The Empire Strikes Back

The GOP compromise package for transportation collapsed yesterday when the Axis of Taxes… er, I meant the Senate Finance Committee… endorsed a competing road-funding mechanism that is certain to get voted down in the House of Delegates. Working with Senate Democrats, Senate Finance Chair John H. Chichester, R-Northumberland, engineered a statewide gasoline tax instead.

Writing in the Washington Post, Amy Gardner and Tim Craig summed up the Senate logic with this quote from Sen. Janet D. Howell, D-Fairfax:

A reasonable plan does not take money from public education, higher education, health care and public safety. Especially, it doesn’t take money from our sick and our disabled neighbors.

Yeah, it’s really tragic how the state has been starving Virginia’s widows and orphans. The state budget is only 20 percent higher this biennium than the previous one. Pardon me while I barf.

Although the Senate acted for entirely wrong reasons — the idea that taking surplus General Fund revenues would rip off the sick and disable is ludicrous — the end result will be positive if it collapses the road-funding compromise crafted by Senate-House Republicans. Here’s the real reason why that dog’s breakfast of tax increases and General Fund revenues was so bad: It would, in effect, subsidize the most profligate drivers and punish those who walk, bicycle, carpool, telecommute, take the bus or ride the rails. Virginia can never solve traffic congestion if it makes the cost of building more roads cost-free to the drivers!

Here’s what worries me. The GOP compromise does contain other very useful pieces of legislation for reforming VDOT and land use. These bills represent a good start on the long march toward meaningful reform of our broken transportation system. It would be a darn shame if the Senate kills these too. We shall see…

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66 responses to “The Empire Strikes Back”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    ONE potential taxpayer view of this that the Repubs need to be paying attention to.

    Some folks will say that what the Republicans are doing is the same thing as the Dems but in a back-door way that is dishonest and hypocritical.

    Did I say this?

    Yes.. only to point it out as something that probably will be said in the Fall elections against Republicans incumbents in a backdrop of no approved Transportation Plan.

    Personally, I think this could be very bad Karma for Republicans in NoVa and HR.

    Or am I seeing this wrong?

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Jim Bacon:

    I think your comments about last night’s Senate Finance Committee deliberations are unfair to the
    driving public and the less abled
    in Virginia.

    I would encourage you to read The
    Virginian-Pilot editorial this
    morning that explains how the plan
    approved by the Senate Fiance Committee yesterday is a better, more dependable source of funds to
    meet our pressing transportation

    Jim, we have neglected adequately funding this important government service for more than 20 years. I
    think the Senate package is a good
    package for Virginia.

    The growth issues we need to resolve should be tackled in the
    next General Assembly session.

    But that needs to be done in public
    venues, not behind closed doors in
    secret meetings in posh hotels in
    downtown Richmond, as was the case
    for the so-called compromise deal
    you have blindly supported.

    A meaningful growth management plan
    for Virginia needs to be created by
    all of the stakeholders in that very important issue: local governments, business leaders and
    smart growth advocates.

    I think we can achieve all of this
    in the near term and we need continue public support for such


    Rodger Provo

  3. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Larry – the Pott-Chichester bill is yet one more raid on NoVA taxpayers. According to Senate Finance Committee data, Fairfax County pays 17% of the total state sales tax. Does anyone think that Fairfax County would receive anywhere near 17% of the proceeds from the sales tax collected on gasoline sales?

    If so, I have 1000 shares of a certain stock for sale at $10 a share. A real bargain folks!

    The question I have for the Janet Howells and Richard Salslaws is: Why won’t you support a plan that keeps 100% of all increased taxes and fees in NoVA and also gives us an opportunity to raid the General Fund, instead of just filling it up? Who do represent, Fairfax County citizens or Tim Kaine?

    Mark Warner’s tax increase cost Fairfax County taxpayers $107 M (net) in 2005. Fairfax County Public Schools received less than $14 M in new state aid from the higher taxes. Why are the NoVA Democrats trying to repeat this same fiasco?

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    TMT – I AGREE with YOU!

    I’m opposed to a statewide slush fund administered by a VDOT shell game.

    But what I’m speaking of is POLITICS.

    If you’re an average guy in NoVa and HR (not a wonk) who experiences relentless congestion everyday and (rightly or wrongly) thinks that more roads are needed and that VDOT is broke….

    When elections come in the FALL in NoVa/HR and Dem challengers say they VOTED FOR more money for transportation…. but the Republicans KILLED it….

    make sense?

    If YOU are the one that kills something… then you become the focus if no solutions end up on the table.

    Kaine might end up with a turn-over in the House over this…

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Rodger, You’re more than free to criticize my blog posts. But please do me the courtesy of reading them first.

    You referred to the GOP compromise deal that I “blindly supported.” In post after post after post, I have denounced the road-funding aspects of the GOP deal as a horror, a disaster and an abomination. In this very post, I said of the GOP deal: “It would, in effect, subsidize the most profligate drivers and punish those who walk, bicycle, carpool, telecommute, take the bus or ride the rails.”

    Have I been less than clear?

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’ll defend JB here.

    He, in my view, has tried to cover all perspectives and he has ENCOURAGED anyone to post with a different perspective – a true citizen forum.

    Roger needs to get away from blaming people.

    The concept of public dialogue is about ideas.

    Hate an idea.. show why but show respect for people if you don’t like their ideas.

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I need to correct myself.

    After going back and re-reading Roger’s post… he did not blame JB.

    So mea culpa, I regret the statement.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Jim Bacon, Larry Gross, etc.:

    I think all of you have failed to
    stand tall for good government in
    our state by not expressing your
    outrage at the Attorney General
    arranging secret meetings at a posh
    downtown Richmond hotel prior to the current General Assembly session to
    broker a so-called compromise package relative to our growth and
    transportation problems between the
    House of Delegates and Senate
    participants in that venture (3
    from each house).

    Such a process excluded the Governor, elected by Virginians to
    be the governor. It did not include GA Democrats. Nor did it
    include local governments, business
    leaders or smart growth advocates.

    It was a process established by the GOP to try to craft a package to get them a pass in the fall elections.

    It is package with legal issues,
    complicated issues for local
    governments, an unlikely outcome
    relative to solving our problems
    and an attempt to pass off to our
    local governments in Hampton Roads
    and the Northern Virginia the task
    of voting to raise certain taxes
    to meet our needs.

    I think the new Senate plan is a
    more honest attempt to tackle these
    problems. I am not blaming JB for
    this situation.


    Rodger Provo

  9. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    I was gone all week to CA and NoVa on business. Yet, I’m going to constrain my comments. I find that I can’t write much without expressing contempt for the Republican politicians pushing the Senate and the House plan.

    The plans for Hampton Roads that increase taxes, create unelected unaccountable Regional Government and actually ADD CONBGESTED miles when the projects are all done.

  10. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Rogder Let’s put some facts on the table. How much additional tax revenue would be generated from Fairfax County by the additional sales tax? How much of that revenue will come back to Fairfax County?

