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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Property Value Increase?

We received our assessed value papers in the mail yesterday. It went up. Not just a little, a lot. We own 5 lots, 3 of which, the city told us were non-buildable, due to their proximity to the wetlands.
Here are the numbers:
Lot---------Previous Value-----Current Value-------Increase
House: ----- 115,200 ---------- 116,800 ------------ 1,600 (1.4%)
Vacant 1:--- 15,500 ------------24,000 ------------- 8,500 (54.8%)
Vacant 2:--- 2,900 ------------- 22,800 ------------- 19,900 (686.2%)
Vacant 3:--- 1,400 ------------- 2,000 -------------- 600 (42.9%)
Vacant 4:--- 700 --------------- 700 ---------------- 0 (0%)
Total: ------ 135,700 ---------- 166,300 ------------ 30,600 (22.5%)

Vacant lot 1 is right next door to my house. At 25 ft wide, a house could not be built on it unless Vacant lot 2 is combined with it. Any house built would be too close to the wetlands and would flood during a nor'easter, let alone a hurricane. Vacant Lot 3 has a city-dug drainage ditch right in the middle of it and has become wetlands. The next lot over, which holds my neighbors house, is listed online as vacant, but highly valued. His garage can flood at high tide. This is absolutely ridiculous.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Shopping Safety

Recently, the Virginian Pilot reported a stabbing at Lynnhaven Mall. It was the result of an argument at school apparently it got continued at the Mall. Now, to me, Lynnhaven Mall seems like a safe mall. Whether that is due to a fact or a false perception due to lack of complete reporting on the media's part, is to be determined. This got me thinking, of course, so I looked up the crime reports from local shopping centers. I used a half-mile radius around the center of each area. I compared:
  1. Downtown/MacArthur Center (using 300 Monticello Ave - MacArthur Center as the center of Downtown)
  2. Lynnhaven Mall (701 Lynnhaven Pkwy as center)
  3. Greenbrier (916 Edan Way North as Center - corner of Eden Way and Greenbrier)
  4. Military Circle/JANAF (5800 Virginia Beach Blvd as center - corner of Military Hwy and VAB Blvd)
  5. Hilltop Shopping Center (1593 Laskin Rd as center)
  6. Chesapeake Square Mall (4200 Portsmouth Blvd as center)
  7. Pembroke/Town Center (300 Independence Blvd as center - corner of Indep. and VAB Blvds)
My results are all within the stated radius in the month of December 2008

1. Downtown Norfolk/MacArthur Center
  • 17 - Larceny
  • 4 - Vandalism
  • 1 - Aggravated Assault
  • 7 - Simple Assault
  • 1 - Narcotics Violations
2. Lynnhaven Mall
  • 2 - Bomb Threats
  • 1 - Stolen Vehicle
  • 1 - Trespassing
  • 16 - Larceny
  • 1 - Annoying Phone Calls
  • 3 - Simple Assaults
  • 2 - Hit and Runs
  • 1 - Domestic Simple Assault
  • 1 - Burglary
3. Greenbrier Shopping District
  • 1 - Fraud
  • 3 - Attempted Strong Arm Robbery
  • 6 - Shoplifting
  • 3 - Attempted Shoplifting
  • 1 - Vandalism
  • 2 - Simple Assault
  • 1 - Forgery
  • 2 - Drug Offense
  • 1 - Threatening Phone Calls
4. Military Circle/JANAF
  • 28 - Larceny
  • 3 - Vandalism
  • 1 - Aggravated Assault
  • 1 - Stolen Vehicle
  • 1 - Robbery
5. Hilltop
  • 5 - Hit and Runs
  • 1 - Burglary
  • 8 - Larceny
  • 2 - Fraud
  • 2 - Domestic Simple Assault
  • 3 - Embezzlement
  • 1 - Burglary
  • 1 - Drug Offense
6. Chesapeake Square
  • 2 - Grand Larceny
  • 1 - Fraud
  • 1 - Child Neglect
  • 1 - Attempted Armed Robbery
  • 1 - Drug Offense
  • 1 - Simple Assault
  • 13 - Shoplifting
  • 12 - Littering
7. Pembroke/Town Center
  • 1 - Robbery
  • 3 - Domestic Simple Assault
  • 5 - Hit and Runs
  • 4 - Simple Assault
  • 11 - Larceny
  • 4 - Drug Offense
  • 1 - Concealment/Price Changing
  • 1 - Burglary
  • 1 - Possession of Stolen Property
  • 1 - Pornography/Obscene Material
  • 2 - Weapons Violation
  • 1 - Fraud
  • 2 - Destruction of Property
  • 1 - Sexual Battery
  • 1 - Indecent Exposure
  • 1 - Stolen Vehicle
  • 1 - Simple Assault
You can use these numbers as you wish, but in my opinion, the safest malls in order are:
  1. Military Circle/ JANAF
  2. Chesapeake Square
  3. Downtown Norfolk
  4. Greenbrier
  5. Hilltop
  6. Lynnhaven Mall
  7. Pembroke/Town Center
I think that this is a very good example of how the news focuses on certain areas and makes them look better or worse than they actually are. You always hear bead about Downtown, Military Circle, and Chesapeake Square, yet they seem to be ahead of the curve, while the so-called up-scale areas like Town Center and Lynnhaven are at the bottom of the barrel. Hopefully, people will see this and either re-evaluate their shopping destinations, or at least voice their safety concerns with management or city officials. Just because it feels safe, does not always make it so.

A New Jordan Bridge?

An investment group wants to build a new Jordan Bridge complete with a fixed span (aka no draw bridge) for $200 million LESS than the city said it could be done for, according to the Virginian-Pilot. The group includes Philip Schucet, a former VDOT commissioner who worked wonders on budgets and time-lines while at VDOT, and Figg Bridge Developers (Florida). It will receive financing from Britton Hill Partners (Florida). Excellent idea. Excellent solution. This is precicely what I love to see. I doubt that there is any objection to this plan. What interests me more, however, i how they can build it $200 million CHEAPER than the city. I do not doubt their number, I instead question the city's. Where did they get this number from? Also, perhaps this is why costs are so high with other projects. Public-private partnerships are where roadways are headed nowadays. We need to get on board now. According the the Pilot's article, the developer has been thinking about a Jordan replacement for "several years." That is certainly more than Chesapeake has done. To further illustrate the ineffectiveness of Chesapeake's governing system, Mayor Krasnoff had each council member meet individually with the developers. Would it not have been quicker and more efficient for everyone if it had been done as a group? I know why they did not do it as a group, though. Then it would have had to follow the FOIA guidlines. Wake up Chesapeake. Residents do not want their time and money wasted. They want action. Which is exactly what this company is proposing.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Maybe We Can All Just Walk

Re: State Plans $1.3 Billion reduction in Road Funds (Virginian Pilot. December 19, 2008)

So far, this brings the total to $2.6 billion in cuts to transportation. Not just roads but ALL transportation activities. More are possible. They (Transportation Officials) say that this means that many projects will have to be abandoned. Most will be temporarily delayed. These projects are in a variety of modes and locations. Interstates, city streets, mass transit (buses, light rail, commuter rail including the long-proposed high speed rail extensions), airports, and the ports all fall under the Commonwealth Transportation Board. Local Projects that would be affected included the US 17/Steel Bridge/Dominion Blvd project, the I-64/I-264 interchange improvements, and the widening of I-64 in Newport News. While these are the largest near-ready projects in Hampton Roads, there are others that would be impacted. Among these, we have the much anticipated, multi-modal Third Crossing, the much-needed (although unwanted by Willoughby residents) Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel expansion, the ill-conceived Southeastern Parkway, and the Downtown Tunnel improvements. The Martin Luther King Freeway extension is, so far, to remain untouched.
I think that this leaves us with but one choice: Restructure how we take care of our transportation needs. Once again, while we cannot have an unelected taxing Authority work for us, we can change what we have. For all of the closed-minded, change-is-bad types, please look away now.
I propose to redefine the Hampton Roads division of VDOT. First, the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Organization should have a greater say in the new VDOT:HR's decisions. This influence should be binding. We have a regional planning board for a reason, why should VDOT ignore it? Along with this, the MPO's soon-to be born Citizen Transportation Advisory Committee (currently waiting approval with the MPO's new bylaws) should also have a voice within VDOT:HR. Second, the state should fund VDOT:HR's operations and maintenance budgets, while providing a small share of the construction budget (I am thinking 20-35%). The rest of the construction money should be raised using the same taxes and fees that were approved for use by our defunct Authority. These taxes should be levied by the legislature and earmarked for the region. (If this were implemented state-wide, these fees could be state-wide but required to go to the respective MPOs or, if there is no MPO, to the county, which could use the fees for a slightly wider variety of projects.) In addition to removing the bickering legislature out of the equation, this plan would localize control of transportation projects while retaining the benefit of state-backed funding.
In addition to this, we need to preliminarily plan every and all desired projects and prioritize them. Then, in order of priority, they should be planned completely and be made ready to start construction. This thorough, complete planning, along with having each plan MPO approved, would give Hampton Roads an edge when attempting to acquire federal funding.
While this is a drastic plan (and I am sure would face fierce opposition from those who oppose change), I think that in the long run, it would serve the region well and should be considered.

