Week of 10/28/13
Suffering through a fact-killing epidemic
(Opinion, The Virginian-Pilot, October 27, 2013)
Most recent public opinion polls show more people favor Democrat Terry McAuliffe over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the race for governor.
That polls show Cuccinelli behind is indisputable and true, backed up by mountains of data produced by a number of pollsters. Sadly, that kind of thing doesn't matter as much as it used to.
We like what we like, and we believe what we believe. We tend to favor information - and sources - that reinforce our existing ideas.
If you think I'm a hopeless liberal, for example, and you detest liberal ideas, you might not believe a word I say, even after I cite a well-regarded source like Real Clear Politics (http://bit.ly/1c0HTms) or the more partisan HuffPost Pollster (http://huff.to/10wS8DN) or a clearly Republican poll tracker if I could find one.
The trouble for all of us comes when we believe something so strongly that even indisputable facts can't shift us. I still believe the Redskins are a decent team, for example, despite years of evidence to the contrary.
This idea of "confirmation bias" is old, but we probably have never seen an epidemic quite as dangerous to democracy as the current one. Jesse Richman, an Old Dominion University professor who released a wide-ranging statewide opinion poll last week, had a warning about that.
"Sometimes people fall into the trap of unreasonable concern," he said. "That can lead us into the trap of relying on bad information."
Bad information. (More)
Hotel revenue drops across South Hampton Roads
(The Virginian-Pilot, Oct. 26, 2013)
Hotel revenue is hitting record levels nationwide this year, but it has dropped across South Hampton Roads.
Four of the region's cities - Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk and Virginia Beach - registered declines in hotel revenue in the first three quarters of the year, compared with the same time in 2012, according to STR Global, a research firm.
Suffolk suffered the largest drop, a 6 percent decline. Norfolk faced the greatest decrease in dollars - slightly more than $3 million.
STR does not compile data for Portsmouth because it said the city doesn't have enough hotels. ...
Tourism is one of the three major prongs powering the regional economy, the others being defense and the port, said James Koch, a professor of economics and former president of Old Dominion University. South Hampton Roads, including Portsmouth, has about 200 hotels with nearly 22,000 rooms, according to STR.
All of the local cities registered growth in hotel revenue in 2012, STR said. Yet Virginia Beach is the only one that has a higher rev-par level than it did in 2007, Koch said.
"The recession hit the region's tourism industry so hard and collectively that the industry has yet to recover," said ODU's recent State of the Region report.
Koch, its main author, offered varying critiques of the cities' approaches to tourism. Virginia Beach, he said in an interview, "seems to have developed a pretty good recipe," drawing more affluent visitors who have lengthened their stays. The average income of an overnight visitor rose to $97,333 last year from $86,844 in 2009, according to Ricketts' department. (More)
Ball State president plans to retire
(The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Ind), October 26, 2013)
Ball State President Jo Ann Gora informed the board of trustees Friday that she will retire at the end of June.
"This year will be my 10th as president at Ball State but my 40 in higher education," Gora said in a news release from the university. "It has been a rewarding and fulfilling career, especially these years in Indiana."
Board president Hollis Hughes said in the release, "Jo Ann Gora has taken Ball State to new levels of excellence and recognition during her presidency. There is no good time to say goodbye to such a leader, but the university is well positioned to continue to press forward in the course she has helped us set."
Gora arrived in 2004 as the 14th president of Ball State in 2004, becoming the first woman to serve as president of a public university in Indiana. She had previously been chancellor of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and as provost and vice president of academic affairs at Old Dominion University.
The university underwent more than $520 million of facilities construction and renovation during the time she was president. That included a $70 million geothermal project that taps the earth's nearly constant temperature for campus heating and cooling. (More)
Marriage equality moving southward
(Editorial, The Virginian-Pilot, Oct. 25, 2013)
Virginia's place on the gay marriage map is a sadly familiar one to residents of the commonwealth and students of its history.
Once again, we're the northern barrier to the southward march of a long-established basic civil right: The right to choose a life's partner.
To our north, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday that his administration will no longer fight a court ruling extending the right to marry to gay couples, essentially making it law in the Garden State. Marriages became legal at 12:01 Monday morning.
