Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fulton Avenue

As one who grew up along Fulton (my father owned the first Volvo dealership in Sacramento, John's Motor Sales on Fulton just north of Arden), and still lives close by in Sierra Oaks, it has been good to see it being reborn and beginning to look quite nice.

Guiding Fulton's upgrade
Business improvement district helped pay for security, beautification.
By Chelsea Phua - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, May 31, 2007

Growing up in Sacramento, Melinda M. Eppler said Fulton Avenue in Arden Arcade functioned as the main street for her family. She witnessed its deterioration in the late 1980s and early 1990s as longtime businesses closed down or moved away. In July 2003, Eppler became the executive director of the Fulton Avenue Association, a 450-member business improvement district.

We asked Eppler about her background, the association's role in revitalizing the area, its relationship with the county and how it would be affected if Arden Arcade became a city.

Q: How did you start working for the Fulton Avenue Association?

A: While in between jobs, former Supervisor Muriel Johnson suggested that I speak to a small committee of association board members about the executive director position.

Q: Where did you work before joining the association?

A: I was director of communications at Sierra Health Foundation for five years (1998 to 2003).

The foundation recruited me from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, where I served under Gov. Pete Wilson as director of public affairs.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I worked for Accel Partners in San Francisco, Bakula Public Relations in Sacramento, and helped to manage the Sandy Smoley for Congress campaign. I also helped my dad, who was a career lobbyist for the state's health care industry, start up a newsletter focused on health policy. From 1986 to 1989, I lived in Washington, where I worked for Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, first as his receptionist, then as his scheduling secretary.

Q: What is your educational background?.

A: I went to Menlo College, a small liberal arts college in Menlo Park from 1982-1984. I transferred to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I majored in sociology and political science, graduating in 1986.

Q: What is the Fulton Avenue Association?

A: The Fulton Avenue Association is a group of property and business owners who tax themselves (through the property tax mechanism) to fund a property and business improvement district, or PBID. The PBID is Fulton Avenue between Arden Way and Auburn Boulevard.

The association has about 450 members, comprised of 130 property owners and 320 business owners. Ten members sit on the association's board of directors. I meet monthly with the board.

Each of the 130 property owners in the district is taxed based on the size of their individual parcel -- .02 cents per square foot of the total parcel, plus $8.50 per linear foot of Fulton Avenue frontage. The range of individual assessments in the district is $565 per year to $17,000 per year. The total amount collected from all properties is $370,000 annually. Each year since the association's inception in 1998, the county of Sacramento has matched, or closely matched, the association's total assessment amount using transient occupancy tax (hotel tax money) or earmarked economic development funds.


If this prediction is as accurate as that for global warming is proclaimed to be, we are in deeper trouble, and sooner, than previously predicted.

Ancient "Megadroughts" Struck U.S. West, Could Happen Again, Study Suggests
Richard A. Lovett
for National Geographic News
May 24, 2007

Much of the western U.S. may be headed into a prolonged dry spell—a "perfect drought," scientists say, that could persist for generations.

The West already has been dry for six years and is looking to be dry again in 2007, said Glen Macdonald, an ecology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

But that's nothing compared to what has happened in the region in the past, according to Macdonald and other scientists.

In a study published today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a team from Arizona and Colorado found that the Southwest suffered a six-decade megadrought from 1118 to 1179.

For 62 years mountain snows—one of the area's main sources of water—were frequently diminished, reducing the river's flow during the heart of the drought by an average of 15 percent.

And for an extended period there were no high flows at all, said Connie Woodhouse, a study co-author from the University of Arizona in Tucson.

This is grim news for today's Westerners, who rely on wetter years interspersed through a drought to fill reservoirs, the scientists said.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

CC & the Bike Trail

Contracting the bike trail repair from the trestle fire to CC Myers is a great idea (would take, what, a couple days?), as is the general concept of providing bonuses when the repairs are needed speedily to ensure public transportation access.

Editorial: A-Maze-ing
Connector reopens after just 26 days
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, May 30, 2007

When a tanker-truck fire caused the Interstate 580 connector to collapse in early May, some transportation officials feared that it could take months to rebuild this key link of the Bay Area's freeway network.

Yet, amazingly, the MacArthur Maze connector reopened at 8:40 p.m. Thursday after a mere 26 days. Motorists on Friday morning honked their horns in gratitude, apparently stunned -- along with the rest of California -- that a state-financed public works project could be completed in such quick time.

For that, credit goes to a decision by Caltrans and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to provide a financial bonus to the contractor who could reconstruct the connector before a set date. C.C. Myers of Rancho Cordova won the contract and said he'd have the connector open by Memorial Day. Some scoffed, but Myers delivered -- earning a $5 million bonus in the process.

That raises the question of whether bonuses could help speed up other stalled public works projects.

Could there be, perhaps, a bonus to bidders who could quickly repave the bike trail under the (rapidly rebuilt) Union Pacific railroad trestle in Sacramento?

County Budget Planning

The budget problem the county faces impacts one of the most precious of its charges, the care of the American River Parkway, which continues facing severe public safety and maintenance problems.

The Parkway is falling behind $1.5 million annually in daily operational costs, and needs $8.5 million annually for the next ten years for public safety, facility upgrades, and land acquisitions.
(2006 American River Parkway Financial Need Study Update, p. viii, )

The strategy we advocate to address this is for the Parkway adjacent communities and the County, to form a Joint Powers Authority to oversight a contract with a nonprofit organization to provide daily management, ensure public safety, and build a financial endowment for supplemental Parkway funding. Using nonprofit management and the non-coercive strategy of philanthropy rather than the coercion of increased taxation is appropriate for a beloved community resource, and a strategy which has had great success enriching many public spaces including Central Park in New York and the Sacramento Zoo. (See our strategy on our website: )

Editorial: Who's planning?
Sacramento governments on troubling path
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors skipped an important tradition this year. It didn't get a written report in public session from its financial staff that forecasts future budgets. The board should get back to its tradition of looking at the numbers in public and planning ahead. And, in chambers just down the street, the Sacramento City Council should embrace this same custom.

The county's financial staff normally gives supervisors a useful glimpse into the future in a budget report every January. In January 2006, the staff, making a variety of reasonable assumptions, estimated that supervisors would have to make more than $300 million in budget cuts by 2011 if they didn't begin to make permanent reductions in spending. This wasn't pleasant news, but it is an important message for government leaders to hear -- again and again. If the revenues aren't going to be there (for whatever reason), reducing the base budget can be a more prudent alternative to maintaining a budget that is simply too big for accounting shifts and other tricks to paper over.

This January's report didn't include the budget forecast information. (Why not? Our suspicion is that it had to do with not drawing attention to an effort in Arden Arcade to leave the county and create a new city.) The numbers (again, based on lots of assumptions; forecasting can't be precise) suggest $280 million in necessary cuts in coming years unless the supervisors trim the base budgets that are driving these potential deficits.

A big problem is that a major funding source for local governments -- property taxes -- is sputtering. The real estate slowdown translates into modest growth in this revenue source.

Downtown Towers

Let us hope that this project, a truly beautiful and visionary one, soon is reborn and begins rising.

Towers project looks shakier
Developer misses buyout deadline for his 53-story dream.
By Mary Lynne Vellinga - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Downtown high-rise developer John Saca missed Friday's deadline to buy out his estranged partner, the California Public Employees' Retirement System -- leaving the fate of his twin condominium towers more precarious than ever.

"Things did not turn out the way we were hoping," Saca said. "We had under 60 days to raise over $60 million for a project that was really underwater. ... We just ran out of time."

The giant state pension fund now has a week or two to decide whether it wants to take over the stalled, debt-ridden project at the entrance to Capitol Mall and move forward without Saca, CalPERS confirmed Tuesday. The pension fund invested about $25 million with Saca before cutting him off in late 2006, citing cost overruns.

CalPERS has brought in the CIM Group, a Los Angeles-based developer, to decide whether it would make financial sense to pursue a significantly scaled-down version of Saca's 53-story condominium and hotel towers. CIM's idea for the site also would include some office space, said CalPERS spokeswoman Pat Macht.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Parkway Drinking

The police were out in force, a rational response to trouble over the past few holidays, and order was maintained, and it appears it would have been with or without a banning of alcohol, a good thing for all.

Authorities keep party on the river toned down
New law to tame drinking along the American seems to help.
By Aurelio Rojas - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sacramento County Park Ranger Creston Aldridge peered out from Hagan Park in Rancho Cordova on Monday, past a spit of land on the American River that rafters call Gilligan's Island, toward a group of revelers docked on a shallow bank.

It was a glorious Memorial Day, warm enough to herald summer is near, and Aldridge was recounting how rangers welcomed visitors at Sunrise Bridge by reminding them of new, more restrictive, liquor laws on the river.

"Pretty much upstream, we've been telling them all morning," Aldridge said, pausing to point out a couple of miscreants as a fellow officer shouted on a bullhorn. "You see that group in their yellow raft? They're not complying."

For the most part, however, park visitors were complying with the letter of the law: it's OK to drink liquor on the water, but not along the parkway.

Since last summer, after alcohol-fueled rafters ignited more than fireworks for the second consecutive Fourth of July -- wielding oars with malice in a drunken melee that sent one man to a hospital and resulted in 20 arrests -- it's been illegal to drink along the American River Parkway during holiday periods.


From a British point of view.

