Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Arena Sunshine & Ethics for Public Leadership

This coming ethics conference might be too late for our public leaders regarding their handling of the arena issue, but would be good fodder for the future and perhaps validation that sunshine is always the best light for public legislation.

Info and the link to the conference.

The International Congress on Ethics will be held in Ottawa, February 5-7, 2007. This international conference is on ethical decision-making in the face of conflict and crisis. This Congress aims to advance the thinking and discussion on ethical issues and challenges globally, and on possible solutions. http://www.ice-cie.ca/home.html

An excerpt.

Editorial: Some arena sunshine
Court helps voters by releasing Non-Deal
- Published 12:00 am PST Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Thanks to the California 3rd District Court of Appeal, Sacramento County voters now have a glimpse into the negotiations between the Sacramento Kings and local officials over a downtown arena in the railyard. The court Monday ordered a reluctant city of Sacramento to release its most recent arena proposal. The document, along with recent counter-proposals by the Kings, are available for viewing at http://www.sacbee.com/. They provide valuable reading for voters who are being asked to approve a new quarter-cent sales tax (Measure R) before there is a deal spelling out how to build this arena downtown and what to do if plans go astray.

This is an awkward moment, to say the least. In August, Sacramento County supervisors decided to place Measure R on the ballot, as well as Measure Q, which advises that half this 15-year sales tax go to a sports and entertainment facility. Negotiations were still under way, however, with the Maloof family, primary owners of the Kings. The Maloofs later walked away from negotiations for weeks, just as civic arena backers tried to rev up the campaign for Measures Q and R. An Oct. 6 deadline to complete major points of the deal passed without note.
A taxpayer group sued the city for its latest negotiation proposal in the absence of a final deal, but the city refused to release the information until the appellate court gave it no choice.

In this case, the voters' right to know trumped government's desire to keep negotiating stances secret.

Growth Continues

As our area continues to grow with families attracted to the quality of life in the valley and foothills, the need for more water and roads also grows.

An excerpt.

New homes on the horizon
Despite slow market, outside builders have big plans for region.
By Jim Wasserman - Bee Staff WriterPublished 12:00 am PST Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It might seem the worst time to start building houses in the Sacramento region with prices dropping and so many homes for sale.

But a pair of deep-pocketed newcomers -- divisions of a U.S. timber products giant and a major Japanese conglomerate -- are positioning themselves to make sizeable new splashes in the region's home building market.

Analysts, citing the region's growth forecasts, say more are likely to show up, continuing a trend that has seen waning market share for locally owned builders and increasing dominance by publicly traded home builders and subsidiaries of large corporations.

"With every down there's an up," said David Ragland, vice president for community development of Los Angeles-based Pardee Homes, which plans 4,000 new homes in the coming years in Natomas, Rancho Cordova and north Stockton. "Personally, I would like to see the upside last a little bit longer. But there are opportunities in a down market as well."

Also new to the local market is Irvine-based MBK Homes, which plans to start constructing the first of its planned 600 homes in the region within weeks in Citrus Heights. The 66-home Camden Place is scheduled to open next spring south of Greenback Lane off Auburn Boulevard.

Pardee is making its first Northern California building venture in metropolitan Sacramento after Livermore voters rejected its plans a year ago to build nearly 2,500 homes in the East Bay city. Ragland said the plan is to start the first of 900 houses in Natomas next year, bring the first of 2,100 houses in north Stockton onto the market in 2008 and begin building 1,100 houses in Rancho Cordova in 2009.

"We have almost 4,000 lots and over $100 million invested and committed in Northern California markets as we speak," Ragland said.

Connecting Roadway

This is an important project and just as we need to develop more water storage, we need to develop new transportation routes, as the continued growth is a testament to the quality of life in our area and the amenities offered; all of which increase in qualitative value with sufficient transportation avenues.

An excerpt.

Price of road project soars
The cost of a major Sacramento County connector route may reach $1.3 billion.
By Tony Bizjak - Bee Staff WriterPublished 12:00 am PST Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A major beltway planned for southeast Sacramento County could cost two to three times more than anticipated, possibly topping $1 billion, a stark new financial analysis shows.

The price tag for the Elk Grove-Rancho Cordova-El Dorado connector road -- the biggest road project proposed for the region in decades -- could range from $712 million, if built simply, to $1.3 billion, if a more elaborate design is chosen.

The new numbers, in a Sacramento Area Council of Governments report, dwarf an earlier estimate of $380 million. But officials say even the higher cost is unlikely to scuttle the project, considered critical to relieving congestion in the burgeoning Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova areas.

"This project is much needed; it should have been built 20 years ago," said Jim Cooper, an Elk Grove city councilman. "But we need to be fiscally prudent. We only have a finite number of dollars."

As proposed, the beltway would sweep south of Sacramento, Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova, starting at Interstate 5, crossing Highway 99 at Grant Line Road, and connecting with Highway 50 in El Dorado County.

SACOG officials say the road could range from four to eight lanes at points, depending on traffic demands, and would offer drivers an alternative to clogged county roads and highways 99 and 50.

Environmentalists contend the thoroughfare would open new areas to sprawl and ultimately create even more congestion.

As proposed, the 35-mile project is so massive it would have to be built in phases over years, if not decades.

The new estimates didn't come as a complete shock, said Brian Williams, head of the Sacramento Transportation Authority, given that the original cost estimate was made before details of the project were worked out.

But, "it is a little high," Williams said. "They may have to scale the project back."

Williams' agency, which distributes money from Measure A's transportation sales tax to projects in Sacramento County, pledged $131 million two years ago to the beltway, thinking that would cover one-third of the costs.

Safe & Dangerous Cities

Of the 371 safest cities, #1 being the safest, and #371 being the most dangerous, Sacramento ranks #322.


An excerpt.

The Most, Least Dangerous U.S. Cities
Monday, October 30, 2006
By The Associated Press

A list of the safest and most dangerous cities overall, as compiled by Morgan Quitno Press, which bases the rankings on FBI figures released in June. The list starts with the safest cities and ends with the most dangerous.

Only cities that reported crime rates were included in the list. For example, New Orleans was not included this year because its police department did not report figures.

1. Brick, N.J.
2. Amherst, N.Y.
3. Mission Viejo, Calif.
4. Newton, Mass.
5. Troy, Mich.
6. Colonie, N.Y.
7. Irvine, Calif.
8. Cary, N.C.
9. Greece, N.Y.
10. Coral Springs, Fla.
11. Thousand Oaks, Calif.
12. Orem, Utah
13. Round Rock, Texas
14. Dover, N.J.
15. Lake Forest, Calif.
16. Sterling Heights, Mich.
17. Simi Valley, Calif.

314. Boston
315. Chattanooga, Tenn.
316. Tampa, Fla.
317. Jersey City, N.J.
318. Milwaukee
319. Miami Beach, Fla.
320. Indianapolis, Ind.
321. Shreveport, La.
322. Sacramento, Calif.
323. St. Petersburg, Fla.
324. Tacoma, Wash.
325. Houston
326. Columbus, Ohio
327. Miami
328. Baton Rouge, La.
329. Charlotte, N.C.
330. Jackson, Miss.

RAND on Flood Recovery

An excerpt.


Experience shows that communities recover fastest from major floods when all levels of government and the private sector work together to prepare coordinated response plans ahead of time, according to a RAND Corporation report issued today.

The findings come from a study by the RAND Infrastructure, Safety and Environment Division conducted for the RAND Gulf States Policy Institute (RGSPI).

RAND and seven universities created RGSPI in late 2005 to develop a long-term vision and strategy to help build a better future for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The seven universities are: Jackson State University and the University of Southern Mississippi in Mississippi; Tulane University, the University of New Orleans and Xavier University in Louisiana; and Tuskegee University and the University of South Alabama in Alabama.

The study issued today examined four cases of severe flooding in the past 60 years to determine how lessons from each were incorporated into future water management practices. The floods – two in the United States, one in the Netherlands and one in China – all caused widespread death and destruction.

In addition to noting the benefits of a coordinated emergency response in which responders have clearly defined roles, the study notes from past experience that officials in many flood-prone areas eventually choose to surrender some of the land back to the water by forgoing development of floodplains or letting reclaimed lands revert to their natural state.

“After a flood, the temptation is to rebuild and recreate what was previously there, but that's not always the best idea,” said James P. Kahan, a RAND researcher who is the lead author of the study. “The aftermath of disaster often presents the opportunity to address multiple long-standing regional problems.”

Park Management Innovations

Many state parks are beginning to implement innovative strategies to help with funding and support, key issues among all parks, and this report looks at some of those.

An excerpt.

State Parks’ Progress TowardSelf-Sufficiency
By Holly Lippke Fretwell and Kimberly Frost


Although our national parks are considered the crown jewels of our country, state parks also are stunningly beautiful and play a key role in protecting our natural resources. Providing recreation close to home, state parks receive three times more visitors than national parks. The variations among the state park systems and their agencies make them a useful laboratory for understanding and comparing park management and stewardship.

