August 14, 2008

Transportation is Going Nowhere, Residents Are Told Progress on Roads in ’09? Forget It, Say Lawmakers

Hampton Roads residents hoping for action - any kind of action - on state transportation issues in 2009 will be disappointed, local lawmakers told a large town hall gathering Aug. 6 at the convention center.

Furthermore, Virginia residents can expect little progress on anything, they were advised. The bad news came early in a session called by the Virginia Beach Council of Civic Leagues and the City Council specifically to seek public input for new legislation.

Gloom was the watchword of the night. The reason for it, attending solons said, were these:

* Revenues from all sources, federal funding and state taxes and fees, will be way short of expectations, forcing drastic cuts in the state budget and state contributions to localities such as Virginia Beach.

* Next year all 100 members of the House of Delegates will be up for re-election and incumbents will be leery of tackling anything controversial, especially tax hikes.

Del. Bob Tata , R-Virginia Beach, the first legislator to speak, summed up the situation this way: "As you probably read in the newspaper, we didn't do anything in special session."

State Sen. Harry Blevins , R-Chesapeake, added: "I'm disappointed about not having done anything on transportation for 10 years. It's going to affect the next 10 years."

Rob Goodman, a prominent local attorney and civic activist, directed a blistering salvo at the seven legislators attending the town hall session.

"The issue is not the budget, but teamwork," he said. "There is a consequence of doing nothing. I'm frustrated - you all are the legacy of what's gone on for 10 years. We need vision and leadership out of the General Assembly."

Goodman then left the meeting before legislators could return fire.

Sacking a mystery

Bobby Melatti, the face of Oceanfront entertainment since the early '90s, was unexpectedly fired Aug. 1 from a job that city officials who worked with him say he conducted with vigor and imagination .

Not one could explain why the ax fell, and Melatti, a high- energy organizer who shuns the spotlight, could not be reached for comment. Melatti worked for Live Nation, an entertainment conglomerate based in California, with worldwide reach. The company had, in the past few years, become the resort entertainment contractor for the city of Virginia Beach.

It was a role previously assumed by its parent company, Clear Channel, until a 2005 split. Clear Channel several years earlier had absorbed Cellar Door, the original Beach entertainment contractor, which helped promote and build what is now Verizon Wireless Virginia Beach Amphitheater.

Melatti joined Cellar Door in 1977 part time and became No. 2 man under Bill Reid , then head of local Cellar Door operations at the Beach. Reid was fired by Cellardoor in the late '90s and Melatti assumed most of his responsibilities, including overseeing Oceanfront concerts and street and Boardwalk entertainment programs.

He h ad a hand in organizing the annual American Music Festival at the Oceanfront on Labor Day Weekend and the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon associated with it. He also initiated the yearly Holiday Lights show on the Boardwalk, the Walk of Fame featuring famous Virginians and Beach Street USA, a nighttime summer entertainment program at the Oceanfront.

A native New Yorker, complete with staccato accent and accompanying hand gestures, Melatti came by his line of work almost by birthright. His mother sang in the chorus at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and his father was a concert violinist.

He began his career in show-biz with a two-week apprenticeship at the Metropolitan Opera House and stayed for eight years. Afterward, he moved south to Atlantic City then to Virginia Beach to run his own business, a stage lighting company that expanded its operations throughout the mid-Atlantic states.

In the past few years, Milatti was considering a change of occupation. He began taking education courses at Old Dominion University, with the idea of teaching at a local high school. "I'd love to teach American history to high school kids," he once said.

Bill Reed, [email protected]

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