May 28, 2007
What a rubbish way to run a country
Thunderer: Tim Worstall

Recycling is based on the near-religious belief that everything has value, everything is worth saving, except your time.

A rather strange belief, given how few of us go into that long, dark night complaining of too much time on our hands while here. Thus, when the acolytes of the faith suggest a new form of Gaia worship, we should have a close look at what this means in terms of our time, as with the latest proposals for recycling domestic waste.

A study into the time spent sorting rubbish to recycle in Seattle showed that for recyclables the average per household was 16 minutes a week. Add in food and garden waste and it rose to 43 minutes. There are 24 million households in the UK, so that adds up to a significant cost – but how should we measure this in monetary terms? We have a law that forbids us from selling our time at less than about £5 an hour: you know it as the minimum wage but it does help us with our calculation, since that is evidently the minimum possible value of our labour. The Worstall Calculator (envelope, 1, pencil, 1) tells us that our time spent in sorting our rubbish by these new rules has a cost of between £1.7 and £4.5 billion.

This might make sense and it might not, depending on what costs we are trying to avoid by employing ourselves in this manner. Fortunately, we again have the Government’s word for this, in a report called Waste Not Want Not from the Strategy Unit. The concern driving the whole process is that domestic waste disposal costs some £1.6 billion a year and that this will rise to £3.2 billion by 2020.

The solution being proposed is thus that we should spend more money than the cost of the entire waste disposal process in sorting the rubbish, before we spend still more collecting it, recycling or incinerating it and then tipping the remainder into the same holes in the ground that we’ve always used. The system will cost more in total than the old one in the name of saving money.


A delightful article, working around the provocative concept, “I think, therefore we all are?

A New Theory
of the Universe
Biocentrism builds on quantum physics
by putting life into the equation
By Robert Lanza

While I was sitting one night with a poet friend watching a great opera performed in a tent under arc lights, the poet took my arm and pointed silently. Far up, blundering out of the night, a huge Cecropia moth swept past from light to light over the posturings of the actors. “He doesn’t know,” my friend whispered excitedly. “He’s passing through an alien universe brightly lit but invisible to him. He’s in another play; he doesn’t see us. He doesn’t know. Maybe it’s happening right now to us.”
—Loren Eiseley

The world is not, on the whole, the place we have learned about in our school books. This point was hammered home one recent night as I crossed the causeway of the small island where I live. The pond was dark and still. Several strange glowing objects caught my attention on the side of the road, and I squatted down to observe one of them with my flashlight. The creature turned out to be a glowworm, the luminous larva of the European beetle Lampyris noctiluca. Its segmented little oval body was primitive—like some trilobite that had just crawled out of the Cambrian Sea 500 million years ago. There we were, the beetle and I, two living objects that had entered into each others’ world. It ceased emitting its greenish light, and I, for my part, turned off my flashlight.

I wondered if our interaction was different from that of any other two objects in the universe. Was this primitive little grub just another collection of atoms—proteins and molecules spinning away like the planets round the sun? Had science reduced life to the level of a mechanist’s logic, or was this wingless beetle, by virtue of being a living creature, creating its own physical reality?

The laws of physics and chemistry can explain the biology of living systems, and I can recite in detail the chemical foundations and cellular organization of animal cells: oxidation, biophysical metabolism, all the carbohydrates and amino acid patterns. But there was more to this luminous little bug than the sum of its biochemical functions. A full understanding of life cannot be found by looking at cells and molecules through a microscope. We have yet to learn that physical existence cannot be divorced from the animal life and structures that coordinate sense perception and experience. Indeed, it seems likely that this creature was the center of its own sphere of reality just as I was the center of mine.

Although the beetle did not move, it had sensory cells that transmitted messages to the cells in its brain. Perhaps the creature was too primitive to collect data and pinpoint my location in space. Or maybe my existence in its universe was limited to the perception of some huge and hairy shadow stabilizing a flashlight in the air. I don’t know. But as I stood up and left, I am sure that I dispersed into the haze of probability surrounding the glowworm’s little world.

Our science fails to recognize those special properties of life that make it fundamental to material reality. This view of the world—biocentrism—revolves around the way a subjective experience, which we call consciousness, relates to a physical process. It is a vast mystery and one that I have pursued my entire life. The conclusions I have drawn place biology above the other sciences in the attempt to solve one of nature’s biggest puzzles, the theory of everything that other disciplines have been pursuing for the last century. Such a theory would unite all known phenomena under one umbrella, furnishing science with an all-encompassing explanation of nature or reality.

We need a revolution in our understanding of science and of the world. Living in an age dominated by science, we have come more and more to believe in an objective, empirical reality and in the goal of reaching a complete understanding of that reality. Part of the thrill that came with the announcement that the human genome had been mapped or with the idea that we are close to understanding the big bang rests in our desire for completeness.

But we’re fooling ourselves.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Proposition 84

To flesh out this editorial, here is the allocation of funds from Prop 84 from their website at .

Proposition 84, a $5.4 billion initiative slated for the November 2006 statewide ballot, provides funding for all of the major natural resource protection and water programs at the state level. The total amount of funding for water programs is $2.714 billion and includes:

$240 million for Safe Drinking Water
• $10 million for Emergency Safe Drinking Water Projects
• $180 million for Small Community Grants
• $50 million for Safe Drinking Water Revolving Fund

$1.285 billion for Integrated Water Management and Water Quality
• $80 million for the Clean Water Revolving Fund
• $1 billion for Integrated Regional Water Management Grants (DWR)
• $60 million for Groundwater Cleanup Loans and Grants (DHS)
• $130 million for Delta Water Quality Improvement
• $15 million for Agricultural Pollution Reduction

$800 million for Flood Control
• $30 million for Floodplain Mapping
• $275 million for Flood Control
• $275 million for Delta Levees
• $180 million for Subventions
• $40 million for Flood Corridors

$65 million for Statewide Water Planning and Design
• Surface Water Storage Planning and Feasibility (CalFed)
• Evaluation of Climate Change Impacts on Flood and Water Systems
• Flood Protection Improvement
• Other Studies Related to Integration of Flood and Water Systems

$928 million for Protection of Rivers, Lakes and Streams
• $90 million for Stormwater Cleanup (TMDLs)
• $180 million for Environmental Conflicts Related to Water Projects
• $90 million for Colorado River, QSA and Salton Sea
• $54 million for Public Access to State Water Projects (State’s obligation)
• $72 million for River Parkways and $18 million for Urban Streams
• $72 million for the LA/San Gabriel Rivers
• $36 million for the San Joaquin River
• $36 million for Coachella/Desert Area
• $45 million for the Santa Ana River
• $90 million for Sierra Nevada Rivers and Lake Tahoe
• $45 million for Restoration/Conservation projects (California Conservation Corps)
• $100 million for San Joaquin River Restoration

$450 million for Wildlife and Forest Conservation
• $180 million for Forests
• $135 million for Wildlife
• $90 million for Natural Community Conservation Plans
• $45 million for Working Landscapes
o $15 million for Grazing Land
o $15 million for Oak Woodlands
o $10 million for Farmland Conservancy Program
o $5 million for Wildlife Stewardship Grants

$540 million for Beaches, Bays and Coastal Protection
• $90 million for Clean Beaches (coastal stormwater/TMDLs)
• $225 million for Bays
o $108 million for the San Francisco Bay
o $45 million for the Monterey Bay
o $45 million for the Santa Monica Bay Watersheds
o $27 million for the San Diego Bay
• $135 million for the State Coastal Conservancy
• $90 million for the Ocean Protection Trust Fund

$500 million for Parks and Nature Education Centers
• $400 million for State Parks
• $100 million for Nature Education Centers, Museums and Aquariums

$580 million for Sustainable Communities
• $90 million for Urban Greening and Joint Use Projects
• $400 million for Local and Regional Parks
• $90 million for Planning and Incentives for Resource Conservation

Editorial: Funding parks, trails
Prop. 84 backlash misses goal of initiative
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, May 28, 2007

Fueled by misleading media reports, a backlash is brewing against use of Proposition 84 bond funds to finance parks, aquariums, museums, bike trails and other public amenities.

The premise of this criticism is that people didn't vote for Proposition 84, a bond initiative on the November ballot, so the state could finance cultural and recreational improvements. Instead, clairvoyant critics claim, voters approved the ballot initiative mainly to finance flood control and water projects.

We find it impressive that commentators can look into the minds of the electorate and, absent credible polling, make conclusions on the motivations of 4.4 million voters. Less impressive is the claim that voters were misled into approving Proposition 84. Anyone literate enough to read a Dr. Seuss book would have known that parks, museums, trails and other forms of recreation were eligible for funding under this ballot initiative.

It's clear from the initiative's title: "Water Quality, Safety and Supply. Flood Control. Natural Resource Protection. Park Improvements. Bonds. Initiative Statute." It's also clear from the campaign's Web site (, which says that funding could go to "development of nature education opportunities at institutions including, natural history museums, aquariums, research facilities and botanical gardens."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Tax Incentives

A tool to find common ground in the preservation of species appears to be working.

Tax incentives offered to help endangered species
By Bob Stallman and Fred Krupp -
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, May 27, 2007

The short but tempestuous history of endangered species conservation in America has seen its share of conflicts between rural landowners and environmentalists.

We're all familiar with the tales: ranchers and wolf advocates pitted against each other; logging communities concerned that protecting the spotted owl could harm their livelihoods; West Coast farmers, commercial fishermen and environmentalists disagreeing over whether scarce water should be used for crop irrigation or salmon. The battles seemed as inevitable as death and taxes -- until now.

