special election should be interesting. When perennial candidate John Moss first announced, I couldn't have imagined he'd be in a position to still be taken seriously at this point.

4. Meyera Oberndorf is being recruited by the Demonrats to run for the 7th Senate District seat this November. Anyone who has worked a General Assembly race before (and I've done a few) knows standing up a credible campaign just 90 days out from Election Day is virtually impossible.

Therefore, the only rational reason I can see for her running is to boost voter turnout on the west side of Virginia Beach (7th District), which would help a status quo Council candidate but hurt John Moss.

5. My best wishes to the new Republic of South Sudan. Now if they would change the country name to disassociate themselves from the thugs who rule in Khartoum. Maybe a beautiful name in one of the indigenous languages.

6. With zero units constructed through Virginia Beach's Workforce Housing Program, how long until the City takes more forceful measures to get the units built?

7. With Southwest Airlines buying AirTran, and closing their Newport News station next Spring, what - if any - of the Newport News AirTran flights become Norfolk Southwest flights? Conventional wisdom is that Atlanta service is a given, but do we also get Boston and New York - LaGuardia?

8. In his latest blog post, even Bob O'Connor had to admit that Virginia Beach light rail is inevitable. How long before other Kool-Aid chuggers catch on, and end their futile resistance?

9. How much longer can the European Union keep putting out national financial crisis after national financial crisis in the euro zone?

10. Hampton Roads Center for Civic Engagement (HRCCE) Executive Director (and former City of Virginia Beach staffer) Betsy McBride has moved back to her native Idaho. That led a mid-level City staffer to joke about potato farming. Glad to know I'm not the only one who has quipped about that.

11. What has the Hampton Roads Partnership been doing since the Declaration of Interdependence?

12. Sweating our way through this Summer, only a Flat Earther could continue to deny climate change.

13. The teahadists burned any credibility they had in opposing the raising of the Federal debt ceiling. If they had taken time to notice, everyone in the mainstream knew it was necessary, with the arguments being over what conditions to attach to it. The tea baggers would have triggered a second Great Depression with a Federal debt default.

14. Speaking of such, in a comment on the blog Bearing Drift, Reid Greenmun called raising the Federal debt ceiling "insane". If the Chairman of the extremist VBTA wants to see what is actually insane, all he has to do is look in the mirror.

15. Suffolk has yet to decide on a final proposed option on how to replace Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) bus service come January 1. Stay tuned, as this one could get entertaining before it's over. (Entertaining, unless you're a Suffolk bus rider.)

16. The jockeying is on over the vacant Chief Communications Officer's position at HRT, with its $100k+ annual salary. Two applicants have already spoke to me about the job.

17. In picking up sports from the British, why did cricket have to eclipse soccer in India? With the country having as large a population (read: talent base) as it does, it could have had a great men's national soccer team. (In Asia, even friggin' North Korea has a much better team.)

18. So far, picking a candidate to support in the Republican Presidential field is a case of choosing the lesser of evils. (Yes, I still wish Mike Huckabee was running.)

19. Since the Chilean miners rescue, it seems like the only big story out of South America has been the health of Venezuelan President Huge Chavez. Damn quiet. Then, is quiet preferable?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Calling The Fringe Right's Big Lie

You get the usual garbage from the fringe right: mass transit is a waste of money, we should do roads only, etc.

Let me put the issue in perspective: if you took every non-light rail cent of government money in HRT's FY 2011 Budget and plowed it into roads instead, it wouldn't be enough to build two lane miles of interstate. Fact.

On the other hand, Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) moves over 50,000 people every weekday with that money. So you decide: which is the more cost-effective option? It's pretty simple.

Obama Message To His Supporters On The Debt Deal

This is the video message from President Obama to his supporters on the Federal debt deal.

Note that he never mentions what happens if the committee doesn't agree on a second round of cuts.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

TDCHR July 28, 2011

This afternoon there was a fairly uneventful meeting of the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR), the governing board of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT).

Obviously the August 19 launch of light rail service was talked about. The final figure for the actual cost of construction will be given at the August TDCHR meeting. However, this month's report has it on a track to come in significantly below the $338 million cost to complete figure.

HRT ended FY 2011 more than $1.8 million under Budget.

Ridership in May, 2011 was up over May, 2010.

Hits on HRT's website have hit an all-time high. A record for a month was set in May, 2011, only to have June come in about 50,000 hits above that figure.