In 1997, PERC issued a paper, Back to the Future to Save Our Parks, which examined the potential for creating self-sufficient national parks (that is, parks supported by visitor fees, donations, and grants rather than appropriations). As a companion piece PERC released a research study, Parks in Transition: A Look at State Parks, that gave detailed information about many state parks. The following paper updates that research and provides a sketch of 30 state park systems between 1995 and 2002. It offers a brief look at the physical characteristics of each system, its amenities and programs, visitation, fees, and funding sources. Findings come primarily from a survey of 30 park systems as well as some media sources.

One of the greatest challenges facing state parks is their ability to serve a growing public with limited financial support. Several states have generated new strategies for financial support, and others are considering them because they anticipate decreased support from taxes. New support strategies include expanded user fees, concession contracts, "friends" groups, corporate sponsorships, and endowment funds.

Green Desalination

From Greece, where so many great things have come.

An excerpt.

Greece builds world's first environment-friendly desalination platform

Greece has built the world's first autonomous, environment-friendly and floating desalination platform, the semi-official ANA news agency reported on Wednesday.

The first floating desalination platform in the world, widely used in the Aegean Sea, was built entirely based on Greek know-how, design and construction, the report said.

The wind generator produces the necessary energy being used to turn sea water into drinking water and it is built in such a way that can operate in the most adverse weather conditions, while the platform can be moved to different islands to supply them with drinking water, it added.

This undertaking has a major ecological dimension as well, because wind as an energy source reduces to zero any unfavorable environmental consequences.

In northern Europe, offshore wind farms are gaining ground with the windmill bases being cemented to the bottom of the shallow sea.

The floating wind farms, however, can be a solution in the Mediterranean, Japan or the United States where the sea is deep and the winds are very strong, it said.

Source: Xinhua

New Regional Park Opens

On Sunday a new park opened in Placer County.

An excerpt.

221-acre regional park opens
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Sunday, October 29, 2006 11:19 PM PST

Placer County's new Hidden Falls Regional Park - which features seven miles of trails suitable for hiking, running, biking and horseback riding - will open to the public following 3 p.m. ceremonies today.

In addition to the more vigorous activities on the seven miles of trails, park visitors will be able to enjoy fishing, picnicking, wildlife viewing, photography and other passive recreational pursuits. A paved, accessible trail is also available, which begins near the parking lot.

Community members are encouraged by the county to attend the opening ceremonies, joining a celebratory hike that begins right afterward. The park is located at 7587 Mears Place, north of Mt. Vernon Road between Auburn and Lincoln.

Ground was broken on improvements to the 221-acre park site in July, which included construction of a paved access road, 50-space paved parking lot, equestrian staging area, utilities, restrooms and a 60-foot emergency-access bridge over Deadman Canyon Creek.

Hidden Falls Regional Park was acquired under the Placer Legacy Open Space and Agricultural Conservation Program for wilderness recreation and habitat protection. Outstanding natural features include Coon Creek and Deadman Canyon Creek, groves of blue oak woodlands and a year-round waterfall, 20-30 foot high.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Rail yard Clean Up Politics

Setting today’s theme, environment and politics, the politics around the rail yard are examined.

An excerpt.

October 26, 2006.
Name your poison

Just how polluted is the rail-yard redevelopment goldmine?
By R.V. Scheide

Size matters. Stroll through the downtown Sacamento rail yard and red-brick behemoths loom overhead, forgotten relics of a bygone industrial age. Here, more than a century ago, rough-hewn European immigrants toiled like Egyptian slaves to realize the vision of their era’s Pharaohs, the railroad barons who gazed across the landscape and saw not pyramids but a continent to conquer.

The faint odor of diesel fuel and creosote permeates the air.

Today, Sacramento’s civic leaders envision a new empire rising from the ashes of what was once the largest industrial site on the West Coast. Among the seven red-brick and corrugated-steel buildings left standing, now known as the “central shops,” they see teeming throngs of affluent shoppers eager to part with disposable income. In the near distance, a steel, glass and concrete coliseum completes the vision--a state-of-the-art sports arena where the gladiators of our age, the professional athletes of the NBA, engage in combat that, if not quite as mortal as their ancient counterparts, is of no less societal import.

This ambitious vision of competition and commerce has persisted for more than two decades. On Tuesday, November 7, Sacramento’s citizens once again will be given a chance to breathe it into life when they decide whether to provide up to $600 million in public funds to build a new arena for the Sacramento Kings. Local politicians hope the stadium will jump-start the long-stalled renovation of the rail yard, a 240-acre tract that is the largest piece of undeveloped urban real estate in the country.

Of course, there are many problems with this vision, not the least of which is this: The downtown Sacramento rail yard is one of the most polluted properties in the state of California.
Risky business Nearly 150 years of heavy industrial abuse have transformed what was pristine valley floor two short centuries ago into a blighted, toxic wasteland. How polluted is the rail yard? Name your poison. Literally dozens of hazardous chemicals and compounds contaminate the soil and the groundwater beneath it: arsenic, benzene, lead, tetrachloroethylene, diesel, gas, motor oil, acetone, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, toluene, asbestos.

Today, when the wind kicks up a little too much dust, the few workers left at the site go home rather than risk breathing lead into their lungs. “The only occasional concern is that when it gets really windy, you have the potential for dust to get airborne,” says Paul Hammond, marketing director of California State Railroad Museum located in Old Sacramento, a stone’s throw away from the rail yard’s western boundary. A half-dozen museum workers use one of the old buildings to refurbish historic locomotives. “We’ve had days when we couldn’t work over there,” he says.

Public Power Politics

They are really on show in this election around who provides power to Yolo County and the SMUD vs PG&E battle is looked at.

An excerpt.

October 26, 2006.
Power grab

PG&E and SMUD duke it out in an uneven fight for Yolo County’s 77,000 ratepayers
By Cosmo Garvin Photo By Larry Dalton

To people like Dan Berman, PG&E’s 137 miles of power lines represent a tremendous opportunity for Yolo County to determine its own future--to literally take power into its own hands. If the public-power movement in Yolo County has a founding father, Berman is arguably that guy. He got interested in taking over PG&E’s public-power system, and turning it into a not-for-profit municipal utility, 10 years ago while researching a book he published in 1996 called Who Owns the Sun?

“It was just the principle of local control and democracy,” Berman said. “This is the kind of thing that should be democratically controlled. You shouldn’t just be taking 11- or 12-percent profit off the top.”

From 1997 to 2000, Berman and other public-power advocates attempted to establish a Davis Municipal Utility District, but were successfully blocked by a well-organized and well-funded campaign by PG&E.

The campaign got the attention of elected officials not just in Davis, but also in Woodland and West Sacramento, who began to look longingly at SMUD and imagine what locally controlled public power could do for their citizens.

To get out from under PG&E’s high rates, and to keep that money in the local economy, the elected representatives of Yolo County last year asked SMUD to help them. In May of 2005, SMUD agreed to begin the process of annexing the communities of Davis, Woodland and West Sacramento into its service area.

For the expansion to go forward, the move has to be approved by voters on both sides of the Sacramento River. Yolo County voters will weigh in on Measures H and I. For Sacramento County, Measure L will decide PG&E’s fate.

If all three ballot measures are approved, SMUD will need to purchase PG&E’s electric system, 137 miles of electricity lines, poles and transformers. Less than 1 percent of PG&E’s territory is at stake in this proposed annexation, but the San Francisco-based for-profit utility is fighting as though its very existence is in danger.

Environment & Politics

The partnership between politics and the environment often results in bad policy, as witnessed by this attempt to provide relatively clean energy via natural gas by siting a terminal in California which is being fought by Hollywood stars.

An excerpt.

Editorial: Choices, choices, choices
Natural gas imports part of balanced solution
- Published 12:00 am PST Monday, October 30, 2006

When it comes to natural gas, California faces a quandary.

On one hand, the state does not have a terminal anywhere along its coast that can off-load LNG (natural gas that is stored in a ship in its super-cooled, liquefied form). On the other hand, California does have an increasing demand for natural gas. It has become the clean-burning fuel of choice to generate electricity and heat homes. Yet new domestic supplies aren't keeping up with future demands.

That leaves foreign sources to fill the gap with LNG, and a ship has to unload this natural gas at a terminal -- somewhere.

Where? Nowhere, say Pierce Brosnan, Cindy Crawford, Daryl Hannah and other Hollywood stars who recently lent a little limelight to the battle against an LNG terminal in California. Beware, however, of that nasty law of unintended consequences.

Rejecting an LNG terminal along the Southern California coast means embracing something else that has its own set of risks.

