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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

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 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]

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.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Gangs in Hampton Roads

Today in the Virginian Pilot, they had an article about gangs in Norfolk and Portsmouth. They talk about violence in the high schools in Norfolk and Portsmouth. Yes, gangs are a problem in Norfolk and Portsmouth. We are, however, working on fixing the problem. We have multiple programs to fight gans not only in our schools, but on the streets. What I did not like about the article was that it failed to mention Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. Most people know that Virginia Beach has gangs, but few realize to what extent. Green Run isn't called 'Gang Run' for nothing. Chesapeake is another thing. For some reason, people seem to believe that Chesapeake has the best schools in the area. In most cases, Chesapeake schools are alot like Norfolk's. In fact, Chesapeake Public Schools has a PowerPoint on gang recognition. They have grafitti pictures that are all taken in Chesapeake. In fact, the Superintendent of the schools is on the video and says that gangs have infiltrated every high school and middle school in Chesapeake and signs have shown up in elementary schools. Gangs are a major problem in ALL Hampton Roads schools and people need to see that. Local cities need to work together to combat this. When gangs cross city lines, the gang units of the police can not afford to stop at the line.

After Bounty Hunter Bloods (red BHB) got taken down by the authorities, the Gangster Disciples (5-point star w/trident and 'GD') took over.
(Picture taken near Oak Grove Lake Park, in Chesapeake, in a pedestrian tunnel. Tunnel has since been repainted by the city and has already been re-grafittied)

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