Finally, Henry Ryto was awarded HRT's President's Coin for his 38 months of service as Chairman of what's now the Transit Riders Advisory Committee (TRAC). Ryto becomes the first person ever to win the agency's top honor based on duty performed as a non-employee. (Every other winner has been an employee.) Robert Dean and Reid Greenmun won't sleep for a few days. Shucet Interview did an interview last week with Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) President Phillip Shucet, which they posted to their website yesterday. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Residents' Consensus Plan

Tonight there was a second Public Hearing on City of Virginia Beach Redistricting in the Council Chambers. This meeting was the best attended of the four Redistricting meetings so far, with a number of civic league representatives in attendance.

The civic league representatives were there to address how their neighborhoods were treated in the various plans. The big contingent was from the Larkspur Civic League. Residents pointed out that Council Liaison Alternatives 1, 2A, and 3 all split Larkspur. A number of the civic league representatives praised NAACP1, though one representative had a problem with NAACP2.

Given the format, I took the opportunity to be the final speaker. I pointed that no citizens had objected to NAACP1 in either Public Hearing, and - in fact - some of the civic league representatives liked it. If there was a citizens consensus plan, it was NAACP1.

Next up is a Public Hearing before City Council on August 9.

Tide Launch Preview Meeting

This morning there was a Tide launch preview meeting held at the Courtyard by Marriott on Greenwich Road in Virginia Beach. The meeting was conducted jointly by the City of Norfolk and Hampton Roads Transit (HRT).

The primary purpose was to brief businesses along the eastern portion of the alignment about upcoming Tide service. (That's why it was held in the periphery of the Newtown Road Station.) However, there was a large contingent of advocates for the disabled present, and a few people from Light Rail Now (LRN).

While most of the material was old news for those of us who have been following The Tide, a couple points of note were covered:

1. Opponents have tried to attack the fare verification system. Not only will their be checkers onboard, but off-duty Norfolk Police Department (NPD) officers to provide security. Failure to pay can result in a fine of up to $250, while using a counterfeit or fraudulent farecard carries a minimum $500 fine.

2. There will be a number of events on opening weekend in the periphery of the stations. Not only the official events, but many businesses and groups plan to capitalize on the opportunity provided by the expected crowds. For example, the YMCA adjacent to the York Street Station will hold an open house all weekend.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Say What?

I was looking at the internal stats feature Blogger has for my blog. Since Blogger added it in May, 2009, the country producing the 5th largest number of views of my blog is...the Islamic Republic of Iran?

Go figure.

Greenmun Named VBTA Chairman

Reid Greenmun has been named Chairman of the extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA). John Moss stepped down from the post, in part wanting to try to distance himself from the nutcases prior to his latest City Council run. (Too late for that, John.)

Two very serious problems with that. First, Reid is the biggest political extremist in Virginia Beach. He regularly takes personal positions that are even to the right of the VBTA. Therefore, expect the VBTA to become even more radical. Second, the guy has zero grasp of reality. He habitually floats proposals that are either blatantly illegal or politically DOA.

Reid's political roots in Virginia Beach are every bit as fringe as the VBTA. He worked on Mike Arsuaga's 2000 Mayoral campaign, and was Barbara Messner's sidekick in the 31st Street park movement. Greenmun drafted the By-Laws that Messner wanted for the original 31st Street group. When they were voted down, both Greenmun and Messner left the original group, unable to accept majority rule.

It reminds me of the Spanish Civil War. With the Republicans about to lose the war, the Stalinists staged a coup. If they were going to lose, at least they wanted to go down ideologically pure. The VBTA will go down the tubes in a similar manner.

The bottom line: Greenmun's promotion ensures the demise of the VBTA

You're Not Expecting Many

In our latest poll, I asked how large you expected the voter turnout percentage to be in Virginia Beach for this November's election. 37% voted each for 15%-19% and 20%-24%, while 26% voted for 25%-29%. No one voted for 30%-34% and 35%-39%.

Why I think this number is so important: John Moss' only chances of winning a Council seat are turnout being under 20%, and no mainstream Republican with name recognition getting in the race.

The new poll question: what is your opinion of interracial marriages?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Obama - Carter 2012

There is a new website up, Brought to you by the Republican Party of Virginia, it compares The Obamessiah to Professor Inflation from Plains. It's main feature is the video I embed below, which looks at Presidents Obama and Carter together.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Want To Have Some Ballot Fun?

The Virginia Beach Hotel/Motel Association (VBHMA) has endorsed video poker for the Resort Area. It would take an act of the General Assembly to allow legal gambling. Some in our delegation have even suggested putting the issue to referendum to gauge community support.

That inspired my diabolical idea: we hold a binding referendum on video poker on the November, 2013 ballot. That's the ballot that will have the statewide offices (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General)), and all 100 House of Delegates seats. Legalizing gambling will have social conservatives flocking to the polls to kill it, ensuring Republican wins. Any Democratic House challenges would be doomed.