There are three proposals for liquefied natural gas terminals along the Southern California coast. One is 14 miles off shore of Malibu Beach. Two other proposals are at Long Beach and Port Hueneme. On Mexico's Baja coast, plans are under way to build an LNG terminal there as well.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Walters on Levees

The right questions are being asked, but so far, there have been no answers but it always comes back to public leadership and so far the local doesn’t seems very focused on floods, but hope springs eternal.

An excerpt.

Dan Walters: Why were levees not maintained?
By Dan Walters - Bee ColumnistPublished 12:00 am PST Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans was a wake-up call for California, whose capital city of Sacramento faces a similar calamity should its aging and deteriorating river levees be breached by storm surges.

To his credit, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger acknowledged the potential danger, declared a state of emergency, obtained a half-billion-dollar emergency appropriation to repair the most critical spots along the Sacramento River and its tributaries, persuaded federal authorities to speed up work and then won legislative approval of a $4 billion levee repair bond issue.

Rock-filled barges, cranes and other heavy equipment have been working night and day on the 29 most critical sites to complete repairs before the winter rains. Schwarzenegger declared that the deadline would be met, but his water agency also has identified 71 additional sites in critical need of repairs.

As important as the physical work may be, fixing the governance of California's flood control system is just as vital.

The political finger-pointing after the Katrina disaster indicated that a contributing factor was a mishmash of responsibility for levee integrity. Federal, state and local authorities held varying degrees of responsibility -- but no one agreed exactly where the buck should have stopped.

The same lack of clarity is evident in and around Sacramento, where leaders are sanctioning thousands of additional homes behind levees that are inadequate under the best of circumstances. Indeed, local officials and developers lobbied successfully for federal authority to intensively develop the Natomas basin, ringed by levees of dubious integrity.

Sacramento's levees, as state water official Les Harder points out, contain a "dangerous flaw" of confining the Sacramento and other rivers into relatively narrow channels. When the levees were built, the channels were purposely kept narrow to increase the velocity of flows and flush out debris left from hydraulic mining, but fast-moving water also puts great pressure on the levees. "They're set up to erode," says Harder.

A better system would have been setback levees that broaden and thus slow flows, but now that homes and other development have filled up much of the land behind the levees, narrow channels cannot be widened, thereby making sound construction and maintenance even more important.

But who is responsible? The fact that the Sacramento-area levee system contains so many erosion sites indicates that maintenance has been lacking. Reclamation districts that maintain many rural levees are unable to impose appropriate fees because of a legal quirk. There are only vague understandings about what standards should apply and the dividing line between maintenance and reconstruction.

West Sacramento Fixes Own Levees

Public leadership with clear concern about their community, and moving to use existing money to fix the levees and then ask for federal reimbursement rather than getting the federal money first, is a real rarity and should certainly be emulated on this side of the river.

An excerpt.

W. Sac levees under study
City officials plan a closer look at flood protection touted as region's finest.
By Deb Kollars - Bee Staff WriterPublished 12:00 am PST Sunday, October 29, 2006

West Sacramento has begun an aggressive effort to study and strengthen the levees surrounding the community after years of calling its flood protection the best in the region.

City leaders are hiring engineers and ordering core samples from deep within levees. They are drawing up a plan for a new assessment on property owners to pay for flood-control improvements.

And in upcoming weeks, they will be urging residents to prepare for a flood emergency and -- in a message West Sacramentans have not heard from City Hall in recent memory -- to buy flood insurance even though it is not officially required.

"We've come to realize you don't just build levees and go home," said Stephen Patek, director of public works and community development.

On Wednesday, the City Council will be asked to approve spending about $4 million to expand current geotechnical studies to include all the levees protecting the city. The city has already spent $1 million on levee stability studies; results should be available early next year.

According to Patek and other city leaders, there is good reason to investigate the flood-control system.

West Sacramento, which sits across the Sacramento River to the west of downtown Sacramento, is wrapped on all sides and split down the center by bodies of water: the winding river on the east; the Sacramento and Yolo bypasses to the north and west; and the Deep Water Ship Channel running through town.

"We are completely surrounded by levees," City Manager Toby Ross said.

In recent years, West Sacramento, which has been growing quickly, has assured developers and residents that it had minimal flood risks because of work done on levees during the past two decades.

The levee projects were substantial, and left the city believing it had as much as 300-year flood protection -- meaning levees were believed capable of withstanding gigantic storms with a one-in-300 chance of occurring in any given year.

By contrast, other communities in the region have struggled to achieve 100-year protection, a much lower safety threshold.

Like many cities that have re-evaluated after the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, West Sacramento is no longer sure about its flood security.

Homeless Shelter

One hopes this shelter is providing those who illegally camp along the river a home, temporary and isolated though it may be.

An excerpt.

Amusement park turned into shelter
Volunteers get building ready to house homeless for winter -- advocates want extended use.
By Jocelyn Wiener - Bee Staff WriterPublished 12:00 am PST Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dead leaves dance across the stained artificial turf at the Paradise Island miniature golf course.

The net over the batting cages is ripped. The water where the bumper boats used to float has turned greenish brown.

Until the amusement park at Cal Expo closed a year ago, children and teenagers would play laser tag and arcade games inside the large warehouse-style building.

Now that sits empty, too.

But soon, it will fill with men, women and children.

Come November, the building will make its debut as a homeless shelter.

The winter overflow shelter operated by Volunteers of America has traditionally been housed in a collection of trailers in a Cal Expo parking lot.

Homeless guests would step over mud puddles to reach the bathroom trailer, eat dinner in the dining trailer and then huddle -- 25 to a dormitory trailer -- for the rest of the night.

Those in wheelchairs or pushing strollers would make their way across the gravel parking lot with difficulty.

Homeless advocates say the new building will be a marked improvement over the old set-up.

The shelter will have space for 154 men, women and children to sleep.

Individual rooms sleep eight or 10.

Ecoregionalism, Rails to Trails

This new ten mile trail connecting northern communities to the Parkway will eventually reach to Chico; a wonderful example of the future connections that will allow people to traverse the region by bike and walking.

The one sad note, and it is important, is that the equestrian trail was not kept and the reasons for that need to be re-examined as allowing people from the equestrian community to access trails is crucial not only from the recreational aspect but also from that of public safety as they bring additional eyes and ears, riding high, to focus on trails that can become trouble spots.

An excerpt.

A bikeway blooms in Rio Linda, where freight trains once rolled
By Deepa Ranganathan - Bee Staff WriterPublished 12:00 am PST Sunday, October 29, 2006

When the Sacramento Northern Bikeway crosses M Street in Rio Linda, its appearance changes.

The narrow strip of asphalt grows darker and smoother as it meanders north. The yellow center line brightens. And the mature trees that line the path farther south disappear, replaced by tiny shrubs and spindly oak saplings.

The northernmost 1.8 miles of the bikeway are brand new, giving residents as far north as Elverta Road a traffic-free connection to the American River Parkway bike trail 10 miles south.

The extension, a project of the Sacramento County Department of Transportation, cost $2.1 million and was paid for with a mix of federal and state funds. It begins right where the old path leaves off -- at Front and M streets -- and ends at Elverta Road and Rio Linda Boulevard.

The extension includes benches, water fountains and about 750 recently planted young trees. At the end of the path, tired walkers, bicyclists and horse riders can rest in a new gazebo.

Market & Regulatory Approach for Pollution

Perhaps this strange bill will be allowed to work in a somewhat sound fshion after all.

An excerpt.

Daniel Weintraub: Grit hits the fan on pollution credits
By Daniel Weintraub - Published 12:00 am PST Sunday, October 29, 2006

California's landmark law to fight global warming by clamping down on greenhouse gas emissions has not even taken effect, and already the Democrats in the Legislature who crafted the bill are at odds with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, if he is re-elected Nov. 7, will be responsible for making it work.

Democrats and their environmentalist allies are charging that Schwarzenegger is breaking commitments made during a long summer of negotiations on the bill, AB 32. The governor, they say, is taking steps that could undermine the state's ability to cut greenhouse gases 25 percent by 2020, the bill's ambitious goal.

Schwarzenegger aides counter that the governor is merely trying to position the state's environmental bureaucracy to get a running start implementing the law when it goes into effect Jan. 1.

Behind the confrontation is a fundamental dispute over exactly how California should force its industries to comply with the caps on greenhouse gas emissions as they are phased in during the years ahead.

Democratic lawmakers and most environmental groups want to emphasize state-imposed standards and regulations to limit greenhouse gases.

Industries would be ordered by the Air Resources Board to retool their operations in particular ways to limit the production of carbon dioxide.

The state, for example, already has adopted regulations requiring automobile manufacturers to reduce climate change emissions from cars and light trucks they sell in California. The state might also force the electrification of truck stops to reduce the idling of diesel engines, or place new controls on commercial refrigeration.