    Unless it’s 100%, please explain why it’s in the interests of Fairfax County to pay higher taxes that go somewhere else in the state? If we need transportation improvements in Fairfax County, why should we not impose taxes and fees that are spent only in the County?

    The Senate’s plan is just one more planned theft of NoVA’s money.

  11. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    The more I read Roger’s posts – the more I learn where he is coming form – he’s a pro-Democrat, pro-Chamber boy. Okay .. well, all voices are welcome.

    Well, maybe not by Roger, but by me anyway.

    As to Darth Taxchester – Earth to Taxchester – We, The People already told you No! Loud and clear in November 2002!

    The Chamber boys – you know the ‘voices’ Roger complains about that were excluding from AG GOP meetings? They called themselves the YES Campaign.

    They lost!

    Now we see Senator Taxchester is baaaack – in Hampton Roads we rejected a 1% sale tax hike for the same failed “package” of port authority and chamger boy pork highway projects and the same unaccountable regional authority to spend BILLIONS of our local tax funds.

    Nothing has changed – except this time Senator Taxchester is throwing in a gas tax hike too – you know, just to sweeten the pot so the local special interest lobbyists will have even MORE local tax dollars to buld the REJECT VPA so-called “3rd Crossing”

    It is Deja Vu all over again – just with MORE taxes thrown in.

  12. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    “It is only fair that some of the
    tax revenue generated by Northern
    Virginia be used to pay for the
    transportation needs in these poorer communities.”

    Rodger – the revenue that should be captured would be from the higher and additional rents from commercial office buildings in Fairfax County. The commercial real estate owners are reaping the major benefit from having more jobs in Fairfax County than there are county residents to fill them. Therefore, the General Assembly should authorize additional taxes on commercial real estate in NoVA to be used for transportation to get these non-resident workers to and from NoVA, specifically, Fairfax County.

    This would also be consistent with Ramsey Pricing principles, as I’ve argued previously. Finally, imposing higher real estate taxes on commercial property in NoVA would also provide an incentive for more commercial real estate growth in RoVA, which, in turn, would help reduce the need for everyone to drive north or east for work.

    If you would support this proposal, we might be in agreement. Would you support such a tax

    But there’s no benefit to the residents of Fairfax County to pay higher taxes to support the transportation needs of non-residents. We have our own needs in this county and our taxes are already too high to start another subsidy for RoVA.

  13. Groveton Avatar


    “The Washington Post recently published a story about how job
    growth in Fairfax County now rivals
    Washington DC.”.

    Yes – this article has been the source of spirited discussion on Baconsrebellion. It is under the blog entry entitled Fairfax Job Numbers.

    “Fairfax is the major employment center in Northern Virginia.”

    True but incomplete. Fairfax is actually the major employment center in the Washington Metro area (which includes, but is not limited to, Northern Virginia). In fact, the article implied (with respect to quality service jobs) that Fairfax is generating jobs more rapidly than most of the other recognized “high tech” areas of the country.

    “Millions of square feet of commercial and industrial space
    there supports a large workforce.’.

    True. That’s because Fairfax County has made economic growth a priority – just like Silicon Valley, Austin, TX., the Rt 128 corridor in Boston, etc.

    “Many of those employees are forced
    to seek housing in the outer suburbs because they can’t find
    affordable housing close to their

    Not true. This argument would imply that the people who live in Loudoun County (where residences > jobs) are relatively poor people who need the jobs in Fairfax but just can’t afford the housing. The facts dispute this. Loudoun County has the highest household income in the region – in fact, I believe they have the highest household income in the USA.

    The people who live in Loudoun and coimmute to Fairfax do so because that’s what they want to do. They can afford housing in Fairfax County – they just think they can live better in Loudoun and are willing to make the commute.

    “Fairfax County employees live in the West Virginia panhandle, out I-66 around Front Royal and on I-81 at Winchester, in Culpeper, down
    in Caroline County and even in King George County.”.

    Probably true to some extent. The real question is whether they live there because they can’t afford the housing in Fairfax County or because they want to live there.

    “It is only fair that some of the
    tax revenue generated by Northern
    Virginia be used to pay for the
    transportation needs in these poorer communities.”.

    Here we go again. A discussion of Fairfax County has “morphed” into a discussion of “Northern Virginia” – whatever that means.

    The article was about job growth in Fairfax County NOT in Northern Virginia NOT in the Washington Metropolitan Area. In fact, that was the point of the article.

    So, let’s reset to reality.

    You think it’s unfair of FAIRFAX COUNTY to fail to subsidize the transportation costs of the “poorer” counties. I guess that leaves Loudoun out since it is a richer county. Anyway ….

    We now get to the biggest logical flaw of your argument (which has many logical flaws) …

    Namely, that the citizens of Fairfax County aren’t already subsidizing the residents of the “poorer” counties. In fact, by any measure, we are heavily subsidizing you. Add up the taxes paid by the RESIDENTS of Fairfax County and compare it to the amount spent by the state in Fairfax County. What do you get?

    You just want a bigger subsidy.

    And … nobody is holding a gun to heads of your citizens telling them to work in Fairfax County. Maybe they ahould just get jobs in the county where they live …

    Oh wait – they can’t. The jobs aren’t there. The people and govenments in those areas aren’t competent enough to generate job growth sufficient for their own populations. So their people endure hardships to come work in Fairfax County. Let’s see … where have I heard this before. Oh yeah – from Mexico! The Mexican government is too incompetent to generate sufficient decent jobs for their people so their people risk life, limb and arrest to come to the US to work. You should be happy – your citizens only have to endure a long commute to escape the incompetence of your local governments.

    And finally …. let me nip one stupid argument in the bud …

    Fairfax County only generates job growth because of the Federal Government.

    If that were true, I’d expect to see the same levels of job growth in Montgomery County, MD, Prince George’s County, MD, the city of Washington DC and Arlington County, VA.

    Atone for the “Welfare State”? Maybe.

    Atone for the “Welfare Downstate”? Definitely.

    Please forward your apology for failure to generate jobs and participate in the global economy to Taxpayers@FairfaxCounty.Com.

  14. But that needs to be done in public
    venues, not behind closed doors in
    secret meetings in posh hotels in
    downtown Richmond, as was the case
    for the so-called compromise deal
    you have blindly supported.

    I don’t recall the gas tax plan being discussed, except through the media. It was not released publicly until Thursday’s finance committee meeting.
    How is this any different than the compromise bill?

  15. nova_middle_man Avatar

    To tag along notice in the new Senate Finance plan

    via Washington Post

    Allows local governments in Northern Virginia to raise money for regional projects through a 0.5 percent local sales tax (new grr no lessons learned from 2002?), increases in hotel (new) and car rental taxes (same), an increase in the grantor tax on real estate transactions to 40 cents per $100 (same), and an additional fee equal to 1 percent of a vehicle’s value the first time it is registered in a locality (in liu of drivers license fee).

    So in summary the commercial real esate tax disappears and instead we get a 1/2 percent sales tax.