SPSA: To Trash or Recycle?

SPSA's outlook is dismal. That is a fact. They have $240 million in debt, a $16 million shortfall, and dwindling income. Will this be the end to SPSA or the beginning of a new era? Hopefully, the latter. They need to manage the collection of waste and the final destination for that waste. The actual collecting of the waste should be contracted out, as well as other various jobs. The Southeastern Public Service Authority should not be collecting its own trash. You don't see the Port Authority operating its own ships to collect its own cargo. You don't see the Norfolk Airport Authority operating its own airline service. The point is that SPSA is showing its age. Thirty years ago, it was the norm to have public entities do their own work. Now, in this age of Privatization, that model is all but dead. In order to remain (or become again) viable, SPSA needs to contract out to the private sector. This will maintain a regional waste disposal entity while at the same time, directing money to other local companies.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Harbor Park to Make Modifications

Harbor Park is set to spend $500,000 to move the right-field fence 20 feet and construct a party deck. Officials hope that this will increase the ability of the players to hit home runs. They say that the park has one of the farthest distances to the right-field fence. While I am sure this is true, they should not claim that it is the reason that they want to make the changes. If home run ease was their primary concern, they would not have put the party deck in the equation. I am not against them building the deck, I do think that Harbor Park should just tell it like it is and say, "Hey, we want to build a party deck and we can do it behind right field, due to it abundance of distance." I would support that. Regardless, I think it is a positive improvement.
Also, on another note, the exhibition game is April 3, between the Orioles and the Nationals. I am saving money for the tickets now. If anybody happens to be a season ticket holder (they get 1st dibs on tickets) I may be interested in a couple come February :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

HRMPO

This morning I sat through the MPO Committee meeting. It started promptly at 9:30 and last until quarter to Noon. Over an hour was spent listening to a consulting group give the 'Best Practices' results from their survey of a variety of national MPOs. While they came up with some great stuff, the Committee expressed their disappointment because the group did not actually make any recommendations or directions for the MPO. I was impressed with the Committee. They actually seemed like they wanted to make a difference in our region. I think that their biggest impediment is that when they come up with recomendations for the region, the state has no obligation to abide by their wishes. I came to this conclusion listening to them talk today. The ideas that they wanted to push for a great. It was said today, though, that they make these plans but the state and its agencies do what they want to do anyway.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Congrats to VA Pilot, shame on Dougherty

Usually, when I I read the paper, I enjoy the column of Kerry Dougherty. Likewise, I usually despise the Pilot's Op/Ed writers and have written them off as nut-jobs. Today, however, was different. The Pilot redeemed themselves in their op/ed, entitled "Choppy Waters for Norfolk's Tide." Dougherty, on the other hand, wrote an article that caused me to lose my faith in her. She wrote a very short-sighted, misguided column that blatantly ignored the facts in order to further her diluted reality. She claimed that Norfolk had "light rail spin-doctors" coming up with excuses. She urged Virginia Beach to fight the Tide because it will surely face the same fate. On the contrary, Kerry. Unless Virginia Beach builds a building on their already clear thoroughfare, ignores the now-public safety requirements, or discovers some sort of secret chemical stash under the current railway, they will have it easy compared to what Norfolk faces. Also, addressing the rise in property values, where Kerry made the comment that "apparently Norfolk property continues to boom," there are three multimillion dollar high rise buildings being constructed near where the building that is being acquired downtown is located. Also, an office building has recently been constructed near the Newtown Road end, where the HRT wants to build a park and ride lot. She also questioned why people with light rail experience were not hired sooner. Well, if she would read her own paper, she would have seem the answer. HRT did not want to waste money by hiring people for a project that was not approved. For a minute, I would like to compare costs for Norfolk's Tide and Charlotte, NC's LYNX (which is a city-proclaimed success):
Original Estimated Cost : Tide - $232, LYNX - $225
Original Estimated Cost per Mile : Tide - $31, LYNX - $22
Final/Current Cost : Tide - $288, LYNX - $463
Final/Current Cost per Mile : Tide - $39, LYNX $48
Cost Overrun : Tide - 24%, LYNX - 105%
(All costs are in millions of 2008 dollars. Amounts have been adjusted for inflation using inflation rates published by inflationdata.com. 3.9 miles were also cut off of LYNX to keep costs down: if it were constructed at full length (13.5 miles), the total cost would have been approximately $648 million, or 188% over budget.)
Therefore, Norfolk is getting a GREAT deal. After HRT learns its lessons and moves to Virginia Beach, the Beach will get a spectacular deal. Furthermore, President-elect Obama has proposed an economic stimulus for public projects. This money would only be available, however, to projects that are ready to start. If the Beach can get theirs on the right track, they may pay even less!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Virginia Beach Light Rail Study

Progress is continuing on the Tide. The Virginian Pilot reports that the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Planning Organization has set aside half of the $3 million required for an in-depth study to explore the costs of expanding the light rail line all the way to the Beach and to the Norfolk Naval Station. This is a great step towards a regional system. Despite the larger cost of the Norfolk segment, Virginia Beach should not worry about that for their section. Most of Norfolk's cost increases are the result of poor planning originally: not getting NSU's final thoughts on the design as well as the unknowns associated with downtown construction. Half of Norfolk's line is being constructed from scratch in a Downtown setting and/or elevated. If you have ever watched construction downtown, you would know that anything can happen. Because there was so much construction before building standards were put in place, there are many unknown utility lines underground, some of which are abandoned and others which are still in use. There are also multiple layers of roadway, from the asphalt on top, then concrete, then multiple layers of gravel and cobblestones, and old trolley tracks. Norfolk also has a multitude of bridges that need to be constructed for the light rail. On top of that, nobody in our area had any experience building or planning a light rail system. By the time Virginia Beach starts building their line, HRT will have that experience. They have already brought in outside experts to clean up the project. Virginia Beach will get the good end of the deal. They will get an experienced staff as well as a completely straight line to build the extension down. I do believe that, according to the original plan, the only special part of the line would be an elevated section over Independence Blvd. With the right combination of parking along the route, Virginia Beach could benefit very much. VA Beach residents who work in Norfolk could ride it down on workdays, making interstate traffic lighter. On weekends, Norfolk and Chesapeake residents could park closer to home and ride to Town Center. The proposed NOB route should go near Norfolk International Airport which, according to a recent email I recieved from them, "would certainly be interested and involved in such a decision should any provider propose the institution of public transportation ... at the airport." This connection of the airport would aid both Norfolk and Virginia Beach in securing conferences and conventions. Virginia Beach's Convention Center would have one more plus to advertise with. Their tourist in the summer could also plan their visits accordingly. If they come via airport and take the Tide to the Oceanfront instead of renting a car, there would be less vehicle traffic and more pedestrian traffic at the Oceanfront, leading to increased sales revenue and increased use in the Wave trolley.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Security Threat?

When reviewing my site stats, I came across an interesting visit. At first glance, I thought that maybe something fishy was going on the Homeland Security might want to know about:
Upon further inspection, however, I learned that it came from a military installation (which still may be suspicious). Hmm...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Get back to work, VDOT

On my previous post, I apologize. I spelled typical wrong. True, I just criticized VDOT for a spelling error while I made one myself. Just for a second, however, lets compare a few things. This project cost the taxpayers of Virginia $500,000. It was somebody's JOB to get that right. Myself, on the other hand, wrote that article at nearly 3 AM this morning, after getting 3 hours of sleep the night before, writing a 10 page paper, finishing another 10 page paper, writing 4 two page responses to international news incidences, and writing a 1000 word review on the meeting. On top of all that, I had not eaten since my pack of Ramen noodles at noon. So, yes, i apologize for my mistake. Now, I rarely ever reveal my viewers however, through my stat counter on my site, I can see that BOTH of those comments came from VDOT computers during business hours. So, maybe, if you spent more time doing your JOB and less time surfing the internet, things might get better. GET BACK TO WORK VDOT!