Only Pennsylvania still denies marriage equality in America's Northeast. Every other state from Maine to Maryland permits gay marriage, according to Freedom to Marry, an advocacy group. So do California and Washington, Minnesota and Iowa.
More than a third of Americans now live in states where gay marriage is legal or recognized. More than 40 percent of Americans live where marriage or civil partnerships are allowed.
Virginia's station as the battleground for the fight over gay marriage is no surprise. In 2006, 57 percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment barring not just gay marriage but also civil unions and anything else that might legitimize a gay relationship.
According to polling released last week by Christopher Newport University, a full 55 percent of Virginians now support the amendment's repeal. A poll at Old Dominion University showed support at 52 percent for legalizing gay marriage.
In the wake of this year's Supreme Court decision invalidating California's Proposition 8 - a far less onerous prohibition of gay marriage than Virginia's - the commonwealth's constitutional amendment is finally under real challenge.
Timothy Bostic, a professor at ODU, and partner Tony London, a Navy veteran and real estate agent, tried to get a marriage license at the Norfolk Circuit Court but were denied because of the 2006 amendment. (More)
Norfolk's The Y on Granby quickly surpassing expectations
(The Virginian-Pilot, October 27, 2013)
Expectations were high for The Y on Granby when it opened its doors nearly five months ago, and the $8 million family fitness and activity center hasn't disappointed.
"In terms of membership and usage, we have met and exceeded our goals," said Anthony Walters, the center's executive director.
As of Sept. 30, The Y on Granby boasted 663 memberships, which equates to about 1,658 individuals. Walters hopes to secure 1,000 memberships by year's end. The clientele is diverse in terms of age, race and socio-economics. The YMCA center draws members from throughout the city.
"That's what I was dreaming about - a place where Norfolk can come together," Walters said.
Walters said while The Y on Granby is a great community resource, it can't meet all outreach goals alone.
"We want to be a hub where collaboration can occur," he said. "We hope to partner with other organizations to meet community needs."
The center recently teamed with art-education majors from Old Dominion University to offer art instruction to elementary and middle school students.
In 2014, there are plans to partner with city elementary schools and offer subsidized or free swim lessons. (More)
Fulfilling game, empty stands for ODU-NSU
(The Virginian-Pilot, October 27, 2013)
As expected, it was 59 degrees under a cloudless autumn sky when Old Dominion and Norfolk State kicked off Saturday afternoon at Dick Price Stadium.
The forecast was spot-on. The anticipated turnout was not.
Just 11,308 gathered in the 30,000-seat venue as ODU survived for a 27-24 win over its crosstown rival. The relatively sparse crowd, much like the thin final margin, was a surprise by any measure.
Reasoning that NSU's fan base tends to buy walk-up tickets rather than purchase in advance, athletic director Marty Miller said in the days leading up to the game that good weather likely would equal a packed house.
He got one, but not the other.
"I'm not disappointed in the crowd, although I hoped we'd have closer to 20,000," Miller said through a school spokesman after the game, declining to speculate as to why the showing was barely half that size. "I thought it was a decent turnout."
The last time the teams met, in the 2011 FCS playoffs at ODU, they quickly sold out then-19,818-seat Foreman Field.
Fans of the Monarchs, who improved to 5-3, didn't exactly make the 4-mile trip in droves. Despite selling out all 33 home games in the program's 41?2 seasons, ODU returned about 300 of its allotted 2,000 tickets.
About 5,000 fans traveled to ODU's opener at East Carolina, and about 2,000 went to Maryland on Sept. 7.
Athletic director Wood Selig said this week he anticipates taking as many as 5,000 to North Carolina on Nov. 23.
Add those trips to six ODU home games this season - including four in a row recently - and the tailgating tab skyrockets.
NSU, which charges $25 for reserved seating for most home games, raised the price to $35 for the ODU game and this Saturday's homecoming contest against Florida A&M.
"It's just whether or not the fans want to come see it," said ODU coach Bobby Wilder, who wouldn't allow his players to speak about the crowd. "I understand there was a significant cost involved to come see this football game. I certainly respect, whether it's when we play at home or when we travel, an expense to go see a football game. We're just appreciative of all those fans that were behind us on our sideline, because it got pretty loud." (More)
After Hurricane Sandy, One Man Tries to Stop the Reconstruction
(Outside Magazine, October, 2013)
THE PROPHET AND I return to the drowned city. Trailing robes behind him, he will point his wooden staff at the places where the waters rose, the subway steps turned into rapids, and the cross streets became fast-flowing inlets. He'll gesture toward the river, explaining how it was pushed back by the winds and tide, how the full moon affected this most modern of places. Four years ago, when he pointed at these same spots and told me what was going to happen to New York City, I only half believed him. Now I believe, along with everyone else. We have seen it with our own eyes.
