Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Thanks for the Memories

One of Sacramento’s historic treasures, James Henley, is retiring but will, thankfully, continue providing us all with more knowledge about our heritage through his personal work, and the memories will continue.

Take care Jim.

Editorial: History in the making
Best wishes to keeper of Sacramento's lore
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Did you know there was a cavalry charge on Sacramento's Front Street in the late 1800s? Now that he's retired, city historian James Henley is planning to finish his book about the incident, part of the nationwide Pullman Railroad Strike of 1894.

If Henley had not been born in Sacramento 63 years ago, that story and much of the early history of the river city would be deeply buried, some of it lost entirely. The city's historian and manager of the Sacramento Archives and Museum Collection Center for the last 40 years, Henley served as the meticulous keeper of Sacramento's history since he was in graduate school at Sacramento State College in the early 1960s.

As recounted by Bee reporter Dixie Reid, he fell into the job when a history professor gave him the choice of taking an exam or cleaning up a burned-out building in Old Sacramento. He chose to clean out the building, and he's been researching the history of old buildings and that of their inhabitants ever since.

He has been the collector, the organizer, the curator and the chronicler of all things Sacramento as well as the go-to man for anyone who needs a historical fact checked. As president of the Sacramento County Historical Society, he has been the most prolific contributor to the society's quarterly journal. One typical issue included articles by Henley on slavery in California, Chinese missionary efforts in Sacramento, early political cartoonists and a history of an early county coroner – examples of the breadth of Henley's interests and knowledge.

Del Paso & K Street

Major developer in Del Paso retrenching, and people wisely stay away from K Street, unless they have to be there.

Bob Shallit: In slow market, builder departs
Bob Shallit -
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, October 31, 2007

When times get tough, the tough ... take a sabbatical.

That's the philosophy of developer Martin Tuttle, who is temporarily leaving his VP post with Sacramento builder New Faze Development.

He'll be moving to the Dominican Republic, where his wife, former Bee reporter Pamela Martineau, has secured a job teaching American literature through June.

"It's going to be a family adventure," says Tuttle, former executive director of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG). "I'll see how I like being Mr. Mom (to the couple's two children) and how I like the golf courses."

Tuttle says his wife's job offer came at the right time – just as the tough housing market forced New Faze to reduce its staff by about one-third, through layoffs and attrition.

"We're tightening up," he says of the Del Paso Boulevard firm, which has cut back from 35 to 25 employees. "Hopefully we'll be in good shape when the market comes back."

Your say on K: Most of you avoid that stretch of K Street.

At least that's our conclusion from a highly unscientific poll we ran in Saturday's column, asking readers to characterize their comfort level with K Street's rundown blocks.

War zone? Hardly. Only a few of the 33 individuals who responded agreed with that label.

But almost two-thirds of respondents said they avoided the area because of panhandling, dope dealing and unpleasant smells.

A typical response came from reader Bill Schaaf: "I leave my body armor at home but keep a sharp eye out for trouble."

Others, though, indicated they believe the area is about to improve, and some suggested that K Street gets a bad rap.

"Yes, there are many panhandlers and mentally ill individuals," said Paul Golaszewski, who moved here from North Carolina two months ago. But, he added, it's no different from "the downtown area of every major city."

Arena Pro

This is right, we now have a real pro helping us cut a deal we can all be proud of, rather than the rather sad spectacle (of well-intentioned people way over their head down there in Vegas land) last time around.

Marcos Bretón: Wilson's the right guy for arena talks
By Marcos Bretón -
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, October 31, 2007

When Sacramento officials flew to Las Vegas last summer to "negotiate" an arena deal with the Kings owners, the locals were like chickens entering a rotisserie.

They weren't guests at Joe and Gavin Maloof's table. They were the main course.

With all the leverage stacked in the Kings' favor, the Sacramento folks emerged from meetings as if flattened by a Peterbilt. The Maloofs emerged like they'd had a visit to a masseuse.

Hold that thought. And fast forward to former California Gov. Pete Wilson being retained by Cal Expo officials as the top gun against the NBA in the new effort to negotiate construction of an arena at Cal Expo.

Wilson's fee of $400-an-hour has evoked sarcasm – especially as a "discounted" price.

Get over it. It could turn out to be a bargain.

If there is one thing the former governor understands, it's power and how to use it. Because of this – and because Wilson has advantages his predecessors didn't – Sacramento arena negotiations are in a fair fight for the first time.

Sunken Boats

Hard to believe this is still a problem, but it is congruent with our local government’s general historic lack of concern about our two rivers and what they mean to our community.

Old boats litter capital waterways
By Todd Milbourn -
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, October 31, 2007

She might not look it, but the two-deck paddle-wheeler now crumbling into the Sacramento River used to be a star.

Fifty years ago, the vessel was riding high, spiriting Chinese rural laborers to freedom in "Blood Alley," a John Wayne movie filmed in the Delta. The boat later guided tourists down Gold Rush waterways as the "Spirit of Sacramento."

But these days it is a rusted-out, half-sunken hulk, a canvas for graffiti artists and a source of copper wire for thieves. Taking on water and listing at more than 45 degrees, the long-neglected vessel is kept from washing down the river only by a few warped cables tied to a disintegrating gangway.

Sadly, sights like this are becoming more familiar, said Sgt. Scott Maberry of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Marine Enforcement Detail.

As surrounding counties have cracked down on abandoned boats in recent years, Sacramento County has become a sort of dumping ground for derelict vessels, he said. Many are deliberately abandoned by owners refusing to pay the tens of thousands of dollars needed to remove their unseaworthy boats properly – a sort of maritime version of illegal dumping.

"It's far easier to tie it around a tree on a levee and walk away from it," Maberry said. "The problem with that is you're destroying the environment and you're creating a hazard for taxpayers out there with their families."

New Global Warming Report

A different perspective, but one well worth reading, from the National Geographic.

Global Warming's Long-Term Effect Uncertain, Study Says
Mason Inman
for National Geographic News
October 25, 2007

How much Earth's climate will change due to global warming is inherently unpredictable, a new study argues.

The claim has big implications for the way decisions will be made that affect the climate over the coming century, some researchers say.

Scientists have been trying to pin down how much the world will warm up over the coming centuries if people continue emitting carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Experts often make their estimates by using computer simulations to gauge how average temperatures would eventually change if CO2 emissions were to double their preindustrial levels.

Various models agree that this doubling would likely raise Earth's temperature by 5 Fahrenheit (3 Celsius) over the coming centuries.

But there's still a fair chance the increase could be much more than this.

For the last three decades, climate researchers have estimated that there's a one-in-three chance that the warming from a doubling in CO2 would be more than 8 Fahrenheit (4.5 Celsius).

There's also a 5 percent chance of much more drastic warming, around 12 Fahrenheit (7 Celsius), the models suggest.

"You'd hope that if you throw more computers and people at the problem, your confidence would increase," said Gerard Roe of the University of Washington, who led the new study.

"[But ] this range in uncertainty hadn't been going down over the last 30 years."

Roe's team's research, published today in the journal Science, provides a simple explanation as to why.

The Feedback Effect

The new study, co-authored by Marcia Baker of the University of Washington, argues that feedback processes that are fundamental to our climate make it hard to predict how the climate will behave in the long run.

There are many ways in which a little bit of warming causes feedback, so small changes can become amplified.

Bad Year for Salmon

The salmon run looks very bad so far this year, but they could just be late.

Central Valley salmon largely absent from fall run - but why?
Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer
Tuesday, October 30, 2007

This year's Central Valley fall salmon run is worrying both fishermen and biologists, who say fewer of the prized chinook are out in the ocean or making it up the rivers to spawn.

By this time, usually tens of thousands more fish are being hooked by fishermen or are swimming through the Golden Gate to the tributaries of San Francisco Bay. Upstream, the fish spawn in the same rivers where they were born, carrying on the generations of silvery king salmon.

Yet commercial fishermen who hunt for salmon in the ocean from Monterey to Bodega before the fish start their journey up the rivers report the worst salmon fishing in decades.

Fisheries biologists in Northern California who count the salmon that return up the American, Feather and Sacramento rivers are seeing a big decline in fish for this time of year. Some runs might have as few as 20 to 25 percent of the fish normally expected by this time of year, data show.

The salmon run could just be a little late this year, say state Fish and Game Department officials. On the Klamath and Trinity river systems, biologists say the salmon are about three to four weeks late, but they think the fish will come eventually.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Homelessness in LA

Serving as an object lesson for those of us struggling with the homeless issue in Sacramento and in particular, the values-free approach to homeless advocacy (which is really only a guarantee of further degradation), the situation in Los Angeles is horrible, and written about in an article in this quarter’s City Journal magazine that unfortunately, is not available online, but I have typed out the first few paragraphs to give you an idea of why you should immediately go out and buy an issue to read the full article if this is an issue resonating with you.

Heather Mac Donald is one of the most astute journalists in the country about this issue.

“The Reclamation of Skid Row
“The LAPD’s efforts are reviving America’s most squalid neighborhood—and the homeless industry is hopping mad.
By Heather Mac Donald

“Drive around Los Angeles’s Skid Row with Commander Andrew Smith and you can barely go a block without someone’s congratulating him on his recent promotion. Such enthusiasm is certainly in order. Over the last year, this tall, high-spirited policeman has achieved what for a long while seemed impossible: a radical reduction of Skid Row’s anarchy. What is surprising about Smith’s popularity, however, is that his fans are street-wizened drug addicts, alcoholics, and mentally ill vagrants. And in that fact lies a resounding refutation of the untruths tha the American Civil Liberties Union and the rest of the homeless industry have used to keep Skid Row in chaos—until now.

