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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

We ARE still in a drought, right?

According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) we in Hampton Roads are in an area classified as having a 'severe' drought. Now, in a drought, what is the one thing everyone should do? CONSERVE WATER. I am sure that everyone already knows this. Unless of course you have been charged with demo-ing the skating rink at MacArthur Center. Here, instead of letting the ice melt, they spray the ice with a high volume water hose in an attempt to wash away the ice. I am not kidding. Meanwhile, hundreds of gallons of water are running across the sidewalk and the street into the storm drain. I'm sure that'll be safe tonight when it refreezes. Here's an idea, if its cold enough where the ice wont melt, why not keep the rink open. I'm sure the net profits will be higher as opposed to draining thousands of gallons of water right into the storm drain. Come on, people.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Background Checks at Gun Shows

Theres the headline: "HOUSE PANEL REJECTS BILL TO TIGHTEN RULES OVER GUN SHOW SALES" - This article references the families of VA Tech victims and implies that this bill might have helped. Two problems.

First, The so-called gun show loophole. People who use this term will tell you that background checks are not required at gun shows. This is TRUE. However, federal law requires that all gun dealers perform background checks before they sell a firearm. This federal law DOES apply at gun shows. That means if I go to a gun show and buy a gun from someone that has set up a table, I must get a background check performed on me. Now, back to this 'loophole.' This 'loophole' refers to the lack of background checks required by private owners to sell. If I own a gun and I go to a gun show, or anywhere for that matter, and I want to sell my gun to a dealer, why should I need to background check the dealer? If I wanted to sell to another private individual, why should I need to get a background check? Say I own a car. I want to sell it to my next-door neighbor. Should I need to get a copy of his driving record? What if he is a DUI repeat offender? How would I know if I didn't have his driving record? This is not required because people use their best judgment when selling something to someone else. It is the same with a gun. I would not sell to someone who appeared shady or gave me a bad feeling inside. Its called instinct and we have been taught to ignore it. This bill was a joke and the end result would cause no difference in illegal guns. In a 2001 report produced by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, they found where firearm offenders found their guns:

Looking at these statistics we find that only .7% of illegal guns used in crimes came from gun shows. That leaves99.3% of illegal guns to come from other sources. If they want to ban the source, why don't they ban drug dealers? ... Oh wait, thats already illegal. (I guess banning things doesn't stop law breakers from breaking the law) Enough about why the loophole doesn't exist, now about why the VA Tech Schooling holds no connection.

The article's first paragraph says:
"Tearful parents of students murdered and wounded at the Virginia Tech shooting rampage in the spring were rebuffed Friday in their efforts to broaden laws requiring Virginians to undergo police background checks before buying guns."
I understand VA Tech was a tragedy. I understand that the families of the victims have gone through hell. What I don't understand is how this law would have helped avert this tragedy. Cho bought his gun at a store. According to CNN, "Cho paid $571 for a 9 mm Glock 19 pistol just over a month ago, the owner of Roanoke Firearms told CNN." So how would this law have helped? Cho WAS subject to a background check. We need a law to coordinate the some sort of database of the mentally ill into the database for the background checks. That law would help. Along with much stiffer penalties for selling/buying/possessing an illegal gun.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Better HRT for students .. and everyone else