The Map Endorsement By Moss

As I previously reported, John Moss endorsed the NAACP's positions on both a ward system as well as their original proposed map for redrawing Virginia Beach's City Council districts. Moss' argument centered on economic lines, that the map did the best job (of the then-four) of putting similar neighborhoods together.

Moss' rationale hits at a fundamental point: Virginia Beach is no longer the homogeneous suburb that some on the fringe right (including insane Reid Greenmun) pretend it is. The only way you could start to get to the fringe right's "great suburban utopia" is to go wild with a Redevelopment Authority and level thousands of multifamily dwelling units, replacing them with single family detached homes. Not only does the fringe right staunchly oppose a Redevelopment Authority, but Virginia's current eminent domain law leaves such a strategy virtually impossible. The fringe right's only electoral hope then is to district off Virginia Beach's distinctly suburban areas, conceding the others. Moss apparently has figured that out.

Status quoers have a similar problem, but not quite as big. There are sectors of voters they shouldn't be able to win. They cling to the arcane at-large voting system, believing they can win a majority of the whole if they throw enough money at it. That won't necessarily work, as last year's Council At-Large field results show. (Bill DeSteph came in 2nd, with John Moss 3rd.)

The only way to accurately reflect the growing variety in voting patterns is to change our electoral system. What alternative you go to will also have significant policy implications in outlying years.

I-264 Closures

As part of work for the ongoing London Bridge Road ramps project (the new ramps off of I-264), Interstate 264 will need to be closed between the First Colonial Road intersection and the Lynnhaven Parkway intersection for two nights. It is scheduled for August 3 and August 9, both nights from 8 P.M. until 5 A.M. the following morning.

Traffic will be detoured via Virginia Beach Boulevard.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Envision Virginia Beach 2040 Public Meeting

On Friday morning Envision Virginia Beach 2040 held a large public meeting at the Town Center Westin Hotel. Any member of the public could participate, provided you sent in your RSVP by the previous Friday.

The centerpiece was a Presentation by John Martin, President and CEO of the Southern Institute of Research. A demographer by profession, he covered occurring trends. That was followed by Questions & Answers, then breakouts at individual tables. Everyone then regrouped for a closing session.

Some bigger facts from Martin's Presentation:

1. The United States was 75% White in 1975, but will be only 25% White by 2090.

2. The Earth faces resource (particularly water and food) challenges, but is tackling them through our vastly improving technology.

3. 83% of Generation Y sleep with their cell phone on, and 75% of them use social media.

4. 800 million people worldwide engage in urban agriculture, producing 15%-20% of the food supply.

5. 80% of the world's population lives in urban areas.

Some trends that strike home at Virginia Beach:

1. Our population should reach 540,000 by 2040.

2. In the next twenty years, our White population will shrink by 9%, while our minority population will grow by 57%.

3. By 2040, Virginia Beach will be minority-majority.

4. Senior citizens will double as a percentage of our population, and 1 in 4 of them won't have a driver's license.

5. The growing number of households led by single people will require smaller and cheaper housing units.

Martin told the story of the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. When the British colonized India, they wanted to play golf, so they built the club (which still exists today). One problem: monkeys inhabited the course, and would come down and move golf balls, changing the lie. First they tried to trap the monkeys and move them, and then put nets along the fairways. Nothing worked. Therefore, a simple ground rule was implemented, "Play the ball where the monkey dropped it." The point: fighting the monkeys was futile, so the British would need to adapt. In the same vein, we need to adapt to our conditions today.

I didn't spot any members of the extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) in attendance. That's too bad, as they would have heard John Martin explain that building a regional light rail network is a no-brainer, including the Virginia Beach extension.

Envision Virginia Beach 2040 is a committee appointed by the Virginia Beach City Council, seeking to draft a 30 year road map for our City. Their report is scheduled to go to Council in the Spring of 2012.

The Presentation Martin made was taped, and it is planned to put it as streaming video on the City's website.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Utilize The New Route 25 To Empower Yourselves

One of the bus service changes coming on August 8 will be expanded hours and an extended route on HRT's Route 25. The 25 will make an hourly run from Military Circle to Virginia Beach's Municipal Center via Newtown Road Station and TCC - Virginia Beach. It will leave both Military Circle and the Municipal Center about the top of the hour. Continuing to be a weekdays only bus, it will have evening service, with the last bus leaving the Municipal Center at 9:59 P.M. That's about three hours later than Route 33 presently.