    All of these long haul commuters buy most of their stuff in their home counties escaping the sales tax but they will get hit harder with the gas tax.

    So in theory then the gas tax should be used to improve the routes leading from fairfax to far flung counties and the sales tax should be used to reduce congestion in Fairfax county.

    Humm that kind of makes sense except that only 1/5 of the gas tax will be used in the original area. The other 4/5 will be funneled to the state and funded willynilly (This doesn’t solve the problem) and the long haul gas tax payers benefit from the improved congestion in Fairfax via the sales tax that they are not paying for.

    These bills are all going to get tweaked still.
    Oh and one slight tweak to Groveton Fairfax county does generate job growth because of the federal government lots of the tech startups support the feds directly or the big 5 contractors that support the feds

    Fairfax county decided to focus on general growth which lead to high tech sector. Montgomery County chose Bio which has less jobs related to the feds. MoCo also does a more balanced approach to growth. There was an article in the Washington Post about this also.

  16. nova_middle_man Avatar

    Heres the article again last paragraph mirros what is said on page 2

  17. Groveton Avatar


    In other words, Fairfax County focused on an area that generated more job growth than the area focused on by Montgomery County. Exactly – when it comes to job growth, Fairfax did the right thing.

    And what of the City of Washington, Price George’s County and Arlington County?

    Can Fairfax do a better job of meeting the job growth? Definitely – although I’d contend that what the county is doing is much better than what the people on this web site would have one believe.

    And finally … “The Senate Finance Committee plan allows local governments in Northern Virginia to raise money for regional projects through …”.

    How very kind of them. Hopefully, allowing us to tax ourselves in order to do what they have failed to do didn’t take too much time away from their tobacco farming and watching Hee Haw reruns.

  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Groveton – do you support higher taxes?

    Do you support higher taxes imposed on voters rather than letting then vote to have higher taxes?

    What would be a pure conservative approach to this?

    Would it be the HD approach?

  19. Groveton Avatar

    Do I support higher taxes?

    It depends on what the taxes will be used to accomplish and whether the current tax revenues are being spent efficiently.

    Right now, the taxes collected by the state of Virginia are not being spent efficiently. The taxes are being disproportionatley collected from some high economic growth counties in Nothern Virginia and disporportionately spent in other low economic growth counties “downstate”.

    This transfer of wealth is a subsidy, not an investment. The low growth areas have no cogent plan to increase growth. Despite being able to look at examples like Charlotte, NC and Jacksonville, FL these low growth Virginia counties elect to stymie growth in order to preserve their 19th century lifestyle.

    In this environment, I do not support higher taxes since I believe that will only result in a higher subsidy to those who choose not to grow.

    Instead, I favor a complete and total reallocation of tax collections and tax spend. I believe that all taxes collected by the state should be spent in the county in which those taxes were collected. All taxes. Not just gas taxes, not just road tolls – all revenues collected by the state.

    I believe that the residents of each county should be able to decide whether some of their money (and it is all THEIR MONEY) should be “invested” in areas outside of their county in order to promote ecomonic development (preferably balanced but unbalanced if that’s the only way to get economic development). Counties who want to spend more money than they collect in taxes will have to petition the citizens of the county where they hope to get the money.

  20. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Groveton: Friendly amendment? In many parts of Virginia, real estate taxes, as a percentage of average gross income (per capita), are way too low. Some areas, both rich and poor, impose relatively high real estate taxes. Others don’t.

    Before any part of Virginia goes to the state trough to feed, it should be required to impose local real estate taxes at some reasonable level. For fairness sake, let’s say that would be at a level equal to the percentage of average adjusted gross income, per capita, paid in real estate taxes by residents of Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Virginia Beach, and Richmond.

  21. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “I believe that all taxes collected by the state should be spent in the county in which those taxes were collected.”


    Also when you say counties that choose NOT to grow…

    are you speaking of poor counties who want to grow jobs and don’t have the things that business wants to locate there?

    How would you deal with counties that have to house those that work in NoVa?

    who gets the taxes – the county they live in?

  22. Ray Hyde Avatar

    EMR and Groveton are both right. People live in Loudoun because they prefer it to Fairfax. Also, the homes they buy there are, for the most part, not available in Fairfax, at any price.

    In addition to having the highest income in the nation, Loudoun also has a high per capita property valuation, so it isn’t entirely that they cannot afford homes in Fairfax, just not the ones they can get for the money.

    When we jump all over developers, we should remember that they sell their products to us, and we, in turn are enriched by them. It is not ONLY developers who benefit from growth.

    I think it is true that, by focusing on jobs creation, Fairfax is exporting their housing problem to other areas, not just affordable housing, but all housing. If it is true that residential does not pay its own way, then Fairfax may be shorting itself by having a lot of multifamily homes which probably are responsible for demand for more services and pay less per service that larger homes in Loudoun. If it is not true that homes don’t pay their own way, or that the payment is just funneled through local businesses, then Loudoun comes out ahead again, because those larger homes on larger lots pay more of their own costs, even after you include some reasonable costs for locational surcharges.

    Realistically Fairfax can do little to avoid the situation they are in, and Loudoun can do little about their situation either. But the sum of the two situations means we have to move a lot of people every day.

    We blame a lot of problems on long distance commuters, but if they all lived closer the answer would still be the same: congestion in the most congested areas. The only way to fix it is to design the areas to be less congested.

    Part of that design means using rail and transit in the areas that can support it, but it does not mean throwing out billions on bad transit ideas.

    Part of that design means having places where people can walk, and will want to. However, the walkable area for any person is vanishingly small compared with the total number of locations available.

    So now we have a situation where not only is the hub and spoke transportation system broken, but increasingly the hub is broken. The airlines had the same problem, and they solved it by using more and smaller airplanes flying more direct routes.

    In an airplane, they can create more routes by simply looking at the destinations and drawing a line on the map. For those that are groundstuck, drawing a line on a map has to be followed up by construction.

    We simply do not have enough capacity to connnect our edge cities, and therefore the existing hub has continued to grow past capacity. Meanwhile, the edge cities are continuing to grow.

    Whatever course you pick, is going to cost a lot of money.

  23. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “We blame a lot of problems on long distance commuters, but if they all lived closer the answer would still be the same: congestion in the most congested areas.”

    not blaming it on them per se but pointing out that a 10 mile commute on roads maxed at rush hour is less than a 30 mile commute on the same maxed roads while a 10 mile commute in Farmville is less again.

    Yet the folks who use the roads most intensively at rush hour pay no more per gallon than those who drive not at rush hour.

    Even the guy who commutes 10 miles at rush hour .. is paying roughly 17 cents for that commute as his contribution to maintaining and improving that road.

    It’s not even 10X in terms of the actual cost of maintaining that road.

    You’d have to have a gas tax in the range of 50 cents a gallon or better to even come close.

    You could achieve BOTH of those things.. .more money for road improvements AND a supply/demand mechanism to actually obtain better throughput and less congestion without one penny of tax on anyone who does not use the road.

