Kaine In Valley–subpartre Reports

After an initial flurry of interest in Governor-elect Kaine’s transportation town meetings, coverage has declined. Even with my powder dry, I think it’s a mistake to pay less attention to meetings outside the Richmond-Tidewater-NVA triangle.

Our friend who comments as subpatre attended last week’s town hall and he filed these observations, which I quote in their entirety:

Just got back from Tim Kaine’s ‘Town Hall’ in Staunton, at the center of the Valley. The Governor-elect started with a brief speech on his views, saying he had two priorities: education was first, and transportation was the next. Of the two, transportation had an “urgency” to it (effectively dismissing educational issues) and needed immediate attention.

Kaine spoke of his view favoring regionalism, brought about by his unique (for a Governor) prior position as a Mayor. Using his Richmond experience, he cited the cooperation of the city, county, state and federal jurisdictions in filling transportation needs; that roads were regional transportation and needed regional planning.

Before opening the floor to questions and comments, Mr. Kaine criticized the current transportation ‘lockbox’ funding, then offered his three criteria on making transportation decisions:

1. Improved (VDOT) performance – within budget and on schedule

2. Improved planning – “linking land use decisions with transportation”

3. Expanded transportation choices – cars, trucks, trains, bikes, air, etc.

Audience comments were roughly divided into three areas: miscellaneous (5), elected officials’ (6), but dominating the forum was concern over I-81 expansion. Star Solutions had run a huge newspaper ad; the Sierra Club and Rail Solution distributed literature before and after the event, and representatives for other special interest groups were there.

The Governor-elect used the time well and called on as many people as possible. Contrary to insinuations about other such meetings, nothing suggested any planted or staged questions. Coincidentally, I personally knew all but a couple of the Valley speakers, and there were only a few who came west over the Blue Ridge.

Tim Kaine offered no hints about his own solutions or approach to the problems. ‘Regionalism’ may be a fine solution for centrally located Richmond, but the I-81 corridor is a 325 mile long string of counties in five Planning Districts.

Of all the speakers, only the Augusta Supervisors tied into Kaine’s introduction by citing their land use and transportation decisions at the local level; using Incremental Financing for development roads. Another speaker asked that the Governor create a ‘Virtual Planning District’ and use state IT resources for elected officials to electronically meet about the corridor issue. The rest of the comments were supporters of one pre-packaged outcome or another.

Although one advocacy group had resolution support of a couple county governments, they and all the others are independent special interests. This presents the dilemma to Mr. Kaine that, although they might be regional, they aren’t officials and they’re not responsible to the public.

This highlighted another diverting feature of the forum. The Governor-elect opened with his emphasis on regional cooperation of local governments; yet almost all the speakers were urging Mr. Kaine to impose a top-down specific result on the Valley. Perhaps I’m mistaken that it’s rude to address a Virginia Governor with “We heard you, but assume you’re lying, so please do this”.

At the end, our new Governor gave no hint of either decision or of direction. No mention was made of broadband alternatives to transportation, nor did Mr. Kaine offer a clue as to what “tying land use planning to transportation” mean to him. The question remains as to whether local Valley governments will have any say in their own destiny.

Thanks to subpatre for offering this report.

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4 responses to “Kaine In Valley–subpartre Reports”

  1. “…nor did Mr. Kaine offer a clue as to what “tying land use planning to transportation” mean to him.”

    I wish someone would offer a clue as to what this means. Everyone seems to have a different idea.

    Maybe someone can describe this in a policy sense, but it simply eludes me how this vague idea can be transformed into a workable plan with a goal, milestones, schedule, and budget.

  2. From my perspective, the phrase means that development should have adequate transportation. No high density housing on dirt roads for example.

    There’s certainly been abuses by localities in planning failure. But my cynical worry is that the phrase also includes zoning decisions made at the state level.

  3. OK, that’s one perspective, and probably a valid one.

    I submit there are many perspectives, and that this is the problem with this totem.

    I have hay customers who live in a horse oriented development on a dirt road. They maintain the dirt road out of community funds and they do not want the road paved. It is hard on horses, increases traffic speed, and they recognize that it would result in higher taxes.

    This can hardly be called a high density development, but it is very high density considering what surrounds it.

    Oregon tried land planning at the state level, and the rules have been overturned by ballot initiative – twice. On both occasions the ballot initiative was overturned by the courts, at the behest of special interest conservation groups.

    It seems to me that your cynical worry is well founded.

    To some this phrase means that all the infrastructure required by new development should be paid for by the developers. To some the phrase means no more development, because the area is already considered built out and overcrowded. To others, where there is no crowding, it means no new development because there are no facilities. To others it means we should build no new roads because roads cause development. To others it means that the government should be able to plan growth efficiently. To others, the idea that government should be able to plan growth efficiently means that the government is renting cost savings from them (at no cost) by denying development until it suits the government budget. To others it means the end of property rights, apple pie, and the American way. To some it just means personal hardship imposed by a well meaning populace with little imagination. To some it means they can’t make “windfall profits” on land that has been held for generations. To some it means they will make windfall profits on transportation enhancements they have paid little to support.

    I don’t see any easy way out of this mess.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    I would like to see Kaines administration take a position of educating localities on different techniques for planning and zoning, as opposed to the cookie cutter single use zoning we see which leads to excessive seperation of uses. There are so MANY different things localities could do with the tools they ALREADY have.

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