Mike Barrett wrote on VNS (10/5/2009) that “VBTA doesn't meet criteria to be involved in Light Rail planning” and “Well Beth Allen writes another piece (Virginian-Pilot 10/4/09) of misdirection intended to plead the case for the VBTA to be involved in the Light rail process. Problem is, the VBTA does not meet the federal criteria. Case closed.”

I then asked Mike Barrett (posting on VNS) to cite what Federal criteria for the CAC the VBTA did not meet. He then launched a series of ad hominem attacks directed toward me and failed to answer the question.

I asked again for Mr. Barrett to explain what Federal criteria for the CAC the VBTA did not meet, pointing out that he failed to answer the question or to offer any proof of his assertions. Today (10/12/2009) he wrote on VNS, “The VBTA is entitled to participate all it wants in the EIS process, and I think Councilmen Wood and Uhrin explained that quite well in their piece in the Pilot.”

Back on 10/5/2009 Mike Barrett continued his vitriolic ad hominem attacks on VNS and also wrote, “But one could quote a few other reasons [i.e. meaning why the VBTA doesn’t meet the criteria to be involved in Light Rail planning]. First, is there any doubt where the VBTA stands? No, absolutely not, and one need only avail themselves of the three part comedy series produced by the organization's Transportation Chairman to know that the VBTA will oppose light rail transit under any circumstances. No study needed for them to reach a conclusion.”

Fairly hypocritical of Mr. Barrett who posted in today’s Pilot Online comments in response to a recent Pilot editorial about Wally Erb’s light rail referendum that makes it very clear where HE stands on light rail along the old NS ROW – without waiting for the study – or without the benefit of having any audited cost estimates and projected ridership numbers and their impact on reducing traffic congestion along RT 264.

Mike Barrett wrote “…that it why light rail transit is so popular and so much of a rational and reasonable addition to our transportation alternatives, especially in this corridor.” As well as, “…light rail is the most economical, practical, and least intrusive alternative we have.”.

He also posted this amazing statement about costs, without the benefit of the updated study; “In this case, since I-264 is already widened to its limit, I would roughly estimate that the cost to widen the road the same distance would cost ten times the cost of light rail.”

This position he posts without the offering any substantiated evidence or current study to back up his claim. Incredible. At least my detailed “three part comedy series”, as Mr. Barrett rudely and inaccurately referred to my presentations made to the VBTA and to the Republican Party of Virginia Beach, are backed up by research, facts, and reasonable conclusions based on HRT’s reported costs and ridership estimates for the Norfolk light rail line known as “The Tide” - as well as the original FEIS from 1999 -2000.

To modify some phrasing borrowed from Mike’s VNS posts on this subject I’ll state the following;

“ Well [Mike Barrett] writes another piece (in Virginian-Pilot Online comments) of misdirection intended to plead the case for light rail. Problem is, the Mike isn’t waiting for any facts or the $5.7M SEIS/AA study to be completed before he makes up HIS MIND. Case closed.”

Of course normally I would not be as rude as Mr. Barrett in the manner in which I would present my conclusion or assert that the “case” was “closed”. It is not – far from it. At least the VBTA and I are waiting for the results of the SEIS and AA before we take a formal position on the proposed light rail, TOD, and feeder bus system that Mike Barrett  and Henry Ryto so vocally support - without the benefit of updated facts that will be documented in the updated SEIS and AA.

However, waiting for the outcome of the updated studies is a far different matter than voicing my concerns related to the current and ongoing failure of HRT, the TDHCR, City Manager Jim Spore, and the majority of the Virginia Beach City Council to ensure that a truly open and transparent process is being used to solicited meaningful, objective, and respectful citizen collaboration throughout the SEIS, Alternatives Analysis, LPA (Locally Preferred Alternative) process, and throughout the rest of the NEPA and Federal “New Starts” citizen participation processes. My taking exception to the secretive process used to date to select the members of the CAC is not my voicing an opinion on discussing the question of if the proposed light rail system and TOD is worthy of taxpayer investment, rather, it is simply to take exception to what I am observing as a dishonest and non-transparent process being used to attempt to manage the citizen participation on this project and guide it into a predetermined outcome.

I strongly believe that desired outcome sought by HRT, the Miles Agency, and many special interest from the business community is for the outcome of the LPA selection process to be support for extending the Norfolk light rail system into Virginia Beach along the old Norfolk Southern Right Of Way (NS ROW). For much of the politically influential business community I believe their support is far more about continued taxpayer subsidized development than it is about reducing traffic congestion or moving people on mass transit.

The fact that the powerful CBDA was selected to have a seat on the CAC, while the VBTA, who conducts their meetings within ¼ of a mile of the proposed light rail line was not allowed on the CAC, is quite revealing to me. This, after the VBTA made it clear to all parties involved that we desired to serve on the CAC.

My efforts to expose the appearance of conflicts of interest that exist with the use of the Miles Agency involved in conducting the citizen participation process and their inappropriate role in selecting the CAC membership have nothing to do with my views on if light rail is a worthy investment – or not. These concerns simply serve to help expose to the general public that a corrupt process is being used to manipulate the outcome of the alleged “citizen participation” process embraced by HRT, the TDCHR, the Virginia Beach City Manager, and several members of the Virginia Beach City Council. Not to mention the role of the Hampton Roads Partnership and other politically influential business organizations.

Mr. Barrett and Mr. Ryto like to frame my views presented in my presentations as being opposed to the proposed light rail effort along the old NS ROW.

What I have been objecting to is a dishonest process, a failure to share all of the pros and cons of the project, a lack of transparency and a lack of a legitimate public participation decision-making process – especially is the secretive and non-public processes used to select the CAC and to limit the scope of the CAC’s membership eligibility and role on this effort.

Reid Greenmun - Virginia Beach