Bacon Bits: As Virginia Slowly Unravels

Yes, it’s OK to panic. Norfolk Southern Corp., the beneficiary of local incentives a year or two ago when it moved jobs from Roanoke to Norfolk, now is said to be close to announcing the relocation of its headquarters to Atlanta.  “A deal has already been struck,” Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander told the Virginian-Pilot. It appears that a decision is “going to be made and made soon.”

This will be a huge morale blow to Hampton Roads. Norfolk Southern is one of only two Fortune 500 company in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach side of the metropolitan area. (The other is Dollar Tree. Huntington Ingalls is located north of the James River.) Let’s hope the City of Norfolk can claw back every dime it gave away.

Spend money to make money? The Washington Metro’s executive and board leadership are in a quandary on how to reverse the decline in ridership. The Washington Post quotes an internal study that proffers some answers: Increase the frequency of service and extend hours, thus reversing the decline in so-called “super riders” who use the heavy rail service 40 or more times per month. Metro has cut back its service in recent years as its financial situation has deteriorated.

But the WaPo article is unclear about whether a restoration of service would pay for itself. The article quotes a lot of numbers, but none answer the essential question of whether the ridership revenue generated would equal or exceed the added expense — a critical issue, one would think, for an organization that (a) operates at a loss, and (b) still faces unfunded capital needs and pension liabilities.

Is it “stop and frisk”  or “investigative detention?” The latest uproar in the People’s Republic of Charlottesville is over the alleged police practice of stop-and-frisk, which allegedly disproportionately targets minorities. Roiling the waters even more, Charlottesville’s Police Chief RaShall Brackney said yesterday that data on the city’s policy — whatever you call it — will be unavailable until it is extracted from a new software system, reports the Daily Progress.

Community activists note that African-Americans made up 122 of the 173 people stopped for what the police calls “investigative detention.” Fifty-five of the stops happened after police were dispatched to an area, whereas 118 of those stops were officer-initiated.

Brackney, who is female and black, disputed the stop-and-frisk label. “We don’t do stop and frisk,” she said. “We do either a mere encounter or we engage a person [in] which we may have a warrantless search and seizure. I will not, I will not, label what we do based on some national trends or what New York has decided to do.”

Boomergeddon watch: From Government Executive: The United States Postal Service retirement health fund will run out of money in 12 years if Congress does not act. Approximately 500,000 retirees rely upon the program. The Postal Service has missed $38 billion in required prefunding payments into the retiree health fund since 2010. Either way, someone is screwed. Either postal retirees see major cuts to their pensions or the taxpayers pick up the multibillion-dollar tab.

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6 responses to “Bacon Bits: As Virginia Slowly Unravels

  1. I live in metro Atlanta. Is Norfolk/Southern headquarters moving to the Democrat area or the Republican part of Atlanta? Atlanta has a Blue center while the Metro is heavily Red.

    • I have no inside knowledge, only informed speculation. I predict that Norfolk Southern will move to the Blue center — not because it is blue, per se, but because the metropolitan core has the “walkable urbanism” that attracts the kind of educated young employees that NS wants to recruit and retain.

  2. Devastating at many levels, the move of Norfolk-Southern.

  3. WMATA must improve service and safety and reduce its operating costs. But many enterprises, both public and private, have faced this situation before. Some make it, while others don’t.

    It’s compensation, including pensions, is not sustainable. And it needs to reduce costs for bus operations. While I think there is a need to run some basic service on key routes both early and late, Metro Bus cannot be all things to all people. Note that local jurisdictions on both sides of the River use their own and less expensive bus operations instead of Metro Bus.

    WMATA has been run as a jobs program with high wages and very generous benefits. It needs to morph itself into something that is less costly and produces more.

  4. Page 3 of the June 2018 Fairfax County Taxpayer Alliance bulletin has a good analysis and forecast of the downward spiral of Washington’s Metro system and WMATA. See http://www.fcta.org/Pubs/Bulletins/2018-06.pdf.

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