Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Governor, the Senator, & Water

Governor Schwarzenegger and Senator Feinstein have co-written an excellent article for the Los Angels Times that continues their effort to move the California legislature to a sensible water policy for our growing state that includes building more dams to increase water storage, and it is something that has needed doing for some time.

Along with the dams they wish to build and the obvious solution for our area, the building of Auburn Dam, still supported by groups—including us—like the Auburn Dam Council, there is another that would solve the water problems for the larger region and that is the raising of Shasta Dam to its originally engineered height of 200 feet higher than it now is, tripling its water supply, which an article from the Sacramento Bee describes:

Concrete solution for water? Raising Shasta Dam's height looms large among ideas to boost state's dwindling storage. By David Whitney -- Bee Washington Bureau Published 2:15 am PST Monday, November 22, 2004

‘….From an engineering standpoint, it's a piece of cake. The dam, built between 1938 and 1945, was originally planned to be 200 feet taller. At 800 feet, it would have been the highest and biggest in the world.

“Sheri Harral, public affairs officer at the dam, said World War II and materials shortages associated with the war effort led to a decision to stop construction at 602 feet.

"The thinking was to come back and add on to it if ever there was a need to," Harral said. "They started looking at raising it in 1978."

“If Shasta Dam had been built up to its engineering limit in 1945, it is arguable that Northern and Central California would not be facing a critical water shortage now.

“According to a 1999 Bureau of Reclamation study, a dam 200 feet taller would be able to triple storage to 13.89 million acre-feet of water.”

The cost for these two projects alone is probably in the $20 billion range today, a relatively low price to pay for the extra water, hydroelectric power, Parkway and salmon sustainability (from the stabilization of American River water flow and temperature from Auburn Dam) and extra flood protection.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Partnerships: the Big Fix & the Parkway

1) We have just witnessed the best of what can occur through a public/private partnership with the work on the Big Fix and the incredibly short time (35 days) it took to get a major freeway fix completed with an idea from the private partner, that would have taken about 2 years done through the normal public route; and as this editorial notes, all parties to this wonderful work should take a big bow, for a job well done.

An excerpt.

“The primary credit goes to C.C. Myers, the Rancho Cordova-based contractor who has become legendary for getting things done faster than anyone else could. He came up with the idea of shutting one side of the freeway, then the other, to speed repair work. He promised to get it done with 32 days of one-way lane closures. It took 35 days. High temperatures forced workers to delay paving work until evening hours.”

“Myers can't do what he does without the cooperation of government. Officials at Caltrans who worked with Myers to set the timetables and approve the closure of the state's major north- south artery took a risk. It paid off. It may set a precedent for future highway projects.”

2) A public/private partnership is what we would like to see in terms of managing the Parkway and our idea for this is to establish a nonprofit organization to contract with a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) of local government entities, to manage the Parkway and provide a supplemental fund raising capability through philanthropy, which you can read more about on our website’s news page in our press release from January 18, 2008.

This is the model being used by the Central Park Conservancy to manage Central Park in New York—and the Conservancy generates 85% of funding needed by Central Park—and the Sacramento Zoological Society to manage the Sacramento Zoo, which they have wholly done since 1997 under contract with the City of Sacramento.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Water Markets & Nice Streets

1) The case for privatizing water is discussed at the The Property and Environment Research Center, with the case being made that more private ownership would be good, an excellent idea.

An excerpt.

“Making the ownership link is relatively easy, because water is already claimed by someone, either a municipality, individual farmers or a government agency.

“In practice, however, claims compete with one another, especially when water is scarce. miners and farmers on the Western frontier in the 19th century devised the prior-appropriation system to resolve conflict by moving water to higher-valued uses, and trades between farmers have gone on for a century.

“The recent drought in the Southeast has raised a red flag about scarcity. The best mechanism for allocating water is to clarify the ownership among municipal, agricultural, industrial and environmental users and allow trades. If Atlanta must buy water from lower-valued agricultural users, farmers will have an incentive to save water and sell it, and municipal consumers will face a higher price and thus an incentive to conserve.”

2) An article about creating streets as places from the Project for Public Spaces makes the argument that streets should be planned more as places than transportation corridors.

However, it is possible to have streets that are good for people and as places, while still being good for cars and traffic; of which several examples exist in our community.

An excerpt.

“Streets account for as much as a third of the land in a city, and historically, they served as public spaces for social and economic exchanges. Under the planning policies of the past 70 years, however, people have for all intents and purposes given up their rights to this public property. While streets were once a place where we stopped for conversation and children played, they are now more the domain of cars than people. Even where sidewalks are present along highways and high-speed streets, they feel inhospitable and out of place.

“Ironically, the single minded pursuit of creating efficiency for the automobile travel has also failed to successfully address transportation issues, as sprawling land use patterns and traffic congestion continue to grow exponentially despite new roadway mileage that generally outpaces population growth.

“Which goes to show that, as PPS has long said, "If you plan for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places." We have the ability to make different choices—starting with the decision to design our streets as comfortable places for people.”

Monday, July 28, 2008

Millennial Suburbs & Walters on the Budget

1) The Millennial generation, those born between 1982-2003, are proving to be more like their grandparents than their parents, and considering the arguably generally disastrous result of the baby-boomer generation for society at large, that is very good news.

They have a different perspective on suburbs—which many baby boomers blame for most of the ills of society—as this article notes.

“The first initial indications of how this sense of community will impact the behavior of Millennials as they enter young adulthood are now becoming available. They contain good news for America’s suburbs and for those remaining in family-oriented neighborhoods in our nation’s cities.

“One thing seems clear: Millennials generally lack the animus against suburbs that have been a major element of Baby Boomer urbanist ideology over the past few decades. According to survey data from Frank N. Magid Associates, America’s leading entertainment and media research firm, young Millennials already reside in the suburbs to at least the same extent as members of older generations. The Magid data also suggest that this residential preference is not likely to change as the Millennial Generation matures and "settles down." Once Millennials marry their firm preference is to live in a single-family home, and not in a typical urban setting of lofts, condos or apartments. Almost half of “settled” Millennials (those who are married, many with children) own their home. Only about a quarter are renter.

“Virtually none of the "settled" Millennials still reside with their parents or other relatives. This represents a significant difference from the status of Millennials of about the same age (mid-twenties) who are working, but single. About half of this latter group rent their home, either alone or with others, while only 13percent are homeowners. About a quarter of the unmarried Millennials live with their parents, which often earns them disdainful comments from older generations. Early evidence seems to suggest that this “return to the nest” phenomenon has more to do with the economics of graduating from college with large student loans unpaid and entry level pay than it does to any lack of energy or unwillingness to accept adult responsibilities. It also has to do with one of the defining characteristics of Millennials: they get along better with their parents than either Boomers or Gen-Xers.

“This generational trait is especially important for the future of America’s suburbs. Unlike Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, Millennials tend to be friends with and enjoy staying connected to their parents, if not in person than on a constant basis on cell phones or the Internet. In contrast, during the 1960s and 1970s, Boomers moved as far away as they could from their parents' home in order to “find themselves” and express their own unique values. In the 1980s and 1990s, Gen-Xers often reacted to their relatively unloving upbringing (think “Married…with Children” vs. “Leave it to Beaver”) by rejecting every aspect of their childhood, including leafy lawns and spacious suburban housing. By contrast, Millennials actually like and respect their parents, and often prefer to live as their parents do, preferably in a place that's close to their parents.”