The prophet's name is Orrin Pilkey, and his day job, for many years, was as a coastal geologist at Duke University, where he started teaching in 1965 and is now a professor emeritus. (Duke is honoring him by building a $6.8 million marine-science center in Beaufort, North Carolina, with his name on it.) In lectures and in 40 books-including 2009's doom-laden The Rising Sea, cowritten with fellow coastal geologist Rob Young-Orrin has issued steady warnings about the dangers of living by the shore during an era of climate change. At a time when everyone seems to be using military terminology to describe our battle against the attacking ocean, he has a term of his own: retreat.
Our next stop, two hours up the road past swampy Virginia lowlands, is Norfolk, a place that has become a model for how coastal cities might adapt to climate change. At Old Dominion University, we talk with Larry Atkinson, a professor of oceanography and an old colleague of Orrin's, who outlines what's going on here. Sandy barely grazed Norfolk but still left it under three feet of water. The town is used to flooding: through an unlucky combination of low elevation, subsiding land, and rising sea level, downtown streets are often submerged.
Larry says that he's been impressed by Norfolk's mayor, Paul Fraim. Rather than debating sea-level rise, he has "jumped over it" as a political issue, simply declaring that Norfolk has to prepare for rising seas. In North Carolina, members of the state legislature, pressured by real estate interests, have argued that climate change should not be factored into sea-level rise by state regulators. Virginia has followed suit, with one state senator claiming that the phrase is a "left-wing term" and suggesting it be replaced by "recurrent flooding." But here in Norfolk, leaders know the problem is urgent, and they have a powerful ally: the U.S. military. Right down the street is the biggest naval base in the world, where a massive project is under way to raise the docks. Here, sea level isn't a conservative or liberal matter but a practical one. (More)
ONE NEW VIRGINIA POLL SHOWS MCAULIFFE LEADING
(The Huffington Post, Oct. 25, 2013)
"A statewide poll released Wednesday, Oct. 23, by the Old Dominion University Social Science Research Center shows Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe with a significant lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the race for Virginia governor...ODU researchers randomly queried 670 likely voters by cell phone and landline and determined that support for McAuliffe currently stands at 44.1 percent. That gives him a 7.2 percentage point lead over Cuccinelli, who was supported by 36.9 percent of respondents. Libertarian Rob Sarvis was supported by 6.9 percent of likely voters, a substantial number given Virginia's tendency to shun third party candidates, the poll concluded" (More)
McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli by 7% in new ODU poll
(The Daily Press, Oct. 24, 2013)
Two statewide polls released Wednesday showed Democrat Terry McAuliffe maintaining his lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the governor's race.
Quinnipiac University found 46 percent of likely voters backed McAuliffe compared to 39 percent for Cuccinelli and 10 percent for Libertarian nominee Robert Sarvis.
Old Dominion University's Social Science Research Center found that 44 percent supported McAuliffe, while 37 percent preferred Cuccinelli and about 7 percent favored Sarvis.
Cuccinelli, who is the state's sitting attorney general, has trailed by at least five percentage points in various public polls dating back to mid-September.
The ODU poll says there's still potential for a Cuccinelli comeback. That's thanks to a combination of undecided voters and the 33 percent of Sarvis supporters who said they're unfamiliar with their candidate.
"In spite of McAuliffe's substantial lead, there are enough undecided and third-party candidate voters to generate potential paths for a Cuccinelli victory," the ODU pollsters wrote.
But the poll also found that on several important policy questions McAuliffe's positions were the most in sync with the majority of voters.
By a 58 percent to 28 percent margin, poll respondents supported Gov. Bob McDonnell's transportation overhaul, which lowered the state's gas tax and raised revenues through a combination of fees and local taxes.