“For 25 years, the advocates used lawsuits and antipolice propaganda to beat back every effort to restore sanity to Skid Row. They concealed the real causes of homelessness under a false narrative about a callous, profit-mad society that abused the less fortunate. The result: a level of squalor that had no counterpart in the United States. Smith’s policing initiatives—grounded in the Broken Windows theory of order maintenance—ended that experiment in engineered anarchy, saving more lives in ten months that most homeless advocates have helped over their careers. The forces of lawlessness are regrouping, however, and Smith’s successes may wind up reversed in a renewed attack on the police.

“Before Smith’s Safer City Imitative began in September 2006, Skid Row’s 50 blocks had reached a level of depravity that stunned even longtime observers. Encampments composed of tents and cardboard boxes covered practically every inch of sidewalk. Their 1,500 or so occupants, stretched out in lawn chairs or sprawled on the pavement, injected heroin and smoked crack and marijuana in plain view, day and night. Feces, urine, and drug-resistant bacteria coated the ground. Even drug addicts were amazed at the scene…

“The human chaos hid entrenched criminal networks. The biggest heroin gang in downtown Los Angeles operated from the area’s west end, using illegal aliens to peddle dope supplied by the Mexican Mafia. Able-bodied dealers sold drugs from wheelchairs and from tents color-coded to signal the wares within. Young Bloods and Crips from Watt’s housing projects battled over drug turf and amused themselves by robbing the elderly…

“In May 2006, a mentally ill woman who had repeatedly resisted offers of housing and services was stomped to death by a homeless parolee. That night, 82 shelter beds were available on Skid Row; a business improvement district’s homeless outreach team could persuade only two people to accept them.

“Nonviolent crime also metastasized on Skid Row, fed by government welfare. General relief payments—California’s little-copied welfare program for able-bodied childless adults—arrive early in the month, followed a few days later by Federal Supplemental Security Income for drug addicts and the mentally ill. Skid Row’s population and partying spiked around check days. When the money was gone, smoked away in crack pipes or injected into veins, the hustling began. A doctor’s clinic in the Hispanic MacArthur Park neighborhood sent a van out to collect volunteers for Medicaid fraud; it offered $20 to anyone willing to take a fake health exam, and then billed the exams to the government at exorbitant rates. Two food-stamp rings, paying homeless recipients 50 cents for every dollar’s worth of stamps , stole $6 million from federal taxpayers. The spending money handed out in these scams went right back into the drug trade, keeping the homeless addicted and the drug sellers in diamond tooth caps.

“This lawlessness hurt Skid Row’s law-abiding residents the most. The area’s century-old residential hotels and missions house thousands of senior citizens, non-drug-abusing mentally ill persons, and addicts trying to turn their lives around.” (City Journal, Autumn 2007, pp. 15-16)

Sacramento’s Transit Future

The future of transit in our community is already being determined as people continue to stop using public transit, favoring personal, for which there are many reasons: demographics, safety, convenience, flexibility, etc, and solid trends (which this one is) are fought against at a community’s peril.

Hopefully Sacramento’s leaders will see the facts rather than fictions in making their decision where to put transit dollars.

Editorial: Getting to the future
Transit plan is key to region's well-being
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How will the Sacramento region cope with the growing population, and what role will transit play? Those are questions two sets of planners are studying…

The problems the region faces are obvious. SACOG projects that by 2035 the region will add 525,000 homes and 535,000 jobs as the population grows by an additional 1 million residents. More traffic congestion, dirtier air and longer commutes will be inevitable if nothing is done.

The Metropolitan Transportation Plan for 2035 will invest $42 billion in the six-county Sacramento region over the next 28 years. Using land-use and transportation planning, SACOG seeks to reduce time spent commuting, protect air quality and improve the quality of life in the region.

RT hopes to build upon the SACOG plan with an extensive review of its options. The problems for RT are clear: Only 1.1 percent of all trips in its service area are on buses or light rail, and bus ridership has been declining 1 percent per year. More people walk and bike than use RT. If RT is going to increase its minuscule share of daily trips, it will need to attract "lifestyle users," people who have other options.

Natomas & the Markets

What we see here, with some liking it and some not, is the market at work. Most people want to live in suburbs, transport themselves around by car, and shop at big box centers that offer good prices, so suburbs like Natomas need to respond to that or not sell homes.

Singles, whether young or old, are more open to the urban or suburban village development because they either enjoy walking or biking and/or have the extra time that mode of transit demands, and don’t have as great a need—as do suburban families—to carry stuff in a car trunk, so the markets will also respond to that.

Sacramento, at least at this point, appears to have more people who want suburban living rather than urban or village, and so suburbs are what the market has to deliver.

That’s what markets do, deliver what the customer wants, and that is part of what makes this system of ours that favored by much of the world.

North Natomas: Visions of a community neighborhood lost in a car-oriented suburb
By Mary Lynne Vellinga -
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Before the home construction crews and bulldozers descended on the flat plain of North Natomas, city leaders made their vision clear: The northern frontier of Sacramento would be a pedestrian-friendly place where people could work, play and shop in the same neighborhood.

Not only that, this city within a city would pay for itself. The houses, stores and offices would generate enough fees and taxes to build roads and community facilities as well as pay for public safety and other city services.

Eight years and 15,000 homes later, city leaders say the reality has fallen well short of that vision. North Natomas doesn't look or feel much different from nearby suburbs. In some respects, it's more car-oriented than most because its roads are oversized to handle traffic from Arco Arena.

"It still is a suburban community, and I think what we envisioned was something that would be more than a suburban community," Councilman Steve Cohn said at a recent council workshop on growth.

Land once envisioned for job centers has been rezoned for big box stores, served by broad, traffic-clogged roads. More rezoning proposals are in the works. A promised light-rail line may be decades away, and bus service is sparse. Sound walls separate neighborhoods from sidewalks and streets.

California Fires & Environmentalism

A very good take on the policy around clearing brush from homes to protect them from wildfires in California.

October 29, 2007
The Environmentalist Fires
By John Berlau

Last week, CNN delayed for a few hours the scheduled Tuesday night broadcast debut of its much-hyped documentary series "Planet in Peril" due to live coverage of the tragic wildfires that have displaced more than 500,000 people in Southern California. But that didn't keep CNN "golden boy" reporter Anderson Cooper from using the tragedy to tout the program he starred in as much as he could.

Cooper constantly claimed during the week that the fires provided further confirmation of the documentary's prediction of an eco-catastrophe. Cooper said that higher temperature due to global warming may have been a factor. It was a "timely documentary," Cooper said last Tuesday on CNN's "Larry King Live", because "California certainly seems to be in peril."

But ironically, much of the reason California is in peril is due not to climate change, but to the very environmental policies championed by Cooper's documentary and our new Nobel laureate, Al Gore. While, in its statement praising Gore, the Nobel Committee said that global warming may "threaten the living conditions of much of mankind," the current wildfires show that the more immediate threat to man comes from the champions of the gnatcatcher, kangaroo rat, and the Delhi Sands Flower-Loving fly.

Environmental mandates have made fire safety for humans take a back seat to the well-being of the aforementioned California creatures, as well as that of every bug and rat lucky enough to be listed as an "endangered species" under federal and state law. For over a decade, environmentalists have hamstrung Californians in their efforts to clear the dry brush that is providing the fuel for this massive fire. If any of these endangered or even "threatened" species are found in shrubs or bushes on public or private property, it becomes very difficult to give this vegetation even the slightest haircut. This is true even if city codes require firebreaks to be built.

An example of the legal strait jacket that homeowners faced in the areas hit by the fires is the "brush management guide" on the City of San Diego web site. The confusing instructions state that vegetation within 100 feet of homes in canyon areas "must be thinned and pruned regularly." But then, the same sentence goes on to state that this must be achieved "without harming native plants, soil or habitats."

Then in fine print at the bottom of the page, the real kicker comes in:

"Brush management is not allowed in coastal sage scrub during the California gnatcatcher nesting season, from March 1st through August 15th. This small bird only lives in coastal sage scrub and is listed as a threatened species by the federal government. Any harm to this bird could result in fines and penalties."

Coastal sage scrub is a low plant ubiquitous near coastal California that grows like a weed under almost any condition. And since gnatcatcher nesting season lasts almost six months, there could be much buildup of sage scrub that becomes hard for homeowners to control. Especially since the maintenance rules severely restrict the use of mechanical brush-clearing devices even when gnat nesting season is over.

The tragedy is that this shows that not much has changed even after previous warnings from experts that environmental rules were on a collision course with fire safety in California and many other places, because they prevented the removal of "excess fuel" for fires from dense stands of trees and vegetation. Southern California homes were lost in 1993 after the federal Fish and Wildlife Service told homeowners that mechanical clearing of brush would likely violate the Endangered Species Act. The reason: it could alter the habitat of a newly-listed endangered species called the Stephens kangaroo rat.