VDOT at its best?

Now that I have posted my review of the meeting, I have to say what I really wanted to say. These two public meetings were fairly high profile for VDOT. They would be under the spotlight and, considering this, I would think that they would be on their best behavior. The first thing I notice? They spelled 'feasibility' wrong. Their HRBT Project Feasibility Study comment form was graced with the title of "Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel Project Teasability Study Comment Form." Is that supposed to be a joke? For $500,000 they either couldn't afford to push the spellcheck button or they just like playing really expensive jokes. Maybe they enjoy 'teasing' us with pictures of solutions... Also, in typical VDOT style, the meeting started behind schedule and ended even later. Ten minutes late to start and twenty minutes late to end.

HRBT Public Meeting: A Review

I attended the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel Meeting on Wednesday. The meeting started with introductions from Dennis W. Heuer (VDOT Hampton Roads District Administrator), Pierce R. Homer (Virginia Secretary of Transportation), and Randy Boice (Project Manager). Mr. Boice gave very detailed, informative explanations of each alternative including the strengths and weaknesses of each. Alternative One, at $2.2 Billion was the least costly of the alternatives, however it had its fatal flaw. It would not meet Federal Highway requirements, which prohibit two-way traffic within the same undivided tunnel. Alternative Two would get around that at minimal extra cost by making the middle tube reversible during rush hour, while adding $100 Million. The downfall to this plan, as was stated by Mr. Boice, was that the traffic pattern on I-64 does not allow for reversible lanes. In order to be feasible, the majority of traffic would have to flow in one direction and then reverse for the afternoon rush hour. On I-64, however, there is equal traffic in each direction, making it difficult to reverse the lanes. Moving on to Alternative Three, Mr. Boice said that this one, along with the next one, are the two most practical. Alternative Three would construct a four-lane tunnel to accommodate all east-bound traffic and convert both existing tubes to carry only west-bound traffic. Similarly, Alternative Four, would construct the four-lane tunnel. It would, however, reserve a lane in each direction to be used for a dedicated right-of-way transit service, either a bus way or, more preferably (in the Virginia Secretary of Transportation’s opinion), an extension for the Light rail line. At $3.3 Billion each, these two alternatives are the most costly. Alternative Five is the first of two bridge-based alternatives. Number Five would construct a suspension bridge with a suspended span a mile in length and high enough for cargo ships and aircraft carriers to pass under. Unfortunately, Alternative Five’s bridge would only carry two lanes. This causes it to have not one but two fatal flaws. Like the first alternative, it would require reversible lanes, which not only fail the Federal Highway regulations but, due to the lower speed needed for the two-lane tube, the time benefit would not be worth the money spent. The second fatal flaw is the best, though. Due to its having only two lanes over such a large span, it would be subject to “adverse … aerodynamics,” similar to the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which collapsed in Washington State four months after it opened in 1940. In order to remedy this, the bridge would have to be reinforced to the point that it would cost as much as a four-lane bridge, which happens to be Alternative Six. This four-lane bridge, which would only save $100 million over the four-lane tunnel option, also has its fatal flaw. The Navy would never approve it. Constructing a bridge over the only exit for the majority of the Atlantic Fleet would be a terrorist attack waiting to happen. Also, this fact would add fuel to Florida’s case to move aircraft carriers away.
After the presentation, there were numerous comments from a variety of sources. The most notable was Mayor Paul Fraim, who spoke in definite object to any and all plans to widen the HRBT. His main reason was that the region has already determined that the Third Crossing was the best option. It would be better during an evacuation, a plus for military mobility, and it would draw traffic away from the HRBT, lessening the traffic jams. He also complained that any HRBT widening project would disrupt the Willoughby area too much. Senator John Miller and Delegate Paula Miller were present to support the project, arguing that we need to plan for the future and not just for alleviating current problems. Delegate Miller also inquired as to whether or not either the HRBT project or the Third Crossing would be eligible to receive funding under the proposed stimulus programs from President-elect Barack Obama. Mr. Homer, the VA Secretary of transportation replied that no, neither project would be eligible due to a requirement that the project be ready for immediate construction. Bobby Mathieson of Virginia Beach said that the Beach has made no formal decision but instead stressed that the community needs to continue to talk about solutions. Virginia Beach’s Vice Mayor Louis Jones stated that he did not support any project that was not previously supported by the MPO. Norfolk councilman Randy Wright took a minute to publicly thank Mr. Homer for supporting the Norfolk Light Rail project. Hampton councilwoman Angela Leary stressed to Norfolk residents that she is a big supporter of personal property rights and that she agrees with the concerns of the city and would like to discuss further alternatives with Norfolk and the Peninsula alike. In response to a question posed by a man by the name of Steve Dexter, Mr. Homer wanted to make it clear that he strongly supported a multi-modal tube in any expansion to make it more attractive to Norfolk and the Region at large. Also interesting to note, Chesapeake’s Mayor Krasnoff and councilman Richard West were present, although they declined to speak on the subject.
Overall, the meeting was very informative but very little true progress was made, although I think that it was very important to have, because it brought all sides out into the open for healthy dialogue.

Monday, December 8, 2008

MPO's Weighted Votes; Good or Bad

Re: Weighted votes could change cities' say in road projects (Virginian-Pilot. Dec. 8, 2008)

While I can see the value of this in a rational setting, I still hold an objection. The purpose of the weighting, which I understand, is to give cities an equal footing in votes. There is no reason why Isle of Wight (no offense) should get the same weight as Virginia Beach. VB is much larger and has many more problems than a county such of IoW. I find fault in the system, however, when the city with the most power is as anti-regionalism as VB. I think that the number of daily workers should be included as well. Norfolk has an estimated 235,000 residents. Virginia beach has an estimated 435,000 residents. Once you account for the inflow of over 100,000 workers to Norfolk and an outflow of approximately 100,000 workers from Virginia Beach to Norfolk, Chesapeake, and Portsmouth, the 'power' factor of each city is about the same. The MPO can use a weighted system as long as Virginia Beach does not simply vote down anything that would not benefit them directly. We have seen them act this selfishly in the past. Take their push for a Southeastern Parkway over any form of HR crossing plans. Or their repeatedly voting no on their Light Rail referendums. Unless Virginia Beach has had a miraculous change of heart, they seem to be in it only for themselves, not realizing that they will die without the rest of the region. Finally, each city currently pays an equal share for the MPO. If they will no longer be equal in votes, then they payment structure should be changed, causing each city to pay in proportion with its votes.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Charlotte Light Rail Model

In the Pilot today, they published an article about the Charlotte, North Carolina Light Rail line. Charlotte's line had many problems to start with, similar to any major project, including Norfolk's. What interests me is that last year people said that Norfolk would have as many problems as Charlotte did. They compared these town places in the hopes of using Charlotte to demonstrate 'yet another failed LRT project.' It is very interesting that these same people are now saying that they should not be compared due to their density difference. I've checked it out and both areas have approximately the same density along the light rail line. Norfolk's Light Rail will work. For all those people that complain that they will sit in traffic while the Light Rail goes by, perhaps you could get on it. Interesting concept, huh? I live near Norview. I know that I would rather drive to Military Circle and ride the Tide Downtown versus pay for parking and try to fight all you crazy drivers from Chesapeake and VA Beach trying to leave Downtown during rush hour. Also would be nice during the holidays (esp. the parade) and during Downtown events. If, rather, when they extend this to the Beach, I know that despite the nay-sayers, thousands a day would rather drive to a Tide station and ride in than fight the traffic. Thank you Charlotte, and good luck Tide

Thursday, December 4, 2008

HRBT Plan

In case you havn't heard, an HRBT expansion plan is back in consideration. They had a public meeting yesterday and they will have another next Wednesday at 6 at Granby HS. There are multiple plans available, including converting both tunnels to run Westbound and constructing a suspension bridge to run Eastbound.
HRBT Rendering

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chesapeake Gun Buy-Back

This is a terrible idea. There is absolutely no evidence that suggests gun buy-backs actually work. Also, wouldn't criminals be inclined to break into houses and steal more handguns, therefore leading to an increase in crime. this would be especially easy if any of them happen to still know who has them from when Roanoke printed the list of CCW holders of everyone in Virginia. This gun buy-back will not help fight crime. Why would a criminal take $100 for a gun that he could easily sell on the street for $500? Or he could use it to rob someone and make even more. Come on Chesapeake, try putting more cops on the street in problem areas and getting convictions for these criminals. Chesapeake, try reading "Gun Buy Back Program Benefits Questioned" by John Hoffmann, published by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJ 179755). It's researchers theorized that the buy-backs prompted drug addicts to steal guns to pay for drugs. Also, criminals would sell old guns to help buy new ones. They studied the 1991 and 1994 St. Louis buy-backs and determined that the guns bought back were not the same type the were used in gun crimes, therefore deeming the buy-backs a waste. (They tend to be antiques, collectables, or revolvers turned in by family of gun owners) The only purpose these programs serve is for great photo opportunities for police. Austrailia, where they forced people to turn in all of their firearms 12 years ago has destroyed merely 640,000 guns. They continue to have gun buy-bakcs and turn-ins. Their armed robbery rate has since risen drastically. Guns are not being used at frequently, but I would be just a scared with a knife in my face as a gun.