McAuliffe championed the bill while Cuccinelli, in his role as attorney general, issued advisory opinions stating it didn't pass constitutional muster. (More)
Poll puts McAuliffe over Cuccinelli by 7 percentage points
(The Virginian-Pilot, Oct. 24, 2013)
Democrat Terry McAuliffe's lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the race for governor is largely unchanged, while Libertarian Robert Sarvis has gained modestly in a new poll out less than two weeks before Election Day.
Quinnipiac University gives McAuliffe a 46 percent to 39 percent edge on Cuccinelli, Virginia's attorney general, but finds that many voters view both men - and the campaigns they've run - unfavorably. Sarvis registered 10 percent in the poll of likely voters, with 4 percent undecided. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Its Oct. 10 poll had the race 47 percent to 39 percent in favor of McAuliffe, a businessman known as a major Democratic fundraiser, with Sarvis at 8 percent.
An Old Dominion University poll released Wednesday shows McAuliffe ahead of Cuccinelli 44 percent to 37 percent, with Sarvis at 7 percent.
Quinnipiac's, like other public polls, indicates voters have a negative view of the race and the candidates by a 58 percent to 36 percent margin ; 43 percent of likely voters see McAuliffe unfavorably, and 52 percent said the same of Cuccinelli. (More)
McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli by 7% in new ODU poll
(WVEC-TV, Oct. 23, 2013)
With less than two weeks to go before the election, Democrat Terry McAuliffe holds a substantial lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the race for Governor. McAuliffe was the choice of 44% of those surveyed by Old Dominion University's Social Science Research Center while the Republican Cuccinelli was the choice of 37%. Libertarian candidate Rob Sarvis was supported by 7% of likely voters while just under 9% were undecided. The statewide telephone poll of 630 "likely voters" has a 5% margin of error. A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday also showed McCauliffe with a 7 point lead (46%-39) and has Sarvis hitting 10%.
The ODU poll (view complete poll results here) also took the pulse of voters about 20 different issues, ranging from education spending to abortion. Political science professor Dr. Jesse Richman led the study for ODU. Richman says "Poll results imply that the essential problem for Cuccinelli's campaign is issue positions that are out of step with the electorate. Of the twenty issues examined, McAuliffe's position is consistent with the plurality of responses on sixteen, while Cuccinelli's position is consistent with the electorate on only five.There were only two issues (charter schools and voter photo-identification) on which Cuccinelli and McAuliffe disagreed and a majority of the public supported Cuccinelli's position. " (More)
Les Smith Reports: New ODU poll shows McAuliffe with a slight lead
(WTKR-TV, Oct. 23, 2013)
ODU released a new poll Wednesday on the governor's race. It's a real glimpse into the minds of voters.
Researchers interviewed 627 likely voters. They asked not only about the candidates but about how they felt about 20 important issues.
The results show Democrat Terry McAuliffe with a seven percentage point lead. McAuliffe's support is at just over 44 percent, while Republican Ken Cuccinelli stands at just under 37 percent.
ODU's Dr. Jesse Richman conducted the poll.
"I'm pretty confident that we're seeing a lead for McAuliffe that is big enough that this isn't just statistical sampling. That's unlikely," he says.
The poll also showed support for the third party candidate, Libertarian Robert Sarvis at around 7 percent. Less than some other recent polls, but a strong number for a third party candidate in Virginia.
He pulls more support away from Cuccinelli than McAuliffe, but does even better with independents.
"Principally from those people who are disenchanted, people who are not affiliated with either party and that seems to be a growing portion of the electorate," Dr. Richman says. (More)
Veterans tour coming to Hampton Roads
(The Daily Press, Oct. 22, 2013)
The "Defend Freedom" Veterans Bus Tour stops in Hampton Roads Thursday as part of a 11-state tour aimed at highlighting issues of importance to former service members, including the disability claims backlog and reform of Pentagon spending.
The tour will make two stops Thursday:
-- Old Dominion University Breakfast, 5115 Hampton Blvd., 9-10:30 a.m.
-- Town Center, 222 Central Park Ave., Virginia Beach, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Many decorated veterans have joined the tour, which is hitting Nevada, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia.
The tour is sponsored by Concerned Veterans for America, a national, non-profit group whose chief executive officer is Pete Hegseth. The goal of the tour is to build an "activist base" to promote issues of importance.