Schwarzenegger is not averse to this kind of direct regulation, which opponents characterize as "command and control." But the governor has also insisted that the new regulatory regime include a market-based system that allows companies to buy the right to pollute from others who have done more than their share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The idea behind such a market is to achieve the desired amount of reduction without crippling a particular industry or company. Here is how it works:

Suppose it costs Company A $100 to reduce its emissions by 1 ton, while Company B, because of the way it operates or the machinery it uses, might have to spend $500 to achieve the same reduction. Under a strictly regulatory system, both firms would have to spend whatever it cost to make the required changes, even if doing so made Company B uncompetitive in its industry.

Using a market-based system, the two firms can work together in a way that benefits both while still achieving the reduction desired by the government. Company A could spend an extra $100 and reduce its emissions by 2 tons, rather than the 1 ton required by the regulation. Company B could then pay Company A $200 for its extra "greenhouse gas credit." Company B uses that credit to satisfy the government's requirement to reduce its emissions by 1 ton.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hubble Telescope

One of the great tools to realize more knowledge about our universe might be coming back to full performance, and beyond.

An excerpt.

Signs Promising for Hubble Telescope
By SETH BORENSTEIN and MIKE SCHNEIDER, The Associated Press Oct 27, 2006

WASHINGTON - Signs are promising for a repair of the aging but popular Hubble Space Telescope, once thought doomed because of worries over astronaut safety. NASA set plans for a big announcement Tuesday after top officials met for three hours Friday to consider the value and risks of sending astronauts to repair the Hubble, extending its life for several more years.

The decision rests with NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, who hasn't yet made up his mind, NASA spokesman Dean Acosta said Friday in an e-mail.

However, the space agency sent out a press release about a gala announcement ceremony for Tuesday at the Goddard Space Center in suburban Washington, which helps oversee the 16-year-old space telescope.

The NASA press release said the ceremony includes a "news conference with the astronauts who would carry out the mission" - if the agency decides to go ahead with a shuttle flight to rehab the telescope.

And Griffin has previously said, "If we can do it safely, we want to do it."

Griffin worked on Hubble earlier in his career and recently described it as "one of the great scientific instruments of all time."

Another good sign for fans of the space telescope is that U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., one of Capitol Hill's most prominent supporters of saving it, will join Griffin at Goddard, her office said.

Bay Bridge Delay

Primarily due to being unable to build near the Oakland shoreline for half the year due to restrictions against disturbing the native fish.

An excerpt.

Protected fish, high bid may delay bridge project
By Erik N. Nelson and Kiley Russell
Article Last Updated:10/27/2006 02:58:20 AM PDT

The Bay Bridge's newest threat of delay has nearly all the ingredients that have conspired to drag out the seismic replacement for a quarter-century: A shockingly high contract bid — nearly twice what was expected to move a power cable — a cross-Bay rivalry with Treasure Island in the middle and protected fish.

In rejecting a single $13.1 million bid to replace and relocate Treasure Island's power cable, Caltrans may have delayed the $5.5 billion Bay Bridge project as much as a year.

After estimating the job at $6.6 million, the agency must now scramble to rewrite the contract before mid-2008, whenthe old cable will cross the path of a single pier holding up the Oakland touchdown to connect freeways to the new bridge.

The rejected bid by Pleasanton-based California Engineering Contractors Inc. would have laid two new cables along a different path before work on the touchdown began.

"We had six contractors putting in bid inquiries," said Randy Rentschler, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which oversees the Bay Bridge project. "So the fact that we had one bidder was a surprise."

Caltrans will put the cable project out to bid again in November, in the hopes of enticing more companies to compete for the work and to bring down the cost.

"Anything that has an impact on delaying this project is of great concern to me," said Caltrans Director Will Kempton. "We want to get this project completed as quickly as possible."

Caltrans' goal, he added, is to find ways to get the new bridge open before its currently scheduled November 2013 inauguration.

Economics & Public Policy

This is an important book whose introduction can be read at the link.

It is important because government, and we see it locally as well (witness the arena debate) too often makes policy decisions without a simple cost benefit analysis; and the introduction alone is a nice basic outline of how government, influenced by special interests, often decides policy direction.

An excerpt.

Government Failure versus Market Failure
Microeconomics Policy Research and Government Performance
Clifford Winston
Brookings Institution Press and American Institute for Public Policy Research 2006 c. 130pp.

When should government intervene in market activity? When is it best to let market forces simply take their natural course? How does existing empirical evidence about government performance inform those decisions? Brookings economist Clifford Winston uses these questions to frame a frank empirical assessment of government economic intervention in Government Failure vs. Market Failure: Microeconomics Policy Research and Government Performance.

Markets "fail" when it is possible to make one person better off without making someone else worse off, thus indicating some degree of inefficiency. In economics parlance, Pareto optimality has not been achieved. On the other hand, governments "fail" when an economic intervention proves to be unwarranted, either because markets are performing adequately or public policy does not correct a market failure efficiently. In such cases, government intervention may actually exacerbate a problem or produce unintended negative results. Winston concludes that the cost of government failure may actually be considerably greater than the cost of market failure: "My search of the evidence is not limited to policy failures. I will report success stories, but few of them emerged." Government failure may result in missed opportunities, wasted resources, and waning public support.

The author, a well-respected economist who edited the Brookings Papers on Microeconomic Activity, calls for more economics research that is geared to questions of public policy: "The economics profession should encourage a broader range as well as different styles of research by giving more respect to high-quality policy studies on specific and perhaps small issues that accumulate in importance." He cites evidence that inefficient microeconomics policies are of vital importance because they are a drag on growth and development.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Walter: One Cityhood Quest Stalls

Looks like this one is in pause mode.

An excerpt.

Bob Walter: Cityhood quest is on back burner
- Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cityhood move on ice: It hasn't exactly been on the front page or leading the TV news shows, but the movement to turn Orangevale, Fair Oaks and, maybe, Gold River into a city is going to become even less public.

The small band of proponents who have been studying the idea decided last week to halt regular meetings and leave the studying to a few individuals.

"It's not suspended forever," spokesman Bob Walters told my colleague, Lakiesha McGhee. "It's just on the back burner until there's something to bring forward to the community."

Bob said the effort faced some huge hurdles -- more than $200,000 of them even before a presumably costly election campaign could be plotted.

The suspension was welcome news for Bill Miller, 35-year Fair Oaks resident and retired administrator with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department who has spearheaded the opposition to cityhood for more than a year.

He immediately started spreading the news and, by last week, had received more than 30 gleeful letters and e-mails from supporters.

But Bill said his Save Our Village group is not going away any time soon:

"They have met their nemesis, and I will be here, along with ... other Save Our Village supporters, until we drive the final nail into the merger and incorporation coffin." ...

Bridge’s Walkways

Looks like a great project even with the delays.

An excerpt.

High bids postpone Tower Bridge renovations
City to seek new bids on widening sidewalks on the span; planned 2008 completion remains intact.
By Ralph MontaƱo - Bee Staff WriterPublished 12:00 am PDT Thursday, October 26, 2006

The city's plan to add pedestrian walkways to the landmark Tower Bridge hit a small snag earlier this month, when the Sacramento City Council rejected all bids to do the work.

City officials said the project's expected completion date -- June 2008 -- has not changed, but planned closures of the bridge are being delayed until late 2007 and early 2008.

"Closures will not start until September 2007," said Linda Tucker, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Transportation. The first closure was original scheduled for January to April of 2007. The dates have been shifted to September to November of 2007. A second closure is scheduled from January to April 2008.

Tucker added that the $11.6 million project is scheduled to be completed by June 2008.

Graswich: Parkway Deportment

Reinvented wheel: Bob Banning points out it doesn't really matter what the American River Parkway is called -- bike trail or jogging trail -- because it's covered by rules and regulations. And those rules should be respected by all visitors. "The thrust of the rules and regs are that everyone should share and be nice," Bob said. "But they specifically indicate that runners should be on the left shoulder, not on the pavement, and they should run in single file." The rules also specify speed limits for cyclists. Which all riders obey, naturally. ...

Branding Government

Interesting way to think abut government but very valuable when public leadership becomes confused on what is important to the community.

For as long as I can remember what has stood out for the Sacramento region was quality of life, it was good to live here, and that is not such bad brand for local government to have, along with the obvious of being efficient and equitable.

An excerpt.

Posted October 25, 2006
Branding for Excellence
By Scott D. Pattison

When public managers think of the concept of a “brand,” they often think of private sector companies selling consumer products and not something that is relevant to their work.

At a recent regional conference of state budget officials in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Tim Reeves of the Neiman Group — who was press secretary to former Governor Tom Ridge — challenged the audience to think about their departments and agencies as a brand. This got me thinking about how creating a brand could help public-sector managers improve performance, create a culture of excellence and impel everyone working for the agency to think about their core mission.