Don't let this opportunity pass you by. The expanded Route 25 service gives you public transportation to meetings of the Virginia Beach City Council. Not just the regular Agenda items, but on the 2nd Tuesday night of the month there's a Public Comment session after the regular business items are finished. That's your opportunity to address Council on any issue you wish. Of course, there is mass transit. However, there are many other issues that impact HRT's mostly poor ridership, and those issues normally get little discussion time in the Council Chambers.

Make it clear that the bourgeois groups that dominate Virginia Beach politics do not speak for all of us.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Vendor Issue At Cedar Grove

It's a familiar sight for the 5,000 people who travel through the Cedar Grove Transfer Center each weekday: the hot dog cart, from Dee's Hot Dogs. With Cedar Grove being land leased by the City of Norfolk, the vendor had to go through a City permitting and licensing process.

I went through Cedar Grove myself this morning and stumbled onto a story. (Well, it's a noteworthy story for we bus riders.) A non-profit had shown up selling snacks, and was claiming exemption from the normal process based on their non-profit status. A lady from Dee's Hot Dogs was there, and was speaking on the phone in an agitated manner with a City of Norfolk official.

IMO other vendors should be allowed to operate there, but there needs to be a standardized process for everyone. Whether profit or non-profit, there needs to be a level playing field. Allowing non-profits a lower standard would give them an unfair competitive advantage.

I'll argue that the hot dog cart is the second greatest improvement to Cedar Grove since Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) transfer center for downtown Norfolk was moved there. (The greatest was quartering the bus arrivals area into four Stages.) Whenever I'm going through there and have the time and money, I buy from them to help sustain the business. They're good citizens, even stocking iced Gatorade today for passengers waiting for buses in this heat. FYI, my usual is a hot dog with mustard and chili plus a soda. Yeah, I bought this morning and had a chili dog and can of Mountain Dew for breakfast.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Sherrod Appointment

As most of you now know, on Tuesday Prescott Sherrod was appointed to Rita Sweet Bellitto's vacant seat on the Virginia Beach City Council. The appointment has created a political firestorm and spawned conspiracy theories. I'll offer my look at it, while you can chime in under Comments.

I know Prescott Sherrod. I've served with him on Light Rail Now's Transportation Technical Advisory Committee, which he's been Chairman of. He strikes me as a nice, well-meaning guy. However, conventional wisdom is that he can't win the remaining three years on Bellitto's term in the November special election.

While Carl Wright's comment afterwards may have been coarse, it struck at a fundamental truth: the Virginia Beach City Council can't cite the Sherrod appointment as evidence that they've suddenly embraced inclusion. That would be as transparent a hoax as "Gorbachev is ill in the Crimea". Prescott Sherrod is a business community figure, not an African-American community leadership figure.

One of the theories floating in the African-American community is that Council made the appointment knowing Sherrod can't win in November, as the expected low voter turnout favors Republicans. Council pretends to be inclusive, knowing Sherrod will be replaced by a White Republican come New Year's. Conversely, Tanya Bullock wasn't appointed since, as a Republican incumbent, she could have easily won in November.

Like the Germans carelessly wheeling too vulnerably before Paris in 1914, status quoers are leaving their flank exposed. The fringe right has seemingly noticed. On Tuesday, Bill DeSteph voted against the Sherrod appointment; on Thursday, John Moss endorsed the African-American community leadership's new Council districts map and their position on a ward system. With Barack Obama at the top of the ballot that will have the 2012 City Council election, and thus a high minority turnout anticipated, this could have huge ramifications for the 2012 regular Council election.

Virginia Beach was 21.2% minority at the 1990 Census, 30.5% minority at the 2000 Census, and 35.5% minority at the 2010 Census. There were fewer Whites living in Virginia Beach in 2010 than in 1990. A look at the 2010 Census numbers will show you that Virginia Beach will easily surpass 40% minority by the 2020 Census. The status quoers who think they can continue to reject inclusion are whistling in the graveyard. Fundamental structural change in how Virginia Beach is governed is coming, one way or another, whether you like it or not.

We Want Substance, Rosemary

62% believe that Rosemary Wilson speaks with the least substance of any Virginia Beach City Councilman, with 37% giving Bill DeSteph that tag.

I agree. I've said half-jokingly before that Rosemary couldn't give you three substantive minutes on an issue if staff wrote it for her. In comparison, John Uhrin was pretty much two-note (Resort Area and Norfolk Southern Corridor) when he first came on Council, but within a couple years was articulate on most everything.

