commonwealth of virginia, community development, economic development

 Volume 02 • Issue 33 October 20, 2003 



Demand-Side Economics


The government remedy for traffic congestion is to increase supply by building more roads. Craig Franklin's solution is to use real-time traffic data to manage demand.



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The Conventional Wisdom says the Common-

wealth faces shortfalls in transportation funding over the next 20 years amounting to tens of billions of dollars. Without new sources of revenue, Virginians will endure a dystopic future of overloaded highways, chronic traffic congestion, lost productivity and grueling, high-stress commutes. But, then, the Conventional Wisdom never reckoned on Craig Franklin or the extraordinary creativity of free markets.


Franklin, CEO of Leesburg-based Trichord Incorporated, is bringing the information technology revolution to Virginia’s roads and highways, a realm not normally known for a frantic pace of innovation. He modestly refers to himself as a “value added reseller” of the FAS-1 traffic sensor manufactured by another Northern Virginia company, SmarTek Systems in Woodbridge. FAS-1, says Franklin, provides state-of-the-art accoustic technology to calculate the number and speed of vehicles in multiple lanes of traffic. Franklin powers these sensors with solar collectors and hitches them to wireless technology to transmit real-time traffic data to his servers.


The integration of technologies is cool. But what's truly revolutionary is what Franklin does with the information. In years past, traffic data has sat in data vaults accessible only to the Virginia Department of Transportation. But Franklin is pumping it out to businesses and commuters, which can use it to make better-informed decisions on where and when to drive. He can deliver real-time traffic data over the Internet -- see WTOP TV's traffic feature -- or to your cell phone. He can tell commuters how long it will take them to drive down Interstate 95. He can alert corporate fleet managers when congestion is clogging up traffic along key routes.


Trichord's information services are to VDOT's primitive roadside traffic signs what Interstate highways are to dirt roads. By putting detailed and actionable information into the hands of thousands of Virginia commuters before they hop into their cars and commit themselves to particular routes at particular times, Craig Franklin represents the vanguard of a movement that will empower motorists and businesses to reshape the demand for highway transportation. Inevitably, planners will have to re-think policies predicated on the notion that the thirst for mobility can be addressed only by adding more supply -- more roads, more buses, more mass transit, all requiring billions of dollars of more taxes.

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Koelemay's Kosmos



The pronunciation guide in a dictionary shows just how difficult security is to define and maintain. But rest assured that Virginians are on the case.


Look up the word “security” in a dictionary and you get a couple of definitions that date back to the 15th century. Security refers to “the quality or state of being secure” as in freedom from danger, fear or anxiety. It suggests safety, even protection against attack, crime, sabotage or escape. The definition centuries ago might have applied to daggers and longbows, witches and the plague, but now it covers downed electrical lines during a hurricane, viruses set loose in computer networks and planes purposely flown into buildings. Security today encompasses not just physical arrangements or information, but value judgments about threats, intent, likelihood and capabilities.

With Gov. Mark R. Warner keynoting the fourth annual “Networked Economy Summit” October 20 at George Mason University (GMU), Virginia is focusing on strengthening network security in order to spur global economic growth. Concerns about security, in fact, have become a growth industry and Virginians can take some comfort knowing that their fellow citizens are huddling together in lots of new ways to tackle the problem and, perhaps, reap economic rewards.

Northern Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, R-11, for example, recently championed U.S. House of Representatives action on H.R. 3519, the “Government Network Security Act.” Working from his chairmanship of the House Government Reform Committee with ranking Democrat Henry Waxman, D-30, of California, Davis proposed that federal executive departments and agencies protect government computer and information from risks posed by peer-to-peer file sharing programs, those Internet applications best known for facilitating direct sharing of music files or video games.  

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Patrick McSweeney

Baliles Gets It Wrong Again

Virginians distrust government, the former governor says, because agencies have been starved of funds -- in other words because Virginians aren't taxed enough.


Delivering the keynote speech at a recent conference on regional issues in Hampton Roads, former Gov. Gerald L. Baliles recently offered a remarkable explanation for the resounding defeat of the 2002 ballot measure he supported to raise the sales tax rate in Hampton Roads. He argued that the voters’ distrust of government contributed to their rejection of the tax hike and that their distrust had developed because government agencies had been “starved” of tax funds.


