Tuesday, September 30, 2008

ARPPS Research Report 2008

Our research report: The American River Parkway: Recreation, Education, & Sanctuary has been posted to our website and here is the executive summary:

Executive Summary

1) Many Meanings

The American River Parkway means so many things to the many different people who explore it.

For families and their children it is a deep laboratory of educative experience and recreational communion; for bird watchers it is a continually discovering treasury of winged creatures from far and near; to the fisherman a rich harvest of seasonal joy; to the biker, horseback rider, and hiker, a pleasant traverse through beauty close to urban and suburban home.

2) New Parkway Plan

One of the major items we worked on during the initial planning period for the formation of ARPPS in 2002 was to encourage organized advocacy to finally conduct the planning update process that was mandated to be done every five years in the original Parkway Plan of 1985, but had not been done since.

Soon after, the update process began and now is reaching completion—for which we are very happy—and the community should feel some sense of pride in the work that has been done.

The crucial piece of the completion is to ensure that in the future, the update process sticks to the original five year sequence of review and update, as new issues will evolve requiring new planning.

3) Recreation

The most important reality to preserve in the work of the American River Parkway Preservation Society is that of the people to experience the Parkway fully, safely, and enjoyably; to absorb the sanctuary of an approximately 4,600 acre garden along the banks of the American River where families can walk, ride their bikes, ride horses, raft, fish, swim, sun themselves on the beaches and in the parks, play golf, have picnics, bird watch, jog, and just plain sit in a sunny spot and watch the river and people go by.

With horse-drawn carriages, bike rentals from downtown hotels and the increased public safety presence in the downtown and North Sacramento area of the Parkway long advocated for; we can envision people visiting Sacramento, staying in those downtown hotels, venturing out on the Parkway to get to golf courses, outdoor concerts and plays in Discovery Park, Paradise Beach, Sacramento State, Rancho Cordova, Gold River, Fair Oaks Village, Effie Yeaw and other Nature Centers, the Fish Hatchery, Nimbus Lake, old town Folsom, and links that are being established from new developments to the Parkway such as the proposed Folsom South Canal Corridor Plan.

4) Education

The primary educational experience of the Parkway is centered around the Effie Yeaw Nature Center http://www.effieyeaw.org/ with its multitude of educational events and publications directed towards the deepening of appreciation around the natural resources of the Parkway.

Unfortunately there is only one nature center in a Parkway of about 30 miles stretching from Folsom Lake to the confluence of the Sacramento River and several more are needed.

5) Sanctuary

The central aspect of the value of the Parkway is that of sanctuary, where urban and suburban residents can retreat into the natural environment for recreation, spiritual and psychological refreshment; and buildings (other than nature centers, golf course related structures, the Indian Heritage Center, and public accommodations) should not be allowed.

6) Conclusion

How do we accomplish all of this? How do we preserve, protect, and strengthen our Parkway so that the balance of educational, recreational and sanctuary experience is enhanced for all of us?

We can begin by looking to those parks where this has been done, and to those local resources able to help us get our Parkway to the future we envision: “We want our Parkway, seven generations from now, to be a vibrant, accessible, and serene sanctuary, nourishing and refreshing the spirit of all who enter it.”

This year our focus has been on strengthening the Parkway in those daily usage venues—biking—hiking—seeing and appreciating, with a call for a substantial increase in land acquisition and developed recreation areas to strengthen the Parkway’s footprint; and encouraging more and safer usage through a dedicated pedestrian trail freeing up the existing paved trail for bikes only, more picnic areas and park benches for passive appreciation accompanied by easier access for the frail elderly and handicapped, now virtually excluded, and more nature centers in communities like Rancho Cordova, North Sacramento, Rosemount, and Sutters Landing.

However, the single most important issue impacting recreation, education, and sanctuary, is the lack of public safety, particularly in the lower third area of the Parkway, where illegal homeless camps have been allowed for years, and where even park directors privately warn people not to venture alone.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Downtown Los Angeles

A little change of wording and this article about the ups and downs of trying to invigorate the downtown of Los Angeles—a natural suburban city as is Sacramento—with the help of a new Rite-Aid, could very well be Sacramento, art walks and all.

An excerpt.

“The Rite-Aid opened a few years ago with fanfare, arriving at just about the high-point of the hype over the “Residential Renaissance” of Downtown. Rite-Aid set up shop in the Santee Village project, an ambitious effort that saw a developer get plenty of help from various government agencies in order to convert a collection of mid-rise buildings from garment shops to residential lofts.