Opposing sides in the endangered species debate may finally find common ground. Unlikely as it seems, that common ground is in the U.S. tax code. The two sides have started working together to create tax incentives that will benefit farmers and rare critters alike.

Farmers and environmentalists are now working together with lawmakers to develop significant new tax credits for conserving rare plants and animals. The new approach is a welcome change after years of battling to a draw over changes to the Endangered Species Act.

It's also a pragmatic strategy, since farmers and other private landowners -- who provide homes to more than two-thirds of all listed species on their lands -- are an obvious choice to care for the habitats that declining species need in order to recover. Until now, the problem has been that conserving habitat has offered few rewards to farmers and other landowners. Tax benefits might be just what we need to change that, and make caring for threatened species a benefit rather than a burden.

Water, Water Everywhere

Fascinating article on water, its trading, and agriculture.

Water, Water
By Roger Bate
From the May/June 2007 Issue
Filed under: World Watch, Big Ideas, Economic Policy

It may be everywhere, but it’s scarce as well. How to use water most efficiently? Roger Bate finds the solution in a nation undergoing the worst drought in 1,000 years: Australia.

“Water, water everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”
--Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

Australia has entered the fifth year of what one government official calls a “one-in-a-thousand-year drought.” The Murray-Darling river system, which provides three-fourths of the water consumed nationally, is more than 50 percent below its record minimum. The drought offers a vision of the future for many arid parts of the world, including the American West. But as bad as it is, Australia’s drought would be far worse if the country had not, two decades ago, initiated what is the world’s best system for trading water rights. As a result, water is flowing to its most productive uses, and there is more of it for drinking.

As Coleridge understood, the paradox is that, while there’s a lot of water in the world, it’s mostly either the wrong type or in the wrong place. Only 3 percent is fresh and much of that is locked in icebergs, glaciers, and inaccessible aquifers. Some countries have much more of the world’s supply than others. Canada has over 137,335 cubic yards of water per person, while Tunisia has only 654. But there is still plenty to go around if—and it’s a big if—it is used efficiently.

Water is recognized practically everywhere as a human right. Certainly, everyone should have enough for drinking, bathing, and other essentials. But by using a language of rights, governments often ignore the reality that water is scarce and that the best way to distribute any scarce resource is through trading. Instead, one economic sector in particular has been showered with water at a very low price, subsidized by the rest of the population. That sector is agriculture.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Clean Air, Dirty Air? Part One

One viewpoint.

Editorial: An air of unhealthiness
San Joaquin air board needs a makeover
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, May 26, 2007

The San Joaquin Valley is rapidly becoming the nation's smog and soot capital. This unwelcome distinction is largely due to farm practices and pollution spewing from tens of thousands of trucks and vehicles.

Health experts suspect this pollution is a prime cause of increased asthma, which afflicts one out of five children and one of eight adults in the Valley.

For years, residents from Bakersfield to Stockton have looked to the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District to clean up the region's air. For years, the district's board has failed them.

Clean Air, Dirty Air? Part Two

Another viewpoint.

Blue Skies, High Anxiety
By Joel Schwartz
From the May/June 2007 Issue
Filed under: Public Square, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

Our air is cleaner than it’s been in a century, writes Joel Schwartz. So why do Americans worry it’s so dirty and dangerous?

Americans are driving more miles, using more energy, and producing more goods and services than ever. But at the same time, the air quality in America’s cities is better than it has been in more than a century—despite the fact that the U.S. population has almost quadrupled and real GDP has risen by a factor of nearly thirty.

But Americans aren’t aware of this good news—or don’t believe it. Polls show the public thinks that air pollution has been steady or even rising over the last few decades, that it will worsen in the future, and that it is still a serious threat to people’s health. They are convinced that pollution is a serious problem throughout the country, that it is a major cause of asthma and other respiratory diseases, and that it shortens the lives of tens of thousands of people.

Much of what Americans think they know about air pollution is false. Through exaggeration and sometimes even outright fabrication, the main purveyors of the story—journalists, government regulators, environmentalists, and even health scientists—have created public fear out of all proportion to the actual risks.

The SF Bay & Global Warming

Its effects appear to have arrived in the Bay.

NEW: Evidence of global warming is here, regulators say
Recent trends in sea level, weather suggest massive change lies ahead for the region
By Douglas Fischer, STAFF WRITER
Article Last Updated: 05/23/2007 06:39:22 PM PDT

SAN FRANCISCO -- Forget the future. Global warming's impacts -- be they sea-level rise, weird weather, or vast ecological die-offs -- are well under way here and now.
Warming trends over the past 50 years suggest the region will have to rethink how it goes about restoring tidal wetlands, such as the vast South Bay salt ponds. Some regions being lovingly restored now may never emerge from low tide 20 to 50 years' hence.

On Wednesday meteorologists, oceanographers and ecologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration presented an overview of how the Bay Area will likely fare given global warming's expected impacts.

Most striking was that the scientists did not rely on predictions and models to make an impression.

They just looked back at the past few years.

Fishermen based out of Pilar Point and other commercial harbors are already switching gear as warm-water species like jumbo squid move north. Sperm whales -- rarely seen hereabouts -- are making regular appearances, following the squid. Meanwhile the giant blue whales, mainstays of the outer Farallon Islands, never showed last year.

And some evidence suggests humpbacks are switching to a fish diet, suggesting the two whales -- mom and calf -- lost and struggling in the Delta may just be the beginning.

Other examples:

* In last summer's heat wave that killed 140 people and fried nearly 10,000 Pacific Gas & Electric Co. transformers, daily highs were neither notable nor the problem, said National Weather Service senior meteorologist David Reynolds.

It was the nights. Many places in the Bay Area never got below 90 degrees.
"Transformers blew because we never before had to run air conditioning 24 hours a day for four days straight," Reynolds said.

Vatican Goes Green

Leading the way on the environment is part of leading the way on the faith.

Going green: Vatican expands mission to saving planet, not just souls
By Carol Glatz and Alicia Ambrosio
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Expanding its mission from saving souls to saving the planet, the Vatican is going green.

A giant rooftop garden of solar panels will be built next year on top of the Paul VI audience hall, creating enough electricity to heat, cool and light the entire building year-round.

"Solar energy will provide all the energy (the building) needs," said the mastermind behind the environmentally friendly project, Pier Carlo Cuscianna, head of the Vatican's department of technical services.

And that is only the beginning. Cuscianna told Catholic News Service May 24 that he had in mind other sites throughout Vatican City where solar panels could be installed, but that it was too early in the game to name names.

Friday, May 25, 2007

War Bill Helps Salmon Fishermen

Looks like the help they have been seeking for some time is close at hand.

Salmon fishing disaster aid is at hand
By David Whitney - Bee Washington Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, May 25, 2007

Congress will soon send President Bush a funding bill for the Iraq war that also will deliver $60.4 million in disaster assistance that desperate West Coast salmon fishermen have been seeking for nearly a year.

This time it looks like they will get it.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, a leading House advocate for the disaster money, said Thursday that the spending bill presents "the best chance so far" for the money being disbursed.

The relief comes after closure of almost all the commercial salmon season last year off the coasts of Oregon and California.

The closure was necessary to protect poor runs in the Klamath River after massive fish kills in 2002 and 2003, which critics blamed on federal agricultural water policy in the Upper Klamath basin on the Oregon-California border. Progeny of those fish would have spawned the 2005 and 2006 runs.

Last year's commercial harvest was slashed to 88 percent of normal, idling commercial boats from Portland, Ore., to California's central coast, and emptying California's North Coast resorts and other businesses that depend on a sport fishery.

Trestle Fire

Though still trying to catch the arsonist, authorities believe they have most of the information they need, but are increasing the reward to get the final touches…good plan.

Second reward in trestle fire
Feds and Sacramento Fire Department offer $10,000.
By Kim Minugh - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, May 25, 2007

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Sacramento Fire Department are offering a $10,000 reward for information related to the March 15 blaze that destroyed the Union Pacific railroad trestle in the American River Parkway.

The reward, announced Thursday, is independent of the $10,000 reward already being offered by Union Pacific.

Investigators from ATF, the Fire Department and the Sacramento Police Department have determined the fire to be human-caused and are treating the case as a criminal matter, said Nina Delgadillo, an ATF spokeswoman.

She said officials are not sure how many people are responsible for the fire, but said investigators have assembled a good case. Nevertheless, they are hoping people will come forward with more information.

"We have a pretty good hand that we have close to our chest right now," Delgadillo said. "We'd like to make the hand a better hand."

How CC Did It

A description of how our own master of disaster repair fixed the Frisco freeway. Go to the link as it's all graphic.

An amazing Maze repair
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, May 25, 2007

The eastbound I-580 ramp from the Bay Bridge reopened Thursday night. A gasoline tanker crashed and burned in the MacArthur Maze last month, melting steel supports and collapsing the freeway section. Caltrans set a June 27 deadline for repairs, and workers handily beat it to earn contractor C.C. Myers the maximum $5 million bonus.

Delta Smelt Suit Announcement

Lawsuit planned to protect smelt
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, May 25, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO -- Three conservation groups plan to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to secure more protection for the Delta smelt, a tiny native fish that may be on the verge of extinction.

The smelt is now "threatened" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the groups want it uplisted to "endangered" in hopes of spurring more protections.

