Saturday, February 04, 2006

Let's Make A Deal

Gov. Tim Kaine took kind of a victory lap through Loudoun County yesterday, giving a speech to the county's chamber of commerce just a few days after Democrat Mark Herring won a special state senate election there on the same growth/transportation themes that served Kaine so well in November.

The WaPost covers Kaine's speech, in which he does a bit of posturing by pressing the House GOP to come up with some financing plans and threatening to call a special session if some deal isn't worked out. The article says Kaine is kinda ticked.
'"It's 'Wait and see what we come up with,' " Kaine said, a hint of frustration evident yesterday, noting that he has taken pains to welcome ideas. But he said he would turn to other options quickly -- including harsher rhetoric and a session extension -- if the House fails to act soon.'
House leaders say they'll reveal their funding strategies next week. Bill Howell and company are probably on some kind of 'listening tour' now.

Friday, February 03, 2006

House GOP Wants a Different VDOT

Republican leaders in the House of Delegates outlined their plans to 'reform' how the state's transportation decisions are handled, and their ideas include changes at VDOT and for the Commonwealth Transportation Board.Says The Free Lance-Star this morning:
'The bills they listed yesterday include provisions to contract out all maintenance work to private companies; increase local authority and responsibility for local roads; give the General Assembly the power to appoint some of the members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (all members of the CTB are currently gubernatorial appointments); and create a commission that would have oversight of transportation agencies, especially when the legislature is not in session.

'Del. Leo Wardrup, R-Virginia Beach, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said the Virginia Department of Transportation is "absolutely impervious to human intervention."

'The bills include one that would encourage private companies to construct roads in exchange for "concession agreements" such as tolls. Another bill would increase the amount allotted to "revenue sharing agreements" with localities, in which localities pay for part of the cost of a road project to help build it faster. The Republicans also want regular reports from the state's transportation commissioner on the efforts of VDOT to privatize, outsource or downsize projects.'
Speaker of the House Bill Howell and others say the financing details will come out later.
'"We believe that the transportation problems in Virginia are much larger than just dollars and cents," said Del. Cliff Athey, R-Front Royal.'

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Subdivision Politics

The election earlier this week of Democrat Mark Herring to the state Senate, an office previously held by a Republican, is a sure sign that something's brewing in Loudoun County.

Loudoun is the spear-head -- the pointy end of the spearhead - of growth in Virginia, and what happens there holds lessons for other fast-growing regions of the state. In a profile of Andrea McGimsey, who runs the Campaign for Loudoun's Future, Road to Ruin reporter Bob Burke takes a look at grass roots activism and the backlash against untrammeled growth in the county.

McGimsey, a former AOL employee combines old-fashioned, face-to-face retail politics with sophisticated interactive media tools. Read the article.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Jack Herrity

The former Fairfax County supervisor who helped shape much of that county's growth in the 1970s has died, at 75, reports the Wash Post.
'Herrity was known for his influence on transportation in the county. As chairman of the board from 1976 to 1988, he was involved in the developmental stages of the Fairfax County Parkway, Interstate 66 inside the Beltway and the Dulles Access Road.
In 1980, Herrity was named Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian magazine.'
A memorable fellow. In the early 1970s I remember him campaigning door-to-door for the Board of Supervisors and sitting with my parents at the kitchen table of our new house in what was then edge of suburban development, just west of Fairfax City. He was a serious political force. Wonder what he thought of how Fairfax turned out...

Anti-Growth Backlash in Loudoun

Wake up call for the GOP: Democrat Mark R. Herring just picked up a state Senate seat in a special election against Mick Staton, Jr., in a formerly Republican seat. Herring, according to today's Washington Post, "spoke to the frustration of many residents over unchecked growth and traffic."

Staton, who ran as a fiscal and social conservative, won only 38 percent of the vote.

Smart growth advocates did not hesitate to declare victory along with Herring. "Virginia’s voters have made it clear that they want something done about poorly planned growth because they know it makes their commutes longer and longer,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth in a prepared statement released yesterday.

“Both candidates must now address these growth issues, Herring as Senator and Staton as Supervisor,” said Andrea McGimsey of Campaign for Loudoun’s Future. “Voters do not have a partisan approach on growth issues, they want all of their officials to look at the big picture and work with them to make wise decisions about where and how the region grows.”

“We are encouraged by the bi-partisan leadership at the state level in support of connecting transportation and land use planning," said Christopher Miller, President, Piedmont Environmental Council. "Senator-elect Herring understands local problems and will help deliver the needed tools for addressing growth.”