I ride the bus. When it opens I will ride the Tide. But currently, the bus only works for short distances inside Norfolk. If I wanted to go anywhere else though,it might as well be a dead end. To go to Chesapeake TCC, it takes approximately 2 hours and I can't use it for night classes; the last bus runs out of the TCC at 6:45 pm and the next doesn't get there until 6:45 am and its the same to the VB TCC. To get to the Portsmouth TCC, I need 5 transfers and 2 hours. You can forget the nearly 3 hours to get from Chesapeake to VB TCC or the 4 hours to get to the Portsmouth from the Chesapeake. (For some reason its actually half an hour quicker to go from the VB TCC to the Ports. TCC than from the Ches. TCC)
Anyway, Light rail will eventually make this better if they can get it throughout the region. Until then, HRT needs to have bus routes that are more direct to the college campuses. There are alot of Chesapeake or VB residents that attend ODU. At today's gas prices it is sometimes cheaper to rent a house closer than it is to drive.
This shouldn't be the case. Contrary to popular belief, college students today do not mind riding the bus. College students today, however, want everything to happen instantly; no waiting. That is why most don't ride the bus. If it takes longer than 30 minutes, its a waste of time. I know that they can make long, effective routes that are quick. Take the Downtown/Oceanfront express; Norfolk to the Beach in 30 minutes. That bus is packed to the limit for most of the day.
Question: So why not introduce more routes like this?
Answer: Because HRT cannot make its own decisions. Thats right, they are essentially crippled in bureaucracy. In order for HRT to create a new route, they must get city Council approval for EACH city the new route passes through.
Solution: First extend the Light Rail to the Beach. Second, all the main bus routes need to run North/South to the Light Rail line while secondary bus routes can run East/West to convenient locations that are further away from the light rail. Third, HRT needs to be given the power to do its own job. They should be able to create and manage bus routes without council approval. Finally, in addition to the current express routes, express routes need to be created to allow fast, convenient travel from each TCC campus in the area as well as a Park-and-Ride in VB and Chesapeake that goes to ODU.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tolls on HR's Roads

The new HRTA is looking into tolls on our roads. While I do not immediately condone tolls, I do object to tolls as high as $2.05 for the Midtown Tunnel. They say the toll was made high as a way of "thinning out the congestion and urging people to car pool." First, how would tolling the Midtown Tunnel thin congestion?? You can't go an alternate route, unless you go for the Downtown Tunnel, but they want a toll on that too; not to mention it would make the DT much more congested. Second, not everybody CAN carpool. I take the Midtown Tunnel twice every Wednesday for this entire Semester to go to the Portsmouth Campus of TCC. Lets do the math for a minute: 16 weeks x $2.05 toll x 2 trips = $65.60. $65!! College students like myself do not have much money. I take the bus to the Norfolk Campus on Tuesdays, thats $48 for the Semester (well under the amount of gasoline used and Parking) I can not take the bus to the Portsmouth Campus. It would take me 5 transfers and 2 hours. Perhaps a better way to solve the traffic congestion would be better public transportation.
Tolls slow down traffic flow. They drive up the cost of Single Occupancy Vehicle drivers. Normally this would drive people to find cheaper, quicker ways. This is why subways are so popular in NYC and Atlanta and DC. In Hampton Roads, however, there is no efficient mass transit. The light rail is a start but when it opens it still will not be as effective as it could be.
Lets reform Mass Transit before we start wasting billions of dollars on projects that only encourage Single Occupancy Vehicles.

Monday, January 14, 2008

What about the ones using it?

In the paper today, there was a little blurb on the right side of the Hampton Roads section that announced that Norfolk will hold a Light Rail Meeting tomorrow at 10 am. First, 24 hours is NOT advanced notice. Second, why the 10 am meeting? The people most likely to use this service will be at work at 10 am. I start work at 7. I thought that they wanted this light rail to succeed. It certainly will not if they only get ideas from people that will not be riding it on a regular basis. 10 am is fine for a Saturday, but on the work day, stick to the evening.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Where are the police?

Friday night (11 January 2008) I was sitting in the center turn lane of Battlefield Blvd with my blinker on, waiting to turn into a gas station. It was about midnight. As I wait I observe a Chesapeake police officer speeding towards me with his light on. He was driving down the center lane (the one I'm in) traveling at least 70 mph. He continue towards me until the last possible second, when he cut back over, a mere 20 feet in front of me. Of course, I could not get a car number, he was going much too fast.
Remember that citizen oversight board last year? You know, the one that Chesapeake insisted was unnecessary? Perhaps something like this would make the whip themselves into shape. Day after day, I see police officers use their lights to go through red lights. They use their patrol cars for personal errands (bank, grocery store, etc.). They drive horribly (speeding, tailgating, weaving in and out, etc.). It not just Chesapeake cops, either. They may be most notorious for it, but I know that VB and Norfolk cops do it too.
Cut the bureaucratic crap. If they can not police themselves, then let us do it. The taxpayers pay for the police officers to protect them, not endanger or harass them. The police ask us if we have nothing to hide, why can't they search. That question can and should be pointed back at them. Officer, if you have nothing to hide, then where's the problem?

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