Early results of a spring trawl net survey found only 25 smelt, a record low and well below a seven-year average of 353. Government biologists expressed a "high degree of concern" in a May 15 memo and sought water operation changes.

The Bay Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity served the wildlife service with a 60-day notice of intent to sue, based in part on the agency's failure last year to meet deadlines to consider a status change for the smelt under an earlier request.

Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Al Donner said the agency doesn't have adequate resources for a timely response to all listing requests.

-- Matt Weiser

Dutch Improve Dikes

The world’s experts, along with the Japanese, in controlling flooding, commit another billion to strengthening their existing dikes.

$1bn plan to protect Dutch dike from seas
Fears of rising seas from warming, as well as tsunamis, drive planning
Updated: 9:49 a.m. PT May 23, 2007

AMSTERDAM - After holding back the sea for 75 years, the 20-mile-long dike protecting much of the Netherlands from floods is due for a $1 billion upgrade against mounting risks from rising sea levels and tsunamis.

"We plan to invest up to 750 million euros ($1 billion) to strengthen the Afsluitdijk," said Hans Vos, senior adviser to the Dutch Transport and Public Works Ministry.

On Thursday, the Netherlands marks the 75th anniversary of the completion of the Afsluitdijk, the country's longest dike, which keeps the North Sea at bay. It protects the country's biggest freshwater lake and source of drinking water.

Water is a real threat to the Netherlands, two-thirds of which lies below sea level. Fears that huge waves could flood the country increased after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that left some 230,000 people dead or missing, Vos said.

Rising sea levels due to global warming have also added to concerns. Memories of the 1953 flood when a massive North Sea storm breached the country's dikes and resulted in about 1,800 deaths still linger.

Vos said proposals to strengthen the Afsluitdijk by 2020, which stands about 22 feet above sea level, include raising its height, widening the barrier which now extends to 375 feet in some places, and building more sluice gates to improve water flow control.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Diesel Pollution

All diesel engines need to be as pollution free as technology can make them and the costs borne by public funds or particular industries to accomplish this is a cost well absorbed in the interests of better health.

Editorial: Deadly diesel soot
Don't weaken construction equipment rules
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, May 24, 2007

To protect kids and the public from potentially deadly diesel soot, California has retrofitted or replaced more than 4,000 school buses in recent years. This effort has cost the state and school districts tens of millions of dollars. Voters last year approved $200 million in bonds to help further this clean-up crusade.

Now the state is turning its attention to one of the largest sources of diesel pollution -- "off-road" equipment, such as bulldozers and backhoes. On Friday, the California Air Resources Board will begin deliberations on rules to control diesel pollution from this equipment. Board members need to resist pressure from the construction industry to weaken these proposed rules.

Diesel soot is an especially toxic type of particulate pollution. When inhaled, these particles lodge deep in the lungs. Scientists have linked this pollution to asthma, heart attacks and premature deaths. Construction equipment accounts for 20 percent of the diesel particulates emitted in California, largely because contractors generally use old and durable machines built with few or no pollution controls.

Under the air board's proposed regulations, contractors and public utilities would have several options in reducing particulate pollution 85 percent in 13 years.

Bullet Train

It is good to see this project moving along. It will someday fulfill a vital transportation need in our state.

Bullet train route chosen
Board votes for S.F. to Anaheim, but key details remain iffy.
By E.J. Schultz - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, May 24, 2007

If California builds a bullet train system -- and that's a big if -- the first segment would run from Anaheim to San Francisco with stops in Los Angeles and Fresno, but not in Sacramento or San Diego.

The High Speed Rail Authority approved the first phase Wednesday on a 5-2 vote, even as serious financing questions remain on the $40 billion-plus project.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to delay public financing until private investors step to the plate, but two Democratic-controlled budget subcommittees voted this week to make a significant commitment in taxpayer dollars next year.

The authority also is hoping for a big share of federal dollars. But no one knows how much Congress might be willing to spend.

As envisioned, the rail line would eventually run from San Diego to as far north as Sacramento, with trains reaching top speeds of more than 200 miles per hour. The authority voted to tackle the Anaheim-to-San Francisco line first, saying the route through the fast-growing San Joaquin Valley would produce the highest ridership and revenue.

Parkway Alcohol

The sensible decision to have more rangers on patrol during holidays is a much more appropriate response to the abuse of alcohol than a banning of it, which hurts those who don’t abuse it.

While banning alcohol on a permanent basis from restricted public access settings, such as elementary and high schools, certainly appears appropriate; banning it on selective days from full public access areas does not appear to be.

Parkway alcohol ban still at water's edge -- for now
Holiday drinking along the American River shore is barred, but the prohibition is unlikely to be extended to those on rafts before the Memorial Day weekend.
By Ed Fletcher - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sacramento County's effort to ban alcoholic beverages anywhere along the American River Parkway for this Memorial Day weekend remains a work in progress.

The county's 2006 ordinance making it illegal to drink alcohol or carry open alcoholic beverage containers along the shores of the river during summer holiday weekends still is in effect.

But a proposed state law making it illegal to drink beer or liquor in a non-motorized vessel on that stretch of river for this Saturday, Sunday and Monday is still making its way through the legislative process.

Funds Misspent

Legislative intent is similar to donor intent in that there is a moral, and sometimes a legal, responsibility for legislators to spend money how they said they would when they received it.

Of course, if there is an emergency or a vital public need, that is another issue, but essentially non-essential projects being funded with monies designated for essential projects to protect against flooding is not.

Levees, not bike paths
California lawmakers may spend some of Proposition 84's $5.3 billion in bond money on fish tanks and 'overnight accommodations.'
May 23, 2007

CALIFORNIANS WHO voted for Proposition 84 in November had every right to take the "Official Voter Information Guide" to heart. It said the measure would authorize the state to issue $5.3 billion in bonds to pay for crucial water safety, water quality, flood control and park improvements.

So why are politicians in Sacramento now spending that money on "water-accessible overnight accommodations" at Lake Tahoe, bike trails in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, unspecified improvements to the Huntington Botanical Gardens and a new aquarium — er, make that oceanarium — in Fresno? Why? Because they can.

Put the blame on shortsighted legislators and loose language in the proposition itself, which was written to accommodate hundreds of millions of dollars worth of creative interpretation. Proposition 84 allocates $100 million specifically for museums and $400 million specifically for parks. But hundreds of millions more are set aside for what amount to vague purposes: missions such as "wildlife habitat protection" ($225 million) and the always popular "other projects" ($189 million).

Joe Caves, the lobbyist who wrote Proposition 84, told The Times that the prospect of throwing some funds to museums, aquariums and hiking trails sweetened the deal for voters by giving them something more to like in the measure than just a litany of dull infrastructure repairs. That's hogwash; more likely, it's the other way around. Californians have, in fact, been skeptical of borrowing large sums of money to pay for cultural institutions. Just last year, voters rejected Proposition 81, which would have provided $600 million in bond money for libraries. Crumbling levees and threatened rivers, on the other hand, command considerable respect, and those threats gave Proposition 84 the urgency needed to move voters.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Environmental Background

Good background on some environmental issues…like did you know the environmental impact of producing an environmentally friendly car is perhaps more negative than producing one that is not?

Green: It’s Not That Black and White
Environmental Notes
By: Amy Kaleita, Ph.D

With increasing awareness of environmental issues, many people are searching for ways to “green” their lifestyle. Numerous celebrities and publications offer helpful and simple tips for becoming more environmentally friendly. But the truth is that the meaning of “green” is not well defined.

“The environment,” often used as a blanket term, is really a combination of distinct but interconnected systems including water, air, climate, soil, wildlife, vegetation, microbes, and much more. Often, “environmentally friendly” technologies, while having a smaller impact on one aspect of the environment, are decidedly unfriendly to another. In other cases, the benefits are mixed, depending on how, when, and where the technology is used. Hybrid cars are just one example.

Some analyses of the full life cycle of hybrid cars, from production to the consumer to final disposal of the vehicle, have found that the increased complexity of producing these vehicles means more greenhouse gases are generated than in the manufacture of conventional vehicles. The overall decrease in greenhouse gas emissions depends on the cars being driven for many miles under conditions that engage primarily the electric engine. For consumers who don’t do a lot of driving, or whose driving habits are not well matched to the particular hybrid’s engines, a better choice could very well be buying a conventional vehicle. For those, renewable fuels like ethanol are being touted as the greenest option.

Ethanol is theoretically carbon-neutral in the sense that the carbon emitted during burning of the fuel originated in the atmosphere, having been “breathed in” by the vegetation used to make ethanol (ignoring the carbon dioxide generated during the process of converting the vegetative biomass to ethanol). Returning this carbon to the atmosphere does not add to the greenhouse gas loading. In this sense, ethanol fuels may be “friendly” to the climate. However, ethanol may not be so friendly to a number of other aspects of the environment.

For example, in areas already water stressed, the water demand by ethanol plants is a serious concern. Also, many environmental conservation groups are concerned that the biofuels boom will come with the cost of increased soil erosion as fields currently not farmed are converted to fuel stock. Many researchers believe that improved conversion efficiency and other benefits are possible from an ethanol feedstock like switchgrass, rather than corn. Though there is truth to this argument, there are also negative environmental effects.

How it’s Done

CC Myers of Sacramento did it again!