More and more, government programs and departments are using branding to improve their image and performance. In this context, brand refers not just to marketing, but the public’s image of the quality of the product itself. When thinking about a brand, public managers should be careful not to put forth something perceived as a temporary “feel good” public relations campaign that will only benefit the agency’s top brass.

Tourism and economic development departments in government have used branding for years. We’ve all heard the slogan “I Love New York .” The Marines have a brand that effectively uses “the few, the proud” as a slogan to define the selectivity of their branch of the armed services.
Public-sector managers should decide what they want the public to think when they hear the name of their agency or program. And, what should employees feel when they say the name of the department where they work? Of course, you want citizens to think positively about your agency and you want your employees to feel proud of their work and accomplishments.

The Holy See on Ecology

Address, from a big picture perepcive, to the UN yesterday.

Holy See Address on Development and Ecology
"Not Only an Important Ethical and Scientific Problem"
NEW YORK, OCT. 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).-

Here is the statement delivered Wednesday by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, to the Second Committee of the 61st session of the U.N. General Assembly, on sustainable development and ecology.* * *

Madam Chair,

If we wish to make sustainable development a rooted, long-term reality, we must create a truly sustainable economy.Even in the context of its fast transition and mutation, our economy continues to rest basically upon its relation to nature. Its indispensable substratum is soil, water and climate; and it is becoming rapidly ever clearer that if these, the world's life-support systems, are spoiled or destroyed irreparably, there will be no viable economy for any of us.

Therefore, rather than being external or marginal to the economy, environmental concerns have to be understood by policy-makers as the basis upon which all economic -- and even human -- activity rests.

This is why the fulfillment of commitments to the 1992 Earth Summit's economic, environmental and social pillars of sustainable development are the very minimum response required, here and now, by states and all relevant environmental actors. The environmental consequences of our economic activity are now among the world's highest priorities.

The environmental question is not only an important ethical and scientific problem, but a political and economic problem too, as well as a bone of contention in the globalization process in general. It means not just integrating sustainable development into programs for poverty reduction and development, but also reflecting the preoccupations and environmental problems in security strategies, and in developmental and humanitarian questions at the national, regional and international levels. In a word, the world needs an ecological conversion so as to examine critically current models of thought, as well as those of production and consumption.

My delegation therefore welcomes the progress mentioned on the implementation of Agenda 21, the Programs for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, in the secretary-general's report now before the Committee. Greater emphasis on renewable energy, fuels and clean technologies and the mainstreaming of national sustainable development strategies into policy-making appears to be gaining momentum, although all actors, starting with states, must do much more to stop and reverse current trends in consumption and pollution.

Both the G-8 summits in 2005 and 2006 devoted much attention to energy for sustainable development and to climate change as well as to industrial development and atmospheric pollution. These phenomena have an obvious environmental impact, with wide repercussions on national and international security, as well as on the capacity of the international community to achieve the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals]. The international community should continue to deepen its understanding of the links between peace and human development, above all in the poorest sectors which have less capacity to adapt.

As for the implementation of the various U.N. environmental conventions, my delegation also welcomes the momentum gained since the Marrakesh Accords were adopted, thus making the Kyoto Protocol fully operational. It is the Holy See's hope that opportunities like these may favor the application of an energy strategy which is both global and shared in the long term, capable of satisfying short- and long-term global energy needs, protect human health and the environment, and establish precise commitments that will effectively confront the problem of climate change.

In the meantime, if fossil fuels are going to be with us for "the foreseeable future" and if states are going to rely on "hybrid options in energy mix," as the secretary-general suggests, then serious public investment in clean technology must accompany this pragmatism as an urgent part of national and international strategies to diminish as fast as possible the impact of air and sea transport pollution and those sectors' continued use of outdated technology. Progress is slowly being made in clean technologies in other fields, including even that of car transport: But the time is now ripe for major investment in cleaner air and sea transport technologies before the ecological balance is tipped by culpable neglect.

Regarding water, the second U.N. World Water Development Report stated that the principal problem which impedes the fulfillment of water requirements is not the lack of sufficient water for human needs but that of the governance of water resources highlighting problems of management, infrastructure, technology, and finances. Governance of water resources must be based on the implementation of the principle of responsibility shared at the international level, with particular attention to the principle of subsidiarity, which requires the participation of local communities in the decision-making process.

On a related subject, the U.N. designated 2006 as the International Year of Deserts and Desertification, undoubtedly one of the most alarming processes of environmental degradation, with a strong negative impact not only on the environment but also in economic and social fields. Desertification and drought now affect more than one in six of the world's population. The international community must take concrete actions to reverse this alarming phenomenon through internationally coordinated responses.

Finally, the rural sector, upon which three-quarters of the world's hungry people depend, is being ever more degraded. Findings at the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development at Porto Alegre earlier this year rightly underlined the importance of the role of agrarian reform and rural development in combating hunger and poverty, in promoting sustainable development and food safety, in guaranteeing the promotion of human rights, and in achieving the MDGs. Policy-makers cannot continue to treat the rural world as second class.

Thank you, Madam Chair

Hispanics & Environmentalism

It appears their entrance into this special interest area will be one of reason and common sense, desperately needed in a field congested with hyperbole and ideology driven science.

An excerpt.

Hispanics Show Growing Clout in Environmental Debate
By GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press Writer

Published: October 16, 2006

EL MONTE, Calif. (AP) - Maria Valdez didn’t consider herself an environmentalist when she pressed this city east of Los Angeles to buy land ringed with factories and railroad tracks for a new neighborhood park.

The trash lot is now on its way to becoming a green oasis with a butterfly sanctuary and community garden and Valdez is undergoing a transformation of her own. Next month she will be sworn in as president of the El Monte chapter of Mujeres de la Tierra, a two-year-old environmental group that caters to Hispanic immigrants and translates as “Women of the Earth.”

“When you get involved and you know that you could make it happen, it feels good,” said Valdez, a stay-at-home mother of six. “I’m interested in the water, the air for our kids.”

Spurred by high rates of asthma and lead poisoning among their children, Hispanic immigrants such as Valdez, a U.S. citizen who left Mexico as a child, are embracing green values like never before on their own terms.

Hispanic activists and politicians talk openly about building a unique green movement that distances itself from mainstream environmental groups, even as those organizations hope to tap into newfound Hispanic political clout.

Those involved in the nascent movement cite a gap between the priorities of traditional environmentalists, who may focus on saving endangered species and preserving roadless areas, and the practical concerns of many Hispanic immigrants, who confront thick smog and lead-laced water every day in inner-city neighborhoods. Many also are wary of groups like the Sierra Club, which has debated whether to make U.S. immigration control part of its platform.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Arden Arcade

Though simply naming the new city Arden might have brought everyone into the fold, the fact remains that the Arden Arcade incorporation is surely a win and will remove one large area from slowly sinking downward into what the Sacramento Bee has often described as a death spiral as the county continues to run more deficits that not and service suffers appropriately.

It is also the reason we have called for daily management of the Parkway to be contracted to a nonprofit organization, with the ability to raise funds and begin to restore and strengthen the Parkway from years of under-funding and ineffective management.

An excerpt.

Guest commentary: Cityhood is feasible for Arden Arcade
By Laura Lavallee - Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sacramento County has reached the limit of its ability to protect and enhance the quality of life in Arden Arcade. Massive county budget deficits predicted in coming years will mean either fewer municipal services or tax increases by the county.

Cityhood will permit Arden Arcade residents and businesses to identify priorities and implement actions that can make our community thrive, while ensuring the local representation we must have as the region continues to grow.

• Cityhood will bring true local control and true local accountability: City government is closer to the people, more accessible, more responsive and provides better accountability to its citizens. Arden Arcade residents will elect a mayor and six City Council members who must live in our community and will make decisions that affect our quality of life. Each council member would represent about 13,000 people.

Our elected county supervisor represents about 270,000 people in a district that stretches from east Sacramento to the Carmichael-Fair Oaks border. Under the current government structure, four county supervisors who do not live in Arden Arcade make decisions for Arden Arcade, and they may place their loyalties with the people who elect them.

• Cityhood is financially feasible and will bring new funding to Arden Arcade without new taxes: The initial fiscal analysis prepared for the cityhood study team concluded that the city of Arden Arcade would be financially feasible. Some persons feel that since Arden Arcade is largely developed, we will have problems sustaining financial feasibility. One need only look at Citrus Heights, a built-out city of similar size that has a reserve fund of $33 million, to debunk this myth.

As a city, Arden Arcade will receive about $6 million per year of new revenue, which will come from a tax that residents pay when we register our cars and trucks. This money is currently distributed to other cities in California and is not available to Sacramento County government. If we do not become a city, these annual revenues will be lost. Legislation signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month allows Arden Arcade to receive these new revenues if it becomes a city before July 1, 2009.