2) The complicated secrets of California budgeting is somewhat revealed and simplified in this excellent column.


“To Democrats, California has a "revenue problem" – a tax system that doesn't produce enough dollars to meet the state's legitimate needs – and should solve it by raising taxes by $8-plus billion a year, primarily income taxes on business and high-income families…

“But to Republicans, the deficit is the symptom of a "spending problem" and reducing spending should be the first step, although they are not being specific on what should be cut…

“Whether the state's fiscal problem is too much spending or too little revenue, of course, is much like beauty or art, largely dependent on the eye of the beholder. The only semi-objective way to approach the issue is to compare California with other states, even if such comparisons, either in the aggregate or in specific categories, cannot account for this state's unique factors, which are, because this is California, copious…

“In other words, Californians in the aggregate are now paying almost as much of their personal income in taxes now as they were before Proposition 13 was passed. And our relative ranking has also climbed upward to No. 12 in 2007, a half-percent higher than the national average.”

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Nonprofits & Gang Fighting

1) The idea—as expressed in this article—is good but the implementation is not, as a city council acting as a board of directors will bring the same problem government has—lack of entrepreneurship— to private nonprofit fund raising, effectively reducing its impact; as well as creating a quid pro quo atmosphere for the foundations of the corporations doing business with the city.

An excerpt.

“Leaders are considering establishing a city-controlled nonprofit organization that could help create a bookstore and other programs to promote literacy.

“The move may enable Pittsburg to enhance the creative arts community without dipping into its own pocketbook, city officials say. The organization also could partner with private individuals and corporations for community improvement or tap into a foundation grant, such as the Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation…

“There are few examples of city-controlled nonprofit organizations like the one Pittsburg has in mind, said Peter Guadagni, a city business development manager.

"What we're trying to do is be a little more novel and innovative" than other cities that also operate nonprofit groups, he said, noting that the City Council would serve as the board of directors, closely aligning itself with the operations.”

2) The editorial from the Bee today on the proposed tax for gang fighting is right on point, particularly pointing out that any new taxes going to programs to fight gangs have solid evaluative research indicating they are successful, otherwise it is just throwing money down a hole.

Solid evaluative research is research done by a third party—not the program itself—and using control groups.

The only proven strategy I am aware of that controls gangs is police on the streets, and with Sacramento trailing most cities in its proportion of police to population, it is probably time to look at a broader public safety push rather than one that is gang specific, and the broader push may control the gang problem.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Leadership & the Green Wall,

1) A good example of how a mayor in Atlanta was able to accomplish something that needed doing by using an indirect leadership approach, personal contacts, and collaborating…a good read, authored by Stephen Goldsmith.

An excerpt.

“In most American cities, the public institutions that are critical to urban stability and development operate independently from the mayor's office, making reforms difficult to achieve. The topic of the evolving mayoral role in education reform often dominates discussions at the local level. Judicial reform is another area where change makers frequently encounter resistance to reform. Such reforms try to address an array of issues, from the courts' general role in the administration of justice to their specific roles in such subjects as child welfare and crime.

“Indirect leadership is perhaps the most difficult to harness. But it can be done. Atlanta's mayor, Shirley Franklin, effectively used an indirect leadership strategy when she was determined to improve the services of the city's judicial system and eliminate wasteful practices in the organization. By building support in the city's legal community and leveraging the expertise and influence of outside advocates to make a clear case for change, Mayor Franklin led the way to a series of critical municipal court reforms, despite her lack of direct authority.”

2) Countries in Northern Africa are building a huge wall of trees to hold back the slow advance of the Sahara Desert, a wonderful use of human technology and natural resources to shape our environment, reminding one of the bountiful results from large dams that save water previously wasted and create lakes used by all in the process.

An excerpt.

“Preparations for an African 'wall of trees' to slow down the southwards spread of the Sahara desert are getting underway.

“North African nations have been promoting the idea of a Green Belt since 2005. The project has been scaled down to reinforce and then expand on existing efforts, and will not be a continent-wide wall of trees, despite the name of the project.

“According to a report in ENN (Environmental News Network), the 'Great Green Wall' will involve several stretches of trees from Mauritania in the west to Djibouti in the east, to protect the semi-arid savannah region of the Sahel, and its agricultural land, from desertification.

“A plan for the proposed 3 million dollar, two-year initial phase of the project, which involves a belt of trees 7,000 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide, was formally adopted at the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (Cen-Sad) summit on rural development and food security in Cotonou, Benin, last month (17-18 June).”

Friday, July 25, 2008

Parkway Model & Peripheral Canal

1) The San Dieguito River Park in San Diego, California is a superb example of a Joint Powers Authority managing a river park, similar to what we would like to see happen with the Parkway and considering the terrible fires they experienced last year, what they have been able to accomplish since is further testament to the power of partnership we would like to see brought to the Parkway.

An excerpt from their website.

“The San Dieguito River Valley Regional Open Space Park Joint Powers Authority, also known as the San Dieguito River Park, is the agency responsible for creating a natural open space park in the San Dieguito River Valley. The Park will someday extend from the ocean at Del Mar to Volcan Mountain, just north of Julian.

“The San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority was formed as a separate agency on June 12, 1989, by the County of San Diego and the Cities of Del Mar, Escondido, Poway, San Diego and Solana Beach. It was empowered to acquire, plan, design, improve, operate and maintain the San Dieguito River Park.”

2) The peripheral canal is moving along in this report, as property owners along a proposed route are notified…very good news.

An excerpt.

“State water officials today are sending letters to about 1,000 property owners in the Delta – a heads up that surveyors may need to access private land to begin planning a canal to ferry fresh water to Southern California.

“Surveys won't begin until next year, but the letters confirm the seriousness of efforts to lay a controversial canal around the Delta.

"For the most part, this will be a wake-up call for a lot of people," said Mark Wilson of Clarksburg, a member of the Delta Protection Commission who represents farmers. "I don't think they realize the seriousness of this situation right now."

“State voters rejected what became known as the peripheral canal in 1982.

“It is back on the table as a proposed solution to environmental problems in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and to meet water demands in the Bay Area and Southern California.

“The Delta provides drinking water to about 25 million Californians.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Water & Water

What this story fails to mention is that there are solutions that can dramatically increase our water supply, which were once approved by government, but because of environmental opposition were not completed.

One is Auburn Dam, which would add 2.3 million acre feet of water supply, which would probably cost about $10 billion, and you can see details at the Auburn Dam Council.

The big one though is the raising of Shasta Dam to its originally engineered height, tripling storage to 13.89 million acre feet (for a total of 16.19 million acre feet if both are completed) and Shasta was on the table in 2004, as this Bee article from 2004 .


“As California looks for new ways to increase water supplies in the face of mounting shortages, this monstrous 602-foot facade holding back the Sacramento River seems destined to grow even taller.

“It's a perfect spot for expansion, although it's not the only site under intense scrutiny in this scramble for new water storage.