Ramp in maze to reopen Friday
Governor says contractor will beat deadline by more than a month
By Erik N. Nelson, STAFF WRITER
Article Last Updated: 05/22/2007 10:51:54 AM PDT

The MacArthur Maze freeway connector that collapsed April 29 will reopen for the Friday morning commute, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Monday, beating the state's deadline by a month and two days.

That would mean that motorists were inconvenienced with detours through East Bay streets for only 26 days, in spite of the April 29 gasoline tanker truck crash and inferno that caused bolts to melt and steel girders to give way under the original concrete deck.

The contractor, Rancho Cordova-based C.C. Myers Inc., would be completing the job in only 16 days and collecting the maximum $5 million early completion bonus. The contract, which C.C. Myers won with an astoundingly low $867,000 bid, set a deadline of June 27 and awarded $200,000 a day for each day the project was finished early.

"Thanks to hard, around-the-clock work ofCaltrans and C.C. Myers, our local partners and businesses, Bay Area motorists can once again travel through this busy interchange," the governor said in a prepared statement. "Just in time for the holiday weekend, this roadway will be open 26 days from when the accident occurred."

The governor issued an emergency declaration that allowed an ordinarily months-long bidding and contract award process to be compressed into a few days. The contract was awarded only a few hours after bids were opened May 8, and work started that evening.

The announcement was a major victory for the contractor and Caltrans, the state's transportation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Elk Grove Beavers

Our 2006 Parkway Advocate Award winner, Mary Tappel, helps us understand the beaver problem in Elk Grove; a few are great, too many aren’t, a principle true for more things than not.

Beavers' fate gnawing at Elk Grove
Residents seek gentler options in wake of decision to kill them.
By Loretta Kalb - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, May 22, 2007

For a city that has too many beavers, there are no simple solutions.

In Elk Grove, residents have mixed emotions about the city's decision to kill the animals in recent months. Should the beavers be relocated? they ask. Should they be sterilized?

Local experts say no and no.

Longtime environmental volunteer Mary Tappel says she understands Elk Grove's need to control its rising beaver population and why it has resorted to killing them.

The city would have fared better in limiting public outcry if it had started its population control efforts before the animals' construction projects had begun to take their toll on waterways and detention basins, said Tappel, a biologist who works part time as an environmental scientist for the state Water Resources Control Board.

City Deficit?

Shortfall is more than initially thought, and it might seem a rather confusing way to define deficit, but if you have money to cover the shortfall (even if it is in reserves), then your budget isn’t really in deficit.

So, our revenues weren’t as large as we had hoped, but we had planned for just such an event by developing a reserve, therefore we won’t be in deficit this year.

Good news, good planning.

City deficit redefined upward
By Terri Hardy - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sacramento's top finance official acknowledged Monday that the city's projected deficit for next fiscal year is $29 million -- more than six times the figure cited publicly last week.

Assistant City Manager Gus Vina said Monday that the difference between city revenues and expenditures projected for 2007-08 was $29 million, not the $4.5 million stated at last week's City Council meeting.

Vina said Monday that the $29 million figure was not used because money in special planned reserve accounts was being used to cover a $22.5 million portion of the deficit. Another $2 million in savings from the current year will roll over to next year.

That left $4.5 million in unanticipated expenses -- the amount that he said would be covered out of the city's emergency reserves.

Because the city had planned to use special reserves to pay for expected additional costs from such things as new labor contracts, Vina said he didn't include those expenses as part of the budget shortfall.

"We don't call (the $24.5 million portion) a deficit," Vina said.

Green Money

There is money to be made and good work to do and it appears California is on the forward trend line.

Venture capitalists know creating a green future can be profitable
By Claudia Fan Munce
Article Launched: 05/20/2007 02:44:17 AM PDT

Investment in clean technology, already a boon to California's economy, is now poised to expand into areas beyond alternative energy. As venture capitalists begin to see real returns on their initial investments, they are now focusing on the next wave of opportunity in new technologies that can also reduce the use of carbon-based fuels, while still boosting the economy.

Venture capitalists are starting to invest in new methods for water treatment and for improving the efficiency of U.S. power grids, two areas contributing to the use of vast amounts of electric power, which worldwide is responsible for 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.

Clean-tech investments, also referred to as green tech, at first focused on solar energy, wind power, fuel cells and biofuels, such as ethanol. By 2006, U.S. investment totaled $2.5 billion, and Silicon Valley investment climbed to $290 million in the third quarter. This level of investment has helped expand the market for alternative energy, which reached $55 billion last year, and is projected to reach more than $200 billion by 2016.

River Sediment Study Announcement

An important situation to keep track of.

Sediment study of the North and Middle Fork American River
Monday, May 21, 2007 - Placer County Water Agency

Auburn - A detailed sediment study of the North and Middle Fork American River watershed has been completed and was presented Thursday (May 17) to the Placer County Water Agency Board of Directors.

The study identifies areas of the watershed which, if disturbed, could lead to adverse effects on water quality, aquatic habitat and water and power infrastructure. The study recommends management practices to avoid or minimize such adverse effects.

The study is the result of a five-year collaborative effort of several agencies working together in the American River Watershed Group. Facilitated by PCWA, the study included participation by the Placer County Resource Conservation District, Sierra College. CSU Sacramento, the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies. It was funded through the state Department of Water Resources.

PCWA District 5 Director Otis Wollan noted that the water agency has spent millions of dollars over the years removing sediment that washes down rivers into its reservoirs. He termed the study as “very timely” and said it will be a valuable tool in the years to come.

Thursday’s presentation was led by geologist and PCWA consultant Marie Davis, who introduced members of the study team, including scientists Stephanie Phippen and Tom Stewart who described methods used in the project.

Davis said steps are already being taken to improve management of problem areas identified in the study.

Monday, May 21, 2007

County Funding

It is not an easy job sitting in the seat of governance trying to make the right decision to keep your government in the black, and regardless of your take on their current action regarding retiree benefits; they are to be commended for acting.

Editorial: Reality with retirees
County supervisors admit financial limits
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, May 21, 2007

For the first time, Sacramento County's Board of Supervisors has taken a step toward resolving the long-standing budget problem caused by its health benefit for retirees. It wasn't the boldest of steps, but it was better than nothing.

The problem with the county subsidizing the health care of retirees (this is not unusual for government) is that the county hasn't set aside a penny for this purpose. It isn't officially a benefit. The thousands of retirees didn't set aside money from their paychecks to underwrite this benefit. Nor did the county. Instead, supervisors have been shifting monies from basic county services (sheriff patrols and the like) to fund this extra benefit. That is the worst kind of financial behavior.

Walters on the Economy

Hard to tell where it will go from here, and some are optimistic, some not so, but if the national barometer is any indication, the near future seems pretty good.

Dan Walters: California economy on plateau
By Dan Walters - Bee Columnist
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, May 21, 2007

A red-hot housing market, fueled by loose credit and low interest rates, pulled California out of the brief economic slowdown after the collapse of the dot-com boom -- but now housing has flattened, casting a pall of uncertainty over the state's economic future.

Whether the post-housing plateau is equally brief or the harbinger of a longer-term slide will affect millions of workers and their families, but state and local government officials, whose budgets were fattened by the housing boom, are nervous as well.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger adopted a modestly optimistic view as he released a new version of the 2007-8 budget, seeing "little evidence that the weakness in the housing sector has spread to other parts of the national and California economies."

"California's economy continues to be very sound," Schwarzenegger said. "We have created thousands of new jobs ... unemployment is as low as it has been in three decades, and growth in personal income remains very healthy." The administration forecasts that "slower growth in 2007 (will be) followed by improved growth in 2008 and 2009," citing relatively high employment data.

There's some finger-crossing implicit in those estimates. The state budget has been plagued by chronic deficits even during the years of record revenue growth, thanks to political and legal spending drivers, and Schwarzenegger needs continued expansion to have any hope of stanching the red ink.

High Rises

Spreading out the urban core and enhancing the skyline with towers is a good idea in several ways; transportation, residential density, business creation and support, and a deepened tax base for stronger support of vital public resources, such as the Parkway.

This project in particular will see the Parkway as its major and closest recreational asset.

Bob Shallit: On the Horizon
High-rise condos planned near Cordova RT station
By Bob Shallit - Bee Columnist
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, May 21, 2007

A local development company last year completed a renovation of the historic Sheepherder Inn on the edge of Rancho Cordova.

Now D&S Development is looking to dwarf that project -- and everything in its vicinity -- with two, 36-story condo towers right next to the "The Sheep," on Folsom Boulevard, east of Sunrise.

Plans recently were submitted for the 485-unit project that would feature 10-foot ceilings, two workout facilities and a swimming pool placed on a bridge connecting the two towers, with glass portholes on the pool bottom so swimmers can see people walking below them.

"We like to push the envelope and do projects that are unique and good for the community," says Bay Miry, an official with D&S, which has taken on numerous local residential and retail projects but nothing close to this scope.

Miry says he expects the approval process to take about two years. After that, construction will begin if the current housing slump has turned around.

It will, sooner or later, he says. "We'll be ready for the next cycle," he says.
The project -- called Point East Towers -- is being pitched as a transit-oriented development, linked to a light-rail station across the street.

The developers envision people buying units at a not-yet-determined discount to the high-rise condos being proposed downtown, then using light rail to commute to their jobs.