    You are right. It will take a lot more money but if it were done equitably and delivered value to drivers then they would be willing to pay.

    People ARE willing to pay for something that they will get.

    I don’t understand why this is a bad way to go.

  24. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “the folks who use the roads most intensively at rush hour pay no more per gallon than those who drive not at rush hour.”

    And neither do those who locate their businesses where they will add to congestion.

    We are NOT going to solve the congestion problem with the money we collect from congestion taxes. It will be used for other purposes, willy nilly. At least, if you charge a general tax and spend it willy nilly, some people will benefit from some of what they pay for.

    People who drive long distances on uncongested roads are paying even less for the benefit they recieve. A lot less, if you believe the 10x rule. We need a gas tax that works to collect from them, too.

    People who pay the congestion tax are basically paying for the right to exclude those who can’t afford to pay it. They are NOT paying for better infrastructure.

    During the holidays I was driving into town, NO PROBLEM. Silicone Valley experienced a slump in traffic during the tech downturn. Pittsburgh is still easy to get around in, relatively. The problem is not roads, it is jobs.

    But, God forbid someone should propose something where there is no traffic. Dozens will show up at a public hearing to protest a bed and breakfast. Corn is at an all time high. What do you suppose would happen in Fauquier if i bought one of those package ethanol plants, with an idea to make the open space around me more profitable?

    A congestion tax is not the whole answer. We should charge more to those that benefit from locating in congested areas, not to those that are attracted to fill the demand. While we are at it, we can charge a fair price for shipping electricity across my land for a hundred years.

    I still favor the congestion tax, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that those that pay it are getting what they pay for, unless they are paying for congestion. And, we should plan for the inevitable result: people moving to avoid the tax.

  25. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Last I looked Virginia is a state, not a hodgepodge of independent regions. The Ports here in HR are owned by the state, and the local communities gain no financial priviledge by hosting them other than the money the port workers spend. That local incentive will also decrease as Mexican truckers become able to contract anywhere in the US. They will undercut the local transportation companies that currently enjoy a lack of competition.

    The port is the main force behind building the third crossing and as a state entity the state should be paying for this construction, not the local citizens. The citizens will more than pay their fair share through the tolling plan. The GOP needs to get away from the regional government crap and massive taxes on the locals and get on with the business of managing the state. McDonnell is complaining about the Finance committee imposing a sales tax, that he says was rejected by the regional voters. What he conveniently leaves out is the fact that they also rejected regional government and most of the plan he is supporting.

    The bottom line is quit playing politics and come up with a suitable plan that places the burden of solving the transportation problem where it belongs, on the state.

  26. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “It will be used for other purposes, willy nilly. At least, if you charge a general tax and spend it willy nilly, some people will benefit from some of what they pay for”

    this is totally bizare ….

    why would you ever presume that willy nilly in one case would be better or worse in another case?

    and why would you favor NOT reforming something that is clearly at the heart of waste and ineffective use of tax dollars?

    I see this a tax and spend at the extreme end of the scale…

    Aren’t you the one who thinks the government mistreats you anyhow?

    Do you actually want the government to come and take more of what you owe and spend it on willy nilly purposes?

    How about we EXPAND the government willy nilly approach to conservation and policies that would further degrade your property rights?

    Are you in favor of willy nilly in general or just on some things?


  27. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    raising the gas tax high enough to address the infrastructure needs where the infrastructure is used in the highest intensitites for the longest durations…

    on ALL citizens – REGARDLESS of whether they drive on congested roads are not

    is focibly taking money away from people to pay for the prolifgate behaviors of others.

    When someone has to actually pay for using more than their share two things happen:

    1. – they think about whether they really “need” what they’re paying extra for

    2. – if they do need it, then money is collected to improve and upgrade what there is a demand for.

    A bonus is that roads that use congestion pricing –

    JUST USING time-of-day pricing

    produce more capacity without one penny of tax and without one more cubic yard of concrete.

    It extends and enhances your existing infrastructure.

    Why would you NOT want to take actions to optimize your existing infrastructure before getting into “willy-nilly” approaches?

  28. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “The problem is not roads, it is jobs.”


    like at Thanksgiving….. or when there is an accident or at 9pm when the roads have 1/3 the traffic.

    No, Ray, the problem is that you have to size roads 3 times bigger and PAY for that because too many people drive at rush hour when they don’t need to.

    Putting a price on that trip reduces the need to pay for roads 3 times bigger AND the maintenance on them AND provides more capacity on the existing roads.

    AND produces money to upgrade and improve and optimize existing roads to remove bottlenecks and money for more congestion reduction investments.

    If you check transportation planning for the DC Area, Congestion pricing on I-95, I-495 and I-395 is already going forward.

    so in this case.. we’ll actually find out what the outcome will be.

  29. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “burden of solving the transportation problem where it belongs, on the state.”

    who is the “state”?

    Aren’t you recommending that the same thing be done to taxpayers outside of HR that you say is wrong to do to taxpayers that live in HR?

    And who do you think the State is that owns the port facilities?

    Is the owner the taxpayers of Virginia?

    re: tolls

    Build a 3rd crossing – make it trucks only and outlaw trucks on the other tunnels and charge trucks the toll that it costs to pay off the 3rd crossing.

    Let the trucking industry and those that need it pay their rightful share of transportation costs.

    Now some folks will say this will “force” current users of the port in Va to go somewhere else.

    My question is – so what?

    How much of a benefit are they to the region and to Virginia if they end up maxing our transportation system for ordinary taxpayers and forcing ordinary taxpayers to cough up billion of dollars for infrastructure basically to line the pocket of those engaged in private business ventures?

  30. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: 3rd Crossing for Trucks

    This is a PERFECT example of the problem that we have with VDOT and Virginia Transportation NOT prioritizing and ranking projects according to a cost/benefit approach.

    Using such an approach would clearly show – from a taxpayer perspective – where a project like that should appear on a ranked list of projects.

    This is what happens when your Regional Authorities consist of pro-business, pro-growth members who are focused spending tax dollars – not on congestion relief but on economic development for private intrests.

    same old, same old… “trickle down” crapola…

    more growth = more jobs = more money to provide infrastructure that will benefit citizens.

    nice theory.

    the practice is that citizens never get what is promised.

  31. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Jim Bacon, Larry Gross and Others:

    I think the move by the GOP Attorney General to arrange meetings at a posh downtown
    Richmond hotel between three
    GOP members of the House of
    Delegates and three GOP members
    of the Senate prior to the currrent General Assembly session to create the doomed so-called
    GOP compromise plan designed to
    appease the hard right wing segment
    of the House GOP Caucus was wrong.

    It was equally wrong for the six
    members to present the plan as
    a take it or leave deal to the GA
    with the blessing of the House
    leadership, as well as some of the
    Senate leaders, and to the Governor, who has been cut out of
    these deliberations.

    Given these moves, I do not fault
    those who presented an alternative
    plan this week who did not disclose
    their proposal until the testy
    Senate Finance Committee meeting.