Some exemptions were made, and clarifications were issued, but landowners still face the lingering risk that the simple act of building a firebreak can send them down the river if an endangered species is anywhere near their property. California's Blue Ribbon Fire Commission, which had been created after wildfires in 2003 by then-Governor Gray Davis and whose members included Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., as well as state legislators of both parties, concluded that "habitat preservation and environmental protection have often conflicted with sound fire safe planning."

But did this bipartisan finding or any of the documented harms to fire safety from environmental rules make it into CNN's exploration of possible causes of the current fires? Not a gnatcatcher's chance. Instead, climate "expert" Cooper told viewers Wednesday night that the wildfires were "symptoms of a planet in peril. Fire, drought, deforestation; it's all connected."

Yet the data show that temperature for areas hit by the fire was well within average ranges, and came nowhere near the record highs. On Monday the 23rd, for instance the high temperature in Escondido was 84 degrees, and the high in Santa Ana was 87 degrees. According to temperature statistics from the National Weather Service, the mean high in both cities for that date is 79 degrees. What's more, the record high for that date is 102 degrees in Escondido (in 1929) and 103 degrees in Santa Ana (in 1965). So tell us again, Anderson, how global warming is to blame, when the weather where the fires struck was not nearly as hot as it was more than 40 years ago and almost 80 years ago!

What about those harsh Santa Ana winds? Well, they are pretty strong. Here's one writer's description: "It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch."

Woooo! What a great description of the winds last week. Except that this passage wasn't written last week, last month, or last year. It was written by detective fiction master Raymond Chandler to describe the Santa Ana winds of about 70 years ago. It's in the opening paragraph of his famous short story "Red Wind," first published in 1938. So rough winds are nothing new under the California sun!

What's really changing the "climate" in Southern California is that there is more fuel for fires, since much less of the brush, as well as disease-infested trees, can be cleared, thanks to environmental mandates.

Our Future?

Hmmm…don’t know about the stream part…or “replicable to the masses” perspective, but worth a look, I guess…

Eco-Cities Take Root
Source: Lara Abrams Melman
The home -- and the neighborhood -- of the future is on its way.

Coming soon to a market near you is a zero-carbon property, surrounded by a meandering stream that treats your wastewater and recycles it to you. The heat from the sun generates enough electricity to power the entire house. The green roof and smart walls of the house provide natural, radiant heating and cooling. You and your neighbors will bike or walk to work; you'll also have the option to car-share any of the electric vehicles at their charging stations.

This home of the future is coming, but you'll find it in China before it springs up in the U.S.

Ask Harrison Fraker, Dean of U.C. Berkeley's College of Environmental Design, and he'll tell you that China is the place you can make the fastest and most aggressive change. In a country where an estimated 60 percent of sewage is discharged untreated, a population that's soaring, and the rate of environmental destruction at an all time high, global warming pollution the cause for almost half a million deaths, with environmental damage costing China to the tune of $200 billion a year, they have reason to stop and make some serious changes.

Fraker's involvement began when Berkeley was invited to work with the planning and design institute of Tianjin to work on transit concepts for a light rail system. The city leaders wanted advice and prototypes for how neighborhoods could best take advantage of green transit options such as pedestrian bike shortcuts in developing green transit oriented neighborhoods.

This request alone marked a significant detour from the current model used for urban residential development in China: the SuperBlock, a model that relies on a centralized infrastructure of power plants and electric power lines, sewage treatment plants and sewers, and a sanitary water supply provided by the city or provincial utilities. These are typically gated communities with few entry points, and very little attention is placed on creating resource-efficient homes in the SuperBlock model. With 11 million SuperBlock units under construction per year, and it becomes clear how significant a toll these communities are taking on China's environment.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sacramento Trolley

It would probably be wise for public leadership to secure a vibrant downtown prior to expending some $50 plus million on a system requiring a vibrant downtown to support it.

A better use of transportation money now might be towards the already vibrant freeways and roads in our region needing expansion and maintenance.

Relic may be rolling again
Streetcar plan gains speed as cities see practical charm
By Tony Bizjak -
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, October 29, 2007

On a winter's evening six decades ago, Sacramento's last two streetcars trundled quietly into retirement, pushed aside by the city's booming postwar car culture.
Sacramento streets had gone modern. Cars were unchallenged kings of the road, and Sacramentans were loving it.

"Everybody was buying cars," says lifelong Sacramentan Donald Rivett. "People were putting on the dog."

But times change, and so do ideas of what's modern.

Faced with congestion, parking woes and bland streetscapes, Sacramento planners have reached an ironic conclusion:

They want streetcars back, and soon.

Sacramento and West Sacramento hope to build a $53 million-plus streetcar rail line that would traverse the Tower Bridge and venture a mile into each city's downtown – and do it within the next four years.

The ambitious plan faces challenges. It will require a high level of cooperation between two sometimes cross-river rival cities. It'll also need unprecedented buy-in from local landowners: Officials say property owners will be asked to pay a good chunk of the cost.

Local Government Revenue Down

The Parkway is managed and funded by local government and when their funding drops, the Parkway, due to already being on the bottom of the priority list, suffers more than it already is, running about $1.1 million short annually, just in basic maintenance.

We have called for the Parkway to be managed by a nonprofit organization (like the Sacramento Zoo and Central Park in New York) giving it the ability to raise supplemental funding philanthropically and making it much more resilient during tough times

City faces soaring deficit
It freezes hiring as housing crisis takes toll on budget
By Terri Hardy -
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, October 29, 2007

The nation's housing crisis has hit Sacramento's economy like a sledgehammer, prompting a city government hiring freeze this month and an urgent examination into how millions can be trimmed from the budget.

A report that will be presented to the City Council on Tuesday spells out the grim news: By the 2008-09 fiscal year, a city deficit could grow to between $45 million and $55 million. The city's 2007-08 budget is about $960 million.

"We were hoping for a soft landing from the housing market problems, but it didn't turn out that way," Russell Fehr, the city's finance director, said on Sunday. "We have a widening gap that will grow and grow if we don't do something about it."

Fehr ruled out layoffs, at least for now. He said he expects necessary cuts can come from attrition, the hiring freeze and restricting some discretionary spending like travel.

"It's a long-standing city policy that you do everything you can to avoid laying off career employees," Fehr said.

The report says Sacramento is not alone; local governments including Sacramento County, and eventually the state, are having similar problems.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Railyards & Sacramento History

Folding development around historical treasures has always been beneficial to communities, when done well; and realizing that the rail history of our region does have national importance bodes well for this development, if done well.

Is vision as grand as Sacramento's history?
Pia Lopez: The railyard's Central Shops could give city its iconic sense of place in history
By Pia Lopez -
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, October 28, 2007

Enclosed by the route of the world's first transcontinental railroad are seven 19th century buildings in the Sacramento railyard. The buildings – massive brick buildings dating from 1860s – may not look it in their current state, but they are the jewels of downtown.

The railyard's Central Shops, where locomotives and railroad cars were built and repaired for more than 100 years, should be on the National Historic Register. They should be admired and enjoyed by Sacramentans, while drawing visitors from all over the world.

Properly redone, the core buildings of the railyard would give the city an iconic sense of place, just as the Ferry Terminal and the Piers projects have done for San Francisco.

Sacramento is not just the state Capitol or the launching pad for the Gold Rush. While Promontory, Utah, takes credit for the transcontinental railroad – though it was only an accidental meeting point – the story really is Sacramento's. And the Central Shops in the railyard were an epicenter of technological innovation and the Central Valley's largest employer through the 1950s.

The city should claim the story by making something of the site where it took place. Unfortunately, attempts to develop the 240-acre railyard have proceeded in fits and starts since 1989, mostly fits – with private development teams coming and going. In the past, negotiations have broken down over toxic cleanup, infrastructure costs and fear of competition from downtown retail merchants.

Now, there is a new sense of optimism about the railyard. A development project has gone further than any in the past. Union Pacific has sold the land. Toxic cleanup is proceeding. The developer, Thomas Enterprises, has engaged the community in numerous meetings and presented plans for a dynamic mix of restaurants, shops, housing, offices and a museum.

America: A Great Country

Always nice to get the facts occasionally to counter the tales of woe voiced by many.

The Decline and Fall of Declinism
By Alan W. Dowd Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Filed under: Big Ideas, Economic Policy

Some people don’t want to admit it, but America is in great shape.

Under the heading “The end of a U.S.-centric world?” the PostGlobal section of The Washington Post website recently declared that “U.S. influence is in steep decline.” It was just the latest verse in a growing chorus of declinist doom-saying at home and abroad.

In 2004, Pat Buchanan lamented “the decline and fall of the greatest industrial republic the world had ever seen.” In 2005, The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee concluded that Hurricane Katrina exposed “a hollow superpower.” In 2007, Pierre Hassner of the Paris-based National Foundation for Political Science declared, “It will not be the New American Century.”

And the dirge goes on.

It’s a familiar tune, of course. We heard it in the early 1990s, when economists, political scientists and pundits were quipping that while the U.S. and Soviet military superpowers waged the Cold War, it was economic superpowers Japan and Germany that won it; in the 1980s, when Paul Kennedy led the chorus by concluding that America was tumbling toward “imperial overstretch;” in the 1970s, when the U.S. slipped into a malaise; and in the 1960s, which began with the U.S. unable to dislodge a communist dictator 90 miles off its coast and ended with the U.S. unable to hold back the spread of communism half-a-world away.

