What a difference a year makes. Let’s cue video of last year’s discussion on who to interview for school board appointments.
Now lets watch this year’s video. Oh wait, there isn’t one. According to the Pilot:
“After the meeting, council members individually decided which nominees they wanted to interview. Nominees needed the support of at least three council members to get called in for an interview.”
Generally speaking, citizens of Norfolk don’t expect much in the way of transparency or even legal, ethical, or otherwise moral actions from our city council. That being said, we at least expect what little transparency we get in one year to be carried on to the next.
So why the secrecy in deciding who gets called for an interview? It’s possible this private polling members even violated the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.
That question rests on what you consider a transaction of public business. Does calling someone to be interviewed for a school board decision make the cut? It did last year. So why not this one?
“A. Unless otherwise specifically provided by law, no vote of any kind of the membership, or any part thereof, of any public body shall be taken to authorize the transaction of any public business, other than a vote taken at a meeting conducted in accordance with the provisions of this chapter. No public body shall vote by secret or written ballot, and unless expressly provided by this chapter, no public body shall vote by telephone or other electronic communication means.”
I don’t own a car, I’m 26, and I’ve been riding HRT since the age of 16. It’s the year 2015, so that means I’ve been riding the bus since 2005. Being generous, that was about the time HRT should have stopped using spreadsheets as data entry tools to track anything to do with public transit.
Unfortunately, according to a recent audit, “Eight employees [are] required to populate the spreadsheets reported receiving little to no guidance regarding the information expected in each spreadsheet. As a result, data are inconsistently collected among departments and data are incomplete, inaccurate, and illogical.”
HRT’s Chief Financial Officer referred to the experience as Excel hell. This confirms that they were in fact Excel Spreadsheets and “spreadsheet” is not being used as some twisted euphemism for a data entry screen in a real database system.
I could easily look up HRT’s budget, but that would just piss me off even more. They could have a budget of literally any size and still find a way to use something other than Excel spreadsheets for data entry. Even Google Docs is better. Hopefully they can at least move up to that before tackling light rail expansion.
This is great, but not as great as Cherise Newsome returning to her job covering Norfolk Schools after being on maternity leave.
Out of 125 students in the program, 16 graduated this year. No word on how many of the other 109 students are still enrolled. I’d really like to see some kind of performance metric to judge how well Delegate Daun Hester did running the place.
Virginia Beach City Manager Jim Spore (right) just got a big raise. How big? He now makes $47,000 a year more than the Secretary of Defense. According to Virginia Beach City Councilman John Moss writing on his Facebook page:
“All the below is public information but infrequently made readily public and rarely in a consolidated:
Beach City Manager
Salary = $241,416.72
Car Allowance = $12,000
Deferred Compensation (payment made by taxpayers into City Manager’s personal deferred retirement on top of VRS) = $20,5000
Health Insurance = “total premium for family hospitalization and medical insurance and dental coverage”(Article VI -Fringe Benefits [city mgr contract]) – means city manager pays no employee share of his insurance.
Est value $12,000
Long term health insurance = $2,684
Total City Manager Compensation approximately $288,600.72 with a contact with severance provisions
Budget approx $2 billion
Employees approx 7,000
Secretary of Defense
Pay your share health insurance
No payment for long term health insurance
No supplemental payment towards retirement
DOD budget over $500 billion
Employees approx $3 million”
Is he worth the money? Not in my opinion. What do you think?
Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake Open Up Their GIS Data
This is huge. For me. And anyone else who uses GIS data for work, fun, or maybe even planning paramilitary activities. If you’ve ever used Google Earth or Google Maps, you have used GIS data. GIS standing for geographic information system.
Believe it or not, and you better believe it, most cities have digital representations of everything from the building footprints of your home and the edges of your driveway to underground utility lines and bodies of water.
This information used to be available only for purchase at the costs of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Now Virginia beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake are making the data available for free. You can check out the links below and access the data using a free program called QGIS. If you’ve ever read one of these articles and seen a map, QGIS is what is made with.