Friday, August 31, 2007

Placer Vineyards

Comparing a suburban communities housing plans to an urban one isn’t really the appropriate comparison, and it appears the plan approved, though both were acceptable, more highly meets the desires of local residents who prefer less density and a design more compatible with how they move around.

Editorial: Life on the vine?
Placer supervisors can still fix Vineyards
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, August 31, 2007

Placer County supervisors missed a historic opportunity in July when they approved an uninspired, low-density development on some crucial land: the 5,230-acre Placer Vineyards area west of Roseville.

As approved by Placer supervisors, the Vineyards project will contain less than three housing units per acre. By contrast, Sacramento recently approved an agreement for the Township 9 project on Richards Boulevard that will contain 36 units per acre.

While no one expects Placer's rural landowners to build Sacramento-style urban projects, the council's approval of the land-gobbling Vineyards is extremely troubling, especially if other counties and cities follow Placer's lead.

By 2040, the Sacramento region is expected to double to more than 3.8 million people. If the vast majority of that new population is housed in the same old spread-out development patterns, the end-point will be a blanket of subdivisions stretching from the Sutter Buttes to the Sierra foothills. Air pollution will be stifling. Chance for mass transit will be nil.

UCD Research Grant Announcement

Tree-breeding grant for UCD
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, August 31, 2007

The University of California, Davis, on Thursday received a $6 million federal grant to improve breeding techniques for the pine and spruce trees typically grown in timber plantations, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The grant will support the Conifer Coordinated Agricultural Project, a nationwide research effort directed by UC Davis forest geneticist David Neale. Neale could not be reached for comment.

The project seeks to advance the state of the art in what's known as "marker-assisted breeding," which is used to refine and accelerate the process of selective breeding for desirable traits.

It does not involve controversial genetic engineering techniques.

-- Jim Downing

Rancho Cordova Development

A cool new housing complex opens in the new city, near the town center.

Home Front: Rancho Cordova site packs a lot in
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, August 31, 2007

If your idea of Sunday tourism is visiting model homes, here's a leisurely trip for a long weekend: Capital Village in Rancho Cordova. It's like nothing you've seen around here.

Capital Village is Atlanta-based Beazer Homes' big regional jump into a compact, residential style often called New Urbanism. The concept -- a lot of residences on small lots and an emphasis on public transportation -- got plenty of early attention during the planning stages and, lately, good reviews from, a West Coast Web site devoted to "traditional neighborhood design."

After a slow construction start, the 117-acre village with 800-plus houses is coming together quickly and racking up fairly healthy sales -- 227 through the end of June -- according to Costa Mesa-based Hanley Wood Market Intelligence.

The development at Zinfandel and Data drives starts with a three-story blaze of bright color and unusually modern designs for Sacramento. That standout color belongs to the Villas at Capital Village, with lots of vertical space for singles, couples and first-time buyers.

Inside the models are the usual mirrors that make a place look bigger. But they also contain roommate-friendly bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. Prices start at about $240,000.

There's also a variety of more traditional residential living. Most of that is going up in calmer shades of beige. Garages are uniformly in the back of the houses, a look that suggests pre-World War II neighborhoods. Yards are tiny, but one of the neighborhood parks that compensate is finished.

Alcohol Ban Announcement

Alcohol banned for river rafters
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, August 31, 2007

The Labor Day weekend marks the second test of a ban of consumption of alcoholic beverages on shore or on the water while rafting the lower American River.

Holiday floats in recent years had been scarred by drunken brawls.

In 2006, Sacramento County banned drinking or processing open alcoholic beverages in the American River Parkway -- between Hazel and Watt avenues.

This year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation just days before the July 4 holiday extending the ban to the river itself -- which is controlled by the state.

The new law and stepped up enforcement produced a far tamer Independence Day holiday on the river.

-- Ed Fletcher

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Its About Infrastructure!

Like the bones in our bodies, it is the foundation of our health—too often taken for granted—and neglecting it has serious consequences, some of which we are now seeing.

James P. Pinkerton: Katrina's infrastructure lesson
By James P. Pinkerton -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, August 30, 2007

Let's stipulate, up front, that there's plenty of blame to go around on Katrina.

Two years ago this week, and ever since, a Republican president, a Democratic governor and a Democratic mayor all have seemed to be competing for the prize of "most incompetent." Also, let's just say it and get it out of the way: During the hurricane, and in its aftermath, some of the people of New Orleans didn't acquit themselves very well either.

But the real lesson of Katrina is for all of us everywhere: The physical environment matters -- a lot more than we have been willing to acknowledge, or pay for.

And when I say "physical environment" I don't mean polar bears and penguins. I mean the environment right around us -- our surroundings defined by fire hydrants and roads, ports and airports, levees and walls.

Yet, for decades now, both the political left and the political right have chosen to scrimp on infrastructure.

For the left, the anti-infrastructure backlash started with the environmental movement. Once upon a time, New Deal Democrats were eager to pour concrete and build dams; it was jobs for workers and votes for the party of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
But starting in the '70s, the greens gained sway in the Democratic Party. Today, there's not a place in this country where eco-activists and litigators haven't blocked construction of a highway or a bridge.

For its part, the right has changed its tune, too. The Federalists of Alexander Hamilton, the Whigs of Henry Clay and the Republicans of Abraham Lincoln all were proponents of "internal improvements" -- turnpikes, canals, railroads. And even as a young Army officer, Dwight D. Eisenhower could see that America needed good roads to move troops around; it was a national-security issue. So when Ike, a Republican, became the 34th president, he spearheaded the Interstate Highway System.

But starting in the '80s, a new, more libertarian attitude took hold in the Republican Party. Ronald Reagan's main domestic focus was tax cuts and spending cuts, and infrastructure spending was easier to reduce than Social Security. To an avant-garde Reaganite, federal money for infrastructure was just pork-funding for unionized workers and entrenched political machines. The better approach? "Starve the beast" by cutting spending.

Trees May Come Down

The ongoing debate, which needs to be researched more, continues.

Several thousand trees may be cut
About 5,100 violate corps' levee policy, partial survey finds.
By Matt Weiser - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, August 30, 2007

A cursory survey found that about 5,100 mature trees could be headed for the chopping block on just two urban levee sections in Sacramento if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers goes ahead with a new levee maintenance policy.

The findings, from a survey commissioned by the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, were presented Wednesday at a conference on the issue.

The survey of Sacramento River levees in the city's Natomas and Pocket areas provides a window on the potential consequences of a corps levee maintenance policy being enforced in California for the first time.

The nationwide policy conflicts with decades of practice in California, where levee vegetation offers the only remaining riverside habitat for a host of endangered species.

The surveyed levees represent only about 25 percent of Sacramento levees, and a tiny fraction of the 1,600 miles of Central Valley levees affected by the policy.

"We believe there would be major ecosystem-level effects by implementing the policy," said Michael Hoover, assistant field supervisor at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The corps in February notified 32 Central Valley levee districts that their levees don't meet national maintenance standards -- in most cases because of too many trees and shrubs.

The corps is preparing a new national policy, which it promises will be more flexible to accommodate local environmental needs. In the meantime, those 32 local districts have until March 30, 2008, to comply with the existing policy or lose federal funding to rebuild levees after a flood.

And starting this fall, more Valley levee districts will be inspected under the national criteria. Many are likely to fail, including those in Sacramento.

Ken Rood, an engineer at Northwest Hydraulic Consultants in Sacramento, which surveyed the levees for SAFCA, said an estimated 3,800 mature trees would have to be cut along the Sacramento River adjoining Natomas and 1,300 along Sacramento's Pocket neighborhood.

In many cases, these are mature oak, cottonwood and sycamores that shade public roads, bike trails and private yards.

"You're probably looking at significant reconstruction of levees to remove these trees and then restore the levee," Rood said.

The corps also inspected 1.5 miles of American River levee east of Watt Avenue as a pilot project according to the national criteria. It found the entire distance would require tree removal and partial levee rebuilding.

New Orleans, Two Years Later

This terrible and interminable saga continues to be a serious object lesson in the need for public leadership to protect communities from natural disasters with all of the tools at their command; and a deep reminder of the importance of establishing a culture where law and order prevail over crime and disorder.

Nicole Gelinas
The Most Dangerous City
Two years after Katrina, New Orleans desperately needs law and order.
28 August 2007

This week, President Bush will visit New Orleans to mark the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, as will Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton, and Republican candidates Mike Huckabee and Duncan Hunter. The White House will probably release a fact sheet detailing how many billions of dollars the government has spent on Gulf Coast recovery. The Democrats, no doubt, will call for more money and action. Here’s hoping at least one political visitor will be brave enough to say the truth: that while many New Orleans residents are courageously taking the initiative to rebuild their homes, they cannot build an effective police and prosecutorial force on their own.

To understand how New Orleans is doing two years later, consider a few recent stories. This past weekend, seven family members and friends were enjoying a quiet evening outside their home in a tranquil neighborhood on the city’s east side, which was badly flooded by Katrina. Then, according to New Orleans police, gunmen forced them into their house, robbed them, and shot them all, killing two. It was the neighborhood’s second such crime in two weeks. Previously, gunmen had murdered a couple, Anjelique Vu and Luong Nguyen, leaving their infant and toddler unharmed.