• Cityhood does not mean increased taxes: According to John Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, "Incorporation does not automatically result in a tax increase for citizens of the new city unless the ballot measure forming the new city includes provision for new or increased taxes. Any new taxes or fees sought by the new city would have to be approved by those financially obligated to pay -- in this case, the citizens of the city of Arden Arcade. That being said, everyone should realize that the experience and commitment of the persons elected to the City Council is critical to safeguarding the interests of taxpayers." The petition being circulated by the Arden Arcade Incorporation Committee does not include any provision for new or increased taxes.

• Cityhood does not mean an additional layer of government: The new city would replace the county by providing efficient and effective municipal services tailored to Arden Arcade. The county would continue to perform the state-mandated services, such as health and welfare services and operation of the criminal justice and courts systems, which it currently provides to all residents of Sacramento, including those who live in the seven existing cities.

Bike Trails In & All Around Area

The outlines are beginning to come into place to someday see a series of bike trails connecting all around our area, from the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers to Coloma and back.

When you look at the rails to trails efforts, the Cosumnes River Preserve, the Parkway, the plans of the American River Conservancy in Coloma, those of the Sacramento Valley Conservancy, and the Sacramento Riverfront, it begins to become clear that we have a wonderful opportunity here and moving forward to put substance to the form is most assuredly what is called for.

It is an ecoregionalism approach that brings public and private interests together for the good of all.

An excerpt.

Editorial: Next, go for gold
Sacramento earns the bronze for bicycling

- Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sacramento isn't spinning its wheels when it comes to facilitating bicycling. Although there is much more work to be done, the city, for the first time, has earned a bronze ranking from the League of American Bicyclists for its bike paths, bike lanes and other recent improvements.

Cycling advocates and the city's transportation department deserve credit for this national recognition as a "bicycle friendly community." In the last few years, the city has converted parts of L, N, P and Q streets from three to two lanes and added bicycle lanes on both sides. It has also invested in less noticeable projects, such as new striping and signage aimed at making bicycling safer for both cyclists and motorists.

We can't rest on our laurels.

Streetcars Could Return to Sacramento

Hope this idea pans out as it would be a delightful way to get around the downtown core and cross the river to West Sacramento.

An excerpt.

Streetcar desires may turn to reality
By Tony Bizjak - Bee Staff WriterPublished 12:00 am PDT Thursday, October 26, 2006

Spurred by other cities' success bringing old-fashioned trolley lines back to downtowns, Sacramento officials plan public and private discussions next week on how to turn their streetcar desires into rail reality.

Leaders in West Sacramento and Sacramento say it's time to decide the future of a streetcar system linking the two cities via the Tower Bridge.

"There is a lot of enthusiasm and momentum behind this," said Caroline Quinn, West Sacramento's streetcar project manager.

Quinn and other officials say a streetcar loop would allow workers, residents and visitors to travel within downtown and into West Sacramento's developing riverfront without the headaches of traffic and limited parking.

Streetcars -- smaller, less expensive and more nimble than light-rail trains -- have gained cachet in recent years in Portland, San Francisco and other cities as a way to boost land values and give downtown street life more pizazz.

But officials have fundamental questions that need to be answered soon: How much might the project cost? Where will the money come from? Can the communities agree on the route and the stops?

City officials plan a public "brainstorming" session in the West Sacramento City Hall galleria from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday.

That will be followed by meetings with neighborhood groups, transit riders, tourism officials and a select group of developers and property owners with land near the potential streetcar route.
With new high-rise office buildings and residential units planned on both sides of the river, officials say they must move quickly to win early buy-in from developers to help finance the streetcars.

"Can we get this up and running in five years for less than $50 million, and not use dollars that would take away from other high priorities?" consultant Wendy Hoyt asked.

Officials with the two cities, as well as the Yolo County Transportation District and Sacramento Regional Transit, say they have agreed they want to stay away from competing with other transportation projects for scarce federal funds.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Technology Finds A Way, But Questions Arise

A fascinating development that may impact our region.

An excerpt.

Team hopes to drill its way to global warming solution
Scientists want to see if keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by injecting it deep under California's Central Valley is feasible.
By Janet WilsonTimes Staff WriterOctober 25, 2006

THORNTON, Calif. — Surrounded by cornfields and cows, this gas-and-go exit off Interstate 5 south of Sacramento seems an unlikely place to solve global warming.

But for months, researchers have been quietly negotiating with a local farming family to bury carbon dioxide — the world's leading greenhouse gas — below their tomato fields northeast of town. The experiment will test whether carbon dioxide produced by power plants could be pumped deep underground to keep it from venting into the atmosphere, where it contributes to climate change.

"I think it's a grand idea; you don't know if something will work until you try it," said Edward Lopes, 67, one of six siblings who will sit down this week to decide whether to allow the experiment beneath their fields.

"I'm all for it, but if the others aren't interested, that's fine."

Scientists with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory say they zeroed in on this tiny delta town halfway between Stockton and Sacramento because it sits atop one of the largest natural underground gas storage sites in North America.

Seventy million years ago, an ancient inland sea created a dome of hard rock, forming an underground cap over porous, briny sandstone that could absorb several billion tons of gas, according to project scientists.

"There are geologic formations in the Central Valley that have enormous potential. We could potentially sequester several hundred years' worth of California's carbon dioxide there," said Larry Myer, head of the research team. The team is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the California Energy Commission, five other Western states, and a private natural gas company that hopes to flush lucrative methane from the earth as the carbon dioxide is buried.

If all goes as planned, hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 eventually could be siphoned from power plants and shipped via pipeline for burial under the Central Valley in a process known as carbon capture and sequestration, Myer said.

The strategy has been identified by a U.N. panel on climate change as a major option for slowing global warming. The U.S. leads the world in carbon dioxide emissions, putting 7 billion tons annually into the atmosphere. Nearly 40% comes from power plants that provide the nation's electricity.

Using carbon capture and sequestration, energy experts say, Americans could continue to power their lifestyle with plentiful coal while keeping greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere.

California could emerge as a leader in the push to put carbon dioxide underground because of its recently enacted greenhouse gas legislation, which sets mandatory caps on carbon dioxide by 2012.

But some residents of Thornton, population 1,450, are wary. "You may think we're a bunch of hicks, but we have a lot of concerns," longtime resident Christine Lagoda said. Those worries include the possibility of potentially deadly leaks and noise and pollution from trucks hauling pressurized gas 24 hours a day.

The issues in Thornton demonstrate the struggles that lie ahead as strategies for halting global warming move from laboratories into the real world.

There are nagging questions about how CO2 moves underground, confusing case law about who owns the subterranean sediments where gas would be stored, and uncertainty about long-term monitoring. The high cost of capturing the gas would be borne by consumers.

Mostly though, Thornton residents wonder, why here? They were angry when word got out last month that university researchers were looking at their town as a place to experiment with greenhouse gas. No public hearings had been announced, no county permit applications filed.

Not even the fire chief was informed. "I think something should be done about global warming … but you have to weigh the cure, whether it's worse," said Marlene Corbitt, a software consultant and Chamber of Commerce vice president, when she got the news. "I wouldn't want to be sitting on top of the gas."

Researchers have called that reaction NUMBY, or "Not Under My Backyard."

But the Berkeley team insists that the experiment is safe. Members say that unlike fault-prone coastal or volcanic mountain areas, the area's sediments are stable. They say they planned all along to involve residents, but wanted to keep the site secret until a deal was finalized. After word leaked out, the team quickly scheduled a meeting at New Hope Elementary School. About 25 people showed up and watched warily as the scientists played a slide show explaining the experiment.

Two wells would be drilled about 150 feet apart, the scientists said, and 4,000 pounds of carbon dioxide pumped three-quarters of a mile below the surface. Researchers would monitor the CO2 for a few months to see how it moved, then would cap the wells and walk away.

Residents peppered the team with questions. "So you can't guarantee that it's going to be leakproof?" "How does it affect the water table?" "Is this kind of like a landfill underground?"

The researchers and a Rosetta Resources manager tried to allay residents' fears, explaining that CO2 is not explosive and that drinking water should not be affected. Monitoring would be done during injection, they said. After the experiment, there would be well-heads left behind in Thornton, but not much else….

…Carbon dioxide has been pumped underground for decades by energy companies in Canada, Texas and elsewhere to force out stubborn oil deposits. But in most cases, companies haven't worried about whether the gas stayed put. Rosetta Resources, which put up $1 million of the project's $5-million tab, hopes CO2 buried in Thornton also could be used to flush out currently inaccessible natural gas, which maps show lies in the Thornton Reserve. Though carbon sequestration technology is widely regarded as safe, there are questions about how the gas may move underground, whether it could escape by rising through abandoned oil wells, and whether over millenniums it could break down concrete seals or natural rock caps. There are no federal or state laws in place for long-term monitoring of the potentially deadly gas after it is buried.

