Just Say NO to Federal Courthouse Plan

29 10 2009

Once again, the Federal Courthouse is trying to expand into the ex-Granby Tower site. And, once again, we need to fight any plan that takes land off of the tax roles. The General Services Administration (GSA – they are in charge of federal construction projects) already has a plan that is acceptable. The plan that I am referring to would construct a 7-story addition in the middle of the current building:

FedCourtHouseTower

Norfolk Federal Courthouse - Tower Alternative

In fact, not only does this option conserve land and fit in better with an urban environment, this alternative is actually less expensive than building on the Granby Tower site. Let’s back up for a second. If you had not heard of this project before or have forgotten, there were five alternatives considered. They are called the Southern, Western, Northern, Eastern, and Tower Alternatives, with the name referring to the location of the annex in relation to the current building. Here are diagrams of the first four, showing where they would be located what method would be used to connect them:

FedCourtHouseAlts

Off-Site Alternatives for the Norfolk Federal Courthouse Annex

As you can see (or if you can’t, click the picture for a larger version), the Southern and Eastern Alternatives each close a road. In fact, the Eastern Alternative called for closing an entire block of Monticello Avenue. That left two other off-site options. The Northern Alternative would demolish the Greyhound Station and have to find a way to cross Brambleton Blvd. The easiest of these four is obviously the Western Alternative, which is to put the annex on the Granby Tower site. While this seems like a good idea, lets look at the final option that was researched by the GSA: an on-site addition. This on-site addition would be in the form of a tower on top of the current building. This final alternative is actually more cost effective than the next most plausible (Western Alt.). Here is the cost breakdown:

FedCourtHouseCosts

Source: Draft Environmental Assessment for the Walter E. Hoffman United States Courthouse Proposed Courthouse Annex Norfolk, Virginia - GSA 2006

The GSA must work together in order to build consistently with local goals. This is not my opinion, this is fact. According to the GSA’s Urban Development/Good Neighbor Program,

“The core mission of the Urban Development/Good Neighbor Program is to provide GSA regional offices and their stakeholders with the technical, training, and outreach resources they need to implement good neighbor principles in the business practices of the Public Buildings Service. Those principles are:

  • Locate new owned and leased federal facilities in places that support local plans;
  • Design new facilities to create outstanding federal workplaces and support neighborhood urban design goals;
  • Renovate existing federal properties to improve their public spaces, create positive First Impressions, and encourage stakeholders to improve neighborhood conditions;
  • Manage federal properties to encourage public use and openness; and
  • Participate in neighborhood physical and management improvement efforts around federal properties.”

Take note on two of those in particular. “Design new facilities to create outstanding federal workplaces and support neighborhood urban design goals” and “Renovate existing federal properties to improve their public spaces, create positive First Impressions, and encourage stakeholders to improve neighborhood conditions.” Building a mediocre 5-story building across from the current building does not support our urban design goals and taking property off of the tax roles absolutely does not improve neighborhood conditions. Despite the failure of Granby Tower, the site still holds the potential for success. Currently, it is still being taxed. The GSA is the reason why Granby Tower failed. The GT would have been under construction but instead the GSA said that they might want the site. If they had gone with the tower in the first place, we would have both. Please contact the GSA (Region 3) at (215) 446-5100 and let them know that you deserve a quality project. Tell them that the City deserves the Tower Alternative for the Walter E. Hoffman United States Courthouse Proposed Annex.

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Creigh Deeds Rally

28 10 2009
IMG_4886

Creigh Deeds Rally 2009 - Norfolk, VA

Before I continue, let me enlighten you if you did not previously know my sentiments. It is always difficult for me to choose a candidate due to my pickiness and tendency towards a candidate that is, in my opinion, the most good for the most situations. In addition, I tend to vote for the person that is not the incumbent, unless (in the rare instance) the incumbent has actually made improvements to our problems. Politically, I tend to vote more Republican than Democrat, however I will never vote for somebody solely on what party they belong to. My preferred party is actually Libertarian because I feel that the less government the better.Regardless of what I believe however, I also feel that it is every individual’s own duty to decide who they should vote for based on their own personal preferences.

Creigh Deeds 2009

That said, I attended the Creigh Deeds Rally at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk yesterday. I was not planning on attending, but my grandfather called me up with an extra ticket and asked me to go. So I did. At first, I felt kind of dirty and uncomfortable actually, being in a room with a large crowd of Democrats. I quietly failed to mention to those around me that I had not voted for Obama, nor did I think that he has been as spectacular of a President as they did. Regardless, as I snapped a total of 1,160 photographs, I listened to each Democratic candidate endorse themselves and each other. In attendance and speaking, we had Steve Shannon (Attorney General Candidate), Jody Wagner (Lieutenant Governor Candidate), City of Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones, current Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, Creigh Deeds (of course), and President Obama. I actually got the most influence from Mr. Deeds’s speech. He was not a particularly good public speaker, but he was intelligent. He spoke of how his experiences growing up have shaped his view of politics today. Compared to McDonnell, he seems to be more “Virginian,” having lived in Virginia for most of his life. McDonnell, on the other hand has lived virtually everywhere else. Deeds knows what he wants to do and what should be done, his only problem is explaining it during his campaign stops.