Will the political dynamics in Loudoun carry over to other localities? Perhaps not. Growth-related stresses in Loudoun, one of the fastest-growing counties in the country, are the worst in Virginia. But the magnitude of the political reversal there suggests that Republicans had better come up with better ideas for coping with growth than they have so far or they will continue to lose ground in Virginia's high-growth counties.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Telework: The Other Fuel

The Telework Exchange, an online community dedicated to eliminating telework gridlock, has released its "A Barrel Saved is a Barrel Earned" study which quantifies America's fuel conservation opportunity. By teleworking just two days per week, the U.S. government and white collar workforce could conserve 11.67 billion gallons of gasoline per year. That represents an associated annual fuel conservation equivalent to more than 27 percent of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Says Stephen W.T. O'Keeffe, executive director of the Alexandria-based exchange: "The best way to reduce gasoline consumption and dependence is to drive less. ... The 'other' fuel for our economy, telework, is a largely untapped resource. It requires no new research and development. The remedy to America's gasoline addiction is right on our doorstep." Click here for study details.

Correction for Mike Thompson's Column

Bacon's Rebellion published an early edition of Mike Thompson's column, "How to Fund Transportation Without Really Trying" based on a preliminary draft, and Road to Ruin linked to it. The early version omitted several important changes made by the author. We have since replaced it with the proper version. We apologize both to Mike and to our readers for the error.

New Kent County Zones Out

A proposed overhaul of zoning laws in New Kent County has been shelved for now after protests from a number of county residents. 'A number' is what you say when you don't actually know the number, but think it was more than one and less than 100 percent.

The Times-Dispatch covered it here . If you're interested, you can find the draft zoning ordinance at this page and download a PDF of the overview.

I don't know the details of this county but it sure sounds like a familiar story. Residents quoted in the article blame outsiders and newcomers.
'Douglas Harwood, who owns and harvests timberland in New Kent, said he is troubled by rules that seem to cater to the tastes of newcomers moving into upscale residential developments.
"They have decided that New Kent County is no longer going to be New Kent County. It's going to be Williamsburg," Harwood said. "Everything is being done for the people that are coming from outside."
David Adams, who fears the new rules would make his Providence Forge convenience store and gas station illegal, agrees.
"It seems like this whole document is geared toward protecting people who aren't here yet," Adams said. "But those of us who are here are going to have to bear the burden of protecting them."'
This is some lame reporting here, since I seriously doubt the zoning ordinance would force this fellow to close his store, and the reporter could have found out.
But it'll be interesting to see if proponents of this zoning-law change try to bring it back.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Method to Our Madness

You might think that the Road to Ruin is just a random bunch of blog postings by Bob Burke and Jim Bacon, but you're be sorely mistaken. Believe it or not, there are reasons for the topics we choose to focus on.

I have laid out our framework for analysis in the Road to Ruin's "Transportation Primer." Here, we lay out the four major themes that animate Bob Burke's reporting and my opinion pieces:
  1. Advocates of a transportation tax increase are exagerrating the severity of the transportation crisis in an effort to stampede lawmakers into a tax increase.
  2. Virginia cannot build its way out of traffic congestion -- adopting more rational human settlement patterns is essential.
  3. Even in the absence of land use reform, there are alternative strategies for coping with congestion that don't entail tax increases.
  4. Giving politicians more money to "solve" Virginia's transportation problems is like giving booze to a drunk to "solve" his hangover.
Each section contains links to key articles and columns we have written.

The Thinking Man's Insurrection

No need for riots in the steet or hurling molotov cocktails. The thinking man's insurrection has arrived. Just sink into that ergonomically incorrect chair in front of your PC and peruse the Jan. 30, 2006, edition of Bacon's Rebellion here. Our columnists clearly had transportation -- and transportation-related tax hikes -- on their mind.

Columns include:

The Waste in Maintenance
If the General Assembly doesn't tackle the $200 million-a-year waste in road maintenance, lawmakers can't even pretend to be serious about curtailing state spending.
by James A. Bacon

Transportation Hold 'em
Most of the cards on the General Assembly's transportation table are lying face up. But it's still too early to know who's got the winning hand.
by Doug Koelemay

Kaine's Plan Doesn't Cut It
Tim Kaine's transportation plan will cost more money - and it won't work.
by Patrick McSweeney

Not Again (Sigh)
Once again, the General Assembly is talking about taxes for transportation. You'd never know that a global revolution in highway privatization and financing has taken place.
by Geoffrey Segal

How to Fund Transportation without Really Trying
These six strategies will stretch Virginia transportation dollars by billions of dollars -- and put off the need for tax increases for years.
by Michael Thompson