“Shasta Dam was designed to be 800 feet tall, so adding concrete to its top presents no significant engineering obstacles.

"This is like adding a room on a house, rather than building a new house," said Michael J. Ryan, the Bureau of Reclamation's Northern California area manager, whose small office overlooks the dam, the lake and, on a clear day, Mount Shasta looming large in the distance.

“But most importantly, the clean, cold water it would add to the state's supply is exactly what water managers are looking for. A taller dam means additional downstream protection against floods, more downstream supply for farms and cities and, because Shasta Lake would be deeper, more cold water to send downriver when the salmon are looking for a place to spawn…

“From an engineering standpoint, it's a piece of cake. The dam, built between 1938 and 1945, was originally planned to be 200 feet taller. At 800 feet, it would have been the highest and biggest in the world….

“If Shasta Dam had been built up to its engineering limit in 1945, it is arguable that Northern and Central California would not be facing a critical water shortage now.

“According to a 1999 Bureau of Reclamation study, a dam 200 feet taller would be able to triple storage to 13.89 million acre-feet of water.

“Still, tripling the size of Shasta Lake, on paper at least, would store nine times the projected 2020 water deficit for the Sacramento, San Joaquin and Tulare Lake basins during normal water years.

“But the Bureau of Reclamation concluded in its 1999 report on Shasta Dam that raising it by 200 feet would be prohibitively expensive - $5.8 billion.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Drought, Dams & Trees are Legal

1) The state water chief, Lester Snow testified to a congressional hearing in Fresno recently and predicted dire consequences if the drought continues into 2009, which some say it will.

An excerpt.

“Next year “could be the worst drought in California history,” Snow said.

“Lake Shasta, the state's largest reservoir, is at 48 percent capacity, department officials said.

“The next-largest reservoir, Lake Oroville – which sits at the top of the vast system of state pumps and canals that send mountain river supplies to Southern California – is at 40 percent capacity and will drop to about 20 percent by the end of December, he said.

“Snow told the crowd of about 250 that the water that moves south from the Delta has an economic impact of nearly $400 billion.

“No immediate solutions to the water crisis were offered. There was considerable talk about a need for a new reservoir, an improved water delivery system and a need to take another look at what is really threatening wild fish in the Delta. “

2) With $400 billion at stake it might make sense to look at a relatively small investment to increase our water storage with new dams and retrofitting an old one.

The building of Auburn Dam, still supported by groups—including us—like the Auburn Dam Council, would add 2.3 million acre feet to the water supply in the American River Watershed, and for the larger region and state, the raising of Shasta Dam to its originally engineered height of 200 feet higher than it now is, would triple its water supply, which this 2004 article from the Sacramento Bee describes.

The cost for these two projects is probably in the $10-20 billion range, a relatively low price to pay for the extra water, hydroelectric power, Parkway and salmon sustainability (from the stabilization of American River water flow and temperature from the Auburn Dam) and extra flood protection.

3) Finally, the Bee informs us that, yes, a new law makes it legal—most of the time—to grow trees…really!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Energy Winners/Losers & Gardener/Farmer

1) An excellent article from Joel Kotkin about the impact high energy costs will have on certain cities and areas of the country.

An excerpt.

“On the plus side there are some undoubted winners -- those areas that produce energy and those with energy expertise. What’s working for Moscow, St. Petersburg, Calgary, Edmonton, and Dubai is also working for the U.S. energy regions as well. Not surprisingly, many are located deep in the heart of Texas. This includes not only big cities like energy mega-capital Houston but a host of smaller ones, like high-flyers Midland, Odessa and Longview.

“But it’s not just Texas cities that are winning. A host of other places have strong ties to energy production and exploration -- Salt Lake City, Denver, and the North Dakota cities of Bismarck, Fargo, and Grand Forks. And it’s not just oil: The U.S. Great Plains have also been described as “the Saudi Arabia of wind.” If the right incentives are put in place, a wind-belt from west Texas to the Canadian border could be produce new jobs, both in building mills and also for the industries -- manufacturers, computer-related companies -- that will harness the relatively cheap energy.

“Alternative renewal energy producers in biofuels, thermal, and hydro-electric will also become big business. The Sierra Nevada cities like Reno could benefit from thermal; the Pacific Northwest’s hydro-power gives places like Portland, Seattle, and a host of smaller communities -- Wenatchee, Bend, Olympia -- a great competitive advantage in terms of dependable, low cost and low carbon energy.”

2) This is one of those ideas that many gardeners—with a need for a little extra cash—are going to say, Why didn’t I think of that?, and many of them probably will.

What a great idea…creating and tending food gardens for those folks who don’t have the time, inclination or skill, to do so themselves; American entrepreneurism at its best.

An excerpt.

“Eating locally raised food is a growing trend. But who has time to get to the farmer’s market, let alone plant a garden?

“That is where Trevor Paque comes in. For a fee, Mr. Paque, who lives in San Francisco, will build an organic garden in your backyard, weed it weekly and even harvest the bounty, gently placing a box of vegetables on the back porch when he leaves.

“Call them the lazy locavores — city dwellers who insist on eating food grown close to home but have no inclination to get their hands dirty. Mr. Paque is typical of a new breed of business owner serving their needs.”

Monday, July 21, 2008

Nuclear Power

Though I supported it at the time, I now realize how foolish was the decision to shut down the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant. That realization began a long journey of education around environmental issues, specifically those connected to the American River Parkway and virtually all environmental issues do—in some way or another—connect to a river and watershed providing most of our water, a significant amount of power, and a deep well of recreation.

As other Americans become more educated around environmental issues surrounding energy generation, we are coming to realize what those folks in Europe and most of the rest of the world have realized for generations, nuclear power is perhaps the best source of power generation ever developed by human beings, and that is a very good thing.

This excellent overview article is about that changing of minds and how it needs to accelerate.

An excerpt.

“If we are now going to choose nuclear power as a way to resolve both our concerns about global warming and our looming energy shortfalls, we are first going to have to engage in a national debate about whether or not we accept the technology. To begin this discussion, I suggest redefining what we call nuclear power as "terrestrial energy."

“Every fuel used in human history -- firewood, coal, oil, wind and water -- has been derived from the sun. But terrestrial energy is different.

“Terrestrial energy is the heat at the earth's core that raises its temperature to 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than the surface of the sun. Remarkably, this heat derives largely from a single source -- the radioactive breakdown of uranium and thorium. The energy released in the breakdown of these two elements is enough to melt iron, stoke volcanoes and float the earth's continents like giant barges on its molten core.

“Geothermal plants are a way of tapping this heat. They are generally located near fumaroles and geysers, where groundwater meets hot spots in the earth's crust. If we dig down far enough, however, we will encounter more than enough heat to boil water. Engineers are now talking about drilling down 10 miles (the deepest oil wells are only five miles) to tap this energy.

“Here's a better idea: Bring the source of this heat -- the uranium -- to the surface, put it in a carefully controlled environment, and accelerate its breakdown a bit to raise temperatures to around 700 degrees Fahrenheit, and use it to boil water. That's what we do in a nuclear reactor.

“Because the public first became aware of nuclear energy through warfare, reactors have always been thought of as "silent bombs." But nuclear plants cannot explode. The fissionable isotope of uranium must be enriched to 90% to create a weapon. In a reactor it is only 3%. You could not blow up a nuclear reactor if you tried.”