Robert Socolow, a Princeton physicist who heads the university's Carbon Mitigation Initiative — which is funded by BP and Ford — said it was important not to downplay risks, however remote.

"The terrible way nuclear waste was presented to the public — we have a parallel there. Nuclear waste was introduced with lots of assurances that weren't true," he said. One incident that Socolow sometimes mentions occurred at Lake Nyos in West Africa's Cameroon in 1986. A huge upwelling of naturally occurring carbon dioxide from the lake bottom drifted for miles, flattening trees and suffocating 1,700 people as they slept.

Fresno Parkway Funding

Their Parkway is slowly being assembled to someday become the jewel of their region, and writes another chapter in the marriage of California’s rivers, urban landscapes, natural sanctuaries and recreation.

An excerpt.

For the Parkway
Proposition 84 would help the Valley's pastoral jewel grow.
The Fresno Bee 10/23/06 05:28:13

There is an array of bond measures on the November ballot that some voters may find intimidating. It would be a shame if Proposition 84 got lost in that shuffle.

That's because the measure would bring tens of millions of dollars to the Valley for the San Joaquin River Parkway and other parkways, safe drinking water in rural Valley communities, state parks and river restoration along the San Joaquin.

The parkway would get $36 million if Proposition 84 passes. That's a vital sum to continue the patient and steady growth of the beautiful riparian ribbon running from Friant Dam to Highway 99. The parkway is about 60% complete now, with more than 3,700 acres already assembled.

It's difficult to overstate the value of the parkway — and other open spaces — especially as we face dramatic increases in population over the next few decades. The Valley's population could be doubled, to more than 7 million, as soon as 2040.

We already have a shortage of parks of all kinds. That's only going to get worse — much worse — if we don't act now to meet the coming demand.

Proposition 84 can help in other ways. It contains $500 million for state parks, some of which would be used in the Valley to address this region's great need. And other parkways, including the Kings River Conservancy, would share in $72 million of additional funds under Proposition 84. San Joaquin River restoration and water quality improvements would get $140 million.

Delta Research Surprises

Actions to save fish may be killing other fish, which points to the uncertainty of the science used to make policy decisions, and also points to taking more time.

An excerpt.

Posted on Wed, Oct. 25, 2006
Scientist says timing affects fish

Research into decline of Delta says that changes to pumps in effort to help save salmon could be hurting other marine life

SACRAMENTO - The latest round of research into what caused a severe ecological crisis in the Delta suggests massive pumps that deliver water across the state could be playing an important role, but in ways much more subtle than usually considered.

If borne out, the research could force water managers to adjust, perhaps dramatically, the timing or amount of water pumped out of the Delta to millions of acres of farms in the San Joaquin Valley and to 23 million Californians from the East Bay to Southern California.

In one of the most intriguing pieces of research unveiled Tuesday during a three-day science conference on Delta programs and issues, a leading expert on Delta smelt presented findings that show the pumps could be killing fish that would otherwise have the best chance of surviving in a deteriorating Delta environment.

William Bennett of the Center for Watershed Sciences & Bodega Marine Laboratory said the fittest fish are the ones that hatch earliest in the year, and shifts in the timing of Delta pumping meant to protect salmon and other fish have resulted in the pumps running harder in the early spring when the larvae are near.

"The current management schedule, with the best intentions, has been pumping the most when the larvae are the most vulnerable," Bennett said.

By itself, that shift might not have done much harm. But deteriorating conditions in the Delta make it harder for the smelt to survive to adulthood, and the combination of weaker fish and a degraded Delta could go a long way toward explaining the smelt's crisis.

"It's like you're playing with your minor league baseball team," said Bennett, who said that until recently he doubted the pumps played a primary role in the fish crisis. "It's the combined effect," he added. "Populations are rarely affected by one thing."

Almost immediately after the collapse in populations of Delta smelt, longfin smelt, threadfin shad and young-of-the-year striped bass was confirmed in early 2005, scientists said the crisis likely was caused by some combination of water delivery operations, pesticides or other toxic materials and invasive species.

Roughly 18 months into their investigation, scientists still cannot say exactly what caused the populations to plummet beginning about 2001. But they said they are getting closer.

World Water Shortage

Report examines the status and consequences.

An excerpt.

Water Is Running Out:
How Inevitable Are International Conflicts?
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), United Nations, October 23, 2006

"The world is running out of water." Many countries have been declared to be in a state of water stress or water scarcity, and some experts believe that in the future wars will be fought over water not oil. (Photo: Arko Datta / AFP-Getty Images)

The world's population is growing and water consumption is increasing, but water resources are decreasing. "The world is running out of water," stated Tony Clarke and Maude Barlow, activists and experts on water issues, in their article "Water Wars," published by the Polaris Institute in 2003. They said that by 2025, world population would increase to 2.6 billion more than the present day and water demands would exceed availability by 56 percent. People will live in water-scarcity areas, and disputes over resources are inevitable.

There are currently 263 rivers and countless aquifers that either cross or demarcate international political boundaries, according to the Atlas of International Freshwater Agreement, and 90 percent of countries in the world must share these water basins with at least one or two other states.

The Global Policy Forum, a United States-based nonprofit organization with consultative status at the United Nations, uses the term "water stress" to describe situations in which each person in a country has access to less than 1,500 cubic meters of water each year. The term "water scarcity" refers to situations in which each person in a country has access to less than 1,000 cubic meters of water per year. It is estimated that two-thirds of the world's population will live in areas of acute water stress or water scarcity by 2025.

Nowadays, tensions and disputes between countries are rising due to increasing problems of water scarcity, rapid population growth, degradation in water quality, and uneven economic growth.

"If current trends continue, we could be faced with a very grave situation," said former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev, who is now president of the Green Cross International, an organization that provides analysis and expertise in environmental and economic issues.

Delta Housing Causes Controversy

This new development that might save a dying town, stirs resistance and possible court case.

An excerpt.

Yolo OKs housing on Delta
Clarksburg project could be a test case for protection law.
By Mary Lynne Vellinga - Bee Staff WriterPublished 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Working under an intense spotlight of scrutiny by Delta protection advocates, Yolo County supervisors Tuesday approved a development of 162 houses that will more than double the population of Clarksburg.

The Old Sugar Mill project, while relatively small, has attracted statewide attention because of its sensitive location in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

According to the state's Delta Protection Commission, Clarksburg sits squarely inside the primary zone, the heart of the Delta that was made off limits to significant new development by the 1992 Delta Protection Act.

Tucked next to a bend in the Sacramento River, the Sugar Mill development also relies for flood protection on a levee that state officials have identified as vulnerable to failure.

Yolo County supervisors nonetheless voted 4-1 to approve the project, setting up a potential test case before the Delta Protection Commission, should opponents follow through on threats to appeal. Ultimately, the question of whether the development violates the state's management plan for the Delta could be decided in court.

Linda Fiack, executive director of the Delta Protection Commission, said the Sugar Mill project represents the first sizeable incursion of new houses into the primary zone.

"It certainly will raise questions," she said Tuesday.

Lawyers working for the county maintain the project isn't within the primary zone because the Delta Protection Act intended to exempt existing urban areas from its restrictions.

Trent Orr, a lawyer for the National Resources Defense Council, on Tuesday called the county's position "a major misinterpretation" of state law.

"This project is clearly in the primary zone of the Delta," he said.

Yolo County supervisors found themselves in the uncomfortable position Tuesday of voting against the environmental advocates with whom they have often sided. They said their decision to do so was based on the support for the project among the old-time families of Clarksburg, who worry their tiny town is dying.

Chicago's Recycling

Bins work better than bags anyway.

An excerpt.

City to wave white flag on blue bags
By Dan Mihalopoulos and Gary WashburnTribune staff reporters

October 24, 2006, 11:11 PM CDT

After defending his faltering recycling program for years, Mayor Richard Daley on Tuesday said he plans to bag blue bags, signaling the death of an initiative that most Chicagoans ignored.

A pilot program featuring blue garbage carts for recyclables will "eventually" be expanded citywide, the mayor said.

As a result of the change, Daley said, the city "will save an enormous amount of money" by increasing the amount of recyclable trash that is kept out of landfills.

The blue bag program has been in a slow and tortuous demise, even as City Hall insisted that it was working well and that it was too expensive to replace it.

In a meeting earlier this month with the Tribune's editorial board, Daley said it would not make financial sense to run trucks that pick up paper, glass and cans in areas where residents don't recycle. "We always will have a blue bag," he said then.

But on Saturday, senior Daley aides announced that suburban-style, curbside recycling bins would be distributed to homes in seven wards next year on an experimental basis. Although the Daley aides expressed hope for a citywide curbside cart program, they were less definite on the subject than Daley was on Tuesday.

LA’s Beaches the Worst

Verifying what most already know, the beaches in the southland are pretty rank.