Chesapeake to get new Police Cams

Finally, somebody will actually be able to see what the Chesapeake Police are up to. This would certainly have been useful in the Frederick case. I am also sure that it would have led to many other cases, who's Plaintiffs would actually have more than their word vs the officer's word. In Norfolk, for example, I feel that a cam such as this is the primary reason the charges were dropped against the "Hoola-Hoop" Lady. A personal system like this is great for increasing accountability for police officers. There will no longer be he said/she said.
VIEVU Police Personal Video System

Local Money

Chesapeake voted to allow the "Dominion Bike Path to Nowhere" plan, allowing the exhorberantly priced bike path to be built into the bridge. This bridge could be done another way. I had an idea of a zig-zag style ramp to get up to cross the water, allowing the rest of the path to be ground level, but they told me that the zig-zag structure would cost the same as the bridge. Why this path needs to be able to withstand heavy truck traffic, I will never know. I would think that a simple steel structure could be mounted on the side or underside of the bridge, negating any need for extra pilings. But, I tried. Virginia Beach on the other hand, is a bit split personallity when it comes to saving money. They decide to look at schools that they could close to save costs and then, in the same breath, decide that they will spend $5.1 million to relocate the Virginian-Pilot so they can build another overpriced phase of Town Center. Congrats however, to Bill DeSteph and Reba McClanan, who voted against the relocation proposal.

Recycle Hampton Roads

In a recent report, Hampton Roads' recycling rate actually dropped over 2007's rate. The report attributes this to the closure of SPSA's yard-waste facility, a victim of NIMBY, although it was there first. In my opinion, the decrease could have been prevented if some cities stepped up their game. Norfolk has the big blue recycling bins. They are amazingly easy to use. In fact ours usually fills up while our garbage can only sits half full. My grandfather actually traded in his full size garbage can for this cute little mini can. Chesapeake, on the other hand, does not participate in curb-side recycling. They rely on the good-will of residents to drive to drop-off points. Consequently, Mt. Chesapeake (their landfill) has grown to a size much taller than the trees and is visible from I-64. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Virginia Beach to object to Uranium mine

While to find fault with their argument about hurricanes hitting the near-Appalachian region with force, I do support their objections. Nuclear Power is the dirtiest power source imaginable. While proponents of it disagree, I stand by my assertion due to the fact that while coal residue settles eventually or gets absorbed by plants, nuclear waste stays with us for millions of years. Nuclear power's beginnings are dangerous as well as the byproduct and the production itself.Rather than spend money of furthering this incredibly dangerous power source, we, especially Hampton Roads, should be promoting truly clean power. Hampton Roads has an especially large stake in this. Dirty power, including the so-called 'clean coal,' is contributing to Global Warming. I do not believe that people are the sole cause of global warming, but we certainly aren't helping. Even if we contributed absolutely nothing to Global Warming, we, as moral people, should make an effort to be good stewards to the planet. On that note, Hampton Roads as well as Virginia, should push for truly clean energy. Imagine instead of off-shore drilling, we built off shore wind turbines. Virginia Beach could profit from that as well as waves-to-power technologies. Suffolk and Chesapeake, with their quantity of open fields, could benefit from a full-scale solar plant. The Urban areas of Hampton Roads could benefit from an increase in private solar use, lessening the need for electrical and gas infrastructure. If we could power ourselves with clean energy, we would only need to fall back on clean coal plants and nuclear for nighttime or inclement weather power. That right there would reduce the amount of CO2 released into our air. It is possible. It does require government assistance however. The Local, State, and Federal government should tax industries that create pollution and earmark that money to be used for furthering clean energy. Normally, I would be against government telling business what they should or should not be doing, however, this cause certainly benefits all of us. If sea levels do indeed rise within the next hundred years (as predicted), most of Hampton Roads would be under water. I think that as far as weighing costs is concerned, that it would be cheaper to fund clean power than it would be to raise every structure in our area by 5 feet including roads and infrastructure.

AIG - Its about time

AIG or American International Group, Inc, announced that it will pay its top executives $1 per year for this year and 2009. In turn, the executives will receive and an unspecified amount of stock. There will be no bonuses at all for the year-end of 2008 and no salary increases for its top 50 executives. Excellent! This company affects the lives of ALL Hampton Roads residents, either as customers or taxpayers, footing the bill for their $150 billion bailout. I think that all executives of any for-profit corporation should be held to this same rule. No top executive should receive salary pay, but instead should be compensated solely with stock. This would lead to more reasonable corporate business policies. All executives would receive an amount of money that is directly related to how well the business is run. An exception to this would be new executives, to be allowed to make changes to a company without worry about what the previous executives did.

Good Job Dollar Tree

Dollar Tree, a Hampton Roads native, reported a healthy 20% growth in profits. Not only is this a great thing, economy considered, but I have to commend them for the variety they have kept at only $1. A couple years ago, a friend of mine told me that he thought that Dollar Tree would go out of business, due to their self-imposed $1 and item limit. As prices continue to rise, their profit margins would shrink. But Dollar Tree thought different, and continued to expand their selection and their stores, and now, when everyone is looking to buy smarter, they have surpassed the norm. I went into a Dollar Tree a couple of weeks ago; I had not been in one in a few years. In the past, I had only found cheap toys and random household items that were neither useful or well-built. This last visit, however, I was suprised. I found a wide selection of household items that seemed of decent quality. It was, in my opinion, a $1 K-Mart. They had everything that one might need on a day to day basis. They even have food now. Just the basics, but enough for a family (or college student such as myself) in hard times to get by without debt. So congrats Dollar Tree, on a [local] job well done.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jordan Bridge Irony

Who exactly supported this?

Monday, November 24, 2008

RIP: Kirn Memorial Library

Kirn Memorial Library will close on Sunday forever. It will be torn down and relocated to the Seaboard Center, a block away. There, they will construct a new $50 million library. Although it is not my plan or idea, which would have built the library ON TOP OF the Light rail station, I think that once the new section is completed, it should be a nice library. My only objection to previous plans was that the city wanted to move the library out of downtown.
Back to the Kirn Light Rail Station. Norfolk really needs to look into building something a bit more high density on that station. As nice as greenspace would be, it is contrary to the high-density, smart development model that is needed to make the Light rail as successful as possible. Please remember my existing Kirn proposal:

The Future of Kirn Memorial Library February 2008

Icon for what? May 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Banks: Call it like it is

I took this picture yesterday Downtown of the SunTrust Building. I think they decided to call it like it is and publicly announce the reason for our current financial crisis:
I think they got it right...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Energy Alternatives Open House - VB

Virginia Beach is looking for input about the future of energy production in Virginia Beach. They will have a variety of speakers on alternative energies. I am not sure what say they think they have in off-shore drilling though. As for the alternatives, in my opinion, I think they should go for off-shore wind for a power source that can be sold to everyone. I also think that they should push for grid-tied home solar systems. These systems feed the grid extra energy, which helps meet demand elsewhere and the panel owner receives energy credits that can be used to pay for power at night (net-metering) The other sources that have been mentioned (waves, algae, etc) should be looked into but at the current moment I do not think that they should invest heavily in it.Wind Farm off the coast of Denmark

Great Idea, Wrong Time

Re: "Norfolk to purchase Berkley land for residential growth" Virginian-Pilot. November 19, 2008.