“The slayings . . . were the latest in a series of armed home invasions and robberies in eastern New Orleans,” wrote the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “Several crews of gunmen . . . have robbed and shot workers . . . and homeowners in the area, where many residents are rebuilding their flood-damaged homes.” Also last week, gunmen lined up six laborers and shot three, killing El Salvadoran Julio Benitez-Cruz. (New Orleans has experienced a post-Katrina influx of Hispanic laborers, both legal and illegal, who are tempting targets for criminals because they carry so much cash from contracting jobs.)

In fact, since Katrina, New Orleans’s murder rate has been higher than that of any first-world city. Depending on fluctuating estimates of the city’s returning population, it’s perhaps 40 percent higher than before Katrina and twice as high as the rate in other dangerous cities like Detroit, Newark, and Washington. Families trying to make a home in this environment live in fear, even while many have taken to rebuilding their homes with their bare hands.

As Reverend Nguyen The Vien, pastor of one of eastern New Orleans’s churches, told me earlier this year, “We’re here and we’re rebuilding”—with or without federal assistance. Indeed, Nguyen and his parishioners seemed to treat the subject of government help almost as an afterthought: it may help pay the bills if it ever arrives, but it’s not expected. After Katrina, neighbors fixed up Nguyen’s church under his direction so that they would have a “home base” for eating, sleeping, and showering. Then they set to work rebuilding houses, one by one. Residents of many other neighborhoods—white, black, and Asian—have done the same. As New Orleanians have found out the hard way, the work is backbreaking, but not impossible.

What individual New Orleanians can’t do by themselves is fix the city’s long-broken attitude toward criminal justice. Over and over again during my February trip to New Orleans, I heard how demoralized residents feel when they buy and install new appliances, pipes, and furniture for their flooded-out houses, leave for a day or two, often to temporary homes—and return to find their hard-earned new handiwork ripped out and stolen.

For generations now—and this is the city’s deepest problem—New Orleans has hobbled along without a real law-and-order presence. Criminals graduate from petty crimes to burglary to drug-dealing to carrying illegal weapons to gang robberies to murder, and face few consequences at any stage. The police, and especially the prosecutors, are ineffectual. Since Katrina, things have gotten much worse, in part because criminals, finding life difficult in cities that enforce the law, have returned to the Big Easy in numbers disproportionate to those of law-abiding citizens. Mayor Ray Nagin doesn’t try to fix things, perhaps because, as he often says, he believes crime is a social problem, rooted in a lack of opportunity for poor youth.

Sacramento Flood Control

The idea of shunting flooding waters into bypasses north of Sacramento to prevent Sacramento from flooding has opposition.

Aanestad Objects to “Dangerous” Flood Control Bill
California Political Desk
August 28, 2007
Senator Denounces AB 930 “Irresponsible Land Grab”

SACRAMENTO: Senator Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley) is raising the red flag in response to a flood control measure that is moving through the State Legislature, and appears poised to pass its final test this week or next in the State Senate. Aanestad says he will object to AB 930 during Senate debates and also urge the Governor to veto the bill, which could pose devastating consequences for the rural areas he represents in Northern California.

AB 930 would authorize the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFECA) to purchase flood control easements outside of their jurisdictional boundaries as part of their overall flood protection plan. Senator Aanestad believes the measure can turn Sutter, Yuba, Colusa and Butte Counties into giant flood control basins so Sacramento can be protected against the threat of future flooding.

“AB 930 is nothing more than a land control grab from Sacramento that would infringe upon and put a stop to local land use decisions in counties north of Sacramento,” said Senator Aanestad. “Allowing SAFECA to purchase easements in Northern California will prevent the levee repairs we so desperately need, and will prevent the construction of future communities.”

Senator Aanestad notes the bill is opposed by the Family Water Alliance and the Sutter County Taxpayers Association, for good reasons. AB 930 takes the focus off the real problem with flood control efforts in the north state – which are deteriorating levees and a lack of storage. Aanestad says the measure would turn much of his district into a “sacrificial lamb,” in the effort to keep Sacramento “high and dry.”

Aanestad says allowing SAFECA to purchase easements on property north of Sacramento would give them the right to flood wide stretches of Northern California during wet rainfall years.

Cool It! Interview with Bjorn Lomdborg

A terrific interview with one of the best thinkers on global warming.

Bjørn Lomborg feels a chill
Global warming doesn't faze the infamous author, who argues that polar bears are doing fine and Al Gore is way too hot under the collar. But can the "skeptical environmentalist" back up his rosy views?
By Kevin Berger

Aug. 29, 2007 | Bjørn Lomborg drives people crazy. The tale of the controversy that swarmed his 2001 book, "The Skeptical Environmentalist," in which the native Dane argued that many environmental problems were overblown, has been widely told. With a few clicks you can read all about his skirmish with the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty and his protracted battle with Scientific American. In a flash you can find his defenders strafing his critics from their libertarian bunkers or congressional offices. When Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., wants to back up his claim that global warming is the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," or invites somebody to Washington to debate Al Gore, he calls on Lomborg.

Lomborg, 42, rose to infamy by way of a Ph.D. in political science and a love affair with statistics. Today he is an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School and the director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, where he strives to devise economic solutions to the world's pressing problems. Next week he will storm back into the cultural fray with "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming," a highly readable asseveration that global warming is not so bad and that Al Gore is an inconvenient truth-stretcher.

Lomborg is such an iconoclastic figure that you are inclined to scrutinize his every remark. (Eban Goodstein, a professor of economics at Lewis and Clark College, reviews "Cool It" in an accompanying article.) But I used the question-and-answer format to give Lomborg his say because, like it or not, he is an internationally popular voice. A prestigious publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, has seen fit to publish and promote "Cool It," and the book has already racked up impressive orders on Amazon, rising to the top 10 on the site's Environmental Science list. I researched critical passages in "Cool It" and presented Lomborg with studies that challenged them. I looked at some of the reports that Lomborg used to make his key points -- "Polar bears aren't facing extinction" is one -- and read him passages from those same reports that he ignored.

Lomborg himself is a fascinating guy, a gay vegetarian lionized by rigid conservatives. In person, the tan and blond author appears to have just strolled out of a Jamba Juice in Malibu. He has a naturally friendly manner and speaks most of the time without sounding didactic. While he can be open and curious, I wouldn't rush to nominate him for a humility award. He has such a singular economic bead on the world that he can sound arrogant as he deflects any other point of view about global warming. But I enjoyed talking with him. We spoke in a conference room at Knopf, where out a panoramic window we could watch the beleaguered Hudson River flow to the ocean on a clear and hot New York day.

Why did you write "Cool It"?

Because we're stuck in this unproductive question, Is global warming a hoax or a catastrophe? Left-wingers say it's a catastrophe and we need to change our entire means of production and society. Right-wingers say we shouldn't bother with it all. If they were right, those conclusions might follow, but that's not what the science tell us. The science tells us that global warming is problem but not a catastrophe. On the other hand, it's not a hoax. I'm trying to make a middle ground for arguing that this is not a problem that will be solved within the next five or 10 years. This is a problem that will take a half or full century, and we need to be sure we have good ways of dealing with it.

You write, "Doing too little about climate change is definitely wrong. But so is doing too much." Why?

Doing too little is obvious, but let's say it anyway: If you don't do something about global warming, of course it will become a bigger problem. So obviously we need to address it and in the long term fix it. On the other hand, doing too much about it means we are focusing too much effort on climate change and forgetting all the other things that we have a responsibility to deal with, like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and malnutrition. If we spend too much time and resources focusing on climate change, then we do the future a disservice because we say, "Hey, we fixed climate change but we let all the other things slide."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

River Adjacent Development Announcement

Waterfront development plan advances
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A development project seeking to transform a portion of the city's urban waterfront, known as Township 9, passed some key hurdles Tuesday.

The City Council unanimously approved the environmental impact report, development agreement, map and zoning changes for the project on 65 acres bounded by Richards Boulevard, North Fifth and North Seventh streets and the American River.

With a new light-rail station as a focus, Township 9 contains a proposed 2,350 condominiums, townhouses and apartments, as well as 840,000 square feet of office space and 146,000 square feet of retail use.

At the meeting, several people testified in favor of the project, including labor, environmental and transit representatives, as well as area residents. They called it a good example of development within an urban area.

They praised the "smart growth" aspects of building housing next to a light-rail station and the catalytic effect it is expected to have on other development in the area.

-- Terri Hardy

Experience vs Science

When lab based scientific research reaches opposing conclusions to that of professionals working in the field, it makes it difficult to develop public policy.

This type of situation indicates more research is needed.

Scientists: Trees help, not hinder, levee safety
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hears challenges to its removal policy at Sacramento hearing.
By Matt Weiser - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Though federal officials on Tuesday faced a deluge of evidence that trees do not threaten levees, they continued to tout their own policy that could require every mature tree to be cut down on Sacramento levees.

At a symposium on the issue in Sacramento, a parade of scientists summarized decades of research showing that trees may, in fact, improve flood safety when planted on levees.

The backdrop to Tuesday's meeting were the 32 Central Valley levee districts that in February failed a maintenance inspection by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Most failed because their levees had too many trees and shrubs.

The corps, which is preparing a new national levee maintenance policy, currently says no vegetation larger than 2 inches in diameter should grow on a levee. But that standard has not been applied in California. In fact, the local district of the corps has worked for decades with local, state and federal agencies to plant more trees on levees.

The issue affects levee managers nationwide, but it is especially critical in California, where levees provide virtually the only remaining riverside wildlife habitat.

"By and large ... trees have a positive or beneficial influence on the safety of levees," Donald Gray, a geotechnical engineering professor at the University of Michigan, told the symposium.

