Sunday, March 27, 2011

Government By Referendum

Government by referendum sounds nice in theory: a method for allowing the community to participate in decision-making. The problem is that, in Virginia Beach today, referenda have become nothing more than a device by which the fringe right tries to veto any attempt by Virginia's largest city to move forward.

We have three issues in the pipes that members of the extremist Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) have called for referenda on: the Dome site entertainment complex, a convention center headquarters hotel, and light rail. Let us hope that City Council grows a pair and puts none of the three on the ballot. The entire trio is crucial to future economic development in Virginia Beach.

On light rail, their expectation that there has to be a referendum has prevented the VBTA from putting together a coherent argument against it and presenting a detailed and realistic alternative. Ever notice how the VBTA calls for referenda on everything they oppose, but nothing they support? It's the antithesis of leadership.


Anonymous said...

I think that there will be two out of three without a referendum. I don't see any way that light rail gets done without one.

Avenging Archangel said...

Anon 10:18,

With every major business group in town having asked Council to move forward without a referendum, I have trouble picturing 6 Councilmen voting to flip them off. It would be political suicide.

There are 3 major problems if you go to referendum and lose:

1. You cripple efforts on issues in the periphery: bus service, SGA redevelopment, affordable housing, etc.

2. With greenfields nearly gone north of the Green Line, how does the City grow without TOD?

3. You make heroes of the VBTA.

Only a spineless and brainless Council puts it on the ballot.

Anonymous said...

Henry, I am in no way a fan of the VBTA, but as a citizen of this City I ask you why you're against a referendum on light rail?

Having watched the debacle of what the Norfolk light rail project has become, over budget and over time what is wrong with the actual taxpayers having a say in where the money goes?

Knowing that you depend on public transportation I can understand why you support light rail, but try and take that bias out of your answer.

Anonymous said...

maybe spineless and brainless, but do the math. more than 6 of them have said they support a referendum.

Avenging Archangel said...

Anon 9:50,

If the SDEIS comes back showing the Virginia Beach alignment viable, the biggest problem in going to referendum is that it would put conspiracy theories and prejudices ("No") on the same plain as actual facts and needs ("Yes"). That's no way to write public policy.

Anon 11:19,

Wait until the arm-twisting begins. :)

William Bailey said...

I don't have anything to do with the VBTA but I too support giving the taxpaying voters a say in the light rail referendum. It is their money and future.

If the city and business community has successfully made the case and sold the issue well, it will pass and put an end to the debate. If not, then it deserves to fail.

Never fear the voters! Every election is a referendum...

Wally Erb said...

If the SDEIS comes back as not viable with its low balled projections, I will be surprised. And if they go ahead with the project, if they don't reevaluate with a lower ridership number, I will be extremely surprised. But what won't surprise me at all, is that there will be unforeseen obstacles that will cause the project be over budget and delayed to milk public funds.

Avenging Archangel said...


The FTA has to review the SDEIS before it's published. After what's happened in Norfolk, you bet they'll triple-check.

Low-ball ridership? 17 of the last 18 systems in the country went ahead of projections after launch.

Does it hurt 1,083 people that much that Virginia Beach light rail is going to happen even if the fringe right hates it?

Wally Erb said...

Ridership: Henry, initial ridership figures in statements are invariable lowered after funding is approve; then the adjusted lowered figure is used as a basis to claim that ridership has exceeded expectations. Smoke and mirrors to lead to the public into deception.

As for "fringe right", near eighty percent subsidy is down-right socialist and far left of center. Exclaiming that it is the norm is poor rationalization that it is the right thing to do.

Are willing to make a wager that the project will not go over budget and experiencing delays? I'll even cover your bet with odds.

Avenging Archangel said...


Roads have construction delays, cost overruns, and aren't self-sustaining.

When the LRT opposition comes out with a realistic, constructive, and comprehensive plan for tackling the issues LRT and TOD would, I'll take them seriously. Until then, they're all complaining with zero solutions.

Wally Erb said...

Solution? Privatization!
Besides, comparing highway routes and transportation modes is akin to comparing apples and lettuce. Government has been undertaking ways anda highway development; however, government didn't supply the chariots or oxen, donkeys and carts.

Wally Erb said...

Also, let's look at Norfolk. Part of the study and subsequent approval process was the in-place feeder routes available. Now that the Tide is nearing completion pending safety issues, HRT is in the process of eliminating routes and/or reducing reducing frequency. All things being equal, that is tantamount to providing false data for the approval.

Avenging Archangel said...


"Privatization" isn't a "realistic, constructive, and comprehensive plan", but rather a one word ideological position. The private sector in the U.S. has only entered the mass transit market where there has been a robust public component to supplement.

Your 1:52 comment is blatantly false. Not only is no feeder service being cut, but some feeder routes (1, 3, 20, 23, and 45) are slated to be boosted.

Wally Erb said...

Ah, I stand corrected. In Norfolk, you are right, no lines are being eliminated {yet}. However, 5 routes are being enhanced at the expense of a cut of 23%, (almost one-fourth) of daily service! My comment was not "blatantly false" and your retort was not entirely complete.