    Virginia has fallen behind over the
    last 20 years in meeting our trans-
    portation needs. Plus we are faced
    with continued significant growth
    that is going to make our problems
    more difficult.

    Responsible Virginians need to urge
    the Governor and General Assembly
    leadership to convene a group of
    stakeholders who have a vested interest in our growth and transportation issues to convene in
    2007 to formulate plans to deal with these issues.

    I think the administration, GA leadership, business leaders and
    smart growth advocates need to be
    a part of that group.

    We need to reach out nationally and internationally to recruit professional help to assist with
    such an undertaking (such as hiring
    the Urban Land Institute to help


    Rodger Provo

  32. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    not suprisingly, I disagree with Roger in terms of the “history” of transportation negotiations in the GA (in terms of who is hiding what and when)

    but more important as the the core problem that I feel is a major obstacle to consensus solutions.

    And what it essentially boils down to is what camp you are in.

    Either you believe in more taxes for transportation…. and you feel that is is the real problem that we have…

    or you don’t think more money without major reforms will actually do much more than add a couple more years of funding to a failed approach…. i.e. “kicking the can down the street” approach.

    I do have a curiosity about the agnst with regard to local taxing for local Regional authorities – which I agree have issues of their own – but the alternate position for some seems to be to raise taxes statewide and send it to VDOT where totally unelected people make arbitrary decisions to NOT allocate money back to localities in the proportion that they were collected.

    So.. in terms of which is the worst of two evils… I clear think the VDOT approach is worse because I think at the local level there is at least some opportunity for reform through elections but the changes of local level reform of VDOT is nil.

    The other irony that I see is that the same folks who don’t want to tax locals for local/regional projects say that…

    the STATE should step up to the plate…

    when the STATE is exactly the same taxpayers

    so we advocate raising taxes on all taxpayers but are opposed to it for local projects.

    this is bizare…

    it’s almost as if we think that taxpayers outside of a locality are going to fund their projects so they won’t have to…

    isn’t this a bit crazy folks?

  33. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Rodger — Your proposal, to assemble a “blue ribbon group” of officials and interested parties is, IMO, more of the same. It’s more of the “good old boy” system that has failed to produce positive results for the avearge Virginian.

    The message of the 2002 referenda was “we don’t trust the back-room deals that are behind the ‘tax us more so that a few landowners can get even richer’ schemes.” I don’t trust my state or local government on any matter that is connected with development. And I suspect that I am hardly alone.

    I don’t trust Tim Kaine or anyone else save Bob Marshall and a few others on these issues. Many others don’t either.

  34. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Larry Gross, toomanytaxes:

    Your view of our future is more of
    the same: worst congestion, more
    sprawl, continued endless fights
    that produce no constructive plans
    for Virginia’s future. I do not
    hold similar views, thus I fail to
    see how your approach helps us.


    Rodger Provo

  35. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Rodger – what you are seeing in TMT and me and others is a lack of trust in our existing institutions that are supposed to utilize our tax dollars to provide liveable communities.

    It’s not about money. It’s about what they do or don’t do with the money.

    And the proposed “solutions” are essentially to constitute “new” institutions to approach the same issues and have them represented by the same guys that now infest the institutions that have lost our trust.

    When you have existing institutions being given by JLARC and the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts a large list of VITAL reforms that need to be addressed so that our institutions will utilize tax money more effectively and those institutions ignore that advice

    .. then you come along and say it is US who are opposed to moving forward .. rather than those institutions that refuse to reform and commit to respond to citizens and taxpayers.

    The same guys that rule the Chamber of Commerce… control the government appartus that governs growth and development – and they have absolutely no intention to respond to JLARC and the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts.

    Virginia tried a Growth Commission and this same bunch killed it.

    Why would you think they would not repeat the same thing if we did create an Envision Virginia?

    What evidence would you provide that things would be different?

  36. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Let me make a counter-proposal to Rodger..

    Rodger – a while back we had Reality Check in Fredericksburg.

    In my view it was very successful, in part, because the organizers insured that citizens and environmental groups were at the table along with businessmen, developers, basically representation from all constitutencies in the community.

    One of the first things they decided is that they wanted a tangible product to emerge from the effort and that product would be the beginning of a Regional Comprehensive Plan that addressed population growth and transportation.

    So I would sign on to Envision Fredericksburg and I would hope and support that effort to become a potential model for Envision Virginia.

    As long as all constituencies are represented – I’m for it.

    I’m opposed to approaches that favor only certain stakeholders in any collaboration and in any Regional Approach to growth and development.

    I’m hoping to hear back from you on this proposal in terms of your opinion.

  37. Anonymous Avatar

    Dear Larry:

    We are in agreement … we need
    an Envision Virginia project modeled after a successful program
    in Utah in which residents of that
    state formed a group to put a
    program together for they were tired of their local and state
    governments failing to meet their
    needs relative to protecting the
    future of their wonderful state
    with better growth management and
    transportation improvements.


    Rodger Provo

  38. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Larry, it’s hard to comment when you are all over the map in this discussion.

    The fact is the taxpayers don’t own anything. They are shareholders who provide the capital for a corporation, without ever getting an annual report of their investment. Can a taxpayer visit their port or any other agency to see how their business is being run? No. Can they see the books to ensure their investment is being properly administered? No they can’t. Nor can they fire the leadership if the agency isn’t performing up to expectations. All the taxpayers have is a proxy vote in November.

    What is being asked by the GOP is for one group of shareholders to pay more for something that all shareholders have an equal stake in. It’s as if you were trying to buy a stock on the market, but were required to pay a premium simply because you live in Richmond, while others living in Roanoke could buy it for the published price.

    The roads are a state responsibility of a state agency, VDOT. The ports are also a state agency, VPA. This third tunnel project is not about congestion relief, it addresses the state responsibility of commerce. If it benefits the state, then all shareholders should pay equally.

    The regional responsibility should be the maintenance of urban streets, mass transit, and other improvements as needed. The GOP would force the region’s localities to pay for state responsibilites AND secondary roads the VDOT would no longer maintain. Additional taxes would be required to actually meet the transportation needs of the region’s citizens.

  39. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I don’t think you “get it”.

    The state is not daddy warbucks.

    The state is you and me and a several million others.

    The region is the same thing.
    You live in your region and I live in mine.

    You think the State is going to give you more dollars than the amount the citizens who live in your region contribute.

    Further you apparently think this would be true all over Virginia.

    That in the Fredericksburg Area we ALSO would receive more from the “state” that we contribute.

    Ditto, Charlottesville, Roanoke, etc.

    What you don’t get is that this is physically and fiscally impossible.

    And yet you and many other think that the “state” is responsibile for the roads in your area even if those road costs exceed what the folks in your area pay in gas taxes.

    I don’t know how to explain this any better.

    This is not “all over the map”.

    This is about some simple realities when it comes to taxes and expeditures.