The findings were included in a 1991 paper he co-wrote based on a study sponsored by the corps. "This report was vetted by all the corps districts before its publication," Gray said.

However, David Pezza, engineering and construction chief of the corps' civil works branch, said officials did not consider the study in their maintenance polices because "it didn't match what they saw in the field."

"We do a lot of research in support of our civil works program. But in that particular case, we did not find that science was relevant to what we were doing," Pezza said. "Vegetation is very hazardous to infrastructure when it's not done in an integrated way."

American River Work

On the Auburn Dam site, work related to the closure of the diversion tunnel continues.

On course for change
Views vary as river restoration nears
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Monday, August 27, 2007

With the American River restoration effort nearing completion, current canyon users are coming to the realization that what they have now will be dramatically altered once the river starts flowing naturally again.

On Sunday, the one day of the week the trails down to the dam site on both the El Dorado and Placer County sides are open to recreational users, the canyon was teeming with activity.

Auburn teacher Larry Alberts was mountain biking through the site, excited about the imminent re-channeling of the river.

"I'm for getting rid of the diversion tunnel and putting the river back to where it belongs," Alberts said. "I saw the river here before there was a diversion dam, before the scar."

Alberts said he recently traveled to Yosemite for the first time and came back more impressed with the canyon.

"Yosemite was magnificent but I see the same views on this river," Alberts said.

Lincoln's Ray Bailey dropped down into the canyon on his quarter horse for a 15-mile out-and-back ride. He said the trek came with the realization that it would be one of his last over the dam site. Once the tunnel was sealed and the river re-routed, the crossing would be no more.

Bailey said that his options in the canyon would be limited after that - until a bridge over the river at or near the site is built.

"We've found this a pleasant place to ride," Bailey said.

The road down to the canyon off Maidu Drive was built as part of a network of service roads for Auburn dam construction. It's now off-limits to the public except on Sundays and Ron Jenkins was walking the wide, paved road in the cool of the morning.

"It's nice to walk in what's really an abandoned place and not have to worry about traffic," Jenkins said.

Budget & Bond Funds

A breakdown of funding for transportation programs.

Transportation Bond Use Funded in Final State Budget (August 28, 2007)

The 2007-08 state budget adopted this week continues important commitments to state transportation funding as approved by California voters.

The budget fully funds Proposition 42, the California Chamber-supported initiative voters approved in 2002 to dedicate gasoline sales tax revenues to transportation purposes.

In addition, the budget and two accompanying “trailer” bills provide supplementary funding and authorization for spending revenues from Proposition 1B, the $19.9 billion CalChamber-supported bond measure voters approved in November 2006.

Even after voter approval, use of the funds depends on the Legislature actually appropriating the revenue. The California Transportation Commission is the state agency charged with passing out the money.

Lawsuit Limits

Part of the agreement on the 2007-08 state budget involved approval of legislation to limit the authority of the state Attorney General to file lawsuits challenging county general plans’ compliance with provisions of AB 32, the climate change legislation signed last year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The legislation, SB 97 (Dutton; R-Rancho Cucamonga), exempts any project funded by Proposition 1B from any legal challenge relating to meeting the objectives of AB 32 before the California Air Resources Board adopts regulations implementing the legislation. SB 97 will “sunset” in 2009.

In addition, projects funded by the levee and flood control bond (Proposition1E, also approved by voters in November 2006) are to be exempted from such legal challenge.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Global Warming?

Very nicely put.

Denier's Confession
Global warming is more alarmist than alarming.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

The recent discovery by a retired businessman and climate kibitzer named Stephen McIntyre that 1934--and not 1998 or 2006--was the hottest year on record in the U.S. could not have been better timed. August is the month when temperatures are high and the news cycle is slow, leading, inevitably, to profound meditations on global warming. Newsweek performed its journalistic duty two weeks ago with an exposé on what it calls the global warming "denial machine." I hereby perform mine with a denier's confession.

I confess: I am prepared to acknowledge that Mr. McIntyre's discovery amounts to what a New York Times reporter calls a "statistically meaningless" rearrangement of data.

But just how "meaningless" would this have seemed had it yielded the opposite result? Had Mr. McIntyre found that a collation error understated recent temperatures by 0.15 degrees Celsius (instead of overstating it by that amount, as he discovered), would the news coverage have differed in tone and approach? When it was reported in January that 2006 was one of the hottest years on record, NASA's James Hansen used the occasion to warn grimly that "2007 is likely to be warmer than 2006." Yet now he says, in connection to the data revision, that "in general I think we want to avoid going into more and more detail about ranking of individual years."

I confess: I am prepared to acknowledge that the world has been and will be getting warmer thanks in some part to an increase in man-made atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. I acknowledge this in the same way I'm confident that the equatorial radius of Saturn is about 60,000 kilometers: not because I've measured it myself, but out of a deep reserve of faith in the methods of the scientific community, above all its reputation for transparency and open-mindedness.

But that faith is tested when leading climate scientists won't share the data they use to estimate temperatures past and present and thus construct all-important trend lines. This was true of climatologist Michael Mann, who refused to disclose the algorithm behind his massively influential "hockey stick" graph, which purported to demonstrate a sharp uptick in global temperatures over the past century. (The accuracy of the graph was seriously discredited by Mr. McIntyre and his colleague Ross McKitrick.) This was true also of Phil Jones of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, who reportedly turned down one request for information with the remark, "Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?"

I confess: I understand that global warming may have negative consequences. Heat waves, droughts and coastal flooding may become more intense. Temperature-sensitive viruses such as malaria could become more widespread. Lakes may be depleted by evaporation. Animal life will suffer.

But as Bjorn Lomborg points out in his sharp, persuasive and aptly titled book "Cool It," a warming climate has advantages, too, and not just trivial ones. Though global warming will cause more heat deaths, it will also mean many fewer cold deaths. Drought may increase in some areas, but warming also means both more rain and longer growing seasons. Temperature changes will harm some wildlife in some places. But many species will benefit from a bit more warmth. Does anyone know for certain that the net human and environmental losses from global warming will exceed overall gains?

Indian Heritage Site Announcement

Council to look at plans for outdoor Indian site
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Plans to pursue a site for an outdoor interpretive area for a state American Indian museum will be presented to the City Council today.

The council will be asked to back a scaled-down version of what was going to be the future home of the California Indian Heritage Center.

Earlier this year, West Sacramento offered to donate 43 acres for the proposed museum. The offer shifted the planned site of the main building downriver about 2.5 miles.

A companion outdoor area for American Indian performances and cultural exhibits is still proposed upriver in Sacramento on the north bank of the American River.

The Sacramento Department of Parks and Recreation is asking to use about $300,000 of the $6.3 million set aside for the original project to begin negotiations to buy property.

-- M.S. Enkoji

Flood Protection Planning

This brief opinion piece is about as well said as I’ve seen it said.

From the Los Angeles Times
Needed: A 50-year flood plan
By Robert Bea
August 27, 2007

After two years, there's a lack coherent vision on how to provide adequate flood protection. The Army Corps of Engineers is doing 5,000 different things, one of which is flood protection. The state is even more muddled. You don't have modern technology; the quality is not what you would call world-class.

Money has been coming in dribs and drabs. Billions of dollars is big, but before you get adequate flood protection for New Orleans, you better start thinking about $50 billion to $100 billion, and 50 to 100 years to do it. The Netherlands had its Katrina in 1953, and it is still developing its system. It has expended about $50 billion. You don't have to be a professor to get it.

But we can see some strides going forward. Local citizens who want protection are now involved in getting that protection. There's a recognition that flood protection is not just a New Orleans problem, it's a national problem, it's a problem in our own Sacramento Delta; it extends to Kansas, Chicago. We've been watching it unfold across the U.S. last week.

Flood protection is just like a roof on someone's home. You need to depend on it to establish a modern society that can flourish and can be happy.

Robert Bea, an engineering professor at UC Berkeley, co-authored a 2006 study that found that New Orleans' levees, even after planned repairs, were unlikely to withstand another Katrina.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dry Year, Higher Food Prices

Let’s hope the winter is a wet one, and I heard the walnuts are falling in Carmichael, so that is a good sign.

Dry hills hurt cattle industry
Consumers may see higher beef prices
By Jim Downing - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, August 27, 2007

From Interstate 505, it's hard to tell that the grass in the hills west of Winters is any less plentiful than it was last August.

But drive up Salt Creek on the Clarence Scott Ranch, where 18 of Rick Harrison's cows huddled in the shade of an oak tree, and the pastures are close-clipped, the springs dry.

Harrison stopped his flatbed pickup in a spring-fed gully that often runs with water through the summer. This year, the creekbed clay crunches under his tires.

"It wouldn't bother me if it started raining in October and didn't quit till May," he said.

With adequate irrigation water left in the state's reservoirs from last year, most farmers in the Sacramento Valley benefited from a dry winter and warm spring. Spring tomato planting was untroubled by rain, for instance, and the weather was perfect for the almond blossom.

Local ranchers, however, will not remember the year fondly.

Irrigation doesn't reach into the grassy hills where many cattle spend the winter and spring, so ranchers are usually the first in the ag business to feel the impact of a dry winter.

The pastures here got 9 inches of rain, less than half the average, and there weren't the big storms needed to recharge springs and ponds. Without water sources in the hill pastures, what grass does grow becomes basically useless for grazing.

Phoenix Park

This appears to be a story of a good turn around, from suburban blight to a neighborhood improving steadily.