Sunday, July 20, 2008

War Against the Suburbs & Walters on the Budget

1) Though suburban living is how most American prefer to live, especially those folks with families, there has been a war against the suburbs ever since the first people deserted the urban centers for the peace of rolling hills and valleys and it continues in California, as this article by Joel Kotkin notes.

An excerpt.

“In the meantime, Mr. Brown [California Attorney General Jerry Brown] is taking aim at the suburbs, concerned about the alleged environmental damage they cause. He sees suburban houses as inefficient users of energy. He sees suburban commuters clogging the roads as wasting precious fossil fuel. And, mostly, he sees wisdom in an intricately thought-out plan to compel residents to move to city centers or, at least, to high-density developments clustered near mass transit lines.

“Mr. Brown is not above using coercion to create the demographic patterns he wants. In recent months, he has threatened to file suit against municipalities that shun high-density housing in favor of building new suburban singe-family homes, on the grounds that they will pollute the environment. He is also backing controversial legislation -- Senate bill 375 -- moving through the state legislature that would restrict state highway funds to communities that refuse to adopt "smart growth" development plans. "We have to get the people from the suburbs to start coming back" to the cities, Mr. Brown told planning experts in March.

“The problem is, that's not what Californians want. For two generations, residents have been moving to the suburbs. They are attracted to the prospect, although not always the reality, of good schools, low crime rates and the chance to buy a home. A 2002 Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 80% of Californians prefer single-family homes over apartment living. And, even as the state's traffic jams are legendary, it is not always true that residents clog roads to commute to jobs in downtown Los Angeles or other cities”.

2) The California state budget confuses just about everybody, but this column by Dan Walters, makes it a little clearer.

An excerpt.

“The clearest set of numbers, however, may not be found in any version of the state budget but rather in the actual cash reports published by the state controller's office. They tell us what's coming into the state treasury from various taxes and other revenue sources and where it's being spent.

“There is some discrepancy between the controller's numbers and the budget's, because the former show what's already happened, while the latter project what's supposed to happen. But the controller's report gives us a fairly clear picture of the state's finances. And it's not pretty.

“During the fiscal year that ended June 30, the general fund received $96.4 billion in revenues and spent $103.4 billion. This means there was a $7 billion shortfall, much of it covered by tapping reserves, delaying some payments and borrowing several billion dollars.

“Schwarzenegger and legislators may disagree sharply on the 2008-09 budget, but they do agree that it has a $15.2 billion deficit. That would indicate, therefore, that roughly half of the overall deficit is "structural," meaning it's built into the system, and the other half is cyclical, caused by a deteriorating economy.”

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Booming Cities & Sacramento

The financial turmoil impacting many of the traditional cities in the country—including ours as this story from the Bee today recounts—has, however, been a boon for those whose reliance is on the energy business, and this very interesting article by Joel Kotkin , author of The City: A Global History, takes a look at some of them.

An excerpt.

“The steep hike in gas and energy prices has created a national debate about the future of American metropolitan areas -- mostly about the reputed decline of suburbs and edge cities dependent on cars. But with all this focus on the troubles of traditional suburbs, one big story is overlooked: the rapid rise of America’s energy-producing metropolitan areas…

“In the process, there has been a shift in the balance of economic power away from financial and information centers like New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. These cities are deeply vulnerable to the national financial and mortage crises. New York, according to David Shulman, former Lehman Brothers managing director, faces upward of 30,000 to 40,000 layoffs in its financial sector. San Francisco in the last quarter gave away a Transamerica Pyramid’s worth of office space.

“In contrast, things have never looked better for cities now riding the energy and commodity boom. By far the biggest winner is Houston, whose breakneck growth has been fueled by its role as the world’s premier energy city. As with Dubai, this is less a function of the city's proximity of actual deposits (though the Gulf of Mexico represents one of the most promising energy finds in North America), than to its premier role as the technical, trading and administrative center of the worldwide industry.”

Friday, July 18, 2008

Taxes & The Peripheral Canal

1) New York is one of the greatest cities in the world and I often look to its leadership in public issues, but it is not necessarily a good model on taxes, as this article from the Wall Street Journal about California’s chase to join it as one of the highest taxed areas in the country.

An excerpt.

“New York City has long been the highest tax jurisdiction in the United States, but California politicians are proposing to steal that brass tiara. California faces a $15 billion budget deficit and Democrats who rule the state Legislature have proposed closing the gap with a $9.7 billion tax hike on business and "the rich." There's a movie that describes this idea: Clueless.

“The plan would raise the top marginal income tax rate to 12% from 10.3%; that would be the highest in the nation and twice the national average. This plan would also repeal indexing for inflation, which is a sneaky way for politicians to push middle-income Californians into higher tax brackets every year, especially when prices are rising as they are now. The corporate income tax rate would also rise to 9.3% from 8.4%. So in the face of one of the worst real-estate recessions in the state's history, the politicians want to raise taxes on businesses that are still making money.

“This latest tax gambit was unveiled, ironically enough, within days of two very large California employers announcing they are saying, in the famous words of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, "hasta la vista, baby" to the state. First, the AAA auto club declared it will close its call centers in California, meaning that 900 jobs will move to other states. "It costs more to do business in California," said a AAA press release, in the understatement of the year.

“Then last week Toyota announced it is canceling plans to build its new Prius hybrid at its plant in the San Francisco Bay area because of the high tax and regulatory costs. Adding to the humiliation is that Toyota will now take this investment and about 1,000 jobs to a more progressive and pro-business state: Mississippi.”

2) A new report, Comparing Futures for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, from the Public Policy Institute of California concludes that we need to build the peripheral canal.

A summary.

“For over 50 years, California has been pumping water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for extensive urban and agricultural uses around the state. Today, the Delta is ailing and in urgent need of a new management strategy. This report concludes that building a peripheral canal to carry water around the Delta is the most promising way to balance two critical policy goals: reviving a threatened ecosystem and ensuring a reliable, high-quality water supply for California.”

The Dan Walters column in the Bee also comments on the report.

An excerpt.

“With the courts severely restricting water exports from the Delta because of declining fish populations, there has been renewed interest in a peripheral canal, although that term is largely banned from official discourse. But fierce opposition persists, mostly from Delta farmers concerned that a canal would isolate them from public money to fix their deteriorating levees (although they rarely admit to that motive) and from environmental groups that want to use restricted water supply as a tool to curb development in Southern California (although they are equally reluctant to admit that).”

Thursday, July 17, 2008

River Promenade & Hydropower

1) The city of Sacramento awarded funds to build the first phase of promenade along the Sacramento River, from O to R Street, and it is another great move towards fully incorporating our two rivers into the life of the community, a very good thing.

2) A conference on hydropower was just in Sacramento and this column from the president of the hosting organization is excellent. An excerpt.