Purchasing this land to reserve for residential is a great idea. Maybe they already have a program in place to purchase land for this. Wait, they do. Its called GEM and to date, it hasn't exactly been successful. I do agree that they city should reserve it for residential use, but can't they just rezone it? That wouldn't cost nearly as much. Also, in these tight financial times, they need to reign it spending so they don't end up like the Beach.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Take their kidneys too...

Re: "Virginia Beach faces record $81.2 million budget shortfall" and "Proposal asks taxpayers to foot more of Town Center bill." Virginian-Pilot. November 19, 2008.

The City of Virginia Beach is forecasting an $81 million-plus deficit. What is the only plan on the table? Add $56.4 million to the tab in subsidies to the Aloft Hotel project in "Town Center." When you add it to the last phase's $28.5 million, you get a cost of $84.9 million. The benefit to the city? According to Virginia Beach's Finance Director, Patricia Philips, the city has reaped the huge reward of $5.2 million. ... Hold the phones. They put in $84 million and got back $5.2 million? That's a terrible rate of return. Now I understand that somewhere in the distant future it will be worth it, but right now, is it really worth it to cut back on city services and pay to build a hotel? All Town Center property taxes already stay in Town Center, to no benefit to the rest of the city. Where does that money go? Can't they use that? Either way, Virginia Beach needs to take a good look at what it spends money on. They have got to cut their spending.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Unneeded LRT Improvements

Re: "Norfolk Light Rail" Virginian-Pilot, November 17, 2008

So, apparently, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation wants Norfolk to add $7 million worth of upgrades to the Light Rail System. If they are truly needed then Norfolk should go for it. Norfolk is contractually obligated to pay for any cost overruns. I do not think that this should be a "cost overrun" due to the fact that it is something new being added into an existing project. If the DRPT wanted these upgrades, it should have spoke up in the beginning and should not have allowed the items to be cut out. Now, if they want these upgrades back in the plan, Norfolk and HRT need to tell them to either cut a check or GTFO (look it up). They had every opportunity to make a stand early on. They say that they want these upgrades to make the project more appealing to Virginia Beach, but if they require Norfolk to foot the bill, they will do exactly the opposite. The project is already over budget and behind schedule, most of which is due to NSU waiting until the last minute to object to their station, even though they will eventually see that they will benefit from it rather than be harmed by it. Virginia Beach is concerned about cost. For the state to force the project further over budget, they will only make it more difficult to pass the idea in Virginia Beach. The Beach needs to understand (but doesn't) that their cost will be more accurate due to the kinks that are worked out for Norfolk's initial line. They also should realize that if they had been on board from the beginning, it would have save them millions.

Private Solution to a Public Problem

Virginian Pilot Photo

Re: "Tunnels Proposal" Virginian-Pilot November 14, 2008
I support this concept. I actually posted a plan similar to this one on Virginia's Ideas website. The state has refused to grant money to the area to fix the problems at hand. We, as a community and as individuals, MUST end our reliance on the government. Currently, we just sit back, going about our daily lives, while the government continues to shaft us. If the government won't pay for it with money they already have and nobody wants to pay more taxes to fund it, then what is our alternative? We have two options:

1. Continue to sit back, grasping for our taxpayer-filled bottle from the government

OR

2. Take the matter into our own hands and fix it.

I regularly choose option #2 for other things. For example, I live on a dead end street. About halfway down the block, the curb ends. Now, apparently according to city policy, Street Sweepers do not sweep where there is no curb. So what do we do about the half inch of slippery-when-wet pine needles at the end of the street? What do we do about the clogged storm drain and grate? My neighbors apparently, choose option #1, which has yet to yield results. On the other hand, last week, when it was pouring down rain and my neighbors were dry on their porches complaining about our flooded street, I got a shovel and shoveled the leaves and dirt off of the Storm grate and out of the storm drain. Consequently, the waters subsided within 15 minutes during the rain storm. Try getting those results from the government.
Back to the tunnel plan. Now obviously I don't have $200 million just sitting around, or I would fix the tunnels myself. This company, however, does have the money. They are ready, able, and willing to give us a solution. At a price. Now I concur that the $2 and above tolls are a bit excessive, tolls are necessary. I would pick a $0.50 toll at the downtown tunnel during non-rush hour times and $1.00 during rush-hour. For the Midtown Tunnel, which would get the bulk of the construction, should see $1.00 in off-peak hours and $2.00 for on peak. The peak/off-peak rates would encourage those who can choose to modify their office hours to off-peak hours, therefore distributing the traffic load throughout the day. I understand that some people would choose to go to the Downtown instead of the Midtown to save a buck, but I do not think that it would be a substantial number, mostly because the drive would cost nearly a dollar in gas.

Come on Hampton Roads! We want and need better transportation links in our area but nobody wants to pay for them. A toll would charge only those who actually use the tunnel. That means that if you live in Pungo and work in Greenbriar, you will never have to pay for this. If we don't do this, however, and our region becomes gridlocked, That same person may be affected when, say, a company that relies on the tunnels for transportation goes out of business and it just happens to be the company that the Pungo resident's company get 75% of its business from. Then the Pungo resident gets laid off, can't find a job, and loses his or her home. All because we wouldn't build a tunnel.

My main point here is that this need for a tunnel (and improved transportation and mass transportation) affects everybody but the cost doesn't have to.