Hope on the rise in Phoenix Park
Crime falls as a once-notorious neighborhood is reborn
By Lisa Heyamoto - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, August 27, 2007

A few years ago, Franklin Villa was the kind of place where thieves broke into homes and stole Christmas presents meant for children. Drug deals were frequent and brazen.

Makeshift memorials popped up in back alleys and front lawns, their dried flowers and puddled candles a testament to the kind of life folks could expect in the south Sacramento neighborhood.

"It was real bad," said longtime resident Michael Sims. "Gangs, killings, shootings -- everything you could think about was here. Families were scared to walk the streets."

It almost seemed like Franklin Villa was a lost cause.

But in an ambitious effort to turn the neighborhood around, the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency took over the neighborhood between Morrison Creek and Franklin Boulevard. Using the power of eminent domain, the agency bought out the patchwork of absentee landlords who had allowed the low-income area to fall into disrepair.

The agency, which serves as the redevelopment arm of the city and county, began a large-scale renovation of the neighborhood's tattered homes. It added amenities such as pools and playgrounds, amped up security and -- by re-christening the area Phoenix Park -- sent the message that Franklin Villa was a thing of the past.

Crime went down, and spirits rose. And now that the $84 million redevelopment is complete, the formerly blighted neighborhood has transformed into something that would have seemed unimaginable just six years ago -- a community.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fingerprint Bank

It is a good idea that the local databanks have been linked to the national, and computer technology continues to help us all, particularly families trying to find what has happened to loved ones that may have disappeared years ago.

Fingerprint bank gives names to the nameless
Long-deceased bodies are finally identified by FBI's new technology.
By M.S. Enkoji - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, August 26, 2007

In the gathering darkness of a winter evening, three men down on their luck got into a tussle along Richards Boulevard in northern Sacramento.

As fists flew that January night in 1988, they tripped over something on the ground: the decomposing body of a man in brown laced boots, a checked, flannel shirt and jeans.

A few years later, a homeless man searching for a place to sleep in a tunnel near 8th Street in downtown Sacramento came across the body of a man, tucked into a sleeping bag upon a foam pad. He called 911.

Both of the dead men, carefree spirits who had a few run-ins with the law, became part of the gallery of unidentified bodies that Sacramento County takes charge of until a name turns up.

The prospect of identifying the long-nameless deceased is improving. The FBI's national data bank of fingerprints is expanding. Because of more efficient filing and identification, some police agencies are sending all the fingerprint sets they collect to the national database, including those of misdemeanor offenders.

Which is how the names Noel Everett Wait and Alfred Cardinal finally matched the fingerprints that Sacramento County deputy coroners had tried to identify for years.

Wait, 45, was a longtime drifter, a California native who ended up sleeping in downtown Sacramento, weathered beyond his years by the time he was found inside his sleeping bag.

Cardinal, 63, was apparently living under a hedge on Richards Boulevard. He had died of natural causes before the men stumbled over him that winter evening.

New Orleans, Two Years Later

The object lesson here—in addition to the pain and suffering still being felt by the people of New Orleans from the effects of Katrina—is that we are still the least protected major river city in the country, with flood protection barely at the 100 year level, while New Orleans was at the 250 year level.

Survival and revival
New Orleans residents are picking up the pieces of their lives, but the pain remains
By Jack Douglas Jr. and Bill Hanna - McClatchy Newspapers
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, August 26, 2007

NEW ORLEANS -- It has been a rough two years for Ricky Scales and his family, ever since Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters drove them from their home, sending them on a long journey of frustration, fright, uncertainty and joblessness.

Their troubles began even as they tried to escape the black water spilling from New Orleans' broken levees, when Ricky, wife Tamika and Alfrenisha, 10, were separated from the four other children in the family. The parents and daughter finally landed on the crest of a downtown bridge, collapsed in exhaustion, as they tried to make their way to shelter in the Superdome.

Then, as they continued on, Ricky waded into water over his head. When he re-emerged, Tamika and Alfrenisha had disappeared into the pandemonium of Katrina.

"I was terrified, exhausted," Ricky, now 40, said recently from his new, modest home in New Orleans, his family of five young children and stepchildren back intact, but still suffering the consequences of Katrina's assault that began on Aug. 29, 2005.

"It's real hard starting all over," Tamika, 28, said as she sat on her living room couch, several of her kids squirming beside her. "My children, they're suffering, dreaming nightmares. They get depressed thinking about Katrina."

Public Leadership

It is always heartening to see a robust debate begin around public leadership of an area struggling to find it.

Standing on principle
Dickinson presses his cause -- even when it's unpopular
By Ed Fletcher - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, August 26, 2007

Long after it became clear on election night that ballot measures financing a new Sacramento sports arena would be trounced by voters, Roger Dickinson took the stage.
With a full spectrum of media on hand at a glitzy downtown restaurant that fall night, other politicians who had supported the measures sought the shadows.

Not Dickinson. In a move that the Sacramento County supervisor's supporters and political observers say was Roger being Roger, he followed his gut. Despite what the polls and ultimately voters had to say, Dickinson asserted that Sacramento still needs to find a way to build a new arena.

The two measures, Q and R, were thrashed by voters. Each fell by a more than 3-to-1 margin.

"Sometimes he doesn't care how voters will react," said Jeff Raimundo, a Sacramento political consultant. "He feels like he is doing the right thing and won't be deterred."

As the 2008 election cycle nears, Dickinson has been musing about throwing his hat into the Sacramento mayor's race -- challenging Heather Fargo, who will be seeking a third term.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Broken Windows & Downtown Sacramento

One of the most effective criminal justice policies, responsible for cleaning up New York under Mayor Giuliani, is now being used here with notable success.

Its basic concept is straightforward; if you allow any trace of crime to go unsanctioned, even littering, graffiti, loitering, or broken windows in buildings, you tell criminals that no one cares, and they, being opportunistic like most people, move in and make themselves at home.

That is beginning to change in downtown Sacramento.

This deputy DA takes her job to the streets
Rita Spillane leans on scofflaws to clean up city's downtown.
By Blair Anthony Robertson - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rita Spillane is smart, amusing when the occasion calls for it and unfailingly devoted to her job.

She's working on a master's in theology. She has two grown sons who are high-achievers. Her husband is a federal prosecutor with a Ph.D. in mathematics. In college, she studied the classics before going to law school.

When she was young, her father told her to go out and make the world a better place.

So what's she doing nosing around yet another dumpster in a downtown Sacramento alley? Why, 20 minutes later, is she squatting to chat with a drunk sprawled on a patch of grass off K Street? Why would she sit at a conference table and, as she puts it, "say some really ugly things" to a downtown property owner who neglects his building?

It's all part of her job as a deputy district attorney with a decidedly nontraditional assignment, one that Spillane, 53, practically invented in Sacramento.
In Spillane's world, it's the little things that matter.

The affable star of Sacramento County's community prosecution program, Spillane doesn't deal with cases that capture headlines. She handles missteps, oversights and neglect that by themselves might not even be crimes.

At a meeting with downtown Sacramento business leaders, Spillane once explained her style this way: "People listen to me or I make them cry."

Most choose to listen.

"She is probably one of the most tenacious individuals that I've met," said Ryan Loofbourrow, director of community services for the Downtown Sacramento Partnership. "She definitely does not leave issues unresolved, and it has made a big difference for us downtown."

Railyard Study Review Announcement

Public can view railyard study
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, August 25, 2007

A draft environmental study for the downtown railyard is available for public review and comment until Oct. 3, according to a city news release.

The public can view the environmental impact report on the city's Web site,, by clicking on "railyards -- public review documents," or viewing the document between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays at the third-floor reception desk of "new" City Hall, 915 I St.

Also, a hard copy is available between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. weekdays at the North Natomas permit center, 2010 Arena Blvd.

Public comments must be received by Oct. 3.

A public hearing on the issue is scheduled before the city Planning Commission at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 13 in the second-floor meeting room of historic City Hall, 915 I St.

-- Terri Hardy

Quagga Mussels (Invasive Part One)

In a globalized world, this will continue to happen, and we probably need new strategies to deal with it that look at adaptation rather than extermination.

Water officials hope to limit spread after invasive shellfish found
By Terry Rodgers
and J. Harry Jones
August 24, 2007

Regional water officials are testing water, handing out fliers and, at one reservoir, banning private boats to control the spread of a tiny mussel that can foul pumps and pipelines and alter freshwater ecosystems.

The quagga mussels, shellfish that are smaller than a fingernail and multiply quickly, have been discovered at San Vicente Reservoir near Lakeside. Officials believe the mussel also has invaded Escondido's Dixon Lake but are awaiting test results.

Even though there is no evidence of the mussel at Lake Wohlford, a popular fishing spot, the city of Escondido has temporarily banned private boats there as a precaution.

The shellfish are not being viewed as a significant threat to the water supply, but if left unchecked, they could become a massive and expensive nuisance.

Billions of dollars have been spent trying to control mussels in the Great Lakes that fill and block water pipes and power plant systems. Officials say the only way to kill the mussels is to dry them out or poison them with chlorine, but they can't chlorinate large bodies of water because it is too toxic. Until this year, the mussels had never been found west of the Continental Divide.

Quagga mussels are native to Russia and Ukraine, and are believed to have traveled to the United States to Lake Erie on transoceanic ships in the late 1980s.

In January, the mussel was found in Lake Mead. Officials think it hitched a ride on a private boat shuttled from the Great Lakes by trailer. Lake Mead, which straddles Nevada and Arizona, is a major power and water source for Southern California.