“The project won plaudits as the latest in a trend that was bound to remake Downtown into a place where folks with lots of disposable income could “live, work and play,” according to boosters.

“Rite-Aid’s arrival appeared to offer a clear signal that the trend would go on unabated. The new, young, and relatively upscale residents of Downtown would need a proper drugstore, after all. It all seemed quite modern for a section of the city where mom-and-pop corner stores were the only option for aspirin or chewing gum, and pharmacies were still just that—not places that offer shampoo and light bulbs and soda to customers waiting for their prescriptions to be filled.

“The hype apparently failed to meet the expectations of the marketplace, though, and now Rite-Aid is leaving.

“Get used to it—but also realize that this is a phase, and there can be some benefits to a slowdown.

“Also keep in mind that Downtown has, indeed, seen a great deal of change with the latest round of residential redevelopment. Much of it has been good, even with the strains that have come as wealthier newcomers bumped into the many poor folks who called the area home long before its latest star turn. Take some solace in the thought that such strains will likely find room to ease now that the hype fading.

“The pending closure of the Rite-Aid, meanwhile, offers lessons to be absorbed by boosters and others. The chain is no stranger to inner-city retail, but you can bet that its executives overlooked a few things on the way to the corner of 7th and Los Angeles, especially in regard to the chances for crowds of upscale loft dwellers filling their aisles. All the gushing press and publicity couldn’t change the fact that the location still backs up against Skid Row, one of the toughest precincts of the city. It still takes a walk of several blocks—through territory that can be pretty scary at night—to get to the next section of Downtown where bright lights and activity provide a perception of public security.”

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Homeless Camp Murders Update

The most significant aspect of this story—other than the primary tragedy of the two deaths—is how entrenched homeless camps are becoming in our area, which most experts attribute to the concentration of services providing essential domestic service—feeding, showering, hangouts, medical, schooling for children, etc—without a corresponding demand to become involved in the type of services leading to a cessation of the homeless condition—job seeking training, vocational training, substance abuse counseling, etc; which has created an image of Sacramento in the perception of the homeless, particularly those with no inclination to change their condition, to migrate here.

Helping the homeless—and all others less fortunate than we are—is most certainly a mandate each community should undertake, but it is also a mandate each community needs to be involved in with a vigorous effort tying the provision of domestic service to a utilization of reformative service.

The one area where this does not hold true is in the delivery of service to the chronic homeless, where providing housing first—which we support—has been found to be the one step a community can do that really impacts the chronic homeless who have been homeless for so long and become so fundamentally degraded in initiative and responsibility that beginning with the security of housing is really the only program that seems to work for them to begin utilizing reformative service on their own; but for the general homeless who are only recently experiencing hard times and often still retain many attributes of personal responsibility, the tying of the communities help to the homeless helping themselves has to become the mantra.

An excerpt from the latest news on the homeless camp murders.

“Both bodies were found in a well- established homeless camp just south of 47th Avenue and east of the light-rail tracks.

“Earlier this week, police said they were investigating a possible link between the killings. They revealed no more information Friday, including whether they suspect other homeless people could be at risk.

“Any reverberations from the deaths had not made much impact on the homeless population at the city's north end, where the Loaves & Fishes shelter provides the largest array of homeless services in Sacramento.

"People have heard of the killings and it to some degree has increased their fear," said Joan Burke, director of advocacy at Loaves & Fishes. "But since they do not know who it was … there hasn't been a dramatic response to it."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Helping the Salmon

Human intervention continues to play a major role in protecting the salmon run in the lower American River --which initially harmed it through the construction of upstream dams -- and these projects are a good example of that.

An excerpt from the story from the Bee.

“Two projects are under way this month to improve fish spawning in the American River.

“Salmon and steelhead need fine gravel sediment to create nests, or "redds," for their eggs. The projects will create more spawning habitat by adding and moving gravel at key locations.

“The first project began Monday at Sailor Bar Recreation Area near Fair Oaks and continues through Oct. 6. Over a five-year period, the work will add 75,000 cubic yards of gravel at seven locations on the river.

“Funded largely by federal water contractors, the work aims to atone for the effect of upstream dams, which block natural gravel movement downstream.

“The second project begins next week to improve access to a side channel for spawning steelhead. The site downstream of Sunrise Boulevard contains 9 percent of all steelhead spawning habitat in the river but dries out at flows less than 3,500 cubic feet per second, often killing millions of steelhead eggs.”

Friday, September 26, 2008

Homeless Camp Murders Announcement

Two bodies found in 24 hours
By Niesha Lofing - nlofing@sacbee.com
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, September 26, 2008

Police are trying to learn what led to two homicides within 24 hours at a homeless camp in south Sacramento.

