Week of 9/21/12
Snapshot of life in Hampton Roads
(Editorial, The Virginian-Pilot, September 21, 2012)
People would like to see light rail extended to the Oceanfront and think sales taxes could pay for it.
Some people still haven't heard about plans to levy tolls at the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels.
And, overall, folks think life in Hampton Roads is pretty good.
Old Dominion University's third annual telephone survey of residents in Hampton Roads offered an outline of the "mood" of the region we call home.
The survey, conducted by ODU's Social Science Research Center, queried 762 randomly selected residents of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth and Suffolk. Topics included the economy, transportation, safety, military service and the environment.
In announcing the results, SSRC Director Jesse Richman found much to cheer.
Hampton Roads residents felt better about the place where they live than last year. Perceptions of well-being took a hit from 2010 to 2011, the researchers said, when the quality of life assessment revealed a 21 percent drop, from about 80 percent down to 59 percent. That dip was no surprise, given the depth of the recession.
This year, about 68 percent of those surveyed rated life here as "excellent" or "good," with even higher numbers finding their own neighborhoods nice to live in. (More)
Income rises locally, but more are in poverty
(The Virginian-Pilot, September 21, 2012)
Although more Hampton Roads residents slipped into poverty in 2011, median household income in the area inched upward slightly from 2010.
The U.S. Census Bureau released a mass of data Thursday that paint a picture of the country's shifting social and economic demographics.
In the metropolitan statistical area, 11.7 percent of residents were below the poverty level in 2011, an increase from the 10.6 percent below poverty in 2010, according to census figures.
The area has one of the lowest poverty rates in the country, but it is climbing. In 2010, Hampton Roads ranked 340th out of 366 metro areas. It ranked 325th last year.
The local poverty is on par with the rest of the state - 11.5 percent of Virginians were in poverty in 2011 - and is lower than the national rate of 15.9 percent.
"Part of the explanation for an increase in poverty is because of lack of job improvement," said Vinod Agarwal, professor of economics and director of the Economic Forecasting Project at Old Dominion University. (More)
Gov. McDonnell to speak Wednesday in Suffolk
(The Virginian-Pilot, September 20, 2012)
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is scheduled to speak Wednesday at a national symposium on modeling and simulation technology.
McDonnell is slated to be at Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center, a university news release said. His speech is part of a three-day event designed to highlight the importance of simulation and virtual reality technology.
Among the other scheduled speakers at the event is David Way from the NASA Langley Research Center, who will discuss the role modeling and simulation had in the landing of the Mars Science Lab spacecraft.
All three days of the event will be at VMASC's headquarters, at 1030 University Blvd. in Suffolk. For all agendas and registration specifics, visit www.trainingsystems.org/events. (More)
Old Dominion honored as military-friendly school
(The Virginian-Pilot, September 21, 2012)
Old Dominion and Norfolk State universities have been honored as military-friendly schools, along with other local schools by G.I. Jobs.
The magazine is for military personnel transitioning to civilian life, according to a news release from O.D.U. The magazine annually honors schools that are doing the most to ensure success on campus of military service members, veterans and spouses.
The schools honored earned high marks in the recruitment and retention of students with military experience and have programs for student support.
According to the G.I. Jobs website, other local schools honored include:
- College of William & Mary
- Norfolk State University
- Paul D Camp Community College
- Regent University
- Richard Bland College of the College of William and Mary
- The Art Institute of Virginia Beach
- Thomas Nelson Community College
- Tidewater Community College
- Virginia Wesleyan College (More)
Independent study is needed for proposed arena in Beach
(Opinion, The Virginian-Pilot, September 21, 2012)
Here's something I've learned over the past dozen years: Column writing is the perfect job for someone with adult ADD.
Bored with one topic? Move on to another.
Which is where I was with the Virginia Beach Oceanfront arena deal. My eyes were starting to glaze over at the mere mention of it.
Until Tuesday, that is.
When we first learned about the super-secret negotiations for a sports arena last month, there seemed to be endless interest in the subject. The story had everything: rumors that the NBA's Sacramento Kings were moving to the Beach with the team's colorful owners in tow, curious decisions made behind closed doors, a subsequent apology from the city attorney. ...