But the declinists were wrong yesterday. And if their record—and America’s—are any indication, they are just as wrong today.

Any discussion of U.S. power has to begin with its enormous economy. At $13.13 trillion, the U.S. economy represents 20 percent of global output. It’s growing faster than Britain’s, Australia’s, Germany’s, Japan’s, Canada’s, even faster than the vaunted European Union.

In fact, even when Europe cobbles together its 25 economies under the EU banner, it still falls short of U.S. GDP—and will fall further behind as the century wears on. Gerard Baker of the Times of London notes that the U.S. economy will be twice the size of Europe’s by 2021.

On the other side of the world, some see China’s booming economy as a threat to U.S. economic primacy. However, as Baker observes, the U.S. is adding “twice as much in absolute terms to global output” as China. The immense gap in per capita income—$44,244 in the U.S. versus $2,069 in China—adds further perspective to the picture.

GW Solution Worse than Problem?

Another take.

Nobel in Alarm, Ignoble in Solution
By Kenneth P. Green Friday, October 12, 2007
Filed under: Science & Technology
Al Gore identified the problem, writes KENNETH P. GREEN, but his cure is worse than the disease.

It’s no surprise that Al Gore has added a Nobel Prize to his Academy Award. The political winds have been blowing in his direction for many years now. And to be fair about it, one has to applaud Gore’s climate crusade on several levels: his tenacity, effectiveness, and persuasiveness are all on par with other Nobel winners.

Few informed observers would deny the nugget of truth in Gore’s movie, namely, that the Earth’s climate is warming and that there is a plausible theory linking some of that warming to man-made greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions and land-use changes. It’s also clear that significant action is needed to address the risks of a changing climate. After Hurricane Katrina, we’re all too aware of how easily seawalls can collapse and coastal areas can become inundated by storm surges. In this regard, Gore’s Nobel is certainly warranted. He has done more to raise awareness of the potential risks of climate change than any other individual in human history.

But there is a sharp distinction to be made between the scientific beneficence of Gore’s message and the destructiveness of his favored policy prescriptions. Although it has suited Gore and the environmental movement to claim that the dispute over climate change is about science—and a few vocal critics of climate science have enabled them to do so—the real fight has always been about the choice of response.

For Gore and his allies, the gold standard of climate policy is the Kyoto Protocol, with its immediate and unrealistically harsh curbs on the GHG emissions of developed countries. Anyone promoting alternative proposals—such as adaptation, sequestration, or geo-engineering—has been slandered as a “denier” or a mad-scientist, even if, as in the cases of Paul Crutzen and Norman Borlaug, they also have Nobel Prizes.

Sadly, Gore’s left-wing policy filter remains in place today. He seems fixated on the idea of a “cap-and-trade” system—yet another technocratic scheme in which a centralized body decides the amount of GHG emissions a given country is allowed, and then decides whether to let wealthier countries “buy” permits from developing countries in order to reduce overall global emissions. Like the Kyoto Protocol, this system has already showed signs of failure in Europe, and it is destined to fail even more ignominiously if applied to the entire world.

China & GE: A Green Team

A partnership made in heaven and cleaner air to boot. A very good thing!

China buys GE's 'green' push
General Electric's bid to sell green products to China is working, writes Fortune's Marc Gunther.
By Marc Gunther, Fortune senior writer
October 25 2007: 6:22 AM EDT

(Fortune) -- In the two years since Stefano (Steve) Bertamini moved to Shanghai to become CEO of GE China, he has a sense that the days are less smoggy and more sunny.

This is more anecdotal than scientific, but it's among the reasons that Bertamini believes that, with GE's help, China will eventually go green - clean up its air and water, become more efficient and develop less-polluting sources of energy.

"The Chinese will lead the way in these technologies," Bertamini says, "just because they will have to."

We hope he's right. By most accounts, China has already become the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases (although on a per capita basis, it still lags way, way behind the United States).

Its air and water pollution problems are well-documented, most recently in this article in Foreign Affairs by Elizabeth Economy. People in the United States and the European Union can buy all the compact fluorescent light bulbs and hybrid cars they want, but without China's help, the climate crisis can't be solved.

A big part of Bertamini's job is selling environmentally-friendly products to China as part of GE's much-publicized "Ecomagination" strategy to become a leader in green technology.

In China, GE (Charts, Fortune 500) appears to be making headway: The country is now one of the company's largest foreign markets, with $5.4 billion in revenues last year, a nearly fourfold increase since 2001. GE has 12,000 employees in China, including about 1,200 who work in a research and development center in Shanghai. It has 23 joint ventures with Chinese firms; last year, just to pick one example, the company opened its first wind turbine assembly plant, in the city of Shenyang.

"We're looking at 15 percent-plus growth for the foreseeable future," Bertamini told me when we met for breakfast last week in Washington. China's booming economy is expected to grow another 11 percent this year, so GE is getting more than its share.

GE unveils 'green' card

GE has been especially successful at selling Ecomagination jet engines, locomotives and wind turbines, said Bertamini. The company has sold 84 of its GEnx engines, which use less fuel, generate fewer emissions and are quieter than typical aircraft engines.

Southland Fires

Good background on living in fire prone semi-wild areas.

The Fires Next Time
Welcome to the Wildland Urban Interface.
Saturday, October 27, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Cooler temperatures and weaker Santa Ana winds have enabled firefighters to gain a measure of control over the blazes in Southern California. And state officials are optimistic that the worst is behind them. But estimated property damage exceeds $1 billion--a result in part of too many people living in fire-prone areas.

As of Friday, some 700 square miles had burned, 1,600 homes had been destroyed and more than 500,000 people in San Diego County had been displaced. The national media have focused on the federal response, eager to compare it to the Hurricane Katrina fiasco of two years ago. However, local officials also deserve scrutiny. Fires in Southern California are a natural phenomenon, like tornadoes in Kansas and flooding in the Mississippi Delta. But public policy makers can and should put in place incentives to minimize the potential havoc.

A good first step would be to require state and local governments to foot more of the costs of fighting these fires. The U.S. Forest Service, which is part of the Department of Agriculture, is tasked with combating fires in national forests. But most of the agency's time and resources are spent protecting adjacent private property in what is known as the "wildland urban interface," or WUI for the fire cognoscenti.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Climate Change: The Cup Half Full Perspective

Accepting the fact that there are two (or more) sides to most issues, the authors present the positive.

ECONOMIST, n. a scoundrel whose faulty vision sees things as they really are, not as they ought to be.—after Ambrose Bierce

The Benefits of Climate Change
By Daniel K. Benjamin

Many people believe that human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases will lead to higher temperatures and increased precipitation during the 21st century. Similarly, it is thought that these changes may have an impact on economic well-being. The question remains: If such changes occur, will their economic effects be positive or negative? A definitive answer to this question is likely to be a long time coming, but recent research has shed new light on one important aspect. Olivier Deschênes and Michael Greenstone (2007) show that the changes in temperatures and precipitation forecast by the standard models of climate change will actually benefit agriculture in America.

The authors take no position on whether existing models of global climate change are valid. Instead, they ask this question: Assuming that the models’ predicted increases in temperatures and precipitation occur, what are the consequences for American agriculture? They find that the lengthened growing seasons and added precipitation implied by the most widely cited global climate change models will modestly increase agricultural yields and thereby enhance the profitability of American agriculture.

Past research into the possible impact of climate change on agriculture has produced wildly varying results, with almost any set of consequences—positive or negative—seemingly possible. At one extreme, it has been estimated that climate change might reduce agricultural productivity so much as to cut the value of agricultural land by almost 20 percent. At the other extreme, the outcome might be increased productivity that pushes the value of agricultural land up by almost 30 percent.

Deschênes and Greenstone show that these widely differing numbers from past research are not the result of uncertainty about the climate and its effects on agriculture. Instead, they are the result of the statistical methods used by researchers. In particular, these methods turn out to be highly sensitive to small changes in the data samples, and to small changes in the way the data are used. To avoid this sensitivity, the authors employ a method in which the observed productivity impacts of past changes in temperatures and precipitation are used to infer the likely impacts of future changes in temperature and precipitation.

The most widely cited models of climate change predict that, over the remainder of the century, average temperatures will rise by about 50F and precipitation will eventually average about eight inches more per year. Using these predictions, combined with the effects of past swings in temperature and precipitation, the authors conclude that agricultural productivity in the United States is likely to rise slightly (about 4 percent) due to climate change, yielding modest positive economic benefits.

Lower K Street, War Zone or No?

Recently a state office on K Street closed shop and moved to get away from the blight that has long been a part of working there, but others might be moving in, and a request for a survey about the status of K Street, war zone or not?

Bob Shallit: City core could lose its only hardware store
By Bob Shallit -
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, October 27, 2007

Downtown fix-up: The owner of downtown's historic Kress building is about to launch an eco-friendly makeover now that its lone tenant has left the 818 K St. location.

"This will be the first green historic building in downtown Sacramento," says Jim Brennan, adviser to the Trancas Group of Napa, which owns the Kress and several other downtown properties.

The 6-month, $2.5 million rehab will begin immediately and include new electrical and HVAC systems, a rooftop garden and lots of energy-saving features designed to earn certification as a LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – building, Brennan says.