They say they are looking into the possibility that the killings are linked.

A man found dead about 4:34 a.m. Thursday was the second victim found in a brushy field along 47th Avenue, across the street from the Campbell's Soup factory and the 47th Avenue light-rail station. An established homeless camp populated by about 25 people is in the field.

The 39-year-old man apparently was killed by blunt force trauma or stabbing, Sacramento Police Sgt. Matt Young said.

The homicide is the second there in less than a day. Police were called to the field at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and found the body of a 38-year-old man who had been shot to death, he said.

The man suffered multiple gunshot wounds and might have been killed earlier in the day, he said.

Several witnesses were questioned about Wednesday's homicide, including the man whose body was found Thursday, Young said.

Motives remain unclear for the killings, and Young declined to speculate about what contributed to the violence that claimed the lives of both men, who are believed to have been transients. "We're in the very early stages of our investigation," he said.

The transient camp was devoid of residents Thursday morning, and detectives and Sacramento County sheriff's deputies – who were helping on the case – stood talking among the tattered blankets and garbage that litter the weedy field.

Kevin Fereira, who works at an equipment rental business next to the field, said about 10 homeless campers live on the property.

The business hasn't had any problems other than litter because of the camp, he said.

A sign posted toward the front of the field proclaims the coming of a new soccer complex, Soccer Planet.

The property is owned by Ramon and Connie Herrera, who also own and manage rental properties in Sacramento and a south Sacramento nightclub.

Anyone with information about the homicides is asked to call Crime Alert at (916) 443-HELP or (800) AA-CRIME. Callers may remain anonymous and could be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

Body Found in American River Announcement

Body of transgender person recovered from American River
By Chelsea Phua - cphua@sacbee.com
Published 6:40 pm PDT Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Authorities recovered the body of a 22-year-old transgender woman from the American River on Sunday.

A fisherman spotted the body about 12:45 p.m. floating in the middle of the river less than a mile southeast of the Highway 160 bridge, coroner and police officials said.

Officer Konrad Von Schoech said authorities initially thought the body was female, because of long hair, painted toenails and a smaller frame. The body was also covered in mud so it was hard to tell, he said.

On closer examination, authorities determined it was a male body, Von Schoech said.

Coroner officials have identified the person, whose last known address was in North Highlands, using fingerprints, but have not released the identity pending notification of next-of-kin.

Von Schoech said initial investigation indicates that no foul play was involved, but authorities are awaiting autopsy results to determine a cause of death.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Panhandler Shoots Disabled Person

Though all of the circumstances have yet to come out about this tragic story reported in the Sacramento Bee, and might invalidate the speculation given here, the point must continually be made; that when certain corrosive behaviors are encouraged, they can often turn deadly; and the long standing tolerance—and even invitation—that our fair city has generally shown to the down-and-out without a corresponding and vigorous encouragement to shape-up ones life rather than accepting the status quo of downward degradation will often lead to tragedy.

Transforming behavior that is self destructive comes from an internal decision on the individual’s part and it is not hastened when the major focus of a community’s help is un-tethered to any self reformation efforts and that is, sadly, the position of the major local organizations working with the homeless, who comprise a significant part of the panhandling community.

When, and if, our community’s major outreach to the homeless community is values-based and centered around the importance of the individual making the decision to begin to transform their life; and when the programs working with the homeless are being developed and managed by those who are themselves formerly homeless who have rediscovered the grit and determination to transform their life, we might begin to see a change upward rather than downward.

An excerpt from the latest story in the Bee regarding this case.

“A 47-year-old woman will face four felony charges, including attempted murder, for allegedly shooting a man while she was panhandling in downtown Sacramento.

“Audrey Ann Jackson, who has no known address, stood in Sacramento Superior Court Wednesday during an afternoon hearing, listening to the charges and sometimes smiling at the judge.

“The other three charges are weapons violations, including possessing a handgun not registered to her.

“Jackson is accused of shooting and seriously injuring a state worker as he sat waiting for a bus ride home at Sixth and J streets Monday afternoon.

“The injured man, 54-year-old Frank Perez, who has cerebral palsy and walks with a cane, has undergone surgery and faces more procedures for wounds to his abdomen.

“Witnesses told police that Jackson was hitting up people for money at the bus stop and when she approached Perez, he declined.

“After a verbal exchange, Jackson pulled out a gun and shot Perez while he was sitting on a bus-stop bench, according to police.

“Jackson was arrested while riding a bus near Riverside Boulevard and Broadway a short time later.