You know, the report that counted everybody with a pulse from Pungo to Richmond as potential ticket buyers for NBA home games and used an inflated almost 200-events-a-year formula to make this look like another "win-win-can't-lose-won't-cost-taxpayers-a-dime" project?
Honestly. Did anyone think this could survive close scrutiny?
Remember, even ODU economist James Koch, the author of the study, distanced himself from the results, noting that his report was only as good as the numbers he'd been given. (More)
History, As Recorded on Twitter, Is Vanishing From The Web, Say Computer Scientists
(MIT Technology Review, September 20, 2012)
On 25 January 2011, a popular uprising began in Egypt that led to the overthrow of the country's brutal president and to the first truly free elections. One of the defining features of this uprising and of others in the Arab Spring was the way people used social media to organise protests and to spread news.
Several websites have since begun the task of curating this content, which is an important record of events and how they unfolded. That led Hany SalahEldeen and Michael Nelson at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, to take a deeper look at the material to see how much the shared were still live.
What they found has serious implications. SalahEldeen and Nelson say a significant proportion of the websites that this social media points to has disappeared. And the same pattern occurs for other culturally significant events, such as the H1N1 virus outbreak, Michael Jackson's death and the Syrian uprising.
In other words, our history, as recorded by social media, is slowly leaking away.
Their method is straightforward. SalahEldeen and Nelson looked for tweets on six culturally significant events that occurred between June 2009 and March 2012. They then filtered the URLs these tweets pointed to and checked to see whether the content was still available on the web, either in its original form or in an archived form.
They found that the older the social media, the more likely its content was to be missing. In fact, they found an almost linear relationship between time and the percentage lost.
The numbers are startling. They say that 11 per cent of the social media content had disappeared within a year and 27 per cent within 2 years. Beyond that, SalahEldeen and Nelson say the world loses 0.02 per cent of its culturally significant social media material every day. (More)
Life in Hampton Roads is on the upswing, poll finds
(The Virginian-Pilot, September 19, 2012)
Life in Hampton Roads is looking up again.
That's the take-away from Old Dominion University's third annual survey taking the pulse of residents on a wide range of social, economic, political and other indicators.
Two-thirds of the respondents rated the quality of life in the region as good or excellent. That's an improvement from last year, when the overall measure of well-being plunged to 59 percent from a high of 80 percent in 2010.
What accounts for the more positive attitude? In the words of an oft-quoted political strategist's mantra: It's the economy, stupid.
"I think people are feeling a bit more optimistic about the economy than they were last year," said Jesse Richman, director of ODU's Social Science Research Center, which conducted the survey.
When asked about the state of the area's economy, 62 percent of respondents rated it fair or poor. That may sound like a lot, but it's down significantly from 76 percent last year. People know the economy isn't out of the woods, but they sense it's moving in the right direction, Richman said.
The survey found relative contentment on other fronts, too. (More)
ODU survey shows big support for light rail to Va. Beach
(WVEC-TV, September 19, 2012)
A new survey suggests a majority of people in Virginia Beach support a light rail expansion.
The study, conducted by the ODU Research Center, shows that nearly 90 percent of people in Hampton Roads favor an expansion.
Only 13 percent of Virginia Beach resident say they do not support extending the Tide.
"It suggests people on the whole are positive about the possibility of an expanded light rail system," said Jesse Richman of the ODU Research Center.
Of those questioned in Virginia Beach, 75 percent of people say they prefer an expansion to the oceanfront first.
A question gauging interest in light rail will be on the ballot in November. (More)
Airport likes free train, but asks for more info
(Orlando Sentinel, September 18, 2012)
The board of Orlando International Airport declined Wednesday to vote even informally in favor of a privately financed high-tech train that could be worth $315 million.
Instead, the board asked Tony Morris, the owner of American Maglev, first to provide it with an in-depth ridership study and how the proposed train could affect the sales of rental-car companies that pay millions for space at the airport.