Lake Davis Pike (Invasive Part Two)

This just seems to be getting worse and worse.

Calif. hopes to hook lake's pike problem
By John Ritter, USA TODAY

PORTOLA, Calif. — Outside this community in the eastern Sierra Nevada lies one of the West's great trout lakes. At least it was until northern pike, a voracious consumer of trout, invaded and then defied costly efforts to eradicate it.

The pike so thoroughly infested Lake Davis that state wildlife managers poisoned the water 10 years ago and killed all the fish, including the lake's trophy-sized trout. Other lakes around the country have gotten similar treatments, but never before was a town's water supply poisoned.

Health concerns and bitter protests marked that nine-month ordeal in 1997-98. Word spread in the trout world: avoid Lake Davis. Tourism and local businesses suffered. But trout came back in abundance after the state restocked the lake with one million fish. And, in 1999, so did pike.

Now, eight years later, the state wants to poison Lake Davis again, vowing to do the job right.

"Hopefully it'll work this time," says Tammy Milvey, owner of Gold Rush Sporting Goods, who depends on fishermen and campers for 85% of her business. "I don't know if the community, the businesses, can handle another failure."

Milvey got $33,000 from a $9.1 million settlement approved by the California Legislature in 1998 after what wildlife officials concede was a botched effort to get rid of the pike. It wasn't enough, she says. "We're all losing now. People are just not coming to the lake," she says. "Where do we get compensated for our losses now. I'm just barely paying the bills."

Pike not only could destroy the lake's trout but also migrate into waterways draining into the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta above San Francisco Bay, threatening California's $2 billion-a-year salmon industry, says Steve Martarano, a spokesman for the state Fish and Game Department.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Scouts on the Streets

What a tremendous collaboration of a historic and wonderful organization with one of our modern problems, keeping our streets safe and clean.

Mayor Bloomberg launches new team of inspectors to report street conditions and build on record level of street cleanliness.
States News Service
August 16, 2007

The following information was released by the office of the mayor of New York:

SCOUT Inspectors with GPS-Enabled Handheld Devices Will Travel Every Street Citywide Once per Month

Sanitation Sets New Street Cleanliness Record as 94.3% of Streets Are Rated "Acceptably Clean"

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today launched the Street Conditions Observation Unit (SCOUT), a new team of inspectors in the Mayor's Office of Operations whose mission is to drive every City street once per month and report conditions that negatively impact quality of life to 311. Reports transmitted from the SCOUT inspectors' hand-held devices will enter the 311 system and be routed to the relevant agency for appropriate corrective action - just as when a New Yorker calls 311. The goal of the SCOUT program is to improve of street level quality of life in City neighborhoods and to further the responsiveness of City government to quality of life conditions. The SCOUT program will be administered by the Mayor's Office of Operations, which also administers the City's Scorecard rating system that recently gave the City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) its highest ever rating for streets that are "acceptably clean," 94.3%. At the announcement, held at the Heckscher Playground in Brooklyn, the Mayor also welcomed a donation of paint to the Mayor's Paint Program from Benjamin Moore Paints.

"This new team, equipped with GPS technology, will bring an extra set of eyes to our City streets," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Whenever I'm driving through the City and I see a pothole or garbage on the street, I'll pick up the phone and report the problem to 311, just like thousands of citizens do every day. Now we'll deploy a team of veteran city workers to do the same, armed with new technology and their knowledge of quality of life concerns in our City."

SCOUT Inspectors, who will work under the Mayor's Office of Operations, will use GPS-enabled hand-held devices specially programmed to report the conditions they observe. When the SCOUT team is fully operational, 15 inspectors will drive three-wheeled scooters and travel every City street once per month. The same off-the-shelf software used by large corporations will take the reports transmitted from the hand-held devices and enter them into the 311 system as if the relevant information had just been taken from a 311 Call Center Representative. For SCOUT Inspector reports, information on who made the complaint will remain anonymous.

"The SCOUT program will give the Mayor's Office an opportunity to see first-hand the quality-of-life conditions that impact every neighborhood in the City," said Mayor's Office of Operations Director Jeff Kay. "With SCOUT inspectors in the field, we can provide City agencies with a real-time snapshot of those conditions, and ensure they take appropriate action."

Criminals Recycle Trash

A very interesting idea worth consideration which appears to make good use of landfill and good work for criminals.

Jail recycle center proposed; Plan uses inmates to sort county trash
Erica Curless Staff writer
Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)
August 9, 2007

Recycling could solve Kootenai County's critical crowded jail problem, extend the life of the county landfill and perhaps save taxpayer money.

Sheriff Rocky Watson and Solid Waste Director Roger Saterfiel are pitching an innovative plan to build a new jail next to the county's soon-to-be- built garbage transfer station off Pleasant View Road, just west of Post Falls.

Inmates - likely those already sentenced by the courts - would live at the new jail and work in an on-site recyclables sorting center.

There are no details yet, but Watson envisions a conveyor belt running garbage into the jail for guarded inmates to sort. From there, plastics, paper and cardboard would be dumped down chutes into trucks or railcars for transport to recycling plants.

Saterfiel said at least half of the 600 tons of garbage that residents and businesses bring to the existing transfer station on Ramsey Road each day is recyclable. Yet it's too expensive for county workers to sort out materials that can be recycled.

That leaves the county with a weak program, especially when so many residents are asking for more recycling, Saterfiel said. And the Fighting Creek Landfill south of Coeur d'Alene will fill up years sooner than originally anticipated, he said.

So far, the Kootenai County Commission thinks the proposal has merit and needs further study. On Tuesday, Commissioner Todd Tondee said the commission was researching some "pretty good solutions" to the jail-crowding situation, but he declined to provide details, saying he wants to ensure it's feasible before making it widely known.

Old Cars off Streets

Texas is providing serious money to help people who own old cars as their primary modes of transportation replace them with ones that pollute less. A great idea and good thing all around.

State offering drivers up to $3,500 to ditch old cars
Terry Box, The Dallas Morning News
The Dallas Morning News (Texas)
August 10, 2007

Aug. 10--Old cars and trucks in the Dallas area -- many of them little more than smoking beaters -- will get a lot more valuable beginning in December.

In an effort to improve air quality in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the state will offer up to a $3,500 bounty of sorts on vehicles that are more than 10 years old -- pre-1996 cars and trucks that emit up to 30 times as much pollution as late-model vehicles.

Owners who agree to "retire" their vehicles will get $3,000 vouchers that can be used toward buying a new car or truck or a late-model used vehicle. If they opt to buy a hybrid, they can get $3,500. The program is strictly voluntary.

"By cleaning up some of the old cars and getting them off the road, you could put a real dent in the pollution numbers," said state Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, who sponsored the "accelerated vehicle-retirement program."

The program already has funds, generated by higher vehicle state-inspection fees in the Dallas and Houston areas.

Environmentalists regularly castigate big late-model SUVs such as the Excursion and the Hummer, but the dirtiest vehicles on the road are pre-1996 cars and trucks. The older cars also tend to be driven by the working poor and others who can't afford a new car or truck.

Next Generation Buses

This sounds pretty good for the buses and the cars.

Mass transit moves in a surprising direction: Atlanta commute takes a new turn; High-tech vehicles will put themselves at front of the line
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
August 15, 2007

MARTA is building a next-generation transportation system on Memorial Drive in east DeKalb County that promises fast, reliable service when it launches in late 2008 or early 2009.

And get this --- the cutting-edge ride will be on a bus.

But these are no ordinary buses. They'll be able to control traffic lights, keeping them green longer. And they'll be able to bypass long lines of cars stopped at red lights via special bus-only lanes.

The service, linking the Stone Mountain area and MARTA's Kensington rail station, will feature a limited number of stops and sleek new buses with railcar-like touches, such as wider aisles and lower floors to enable riders to board without walking up steps. Riders will pay fares at stops instead of on the bus, greatly speeding the boarding process.

The buses won't have their own dedicated lanes and will have to battle rush-hour traffic like everybody else.

But MARTA officials say the innovations should help the buses speed along at a faster clip. The transit system hopes that persuades commuters who wouldn't dream of riding a conventional bus to try the new service.

"We're trying to give people a viable option to move through a corridor that is congested," said Johnny Dunning, manager of regional planning and analysis at MARTA.

Parkway Trestle Fire

The investigation and public comments about the fire and who started it continue.

Man denies false statements in fire probe
Immigrant has said he didn't set trestle blaze.
By Denny Walsh - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, August 24, 2007

A homeless Salvadoran national pleaded not guilty Thursday in Sacramento federal court to charges that he lied as to his whereabouts at the time a deliberately set fire destroyed a Union Pacific Railroad trestle on March 15.

José Eduardo Moran-Marques, who told The Bee in a jailhouse interview he had nothing to do with the massive Sacramento blaze that cut one of the railroad's main east-west arteries, entered the plea through his attorney, Dina Santos.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dale A. Drozd ordered him held without bail as a flight risk.
He is next due in court Aug. 31 for a status conference before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia.

Moran-Marques, who says he will be 30 on Saturday, is accused in a federal grand jury indictment of falsely stating he was "in the area of 47th Avenue in Sacramento," when the trestle fire was set along the American River Parkway.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Another Story of Legal & Regulatory Horror

I know, they are everywhere, but this one just cost two firemen their lives in New York.

