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?