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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Norfolk City Council vs. HRT

Recently, the Virginian-Pilot has released two articles about Norfolk City Council's current sentiment towards HRT. I was hoping to have posted my story earlier. I was at the city council meeting last week when Mayor Fraim called HRT's lack of communication 'arrogant' and 'not acceptable.' In my opinion, this is not all HRT's fault. The majority of it may be, but the city should have pressed harder. Norfolk's City Manager seems to only get involved when she is told to by council at a meeting after someone criticizes something.
Norfolk needs a new City Manager. I don't want them to fire her, but it is time that she should retire. She has been Norfolk's City Manager for nearly 10 years and it is time for change. She has been a good manager in the past but recently she is starting to slide.
HRT, as well, needs some change. They are better than they used to be, I will give them that. However, they seem to be two-sided. On one side, you have the friendly customer service people and things such as the UCAC, designed to promote better communication between customers and company. On the other side, though, you have the higher-ups and the larger projects. They seem to act like they are the final decision on everything. They don't heed to questions, problems, or complaints. Although these problems are technically in the minority, they are what form the opinions of everyone. People don't remember the good, just the bad. Come on, HRT. You need to remember that you are paid by the city via taxpayer dollars.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New fancy Chopper for the Beach

So, Virginia Beach just bought a brand new helicopter for the Police department. They claim that it is for fighting crime, expediting medical airlift for the southern area of Virginia Beach (both commendable objectives), and promoting business growth. The last objective, I kind of take issue with. I think that if they purchase a helicopter for public safety reasons, great, I commend them. But when you use it to fly cooperate executives around scouting potential relocation sites, that is where I draw the line. POLICE is printed on the side of the helicopter. If they want to take the other helicopter they own, paint it all fancy with Virginia Beach on the side and transfer ownership to the VA Beach Department of Economic Development, that's fine. But using the Police chopper would be the equivalent of driving the executive around in a marked police car. Its just not right. Virginia Beach, please keep public safety and economic development seperate.

Bridges - Interesting

Remember all that jazz about the bridge sufficiency ratings? Big headlines in the paper, then all of a sudden they disappeared due to a security risk that might be present in disclosing the ratings... Well, they are still here and you can find them all online for the state of VA at:

Chesapeake School Security - LobbyGuard

This is not a good idea. It just isn't. The idea of having every parent scan in their ID is ludicrous. Right now they only check it with Sex Offender list. What happens next? Do they add in the outstanding warrant list? The past due taxes list? The past due parking ticket list? What happens if a parent is a sex offender? If they are just bringing their child into school or coming in for a parent-teacher conference, will security come and get them? Will parents be deprived the right to be involved with their children's education because they are a sex offender. While I (just like anyone) want sex offenders to stay away from my children (when I have them), if another parent is a sex offender, they should not be kept out of their child's life. If they made a bad decision before they had children, served their time, and now they are productive members of society, why are they still punished. I think that at very least, these machines should be given a list of accepted legal guardians. If the person is a legal guardian of a child, the alarms should not go off. Of course this could be done with just an administrative assistant in an office. Many private schools already do this. They have a list for every child of the people that are authorized to pick up each child. If a child is picked up, the person has to stop by the office and show an ID. They are then compared to the list of accepted persons. This is alot more productive when combined with a security guard. If the parent is a sex offeder and these alerts call security to the person, how is that going to affect the child? Especially if the child did not know beforehand. What if the student is the sex offender? This is a possibility in High School. Why is it that it is only the parents that get screened? The children are more likely to be injured at the hand of another student than an outside coming into the building
And remember... This coming from the City who doesn't even screen its administration. (as a refresher; the GBHS vice principal that allegedly killed his wife - the school system had no current address for him, etc)