We Have Met the Enemy, Again
What the Deutsche Bank building tells us about what's wrong with America.
Thursday, August 23, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Even in these times, an August dimmed with miners trapped in Utah and China, Mexico's hurricane and the final body pulled from below the Minnesota bridge, the story of two New York firemen dying in a dead building was just too much.

Since September 11, when so many died across the street from the Deutsche Bank building in lower Manhattan, a great deal of effort has been made to ensure that no more people die in the U.S. from anything remotely connected to that day. Nearly six years after, we in New York have become used on any given morning to finding additional police on subway platforms (as yesterday) or seeing fleets of police cars in front of large commercial buildings. The purpose is to show presence, and deter terror.

So when it emerged that all the sirens one was hearing last Saturday afternoon in Manhattan were because the empty building known as 130 Liberty Street had caught fire, and that two firemen had died on the 14th floor when their bottled air ran out, one was dumbstruck. Then angry.

This building stands just outside The Wall Street Journal's downtown office. Many of us walk past it and Ground Zero twice a day. If you looked to one side, you were staring into vast slabs of concrete and construction in the famous pit. Look to the other side and you saw the dead, utterly useless DB building hung, seemingly forever, in black mesh. After awhile what you did on this little stretch of street is never look to the sides, just straight ahead. Because if you looked at the DB building, you'd have to think what it meant that after six years, this grim thing was still up.

Now that two men have died trying to put out a crummy fire, maybe the time has arrived to squarely face just what the appalling six-year presence of the Deutsche Bank building represents.

It's about New York surely, but the inability to get this building down stands as a broader rebuke to a country that has become so comfortable with indulging its countless legal, personal, political and administrative obsessions that it cannot protect its own people by doing the obvious.

You surely recall what the 9/11 Commission said about the problems that led to that day, and before that the Bremer commission's report on terrorism predicting that the U.S. was at risk for precisely the same reasons--an American system engulfed in proceduralism and legalism. And loving it. That's right, loving it. Our public officials and the attendant factions and community groups are so far gone into their never-never lands of crossing "t's" and dotting "i's" that they barely know how to bring an issue to resolution. In their world, it's never over. Process is life.

The road map to Saturday's tragedy may be found on the Web site of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the page titled "The Deutsche Bank Building at 130 Liberty Street." In a chronological listing of "public documents" from September 2004 to November 2005 are 19 dates inside of which are uncountable numbers of fact sheets on air monitoring, "supplemental investigations" of fireproofing, vertical shaft sampling, cell system sampling and requests for variance to the horizon. There is an Advisory Committee of four LMDC members, four politicians, 16 "community representatives" and nine federal, state and city agencies. They met a lot.

At the center of this 40-story-high tangle of fishing line one finds the hook on which the whole mess has been hanging for six years--"contaminants of potential concern" or COPCs. The most politically paralyzing COPC of all, needless to say, is asbestos.

Lest a fiber of asbestos float from the building and spread cancer panic across lower Manhattan's streets, the one-floor-at-a-time demolition required an "abatement and removal" plan whose mind-boggling technical and physical details would fill half the first section of this newspaper ("All interior non-structural building materials will be removed under negative pressure . . .").

Energy Independence

The struggle to reach it continues, in the courts.

Shell Game
The greens try to sue their way to an energy policy.
Thursday, August 23, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Just about everyone claims the U.S. must urgently become "energy independent," yet at the same time just about every policy that may actually serve that goal is met with environmentalist opposition. That contradiction has impeded the Bush Administration's attempts to increase domestic energy production. And even the modest progress so far may be blocked because litigation is driving the conflict out of politics and into the courts.

To see this trend at work, look north to Alaska, where lawsuits are blocking an offshore drilling program. Last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency stay that will suspend all operations until at least September, when the court will hear full arguments. The decision noted that the litigants--environmental pressure groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council--had shown "a probability of success on the merits." Uh-oh.

This is bad news for Shell, whose three-year exploration program in the Beaufort Sea was green-lighted by the Department of the Interior in February. The company planned to sink up to four temporary wells this summer to determine the available resources. But there's a limited open-water window before the winter ice moves back in, so the Ninth Circuit could delay work for a year, even if it decides in Shell's favor.

The worst ramifications, however, could hit environmental and regulatory law. The greens argue that the environmental review process of the Interior agency responsible for domestic energy leasing, the Minerals Management Service, was incomplete. Allegedly, there are not enough protections for bowhead whales as they migrate to their winter grounds. They also say that the program could affect other wildlife and that there could be oil spills.

Peripheral Canal Battle Lines Reemerge

Almost, but not quite, as bad as the rabble raising fighting words that are generated by serious consideration of the Auburn Dam, the old foes begin drafting troops for the long fight, in which the public good (depending on how that is defined) continues to suffer.

Delta canal fears raised
No one knows how the project would affect fish, water quality, a panel of scientists contends.
By Matt Weiser - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, August 23, 2007

Though old enemies may be looking afresh at a peripheral canal to divert water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a panel of scientists warned Wednesday that no one knows how such a canal will affect the sensitive estuary.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzegger has mounted a campaign to build the canal. Rejected by state voters in 1982, the project is getting renewed focus as a fix for the Delta, where water quality is suffering and fish are in decline as the estuary strains to provide water to two out of three Californians.

The original proposal called for a 43-mile canal to divert Sacramento River water near the town of Hood, and carry it around the Delta directly to state and federal export pumps near Tracy. It was thought this would isolate exports from Delta water quality problems, while preventing fish from being killed in export pumps.

Critics opposed the original project because they feared it was a tool for Southern California to grab more north state water.

Now, a generation later, the Delta is widely considered to be in crisis, partly because water exports near Tracy continue to kill fish, including Delta smelt, green sturgeon, striped bass and chinook salmon.

Also, new research warns that an earthquake could devastate Delta levees, causing a statewide water and economic disaster.

Schwarzenegger carefully avoids the term "peripheral canal," which still conjures one of California's biggest water wars. But even some environmental groups are open to the notion that a canal in some form might improve conditions.

"We have studied this subject to death. It's time for action," Schwarzenegger said in a June speech.

But a panel of scientists said Wednesday that we still know almost nothing about how a peripheral canal would affect fish and water quality in the Delta.

Restrictive Growth Policies Create Sprawl?

It appears it does, in some areas anyway, and that might be commonsensical to some, but rather bizarre to others.

If you make it harder to live someplace, fewer people will want to live there, and if your goal was to encourage more people to move there, well gosh!

America's fastest-growing suburbs
Of the 100 suburbs most speedily spreading, California has the fastest, Arizona has the biggest and Texas has the most.
By Matt Woolsey,

Los Angeles is sometimes called the "Sultan of Sprawl." But you wouldn't know it by looking at the country's fastest-growing suburbs. Not a single one falls in the L.A. metropolitan area.

Instead, Angelenos are packing their bags and heading 60 miles east to San Bernardino, where 12 of the country's 100 fastest-growing suburbs are located. Leading the pack? Beaumont, which has grown 130% since 2000.

It's easy to understand why. Home prices in the Riverside-San Bernardino metropolitan area are 30% less expensive than in L.A., and household incomes are comparable….

…The fastest-growing suburb in the nation is Lincoln, Calif., just outside Sacramento. Its population jumped from 11,746 to 39,566, an increase of 236%. The Sacramento area isn't cheap by national standards, but it's growing because it's a less-expensive alternative to Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego….

…Texas has the lion's share of the country's 100 top-growth suburbs, with 20. (Twelve of these are in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.) That's partly because geographic growth is almost completely unregulated in the Lone Star state. Sprawl has its pros and cons. These areas have some of the most affordable homes in the nation, because there is plenty of supply to meet demand. But transportation expenses are often high. In Houston, transportation costs are the No. 1 household expense, according to the Brookings Institution.

Cities that engage in restrictive growth policies find themselves with different trade-offs. In Boston's inner suburbs, including Chelsea and Cambridge, zoning and growth restrictions designed to prevent sprawl instead force people to look farther outside the city for affordable housing. According to the same Brookings Institution study, metro areas with growth-exclusion plans have the most expensive housing in the country, because there is a limited supply of homes close to the city.

Last year, about 16,000 more people left the Boston metro area than moved in, and the suburbs continued to expand geographically. The result is a thinning of the area. If sprawl is defined as the density of population over a geographic space, that makes Boston more of a sprawl than places such as Phoenix and Las Vegas, which are spreading out faster but with a more concentrated population.

Water Good This Year, But Next?

With the necessity for farm planning, the uncertainty around next year's water supplies and the lack of new water storage having been built in recent years, farmers are concerned.

Water woes undercut good harvest
Issue Date: August 22, 2007
By Kate Campbell
Assistant Editor

California farmers, especially those in the San Joaquin Valley, are operating on the razor's edge. Lack of water--due to dry weather conditions last winter along with this year's regulatory and judicial actions--have cut farmers' margin for error to zero. Irrigations must be perfectly executed to ensure enough water will be there to finish the crops and get them harvested.

There's just barely enough water to get through the 2007 growing season, farmers say. But they worry more about next year. There may not be enough water in the system right now to begin work for the 2008 crop year. Some are predicting a "train wreck" if there aren't heavy rains to compensate for potential water supply cutbacks.

Lanes Not Trains

A nice slogan which addresses the reality of the overwhelming mass of people in our region, as in much of the Southland, who prefer to travel on car roads rather than rail roads.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007
The Orange Grove: O.C. prefers more lanes to trains
Adding roadway capacity provides real traffic relief versus mass-transit schemes.