Friday, November 7, 2008

HRT, Light Rail, and VA Pilot readers

Recently, The Virginian-Pilot posted a story, $10.9 million contract awarded for light-rail facility near NSU. In reading the comments at the bottom of the page submitted by readers, I have come to realize that the majority of readers of comment are horribly skewed in their views and apparently have little or no research skills. The article mentions that the Norfolk LRT project is 11% over budget and will not open on schedule. More firm numbers will be released mid-November. The commentators go on to make all sorts of off the wall comments. Here is a summary of those comments. Please refer to the numbers, as I will use them to accept or refute each statement:
  1. NSU should pay for over run that is its fault (lindowitz, 11/7/08 - 12:19 PM)
  2. LRT will not work on this alignment (squirrelly, 11/7/08 - 12:32 PM)
  3. Due to metals and materials market, cost should decrease (squirrelly, 11/7/08 - 12:32 PM)
  4. Every major project seems to be going over budget and past deadline (vabeachgirl, 11/7/08 - 12:43 PM)
  5. We should look at Seattle for an example (sammonsfamily, 11/7/08 - 12:58 PM)
  6. We should use a ferry instead of Light Rail (sammonsfamily, 11/7/08 - 12:58 PM)
  7. HRT failed to give accurate information when it obtained Federal money (aalto, 11/7/08 - 12:59 PM)
  8. More than half the population of Norfolk and Portsmouth live by the water, so ferries would be a good idea (dokein, 11/7/08 - 3:55 PM)
  9. A ferry system would be a great supplement to Light Rail (dokein, 11/7/08 - 4:02 PM)
  10. It is amazing how we can afford Light Rail if we can't fix the Jordan Bridge - "Light Rail Derailed Jordan Bridge (Goldfinch, 11/7/08 - 4:20 PM)
Ok, here it goes.
  1. NSU should pay for its cost overruns that are attributed to moving the station along with all of the other things that they wanted. I absolutely agree. They should have raised their concerns this vocally way back in the original planning phase. Personally, if I had any say, either they would pay for their changes or it would be built as planned.
  2. Light rail will work on this segment. It would work even better if Virginia Beach had the foresight way back when to vote for it. It also would have been cheaper for them if they had acquired land back when it was cheap in the mid 90s. Now, they have built up the whole corridor (which would have grown more if we had LR sooner, during the boom) and land value has increased. It will increase further if LR is built.
  3. Metals and Materials: It is true. Since the collapse of the housing construction market, all construction materials have decreased in value. Metal has also decreased in value. These cost decreases, however, are not factored in until the end. It is possible that the cost overrun will shrink near the end. But we have to push through until then.
  4. Yes every major project does seem to be over budget and over time. The Norfolk LRT's 11% is small compared to what it could be. Boston's Big Dig was estimated and planned in 1985 at $2.6 billion. By 2002, the total cost was estimated at $14.6 billion, or 561.5% over budget. Denver International Airport was planned in 1989 at $1.7 billion. By 1995, it had cost $4.8 billion, or 282.3% over budget. The Kennedy Center Parking Lot, in DC, was planned in 1998 at $28 million. By 2003 it had cost $88 million, or 314.2% over budget. Virginia's "Mixing Bowl" (large interchange near Arlington) was projected at $241 million in 1996. By 2003, it had cost $676 million, or 280.5% over budget. Remember comparing us to Seattle? Their LRT project was planned in 1996 at $1.7 billion (which is $91 million/mile MORE than Norfolk's). By 2000, it had cost $2.6 billion, or 152.9% over budget ($155 million MORE/mile than Norfolk's). As you can see, Norfolk's mere 11% is nothing. It is also nowhere near complete. Budgets and time lines are adjusted all the time. The Battlefield project is actually on time and on budget. In fact is is currently projected to be opened sooner than originally planned.
  5. Seattle. Although, as we just learned, their LRT project was 152% over budget, it has also exceeded all ridership expectations. they recently have surpassed 10 million riders and are adding multiple more trains and are planning an additional rail line. This is why there is less traffic. Not "because they use a ferry system" as the poster claims. I am sure that this certainly is a factor. In fact, the ferry system probably is also a factor as to why the LRT project is doing so well. Its called "multi-modal." When you give commuters a choice, they tend to be much more open. Their commutes are actually cut shorter and they can choose which is easier, cheaper, and more convenient. That is why HRT has such a bad rep for bus service. When buses are all you've got, they tend to be the opposite of quick and convenient.
  6. That same poster then goes on to say that we should scrap the LRT project and built a ferry system. Wrong. He compared it to Seattle. He should research what Seattle actually does. Let's explore this for a second though. He says, "The light rail will only serve a small sector of the population, and serves no purpose at all to some of the other cities that make up Hampton Roads. A ferry system would benefit cities on both sides of the water and in between." Well, the current LRT project serves Norfolk and Virginia Beach. His proposed ferry system would only serve Norfolk and Portsmouth. How is swapping a 400,000+ population city for a less than 200,000 population city going to help the system? to see if it would work, however, I might go rent a boat this weekend and take it to Town Center... Wait... Town Center isn't near the water. I guess I could go to the Ocean Front... via a multiple hour trip around the water or through the canal and backtrack. I agree that the LRT project only serves 2 cities. that is why it must be expanded to Chesapeake via a Portsmouth route. Then, it would serve more. Better yet, it could expand to the Peninsula.
  7. False. HRT submitted all documentation as required by law. All of their information was gathered for them by third party research firms. Obviously HRT made a pretty good case if the Federal Government awarded us the money and not someone else.
  8. Back to the ferries. I do not think that half of Norfolk's population lives on navigable (by ferry) waters. I do think that an expanded ferry system would be great, especially if they could connect it nearer to Harbor Park Station. Once again, ferries would not work of themselves. These people that do live within 15 minutes walking distance of navigable waters do not necessarily work within 15 minutes of that water. The LRT project is supposed to serve a mere fraction of the 56,000 commuters the move between Virginia Beach and the Downtown Norfolk area each day. The waterside Portsmouth residents are also probably not, for the most part, Downtown Norfolk workers. Also, there is actually higher density along the Central Virginia Beach Corridor than in Downtown Portsmouth.
  9. PRECISELY!
  10. Even without any once of a LRT project, the Jordan Bridge would not get money. Instead the LRT money would go to another city for their LRT project. The money comes from two different sources.
Please, when you post things, have an informed oppinion, not just a crackpot idea.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Jordan Bridge Closing: Are you affected?

I know that there are many of us out there that will be directly or indirectly (such as myself) affected by the closing of the Jordan Bridge. If there is anybody that will be directly affected by the bridge's closing, please contact me at 757hamptonroads[at]live.com I have been asked by a producer for a public radio program to locate people that have been directly impacted. This would be great for anybody that drives, bikes, or walks across the bridge. They are especially looking for anyone that actually works at the Shipyard. This information needs to be in by Friday, so please get your info in ASAP. All I need is your Name and email, which I will forward to her. If you know of anybody, that would be great too. The radio program is Weekend America.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Manufactured Lines

I got up early and went to the polls. I got there at six AM sharp. There was already a 2-hour line. So I waited for 2 hours thinking. I came to a realization that these lines were completely manufactured by the media. We were told that there would be long lines so we should get there early. So everybody got there early... causing the long lines that they will base their news stories off of. My grandfather, on the other hand, waited until 1:30 PM, and was in and out in 5 minutes. Next time people, don't get there early. It only serves as gratification for the news. By the time I had voted, the line was cut down to 30 minutes. If everyone had waited to show up until after six, there would have been no line. If you have 2000 people in a precinct and half vote in the first 2 hours, then that leaves a near empty day for the rest of the day.
Virginian Pilot

Election Apparel

You should be happy to know that I showed up at the polls today with my Libertarian Party T-Shirt and my Bob Barr button and I was not even questioned. I am not sure if I should take this as a sign of logic from the poll workers or an insult that they just don't care about my candidate.

Hoola Hoop Lady Justice


Here is the video of the Police Officer tasering the woman commonly know as the "Hoola Hoop Lady." It is apparent that she has done nothing wrong in the video and that the cop was acting incredibly out of line. Not only should the officer loose his job, pay, benefits, and retirement, the Police Chief and prosecutors need to answer as to why the charges lasted so long with this video in existence. It is obvious that it was a police video. Why was it not reviewed sooner? As much as I would like to save money as a Norfolk taxpayer, Norfolk needs to pay a very large sum to the woman. They can make up for the expense by ending the career of this officer and relieving him of all of his benefits, pay, and retirement. Furthermore, he should be charged personally with assault and sued for damages plus pain and suffering. Normally, I am not one to sue. In cases such as this one however, justice must be served. She was a handicapped woman assaulted by police and she should have to pay no more.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Police Oversight

Norfolk's police seem to be arresting people that make people feel uncomfortable but that don't actually break any laws. Chesapeake's Police allegedly seem to utilize criminals and theft to manufacture cases against people who's only crime is self-defense and a minute amount of reefer. Now, Virginia Beach's Police are using racial epithets and targeting minority clubs in an effort to make the Beach more "family friendly." It appears that now would be the opportune time to organize some sort of citizen oversight board for the respective police departments. There are a number of other cities that do this, usually with great success. These boards don't turn the police department into a mockery, do not complication the enforcement of laws, or put huge numbers of police officers up on trial. In actuality, they tend to increase to the public's level of trust and the responsibility level of the department. Complaint numbers usually decrease. Of the complaint's recieved, very few actually turn out to be warrented, bona-fide wrong-doings of police officers. We need to implement this system now, before the trust of the region's police departments erode to a dangerous level.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

In Memory: D. W. "Si" Simons


Taken from the Virginian-Pilot, 27 October 2008: D.W. Simons VIRGINIA BEACH - Donald W. "Si" Simons, 80, of Atlantic Shores in Virginia Beach, formerly of Hudson, Mich., a veteran Scouter and retired military officer, passed away Oct. 24, 2008. Capt. Simons was a decorated Korean and Vietnam war veteran receiving numerous commendations including the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal. After retiring, Capt. Simons was employed by the Virginia Beach public school system. Capt. Simons, known to most as "Si," was a lifelong Scouter and left one of his biggest legacies in the form of local, state and national Boy Scout initiatives. Among them are: Tidewater Council commissioner, vice president of Programs, vice president of District Operations, Blue Heron Order of the Arrow Lodge advisor and program director for Pipsico Scout Reservation. He also served 50 years as Roundtable commissioner or staff. He was the Southern Region Order of the Arrow section advisor and served as a committee member on the National Program Committee and National Training Staff of the National Order of the Arrow. He was a life member of the National Eagle Scout association. He served on the Philmont Scout National Training Center instructor staff for six years. His Scout honors include: Order of the Arrow Distinguished Service Award and Southern Region Silver Antelope Award. Additionally, Si was active in the National Sojourners of the Masonic Lodge, served as past chapter president and commander of Hero's, most recently serving as regional representative for Southeast Virginia. He was predeceased by his wife of 56 years, Louise L., and is survived by three children, Jorie L. Simons, Karen L. Van Duzer and David Simons; seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Si requested that memorial gifts be in the form of camp scholarships to the Tidewater Boy Scout Council Tribute fund in his name. Send to: Tidewater Council Boy Scouts of America, 1032 Heatherwood Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23455. Hollomon-Brown Funeral Home, Lynnhaven Chapel, is assisting the family. Condolences may be sent to the family at www.hollomon-brown.com.