Why is it that most of our bridges that were built in the 1930s and 40s are becoming deficient and there is no money to fix them? Its not like all of a sudden we woke up one morning and *gasp* all of a sudden this bridge is 75 years old. This money should have been set aside years ago. I think that each bridge built should have a trust fund set up at the time of construction. Factor $5 million into the original cost and put that $5 million into this trust fund. At first, when the bridge is new and requires little maintenance, this money would just grow on interest. Then, as work is required, this money will already be there and we won't have to wait for the State to do anything. Furthermore, if there are tolls collect on this bridge, the toll money should be put into this fund and all expenses can come out of the fund.
The Math: If you start with $5 million dollars, you anticipate a 1% return, and you deposit a meager $200,000 annually, you will have over $278 million after 75 years, well enough to built a replacement. If you can up the annual deposit (paid via tolls) to $500,000, the total after only 50 years in nearly $300 million. If you can make it 75 years for the lifespan of the bridge, the $679 million available at the end will be more than sufficient to build a DAMN fine bridge.
Do this for each and every bridge we build from now on and we will never have a bridge problem again. We can also make it a felony for any lawmaker who attempts to dip in for other projects. Perhaps we can require an E-Z Pass in every new vehicle as well so that in the future we will not need to stop for tolls.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chesapeake - Bottleneck Planned?

I looking at the master transportation plan for the previous post, I noticed that Chesapeake actually has a bottleneck planned. Its hard to see from this image but if you click on it and go to page four of the document you can see it better:
Now if you look closely, the Chesapeake Expressway is supposed to be expanded to and 8-lane highway. Then, as it crosses Mount Pleasant, it becomes a 6-lane Highway only to become an 8-lane Arterial after the toll plaza. What's up with this planned bottleneck? If traffic increases as is expected, they would not only need to slow for the toll but then have to merge, causing even greater backup.

The Southeastern Parkway

I am here to clarify why I am against the Southeastern Parkway.
First, this has been 'in planning' for nearly 30 years. 30 years ago it was no more than a pipe dream allegedly created to ease future congestion. Great, that sounds like logical planning. Then, however, the city decided not to wait and to build large scale developments without the parkway (necessary infrastructure). Things such as Corporate Landing and residential communities so far away from the highway with little infrastructure near them represent BAD planning. They should never have been built. The Parkway is expected to cost upwards of $1 billion and currently has $0 funded. Improved mass transportation would do better to alleviate congestion. With gas prices always on the rise, people have decreased the amount they drive. In fact, the main source of revenue for this project (The Federal Highway Trust Fund), is set to run out of money this month because fuel consumption has dropped so dramatically that the gas tax cannot refill the Fund. This is not caused by more fuel efficient cars, but by people actually driving less.
Yes, I agree that there is congestion out there. However, I do not want my tax money to fund a project for a declining activity. I would much rather have my tax money spent on progressive ideas, such as mass transit or car pooling programs. Not to mention, for the most part it is still farmlands, however, this freeway is set to cut through at least one neighborhood. How would those residents feel, knowing that their homes have to be torn down so that you can get to your home quicker? Is that right? The residents in this region need to work together to solve our problems not against one another for self-serving causes. Not to mention that the connection point in Chesapeake, the Expressway, is already heavily congested in the morning commute, heading into Norfolk. An additional 4 lanes of traffic to this area will only lead to gridlock.
The $1 billion cost of this project could build nearly 30 miles of light rail if you use the cost-per-mile of Norfolk! All another highway would do is temporarily relieve congestion. It would not be complete for another 30 years and by then it would be largely useless because most people would have moved closer to the infrastructure that they need. A city's job is not to cater to the needs of each citizen but to cater to the needs of the city as a whole. The future of Virginia Beach is centered around the Virginia Beach Blvd-I264-Norfolk Southern Corridor. Without focusing on that, the city will die. I understand that the people in the middle area of VA Beach want easy access to a highway. Wouldn't it be nice to pull out of your driveway directly onto the highway? Reality check - The time and money to be spent on this project makes it not worth it.

Good Job Norfolk, Newport News!