Airport chairman Frank Kruppenbacher did say, "I think we're interested."
Morris was noncommittal about fulfilling the board's request, with his Orlando attorney Charlie Gray saying, "it's kind of tough" to spend money on studies if the board might decide to scuttle the project.
Morris started American Maglev in Edgewater in Volusia County in 1994, but ended up moving his operation to Old Dominion University in Virginia seven years later to build a demonstration project. About $16 million in federal, state and private money was spent before the train was sold for scrap, although the track remains, an ODU spokesman said.
Morris then moved to a small town near Atlanta to build a test track and entered into an agreement with Grupo ACS, one of the largest construction companies in the world. Based in Madrid, ACS officials have said they would help finance the project if a deal can be reached with Orange County and the airport, or one of several other areas where Morris is promoting his venture. (More)
College students: Make your kitchen your friend
(The Virginian-Pilot, September 19, 2012)
Nia Wilson and Jennifer Roubik are fast friends. But neither is buddy-buddy with their dorm suite kitchens.
It's not that the Old Dominion University students don't like them. As dorm kitchens go, theirs are pretty good-looking, with full-size fridges and ovens and lots of cabinet and counter space.
It's just that with statistics tests, with phone calls and knocks on the door that come with being resident advisers, with ROTC and four-hour organic chemistry labs, well, Nia, 19, and Jen, 21, don't really have time to cozy up to their kitchens. Mild flirtations in the form of a pot of noodles or a box of mac-and-cheese are about all the attention that their kitchens get. They're mostly spurned in favor of fast food.
And that is so wrong, says Nisa Burns, a Virginia Beach college student whose cookbook, "Kitchen-ability 101 - The College Student's Guide to Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Food," hits bookstores next month.
Burns' advice to those in college: treat your kitchen more like a friend or partner than an outcast.
And so, last week, Nia and Jen agreed to a first real date of sorts, a test drive of an advance copy of Burns' cookbook. (More)
Va. Beach mayor backs $50,000 study on arena impact
(The Virginian-Pilot, September 19, 2012)
Mayor Will Sessoms said Tuesday that he supports spending up to $50,000 on an independent study of the economic impact of the $350 million arena proposed for near the Oceanfront.
A study done in August by James V. Koch, an Old Dominion University economics professor, was based on data partly provided by Comcast-Spectacor, the company pitching the arena project.
Councilman John Moss argued at Tuesday's City Council work session that an independent analysis is necessary to check those numbers.
Sessoms said it's important to enlist "another set of eyes."
The Koch study estimated an arena, starting in 2015, would host nearly 200 events a year with 1.3 million attendees. It would also create 1,230 jobs and generate $98 million in revenue in 2015, including $66 million in Virginia Beach.
It was part of the nearly $700,000 spent so far on arena project consultants.
Sources have said the NBA's Sacramento Kings are the main target tenant for the arena, which also would be used for concerts and minor league sports.
The study would be done when the city has more information about how the arena would be paid for, Sessoms said. That information is not expected before December, and might come early next year. (More)
ODU study: 89% want light rail extended
(WAVY-TV, September 18, 2012)
In a study released by Old Dominion University, 89 percent of responders say they are supportive of extending light rail.
"Life in Hampton Roads" is an annual study conducted by Old Dominion University's Social Science Research Center, which also reported residents are starting to feel more optimistic about living conditions in Hampton Roads.
The survey was conducted between June 2 and Aug. 10 with 762 participants from the seven major area cities.
Other highlights of the survey include:
A third of the responders did not know there were plans to put tolls on the tunnels
The top three light rail expansion destinations were the Oceanfront, Town Center and Norfolk Naval Base
To fund light rail, 22.6 percent said increase taxes, 19.2 percent said borrow money and 10.1 percent increase the fuel tax
Twenty percent said they have ridden the Tide
A majority of responders (58.9 percent for local and 65.4 percent for state) said they felt local and state government waste a fair amount of resources rather than use them wisely
Six percent of responders said they or a member of their household had been a victim of crime
A majority of responders (56.4 percent) rated the overall quality of life in Hampton Roads as "good"
The average commute to work or school was 23.9 minutes
A high majority of responders (87.4 percent) said they were registered to vote (More)
Hampton Roads survey finds a positive attitude
(Virginia Business, September 18, 2012)
An annual survey of Hampton Roads residents shows they are feeling better about the region than last year.