Mayor Pro Tem of Tustin, a director of the Orange County Transportation Authority

Orange County transportation leaders have a clear-eyed understanding that freeway widenings and arterial improvements provide real traffic relief, and many officials in Los Angeles County who have placed nearly all their eggs in one basket – transit basket – don't like the comparisons.

The Orange County Transportation Authority is completing the final couple miles of widening the Santa Ana (Interstate 5) Freeway, all the way up to the L.A. County line, and a widening of the San Diego (I-405) Freeway is next on the agenda. This has some L.A. leaders in an uproar because, while they continue their decades-long practice of flushing millions in transportation tax dollars down the drain on public transit, their constituents are increasingly noticing the difference between the intermittent traffic on Orange County freeways and the gridlock they experience on L.A. freeways.

There is a philosophical difference between OCTA's reputation as a road-builder – at least since the proposed CenterLine light-right system was laid to rest several years ago – and Los Angeles' Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which focuses its resources on subways and rail. What it boils down to is that, in Orange County we're proud to build lanes, not trains.

Many Democrats in Sacramento were apoplectic about the governor's proposal earlier this summer to help balance the state budget by trimming the bloated public transit budget. But while buses, trains, monorails and subways seem like enticing transportation solutions in theory, they simply don't pencil out. Not in terms of true traffic relief for the vast majority of commuters and certainly not from a fiscal standpoint.

Consider this statistic: Nationwide, spending on public transit has increased seven-fold since 1960. And what have those billions of dollars done for commuters? Not much. During that same period, the number of public transit users has dropped by 63 percent and today less than five percent of all Americans use public transportation.

Over the past 30 years the United States has increased road capacity by 5 percent while we have 143 percent more cars on the road today than we did in 1977. But for some reason, despite the fact that money put into freeways is 11 times as cost-effective as money put into light rail, in most of California roadways remain the red-headed stepchild of transportation improvements.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Innocent Till Proven Guilty, Trestle Fire

A good thing to remember, but the other details coming out—about the long-term prevalence of the illegal camping on the Parkway—validate what many who live in the adjacent areas, the North Sacramento Chamber of Commerce, and ARPPS have been saying for years.

Trestle fire role denied
Jailed immigrant speaks out, disputes report of arrests
By Ryan Lillis - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, August 22, 2007

He told local police that his name is Carlos Martínez Morales, born Aug. 25, 1977.

In a federal indictment, he is listed as José Eduardo Moran-Marques, born Aug. 12, 1976.

Either way, the Salvadoran son of a clothing salesman says he had nothing to do with the massive March fire that destroyed a railroad trestle in Sacramento.

The man who was indicted last week on charges of lying about his name and where he was at the time of the March 15 blaze that gutted a Union Pacific Railroad trestle along the American River Parkway told The Bee in a jailhouse interview Tuesday he is afraid he is being jailed "for no reason." He says his name is José Eduardo Moran-Marques, that he was born in Chalatenango, El Salvador, on Aug. 25, 1977, and that he has been deported from the United States three times.

Moran-Marques, who said he lived in the parkway, also said he had never been arrested in Sacramento before May. The Bee reported Tuesday that he had been, citing court and jail records. Sheriff's officials confirmed those arrests as late as Tuesday afternoon but later backtracked….

…A source close to the investigation, who does not wish to be identified because he is not authorized to speak publicly on the subject, told The Bee that Moran-Marques told other homeless people he set the fire to get back at police and park rangers who had harassed transients in the parkway.

In the Tuesday jailhouse interview, conducted in Spanish, Moran-Marques said that he never told anyone he set the blaze and that he told police to "bring the people who accused me of this."…

…Moran-Marques, who told The Bee he lived along the parkway for a couple of months before the fire, was arrested as a vagrant earlier this year and then rearrested by federal authorities in May on a charge of coming back into the United States illegally after being deported in 2003. Authorities said Moran-Marques was arrested to keep him in the country while the investigation continued…

…Moran-Marques said he first came to Sacramento in 2005 to work as a gardener. He did not provide the name of the man he worked for, but said he was employed for about seven months, cutting lawns.

Moran-Marques said he would also get day jobs by hanging out on 47th Avenue.

After renting a trailer on Northgate Boulevard, Moran-Marques said he eventually moved to the parkway "because I saw there were a lot of people sleeping there."

Good Strategy

An excellent move to support business by the city.

Clean-energy firms getting capital welcome
By Clint Swett - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sacramento City Council members took a step Tuesday to lure clean-technology companies to set up shop in the former Sacramento Army Depot and surrounding area.

By a unanimous vote, council members approved a resolution to market the existing enterprise zone to clean-energy firms in an effort to make the city a center for the fast-growing industry.

The area, bounded roughly by Power Inn Road and South Watt Avenue in the Florin-Perkins area of south Sacramento, already has enterprise zone designation. This means some businesses moving to that area qualify for financial incentives such as state sales tax rebates on equipment purchases, employee training funds, employment tax credits and other benefits.

The resolution is part of the city's larger effort to encourage green industry, including cooperating with other local agencies, economic development groups such as the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and universities to develop the market.

City staff will spend the next two months developing informational materials to market the area to clean-tech companies, said David Spaur, Sacramento's economic development director. He said Sacramento is the first city in the nation to target green technology for an enterprise zone.

"We're going to brand this as a clean and green tech zone," Spaur said.

Planning Oversight

With the concern everyone feels about the environment, and quality of living issues in general, having additional oversight, even if a tad before the legislative body has developed the regulations called for in their legislation, is not a bad idea.

Brown to look at green impact of Placer project
By Andy Furillo - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, August 22, 2007

With a San Bernardino County greenhouse gas agreement in his hip pocket, California Attorney General Jerry Brown is now setting his sights on the global warming impact of a massive housing development recently approved for 5,000 acres west of Roseville.

Brown has not filed a lawsuit, but he said officials in his office are already in touch with Placer County over the unanimous July 16 vote by its Board of Supervisors to approve the 14,132-home Placer Vineyards project.

"I believe now we have a real grass-roots movement," Brown said in an interview, after announcing the San Bernardino agreement in which the fast-growing county will amend its general plan within 30 months to include a greenhouse gas reduction policy. "And it's growing throughout the state and throughout the country, and I'm going to do my best to help it along."

Brown said that "toward that end, I will be traveling to different counties, like Fresno, and throughout the (Central) Valley and Northern California."

Public Land Seizures

An issue that needs watching, as it is vital that government be able to seize land, with due remuneration to the owner, for important public projects.

Governor worries over bid to limit land seizures
By Kevin Yamamura - Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A proposed initiative limiting how governments seize private property has drawn concerns from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a Republican state senator that it could block construction of dams and a Delta canal.

A legal analysis issued this week by Richard Martland, a former state attorney general official, argues that the eminent domain initiative would prevent government from taking private land "for the consumption of natural resources," including water storage. Martland wrote the analysis for initiative opponents, including environmentalists and local governments.

The initiative is backed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the California Farm Bureau Federation after a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2005 allowed cities to transfer property from one private owner to another for redevelopment, enraging property rights groups.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis group, charged Tuesday that the Martland analysis was flawed because Coupal believes the initiative does not restrict large public works projects. Proponents have circulated petitions since June and plan to collect the necessary 694,354 signatures without changing the initiative language, he said.

Though the analysis was written for opponents, some state leaders, including one who backed an unsuccessful eminent domain change last year, say the initiative's wording raises eyebrows and demands further legal interpretation.

Public Lawsuits

Unfortunately the coercive method is often the one that works, sometimes to the public’s benefit, sometimes not.

One hopes this is the former.

Editorial: Back to parklands
Elk Grove and park district declare peace
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, August 22, 2007

No matter who "wins," in the end, when local governments sue each other, the public can lose. In the lawsuit between the city of Elk Grove and the Consumnes Community Services District, money needed to build and expand parks and recreation facilities got siphoned off to pay litigation costs.

The district filed the lawsuit against the city in February 2005, seeking to block the city from building a parallel park system in Elk Grove. That led to a countersuit by the city. Weeds grew as the district quit maintaining some stretches in Elk Grove.

The CSD spent an estimated $268,000 on the case, Elk Grove $149,000.

Last week's settlement ends the litigation, stops the money drain and better serves the public. Under its terms, the CSD will continue to operate existing parks in and outside of Elk Grove as it has in the past, but the city will develop the new Elk Grove civic center and community park. All future parks and recreation facilities will be developed and operated jointly by both the city and the CSD.

This arrangement provides real advantages for Elk Grove residents. In dealing with developers on land acquisition for parks, the services district is limited to the minimum standards set by state law. Under those standards, developers must provide just five acres of parkland for every 1,000 new residents their development accommodates.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Radioactive Waste Buried in Sacramento

The presence of these pits, particularly given the uncertainty of their precise location and number, should give great pause to development—with its corresponding digging and trenching—on the McClellan site until the issue is resolved.

Capping McClellan toxics safe, military says
By Chris Bowman - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, August 21, 2007

As it promotes a proposal to cap, rather than remove, long-lived radioactive waste at the former McClellan base, the Air Force is issuing assurances that well-maintained seals can hold for thousands of years.

To prevent human contact with the waste, generations of caretakers would have to routinely maintain and periodically rebuild the barriers.

"It's a legacy," said Steve Mayer, who heads the Air Force cleanup. "This remedy is something that will have to be maintained in perpetuity."

The proposal must be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Air Force officials say they are confident the caps will work and allow for some commercial development at the old waste dumps.