An excerpt.

L.A. County beaches ranked foulest in state
Heal the Bay's summer report card shows new trouble in Long Beach but some improvements elsewhere along the California coast.
By J. Michael KennedyTimes Staff WriterOctober 25, 2006

Los Angeles County predictably earned the dubious honor Tuesday of having the most polluted beaches in California.

Less predictably, Long Beach jumped out as the worst offender among the worst.

But having made those pronouncements, Heal the Bay, the environmental group that routinely conducts pollution studies along the California coast, declared this one a victory of sorts. The reason: a number of the usual cellar-dwellers passed with flying colors because of recent cleanup efforts.

Mark Gold, the executive director of the Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay, pointed to such perennial polluters as Will Rogers State Beach as examples of cleanup efforts along the coast that were starting to yield results.

"It was always one of the worst offenders," Gold said of Will Rogers, which earned an A rating in the organization's annual "End of Summer Beach Report Card."

The study, which grades more than 450 California beaches, bases its findings on levels of bacterial pollution in the water. Los Angeles County received a grade of F for 29 of its 97 testing stations. San Diego County was next with three F readings, while Orange County had one. There were 37 F ratings in the entire state, compared with 278 monitoring stations that received A ratings.

America’s Generosity Grows

Our country continues to be very generous and charitable giving grows again, matching a pattern of recent years.

An excerpt.

A Year of Big Gains
Largest charities saw donations rise 13% in 2005
Noelle Barton and Holly Hall

Donations to America's largest charities grew by 13 percent last year, to $62.7- billion, according to The Chronicle's annual Philanthropy 400 survey.

That increase matches the highest percentage gain in the 16 years that The Chronicle has been ranking the 400 most-successful charities. At the height of the technology boom, in 1999, charities in the Philanthropy 400 achieved a 13.4-percent increase.

All signs suggest that the pace of giving continues to be strong this year: Among 49 charities on the list that projected a rise in 2006 giving, contributions are expected to grow by a median of 13 percent, meaning that half the groups expect a greater increase and half expect less.

The robust increase for 2005 reflects not only a strong economy but also the outpouring of donations following Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters.

Charities in the Philanthropy 400 reported that they raised $2.6-billion last year to help the victims of the two most devastating crises: the December 2004 tsunamis and Katrina.

New Fund-Raising Approaches

But those disaster donations do not account for the fund-raising success of many charities in the survey. Many organizations that were not involved in providing disaster relief also reported that giving rose sharply. When Katrina and tsunami contributions are removed from the total amount raised by organizations in the survey, giving still rose by 8.3 percent, even after adjusting for inflation, which was 3.4 percent last year.

Those results demonstrate the growing fund-raising prowess of charities on the Philanthropy 400 list, many of which worked hard to reverse declining contributions after the technology bust in 2000 by diversifying the methods they use to raise money, reaching out to new groups of potential donors, cutting costs through online communications, and hiring new development officers to seek big gifts from individuals and corporations.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Parkway Management & Public Private Partnerships: Part Five

The actual building of a nonprofit parks organization is our focus today, in the final posting of our series.

An excerpt.

Building a Nonprofit Parks Organization
Excerpted from
Public Parks, Private Partners, published by Project for Public Spaces, 2000.

The people who run nonprofit parks organizations today have been an invaluable source of information for this book. We have taken some of their ideas and wisdom and have developed the following composite of the keys to success in building an effective nonprofit parks organization. These keys range from information on starting up and hands-on advice to insights from work in different parts of the country.

Understand the playing field before you begin.

Developing and shaping the role of a nonprofit organization usually starts with defining what is currently lacking in the park or greenway or municipality (probably the issues that brought a group together in the first place) within the context of other organizations involved in the area or park, the roles that these other groups play, and how well they perform them. Identifying who and what responsibilities the involved public agencies, community groups, and other nonprofits assume in the park or greenway helps pinpoint where, in these relationships, a particular organization might be most needed. This kind of analysis of other efforts should include an assessment of whether they are being done effectively or not.

Develop an effective, focused community process.

Agreeing on a participatory and formal process to involve neighborhood groups and key elected officials at the outset of a working relationship builds community involvement, stewardship, more responsive design or programming, and political support. One organization noted: ...outreach and inclusiveness in the plan development process.... increases trust and legitimacy in the surrounding communities.
Another group said: Good communication and the involvement and buy in of key players (the movers and shakers) to the importance of the project has enabled the partnership to achieve its goals.

Identify the assets of the community.

Well beyond the stakeholders described above the parks, planning and public works departments, for example - there are hundreds of groups and people in every city who could be associated with the park in some way, but aren't. Many of these are organizations that currently use the park, including sports leagues, exercise groups, dog walkers, bird watchers, chess clubs, and countless others. In addition there are probably many individual park users who know a great deal about what happens in the park because they use it every morning, when they walk their dog, or every evening, when they meet friends. These users exist in every park and are invaluable as a resource.

There are also many groups that would like to be able to use the park, but don't for any number of reasons, including complex city permitting, concern for safety, or simple lack of knowledge about the park and what it could offer them. All of these types of users, current and potential, need to become a part of the assets inventory so that they can be given an opportunity to become future users and supporters. Involving the community in the planning and implementation effort is not only wise, it is necessary for success, said Tupper Thomas, administrator of Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

Develop a vision.

A vision for the park or greenway that is flexible enough to change and realistic to the extent that it is feasible will, in the long run, facilitate a coordinated park strategy and build in support for park plans, programs, and projects. Many nonprofits noted that the development of a master plan was an important factor that enabled programs and projects to get underway. Whether or not a master plan exists, a vision that evolves from a community process is essential. The benefits and liabilities associated with master planning are discussed in Chapter 5.

One Antarctic Ice Shelf Disappears

But since it floats on top of the ocean anyway there is no rise in sea level as there is with melting glaciers, as noted in this story.

An excerpt.

23 October 2006 11:45
Cracking up: Ice turning to water, glaciers on the move - and a planet in peril
A new study proves it was global warming that sent an Antarctic ice shelf larger than Luxembourg crashing into the ocean. Geoffrey Lean reports
Published: 22 October 2006

Nothing else quite like it has happened at any time in the past 10,000 years. In just over a month an entire Antarctic ice shelf, bigger than a small country, disintegrated and disappeared, altering world atlases for ever.

A new study shows that the catastrophic collapse of the Larsen B shelf, four and a half years ago, was man-made, not an "act of God". It is thought to have been the first time that a major disaster has been proved to have been caused by global warming.

Research at the blue-chip British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, published last week, has identified the causes of "dramatic warming" of the eastern side of the Antarctic peninsula, where the vast, 3,250 sq km expanse of ice used to be. Gareth Marshall, the lead author of the study, says it marks "the first time that anyone has been able to demonstrate a physical process directly linking the break-up of the Larsen ice shelf to human activity".

The research has also linked the collapse to the hole in the Earth's protective ozone layer that opens up over the Antarctic every southern spring. Nasa scientists reported last week that this year's hole, at a massive 10.6m square miles, is bigger than ever.

Central Park

This is an excellent new profile of Central Park which is the park we see as a model (for the Parkway) of innovative management.

The profile.

Central Park

Central Park is a world treasure, not just New York's. It ranks among the world's outstanding public places because of its influential original design -- and its current management.

The vision of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux has proven timeless: It is still highly suitable for today's park users. For example, Olmsted took great care to conceive the pathway and circulation system so that even today, pedestrians and vehicles can easily move through the park without major interference; the park's sunken transverses originally allowed carriages, and now cars, to cross the park unobtrusively. Pedestrian paths guide people through the park via various destinations, such as the Sailboat Pond, Belvedere Castle, and the Dairy; while vehicles are limited on several park roads during certain hours.

The Mall, a wide, tree-lined promenade, is a formal arcade, designed for stately strolls. In contrast, the heavily wooded Ramble creates a feeling of dense forest and seclusion. Open meadows give one a sense of natural expanse and have accommodated a few of the largest outdoor concerts in the country, including a Paul Simon concert that drew an estimated 600,000 fans in 1991. The park also plays host to 275 species of birds and sponsors a large group of avid birders.

The other factor that makes Central Park so extraordinary is its innovative management entity, the Central Park Conservancy. The Conservancy has developed measurable maintenance standards and guidelines (it is responsible for day-to-day maintenance of the park, among other things); established a zone gardeners program; and regulated vending in the park. It has also developed a range of activities, events and educational programs throughout the park, and an extensive volunteer program.

But a list of Central Park's features and events does little to capture Olmsted and Vaux's inspired achievement. According to Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, the park's foremost authority, "He [Olmsted] arranged sequences of visual events to climax in stunning vistas...Though every inch of Central Park was shaped and molded by machines and men; the hand of man is never obvious." Today we also see it as a series of destinations, each with multiple activities available during every season.