    The folks in Fredericksburg are NOT going to pay for roads in Hampton Roads nor are they going to pay for roads in Northern Va or Charlottesville or Roanoke unless that money is taken away from them or they are fooled into thinking that they get tax money from Hampton Roads.

    If that is the case, I’d ask again.. why would you take tax money from Hampton Roads and tax money from Fredericksburg and swap them to each other jurisdictions?

    Now if you want to comes to Fredericksburg and present a bill for services that Hampton Roads has pvovided to us – then I would invite you to do so and, oh by the way, if we don’t think we are getting our money’s worth from you, we don’t want any more of it.

    Got it now? ๐Ÿ™‚

  40. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Sure, I get it. We should disestablish the state and divide everything up into our own little fiefdoms. :}

    That way only the money that comes into the fiefdom stays in the fiefdom. The ports and their income would only belong to the local region for the benefit of the local community. What we did with the money is our own business and not Richmond or any other area.

    Yep, that’s a plan that works.

    What the state wants is for us to pay for the capital costs of improving the roads, and then paying again for their use, while the state as a whole gains the income and economic benefits from the ports. If the state needs the roads, the state should pay for the roads. The locals share will be the tolls for the priviledge of using them, not merely the gas tax you imply.

  41. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Darrell, I would argue that the Third Crossing to serve the ports (and provide hurricane evacuation) is a very different kind of transportation project than the routine projects geared to providing routine mobility and access. You are right, there are aspects of the project of statewide significance. The Third Crossing, if it deserves funding, should be financed by contributions from the General Fund, where it would compete with other economic-development and public-safety priorities — unlike routine transportation projects, which should be segregated in their own fund.

  42. Groveton Avatar

    With respect to the Army paying local communities for the soldiers stationed at an Army base –

    When my Dad was in the Navy, active duty personnel were allowed to keep their original state residency no matter where they were stationed. I assume that is still the case.

    So, a person who grows up in Michigan and is stationed at Ft Belvoir may, at his or her option, retain their Michigan residency (and pay state taxes in Michigan) despite living in Virginia.

    I believe that is the reason for the military making payments to localities.

  43. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Jim, exactly.

    I may be conservative, but I’m not anti-tax. Present a plan that makes sense and voters would go along. Ditch the regional government, we already have several entities that don’t work. Make the HRT and HRPDC accountable, who actually listen to the citizens instead of pushing their own agenda. That’s a good part of the problem down here.

    There is no plan for mass transit other than pushing LRT. No plan for telecommuting, nor a single idea for changing the business model to reduce congestion. In short, the only plan is to throw money at bad ideas that are static solutions to a dynamic problem.

  44. Groveton Avatar

    The Myth of the Front Royal Commuter – Debunked

    Recently, this blog has seen a repeated statement that people are commuting very long distances because there is no affordable housing in Fairfax County. Front Royal is often cited as an example where people have to live in order to afford their homes.

    Like so much pap from the “Welfare Downstate” this is yet another fairy tale.

    I looked at every house for sale in Front Royal, VA. There are 100 properties presently for sale on the web site I used. They range in price from a 2BR / 1.5 BA TH listed for $179,900 to a 4BR/ 1BA house selling for $1.68M (on 35.85 acres). I then tried to find housing in Fairfax County for every 10th listing in Front Royal (at the same price). Guess what? There was housing available at every level! Right now, today, for sale.

    To wit:

    FR – $179,900 – 2BR/1.5 BA TH. Annandale – $170,000 – 1BR / 1 BA condo.

    FR – $228,600 – 3BR / 1 BA. Springfield – $234,000 – 2BR / 1BA.

    FR – $249,900 – 3B / 1 BA. Springfield – $278,900 – 2BR / 1.5BA.

    FR – $272,900 – 3BR / 2 BA. Springfield – $278,900 – 2BR / 1.5BA

    FR – $315,500 – 4BR / 2BA. Springfield $320,000 – 3B / 2.5BA.

    FR – $348,900 – 4BR / 2BA. Springfield – $348,900 – 2BR / 2 BA.

    FR – $399,999 – 3BR / 4BA. Springfield – $400,000 – 3BR / 2.5BA.

    FR – $409,514 – 4BR/3BA. Springfield – $415,000 – 4BR, 2BA, 2 half BA.

    FR – $450,000 – 3BR/3BA. Springfield – $450,000 4BR/3BA.

    At every level of the Front Royal real estate market there was an alternative available in Fairfax County.

    You certainly get more for the buck in Front Royal. You get a single family home instead of a townhouse. You get an extra bedroom.

    However, the statement that people have to live in Front Royal and work in Fairfax County because there is too little affordable housing in Fairfax County is bogus.

    The people living in Front Royal and commuting to Fairfax County to work are doing so because they want to live in single family homes instead of townhouses and beacuse they want that extra bedroom. If they chose to live in Fairfax County there is real estate on the market today that they could buy.

  45. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “affordable”

    more house for the money.

    for the same amount of money, twice the house, with a garage and a yard etc.

    but others.. especially entry-level people have to “drive til they qualify”.

    It’s a simple equation for most because the house is not only a place to live in – it’s an investment that is tax deductible.

    Take away the tax deduction and see what happens … in terms of commuting and so-called ‘affordable” housing.

    THEN it would actually COST you both time and money for more house and you’d have to decide whether to get something truly affordable and save the money for your 401K or splurge …. all available income.

  46. Groveton Avatar

    “Last I looked Virginia is a state, not a hodgepodge of independent regions”.

    Maybe you should look again.

    Virginia is definitely a hodgepodge if independent regions.

    In fact, the state itself is the creation of a series of historical accidents. It was originally created by a proprietary charter in (The London Virginia Company) 1606. At that time it included the lands explored by Sir Walter Raliegh and encompassed territory from North Carolina to New York. It included Bermuda and went west to Illinois. It became a colony and (as a colony) included land that now constitute all (or part of) Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia and Ohio – as well as “modern day” Virginia.

    Virginia’s status of being a hodgepodge of regions is well established in history. Beyond the fact that present day Virginia is a mere shell of its former self there is the case of West Virginia. In 1861 the people living in what is now West Virginia decided that they were, in fact, an independent region and split from the rest of the state. Their refusal to submit to the racist majority of the elected state representatives from Virginia created an indelible mark of honor for the people of West Virginia.

    From 1606 to 1861 to today the elected state government has repeatedly proven that it incapable of effectively representing the different regions within the state. From the sheer stupidity of joining a civil war to preserve slavery to the economic illiteracy of today’s transportation crisis the Virginia state legislature continues to set a world class benchmark for buffoonery.

    The question for the citizens of Virginia needs to be how to limit the power of the buffoons rather than how to fix the state. I propose drastically reducing the power of the state government in favor of local government. Today’s three tier system of government – federal, state and local has one tier too many. The number of ligitimate governmental functions that are best performed at the state level (vs. local or federal) are few and far between.

    National defense, foreign relations and other “big picture” functions are properly the buiness of the national government.