They point to one such cap site, constructed 22 years ago, that covers a series of unlined industrial waste trenches at the northwest corner of McClellan. Wells puncture the cap, extracting toxic vapors from the soil and contaminated groundwater 100 feet below. Yet the barrier has held firm.

"It's been trouble-free," Mayer said. "This has been a good test bed for us."
Still, state health officials wonder whether the barriers can stand the test of centuries.

The pits likely contain long-lived radioisotopes, predominantly radium-226 from luminescent aircraft instruments. McClellan was a major aircraft repair depot and supply base from 1936 through June 2001.

Radium-226 has a half-life of 1,600 years, the time it takes the substance to lose 50 percent of its radioactivity by decay. Plutonium-239, found in one unearthed drum at McClellan, has a half-life of about 24,000 years…

… Interviews with former McClellan workers and documents of historic base operations have given cleanup managers "a good understanding of what could be in those pits," said Dave Green, radiation safety officer for the Air Force Real Property Agency at McClellan.

At the same time, the agency states in its capping proposal, "There is significant uncertainty on the type and levels of radioactive wastes that may be present in the pits."…

… The Air Force says burial of radioactive waste was common in the 1950s through early 1960s. Cleanup officials have relied mostly on interviews with retired McClellan workers to locate the sites.

Defer to Deep Pockets

While perhaps not the best or most principled way to conduct public policy (though the city's finance director may disagree), it is a reasonable one and retaining the ability to encourage development (which largely pays the bills for local government), while shifting liability to the deep pockets of the state government is reasonable.

Editorial: No floodplain hypocrisy
Council shouldn't oppose Jones' bill
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, August 21, 2007

At some point in the next few weeks, the Sacramento City Council will again be asked to stake out a position on government liability and floodplain development. When it does, it needs to be careful not to embrace a two-faced position.

At issue is the city's stance on a bill by local Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento. Assembly Bill 70 would require cities and counties to share liability with the state when they approve new developments in the floodplain.

Jones notes that, because of recent court decisions, California already faces billions of dollars in potential property damage liability whenever a state-controlled levee fails.

The state is doing what it can to upgrade these levees. But Jones rightly notes that if local governments are going to keep approving new floodplain development, they should share liability with the state for that new development.

Bay Rail

The Bay area certainly does need enhancement of its rail system for passengers and freight, because limited land for housing, parking, and road and bridge improvements, force it into a high use of rail.

Editorial: For Northern California rail, the future is here
New Bay Area rail plan lays out what needs to be done. Now's time to begin.
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Imagine that 50,000 people (nearly half as many as now live in Roseville) commuted to the Bay Area every day. That won't be imaginary for long. By 2030, that many people or more will be commuting from the Sacramento region to the counties surrounding the San Francisco Bay on an average weekday.

Even larger numbers of commuters, more than 60,000 a day, will make the trip from San Joaquin Valley cities such as Stockton and Modesto to jobs in the Bay Area. These commuters will join millions more who live in the nine Bay Area counties and also must travel to work on freeways, buses, trains and ferries.

To prevent traffic from coming to a complete standstill and to help keep the region livable, Bay Area planners unveiled a draft report last week. The San Francisco Bay Area Regional Rail Plan is the first such plan produced in the region in the last half century.

It concludes, among other things, "that freeways alone can't solve the Bay Areas traffic problems," hardly a novel notion. Given the crush of people and goods that will need to be moved into and around the region, planners say improvement in mass transit and specifically rail is essential.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit system, BART, will remain the backbone of the region's mass transit plan, but BART's outward expansion potential is limited.

Trestle Fire Arrest

Validating what many in the area assumed from the beginning, suspicion for starting the fire has fallen on a homeless illegal camper in the area of the Parkway struggling with this problem for years, with little help from public leadership.

Arrest a break in probe of trestle fire?
Officials say man lied about where he was when trestle burned.
By Denny Walsh - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Salvadoran national in the United States illegally is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation and is under indictment for allegedly lying about his whereabouts at the time of the March 15 blaze that destroyed the Union Pacific Railroad trestle along the American River Parkway, a federal prosecutor confirmed Monday.

In order to keep José Eduardo Moran-Marques, who is homeless, from disappearing while the investigation continued, he was arrested as a vagrant and then rearrested by federal authorities on May 18 on a charge of re-entering the United States illegally after being deported on Aug. 1, 2003.

Going Against & With Trends

City leadership, if this trend of denigrating the suburban living that is at the heart of the region, will do more harm than good by force feeding planning around density increases that, while obvious and right for areas like San Francisco with limited land and high attraction for singles, are not so for our region with a much more generous land mass to work with and more attractive to families.

The thought of including annexation in its plan, with the ability of cities to better provided municipal services than the County, is, however, a good one.

Urban plan, but city keeps options open
By Mary Lynne Vellinga - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The new general plan in the works for the city of Sacramento marks a big departure from growth as usual.

Rather than embracing a future of strip malls and single-family homes, a draft map endorsed by the Sacramento City Council in June envisions a far more urban Sacramento than exists today.

Twenty-four-story buildings would punctuate the landscape in satellite downtowns near Arden Fair mall and Arco Arena. A university town would bustle at 65th Street.

Tired-looking arteries now devoted mostly to shopping would be transformed with thousands of housing units.

"We're looking at a different way to accommodate growth; it's not just going to be out, it's going to be in," said City Councilman Rob Fong.

Mayor Heather Fargo said the idea is to "correct some of the suburban, less functional parts of our previous communities and add enough density that there are things to walk to, and they're safer."

Yet even as the city plans a facelift of its older neighborhoods, Fargo and other City Council members have directed their staff to study the pros and cons of annexing thousands more acres of farmland -- the key ingredient for suburban subdivisions.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Development Builds Communities & Their Public Funding

Stalling development, except for the always appropriate planning process, when it is the key to local public funding, is never a good idea when an increase in public funding is necessary to protect the communities development builds.

Sometimes the first thought is the best one.

Editorial: Second thoughts on West Sac's floodplain plan
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, August 20, 2007

West Sacramento faces the same flood control conundrum of many smaller Central Valley communities: Its levees aren't up to snuff, and it has a limited base of property owners and businesses to tap for the local share of flood control costs.

To its credit, this city of 43,000 has taken some steps unmatched by other cities of its size: It has proactively investigated its (state-owned) levees, and its property owners have agreed to tax themselves to cover part of the needed improvements.

Now comes the hard part. West Sacramento needs more than $400 million to upgrade its levees over 15 years. The city must pay roughly $84 million of that. (Congress and state bonds are expected to pay for the rest.) Yet the recently approved tax assessment will cover only about half of the $84 million needed. The city hopes to obtain another $40 million from fees on new development, including thousands of new homes planned in the Southport area.

This page enthusiastically endorsed the West Sacramento tax assessment prior to voter approval last month. In retrospect, we should have done so with some reservations.

Had we more fully explored all aspects of the city's financing plan, we would have cautioned against relying so heavily on developer fees to pay for flood improvements. It's a risky strategy for people who may choose to buy new homes in West Sacramento before full levee upgrades. It's also risky for the city's overall flood control financing plan.

Outdoor Fees

One of the main rationales for outdoor fees charged to hunters and fisherman is that they kill part of the outdoor experience (consuming it), though pruning overage may be a social benefit; while for the passive watcher the only damage may be to the environment walked on or trash left by the walker.

This, and the difficulty of charging fees for a freely accessible land area, makes the idea a bad one, as it is for the Parkway.

The key here is to involve the private sector and philanthropy. Helping people be able to help an area they love through their gifts to a nonprofit organization also responsible for all or partial management of the area, is much more productive and as it is freely given rather than coercively taken, just a better way to go.

Nature's cost
As hunting and fishing licenses decline, wildlife officials are seeking to collect maintenance funds from 'non-consumptive' visitors
By M.S. Enkoji - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, August 20, 2007

On any given day, Nancy Siegler will plant herself on a riverbank and cast a line in hopes of snagging a hefty length of trout.

"I fish as often as I can," the 64-year-old Cameron Park angler said.

It's been that way since she was a little girl, standing alongside her father as they cast their hopes together.

It's a fading legacy.

Fewer people in California and across the nation are choosing to spend time hunting or fishing. Instead, they are turning to wildlife viewing as a way to spend time outdoors.

And that rise and fall in different outdoor pursuits is at the heart of a controversy over how to equitably spread the cost of maintaining wildlife.

"It's always the angler and hunter paying for the entire department," said Sep Hendrickson, host of the Sacramento radio show "California Sportsmen," talking about the California Department of Fish and Game.

Not quite the entire department, but enough for concern, said Eric Loft, chief of the department's wildlife branch. Fish and Game has discussed how to levy costs on those who are known in the industry as "non-consumptive" wildlife visitors, he said.

"Is there a way to charge access fees to use our lands? There's certainly a cost to maintaining them," Loft said. "Everyone is driving on and off the roads. It costs us time and money."

Even though hunters and anglers are the minority, they spend almost double what wildlife watchers do on their outdoor pursuits. And they're subjected to more significant license fees.

U.S. hunters paid $152, on average, in fees for licenses and using public land in 2001. Anglers averaged $66, while nature watchers averaged $30, primarily as admission to public land.

In California, license fees bolster the state Department of Fish and Game's conservation fund, which pays for efforts such as planting browse for deer so they'll survive in winter habitat.

Revenue for basic hunting licenses rose from $16 million in 2001 to $18.4 million in 2006, but not because significantly more people bought licenses. The licenses increased in price -- from $28.50 to $33.25.