Congratulations to Norfolk and Newport News for being named on the list of Playful Cities. Although I could not find information about Norfolk, I did find the reason Newport News was named. Taken right from the KaBoom! website:
The Play Committee in Newport News, Va. is working with the Newport News Commission on Youth to include play priorities in their 5-year strategic plan. One of the initiatives is to create a map with both playspaces and the public transportation system, encouraging those youth who use the public transit system for free to engage in more unstructured play. The city also is planning to relocate an under-used play structure to a high-traffic community center.
Good job Newport News and great ideas! Sounds like ideas that could serve the rest of Hampton Roads as well.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Virginia Beach Open House on Transit

Overall, I was impressed by the Virginia Beach Open House on Transit. With the exception of still having the Southeastern Parkway on the plan, Everything else seemed very logical. They have acknowledged the fact that the bus system in Virginia Beach is terrible. The city staff seem to be actually committed to delivering Light Rail to the Beach. I think that for the most part, this appears to be because none of the Transportation Planning people are actually from this area. This is not a bad thing, in fact it is a plus because they are not so deeply emotionally attached to all of the petty reasons that have obstructed progress in the past. I spent alot of time talking to the Comprehensive Plan Coordinator, Tom Pauls. I thoroughly enjoyed this and found him to be both knowledgeable and committed. He thought of Virginia Beach not only as a city but as part of a region. Although we disagreed on the Southeastern Parkway, I think that he is definitely the man for the job as far as the upcoming Comprehensive Plan is concerned. I feel confident (as long as the Virginia Beach City Council doesn't meddle in it) that the plan will be a great leap forward for Virginia Beach. I was, speaking of city council, suprised that multiple city council members failed to appear, including the mayor, Meyera Oberndorf. They apparently, according to Councilman Uhrin, had election-related activities to attend. I would have thought that something like a meeting on the FUTURE OF VIRGINIA BEACH would have been important enough to qualify as important in an election year, but apparently not. It is more important for funding contributors to spend time with the mayor and company than the citizens of Virginia Beach.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Virginian Pilot Editors

I really have to wonder if the Virginian Pilot editors really know what their job is. Take this article for example. I will copy the entire article here in case they remove it from their site.



Police are investigating a shooting in the College Park area that they believe may have been gang related.

Around 8:15 p.m., police responsed to the intersection of College Park Boulevard and Edenham Court, said police spokeswoman Rene Ball. Ball said police discovered one shooting victim at the scene, suffering from superficial views. The victim was transported to a local hospital.

A second shooting victim was subsequently discovered at another local hospital.

Ball said neither victim was cooperative with police. However, she said a white Ford Escort was tied to the crime scene. Police stopped a vehicle matching the description a short time later.

Three people in the car were taken into custody, Ball said, and she said two will be charged with malicious wounding. Ball said one is a juvenile, one an adult.

Ball said the shooting is "possibly gang related."

John Warren, (757) 446-2309,

Notice anything wrong? I want to know how the men were "suffering from [their] superficial views." Did they just get the wrong ideas?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Planned Mass Transit

Surprisingly, even though Chesapeake and Virginia Beach have shunned the concept of mass transit in the past, they both have transit plans in their Comprehensive Plan. Virginia Beach's, of course, includes the current Norfolk Southern line all the way to Birdneck Rd. Chesapeake's, which intrigued me, includes two rail lines designated for mass transit. Their updated Master Plan even titles them as 'light rail.' Of the two designated corridors, one goes down the city line between the Shipyard and St Julian and continues all the way to the regional airport and beyond. The other corridor takes the rail line east of the Expressway and goes all the way to NC and beyond. Chesapeake's light rail study, which finished in 2003, decided that at the time, light rail probably would not work and it suggested that the city make an effort to increase density along the proposed lines. I'm not sure if anything has been done yet to accomplish these goals but at least its a start.

Purple=Current Norfolk Light Rail
Green=Proposed Naval Base Extension
Red=Virginia Beach Comprehensive Plan
Blue=Chesapeake Comprehensive Plan

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Just had to put this video on here. It is the security camera that caught the Maxima trying to jump the Gilmerton Bridge and missing. No particular reason or thoughts on it, just funny.Push play and watch the whole thing