The Life in Hampton Roads survey conducted by Old Dominion University's Social Science Research Center showed confidence in the region's living conditions have rebounded from a 21.3 percentage-point drop last year.
For the third straight year, the center conducted a telephone survey to gauge opinion on a variety of local issues, ranging from transportation (including light rail) to the environment to crime.
Positive perceptions about the region's quality of life dropped from 80.5 percent in the 2010 survey to 59.2 percent last year.
In this year's poll, however, that figure bounced back, with 68.4 percent of the residents surveyed rating the quality of life in the region as either "excellent" or "good." In addition, 85.3 percent also rated the quality of life in their neighborhoods as excellent or good.
The survey's results were based on 762 interviews with randomly selected residents of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth and Suffolk between June 2 and Aug. 10.
Respondents were asked to provide a reason as to why they rated the quality of life in Hampton Roads as they did. Those who responded "good" or "excellent" often cited the variety of things to do in the area, such as cultural and recreational events. (More)
Veteran broadcaster Gumbel to speak Tuesday at ODU
(The Virginian-Pilot, September 18, 2012)
Veteran sportscaster Greg Gumbel is scheduled to speak Tuesday night at Old Dominion University.
Gumbel is set to speak at 7:30 p.m. in the North Cafeteria of Webb Center, an ODU news release said. His talk is free and open to the public.
An Emmy Award winner, Gumbel has announced games and hosted sports shows for nearly 40 years. During the fall, he announces NFL games for CBS. In the spring, he hosts CBS' NCAA basketball tournament in-studio shows.
Gumbel became the first African American announcer to call play-by-play of a major sports championship in the United States when he announced Super Bowl XXXV for CBS in 2001. (More)
Growing companies - creating jobs
(Inside Business, September 14, 2012)
Founder and CEO
SimIS Inc., Portsmouth
Johnny Garcia is founder and CEO of SimIS Inc. The former CTO of General Dynamics AIS, Garcia has more than 20 years of modeling and simulation and engineering expertise for NATO, the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, NASA, and in the health care and manufacturing industries.
Garcia is one of only 11 people with a doctoral degree in modeling and simulation. He received that degree from Old Dominion University in 2011. He also received bachelor degrees from St. Leo College and an MBA and master's degree from Florida Institute of Technology.
Garcia is a veteran of the U.S. Navy.
What has been the best part or biggest advantage of being involved in the economic gardening program?
Meeting other small businesses that have the same issues with capital, finding the proper talent and understanding different markets - especially manufacturing, energy and health care. (More)
Election 2012: Democrats, Republicans offer clear choice on taxes
(Trading Charts.com/The Daily Press, September 16, 2012)
At the center of the fall campaigns, from the presidential race on down, is whether to extend all or some of President George W. Bush's temporary tax cuts which are set to expire at the end of the year.
President Barack Obama wants the Bush-tax cuts to expire for people making over $250,000 a year as a way to help rein in a nearly $1.2 trillion federal budget deficit and more than $16 trillion national debt. The president has said the "wealthiest Americans" need to pay their "fair share" in helping to deal with the deficit crisis, which includes steering the country away from driving over the fiscal cliff of the looming sequestration cuts.
Approximately 19,500 households of the 620,000 households in Hampton Roads, roughly 3 percent, make more than $200,000 dollars a year, according to 2010 U.S. Census estimates.
A July study by accounting firm Ernst & Young points out, however, that increasing tax rates for higher income earners would affect more than just individual households, as many small-business owners file their taxes using the individual taxpayer rate. The Congressional Joint Taxation Committee estimates that 53 percent of net positive business income is taxed this way. ...