Until last week, it was occupied by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. Brennan understands why the state agency relocated to new digs at 400 R.

"It's a war zone down there," he says of K Street. "Who would want to be there?"

But he's optimistic that the long-blighted stretch is poised for big improvements – assuming the city can end a dispute with developer Moe Mohanna that has stalemated development.

Once that squabble is resolved, several development groups – including Trancas – will move forward with plans for improving the street, Brennan predicts.

"This area will turn around like you won't believe," he says.

Your say on K: Speaking of K Street, is the stretch just east of Downtown Plaza really all that bad? Some folks think words like "war zone" overstate the problem and feel the 700-800 blocks are perfectly safe, albeit way overdue for redevelopment.
Let's hear your thoughts. The area is:

A) Gritty but fine. I walk there without fear.
B) Not so savory. I avoid it.
C) A war zone. You won't catch me there dead – or alive.

Send your vote (and a pithy comment or two, if you like) to the e-mail the top of this column. We'll run the results on Wednesday.

Cal Expo & Parkway

A major aspect of the arena deal will be the recreational development that can occur in the Parkway part of the Cal Expo area which can add immeasurably to the overall recreational destination value of the complex, and seeing the distinguished former governor, Pete Wilson, selected as the lead consultant, is wonderful news.

Wilson joins arena team
Cal Expo picks ex-governor and colleagues to handle the early talks with the NBA.
By Mary Lynne Vellinga -
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cal Expo on Friday tapped former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson to negotiate a deal with the NBA for a new Kings arena at the state fairgrounds.

Members of Cal Expo's executive committee voted unanimously to retain Wilson, who is a lawyer, and sports consultant Gregory Clark. Both Wilson and Clark work for Bingham McCutchen, an international law firm.

Cal Expo has agreed to pay the firm $400 an hour for each man's services over the next two months – an amount that Cal Expo staff members described as a significant discount from their customary rates.

Two other Bingham consultants, Sean Walsh and Tom Gede, will work for Cal Expo without pay. Walsh served as press secretary during the Wilson administration and also worked as a senior policy adviser and director of the the state Office of Planning and Research for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Walsh and Gede are in the process of opening a Sacramento office for Bingham.
Wilson and Clark are charged with negotiating a memorandum of understanding that resolves major deal points between the NBA and Cal Expo.

The idea is to lay the groundwork for a commercial development that would produce money to both build an arena and revamp the aging fairgrounds.

"If we are successful, we will have done something that will be good for the city and good for the state; that is our hope and purpose," Wilson said in a phone interview Friday. "We are obviously honored that Cal Expo reached out to us and engaged us to do that for them."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Worst Appears Over

With a wonderful visit by the President, Governor Schwarzenegger and Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Southland begins pulling out of the ashes, while still battling some fires.

Federal, state and local leadership has been superb in dealing with this disaster.

Bush's message: You're not alone
By Andy Furillo -
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, October 26, 2007

ESCONDIDO – …President Bush spent four hours Thursday touring fire-ravaged San Diego and trying to show that he and his administration feel the pain of America's latest natural disaster victims.

Bush's tour of a torched Rancho Bernardo neighborhood and a hand-shaking, back-slapping encounter with soot-stained firefighters came barely two years after he was harshly criticized for his administration's response to Hurricane Katrina.

The president deflected a question about the Katrina-San Diego comparison, saying, "I'm thinking about people whose lives are turned upside down. The experts can try to figure out whether the response was appropriate or not.

He added, "There is all kinds of time for history to compare this response to that response."

Was Katrina on his mind? How could it not be, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who stood behind Bush while he made some brief remarks at Kit Carson City Park in Escondido, where 2,000 firefighters were camped out after five days on the front lines.

"Katrina is still on everybody's minds," Feinstein said in an interview with The Bee. "I don't think any of us will ever get over it."…

"It was very important for the president to come out here," Schwarzenegger said in an interview while touring the evacuation center at Escondido High School. "It was very important that he gave us the emergency declaration and the natural disaster declaration – that to us was the most important thing."

Atlanta Drought

This is getting real serious, and appears to be another struggle between the needs of the environment and human needs.

October 22, 2007
Atlanta Shudders at Prospect of Empty Faucets

ATLANTA, Oct. 22 — For more than five months, the lake that provides drinking water to almost five million people here has been draining away in a withering drought.

Sandy beaches have expanded into flats of orange mud. Tree stumps not seen in half a century have resurfaced. Scientists have warned of impending disaster.

And life has, for the most part, gone on just as before.

The response to the worst drought on record in the Southeast has unfolded in ultra-slow motion. All summer, more than a year after the drought began, fountains blithely sprayed, football fields were watered, prisoners got two showers a day and Coca-Cola’s bottling plants chugged along at full strength. In early October, on an 81-degree day, an outdoor theme park began to manufacture what was intended to be a 1.2-million gallon mountain of snow.

In late September, with Lake Lanier forecast to dip into the dregs of “dead storage” in less than four months, the state imposed a ban on outdoor water use. Gov. Sonny Perdue declared October “Take a Shorter Shower Month.”

On Saturday, he declared a state of emergency for more than half the state and asked for federal assistance, though the state has not yet restricted indoor water use or cut back on major commercial and industrial users, a step that could cause a significant loss of jobs.

These last-minute measures belie a history of inaction in Georgia and across the South when it comes to managing and conserving water, even in the face of rapid growth. Between 1990 and 2000, Georgia’s water use increased by 30 percent. But the state has not yet come up with an estimate of how much water is available during periods of normal rainfall, much less a plan to handle the worst-case scenario of dry faucets.

Lake Davis Update

Tragedy continues and one hopes it works this time.

Diana Jorgenson
Portola Editor

Now that the poisoning of Lake Davis has been completed, Pike Steering Committee members found themselves bringing a new set of questions to agency representatives at their most recent meeting Oct. 15.

First among them, committee and community members wanted to know when people would be allowed back into the Lake Davis area. The full forest closure is still in effect and will be lifted in stages according to data obtained in the water monitoring reports.

When the streams and tributaries receive one "non-detect" report of chemical residuals, the upper watershed region will be re-opened to the public.

The lake will remain closed, however, until three such reports occur. Since the water is sampled every two weeks, the Department of Fish and Game has maintained that the lake would remain closed for a minimum of 45 days.

Chemicals found in the water, as is currently the situation, would prolong the closure until the requisite three "clear" water samplings are in hand.

Pike Committee member Bill Powers addressed another community concern regarding water temperature and whether the water was too cold for the chemical to be effective.

Ed Pert, DFG project director, replied that even now the lake water was 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which was warmer than the temperatures at the time of treatment in 1997.

At the time of the current poisoning Sept. 25, the temperature was warmer than it is currently and well within the effective range of CFT-Legumine.

Pert also reported that the lake had turned over two-three days before the treatment so that temperature and oxygen levels were evenly distributed throughout the lake.

Most of the other questions the committee members brought to the table on behalf of the community regarded fish, fish and more fish.

The electro-shocking currently underway at Lake Davis is finding bullheads still alive: what does this mean? Will there be ice fishing? Does the small percentage of pike mean that there weren't many in there? When will restocking begin?

Pert reported that the fish cleanup was complete, with a total of 48,000 pounds of fish carted off to a Nevada landfill. Additional fish were left for local wildlife.

He went on to say that beyond the preliminary report of fish species sampling already reported in the newspaper, the final numbers were still untabulated.

Water Power Technology

The innovative technological market keeps doing it—solving problems—for which we all benefit.

Pint-size hydro power on tap
By Michael Kanellos
Wed Oct 24 12:56:40 PDT 2007

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--It's hamster-size hydroelectric power.

Rentricity, a start-up in New York City, has come up with a hydroelectric generator that lets municipal water facilities generate power. Pressurized water from the facility passes through a turbine, and the turbine produces water. The water subsequently comes out of your faucet.

The company doesn't like to use the term "hydroelectric power"--which conjures up images of large construction projects and regulatory tangles--but the principles are the same, Frank Zammataro, president of Rentricity, said during a meeting here at the Dow Jones Alternative Energy Innovations conference.

The system works because municipalities process millions of gallons of water a day and the water gets highly pressurized during the purification process. Some facilities process 9 million gallons of water a day and hold the water at 45 psi (pounds per square inch). If water came out of the faucet at that pressure, you'd have trouble washing your face without getting welts. Thus, water districts have to artificially bleed off the pressure.

But instead of doing that, the utility can make electricity. A single "Flow-to-Wire" micro-turbine generator from Rentricity can produce anywhere from 20 to 300 kilowatts of power, depending on the pressure and water flow. (A U.S. home solar system typically generates about 3 kilowatts.) Sensors and software from the company also monitor performance.

"It won't reduce the flow," Zammataro said. "We are taking off-the-shelf technology but configuring it in unusual ways."

High Speed Rail

This is good to hear as this is a terrific project.

Funding keeps high-speed rail project alive
The state Transportation Commission allocates $15.5 million for engineering and design work on the proposed line between the Southland and San Francisco...
By Patrick McGreevy
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 25, 2007

SACRAMENTO -- Despite lingering doubts about its future, a proposal to build a high-speed rail line between Southern California and San Francisco was kept alive Wednesday when the state Transportation Commission allocated $15.5 million for engineering and design work.