Nearly every Scout in Tidewater Council knew of his name. Any body that had been to Camp Pipsico has seen something with his hard work in it. The service was a wonderful tribute to Si's life and his dedication to all that he was part of. He was an excellent model for anyone to follow, putting others ahead of himself and never giving up on anything he did. He was such a great model to follow, that Mayor Oberndorf, of Virginia Beach, made an official declaration, declaring yesterday, 29 October 2008, to be the Official "D. W. "Si" Simons Day"

Click For Larger Image

Monday, October 27, 2008

Regional Gangs Part 2

In a recent trip in Chesapeake, I ran into another cache of graffiti. This one however did not appear to be gang-related. You may find that as a positive sign, but I beg to differ. Instead of gang-related signs, that tend to be pro-gang-on-gang violence, this was a general hate the police and destroy the government message. I actually think this is worse. Below, I have posted some photos and, for the benefit of those who dislike, profanity, I have blocked out the obscenities.
"Kill Cops"
"MDC: Millions of Dead Cops"
"F*** the Cops"
And Lastly,
"Lets burn this city to the ground to turn our soil rich and black, lets take our whole world back"
Doesn't that just give you a warm, fuzzy feeling? I really do not mean to rip on Chesapeake, I really don't, but the reason I like using them as the example is because it is a place that people feel safe in. Virginia Beach and Chesapeake have the same problems as Norfolk, Portsmouth, Hampton, and Newport News. I do have to give credit where credit is due, however. I must commend Chesapeake; since my first call about the graffiti hot spot, they have repainted the tunnels 3 times. We need a REGIONAL gang unit. If you think that gangs stop at the borders, you'd better think again. They don't care about what the law-abiding consider boundaries.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm voting for:

I have had my mind made up for months. I know that normally, I reserve this blog for anything that directly effects Hampton Roads. This election, however, will effect our region, which is why I am writing my endorsement.I am voting Libertarian this election for both President and Senate. In the past, I have voted for Republicans and Democrats and, frankly, it doesn't bother me when people vote for other parties. I really dislike when people give other people dirty looks when they tell them they are voting for one or the other. I have talked to many people about their political views and I have come to realize that most people who know who they will vote for don't know why. Most of them do not even know the platform of the candidate. I think that it is a sad day when people make up their minds for voting day depending on the number of Obama/McCain signs in their neighborhood. Same goes for polls. Which is why I am voting Libertarian. It is the only party that would give us real change. Lower taxes. Major reforms to our systems of education, health care, social security, welfare, and transportation. Major reform to our energy policies and our military policies. Most importantly, it would bring about a smaller government. I understand that this would bring a decreased military presence to our area, but at the same time it would strengthen our economy by eliminating income tax and bring jobs back from overseas. Obama and McCain are both liars. The Republican Party has had 154 years to get it right (since 1854) and the Democrats have had 216 years (since 1792). If they havn't produced a desirable outcome in that amount of time, they should be replaced. (NOTE: The current Democratic Party in any other country would be called the Democratic Socialist Party and the Liberal Party in any other country would be called the Libertarian Party in the United States) If you want REAL change and you are truly Liberal, join me, and vote Libertarian. If you consider yourself a conservative and want change, check out the Constitution Party (on VA's ballot as Independent Green). That is my view. If you do not agree with it, that is fine. I do not hold your views against you. I think that as long as you vote on an INFORMED decision than you have done your part in America. If you just vote to vote, however, you have wasted a vote and you have mocked the American political system and all it stands for. Thank you. If you truly want to see what your candidate believes, check out factcheck.org as it is an independent, unbiased view
on anything you see in the news.

Virginian Pilot - Terrible Voting Guide

Not only was the front page of the Virginian Pilot's Voter guide an outright lie, it was also the worst voter guide ever printed. It was a terrible waste of paper. The front page in big, bold words proclaimed:
First, a basic lesson in American Politics. YOU do not vote for the president. You vote for electors, who vote for the president. That only my minor issue though. My biggest problem is how that through out this whole election, the Virginian Pilot has only gave time to Obama and McCain. there are SIX people running for President. The VP has only gave mention to them a couple of times at most. In fact, the VP had already decided McCain had won months before the Republican National Convention. There were other candidates available, one of which might have persuaded me to vote Republican this time. Elections in our country are becoming obsolete due to media companies like the Virginian Pilot, who decide the outcome of the election months before the actual vote.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

No Child Left Behind?

I have always despised the No Child Left Behind Act. I also never liked posting federal-type issues here unless I can find a specific example to tie it in to our region. I think I've found it. While in the course of substituting in an area school system (hint: not Norfolk), a friend of mine encountered a 7th grade-age student in the 4th grade. This 12 (going on 13) year old student could not read. To make it worse, there were other students in the grade reading 1st grade level books or below. It used to be that if you could not read sufficiently, you got held back. Now, the school system hires an assistant to 'help' the student. I have witnessed these 'assistants' reading questions to test to students and then suggesting correct answers. How does this help the students? It certainly won't allow them to succeed in society. I know most bosses/managers won't let you bring an assistant to read to you into work. Furthermore, how does this help society? We spend extra tax dollars on kids that have no desire to learn due to their tax-payer subsidized 'assistants.' Then the kids fail when they get out into the workforce. This NCLB program is a waste of time and money. It is time that the Education system was fixed, not pseudo-fixed. At a time when Hampton Roads is trying to recruit employers to maintain jobs in our area, we have an education system that instills laziness and stupidity into our children. Let me clarify that I have no problem with children with disabilities having assistants. I do have a problem with a normal child being treated as a disabled child solely for the purpose of higher SOL scores and lower drop/fail rates.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wasteful VDOT

At a time when Virginia is facing a huge deficit and huge budget cuts, VDOT is still wasting their money. Old Dominion University is closing its Northern Virginia Higher Education Center in the Spring. William & Mary is canceling its annual Ocean & Earth Sciences Trip. This is all because of budget cuts. What is VDOT doing to cut their share? Cleaning the tunnel. Sunday night I sat in traffic for over 2 hours idling away my precious gasoline while VDOT and their 3rd party contractor 'cleaned' the tunnel. After finally making my way through the tunnel at approximately 12:30 AM, I observe a VDOT truck and a contractor truck sitting in the middle. What are they doing? Talking. Talking while both of their trucks sit idling away my tax dollars. The tunnel had been partially cleaned at that time, as I could see the soap on the floor. The tunnel,however, did not actually look any cleaner. I can understand that every once in a while they should remove the oily deposits off the floor, but the ceiling? Why does the ceiling have to be shiny? Paint it black for all I care, then we can't see the dirt. As long as I can get from one end of the tunnel to the other without crashing or drowning, I don't care what it looks like inside.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Non-Drivers in Hampton Roads

Last Wednesday, the HRMPO released a report on non-drivers in Hampton Roads. I think that it would be a great resource for promoting better transportation spending in places like Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and even Norfolk. Most regard Norfolk as having the best service from HRT. The buses are plentiful, run usually every half hour, and run late into the night. Even HRT's President & CEO, Michael Townes, suggests that Norfolk gets a great deal, paying less for service than similar cities with similar service. For Norfolk's over 26,000 non-drivers, this service is barely adaquate, and could use improvement. Now we look at Virginia Beach. For a city that has only one bus line that runs past 6:30 PM, they, too, have over 26,000 non-drivers. As you can see from below, in this figure from the HRMPO report, not all of the Virginia Beach non-drivers live close to the #20 (VB Blvd bus route).
Click for larger image. Each pink dot equals one non-driver, each black dot represents a bus stop
This is an OBVIOUS case for increased funding from Virginia Beach to go towards mass transportation. Same thing with Chesapeake. They have nearly 13,000 non-drivers. While that is not as many as Norfolk and Virginia Beach, it is greater than that of Portsmouth and Hampton, and nearly as much as Newport News, all of which have better bus systems.
Each purple dot represents 10 non-drivers, each black dot represents on bus stop
As you can see, a majority of non-drivers live near bus stops, with some exceptions. Virginia Beach has a very large quantity of non-drivers that live over a mile from a stop. Also, keep in mind that only the Virginia Beach Blvd route (#20) runs after 6:30 in Virginia Beach. I have a challenge for everyone out there but especially city leader. I challenge you to be home by 6:30 every day, no exceptions. That is how the non-drivers in Virginia Beach live.

Each image was borrowed from the HRMPO report presentation which can be found here. The actual report can be found here.