Jesse Richman, professor of political science at Old Dominion University, said the deficit can be overcome by the cuts-only approach favored by most Republican lawmakers and candidates, most of whom have signed political activist Grover Norquist's "no-new-tax pledge."
Richman said to make up the gap, the cuts must be large and deep and must affect many key, popular government programs. But, he said, it's not clear that either large cuts or significant tax increases are "politically palatable." (More)
State extends deadlines for port deal
(Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 15, 2012)
The state is again stretching out the schedule for consideration of privatizing the Port of Virginia's operations.
Deadlines for detailed proposals and updating the Virginia Port Authority's board on them have been pushed back about a month, and the rough time for closing the deal has gone from late this year or early 2013 to sometime in 2013.
With billions of dollars potentially on the line, detailed proposals are now due Nov. 1, instead of Oct. 5, and the update for the board has gone from Oct. 15 to Nov. 27.
Announcing a preferred proposer had been scheduled for Oct. 15 and is now, along with the port authority board's action and signing a comprehensive agreement, to be determined later, the state Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships said Friday. ...
Economist James V. Koch, former president of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, who has consulted with state transportation officials on the possible privatization, supported the delay.
"It's helpful," Koch said. "It will give us an opportunity to make a more considered decision."
In July, the state extended the schedule for accepting alternative port operation proposals by a month. (More)
Tangled route to port deal
(Opinion, The Virginian-Pilot, September 16, 2012)
Right about now, if state officials had gotten their way, Gov. Bob McDonnell would be preparing to announce that the commonwealth had purchased APM's state-of-the-art terminal in Portsmouth.
Instead, he and his administration are mired in a process drawing heavy public scrutiny and leading toward an entirely different outcome.
What a difference one year makes.
Last fall, when APM officials signaled an interest in selling the high-tech facility, the governor and his transportation secretary, Sean Connaughton, began discussing a way to buy it. The Virginia Port Authority's private, nonprofit partner, Virginia International Terminals Inc., already operated the APM terminal under a 20-year lease signed in 2010.
Old Dominion University economist James Koch has said APM's deal would be better, naturally, for the company than for Virginians.
And while most of the conversation has so far stuck to financial matters, the state eventually will need to consider its own role at the port. (More)
A prudent delay on port proposals
(Editorial, The Virginian-Pilot, September 15, 2012)
Gov. Bob McDonnell and Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton seem to have heard a portion of the message from folks worried about the rush to make a decision on privatizing Virginia's port operations. This week, Connaughton confirmed that deadlines for the deal, including a pending Oct. 15 announcement of a preferred operator, would be bumped by at least a month.
"October 15th was a target date," the secretary said. "We will definitely be adjusting and setting back the time schedule to ensure that we make the best decision for the commonwealth."
A month's delay is a start, but time is unlikely, by itself, to be enough to guarantee a good deal. ...
State approval of APM's proposal would essentially eliminate VIT, trade one monopoly for another and saddle Virginia with a 48-year contract that, in the words of Old Dominion University economist James Koch, leaves "quite a bit of money on the table."
He didn't have enough data to analyze the Carlyle Group's 48-year offer, or RREEF's 50-year bid, or evaluate the possibilities of combining multiple operators at the various terminals, when he spoke last month to a legislative advisory panel. (More)
Software lights trail to suspect in Ghent burglaries
(The Virginian-Pilot, September 17, 2012)
Amir Louka and Stephanie Krebs returned to their West Ghent apartment this summer to a jolt: an open window, a swinging back door and empty space where their television, laptops and iPod used to be.
Nearly $5,000 worth of property was missing.
Gone were replaceable items - files backed up on hard drives, study aids - as well as items with more intangible value - graduate school essays and photos.
But they had a hunch that something on one of their three stolen laptops might help them find that computer - and maybe even a culprit. ...
A laptop is hard to trace, said Tamer Nadeem, computer science professor at Old Dominion University. Unlike a smart phone, laptops do not come equipped with GPS devices, he said.
The laptop tracking system requires more resources, such as network connections and unique user IDs, and does not always lead to a precise location, he said. It can also be thwarted by erasing the computer's hard disk, Nadeem said. (More)