The proposal so far has been "well-received," says the county's principal planner, Tricia Stevens.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Water Crisis

When the plans were being drawn up in the 1930’s to protect the Sacramento valley from the floods one dam, Shasta, was engineered for 800 feet rather than its current 600 (which would have tripled its storage), Oroville Dam at 700 was built, and Auburn Dam at 700 feet was also proposed.

Had all these projects been completed as and when planned, we would not have had the flooding nor water shortage difficulties we have had since, and had the peripheral canal been built when planned, we would not have the level of Delta problems we now have.

So the Governor’s obsession is correctly placed and a blueprint is out there; see our 2006 research report on our website

Editorial: Whales getting attention as Delta smelt vanish
A full-blown California water crisis looms for a governor obsessing over dams
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, May 20, 2007

It's easier for us all to understand certain problems. When a tanker trunk carrying gasoline overturns and ignites a spectacular freeway fire that crumbles a section of Oakland's MacArthur Maze, the impact on transportation is readily apparent. Or when two humpback whales wander deep into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the rareness of this deviation is instinctive.

But some huge challenges don't look that way at first. Take a tiny fish in the Delta known as a smelt. State biologists should be finding thousands of them this time of year. Instead, they are finding a handful. The smelt are indicators of the overall health of the estuary. And their dramatic decline could have an impact to the state that is far greater than Oakland's freeway fire. Management of the state's largest water sources, the state and federal pumps in the southern Delta, hangs in the balance. And what's worrisome is that the experts may know more about nudging whales from the Delta than saving these smelt.

This vanishing tiny fish could very soon present Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger with his first, true water crisis. None of the choices are easy, but running from the problem may be the riskiest of them all. Environmental groups as soon as Monday are expected to be in court demanding tougher enforcement of the California Endangered Species Act. Courts have threatened to take over control of the Delta before. It is inevitable unless fixing the Delta gets the same level of urgency out of this administration as fixing the MacArthur Maze.

Global Warming, Another Take

It is always refreshing to hear from those who speak with some authority and knowledge on a subject, who don’t go along with the conventional wisdom.

Coal Man
There's at least one CEO left who is not buying global warming hysteria.
Saturday, May 19, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

WASHINGTON--Every good party has its wet blanket. In the case of the energy industry's merrymaking for a global warming program, the guy in the dripping bedspread is a 67-year-old, straight-talking coal-mine owner by the name of Robert E. Murray.

You won't hear many of Mr. Murray's energy-biz colleagues mention him; they tend to avoid his name, much as nephews avoid talk of their crazy uncles. GE's Jeffrey Immelt, Duke Energy's Jim Rogers, Exelon's John Rowe--these polished titans have been basking in an intense media glow, ever since they claimed to have seen the light on global warming and gotten behind a mandatory government program to cut C02 emissions. They'd rather not have any killjoys blowing the whistle on their real motives--which is to make a pile of cash off the taxpayers and consumers who'll fund it.

And yet here's Mr. Murray, killjoy-in-chief at the global warming love-fest. "Some elitists in our country can't, or won't, tell fact from fiction, can't understand what a draconian climate change program will do [to] the dreams of millions of working Americans and those on fixed incomes," says the chairman and CEO of Murray Energy, one of the largest private coal concerns in the country. He's incensed by his fellow energy CEOs' "shameless" goal of fattening their bottom lines at the "expense of the broader economy." So these past months he's emerged from his quiet Cleveland office and jumped on the national stage, calling out the rest of his industry's CO2 collaborationists. He's testified in front of Congress; become a regular on television and radio programs; sat for profiles by journalists; and written letters to other energy companies exhorting them to think of the broader consequences.

It seems unlikely his campaign will slow the runaway global-warming train now hurtling through Washington. But Mr. Murray is certainly making the ride less comfortable for some corporate players. "For me, global warming is a human issue, not just an environmental one," he says in his slow, gravelly way, nursing a cup of coffee at a local shop here after recent congressional testimony.

"The science of global warming is speculative. But there's nothing speculative about the damage a C02 capture program will do to this country. I know the names of many of the thousands of people--American workers, their families--whose lives will be destroyed by what has become a deceitful and hysterical campaign, perpetrated by fear-mongers in our society and by corporate executives intent on their own profits or competitive advantage. I can't stand by and watch."

Tough words, and unusually brash ones for a respected CEO, though Mr. Murray is uniquely situated to deliver them. Unlike other energy executives--at industrial firms such as GE that make millions on wind turbines, or utilities such as Duke or Exelon who are making big financial bets on "clean energy"--coal CEOs such as Mr. Murray are the bad boys on the global-warming scene, and will see zero upside in a global-warming program. While the industry has certainly made advances on the real pollution front (sulfur dioxide/nitrogen oxide), coal still accounts for the vast majority of all electricity-related C02 emissions.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Whales Still Okay

But they need to be getting home to the cold salt water fairly soon.

Whale rescue to crank up volume
Humpbacks get weekend break before louder effort to drive them out of Delta.
By Carrie Peyton Dahlberg and Matt Weiser - Bee Staff Writers
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, May 19, 2007

As squeals, groans and pops of fellow humpbacks again failed to coax two wandering whales away from the Port of Sacramento on Friday, rescuers began preparing to drive them out.

That operation, tentatively set for Tuesday, will take an armada of roughly 50 boats stationed along the Delta, heaps of metal pipes and a cadre of pipe-bangers ready to make so much noise the mother and calf just can't stand to stay.

Think of it as tough love for whales.

The creatures can't dawdle endlessly in the freshwater turning basin that leads toward silted-shut locks. They have perhaps four to six weeks before the mother faces serious malnutrition, said veterinarian Frances Gulland of the Marine Mammal Center.

Skin damage -- blistering and peeling -- would come sooner, but scientists know that Humphrey, the last humpback lost amid the sloughs, recovered fully from skin problems he developed toward the end of a 26-day freshwater jaunt in 1985.

So far, there has been no significant deterioration in the whales' health, said Gulland -- but also no progress with the gentler approach of trying to draw the whales toward appealing sounds.

Infrastructure Technology

With the population growth we are witnessing, and with it continuing well into the future, we need the help of all the innovative technology we can get, as well as the basic maintenance and continued upgrading of our existing infrastructure.

Technology to help cities manage booming USA; Innovations ease transportation, energy, water needs
Haya El Nasser
USA Today
April 25, 2007

Commuters stuck in creeping traffic are bound to wonder: If streets and highways are this clogged when the nation has 300 million people, how will 400 million ever get around?

Blackouts in cities such as New York, Cleveland and Detroit in recent years raise questions about what will happen when aging electrical grids can't send enough power to heat and cool more people.

Planners looking at the boomtowns spreading across the Southwestern desert are asking: Where's the water going to come from?

The USA is growing more rapidly than any other developed nation and is projected to gain an additional 100 million people by 2040. That will put new pressure on a public infrastructure that's already stretched thin.

As scientists, engineers, builders and public officials grapple with how to accommodate the nation's unprecedented growth, small steps being taken today could chip away at the challenge. The focus: technology that could revolutionize how traffic moves, power is generated and transmitted and water is recycled, as well as where homes are built.

The challenge is daunting: At today's consumption rates, the nation will need another 280,000 miles of highway, and 78 million more cars and trucks will jam roads by 2040, according to the Federal Highway Administration and the Center for Environment and Population, a non-profit research and policy group in New Canaan, Conn.

Based on current energy use, the country will need to build more than 500 medium-sized power plants to generate the extra electricity the USA will use by 2030, according to the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Department of Energy.

If the USA's per-capita water use for home, industry and agriculture remains 1,500 gallons a day, it will need another 150 billion gallons each day -- about three times what California now consumes.

Warming Tax

An interesting idea…

Getting some green to drive clean; If proposed bill passes, state would rank vehicles based on emissions and tax high polluters, give rebate to low polluters
By Paul Rogers San Jose Mercury News
Ventura County Star (California)
April 21, 2007

SAN JOSE — Call it the Robin Hood approach to global warming.

California drivers who buy new Hummers, Ford Expeditions and other big vehicles that emit high levels of greenhouse gases would pay a fee of up to $2,500.

And drivers who buy more fuel-efficient cars — like the Toyota Prius or Ford Focus — would receive rebates of up to $2,500, straight from the gas-guzzlers' pockets.

That's the provocative proposal from a Silicon Valley legislator whose "Clean Car Discount" bill is gaining momentum, sending car dealers into a tizzy and sparking passions among motorists.

Why? It's the first time California has considered penalizing consumers to limit global warming, rather than just providing incentives such as solar power rebates or special access to the carpool lane for hybrid vehicles.

"If we are going to effectively fight global warming, we are going to have to find a way to get the cleaner cars on the road and the dirtier cars off the road," said Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Los Altos. "We need to have both carrots and sticks."

Ruskin's bill, AB493, won approval of the Assembly Transportation Committee late last month.

The bill has the backing of most major statewide environmental groups, who see it as one of their top priorities in 2007. And the measure received a substantial boost recently when it was endorsed by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a business organization that includes the major tech companies in Silicon Valley, including IBM, Google, Apple and Cisco.

Ocean Floor Mapping

Great technology reveals ocean floors secrets.

Mapping project guides policy
By Julia Scott, STAFF WRITER
Inside Bay Area (California)
April 19, 2007

A new scientific project to map the sea floor off the California coast has yielded some intriguing insights -- such as the location of critical underwater habitat and the reason why the waves at Mavericks in Half Moon Bay are among the biggest in the country.