Rick Miller, president of the National Hydropower Association, is responding to the July 14 op-ed "Big dams are not the answer to the world's energy needs." As America's largest renewable energy resource – and one of the cleanest energy generation sources now in use – the U.S. hydropower industry is pleased to take part in any discussion about the role hydropower has in our country's energy future and environmental policies. We have a strong record of achievement in serving U.S. energy, economic and environmental goals, and through the use of new technologies and more-efficient applications, we will continue to serve the public for decades to come…

“The op-ed misses the exciting – and environmentally friendly – developments taking place in North America and the important role hydropower plays in managing water resources. The article fails to point out the many benefits of hydropower, including water supply, flood control and recreation, and to support the growth of other renewable technologies, such as wind and solar, on to the grid.

“Last year, the Electric Power Research Institute released a study showing that the U.S. hydropower industry could more than double its clean energy output in the next 25 years. That means adding about 96,000 megawatts to the 90,000 megawatts of water power it currently offers.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Parkway Fire, Parkway Manners, & Parkway Funding

1) An arson grass fire in the Parkway burned 20 acres between Hagan Park and River Bend Park yesterday afternoon was contained, but fire officials are asking for information to help determine suspects.

2) Recreating on the Parkway will continue to be somewhat dangerous as long as the one trail has to handle all the different forms of traffic demanding access, so this article helps with the basic manners all should respect while on the Parkway trail.

Someday we will have separate trails for walkers, bikers and skaters, and everyone will enjoy the experience at a much deeper level without having to look out for fast moving bikes or slow moving walkers.

3) Being able to build new trails will require a different funding strategy for the Parkway. The solution we have proposed for stabilizing and increasing funding for the American River Parkway is to establish a nonprofit organization to contract with a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) of local government entities, to manage the Parkway and provide a supplemental fund-raising capability through philanthropy, which you can read more about on our website’s news page in our press release from January 18, 2008, (second one down).

This is the model being used by the Central Park Conservancy to manage Central Park in New York—the Conservancy raises 85% of funding needed by Central Park—and the Sacramento Zoological Society to manage the Sacramento Zoo, which they have wholly done since 1997 under contract with the City of Sacramento.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dams & Walters on Water

1) This commentary in the Bee helps to explain why the anti-dam folks are slowly losing the argument, and continues the perception that protecting the places where the major dams will be built “along the Mekong in Southeast Asia, the Amazon basin, the rivers of Chilean Patagonia and the Congo River in central Africa – are some of the last wild rivers on Earth,” may be more—though perhaps unconsciously—about preserving vacation spots for well-heeled eco-tourists than what building dams there will actually accomplish, the elevation of standards of living from the currently primitive village-based cultures subject to seasonal floods causing wide devastation and deprivation, which precluded the building of the Three Gorges dam in China.

2) This column by Dan Walters makes a good case for the creation of a commission to determine the use for any future water related funding to help ensure the funds are used wisely rather than pork-barrelish, and it may be what is needed.

Nothing else has worked very well for the past several decades. An excerpt.

“The debate has been under way for three decades without resolution; meanwhile, California's population has grown by 50-plus percent, the Delta has deteriorated, the courts have intervened to restrict water shipments, and there are predictions that global warming will worsen already severe drought shortages.

“Countless blue-ribbon commissions and bureaucratic studies have recommended alternatives, but they have always foundered on the shoals of Capitol politics, including the annual state budget battle. And with Schwarzenegger and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein now proposing a new $9.3 billion water bond issue that would include new storage, the conflict is being joined again.

“It may be, indeed, time simply to raise the money, as we do for transportation, and give it to an independent commission to spend as it sees fit. The present process clearly is not working.”

Monday, July 14, 2008

Land Use, Smelt, & Apes

1) The attempt to control land use throughout the state based on the as yet-to-be-tested Blueprint model developed in Sacramento, runs into some very deep resistance, and rightfully so. The decisions around local land use really need to stay with local government as much as possible, based on the time tested principle of subsidiarity, that most decisions affecting people’s lives need to be made by that level of authority closest to the people whose lives will be affected, with the obvious exceptions around national decisions necessary to protect national interests such as the responsibility to protect the country.

2) A hatchery to provide more smelt as the species struggles to keep from becoming extinct is obviously a good thing to do, and along the line of other efforts humans have been doing for generations to help animals struggling with the impacts of human civilization, all are generally good to do, except when done to the level that species' needs override human needs.

3) Though I know that the deep ecology wing of the environmentalist movement thinks animal are at least equal, and probably superior to humans, I still am amazed, perplexed, and saddened, they will actually go to these lengths, pushing for a declaration granting human rights to apes, as this article notes. An excerpt.

"I am an ape," declared Pedro Pozas, a Spanish animal rights activist, in 2006. The Spanish parliament, which apparently has come to see things Pozas's way, is now poised to endorse the Great Ape Project, granting chimps, bonobos, apes, and orangutans some of the same rights that Jefferson once rooted in the human condition.

“The Great Ape Project was launched just 15 years ago by Princeton utilitarian bioethicist Peter Singer and Italian animal rights philosopher Paola Cavalieri with the stated goal of obtaining a United Nations declaration welcoming apes into a "community of equals" with humans. In a kind of parody of the Declaration of Independence, the project's "Declaration on Great Apes" asserts that "all great apes: human beings, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans" have basic rights including "the right to life," the "protection of individual liberty," and the "prohibition of torture," construed to include "deliberate infliction of severe pain”…for an alleged benefit to others," clearly aimed at the use of apes in medical research.

“But why grant apes rights? After all, if the Spanish parliament deems these animals insufficiently protected, it can enact more stringent protections, as other countries have. But improving the treatment of apes--of which there are few in Spain--is not really the game that is afoot. Rather, as Pozas chortled after the environment committee of the Spanish parliament passed the resolutions committing Spain to the Great Ape Project, this precedent will be the "spear point" that breaks the "species barrier."…

“Singer and Cavalieri put it this way in the introduction to The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity, the collection of essays they edited in 1993, with contributions by noted opponents of a human-centric ethics such as primatologist Jane Goodall and Ingrid Newkirk of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: “Our request comes at a special moment in history. Never before has our dominion over other animals been so pervasive and systematic. Yet this is also the moment when, within that very Western civilization that has so inexorably extended this dominion, a rational ethic has emerged challenging the moral significance of membership of our own species. This challenge seeks equal consideration for the interests of all animals, human and nonhuman.”

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Drilling, Sacramento Ranking, & Corruption

1) This article notes how environmental groups in Santa Barbara have come out in support of offshore oil drilling in their neighborhood and that is very good news for the energy production in this country. An excerpt.

“On the morning of Jan. 28, 1969, a Union Oil drilling site six miles off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif., sprang a leak. The ensuing spill stretched for miles, killed thousands of birds, and gave America the image of wildlife and shorelines covered in black crude. That spill is widely considered to have conceived the modern environmental movement. A year later, the first Earth Day was held, followed by passage of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

“After the spill, Santa Barbara residents formed an environmental group called GOO! (Get Oil Out!), one of the first community groups to oppose offshore oil drilling. Thirty-nine years later, GOO! is still around. But this April the group did something astonishing. It publicly supported an oil company's proposal to drill off the coast of Santa Barbara…

“When an environmental group formed for the sole purpose of opposing offshore oil drilling warmly embraces a plan to drill off its own coast, you know something important has changed in our culture: Americans have recognized that offshore oil drilling is largely safe.”

