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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


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.
  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] 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.

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