The new poll question: what do you estimate voter turnout will be this November in Virginia Beach? The only announced General Assembly challenge is Adrianne Bennett against Ron Villanueva in the 21st House of Delegates District, plus there's the City Council special election for the remaining three years on Rita Sweet Bellitto's term.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tonight's City Redistricting Public Meeting

This is a simple one to report: every adult who attended tonight spoke, and everyone endorsed the NAACP's position. The public wants the map they submitted adopted, plus a move to a true hybrid system. That would mean only the residents in a given district would vote for who represents them.

Both John Moss and I spoke endorsing the NAACP's position, but for varying reasons. Since I spoke following John, I pointed out it was something when the VBTA Chairman and I agree on a major issue. When John and I agree on an issue, it's obviously a no-brainer.

Route 310/NET Public Hearings

On Tuesday Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) held two Public Hearings on proposed changes on downtown Norfolk shuttle service. With the advent of light rail service, Route 310 would be eliminated, the NET be slightly reconfigured, an $1.50 fare charged for the NET (it's always been a fare-free service), and limited NET service into Ghent launched.

Around 30 people attended the Noon Hearing, with about two dozen at the 6 P.M. Public Hearing. The Virginian-Pravda's Debbie Messina was at the Noon Hearing, but not the 6 P.M.


HRT's Marie Arnt read a legal statement to open the Public Hearing, followed by Chief Planning & Development Officer Ray Amoruso giving a Presentation on the proposal.

Three speakers attacked putting a fare on Norfolk Electric Transit (NET). Another speaker wanted to maintain both the NET and 310. One man wanted the NET to go up Granby Street between Cedar Grove and 21st Street, rather than Monticello Avenue. Three City of Norfolk employees claimed to be speaking on behalf of their agencies in opposition, despite City of Norfolk planners having helped draft the proposal.

I myself spoke, addressing the issue of capacity. I stated the proposal won't work unless either a large number of current bus riders take the train downtown, or the bus transfer center is moved downtown in order for mainline buses to help distribute passengers. (There would be four hybrids an hour going between Cedar Grove and downtown, a total of 104 seats.)

6 P.M.

The Public Hearing opened the same way. This time it was dominated by students and faculty from Tidewater Community College's Norfolk campus, concerned about the impact on them. Amoruso later revealed that there are ongoing negotiations between HRT and TCC about providing an annual TCC bus pass, which would easily solve their problem.

Two temps complained about the effect on them trying to work downtown. Also, opposition was voiced over the route deviation in the Scope/Chrysler Hall area.

McLean Retains Public Defender

Michael McLean has retained the public defender, who will be his attorney in his upcoming murder trial.

An investigator from the public defender's office was in the neighborhood on Tuesday, seeking residents who may have information.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Iron Lady

Coming in early 2012, The Iron Lady, a biopic on Margaret Thatcher. Meryl Streep plays the former British Prime Minister.

Which Way, Demonrats?

Someone moves into the 6th Senate District to challenge the one-term incumbent state Senator. Which way do the Demonrats want it?

In 2003, it was fine and dandy with them when Andy Protogyrou did it.

In 2011, they're trying to make an issue out of Ben Loyola doing it.

They can't have it both ways.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

For Those Who Doubted

The knuckle-draggers scoffed when Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) announced that they were looking for 200 volunteers to become Tide Guides for light rail opening week. They thought it would never happen.

HRT has received 269 applications.

Update: I had my Tide Guide training session this morning. The application count was up to 304.

McLean Case Continued?

I was just on the phone with the District Court Clerk's office criminal desk. "It appears" that Michael McLean's first court appearance has been continued until August 12.

It was originally scheduled for tomorrow (July 7).

91% Consider The TEA Party A Minus

In our latest poll, 91% considered the TEA Party to be a minus for the Republican Party. Only 9% consider it a plus.

Personally, I believe the TEA Party is mangling the GOP. Republican candidates are lurching right to appease the tea baggers, and losing swing voters and donors in the process. In most cases, catering to the TEA Party costs more votes than it gains.

The new poll: which Virginia Beach City Councilperson speaks with less substance, Bill DeSteph or Rosemary Wilson?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Offer Again in 2011

I'll repeat an offer I made in 2008: any candidates in this year's Virginia Beach City Council special election (to fill the seat being vacated by Rita Sweet Bellitto) who would like to go bus riding, I'll be your tour guide and take you out to see what actually goes on out on Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) buses. I guarantee you that you won't see any of the extremist VBTA's fictitious "empty buses". (In fact, the one I came home on yesterday afternoon, I had to squeeze into a small seat in the rear.)

Scott Taylor took up my offer in 2008. Will anyone in 2011?

If interested, let me know. As I'm scheduled to be placed on layoff from my current job on July 4 (the business location is closing), I'll probably have plenty of free time mid-Summer.