Ryan Frederick

I really don't like stories where the police seem like the bad guys. Most of them are excellent cops that do excellent things. Occasionally, however, you get a few (or a department) that seems to think with something other than their heads. Case in point: City of Chesapeake V. Ryan Frederick.
Everyone has heard the news stories and speculation about what happened. Wednesday, however, the Chesapeake Police finally outlined their case.
First the police claim that Frederick's garage was broken into days before the shooting took place. During this robbery, they claim, burglars took half of the marijuana that was inside. They then allege that Frederick contacted one of the robbers and told him, "I know the police are coming to my house. I know why they are coming to my house , and I have a plan for them, too." Thus comes my issue #1: If the police informant IS the robber, how credible is a thief that breaks into people's houses. Furthermore, how credible is he if he stole half of what police called a "significant ... growing operation?" He's certainly not going to destroy the drugs, or he would have left them for the Police to discover. He didn't turn them over to the police or we certainly would have heard about that already. Whats left for him to do but either smoke it or sell it? If its for personal use, then he'll be set for life, but I'm going to go ahead and say, he probably would sell it. Can we trust a police informant who is apparently a breaking-and-entering, drug-dealing theif? If the informant is not the robber, how do we know what frederick said to the robber if he did indeed call him?
#2 If Frederick "had a plan for [the cops] too," wouldn't it have been more significant than what he had? I would have thought something more substantial like an assault weapon of some sort would have been used.
#3 Police claim that after the burglary, Frederick removed the rest of the plants. At they time of the raid, they seized grow lights, tubs containing traces of marijuana, and magazines such as "Marijuana Horticulture." You mean to tell me that while Frederick was under surveillance, he managed to dispose of a half-garage full of live marijuana plants without the police seeing him? Furthermore, if he did dispose of that much weed, why would he leave the lights, tubs, and especially the magazines?
#4 The police 'clear up' the speculation of a .233 calibur shell that was found at the scene. They claim that the shell fell out of the pocket of a SWAT team member that arrived at the scene after the shooting. Wait. What? The Chesapeake Police ADMITTED TO CONTAMINATING THE CRIME SCENE and they still expect the people of Chesapeake and Hampton Roads to believe them?!? Why does SWAT carry spent shells around with them? If they carry those, how do we know they dont carry baggies of weed as well? They obviously were on something when they carried out this raid.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Good Job VA Beach

RE: "Plan's Goal: Students as Critical Thinkers" Virginian Pilot - 10 Sept

Kudos to Virginia Beach Public Schools. They are actually admitting that all the state SOLs are good for is minimum standard. Passing the SOLs does not actually mean that you are top of your class. They just mean you that you can take a test and pass with proficiency. Virginia Beach is recognizing this and is actually creating a plan that would teach *gasp* critical thinking in schools. Perhaps the rest of Hampton Roads will follow suit and also teach students useful skills like how to think. I never had to take the SOLs because I went to a private school but I know that I am not a very good test-taker. I probably would have failed these tests had I taken them. That wouldn't mean I was an idiot, but in public schools I would have been held back. It wouldn't matter that I had a 12th grade reading level in the third grade or that I could comprehensively explain the concept of global warming, causes and solutions, in the 2nd. I knew what nuclear energy was and I could explain to you how it was produced. None of that would have been good enough for the state, however, because if I failed the SOL, I would have been held back. One day, the rest of the country may figure this out, but I can tell you know: if ALL you can do is pass an SOL then that is all you are when you go to the 'real world', S*** Out of Luck.

Bay Oaks Park

Finally, the end may be here. After years of fights, hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent fighting against the taxpayers; a solution is in sight. The city has proposed cutting the property in half. The west half will become park and the east half will be houses. This seems to be reasonable, since the east half already has some houses built on it. It also has the support of both the City Council AND the Bay Oaks Park Committee. I think that this plan is a good move forward, as long as the houses constructed fit into the area. This means moderate sized homes with front porches and windows, not gargantuan vinyl monstrosities that you might find elsewhere. This is the only thing that bothers me, because nowhere have I heard exactly what will be built there. Only time will tell.

View Larger Map
Green designated where the Bay Oaks Prak will be located, Red will be development.

One More building

At Tuesday's City Council Meeting , the council approved a new project for the Fort Norfolk section of the city, across from the Medical Complex. This building is going to be a great addition to that area. The Fort Norfolk area is PRIME real estate right now, and I am not sure why other building projects have not chose to use it. A third of this area is no more than a field. That percentage goes to at least half if you include parking lots. It is in a great place in terms of transportation, as well. This is the beginning of the light rail line. Any office complex would have easy access for employee from as far away as Virginia Beach, their commute time being half of what it would be. This property has spectacular views of the water, Portsmouth, and Downtown Norfolk. Perhaps instead of tearing down more buildings Downtown, developers can look towards Fort Norfolk's already clear expansive land just waiting to be developed.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The end of Suburbia?