The money is a small fraction of the $40 billion that the system would cost to complete, but commissioners said they were not willing to pull the plug even though full financing had not been arranged.

"Us supporting that allocation doesn't mean it's going to get built," said Commissioner Jim Earp. "There are still a lot of hurdles. But there is no reason not to keep it alive at this point."

The money for various transportation projects has already been approved by the governor and Legislature as part of the state budget, but the Transportation Commission makes the final determination on which projects are funded.

The proposal calls for a 700-mile rail system in which trains traveling as fast as 220 mph whisk passengers from Southern California to the Bay Area in a little more than 2 1/2 hours.

The project was proposed more than a decade ago but has yet to pick up steam.

The money allocated Wednesday came from $20.7 million budgeted this year by the governor and the Legislature for the California High Speed Rail Authority, a state agency that oversees the project. The authority had asked for about $100 million from the state.

"It's a step, but it's not as big a step as we would like," said Kris Deutschman, a spokeswoman for the authority, regarding the commission's vote. "At least it's a vote of confidence."

Dams Called For

This draft report, following on the call by Senator Feinstein to build more dams, follows suit and includes a conveyance canal.

Delta ecology emphasized
By Mike Taugher
San Jose Mercury News
Article Launched:10/25/2007 01:34:52 AM PDT

The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta's ecosystem should not be treated as an afterthought, and water managers should expect to get less delta water in the future, according to a high-level commission.

In a draft report being considered today and Friday, the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force also recommends the state impose strict limits on new housing in the region's floodplains and that it build new reservoirs and an aqueduct to deliver water from Northern California to the south.

But with the state's thirst on a collision course with the delta's faltering ecosystem, the panel's bedrock conclusion is that the needs of water agencies can no longer trump environmental concerns.

"The history of the delta has been to secure water supplies first and then worry about environmental mitigation later," the panel's latest set of draft recommendations says, noting that such an approach is a recipe for "endless volatility and conflict, to no one's benefit."

After record-high water deliveries out of the delta - and crashing fish populations - that volatility and conflict is on the rise.

Next year, for example, the amount of water pumped from the delta into canals heading into the East Bay, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California could be cut by up to one-third to prevent delta smelt from going extinct, water officials say. Environmentalists say the cost to the water supply will be much less.

Panel members will meet in West Sacramento today and Friday to review the latest draft, which contains their most detailed recommendations to date. The draft will then go through another set of revisions before the panel makes recommendations to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by the end of the year.

The panel will spend most of 2008 coming up with an implementation plan for that vision.

Among the highlights contained in the latest draft:

• "California cannot sacrifice either the unique estuarine ecosystem of the delta or the critical water supplies that power the state's dynamic economy."

• The delta "is not solely an infrastructure system or an ecosystem. The delta is a place of natural beauty, valued first by Native Americans. It has a regional economy and a regional culture as old as any in California, consisting of historic towns, productive farming and close-knit communities."

• "Reducing reliance on the delta means building greater regional self-sufficiency throughout California."

• "New storage, both in ground and above ground, and improved conveyance must be constructed to capture water when least damaging to the environment and efficiently move it to areas of need.

"Building new conveyance alone, without new storage, would seriously compromise the ability to protect the estuary and provide sufficient environmental flows."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Southland Fire Response

The response, all across the board, has been wonderful, and now that the fires seem to be being brought under control, we can all feel great pride in our state and our country’s (and it will continue I am certain) response.

A very good thing.

Daniel Weintraub: Mindful of Katrina, governor leads fire relief effort
By Daniel Weintraub -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, October 25, 2007

For politicians, one big lesson from the Hurricane Katrina disaster is this: worry about the bathrooms.

With 500,000 people in San Diego County ordered from their homes this week as wildfires raced through suburban neighborhoods and rural enclaves – the largest evacuation in state history – thousands were given shelter at Qualcomm Stadium, the home of the NFL's San Diego Chargers.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, recalling the sense of abandonment that fell upon victims of the 2005 hurricane who made their way to the Louisiana Superdome, visited the San Diego stadium, took a very public walk through the crowd, and made a point of inquiring about the basics of life that every evacuee would need.

"We were concerned, do we have enough cots down here, do we have the enough blankets, do we have enough food, do we have water, do we have the baby formulas, do we have the diapers, do we have enough toilet paper, do we have enough toilets?" Schwarzenegger said at a press conference after his tour. "Do we have everything we need for the people here so they can stay overnight?"

Toilets might seem beneath the pay grade of the governor of the nation's most populous state. But if the toilets are overflowing, even if they're not his responsibility, nothing else a chief executive does is going to have much credibility.

And Schwarzenegger was doing a lot. Almost from the moment Monday morning when it became clear that the fires might grow into a serious crisis, the governor cleared his schedule, headed for the action and stayed there for days. Using his personal private jet, he shuttled between Los Angeles and San Diego all week, touring command posts, getting briefed by emergency operations managers and fire chiefs, and convening meetings of his own staff to deal with problems.

Fire Smoke

Though I love a nice wood fire in the winter, I also have family with asthma, and we have reached that point where fires do really need to be severely restricted, one loss of the urban society we truly benefit from, but where one person’s warmth is another’s health risk.

Editorial: Hot air over fireplaces
Today's vote seeks to restrict pollution
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, October 25, 2007

If you or your loved ones don't suffer from asthma, heart problems or lung disease, the effort of the Sacramento Air Quality District to curb wood burning on still winter days may seem silly. It isn't. The health data are overwhelming. Microscopic pieces of soot that blow out of fireplaces penetrate deeply into lungs and can enter the bloodstream, aggravating respiratory diseases and, in the worst cases, triggering heart attacks.

Know-nothing, local talk-show gabsters and bloggers have targeted Sacramento Air Quality Management District officials for ridicule lately because officials have proposed banning residential burning on the most polluted days of the winter. Under the rule initially proposed, all burning would have been prohibited for an estimated 23 days between November and February, those days when air pollution is at its worst, when there is no wind and atmospheric conditions hold soot, smoke, dust, metals, nitrates and other dangerous pollutants close to the ground, where people live and breathe.

County supervisors and City Council members on the local air board balked at the district proposal last month because it did not exempt less polluting pellet and wood-burning stoves and fireplace inserts certified by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The staff was instructed to list alternatives.

City Growth, Part One

This may not become part of the city after all, or at least cost a lot of extra money for it to be.

Suit aims to block city's expansion
By Mary Lynne Vellinga -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, October 25, 2007

Local environmental groups Wednesday sued to stop the city of Sacramento from annexing 577 acres of North Natomas farmland west of the city limits for 3,500 homes.

The Environmental Council of Sacramento and Friends of the Swainson's Hawk filed a lawsuit against the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission, which oversees annexations. Also joining the Superior Court lawsuit were three individuals.

The plaintiffs allege that LAFCO erred in September when it certified the environmental review for the proposed Greenbriar development and allowed the city of Sacramento to take the land into its sphere of influence – the first step toward annexation.

Don Lockhart, LAFCO assistant executive officer, said Wednesday he had just received the complaint and hadn't had time to review it. "I don't really have anything to say at this time," he said.

Greenbriar project manager Phillip R. Serna said he wasn't surprised by the lawsuit. "That's what these folks seem to do for a living is challenge projects, even projects that have been characterized as smart growth ... transit friendly," he said.

Sacramento has pushed the Greenbriar project as a logical extension of the city, and a crucial link in eventually obtaining federal funding to extend light rail to the airport.

City Growth, Part Two

And it also looks like it might stop (or be severely reduced) in this area.

City to agree to N. Natomas building curbs
By Mary Lynne Vellinga -
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Sacramento City Council has decided to follow a federal recommendation that it apply for a flooding designation that would impose building restrictions on North Natomas.

At the same time, however, the council directed staff members to include language in their application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency indicating that the city will later seek an exemption from the requirement that new homes be elevated 3 feet.

In North Natomas – where flood depths could exceed 20 feet – elevating homes by 3 feet would do no good, but would be so expensive that it would bring construction to a halt, said Gregory Thatch, a lawyer representing builders.

Sacramento and Sutter counties also plan to apply for the AR designation, which bans new construction outside existing urbanized areas. An AR designation requires homes built in "infill" areas to be elevated 3 feet, and commercial buildings to be waterproofed.

In September, FEMA rejected the city's application for an A99 designation, which would have allowed growth to continue unabated in North Natomas while the levees are brought up to the federal minimum standard of 100-year flood protection.

The council's unanimous vote Tuesday will let its staff meet a deadline of today to get a new application in. Officials said they will have to submit it without some of the necessary documents, which will be sent along later.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Downtown Blight

Much of it stems from the local political acceptance of human services revolving around the value-free service delivery model, which does not ask from the population being served to assume any personal responsibility for changing their life, resulting in their congregating in the downtown area close to those services they are attracted to.

Bob Shallit: Fed up with K Street blight, agency heads to R
By Bob Shallit -
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fed up with crime and blight, a state agency is fleeing K Street.

The Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development is leaving its digs at 818 K on Friday and moving into a CalPERS-owned building at 400 R St.

A chance to consolidate staffers from two downtown locations into one building is partially the reason for the move. But not the main motivation.

"I've just had it with my people having to (work on K Street)," says Robert David, the office's chief deputy director.

"It's a scary work environment. Our people are accosted for money. Women are hassled. There's open drug dealing," he says.