2) Sacramento comes out fair-to-middling in a recent ranking of the best cities to do business in, #186 of 335 in the All Cities rankingand #34 of 66 in the category of Large Cities—which isn’t bad—but sure leaves room for improvement and that is one of the determining campaign themes of the mayor’s race, along with public safety and good management.

3) Corruption in government is as old as government but it still raises the inevitable question, How could this have gone on so long?, as this great reporting from the Sacramento Bee reveals it did. An excerpt.

“The black market probe included FBI surveillance, search warrants and a city employee who volunteered to wear a wire to tape conversations as part of a sting.

“The FBI court documents describe how city employees for decades illegally let Bay Area salvage dealer Sheldon A. Morris remove city water meters from the storage yard. Morris sold the equipment locally and took a cut, then funneled cash into a slush fund he controlled.

“Instead of the salvage proceeds going to the city's general fund as required, FBI interviews and other documents reveal money from the kitty went to cater the Utilities Department's Christmas party and provide gifts for a golf tournament. Some of the cash wound up in employees' bank accounts.”

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Suburbia, Forests, and Nuclear Power

1) An article in the Los Angele Times reminds us that what most of us already know remains true, the suburbs are the best place to live in America. An excerpt.

“While millions of American families struggle with falling house prices, soaring gasoline costs and tightening credit, some environmentalists, urban planners and urban real estate speculators are welcoming the bad news as signaling what they have long dreamed of -- the demise of suburbia…

“Not so fast. The "out of the suburbs, back to the city" narrative rests more on anecdote than demographic or economic fact. Yes, high gas prices and rising sub-prime mortgage defaults are hurting some suburban communities, particularly newly built ones on the periphery. But the suburbs remain home to a majority of Americans and a larger proportion of U.S. families -- and people aren't leaving those communities in droves to live in cities. Even with economic growth slowing, many suburbs, exurbs and smaller towns, especially those whose economies are tied to energy, are continuing to do better than most cities in terms of job creation and population growth.”

2) This Sacramento Bee Commentary on the forests hits on all of the reasons many of us often wonder if the right hand knows what the left hand is doing when bureaucracy (public or private) is allowed, often driven by endless law suits, to dictate—from far away—what happens next door.

Wood for rebuilding from the Angora fire is readily available in the surrounding forests, already burned out and dead but still offering great building lumber, but it can’t be harvested because of upside down regulations. An excerpt.

“A year after the Angora fire in South Lake Tahoe, the dead trees, debris and rubble are cleared from the devastated neighborhoods. New homes are sprouting from the earth to the tune of contractors' blaring rock music, hammers and nail guns.

“Lumber to sustain the rhythm is being transported from Canada, Oregon and Washington. Dozens of structures are rising in a cacophony of recovery and new life.

“It's all taking place within the afternoon shadows cast by the thousands of dead trees that remain standing on adjacent national forest lands. Although seared and killed by high heat, inside their charred bark is unburned wood, light and bright.

“Yet despite this volume of usable fiber, these cellulose skeletons will never be tapped to help build a single structure.

“Rather, the trees killed by the fire will be left to rot, under assault by insects and fungi, as the U.S. Forest Service plans and plans, and then plans some more, about what to do in the aftermath of the last year's disaster. It doesn't want to get sued, having lost the will to fight against environmental activists and their attorneys."

3) When you read these ten reasons why nuclear power shouldn’t be considered for American energy production, you can see why the anti-nuclear groups are slowly losing the debate.

Friday, July 11, 2008

American River Bridge & Water Bond

1) By most estimates there is need for at least two more bridges over the American River (between Watt and Sunrise) and the other—in Folsom replacing the Folsom Dam bridge permanently closed after 9/11—is being built, and that is wonderful news. An excerpt.

“The newly named Folsom Lake Crossing, an estimated $132 million commuter bypass road and bridge minutes from downtown Folsom, has been under construction for a year and is expected to open in June 2009.

“Not that many would know.

“Unlike most urban road projects, the two-mile parkway and its lean bridge over the American River are taking shape in a desolate, fenced-off canyon of oak, pine and dry grass.”

2) As long as this water bond includes funds to build new dams, and move water past the Delta, as the governor and Senator Feinstein desire, it will help resolve many years of water storage and conveyance related legislative inaction that has caused unnecessary suffering, economic dislocation, and environmental unbalance. An excerpt.

“In a last-ditch effort to place a water bond on the November ballot, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Dianne Feinstein proposed a joint $9.3 billion plan Thursday that they believe addresses environmental and oversight concerns.

“Democratic lawmakers and the Republican governor have disagreed on how to structure a water bond for two years, largely due to environmental concerns related to Schwarzenegger's desire for new dams in California.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Geo Engineering & Electric Cars

1) An idea that is gaining some traction, for reducing global warming, is geoengineering, and this article talks about it.

An excerpt:

“Geoengineering may be a way to solve this collective action problem. Several different types of interventions have been discussed and modeled. Tom Wigley, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, discussed how injecting ultra-fine sulfur particles into the stratosphere or spraying clouds with saltwater to increase their reflectivity could reduce climate change. Estimates for how much a solution like this would cost are not definitive, since research has been limited and no field testing has been done; but if geoengineering proves feasible, it would almost certainly be far less expensive—and would require less extensive global cooperation—than GHG [Greenhouse Gas] mitigation.”

2) The market is responding the the high cost of the gasoline powered internal combustion engine and as it does, the rise of electric cars speeds up, as this article notes.

An excerpt:

“This March, American entrepreneur Elon Musk started production of his electric sports car, the Tesla. This car accelerates from 0 to 60 miles per hour in four seconds, tops out at 125 mph, and has a range of 220 miles. The $110,000 price tag limits the Tesla to the wealthy, but mass-production models are in the works. General Motors has committed itself to rolling out its electronic vehicle, the Volt, by 2010. Toyota plans a successor to its popular Prius hybrid.

“Recent cost comparisons by Deutsche Bank's auto analysts suggest electric cars will be cheaper to operate than conventional vehicles. Fuel costs per mile for gasoline-fueled cars are $0.27 in Germany, $0.24 in Britain, $0.17 in Brazil and $0.11 in the U.S., with differences driven by local fuel taxes. For electric vehicles, the cost per mile is a mere $0.02. Adding in a battery amortized over the life of the car, the cost is still only $0.10. Batteries will be expensive, at least in early years, but electric cars won't need costly engines or complex transmissions like today's autos.”

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Public Private Partnerships & Social Enterprise

1) The governance model we propose to preserve, protect and strengthen the American River Parkway is that of a public private partnership between a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) of the local governments adjacent to the Parkway and a nonprofit organization to manage the Parkway and secure supplemental funding through philanthropic development.

Our primary model for this is the Central Park Conservancy (CPC) which has been managing Central Park in New York under contract with the city of New York for many years.

An excerpt from the CPC website:

“The Central Park Conservancy is a private, not-for-profit organization founded in 1980 that manages Central Park under a contract with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Thanks to the generosity of many individuals, corporations, foundations, and the City of New York, the Conservancy has invested more than $450 million to date into the Park making it a model for urban parks worldwide. The Conservancy provides 85% of Central Park's $27 million annual operating budget and is responsible for all basic care of the Park.”