Virginia Beach Redistricting Website

The City of Virginia Beach's official City redistricting website is now under construction. The website is at If you look at it, you'll see the site plans to post all submitted plans, and will have the basic laws that apply.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

TDCHR June 23, 2011

Got air conditioning? This afternoon's meeting of the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR) didn't, which probably helped hold the public portion of the meeting in Hampton to about 55 minutes.

You obviously want the light rail news. As you probably already know, service begins on August 19, with fares first charged on August 22. HRT President Phillip Shucet rode a test train himself last night, and noted that all safety systems were working correctly. He thanked the City of Norfolk traffic engineering, who had a big role in getting things done this quickly. The $10 million unallocated contingency fund will be unneeded. (Norfolk has wanted to put it towards their local share.)

You'll love this: there was an issue with a contractor's work. The contractor said correcting it would require an $80k study and $500k-$2 million in construction. HRT staff bought the materials and fixed it themselves for $30k.

Pat Woodberry of Newport News was elected TDCHR Chairperson for FY 2012, with Rick West of Chesapeake Vice Chairman. They assume office on July 1.

11 months through FY 2011, HRT is $1.48 million under Budget.

HRT will move into the new administration building in Norfolk in February, 2012. (Please, get us out of the old Cadillac dump!)

Three contracts were awarded today:

1. A new Patrick Henry Transfer Center will be built in Newport News on Roger Brown Drive, adjacent to the Mall. It will put the TC on City of Newport News (rather than Mall) property, and give bus riders improved restroom access.

2. A Federal grant will be utilized to put shelters at an additional 200 bus stops, doubling the number of stops with them. In addition, some cities are putting together their own shelter programs.

3. A new contract for external auditor. The second lowest bidder was chosen, as recommended by staff, the Operations & Oversight Committee, and the Budget & Audit Committee. The lowest bidder had no experience at such, their proposed team was too small and inexperienced, and their bid was based on far too few hours to get the job done right. Therefore, the judgement was that the low bidder didn't grasp the scope of the project. After a lengthy discussion, the contract was approved.

No, it's not utopia at HRT. During the final nine days of May, the number of customer complaints was 251 above that for the same period in 2010. That was primarily due to a service board change on May 22 (board changes normally produce complaint spikes), and the operational impact from the move from the Ford plant back to 18th Street.

The TDCHR then went into closed session to discuss a personnel matter.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

TEA Party: Plus Or Minus?

In our latest poll question, one-third regularly go to regional board meetings, while two-thirds have never been. That may tell me more about my readership that it does about the general public.

The new question: is the TEA Party a plus or minus for the Republican Party?

TPO June 16, 2011

The Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), Hampton Roads' Federally-mandated transportation board, met on Thursday.

A representative from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) briefed the TPO on the ongoing study to expand the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT). Even under the "aggressive" schedule, the final Environmental Impact Study (EIS) won't be completed until Spring, 2014.

The HRBT issue triggered a discussion about tolls and the economic impact of imposing tolls. Tolls should be on the Midtown and Downtown Tunnels within a year, in the prelude to the PPTA that includes a second tube at the Midtown. What would be the impact on already-troubled Portsmouth? How will tolls change traffic patterns, as some motorists go by different routes to avoid the tolls?

The TPO passed both its FY 2012 Budget and the FY 2012-15 Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).

There was a briefing by the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) on passenger rail. The good news is that the process is already underway for replacing CSX's Appomattox River Bridge, which would allow three daily Amtrak trains to Norfolk sooner.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Pool Idea

We're being hit with the story about the City of Virginia Beach looking to giveaway $3.1 million in land to the YMCA to build a complex, including a 50 meter competition pool, at Dam Neck and Landstown Roads. I had a brainstorm this morning while getting ready for work, and wanted to throw it out as food for thought.

Some facts here. One, supporters claim a need for a 50 meter competition pool in order to put Virginia Beach on the map for swim events. Two, opponents have serious problems with a land giveaway to a private club. Three, the only Council district in Virginia Beach lacking a city recreation center is Centerville District. Four, in 2004 Bob Dyer raised the issue of the lack of a Centerville recreation center during his winning campaign.

See where I'm going here? Why not build such a pool, but as part of a public City of Virginia Beach recreation center in Centerville District? Supporters get their pool, opponents don't have our public assets being given away to a private club, and Centerville gets it's rec center.

While I'm at it, I'd like to suggest a location along Indian River Road west of Interstate 64. That would put it on a major thoroughfare, and it would be served by public transportation (HRT Route 12). With the amount of tacky commercial along that stretch of road, we can take the land by eminent domain and build something that looks much better.