    Transportation, land use, education and other regionally specific problems are properly the business of the localities.

    What is the natural function of the state government?

    Very little, in my opinion.

    And – given the historical incompetence of the Virginia state government – the less the better.

    Provide a state police? Probably.

    Take everybody’s tax money and then redistribute it in an opaque manner intended to deceive the taxpayers? No.

  47. Groveton Avatar

    Larry – you’d get even more house if you were willing to commute into Fairfax County from Arkansas :).

    The fact that you can deduct mortgage interest from your taxes (up to a max mortgage of $1M) seems like a misdirected policy to me.

    I would support the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction in conjunction with the elimination of all capital gains taxes.

  48. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: gas tax revenues

    time for some arithmetic again.

    take a guy that drives 15K a year in a car that gets 20mpg… eh…lets say that guy lives and works in Hampton.

    Well.. he pays annually for the roads that he uses the grand sum of $127.50 in Virginia Gasoline Tax.

    Now, multiply that out say by a million folks and you get about 127 million dollars.

    Now look at the existing costs to maintain the roads in an area like Hampton Roads and it should become clear the dimensions are of the funding situation.

    So say you raise the gas tax a nickle. That will bring in an additional 38 million dollars in a place like Hampton.

    Now what some folks are saying is that this is not enough and that the state needs to “do something”.

    And the “something” is to go to Fredericksburg with 250,000 people who generate 32 million dollars a year with their gas tax and …
    take some of that for Hampton.

    Then.. ditto Charlottesville, Farmville, Roanoke, etc…

    Well that might work fine for Hampton but what happens to these other areas that donated the money to Hampton?

    Oh.. I forgot… because it is the STATE who is handling this..the solution is simple.. just get more money from the state!

    NOW – do you get it?

    It’s NOT about balkaniation – it’s about simple financial realities.

    The “State”, thank GOD does not PRINT money but sorry to say to those who believe in fairy tales – the money DOES come from people who live in Farmville.

    In the end, if Hampton wants/needs MORE roads – they will have to figure out how the money will come from the Hampton Roads area – for the most part.

    … someone tell me where I got this wrong…

  49. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “you’d get even more house if you were willing to commute into Fairfax County from Arkansas :).”

    so right you are Groveton.

    It’s a tragedy….

    There are hundreds/thousands of perfectly fine homes in dying towns and regions that would die for NoVa Growth.

    But the jobs have gone away.

    Those places were – in my opinion – doomed to start with once the economy shifted from industrial to information.

    There are still place that produce combines… just 1/10 as many.

    And the companies that produce high tech medical equipment don’t want to be in a small town in Iowa – not because they dislike it but because it lacks what things that would make them a strong compeitor – especially agile and nimble.

    Business can no longer “take care” of a small town – not if they want to remain in business.

    What those towns were – in fact – were “balanced communities” which we are now trying to emulate in our urban areas… quite a trick I think.

  50. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Nope, I still don’t get it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Not only is Hampton paying the gas tax, they are also paying a toll for the use of the interstates, and additional real estate taxes to pay for the roads VDOT gave back to the localities. That certainly adds up to more than your measely 127 million dollars.

    While we are adding two and two together, it’s perfectly obvious that if the state leadership wants to build a third crossing then they better find the 4+ billion dollars to pay for it. Otherwise that particular project should be subtracted from the 20 year transportation plan. The citizens decided on that several years ago. They figured out that there wasn’t enough money down here to pay for all these big number projects and voted accordingly. Unfortunately it’s the politicians that failed math.

  51. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    hey… you do get it.. well sort of

    Hampton folks are paying a TOLL for the interstate that THEY use – right?

    And Hampton folks pay a real estate tax for the other roads that they use – right?

    Now would you expect folks in Fredericksburg and Charlottesville to ALSO pay for the roads you use?

    But there you go again on the third crossing talking about the “state” finding the money….
    Darrell – the “state” is you and me and other Virginia taxpayers.

    Tell me again why the folks in Fredericksburg should help pay for a third crossing?

    I thought when Fredericksburg folks came down there.. they already paid a toll to use the roads and tunnels – right?

    Do you also want them to pay real estate taxes and gas taxes for your roads in ADDITON – you know the old “STATE” should pay argument?

    Now I DO AGREE that roads of Statewide Significance that BOTH Hamptom and Fredericksburg should chip in for… as well as everyone else but these are roads that extend beyond regions and likely to be used by all Virginians… not local Hampton Commuters…


  52. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    What we can agree on is that neither community should pay for the third crossing, or any other project that doesn’t address the core issues of that community.

    In HR’s case, the issues surrounding congestion would have already been addressed except for the local/state politicians unrelenting stubborness to build this budget busting project. This one project is the main reason transportation improvements here have been stalled. All of the others, with maybe the exception of the now obsolete SE Parkway design, have some level of support.

  53. Groveton Avatar

    Larry – right you are. Only it’s not just small towns.

    Here’s a description of Buffalo, NY.

    The city, which boasted over half a million people at its peak, has seen its population decline by almost 50%, as industries shut down and people left the Rust Belt for the employment opportunities of the South and West. Erie County has lost population in every census year since 1970. The city also has the dubious distinction along with St. Louis, Missouri of being one of the few American cities to have had fewer people in the year 2000 than in 1900.

    But, there’s some good news:

    “For the first time in decades the city’s future is looking extremely bright. Development in the city in 2006 was at $3.5billion as opposed to the city’s average of $500million a year. Bashar Issa’s purchase of the Statler Towers and proposed Buffalo City Tower along with NewEra Cap Co. and Health Now both moving downtown are bright points of the year. In early 2007 Labatt Blue USA announced that it would be moving its American HQ from Connecticut to Downtown Buffalo. In addition Citicorp has announced plans for expansion in Buffalo’s biggest suburb Amherst. The expansion will bring 400 new, well paying jobs to the region. Many are beginning to predict the city’s population in the 2010 census will be equal to or greater than the 2000 census.”.

    What happened in Buffalo could happen anywhere. The only protection is a relentless, endless drive for ecomonic development and growth.

  54. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “you’d get even more house if you were willing to commute into Fairfax County from Arkansas :).”

    Actually, I have two gentemen in my office. One commutes weekly from Illinois, and one from Mississippi.

  55. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: Hampton Road Regionalism – NOT!

    I’m curious about the opposition to the HR MPO – and how folks in that region feel about other regional authorities such as jails, water/sewer, etc.

    Two Questions –

    Is the opposition against ALL Regional Cooperation no matter whether it is roads or not?

    How would those opposed to Regional Authorities for Roads propose to coordinate roads that cross jurisdictional boundaries?

    In other words – what would you replace Regional Authorities with if you feel that they are the wrong approach to regional coordination of infrastructure needs.

  56. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    I don’t know if anyone else down here will chime in or not, but I’ll give you my view. (you tired of hearing from me yet?)

    First on the list is the public has no incentive to embrace the philosophy of regionalism. The business/political leadership likes to push regionalism, even making a flag for HR, but the public is given token input.