2) A central aspect of the nonprofit organization would be its adoption of the principles of social enterprise for funding beyond philanthropy and the base funding from the JPA—much as the CPC has done so successfully—and this research paper, The Future of Social Enterprise, from Harvard examines the social enterprise field.

Here is an excerpt from the abstract, and a link to the paper is at the jump:

The Future of Social Enterprise considers the confluence of forces that is shaping the field of social enterprise, changing the way that funders, practitioners, scholars, and organizations measure performance. We trace a growing pool of potential funding sources to solve social problems, much of it stemming from an intergenerational transfer of wealth and new wealth from financial and high-tech entrepreneurs. We examine how these organizations can best access the untapped resources by demonstrating mission performance and then propose three potential scenarios for how this sector might evolve:

Consolidation: In this scenario, funding will keep growing in a gradual, linear fashion and organizations will compete for resources by demonstrating performance, with a focus on efficiency. The sector will consolidate, with some efficient organizations gaining scale, some merging and then growing, and some failing to achieve either scale or efficiency and eventually shutting down.

Entrepreneurial: In a more optimistic future, existing and new enterprises will apply strategies to achieve and demonstrate performance, improving efficiency and effectiveness and attracting new funding sources. More organizations will enter a reformed, competitive field of social change with new entrepreneurial models, established traditional organizations, and innovative funding strategies fueling widespread success.

Expressive: Rather than focusing exclusively on performance, funders and organizations may view their investment as an expressive civic activity. As much value is placed on participating in a cause as on employing concrete measures of impact or efficiency. In this scenario, funding will flow as social entrepreneurs experiment with new models based on a range of individual priorities and relationships.”

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Smoky West

A very interesting article from today’s Bee about the level of smoke in the air today—when forest fires are suppressed—related to what was common in the past—when they weren’t—and it was a whole lot smokier then, with the terrible air perhaps helping to account for the much shorter life-span in the 18th and 19th century.

A marvelous book: Fire in Sierra Nevada Forests: A Photographic Interpretation of Ecological Changed Since 1849, clearly shows this to be the case, as it is a comparison of photos taken in the forests from the same vantage points—though 100 years apart—revealing a much deeper and richer forest today than then.

An excerpt from the Bee article:

“Wildland firefighting didn't occur until the turn of the 20th century, after the federal government set aside land as parks and created the Forest Service.

"Fire suppression became its reason for being," Yosemite-based U.S. Geological Survey scientist Jan W. van Wagentdonk wrote of the Forest Service in an article last year for the journal Fire Ecology.

"It was the only policy for all federal land managers until the late 1960s when (National Park Service) officials recognized fire as a natural process."

“The amount of land burned in today's far more urbanized and farmed California pales against the acreage consumed historically, before Euro-American settlements, according to University of California, Berkeley, environmental researchers.

“The scientists estimated that an average 4.4 million acres burned annually in California before 1800, compared with an average 250,000 acres a year in the last five decades, 1950 through 2000.”

Monday, July 07, 2008

California, Hope, & Low Income Housing

1) Dan Walters makes a pretty good case in his column from the Sacramento Bee that California is pretty dysfunctional when it comes to its political structure, especially evident in the incessant wrangling around the state budget.

However, it might be that California voters are smarter than often portrayed, and have—by their voting behavior which is probably determined by a sort of random coming to consensus from a regular (more irregular for the squeamish) following of the shenanigans in Sacramento—set it up this way, a point made in this article from the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt.

“The Democratic field is so crowded because the assumption is that California will revert to its natural voting patterns and elect a Democrat to follow Arnold. But Republicans argue that California voters have now established a habit of electing Republicans to the executive office to check the excesses of the Democratic legislature. Republicans have held the governor's office for 29 of the last 42 years; at the same time, Democrats have controlled both houses of the legislature for all but three years during that period. That's clearly a vote for divided government.”

2) The policy that developers build 15% of all developments for low-income housing will drive developers from the city, and those stalwart builders who do not want to take government subsidies to build their projects should be praised rather than the rather harsh perspective expressed in this Bee editorial.

Communities are optimally built by the private builders and local government working together, with the city easing the way and the builder creating a community all can be proud of, of which we are fortunate in Sacramento that we—to a large extent—do have.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Taxes & City Health

As our area again faces the demands of public leadership to raise taxes, as this Bee story notes (good to see some resistance), here is one about Baltimore, one of the once-great cities in our country which raised taxes regularly and now provides an object lesson, in this story from the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt:

“If you've seen HBO's "The Wire," you know why those of us who live in Baltimore are often asked whether our city really is the hellhole it is portrayed to be on TV.

“Our answer is, well, yes. Baltimore deserves the Third-World profile it has developed because it has expanses of crumbling, crime-riddled neighborhoods populated by low-income renters, an absent middle class, and just a few enclaves of high-income gentry near the Inner Harbor or in suburbs.

“This wasn't what Baltimore looked like in the 1950s. Then it was a prosperous, blue-collar city of about 950,000 with a median family income 6.6% above the national average. Back in the good old days, Baltimore had a smaller percentage of residents living in poverty (22.7%) than the nation as a whole (27.8%), and a greater percentage of families (23.1%) earning a middle-class income of at least $44,600 in today's dollars than the rest of the country (19.1%).

“Today, the city has a population that is almost 50% smaller, and about 40% of families with children live at or near the federal poverty line. Among the country's 100 most populous cities, Baltimore ranks a shameful 87th on median household income.

“How did this happen?

“Most people think of cities as dense concentrations of people. They are that, of course. But they are also dense concentrations of capital – homes, offices, factories, theaters and roads. All of these assets are attractive to people because, when they are in close proximity to each other, they offer the chance of a more prosperous life.

“The problem is that once capital is built, it can become a target for tax-and-spend politicians who bank on the fact that physical capital will continue to draw people, even as it is taxed more heavily. This is what has happened in Baltimore. The city has waged a war on capital for more than 50 years, raising property taxes an astonishing 21 times from 1950 to 1985.”

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Parkway & Coast Fires

The person once thought a suspect for the trestle fire that caused substantial damage to the Parkway while destroying the trestle, has been rearrested, in the same area of the Parkway where the fire occurred, for probation violation.

The article from today’s Bee, reminds me of what many people have long known regarding the origin of fires in the Parkway, that they often result from the many camp fires in the illegal camps the homeless have been erecting in the Parkway for several years.

There have been reports of walnut groves burned down, and several other Parkway fires over the years attributed to homeless campers whose camp fires ignited surrounding trees and brush; and it seems common sense to assume that when you do not vigorously restrict the illegal camping in an area that is heavily wooded, eventually the fire damage will become extensive.

Neither the city nor the county have done much to restrict the illegal camping—and it is important to mention that they do operate under some new court cases somewhat limiting their ability to be too aggressive as well as limited funding for rangers—but we suggest that it is still worthwhile to look at other ideas that have worked elsewhere, some of which we provided in our research report from 2005, The American River Parkway Lower Reach Area: A Corroded Crown Jewel; Restoring the Luster. (pages 25-42)

In this time of tragic, highly dangerous, and very costly fires destroying some of the most wonderful natural places in our state—as this Bee story reporting on the Big Sur & Santa Barbara fires notes—it is crucial we focus as strongly as we are able on the danger close to home and in that regard, we can do a better job, especially in the Parkway.