Now Baliles, who left office in 1990, is a serious man, and he didn’t make that statement in jest. But it’s hard not to laugh. Did he really mean that voters didn’t trust government enough to give it more of their tax dollars because it hadn’t already been getting enough of their tax dollars?


Public opinion surveys last year clearly contradict the former governor’s conclusion. Voters overwhelmingly believed that elected officials could not be trusted to do what they had promised with tax revenues. Voters certainly weren’t distrustful of government because it had taken too little of their money. State spending has not declined, but actually increased, in each of the last 10 years.

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Patrick McSweeney

Fraying at the Edges

Mark Warner’s rural strategy helped get him elected governor, but "tax reform" that favors rural communities may alienate Northern Virginia. 


Shortly after the 2001 election, this writer commented on the success of Mark Warner’s rural strategy in contributing significantly to his victory in the gubernatorial contest. The unfocused campaign of Warner’s opponent, Mark Earley, allowed Warner to play the good ol’ boy in ads that featured bluegrass music and a dressed-down Warner doing everything to play the part except spit tobacco juice and sip moonshine.


The fall-off in rural votes for the GOP’s gubernatorial candidate from the 1993 election to the 2001 election was dramatic. It contributed more than any other factor to Earley’s defeat.


Warner was hailed as a political innovator, but the strategy had been used by other Democrats, notably Chuck Robb and Doug Wilder, in gubernatorial election campaigns during the 1980s. George Allen and Jim Gilmore reclaimed the “bubba” vote for the GOP during the 1990s.

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Rebel with a Cause

Warner vs. Allen...

Earlier this month I went fishing. Look what the boy landed!


Like a true native born Southern boy, I baited the hooked and tossed out the line into the Warner vs. Allen 2006 Senate election pond. Then, I laid back, had a few brews, closed my eyes until a pull on the line rocked me back.

Sure enough, I reeled in the Big One: some real, honest-to-goodness poll numbers. Several sources -- admittedly friends of the governor - told me that Warner is the most popular governor in modern Virginia history, save perhaps for the last six months of Chuck Robb's term when the former Senator was Governor and polled above 80 percent on the popularity meter.

Naturally, I checked with a couple of sources not as friendly to the governor who had seen some other polling numbers from different parts of the state. They hemmed and hawed but basically confirmed it. However, they quickly spun the poll numbers as "soft," a term used in political circles to indicate support based on a nice-guy image, not on the "hard" data of support for an individual on an ideological or specific issue/performance measure.

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The Shape of the Future

The Myths that Blind Us


To solve many the most pressing problems of contemporary society, citizens must abandon fallacious beliefs that guide their everyday actions and perpetuate dysfunctional human settlement patterns.


This is the third of three Special Reports addressing contemporary human settlement patterns. The first two reports discussed how settlement patterns have become dysfunctional, causing some of the most pressing problems our society faces today.(1)


Overpowering forces are ruining the vitality of Urbansides and are eroding and destroying the Countryside. In Part I ("Wild Abandonment," September 8, 2003), we outlined the forces that are thwarting promising components of Urbansides from evolving into high-value, high-quality places. In Part II ("Scatteration," Sept. 25, 2003), we illuminated the anatomy and impact of scattering urban land uses across the Countryside landscape.


Although citizens cannot always articulate their grievances, they identify the same problems in opinion poll after opinion poll:


·         Congested and failing transport systems;


·         Lack of affordable housing;


·         Erosion of economic prosperity for a growing segment of the population;


·         Fragile and aging infrastructure;


·         Deteriorating personal safety and community security;


·         Escalating costs and deteriorating quality of education, healthcare and other public and private services;


·         Loss of historic resources, erosion of the Countryside and degradation of the environmental quality;

  •  Lack of accessible recreation and amenity, including open space.

As documented in The Shape of the Future, these problems are part of the same systemic crisis.                                          More >>



No Good  Deed Goes Unpunished

Gliding on Ice 


Jerry Baliles makes the job of being an ex-governor look easy. When's he's not running Hunton & Williams' international legal practice, he's reshaping the airline industry or transforming education in Patrick County.