Draft Rosemont SGA Plan Rollout

On Tuesday evening there was a meeting at Windsor Woods Elementary School to unveil the draft Rosemont Strategic Growth Area (SGA) plan to the public. The meeting was fairly-well attended.

Paul Ostergard of Urban Design Associates gave a nearly hour long presentation on the plan. Rosemont is envisioned as an urban residential village, with the plan envisioning 1,776 multi-family units, 756 single family units, and 549 units in mixed-use structures. There were a pair of extensions added to the study: south on Rosemont Road to South Plaza Trail, and westward on Bonney Road. When a traffic model was run on the SGA at buildout, it flowed better than it does there today.

After the presentation, residents broke out to three tables for comments and questions: streets, parks & open space, and land use.

The plan is on the City's website.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rita Sweet Bellitto Vacancy Candidate Questionaire

If you haven't seen it yet, posted below is the candidate questionnaire for the seat on the Virginia Beach City Council being vacated by Rita Sweet Bellitto.

What struck me are two glaring omissions. First, no specific question on transportation, despite that being a regular Top Priority coming out of Council Retreats. Second, nothing on the ongoing City Redistricting process, which will be one the hot button issues the interim appointee has to deal with.

Two questions caught my attention. On Question #10, does the City government think they have simply a public relations problem? While the City is handling that matter much better than 10-12 years ago, there are other measures they could take but aren't. In addition, I want to see John Moss' answer to Question #14. How does he reconcile trying to grow the economy with the draconian steps his extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) wants the City to take, which would inevitably send investment elsewhere?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Two In The Pipe

The last two editions of The Virginian-Pravda have brought us news of looming proposals by the City of Virginia Beach.


Yesterday's edition told us it is being considered to allow an encampment for the homeless. The City should approve such.

The City of Virginia Beach owns plenty of parcels of land. Find one near a bus route, preferably buffered by commercial. (Adjacent residential neighborhoods would object.) Install a water source, if cost-effective.

Our city always has a shortage of bunks for the homeless. (I Wish I Didn't Have This Post To Make, 10/26/09). Giving them a safe space for tents could be a huge help. In addition, it would put those homeless at a single identifiable point for any services to be delivered to them.


Only in Virginia Beach: our City is considering giving away $3.1 million in land so the YMCA can build a private pool for their members. What sick puppy thought of this one?

As the line goes, YMCA stands for Young Men Can't Afford. You want to give away our land for a pool that many of our residents will never be able to use?!? Shame on any Councilman who actually votes for such.

Redistricting Here, Redistricting There


The information was e-mailed out yesterday: the Thursday evening (June 16) Virginia Beach City Redistricting Meeting will be 6 P.M. at Meyera Oberndorf Central Library.

Some plans have already been submitted, and I saw a copy of one this past Thursday night.


This past Tuesday night I was over in Norfolk to see if I could learn anything from their Redistricting process. What I got was a great seat for when Rodney Jordan dropped his bombshell.

For those who haven't heard, he offered a plan which would convert Norfolk's Ward 1 (now represented by Andy Protogyrou) to a minority-majority ward. Not African-American majority, but total minority. It does so by pushing Ward 1 south, and drawing Ward 5 (Tommy Smigiel) all the way west in Ocean View through Willoughby Spit.

Obviously it would shift power in Norfolk, but it would also have notable effects at the regional level, too. Virginia Beach inclusionists should support the efforts of Jordan & friends, as having an amiable government in Norfolk City Hall would obviously help the cause for inclusion here.

If the Norfolk City Council rejects Jordan's proposal, he can then file it with the U.S. Department of Justice for consideration during Norfolk's preclearance review. The Obama Administration could then reject the official Norfolk plan on the grounds that a fourth minority-majority ward is possible, and instruct Norfolk to proceed along those lines. (That may be where Virginia Beach's Redistricting ends up, too.)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Have You Ever Been To A Regional Agency Board Meeting?

In our latest poll question, I asked if you believed the Virginia Beach city government cares about the average resident. The replies on this one were all over the place: 31% felt Very Much, 6% Somewhat, 38% Not Much, and 25% Not At All.

The new question: have you ever been to a regional board meeting? Those agencies impact our lives, but how large of a portion of residents go to their meetings? At most TDCHR meetings I recognize 80% or more of the people in the room. (Granted, we wouldn't want a much larger attendance in Norfolk until there's a new board room with more seating.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The CCO Goes Multimodal

Last night the Council of Civic Organizations (CCO), Virginia Beach's civic league federation, had a program on High Speed Rail and light rail. There were two presenters. First, Thelma Drake, Director of Virginia's Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT). Second, Marie Arnt of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT). Marie is public outreach person for the Virginia Beach Transit Extension Study.