"Unfortunately, our great nation is failing to live up to its potential, and in particular, failing in its commitment to our veterans," he said. (More)
A threat to ODU
(Letter, The Virginian-Pilot, Oct. 23, 2013)
Imagine Old Dominion University losing its football team, not due to NCAA sanctions or a loss of donors, but due to sea level rise.
ODU's 20-year plan calls for moving the football stadium close to the water. A stadium of this size is a massive investment, but that investment will go completely to waste in coming years due to sea level rise.
The only real debate about the increasing sea levels is about the level of increase. The most accurate models show that most of ODU would be under water. Among the first casualties would be the new football stadium.
This is bad news, but the good news is that we have time to act. Sea walls and levees can buy us the time we need to start investing in renewable energy technologies.
Brian Williamson, Portsmouth (More)
Obama yet to make appearance for Va. Democrats
(The Virginian-Pilot, Oct. 22, 2013)
Creigh Deeds faced dire headwinds when President Barack Obama visited Norfolk in late October 2009 for a rally with the Democratic candidate for governor and his ticket mates, one week before voters rejected them at the polls.
Circumstances appear more favorable for the current Democratic slate led by Terry McAuliffe, but as the time until Election Day winds down, it's unclear whether Obama will stump in Virginia, or whether the president and his diminishing popularity would help McAuliffe if he does.
It has many asking the same question: Where's Barack Obama?
Candidates are so selective about whom they lock arms with that even presidents can be shunned if politics demand it, said Old Dominion University political science professor Jesse Richman, recalling George W. Bush's obscurity in the 2006 elections amid public disenchantment over protracted Middle East wars.
"Given the stakes for the party, Obama would be very likely to campaign for McAuliffe if asked," Richman added. "But McAuliffe may not want to risk upsetting the dynamics of a race that seems to be going his way by bringing Obama in."
McAuliffe has held a consistent lead in polls over Republican Ken Cuccinelli since September while Obama's approval rating has generally been upside down for months and now stands at 51.3 percent disapproval, according to the Real Clear Politics average. (More)
Va. Beach receives two more train service proposals
(The Virginian-Pilot/FindLaw, Oct. 22, 2013)
Two more private companies want a chance to extend passenger train service into Virginia Beach.
One wants to use magnetic levitation technology instead of traditional light rail.
Monday was the deadline for firms to submit proposals to the city to build a system that would connect with Norfolk's Tide. The two new proposals follow an unsolicited plan that a group led by Philip Shucet, the former Hampton Roads Transit president and CEO, brought to the city in April. City officials then asked for other proposals.
At the same time, Hampton Roads Transit is researching a public sector light-rail project. A study on that option is expected next year.
One of Monday's new proposals came from American Maglev Technology, based in Georgia.
The other came from Parsons Construction Group, a unit of Parsons, an engineering, construction and management services firm based in California. The company has built light-rail systems in cities including Houston, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Los Angeles and Denver, said Richard White, a rail program analyst for the company.
American Maglev Technology is proposing to build an elevated concrete structure akin to the Disney World Monorail that would use magnetic levitation and electricity to propel vehicles up to 60 mph, said Tony Morris, the president and CEO of the company. He estimated he could build a line to the Oceanfront for about $344 million.
Morris was involved in developing a maglev track at Old Dominion University that never worked as promised. He said the ODU system suffered technical problems that he has since worked out, and that he has an operational test track in Powder Springs, Ga.
Passengers would have to leave The Tide and transfer to a maglev vehicle at Newtown Road to continue the trip through Virginia Beach, Morris said. (More)
ODU Students Visit USS Abraham
(Naval Today, Oct. 22, 2013)
Students attending Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk visited Huntington Ingalls Industries' Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) and one of the ships in the yard, Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in Newport News, Oct. 18.
The students, enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering and Technologies (MET) program at ODU, toured the bow area of Lincoln and looked into the dry dock.
One of the students, Michael Kammerer, is a former machinist's mate who worked on board USS Enterprise (CVN 65) in the Reactor Department as an Engineering Laboratory Technician.
"Being in this program is not only going to help me further my career in engineering, but because I have prior military experience I have hands-on training not many other students have," said Kammerer.
At the shipyard the students were greeted by Gary Fuller, construction director at NNS.
"I was very excited to meet these students," said Fuller. "I am a graduate of the ODU MET program as well." (More)