Some Virginia governors just come and go. Some stumble. Some stride. Some have impact. Some leave legacies. Some just leave. And then there are the rare ones, those who stride with such assurance, such ease and grace, that they make all of it — the impact, the legacy, all of it — look easy.


Sometimes being governor looks easier than being ex-governor. It seems that stride, that pitch, that groove is hard to find again, even if you had it.


Gerald L. Baliles always had it and has never lost it. 


Baliles followed, really, an unremarkable route to the governorship: House of Delegates (1976-1982); Attorney General for one term (1982-1985) and then the Big House (1986-1990). And then he glided onto the ice of ex-governorship.


He travels the world as head of the international practice group at Hunton and Williams. His counsel is sought by folks in high places. His public utterances — most recently his proposal to downsize the House of Delegates -- still stir up the editorial writers from one end of the state to the other, and in this particular case, former state Republican Party Chairman Patrick McSweeney.  (See McSweeney’s column, "Baliles Gets it Wrong Again," October 20, 2003)  

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Everything is On the Table

Dress Rehearsal


Think of Hurricane Isabel as a trial run for a possible terrorist attack. The storm exposed significant flaws in Virginia’s disaster-response systems.

During the recent unpleasantness created by Mother Nature, yours trulies had the opportunity to serve as American Red Cross volunteers. We spent the night of the hurricane in a shelter as ARC liaisons with the Henrico County shelter-management team, 

coordinating meals, sleeping arrangements (wrestling mats on the gym floor) and other needs. The next day we helped conduct a preliminary damage assessment in Hanover County.


On our travels throughout eastern Hanover, we saw tremendous evidence of the beneficence of the Deity, considering the circumstances. We must have catalogued a thousand trees that fell away from the homes and buildings they stood next to, and another thousand that missed by only a few feet. Many observers of hurricanes, tornadoes and other examples of nature's nastiness over the years have commented on their apparent capriciousness. Folks, it could have been worse, a lot worse.


Our experiences also got us to wondering: Are Virginia's disaster-response systems up to the task of coping with a terrorist attack? After 9-11-01, anyone who doesn’t consider a terrible surprise from the bad guys a very real possibility is out to lunch and, hopefully, won’t bother to come back.

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Pundits and Gov. Warner Scoff at Waste; Baseball Very Bad for Me; Pay No Attention to that Surplus; Ghost Fleet Profiteering; Tech Defender Strikes Back; Best Line of the Week.


Koelemay's Kosmos


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Rebel with a Cause


No Good Deed Goes Unpunished


The Shape of the Future


Everything is On the Table


Readers Respond


Point-Counterpoint on the Appalachian School of Law: Jackson W. White and J. Todd Ross respond to last week's column, "Law Schools and Baseball Stadiums" -- and Bacon responds to them.


Introducing a new feature:

Nice & Curious Questions


In 1691, a group of English wits calling themselves the Athenian Society founded a publication entitled, "The Athenian Gazette or Causical Mercury, Resolving All the Most Nice and Curious Questions proposed by the Ingenious." The editors accepted questions posed by readers on any and all topics, and sought the most ingenious answers.


Inspired by their example, Edwin S. Clay III, president-elect of the Virginia Library Association and Director of the Fairfax County Public Library for the past 20 years, will offer an occasional column on Virginia facts that may require "ingenious answers" of the type favored by those 17th-century wags.


Today's curious question: Where, Exactly, is the Center of Virginia?



New on the Web


The Small Business Survival Committee's Small Business Survival Index 2003 ranks Virginia 14th in the United States for a policy climate favorable to small business and entrepreneurship. The index is based primarily on the level of taxes, the cost of workers comp and health care, electric rates, crime rates -- and the "number of bureaucrats."


Wage Levels

in Hampton Roads

The current Issue of Applied Research in Economic Development has published a paper examining the impact of business recruitment on general wage levels in Hampton Roads. See "Demonstrating the Wage Impact of New Jobs on a Regional Economy" (PDF file, p. 17) by John Lombard, John Whaley and Sean LaCroix.



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