Friday, July 04, 2008

K Street (Ups & Downs) & Ground Zero

As we bemoan the never never land of K Street renewal, which this article posted on Prosper Online details in too-grim-too-remember fashion, balanced by this article from today’s Bee, we might also take a peek at what has been going in New York at the site of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the difficulty in getting the replacement buildings actually built at ground zero, as this article from the Wall Street Journal reveals.

An excerpt from each:

1) The K Street article (David Townshend: Blow Up K Street or Move On) first:

“Sacramento city leaders have two options downtown.

“No. 1, blow up K Street. Again. OK, not with dynamite but with the same fearlessness and bulldozers that didn't work the last two times they tried it. Maybe they'll get lucky this time.

“Or they can take option two, which may actually hold more promise. They can move on. Lift their collective heads out of another vacant downtown lot and make something happen elsewhere.

“In fairness to our current mayor and city council, city leaders have been struggling with what to do with downtown -- especially K Street -- for more than 70 years. Old-timers will tell you that as far back as the 1940s their parents forbade them to go west of 7th Street on K.”

2) Second, this from the Bee article (Downtown’s projects rise in face of downturn)

“Standing at the corner of 10th and K streets, in the heart of downtown Sacramento, there's little sign of the real estate free fall slamming the suburbs.

“On one corner, dust rises from the construction site of a musical theater, restaurant and bar complex – The Cosmopolitan – scheduled to open in September in a former Woolworth's store. Across the street, crews are renovating another old department store into "office condos."

“Corner by corner, the gradual metamorphosis of Sacramento's core continues to unfold, much as it has for the past decade.

"We're just percolating right along," said Leslie Fritzsche, city downtown development manager.”

3) Third, this from the Wall Street Journal article (The Politics of Can’t-Possibly-Do):

“This week the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey issued a stunning document to explain why Ground Zero has remained nothing but a hole for some seven years.

“It is arguably the greatest political and bureaucratic fiasco in the history of the world. Remember the line about how if we don't rebuild the towers "the terrorists will win"? The terrorists will be dead of old age before this project is finished…

“Ground Zero is a perfect storm of contemporary American politics. The report cites "19 different governmental entities from every level of government each laying claim to some component of the overall project." And, "Each entity makes daily decisions about their individual projects, but no streamlined process or authority is in place to . . . ensure that each decision is in the best interest of the overall project." This sounds eerily like the 9/11 Commission's assessment of our dis-coordinated national security agencies…

“That is because productive decision making has fallen as a public value below "being heard." Even being heard is no longer enough. The "stakeholders" have to prevail, somehow assuming that the process – or a complex project like this – will endure endless blows. Meanwhile, construction of the wholly private, 52-story 7 World Trade Center building was done in 2006.”

Oh well, life does goes on...Have a Wonderful 4th!!!'s a beautiful day in Sacramento!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Environmental Prisons & Slow Trains

1) Many folks have always said that strict environmentalism works best with a captive audience and the prisons in Washington are certainly proving that to be the case, with dramatic environmental benefits flowing from a few fairly simple changes.

An excerpt from the article from the Olympian newspaper:

“Washing the inmates' laundry in cold water, composting kitchen waste and collecting rain water are holding down costs to both the taxpayer and the environment, says the Department of Corrections.

“The state's 15 prisons have seen some successes in the last four years:

• 23 percent less waste sent to dumps
• 18 percent less vehicle fuel used
• 1.5 percent less energy use per square foot
• 40 percent increase in recycling

"It's like a lot of other things. It's where the light shines. There's some unexpected gains when you start going down the road on sustainability," said Dan Pacholke, the department's facilities administrator for Western Washington.

“Inmates and staff at Cedar Creek Corrections Center have headed some of those efforts, particularly in water use and gardening.”

2) Mass transit will work only when it is safe and timely to use it. The continual delays, for whatever reason, most certainly need to be addressed, and, if it takes congressional action to accomplish that, as this editorial in today’s Bee notes, then it should be done.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

India & Global Warming Hysteria

1) India and China are two of the developing countries that are also among the largest global polluters, and in this article from the New York Times, it appears they are still talking, but not following through much on their global warming plans, feeling it is primarily a problem for the West to solve.

An excerpt:

“During a speech here on Monday, [Indian] Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged that climate change was a dangerous problem, but the plan he introduced reinforced India’s long-held stance that developed nations created the bulk of the mess and should be responsible for cleaning it up.”

2) Global warming as mass hysteria is the theme of this article from the Wall Street Journal, and here is an excerpt:

“Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the mass hysteria phenomenon known as global warming. Much of the science has since been discredited. Now it's time for political scientists, theologians and psychiatrists to weigh in.

“What, discredited? Thousands of scientists insist otherwise, none more noisily than NASA's Jim Hansen, who first banged the gong with his June 23, 1988, congressional testimony (delivered with all the modesty of "99% confidence").

“But mother nature has opinions of her own. NASA now begrudgingly confirms that the hottest year on record in the continental 48 was not 1998, as previously believed, but 1934, and that six of the 10 hottest years since 1880 antedate 1954. Data from 3,000 scientific robots in the world's oceans show there has been slight cooling in the past five years, never mind that "80% to 90% of global warming involves heating up ocean waters," according to a report by NPR's Richard Harris.

“The Arctic ice cap may be thinning, but the extent of Antarctic sea ice has been expanding for years. At least as of February, last winter was the Northern Hemisphere's coldest in decades. In May, German climate modelers reported in the journal Nature that global warming is due for a decade-long vacation. But be not not-afraid, added the modelers: The inexorable march to apocalypse resumes in 2020.

“This last item is, of course, a forecast, not an empirical observation. But it raises a useful question: If even slight global cooling remains evidence of global warming, what isn't evidence of global warming? What we have here is a nonfalsifiable hypothesis, logically indistinguishable from claims for the existence of God. This doesn't mean God doesn't exist, or that global warming isn't happening. It does mean it isn't science.”

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Delta Blues & Breaking Through

1) The wrangling over the Delta continues and still, the elephant in the room remains the simple fact that the state of California—most populated in the country and still growing—needs more water and more conveyance systems for moving it; something the environmentalist community is dead-set against while promoting the solution to our water problems as one of conservation and placing the health and well-being of animals over the health and well-being of humans.

This topsy turvy method of analysis continues to get us nowhere fast, but as more members of the environmentalist community see the results of the decades long—and rather restrictive—way of dealing with the natural community growth of areas, like California, that are highly hospitable to human habitation, will change their ideas and become supporters of community growth rather than continue a doomed-to-failure fight against it.

2) This has been happening already and the important book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility, which is commented on in the overview of it from the website of its authors:

“What the new ecological crises demand is not that we constrain human power but unleash it. Overcoming global warming demands not pollution control but rather a new kind of economic development. We cannot tear down the old energy economy before building the new one. The invention of the Internet and microchips, the creation of the space program, the birth of the European Union - those breakthroughs were only made possible by big and bold investments in the future.”

You can read the essay online which began the discussion leading to the book: The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World, and it is a keeper.