Conventional rail Amtrak service to Norfolk will begin in 2013 with one train each day. That should be boosted to three trains per day once the Appomattox River Bridge is upgraded. On the CSX line outside Petersburg, it is a single track railroad bridge. Virginia may assist in upgrading to two tracks. 90% of the funds for the Norfolk service are in the bank, with the track upgrades on the Norfolk Southern line to Petersburg already begun.

Two new mass transit agencies have begun service in Virginia in 2011, with two other localities studying implementing transit. When businesses look at an area for a potential relocation, one of the first things they'll ask is "How would employees get to work?" That spawns transit service.

The Federal government may cutoff our region's Federal highway dollars, based on air quality, if we do not adequately do mass transit to try to mitigate the impact. Given that air quality here is in the yellow zone of Federal requirements, that's a serious issue.

The #1 issue employers in Hampton Roads raise with Drake: parking. That's not a problem if your employees take mass transit to work.

There are two major new initiatives by DRPT in 2011:

1. A motor coach service being launched from Roanoke to Lynchburg to feed into Amtrak trains there. Some want trains extended to Roanoke, with this being a precursor to see if the market's there. Lynchburg's Amtrak service is carrying three times the projected passengers.

2. A partnership with the Army for moving soldiers. Each week 1,000 go from Fort A.P. Hill to Fort Lee on Monday, and return on Thursday. The Army had been using motor coaches, making for a horde of buses on the road. They're now making the trip on Virginia Railway Express (VRE) trains.


There was little to report on the timed-out Virginia Beach study, so Marie spent most her time talking about Norfolk's Starter Line. At HRT "everyone is working their butts off" towards revenue service launch. Most likely trains would run on a Saturday and Sunday with no fare required, before a revenue launch on a Monday morning.

Arnt worked her way down the line west to east, noting features at each stop. She also touched on feeder bus service and the light rail safety program.

The golden nugget: the final hours of operation at launch were agreed to at a Tuesday evening meeting. It will be Monday - Thursday 6 A.M. - 11 P.M., Friday & Saturday 6 A.M. - Midnight, and Sunday 11 A.M. - 9 P.M.

I'm elated: I can go to a weeknight Admirals game, and that extra hour of service means I can catch the train out afterwards.

As For The Threat

After last night's CCO meeting (next post), I was threatened by a well-known Virginia Beach personality. If I continued to make the one point online, I would need to "watch my back", and was told "I will destroy you."

Very short-sighted. Are you oblivious to the fact that many people in this town would love to destroy you, and that to strike against me would give them the legal pretext to come down on you like the proverbial ton of bricks? You'd be lighting their Reichstag fire, giving them the window to do what they've long dreamed of doing to you. (Didn't bother to think that one through, did you?)

You may get me, but you'd be destroyed in the wake of it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mike McLean Charged In Lynn-Gainous Shooting

Michael Jemar McLean has been charged with second degree murder and use of a firearm in the shooting of Tyler Lynn-Gainous.


I thought I knew him: he lived two apartments up from mine. He was one of the nicer neighbors to me. He was usually amiable and mild-mannered. Even when he appeared to be agitated, he would quietly keep it to himself. Therefore, I'm somewhat surprised that he would shoot someone in cold blood as charged.

On the other hand, I never knew of Mike having a steady job. He would talk of getting one, and doing things to improve himself (like his older brother did), but I never knew of him doing such.

I had a beer with him on Thursday evening, less than 24 hours before the murder. (Mike knew I normally keep beer in my refrigerator as a social inducement for neighbors.) He laughed at how fast I drank mine.

Another point: where did the gun come from? The standard Aden Park lease prohibits tenants from keeping firearms in their units. Simply having a gun at home would be grounds for eviction.


Second degree murder carries a penalty of anywhere between 5-40 years. It's the default charge in a case where the Commonwealth's Attorney doesn't have enough evidence to prove first degree or capital murder beyond a reasonable doubt.

Use of a firearm is a distinct charge in Virginia. Using a firearm in the commission of a felony carries an automatic 3 year penalty for first offense, 5 years for second offense.

For Tyler's family and friends reading in New Jersey, Virginia has jury sentencing. The jury not only determines guilt or innocence, but passes sentence if they convict. Our juries tend to be tougher than judges.


Usually there are small children outside playing on Jasper Court from after school until 7:30-8 in the evening.

They still haven't returned to their normal play patterns. We're not over this tragedy until parents believe it's safe to send their children outside.