HRMPO Meeting Last Thursday

Overall, the HRMPO went very well. Everyone who was anyone in transportation was there. Representatives from Hampton Roads Transit, Williamsburg Area Transit, VDOT, etc. In my opinion, the best speaker was Michael Townes, President & CEO of HRT. He said that that now is the time for regional mass transportation action. Mr. Townes believes that everybody should be able to choose their mode of transportation, calling that choice an ‘American Value,’ and also stating that currently, if you don’t drive you’re out of luck. He said that HRT was willing and able to increase the frequency and duration of bus service but is unable to due to the funding problem with the cities. Apparently Hampton Roads’ method of individual city payments is unique in that it is funded by property tax revenues, something that is not done anywhere else in the country. The general plan elsewhere is that there is some sort of dedicated funding system set up so that the property owners do not pay the majority of the money. Also, he called HRT “an amazing success,” saying that our area pays substantially less than another area would for similar service.

Next up was Vince Jackson, VP of Planning for HRT, who got up to speak on land use. He said that in order for mass transit to work most effectively, ever locality in Hampton Roads needed to work together to develop land use patterns that were less conducive to single occupancy vehicles and more conducive to mass transit.

After Jackson was Mr. Matthew Huston, and engineer for HNTB, the Planning firm responsible for the Transit Plan. Huston said that the current development patterns were unacceptable for the future and made it difficult for planners to create effective mass transit solutions. One of Huston’s main points was that whatever the solution was, it had to be multi-modal.

The end of the meeting was given to comments and questions. The largest portion of comments showed precisely what users would want in a mass transportation system. They spoke of fewer transfers, longer hours of operation, and ease of use.

Michael Townes, President & CEO, HRT (right) interviewed by 13 News, WVEC

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hampton Roads Regional Bridge Study

For anyone who might be concerned about the safety of our bridges, I found it interesting to review the Hampton Roads Regional Bridge Study, put out last month by the Metropolitan Planning Organization. It has everything you need to be informed. It even has the elusive 'sufficiency ratings' that we are not allowed to see on the news anymore. The bottom five bridges and their ratings are:
  • 22nd St. Bridge over Seaboard & RR Line (Chesapeake) - 2.0
  • Gilmerton Bridge over S. Branch of Elizabeth River (Chesapeake) - 3.0
  • Jordan Bridge over S. Branch of Elizabeth River (Chesapeake) - 4.0
  • John Tyler Highway over Chickahominy River (James City County) - 6.0
  • Mount Pleasant Road over the Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal (Chesapeake) - 17.5
Note that out of the 5 lowest ranking bridges in Hampton Roads, 4 of them are in Chesapeake. The only other one, in James City County, is actually being replaced. It is anticipated to be completed this December, a few months AHEAD of schedule. Closer to home, however, the Gilmerton is getting some repairs and the Jordan is closing. Gilmerton is also supposed to get a replacement span. It is in design right now and has $154 million budgeted to it. On the other hand the 22nd St bridge only has $625,000 out of $22 million an is listed as 'on hold.' Nobody lists the North Landing Bridge (Mt. Pleasant) as even in the works to pretend we need a replacement. Chesapeake can spend millions on a bike path but can't afford to build safer bridges for the rest of us. Regardless, take a look at the report. It is available here.

For those curious

For those of you who have been curious as to why my regular posting seemed to have suddenly dropped off, it was because recently, I have been battling Verizon. There is a utility bridge at the end of my street. For those of you that aren't sure what that is, don't feel bad, Verizon didn't know either. It was built in the first half of the 20th century, probably in the 50s, by the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company of Virginia (C&P). C&P was later absorbed by AT&T's Bell Systems, which was broken up by the anti-trust suits in the 80s and became Bell Atlantic. Bell Atlantic was then absorbed into Verizon. All along this little bridge/conduit rode along, forgotten by all but us. When it was built, it had barbed wire on each end and a steel barrier on the end by my street. More recently, it has been covered in gang-related graffiti and has been used to traffic drugs and get away from the police. In the late 90s, we got them to put up a secondary steel barrier after the barbed wire had been torn down. That only lasted a few weeks. A few months ago, I started calling them again. I talked to Customer Service. I talked to Real Estate. I talked to Escalated Customer Complaints. I emailed the Director of Customer Relations. I finally got people to start coming out to see it. They painted the steel barrier and put up a no trespassing sign. Then they told me it was all they could do; told me that it was city property and not theirs. Wrong thing to tell me. I went downtown and got a copy of the original Plat from the Planning dept. It clearly says that the bridge/conduit was the responsibility of C&P Telephone Co. and the lady at City Hall tells me that the ownership follows the property all the way to Verizon. So the 'Verizon Guy' came back out, this time with an engineer and his Director. They took a look at it and said they'd get back to me. Now I am waiting.
But, that is what has been consuming my time. If anyone happens to have anything that might help me out, please let me know 757hamptonroads[at]live.com

Hampton Roads Transit Plan

I received an email on the 10th from the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission alerting me of a Public Informational Meeting on "A Transit Vision Plan for Hampton Roads" Here is the meat of the email:

The Hampton Roads Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) will host a Public Information Meeting on the development of a regional transit vision plan for the Hampton Roads study area. This includes the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and Williamsburg; and the counties of Isle of Wight, James City, York, and a portion of Gloucester County. The Hampton Roads regional public transit plan will address local and express bus, bus rapid transit, street car/trolley, light rail, commuter rail, and ridesharing. The plan will also look at development patterns in areas where expanded public transit may be recommended.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Slide Presentation at 5:00 PM
and repeated at 6:00 PM
Hampton Roads Metropolitan Planning Organization
The Regional Building
723 Woodlake Drive
Chesapeake, VA 23320

Can't join us at the Public Information Meeting in Chesapeake?
Participate remotely in Hampton! Watch the presentation with us, hear questions from Chesapeake, and ask yours!
Hampton Roads Transit Headquarters
3400 Victoria Boulevard
Hampton, VA 23661
I hope to see everyone there!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Norfolk: Read the law before you enforce it

How many times will the Norfolk police detain/arrest someone for something that is not illegal. The Virginia Citizen's Defense League is going to City Council again to protest the way they have been treated. They allege that their members have been repeatedly stopped by police for no reason other than because they had a legal gun carried in a legal manner. The Norfolk Police really need to read the law before they enforce it. The best example of this that I can think of happened on May 2, 2006. It involved a man by the name of Corey Benton, a Lake Taylor High School Student. He was caught with a rifle and a separate clip of ammunition locked in the trunk of his car. He was promptly arrested and charged with felony possession of a firearm on school property. He then waited in jail for 4 days until police realized that it wasn't against the law to have a gun on school property if it was locked in the trunk of a car. He was then released. I am not sure if he ever sued the city but I know I sure would have. Come on Norfolk, by reading the law, you can keep yourself from turning into the Chesapeake model of law enforcement.

With or without a zero, they'll still fail


If a student has a legitimate excuse, then fine, give them another chance. If a student just doesn't want to work, then fail them. The teacher should then contact the parents and let them know that their kid is not turning in work. If the kid then decides to complete the assignment, then change the zero to the highest failing grade (a 66, i think). That way, they can still bring their grade up easily if they start to turn work in on time but they still know that it is unacceptable to turn it in late. In the workplace, an employer is not going to call your mom and tell her that he will give you another chance. He (or she) says, 'you're fired.' Furthermore, if the student is getting an 'A' on every test, then they should be exempt from homework. They obviously know how to get a good grade. This will give the students an incentive to get a good grade in the first place. I know that I hated homework. I rarely did it when I was in High School. I also know that my grade suffered because of it. I never understood that because I got good test grades and homework was a waste of my time. Busy work makes kids not like learning because busy work doesn't help you learn. I got an 1100 on my SAT and my college english teacher told me that the papers I wrote were the best she'd read that year. Also, interesting, because I got a 'C' in my high school writing-intensive English class. Recently, I started substituting in an area school system. Last Friday, I substituted at a High School in said school system. This high school is widely regarded as one of the better school in the area, surrounded by $400,000+ homes. In said school, it was deplorable how many students could not read proficiently or write grammatically correct papers. The work that they did in their HS government class remined me of 7th grade Social Studies. If these HS Seniors are failing a course which I relate to middle school, perhaps there is a larger problem than zeros. At any rate, the school should not lower its standards to make failing students pass. That is just bad policy. Student MUST be held accountable to their own actions.

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