    Let’s take the transit system for instance. During the VAB-Norfolk LRT debate, Hampton Roads Transit held public informaton meetings. I attended some of these and it quickly became clear that the representatives were only interested in meeting the public forum requirements under the law, and pushing their agenda. I submitted a written statement, which was included in the environmental review paperwork sent to the feds. Those comments were edited to the point that they gave strong support of the project instead of being opposed to it. If HRT can’t run their primary business efficently, why let them spend billions on LRT?

    The second issue is the fact that the public is totally isolated from the authorities. They can not attend ‘public’ meetings, and only find out about various plans when they appear in the newspaper. By that time, the decisions have already been made. There is no accountability of the MPO/HRPDC, HRT, or any other regional body. The cities appoint council members or connected cronies to be the liason, but rarely are these regional meetings discussed in council meetings.

    Third is the effectiveness of these authorities. On a small scale, like a jail, it hasn’t been too bad. I’ve already touched on HRT, but the trash collecting SPSA is another case in point. They have managed to dig a hole to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into. The recycling service was so inept that VA Beach dumped it and started their own several years ago. Chesapeake recently filed a law suit to be be out of SPSA all together. At a recent meeting, the board gave the long-standing Director a raise. What does that tell the citizens who will pay the bill? It tells them that bureaucrats have a job for life, no matter how bad they screw up. A quick Google of VDOT or any other governmental body reveals the same policy.

    Now the leadership wants to join the big leagues with this transportation authority. My view is if all these leaders can do is manage a jail, why in the world would I approve of giving them billions to fund their vision? Their own past performance, along with a lack of public participation, simply kills any possiblity of acheiving regional consensus.

  57. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    No – not tired of hearing from you though I suspect my frequent posts might annoy others…. ๐Ÿ™‚

    You sort of sidestepped the issue.

    What mechanism should be used to coordinate issues common to adjacent jurisdictions?

    I’m speaking not only of roads, but jails, water/sewer, jail, libraries, AND roads?

    I think it was use that seem to be opposed to balkanization.. right?

    Also do you realize that your MPO is mandated by Federal Law and that the state cannot remove it?

    I acknowledge the issues with regard to listening to public input, efficiency, effectiveness, et al – issues/problems fairly common to MPOs and Regional Authorities which, have, in effect, become the happy hunting grounds for special interests….

    But are you really saying that just because we have a corrupt process with Regional Authorities that they should be outlawed and each jursidiction NOT cooperate or coordinate with other jurisdiction around it even if it leads to better services at less tax cost to you?

    ball is in your court… yea or nay but no equivocating…

  58. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Ok, short and sweet.

    We should oppose regional authorities until they earn our trust. If that means stalling projects, then so be it.

  59. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    ‘They’ being the political and business leadership that currently have zero credibility with the citizenry.

  60. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    … errr… I meant something real…

    you know… like what would you do with a federally-mandated MPO that WILL control project selection and allocation of regional money and you can’t make them go away..

    ditto with most other regional authorities…. they exist and as far as I know you and I cannot put them out of business nor block their funding…

    what next?

    isn’t this sorta like a toad that you ARE going to swallow even if it makes you puke?

  61. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Well we could just roll over like 70 percent of the citizenry has done and just accept our fate, never showing up to vote or attend meetings.

    We could continue to allow the local politicians and the GA to just create these authorities by fiat, as the GOP plan is now trying to do. As far as I can tell the voters never approved the existing authorities and they definately voted against the current plan when it was presented in 2002.

    Or we can fight to change the existing political structure and the way these entities are created. I know that MPOs are federal mandates, but that doesn’t mean that a small cadre of political hacks should be making decisions and choices absent public discourse. That is, as I believe Groveton said, a socialist regime. If the politicians don’t want to work with us, then we will have find those who will.

    The first step by the citizenry has already been taken, and the GOP is scared to death of the next step. Failing to understand the real problem, they resort to the tried and true, rule by fiat. The reality is clear. If the GOP succeeds in pushing this plan down the people’s throats after they already said no, there will be a new majority after the next election. After all, the politicans are supposed to be the public’s servants. Not the other way around.

  62. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Oh I agree with pretty much everything.

    I just don’t see a path to change.

    There ARE ways to influence the MPOs but you have to study the regs.

    For instance, by law their transportation plans – both TIP and CLRP must be fiscally constrained – i.e. they cannot have any more projects that there are identified funds for (unlike VDOT).

    Many MPOs in Va, especially those in cahoots with VDOT violate this rule routinely and many do not adjust this list annually for the impacts of inflation.

    What citizens could do is raise hell with the Feds about these violations..perhaps even threaten them with legal sanctions… until they were forced to remove excess projects.

    What this would do.. is actually cause them to prioritize… so they could figure out what needed to come off the list to get back to compliance.

    The same is true with other Regional Authorities… fine print… violations…

    The top dogs at DGIF got fired last year after someone inquired about finances and at first was stonewalled but persisted… and finally got the info that showed major violations of ethics and policy.

    A month ago.. Westmoreland county.. under threat of citizen legal action – finally put in Fed-mandated hancicap facilities. The citizen was handicapped so this was not a frivolous lawsuit.

    What it takes is a group of committed citizens who are willing to follow-through.. learning the A to Zs…. boring work… but necessary

    Otherwise bitchin and moaning… are the next most popular activity but almost useless in terms of change.

  63. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Down here the committed citizens are called naysayers. They spend countless hours researching, attending meetings, and pushing for referenda. All for naught. The politicians politely listen and then go their own way, knowing full well that any referendum from the citizenry is non-binding. In response, the voters kill any referendum the politicians are legally bound to put forward. And in response to that, the pols back door the items they wanted in the first place.

    Heck of a way to run a democratic based government.

  64. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    yes… government by gridlock


    Actually .. it referenda continue to go down in HR and polls get to the reasons like you are alluding to.. sooner or later even the most dense and corrupt will understand that without a meeting of the minds .. nothing happens…

    but in NoVa… the Regional Referenda went down for, I think, the same reasons… but about a dozen small, local county referenda for roads have passed including one in Spotsylvania.

    Do you guys NOT have such local referenda at all? Is that not something that “works” in HR?

  65. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “THEN it would actually COST you both time and money for more house and you’d have to decide whether to get something truly affordable and save the money for your 401K or splurge …. all available income.”

    Nice try, Larry, but I don;t think so. The mortgage deduction helps those who chose to live in town MORE, because their homes cost so much more. If you are right, and more people choose to live in town, then home prices in town will rise and property out of town will fall, and the resulting disparity will likely end up with the same end result.

    Except, without the mortgage deduction, most of us would be renters.

  66. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Ray – if you rent .. and change jobs… do you think the decision to move or not is the same?

    I think if you took away ALL tax deductions… that SPRAWL would likely go away.

    The mortgage subsidy DRIVES land-speculation which in turn drives sleazy and even illegal activities to obtain sweetheart deals to develop land without adequate infrastructure.

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