Could it be? The end of Suburbia in Virginia Beach? The Virginian pilot reports that since the number of available acres for development is decreasing in the city's North half, the city's planning department is being forced to rethink there future. They say that there is a greater chance of trying to increase the density around places such as the interstates, raising the possibility of more mixed use developments and parking garages. This upcoming review will also be a great staging ground for the case for light rail in Virginia beach.
Perhaps this is the beginning of a new, changed Virginia Beach. Up until this point it seemed to be no more than an expensive version of Sim City, with some kid clicking away at the city's future. Maybe some reality and rational thought will be good for the city and the region for that matter. I think that if Virginia Beach can get onto the light rail wave, then the rest of the region will also work to get connected.
While this new series of open forums appears to be the face of a new Virginia Beach, it also appears to be only an act. There is no mention of any of this on, the city's government website. You have to search for "comprehensive plan open houses" to find anything. I would think that since this immediately affects over 400,000 people, that they could afford a link on the main page. For those of you interested, however, click here.

NOTE: For those of you who don't realize and wonder why half the city is still rural and they are complaining of a lack of space, the City of Virginia Beach is divided in the middle by what they call the Green Line. This line divides suburban from rural and was created in an effort to preserve the many farms in the Southern section of the city.

Virginia Beach Green Line

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Chesapeake Trial

Usually it is the defendant that wants a trial moved for a less biased jurisdiction, not the prosecution. If trials were moved merely because the crime has gotten the attention of the press, it would get out of hand quick. The only reason that it got the attention that it did was because Chesapeake Police were less than forthcoming about what actually happened. Ryan Frederick's story actually stayed the same, the Police's story is the one that changed. That is what has led to speculation about the case (not the media's fault for once). I say let the man face his jury in Chesapeake. The judge cannot allow the city to move its trial for the sole reason as that it would benefit their case. That's wrong. If they truly have the evidence that they need to show that he is guilty, then it doesn't matter where the trial takes place.

Speaking of Towers...

According to the Virginian Pilot, the Granby tower developer Buddy Gadams is still looking for financing and has not given up. Unfortunately, until financing is secured, the lot will remain vacant. Since this is the case, the city is going to make Gadams clean up the lot and reopen the roads and sidewalks. This certainly will help the businesses in that area until further progress is ready to be made on the tower.

Hot off the Press!

I emailed the city about the Norfolk Hotel and Conference Center project and here is the reply:

Thank you for your interest in the Norfolk Westin Hotel and Conference Center project. To give you a little history, you are indeed correct that it was a Hilton project to be developed by RLJ Development based in Baltimore. However, as the credit and financial and credit markets rapidly constricted late last summer RLJ unexpectedly withdrew from the project. I am confident that you are aware these difficulties have continued in financial and credit markets from that point on and even until today.
Fortunately, the City was able to reach an agreement with LTD Management, Fulco Development (a former development partner with RLJ who wished to continue with the project) and another strong Norfolk development company, Robinson Development. Once this new partnership was created (named the Norfolk Hotel Alliance), the City and our new partners needed to unwind RLJ's involvement, move to secure the services of a new architectural design team, and ultimately secure a commitment from Starwood Hotels and Resorts, the parent company of Westin Hotels. All of these steps have been successfully completed and the project's design in well underway, however, It was decided between the city officials and developers that it would be more prudent to go forward with 100% construction drawings prior to initiating any construction on the site. It is anticipated that the design documents will be completed by late winter, with construction beginning in the spring. Construction is to be completed in early 2011.
Although, the City would have rather not have had the setback that was created by RLJ Development's decision to withdraw from the project we frankly feel that we now have a stronger locally based partner that will ensure an even better project. Not only is the Westin brand viewed as a higher tiered full service product, the hotel has now grown in both height and the number of rooms and suites it will contain.

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