The No Light Rail group may have crashed a pro-light rail rally Saturday afternoon, but at least they brought flowers.
The event was hosted at the Sandler Center Outdoor Plaza by CBDX, the under-40 leadership group of Virginia Beach’s Central Business District Association, and featured food and drinks, live entertainment, and information about what they say would be positive impacts of the proposed light rail extension.
Despite the rally’s pro-rail intentions, the opposition was also out in full force with signs, ‘Vote No’ T-shirts, and pink roses to protest the $243 million project. Many opponents call for rejection of the proposed transit expansion in lieu of funding more pressing issues, like the region’s drainage systems.
The appearance of the opposition was prompted by a Facebook event created by City Treasurer John T. Atkinson. The event titled “Let’s Crash the Light Rail Party” circulated among anti-rail groups and garnered nearly 50 RSVPs.
Jimmy Frost, a spokesperson for the No Light Rail movement explained the group’s intentions.
“We wanted to come out and show the light rail supporters that we are here, though their reaction has been a bit over the top,” he said. “They thought we were coming out with pitchforks. Last night, I spoke with the police and let them know that we are going to be civil and respectful, so we brought flowers.”
Joash Schulman, the pro-rail event organizer and president of CBDX, expressed frustration with the intentions of the No Light Rail movement, something he addressed publicly in an open letter to Treasurer Atkinson.
“We arranged this event to thank supporters for their efforts and to celebrate a connected community,” he said. “The Facebook message that was put out encouraging people to come and be disruptive here prompted my response.”
Schulman remains hopeful about the outcome of the city’s light rail vote on Nov. 8.
“People are engaged and passionate, and we’ve had some great exchanges,” he said. “Regardless of the decision, on Nov. 9 we are still going to be neighbors and citizens of Virginia Beach.”
Frost echoed Schulman’s sentiments.
“If ‘no’ carries the day, that’s the result we are after, but if ‘yes’ is the answer, then we need to squeeze every bit of value out of this project,” he said. “There will be no sore losers.”
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