I am voting for Deeds on Election Day. I feel that it is the correct decision for myself and I hope that it would be for you, but that is for you and only you to decide.

As I mentioned earlier, President Obama was there and regardless of who you are or how you feel about him, it still is a great feeling to shake hands with the President of the United States of America.

Finally, everybody always found pictures of Bush that made him appear less than intelligent. I always found them hillarious and so, had to post this one of President Obama:

President Obama and his teleprompter

"Oooooo, a teleprompter..." 🙂

I just had to.





Vanity Plates – WTF DMV?

28 10 2009

I saw this plate on a car parked in front of me in Downtown yesterday:

"FFS STFU" Vanity Plate

If you are not quite sure what that means, here’s a hint: For F***’s Sake – Shut The F*** Up… Which of course begs the question… WTF DMV?

(Although I do enjoy when people can speak their mind on their car)





Money for Highways

27 10 2009

Everyone agrees that most of Hampton Roads’ most congested roadways are part of the Interstate System. These include Interstate 64’s HRBT and Interstate 264’s Downtown Tunnel. This also includes the need for the Third Crossing, which, for the most part, would take the name of Interstate 564. This also includes the Berkley Bridge and the High Rise Bridge. (On a side note, Virginia has more Interstate Highway Drawbridges than any other state. Hampton Roads alone has 25% of all Interstate Highway Drawbridge)

Most would also agree that the region’s highways are also important to the local military facilities including Camp Peary, Yorktown Weapons Station, Fort Eustis, Langley AFB, Norfolk NAS, Little Creek Amphib Base, Fort Story, Oceana NAS, and Dam Neck. I’m sure I missed something, but regardless, everyone has seen how much traffic is lessened by a holiday where the Navy does not have to report. Completely ignoring the toll that military traffic takes on our highways, my point is that if something happened to some aspect of our system, the Navy would be crippled. I’m not talking about an attack or something like that, I’m talking about a severe traffic accident. Or perhaps a hurricane. I know that during a hurricane evacuation all lanes of traffic are directed away from the area. How are the military supposed to get to the base to take the ships out of harbor?

Do you see my point? I think that the continuing neglect of our highways has even greater national security complications than any other threat you can think of. What good is a top-notch Defense Department if they can’t get to their bases? The “National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (1956)” renamed the highway system to the “National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.” Eisenhower even announced it as the “National Defense Highway System.” In fact the “National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (1956)” specifically states that the System’s “primary importance [is] to the national defense.” With all this in mind, I think that it is fair to say that, with such a National Security importance, Hampton Roads has been cheated out of the funds necessary to maintain the acceptable level of service that is required to maintain a quality Highway.

The Navy was opposed to a bridge being used as part of an expanded HRBT because they were afraid it might be destroyed in an act of terrorism and would leave all the ships stuck in the harbor. What good is a clear exit if the personnel required to operate the ships are stuck in traffic? Not only as Hampton Roads or Virginia residents, but as United States citizens, we should require Congress to bring our National Security up to par by fixing our highways. China, which is technically a ‘developing country,’ is using American highway and traffic engineers to design a world-class highway system. Meanwhile, America is utilizing Chinese … cheap crap, drywall, and substandard steel to effectively undo our position as a world power.

NOTE TO CONGRESS: FIX IT





“Parkway’s Prospects Dim”

26 10 2009

That was the headline in Sunday’s ‘Hampton Roads’ section of the Virginian-Pilot. It is also a headline that I have hoped to see for a long time. I think that even the leaders of Virginia Beach are starting to admit that the project is not exactly a viable option now or in the future. The road would destroy hundreds of acres of wetlands in multiple fragile watersheds so that area residents have the possibility of shaving 7 minutes off of their commute. That’s $385 million per minute saved. Is it really worth it? If the residents are that concerned about the need for a highway, they would have purchased a home closer to an existing highway. There was a resident quoted in the article as saying, “I don’t think it will ever get built.” Thank you EPA. Thank you for sparing the taxpayers the cost of this incredibly overpriced parking lot.





Norfolk Recycling

26 10 2009

A couple of topics regarding recycling in Norfolk:

First, at some point this fall, Norfolk’s Waste Management Division of the Department of Public Works will start a new program allowing residents to drop off recyclables not normally collected through the curbside recycling program, including cell phones, computers, televisions, batteries, and other electronics. In addition to this, they will also be accepting household hazardous waste for disposal including used motor oil, paint, solvents, and compact florescent bulbs. This program should help residents find a simpler alternative to disposing of hazardous materials in their regular trash can.

Speaking of recycling, if you have not heard, SPSA is supposed to end its curbside recycling programs in 2010. This is not a problem in Virginia Beach, where they started recycling with a third party back in 1996. Chesapeake has said that they are not concerned and that they were already looking into other solutions. While I am not sure of how the other cities are planning for this event, I do know that Norfolk has stated that they are committed to continuing current recycling programs after the SPSA plan ends.





Anti-DUI Simulator

14 10 2009

Great story and video by the Virginian-Pilot. Great initiative by the Virginia State Police.

http://hamptonroads.tv/hrtv.php?id=6688009