The agency, which coordinates health planning efforts and hospital expansions, has occupied space since 1992 in the former Kress Co. building, but in the past two years has been on a month-to-month lease. Its 160 employees will be relocated by week's end. An additional 260 OSHPD staffers working at Ninth and P streets will be moved by next spring to R Street, where the agency has signed an eight-year lease.

David says the state agency would have remained on K Street had the city been more successful at cleaning up the long-blighted 700 and 800 blocks.

"It's right on light rail and close to Downtown Plaza. Those are benefits," he says. But those advantages were outweighed by the area's problems – and by the frustration of waiting for city redevelopment efforts to kick in.

"It didn't look like anything was going to improve (soon)," David says.

Downtown Inertia

The culture of government practice, dominating the political culture of downtown, does create inertia that would not be as strong in a town less government oriented.

Combined with the lack of local public leadership evident for many years, gridlock on pressing issues has developed and, apparently, settled in for the duration.

Marcos Bretón: Nit-pickers stand in city's way
By Marcos Bretón -
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sacramento is a city of obstructionists. A city where big ideas are plundered by small interests. A place where people keep their heads down because sticking them up above the pack invites a slap of derision.

Why build beyond ourselves when one can file a lawsuit instead? Or call out the hounds of environmental study? Or hold community meetings where nincompoops drown out viable visions deserving of support?

The result? When will we see that vibrant city that always seems five or 10 years from being realized?

It's part of our community DNA, this endemic reflex to obstruct.

For example, the core of downtown Sacramento is rotten with blight. The 700 and 800 blocks of K Street are wasting away in a seemingly endless patty-cake of litigation between the city and landowner Moe Mohanna.

In the meantime, a black hole of boarded buildings attracts crime. They press up against the Downtown Plaza like a virus. They cut off Old Sacramento from other sections of downtown where great things are happening.

And the local inertia goes deeper.

Mr. Mohanna's business partner is a gent named John Lambeth, who just happens to be chairman of the Executive Committee of the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Yes. You read that correctly. One of the lead officers in the group charged with promoting Sacramento is mixed up with the biggest anti-Sacramento mess going.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Southland Fire Announcement: President Delcares Emergency

Bush declares fire emergency
By James Gerstenzang
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
8:23 AM PDT, October 23, 2007

WASHINGTON — For the latest updates, check our breaking news blog.

President Bush today declared a state of emergency in Southern California, paving the way for federal aid to help fight the region's wildfires.

The declaration follows a request made Monday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for federal assistance.

Firefighters are battling blazes in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Bush's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts. Emergency measures, including direct assistance, will be provided, the White House said this morning.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison are expected to travel to Southern California today.

Speaking at the National Defense University in Washington, Bush expressed concern for those who had lost homes or had been evacuated.

"We extend our prayers and thoughts" to them, he said.

He said Chertoff and Paulison would visit "to listen" and to develop an inventory of supplies that the federal government could provide.

Southland Fires

Latest update from the LA Times about 6:00 AM this morning.

Orange and San Diego counties call for more evacuations overnight
By Tony Perry, Garrett Therolf and Mitchell Landsberg
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
5:46 AM PDT, October 23, 2007

Wind-whipped firestorms destroyed more than 700 homes and businesses in Southern California on Monday, the second day of its onslaught, and more than half a million people in San Diego County were told to evacuate their homes.

The gale-force winds turned hillside canyons into giant blowtorches from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border. Although the worst damage was around San Diego and Lake Arrowhead, dangerous fires also threatened Malibu, parts of Orange and Ventura counties, and the Agua Dulce area near Santa Clarita. New evacuations came overnight in Orange and San Diego counties, as the menacing winds refused to abate.

Late Monday night, new blazes threatened homes near Stevenson Ranch and in Soledad Canyon in northern Los Angeles County. The Soledad Canyon fire burned multiple mobile homes and evacuations were underway, fire officials said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, calling it "a tragic time for California," declared a state of emergency in seven counties and redeployed California National Guard members from the border to support firefighters. President George W. Bush today declared an emergency, which authorizes federal agencies to coordinate relief.

Schwarzenegger stressed how much California officials have learned since the devastating wildfires of October 2003, which raged over much of the same terrain. But as the day wore on, it became clear that any hard-earned knowledge was no match for natural forces overrunning the ability of firefighters to control them.

Dam Wishful Thinking

The Bureau of Reclamation has made it clear that this river restoration will not make it difficult to restore the site for building the Auburn Dam once it is finally approved.

Dam plans washed out; river stretch restored
The American River near Auburn is flowing unfettered for the first time in four decades after agencies remade a stretch into a set of rapids designed to thrill paddlers.
By M.S. Enkoji -
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, October 23, 2007

In the end, a river runs through it again.

But this time, with an E-ticket-ride bonus.

Down the steep canyon from this overlook near Auburn, the American River flows unfettered for the first time in four decades – 40 years in which the federal government attempted to create what became a storied public works white elephant.

An Auburn dam will likely never rise here after years of controversy and dispute – and $400 million in construction and study. Now with the natural river run restored, recreation will return, just like the scrub brush is struggling to do on the stripped canyon walls.

Paddlers could start lining up to run the enhanced changes along the renewed river stretch that will guarantee a 1,000-foot ride of thrilling rapids.

There's nothing like it on the river.

Energy Overview

An excellent overview of the energy situation in California, now and in the near future.

California, unplugged
Can the Golden State reach a renewable-energy future without coal, nukes and natural gas in the short term?
By R.V. Scheide

It's official. Nobody likes global warming. Everybody wants to cut carbon emissions. Renewable energy is all the rage. A green wave is sweeping California, the country and the world. The Nobel Peace Prize goes to Al Gore.


Yet as much as people dislike global warming, they love their electricity. They need their refrigerators, air conditioners and washer/dryers. They’re obsessed with watching television, surfing the Internet and playing electric guitars. Computers, printers and copy machines come in pretty handy down at the office, too. Electricity is a splendorous thing.

Unfortunately, some methods for generating electricity are among the worst greenhouse-gas offenders on the planet, especially coal-fired power plants, which supply 21 percent of California’s electricity. Other methods produce no carbon emissions, but raise their own environmental concerns, such as nuclear power plants, which supply 13 percent of the state’s electricity. California uses natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal and lacks nuclear power’s stigma, to generate 41 percent of its electricity.

But there’s a problem with natural gas: We’re running out of it. The North American domestic supply has been in decline for two decades. Gas can be imported from overseas, but it must be liquefied first, a complex process that requires special ships and infrastructure for liquefying, transporting and re-gasifying the liquid natural gas, or LNG. The United States is already years behind in building such infrastructure. Without it, industry experts predict the price of gas will skyrocket in the near future.

Global warming and resource depletion—in this case, the declining domestic gas supply—have put state policymakers in a bind: Is it possible to significantly reduce carbon emissions and still provide enough power to the people? So far, the answer to the first half of the question appears to be yes, emissions can be reduced. From a series of decisions made last spring and unfolding as this is being written, it’s not clear if the second half of the question has been asked.

Last April, when Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, introduced AB 719, a bill seeking to rescind the state’s 31-year ban on constructing nuclear-power plants, the Assembly Natural Resource Committee instantly squashed it. DeVore argued that emission-free nuclear power was necessary to help the state fight global warming and meet future electrical demand. Activists countered that nuclear power is “the most dangerous technology on Earth.” Chairwoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, noted that there are safe alternatives to nuclear power, such as solar and wind energy. The committee voted 6-3 along party lines to kill the bill.

One month later, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected BHP Billiton’s proposal to build a LNG port off the Ventura County coast. Legislators, environmentalists and media universally lauded the decision, which followed rejection of the project by the California Coastal Commission for environmental concerns that included, for the first time ever, greenhouse emissions.

In a press release, Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, called the proposed LNG port “the wrong project at the wrong time for California.” Thanks to efforts to increase energy efficiency and the amount of renewable sources, he said, “There is no need to lessen our state’s commitment to a clean environment by approving the BHP Billiton terminal.”

One week after that, the California Energy Commission put into effect new state laws that forbid municipal utilities from signing new contracts with coal-fired power plants. Twenty-one percent of the state’s electricity is generated by coal-fired plants, most of it coming from out of state. That percentage will steadily decline as existing coal contracts expire over the next 20 years, replaced by renewable sources.

The three decisions, made in roughly the span of one month, had two things in common. Each decision reduced the future use of resources—nuclear power, gas and coal—that collectively generate 75 percent of the state’s electricity. In turn, each decision insinuated that renewable energy sources will fill the gap. There’s only one problem with that equation.

It doesn’t quite add up.

Seventy-five percent of California’s electricity is generated with natural gas, coal or nuclear power. Hydroelectric generation provides another 15 percent, an amount that’s fixed because most of the state’s large hydro sites have been developed already. Renewables—geothermal, biomass, wind, small hydro and solar—provide the final 10 percent of the total.

By fiat, renewables are slotted to provide a larger slice of the pie. The state’s renewable-portfolio standard, or RPS, requires utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity with renewable sources by 2010, and 33 percent by 2020. That will help reduce the reliance on fossil fuels and also greenhouse emissions. But even if utilities hit the 33 percent target, by no means a certainty, the rest of the electricity, two-thirds of the total supply, has to come from somewhere. Fifteen percent will come from hydro. The rest, more than half of the total, will be generated with gas, coal and nuclear power.