The California Coast State Waters Mapping Project, a collaborative effort between state and federal scientific and conservation agencies, used sophisticated sonar and aerial light detection instruments to create, for the first time, detailed 3-D imagery of every fault, crevice and reef in a portion of state waters, according to the study's authors.

The new technology will proveuseful in many ways, from charting areas that must be protected in order for certain fish species to survive, to where a tsunami is likely to strike, according to Rikk Kvitek, a professor at California State University, Monterey Bay, and lead researcher of the study. It even offered a few little surprises, such as the location of a long-forgotten shipwreck.

"The sort of mapping that we're doing has never been done before," explained Kvitek. "The best information we have on the sea floor is based on nautical charts that date from the 1940s."

Birds & Buildings

Cool ideas for both.

These buildings are for the birds; With activists and their exhibit of 2,500 carcasses in attendance, city unveils guidelines for bird-friendly towers
Theresa Boyle, Toronto Star
The Toronto Star
May 4, 2007

On the day Toronto released new "bird-friendly" development guidelines, an animal rights group announced it recovered 5,461 birds - a record number - that had collided with buildings last year.

"It's extremely sad because it's very much preventable," Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone told a news conference yesterday.

Pantalone released a 42-page document, containing guidelines for architects and developers on how to design bird-friendly buildings.

Among the recommendations are using less reflective glass, covering windows with film to mute reflections, installing awnings and overhangs and installing lights in such as way as to reduce light pollution.

Pantalone said he'd like the guidelines to eventually become mandatory.

"I suspect that in a handful of years or so a lot of the green Toronto development standards are going to switch from the voluntary to the obligatory," he said.

The news conference was held in the rotunda of Metro Hall where the group FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) had on exhibit 2,500 birds that had died last fall after flying into buildings.

More than 600 birds have been picked up so far this year.

"It's mind-boggling," said Michael Mesure, of FLAP, noting that many of the birds were collected around office buildings in the downtown core.

FLAP has been recovering birds since 1993 and every year the number goes up. In 1995, 4,690 birds were recovered.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Public Private Partnerships

There are always going to be some things that private enterprise just does better than public, though public involvement remains an important component, and the secret to sound government is to continue to discover those areas and act on them.

Move toward privatization of lottery has investors licking chops
By Dale Kasler - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, May 18, 2007

If California tries to lease its state lottery to private investors or unload a state-owned student-loan business, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposes, there will likely be no shortage of interested parties.

Providing capital to a growing privatization movement, investors are offering billions for state lotteries, toll roads and other government-owned assets nationwide.

Indiana sold the operating rights to its main toll highway last year to an international consortium for $3.8 billion. Chicago has leased out its Chicago Skyway toll road for $1.8 billion and is thinking of auctioning off Midway Airport. Texas just passed a law authorizing privately financed construction of several highways.

Meanwhile, several states besides California -- Colorado, Maryland, Michigan and Illinois, among them -- have mulled the privatization of their lotteries.

The idea is to remedy budget problems without raising taxes. "States often face budget crunches in any given year, and it's tempting to look at fixed assets that aren't generating as much revenue as they could," said Tracy Gordon, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.

Local Community Builders

It is always good to hear local business doing the job better than the national corporations, which is usually a testament to their knowledge of the area and its consumers.

Another positive spin off is that local business is usually much more apt to help the rest of the local community deal with those local quality of life issues that mean so much to the larger climate in which families and businesses thrive.

Hail the little guy
Private local builders are hot in housing
By Jim Wasserman - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, May 18, 2007

Private family-owned builders are growing their share of new-home sales so far in 2007, gaining market share at the expense of some of the nation's biggest publicly traded home builders, according to new statistics.

Six longtime local home builders alone accounted for 15.5 percent of the region's 2,671 home sales in January, February and March, according to Costa Mesa-based Hanley Wood Market Intelligence. During all of 2006 those builders -- Elliott Homes, Dunmore Homes, Reynen & Bardis Communities, JMC Homes, Tim Lewis Communities and JTS Communities -- accounted for about 9.5 percent of nearly 10,000 sales.

Though the new statistics show only one quarter's sales, analysts say they may represent the advantages -- at least in the current tough market -- of local builders who bought their land years ago. The lower prices paid then enable them to compete more effectively on price.

By contrast, many publicly traded builders bought land at the height of the housing boom. They also must meet the short-term earnings expectations of their Wall Street shareholders.

"It's going to prove very difficult for them to maintain market share in Sacramento over the next year or two," said Sid Dunmore, owner of Granite Bay-based Dunmore Homes. His firm has built houses locally since 1953.

"We didn't go out and completely overpay for land like they did. Some of our holdings go back to the late 1980s or 1990 or '91. None of the publics have that."

Sacramento Trees

There are so many already wonderful reasons to increase our stock of trees that—if this new one pans out—it will be just another motivation to richen the regional forest.

EPA is urged to turn over new leaf
Local air pollution fighters want to include trees as a weapon.
By Bobby Caina Calvan - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, May 18, 2007

For years, tree lovers have touted the virtues of the capital's canopy -- its lush beauty, its cooling shade and its apparent ability to scrub the air of tailpipe emissions and other pollutants.

But can the tree huggers persuade the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to embrace trees as weapons in the fight against bad air?

Preliminary results from an ongoing three-year study of urban forests show promise, according to the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, which is rushing to include trees in the federally mandated air quality plan it's sending the EPA early next year.

The Urban Forests for Clean Air project, run by a U.S. Forest Service team based at UC Davis and funded by $725,000 in grants secured by the Sacramento Tree Foundation, claims that 1 million trees could remove about 1,800 pounds of air-fouling carbon emissions and other pollutants -- or about 3 percent of the hydrocarbons spewed into the region's air basin on a sweltering summer's day.

"We've been working really hard in California to reduce air pollution. As we've gone down this path of reducing emissions, it's getting more expensive and harder to find new sources of where to cut emissions," said Larry Greene, executive director of the air quality district.

Trees represent biotechnology at its most basic. The six-county Sacramento region has 17 million trees.


It is sad to see another story of whales so far upriver where they do not need to be, and one hopes the story ends well.

Sounds fail to budge whales
By Matt Weiser and Carrie Peyton Dahlberg - Bee Staff Writers
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, May 18, 2007

They changed boats, they rotated whale sounds, they adjusted volume. But after a day of trying Thursday, veterinarians and biologists were unable to entice a mother whale and her calf to leave the Port of Sacramento.

From 10:30 a.m. until 4:50 p.m., the experts played a menu of whale sounds through an underwater speaker dangled from two Coast Guard boats in the port's murky waters. Biologists watched intently for any hint of a response.

Despite flurries of hope, nothing seemed to work.

Pieter Folkens, a research associate with the Alaska Whale Foundation, acknowledged that whale experts themselves are in uncharted waters.

"We've never been in a situation with a cow-calf pair, both of whom are injured," said Folkens, and so far upriver. "What our scientists are attempting to do is basically an experiment."

Yet the experts aren't despairing. They're using sound relatively early in the whales' plight, and believe they have time to experiment with the little-understood ways that whales respond to each others' voices.

"The bottom line is, nobody really knows how whales communicate," said Jan Straley, a marine biologist at the University of Alaska at Sitka who studies humpback behavior.

Cosumnes River Preserve

Very nice article about one of our region’s natural treasures.

Cosumnes River Preserve a slice of 1807 California
Paul McHugh, Chronicle Outdoors Writer
Thursday, May 17, 2007

California's sumptuous countryside is jam-packed with options for pulse-pounding adventure. The Cosumnes River Preserve isn't one of them. Not unless a tranquil tour through a freshwater marsh, home to a gaggle of creeping, crawling, flapping and flying wildlife, is the sort of thing that truly lights your candle.

The preserve, located about 20 miles south of Sacramento, is easy to whiz right past on Interstate 5, unless you happen to be scouting for it. Take the time to make the turn onto Twin Cities Road between Walnut Grove and Galt, though, and you'll soon encounter a slice of the great Central Valley as it was two centuries ago.

Launched by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and other government agency and nonprofit partners with an initial area of 1,480 acres in 1987, this preserve now sprawls across more than 46,000 acres. Bracketing the lower Cosumnes River -- the last undammed river among those that drain the Sierra's west slope -- the preserve celebrates and nurtures the type of lush, riparian forests and lazy, meandering river sloughs once common throughout the center of our state.

Now, less than 5 percent of that type of habitat remains.

"I see this place as my wild backyard. I've come out here for 14 years," Bill Van der Ven said. "It's a remnant from when this part of California held a vast, inland sea. There's towering valley oaks, cypress, cottonwoods and willows. There's neat stuff to see like families of river otters and beaver lodges. I just love this place, it's awesome. And I haven't even explored it all yet."

Van der Ven, 59, said he coped with his midlife crisis 15 years ago by buying a canoe, not a sports car. Still, his canoe does seem like a sports car. It's a rare, We No Nah "Stealth" model, striped with light carbon fiber and set up for a solo paddler. Besides working as a guide for the Current Adventures paddling school, he's also the author of a half-dozen guidebooks to recreational paddling sites up and down California. So when Van der Ven says a place is special enough to keep drawing him back, that means something.

Federal Water Funds

Very good news, and we await the appropriations bill to see what projects the money actually wind up funding.