Senator Dianne Feinstein on Dams

A significant statement made in an Opinion Editorial by California’s Senator Feinstein who understands new dams are needed in California.

Dams Provide One Key Element for State's Future Water Supplies
San Jose Mercury News
Sunday, October 21, 2007

California needs every drop of water possible to ensure a healthy future for our state.

Yet - unless Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez come together on a single water bond proposal - California may be left high and dry.

So I'm urging both sides to sit down, find a compromise and work this out.

Here's the good news: Both sides in Sacramento recognize the need for action.

Schwarzenegger has a plan to rebuild California's water infrastructure, as do Perata and Núñez.

Both plans provide for conservation, recycling and local solutions to water quality and supply issues. Any effective plan needs these features.

But the key difference is this: The governor's plan allows for surface water storage - where it is economically feasible and beneficial - while the Perata/Núñez plan does not.

Given our uncertain water future, I believe you've got to allow for surface water storage.

This could help increase our water supplies and help restore the ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Three of the projects contemplated - Sites Reservoir, Los Vaqueros and Temperance Flats - have the potential to produce new fresh water to help the deteriorating delta water ecosystem.

I've spoken to both sides and urged them to reach an agreement.

I'm no water expert. But I've legislated long enough in the field - rebuilding our levees, restoring the San Joaquin River and ensuring adequate water for farmers - to have learned that there are certain significant facts that must be grappled with:

• California is largely a dry state. To be sure, we get bursts of precipitation in the northern part of the state during winter months. So it's absolutely critical that we be able to save that water from the times when it is wet, and be able to move it to the places that need it when it is dry.

• California has an insatiable thirst for water. We've got 37 million people now, and more and more people come every day. Yet, we essentially have the same water infrastructure that we had when we were 16 million people. Where are we going to find enough water for residents, for fish, for farms? Conservation and recycling are critical, but will not be enough.

• I just visited Santa Clarita, a booming city just north of Los Angeles. A developer came up to me at a town hall event and said he is building a new community of 20,000 homes. I asked the question: Where does the water come from? And this question is being asked in every fast-growing community across the state.

• We've got a melting Sierra Nevada due to global warming, which will only reduce our water supplies. As a result of global warming, two-thirds of the Sierra Nevada snowpack may disappear. That's an amount sufficient for 16 million people. Where, in the future, will this water come from if we can't store water from wet years to use in dry years?

• Lake Tahoe is a harbinger of what's to come for the rest of the state. A recent report found that, since 1911, the percentage of precipitation that falls as snow has dropped by 18 percent. And we will see similar trends across the state.
So what should be done?

This fight can't turn into one based on political, regional or economic differences - north vs. south; west vs. east; farms vs. fish; Republicans vs. Democrats.

We need to see the state as a whole. That means protecting all those things that make our state great - our precious environment; our agricultural industry, the largest in the nation; our great cities; and our economic growth.

If there are two conflicting proposals, the likelihood is that both will go down to defeat.

So my message is this - find a solution that ensures that California has an adequate water supply for the future. Doing nothing is not an alternative.

So we must have a plan that includes conservation, recycling, desalination, groundwater recharge and, yes, surface storage. There is no one silver bullet. All must be done to ensure that California is not left scrambling for water.

Water Drying Up

One more reason for those of us fortunate to live in a region where the availability of fresh water from snow pack allows the opportunity to increase the supply of it by building the Auburn Dam.

October 21, 2007
The Future Is Drying Up

Scientists sometimes refer to the effect a hotter world will have on this country’s fresh water as the other water problem, because global warming more commonly evokes the specter of rising oceans submerging our great coastal cities. By comparison, the steady decrease in mountain snowpack — the loss of the deep accumulation of high-altitude winter snow that melts each spring to provide the American West with most of its water — seems to be a more modest worry. But not all researchers agree with this ranking of dangers. Last May, for instance, Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate and the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, one of the United States government’s pre-eminent research facilities, remarked that diminished supplies of fresh water might prove a far more serious problem than slowly rising seas. When I met with Chu last summer in Berkeley, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, which provides most of the water for Northern California, was at its lowest level in 20 years. Chu noted that even the most optimistic climate models for the second half of this century suggest that 30 to 70 percent of the snowpack will disappear. “There’s a two-thirds chance there will be a disaster,” Chu said, “and that’s in the best scenario.”

In the Southwest this past summer, the outlook was equally sobering. A catastrophic reduction in the flow of the Colorado River — which mostly consists of snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains — has always served as a kind of thought experiment for water engineers, a risk situation from the outer edge of their practical imaginations. Some 30 million people depend on that water. A greatly reduced river would wreak chaos in seven states: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. An almost unfathomable legal morass might well result, with farmers suing the federal government; cities suing cities; states suing states; Indian nations suing state officials; and foreign nations (by treaty, Mexico has a small claim on the river) bringing international law to bear on the United States government. In addition, a lesser Colorado River would almost certainly lead to a considerable amount of economic havoc, as the future water supplies for the West’s industries, agriculture and growing municipalities are threatened. As one prominent Western water official described the possible future to me, if some of the Southwest’s largest reservoirs empty out, the region would experience an apocalypse, “an Armageddon.”

Monday, October 22, 2007

Southland Fires

The latest, as of 7:30 AM today.

Southland wildfire battle rages
There are at least 12 blazes across seven counties. The Malibu fire is only 10% contained. San Diego braces for the worst.
By Tony Perry, Louis Sahagun and Michael Muskal
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
7:32 AM PDT, October 22, 2007

Wildfires continued their march through seven Southern California counties this morning, scorching more than 40,000 acres and forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.

At least one person was killed and about 20 injured in the blazes as hard-pressed firefighters braced for the dawn, when Santa Ana winds were expected to pick up intensity, creating deadly conditions. Winds that mellowed overnight were likely to exceed 60 mph by mid-morning, fire officials said. Red-flag conditions, indicating high winds and low humidity, were expected throughout the region.

From the Mexican border to Santa Barbara County, at least a dozen fires burned, including several new blazes in the San Diego area. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed a state of emergency in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

A fire in Malibu burned more than 2,200 acres and was only 10% contained. The blaze, which destroyed at least 25 structures including homes, commercial buildings and a historic church, was lying low most of the evening in Carbon Canyon area but began to gain speed before daybreak.

The fire was pushed by winds that strengthened early today and threatened to continue east to Las Flores Canyon, a rustic community evacuated at 3 a.m.

Cautious Green is Good

When deciding where to spend our money, caution is certainly in order.

Activists say gov. is green, but cautious
Schwarzenegger signed 19 key environmental bills this year. But his vetoes leave some observers disappointed with his record.
By Margot Roosevelt
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 22, 2007

On a Sunday evening this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger quietly vetoed what environmentalists had deemed to be one of the most important global warming bills to reach his desk this year.

The legislation, opposed by oil companies, would have required cleaner fuels for trucks and cars as part of the state's ambitious attempt to reduce greenhouse gases.

On the same day, Oct. 14, the governor also deep-sixed three bills that would have set energy-efficient building standards and another that would have required landlords to offer recycling services to tenants.

Nationally and internationally, Schwarzenegger is known for championing a bold 2006 law that aims to reduce California's emission of carbon dioxide and other planet-heating gases to 1990 levels over the next 13 years.

But as it comes time to implement strategies for meeting those targets, his critics say, the governor is proceeding cautiously.

Sacramento’s Heritage

Cemeteries are outdoor museums reflecting the personal histories of our community and this one is very special, as this profile of one of the special people who take care of it, shows.

I've known Dr. Bob for many years, working with him on several projects and he is as described, a classic history buff who is extremely well-versed, passionate and effective, a real Sacramento treasure.

'Dr. Bob' breathed life into historic cemetery
By Blair Anthony Robertson - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, October 22, 2007

In his younger days, Bob LaPerriere hated history.

His teachers made it all about memorizing names and dates – and it was oh so boring.
That may have had something to do with why he gravitated toward science and eventually enrolled in medical school.

Not long after he moved to Sacramento in 1972 to begin a successful career as a dermatologist, LaPerriere stumbled onto something that would dramatically change his life: He visited the historic City Cemetery and it was a mess.

"I thought, 'Gosh, these people really went through a lot – the fires and the floods and all the diseases in the 1800s," said LaPerriere, 67, who is known as "Dr. Bob" by those who struggle with his French-Canadian surname. "They shouldn't have to be forgotten and neglected now."

LaPerriere made sure of it.

These days, he's known as the guru of cemeteries and history – indeed, his love of a subject he once dreaded is a major component of his life.

City Cemetery, at Riverside Boulevard and Broadway, overgrown with weeds and plagued by vandalism for decades, is now populated with 200 varieties of roses maintained by legions of devoted volunteers and has become a source of civic pride. It's visited by locals and tourists alike.

"If it wasn't for Dr. Bob, this probably never would have happened," said Connie Bettencourt, whose late husband, John, was known for the theatrical cemetery tours he led for seven years before his death in 2001.

LaPerriere's passion is not only beautifying cemeteries; it's also teaching others that they are more than just places to bury the dead.

City Cemetery "is a museum of history. It's a museum of art. It's a museum of botany and horticulture," LaPerriere said.