Boxer gives California a shot at big federal bucks
Senate passes bill with $1.4 billion for state water projects
Edward Epstein, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Thursday, May 17, 2007

05-17) 04:00 PDT Washington -- Sen. Barbara Boxer of California is giving her constituents a textbook example of the power a single senior senator can wield, using her new post chairing the Environment and Public Works Committee to add generously to the amount of money the state stands to get for water and flood control projects.

In all, California accounts for about $1.4 billion of the estimated $13.9 billion in projects authorized under the Water Resources Development Act passed 91-4 Wednesday by the Senate. At about 10 percent of the total, California ranks second only to flood- and hurricane-ravaged Louisiana, which accounts for 25 percent of the total.

For California -- a state whose leaders complain regularly about sending far more to Washington in federal tax dollars than the state gets back -- the experience in the water legislation represents a positive reversal of fortune.

By the time the bill, the first such water program legislation to get this far in Congress in seven years, was wrapped up in Boxer's committee, hundreds of millions of dollars for specific California projects had been added. What's more, many other projects in the state were added to the bill without specific funding totals, making them eligible for future appropriations. And the bill called for federal studies of several other potential water projects.

"We have a lot of important projects in here because we have so many needs," said Boxer, who has served on the committee in the minority and the majority since coming to the Senate in 1993. She became chairwoman after Democrats took control of Congress in November.

Economy Reducing Bills

Anything that reduces the growth of our economy eventually impacts the ability of local government to provide service, and as parks traditionally are at the end of the line in getting public funding, this is the kind of legislation that could effect the funding available to our Parkway.

CalChamber Releases Annual List of Job Killer Legislation

(May 17, 2007) The California Chamber of Commerce yesterday released its annual list of “job killer” bills under consideration in the state legislature, highlighting the negative impact these bills would have on California’s global competitiveness.

“These bills are the worst of the worst by singling California out and making the state a less desirable place to do business,” said Allan Zaremberg, CalChamber President and Chief Executive Officer. “Since Arnold Schwarzenegger has been Governor the state has seen a steady increase in new jobs — 850,000 to be exact — and billions of dollars in additional tax revenues. These ‘job killers’ would reverse this trend by imposing new mandates and taxes that will stifle investment and job growth and decrease revenue to the state’s coffers.”

Among the bills on this year’s list are new health care taxes, roll-backs of workers compensation reform, limits on affordable housing and development, restrictions on the use of voter-approved transportation funding, and a tax on freight movement.

CalChamber annually releases a list of “job killer” bills to identify legislation that will decimate economic and job growth in California. CalChamber will track the bills throughout the rest of the legislative session and work to educate legislators about the serious consequences these bills will have on the state.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The City Builders

Good profiles of two of the leaders working for the creation of the new city of Arden Arcade, or whatever name the voters of the city choose for it if approved.

We are very supportive of their efforts—if the most efficient and least costly option of annexation to the existing city of Sacramento is taken off the table—as it has been clear for some time that the county has been unable to provide adequate service to their community.

Behind the drive for cityhood
Supporters want local decision-making power and better municipal services
By Chelsea Phua - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, May 17, 2007

We continue with our occasional series profiling Arden Arcade cityhood advocates, whose petition drive has been successful.

As Sacramento's Local Agency Formation Commission begins the process of studying the environmental and fiscal impact of forming a new city, we talk to two of the proponents. Barbara Weiss and Bill Davis were among the first residents to propose a city government for Arden Arcade. Weiss is the vice chairwoman of the Arden Arcade Incorporation Committee and Davis is a member.

County Fund Management

Though sharing sympathy for those whose traditional benefits will be cut (and in a better world all retired workers—public and private—would have the same benefit) it is really a terrible example of the kind of financial mismanagement that government seems to specialize in.

In our case, it is mismanagement that directly takes money from the needed maintenance of the Parkway which is falling behind $1.5 million a year in basic funding.

Retiree health benefit will get a hard look
County budget woes may imperil the subsidy
By Ed Fletcher - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sacramento County supervisors will decide today whether the county can afford to continue to subsidize its former employees' health care -- a benefit that has endured for 27 years, despite rising costs.

But the retirees -- who have been vocal and are expected to jam the supervisors' chambers downtown this afternoon -- must make their case this year under the shadow of a looming $33 million budget deficit.

Since 1980, the county has voted to pay for the benefit on a year-to-year basis. The program pays retirees up to $244 a month for medical expenses and $25 a month for dental care.

The subsidy came under more scrutiny when the workers' pension fund account could no longer pay for it, and the county took money from its general operating fund.

This is the first year the subsidy faces a supervisors' vote as they contemplate cutting a large deficit, said Geoff Davey, the county's chief financial officer. That fact will likely make the board's subsidy decision "more difficult," he said.
County staff members recommend the board discontinue the benefit for employees who retired after June 29, 2003 -- the date the county boosted pension benefits. The shift would affect 14,000 current and former employees.

The Dam Builders

Amazing what these little critters can do, but suburban life obviously isn’t for them.

Beavers on the hit list
Elk Grove officials say gentler efforts to stop animals' dam building have failed, but some city residents object to the new tactic
By Loretta Kalb - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, May 17, 2007

The water is filled with reeds. Trees and some stumps dot the shoreline. Ducks swim. Frogs croak.

This is detention basin No. 3 in Elk Grove. And it is Exhibit A -- the city's evidence for seeking to control its population of beavers.

It is why the city has a $20,000 contract with an office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to kill beavers. It is why, in recent months, 51 have died.

The city has tried for years to discourage beavers from their incessant construction projects. Occasionally, beavers were killed, but mostly dams and blockages were removed.

"Those attempts ... pretty much failed," said Vince Cudia, maintenance superintendent for city public works.

Now the population is larger, he said, so the city has turned to the five-year contract with the USDA.

That's reducing the population. But it's raising resident angst.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

BioDiesel Plan Announcement

Big biodiesel plans at port
By Jim Downing - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The governing commission of the Port of Sacramento will consider a proposal to begin lease negotiations and permitting procedures to build a bio-diesel plant on port property.

Primafuel Inc. of Long Beach wants to build a 60 million-gallon-per-year biodiesel plant on a 14-acre site at the port, according to a staff report.

The refinery would convert vegetable oil, most of it imported from other states and countries, into a fuel that produces lower net emissions of common air pollutants and climate-warming carbon dioxide than conventional diesel.

The Primafuel facility, located along Industrial Boulevard across the street from the Farmers Rice Cooperative silos, would generate roughly $1.1 million annually in lease payments and shipping fees for the port, the staff report said.

If constructed, the plant would be nearly 10 times the size of the largest existing biodiesel plant in California. Major facilities are also in development in Bakersfield and at the Port of Stockton.

New Yolo Park

Looks like a very nice park is created from some donated land.

Cooperation was vital in birth of Yolo's new park
This fall, visitors to a stretch of Cache Creek will be able to play among the wildflowers.
By Lakiesha McGhee - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A 41-acre stretch along Cache Creek will open to the public this fall, allowing visitors to play among purple needlegrass, wild monkey flowers and elderberry.

A groundbreaking today marks the start of construction at Capay Open Space Park, north of Cache Creek outside the rural community of Esparto.

Several years of planning involved a gravel mining company deeding the land to Yolo County.

"This park is a result of a lot of collaboration between public and private partners that is finally coming to fruition," said Mariko Yamada, chairwoman of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.

The land for the park was dedicated in 2004 to Yolo County by Granite Construction Co., which operates an adjacent gravel mine.

The Urban Age, Part 1

This is an excellent talk from the Urban Institute on our new world and what it portends for cities and metropolitan areas.

A Nation in Transition: America in the Urban Age

In an address to a gathering of the Urban Age forum in New York City, Bruce Katz argues that contrary to popular opinion, the United States exemplifies the world's drive towards urbanization, and that to remain prosperous, the U.S. must recognize the central lesson of the Urban Age: that the ability of the U.S., or any nation, to compete globally and meet the great environmental and social challenges of our time rests largely on the health and vitality of major cities and metropolitan areas.

The Urban Age, Part 2

Focusing on a California community Katz discusses the issues detailed more fully in his speech in New York.

The Press Enterprise, May 13, 2007
Bruce Katz, Vice President and Director, Metropolitan Policy Program
Make communities unique; offer a vibrant mix of retail, housing, transportation and job choices

America's cities are entering a period of enormous potential and opportunity. Broad demographic forces and rapid economic changes are repositioning U.S. metropolitan areas as the engines of national prosperity, and revaluing the assets and attributes of central cities.

A growing and diverse population means people demand greater choices in where they live. An economy based on knowledge and innovation bestows new importance on densely configured urban places (where ideas are transferred easily from firm to firm) as well as institutions of knowledge. This is particularly true of universities and medical research centers, many of which are located in the heart of central cities and urban communities.

A world undergoing climate change demands new sustainable approaches to human settlement.

Riverside's status as one of the most livable communities in the country owes a great deal to its cultural institutions, distinctive parks and walkable downtown. And by offering a vibrant mix of retail, housing, transportation and employment choices, cities such as Riverside are better able to meet the needs of a diverse population.

In short, American prosperity depends on the prosperity of our cities and metropolitan areas. And delivering the promise of broad-based economic prosperity requires that cities grow in inclusive ways by reducing poverty and promoting a strong, resilient and diverse middle class.

First and foremost, cities need to fix the basics. Good schools, safe streets and the efficient delivery of municipal services are the fundamentals that guide the location decisions of businesses and families. Getting the basics right must begin by creating responsive and accountable local regional government.