“In a jailhouse interview, Jackson said she got the gun for protection after she was assaulted a year ago.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Parkway Fire Announcement

Fire burns near American River
Bee Metro Staff -
Published 3:09 pm PDT Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Sacramento Fire Department was fighting a wildland/grass fire this afternoon along the American River near Del Paso Boulevard and Highway 160, a spokesman said.

The fire was near a homeless encampment and no structures were involved, said Capt. Jim Doucette.

The fire raised a highly visible plume of smoke.

He said the fire was reported at 2:26 p.m. and quickly went to two alarms. However, he said firefighters were bringing the blaze under control.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

City Audits & Tent Cities

1) This editorial is on the money that the recent admission by the Sacramento city manager that many departments of city government have never been audited is mind-boggling, but accounts for the messes we’ve been seeing in the news recently around the library and utilities departments.

One wonders what else is lying in wait where there has been no accountability for generations…scary thought.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento City Manager Ray Kerridge made an astounding admission recently. Most city departments, he said, have never been audited.

“That lack of oversight helps explain the mess in the Utilities Department, which lost track of thousands of water meters and is under FBI investigation for possible illegal sale of those meters.

“Kerridge recommended, and the City Council approved, the hiring of two auditors to begin looking at all 17 city departments for waste, fraud and abuse. The cost is $125,000 for the first six months, but if the auditors are any good they should find far more than that in potential savings.”

2) Tent cities are springing up all over and with some cities are allowing them to stay, as lawyers win cases that restrict government from enforcing sanctions against sleeping and camping in public.

A recent article notes the increase.

An excerpt.

“RENO, Nev. - A few tents cropped up hard by the railroad tracks, pitched by men left with nowhere to go once the emergency winter shelter closed for the summer.

“Then others appeared — people who had lost their jobs to the ailing economy, or newcomers who had moved to Reno for work and discovered no one was hiring.

“Within weeks, more than 150 people were living in tents big and small, barely a foot apart in a patch of dirt slated to be a parking lot for a campus of shelters Reno is building for its homeless population. Like many other cities, Reno has found itself with a "tent city" — an encampment of people who had nowhere else to go.

“From Seattle to Athens, Ga., homeless advocacy groups and city agencies are reporting the most visible rise in homeless encampments in a generation.

“Nearly 61 percent of local and state homeless coalitions say they've experienced a rise in homelessness since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007, according to a report by the National Coalition for the Homeless. The group says the problem has worsened since the report's release in April, with foreclosures mounting, gas and food prices rising and the job market tightening.”

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cleaning up the Parkway

This story in the Bee is a wonderful testament to the deep love so many of us feel for the Parkway, and how important it is to keep it nice and clean for everyone to use; but it also is a deadly reminder of how dirty it gets, largely through the illegal camping by the homeless, and how crucial it is that we discover another way to ensure it remains clean rather than the sporadic clean-up by small organizations that can’t possibly keep up with the mess, or even the most dedicated efforts by one or two volunteers who do so regularly.

Remember that the Parkway is falling behind about $1.1 million annually just in maintenance, according to the American River Parkway Financial Needs Study Update 2006 (p. vii), so it is impossible to care for the Parkway—including regular clean-up—as it was intended to be cared for, let alone to improve it by adding new land and expanding its educational and recreational assets.

The solution we have proposed for stabilizing 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.

This is the model being used by the Central Park Conservancy to manage Central Park in New York—and the Conservancy raise’s 85% of funding needed by Central Park (including paid leadership coordinating the efforts of the many volunteers who regularly clean it up)—and the Sacramento Zoological Society to manage the Sacramento Zoo, which they have wholly done since 1997 under contract with the City of Sacramento.

An excerpt from the article.

“When the annual Great American River Clean Up kicks off at 9 a.m. today [September 20] with 1,000 volunteers destined to collect 20 tons of garbage, Bill Perry, 57, will be among them.

“The retired state worker has become a local legend.

“The oldest of seven children, Perry credits his dad for teaching him to leave a place better than he found it.

“The Bee chatted with Perry about his commitment to picking up trash.

“There's trash everywhere, not just on the parkway. Does it ever drive you crazy?

“I understand that it's bigger than me. I just do my little piece. So I don't lay awake thinking about it.

“Why do you do it?

“I started rowing on the American in 1985 after breaking my kneecap. I couldn't ride my bike for about a year. I would see the trash along the riverbanks. I've always had a lot of pride in Sacramento and I didn't like the idea of the boaters seeing all of that trash because I thought it reflected on our community.

“Did it begin to consume you?

“The American River is just so beautiful. There were times when I worked four or five days in a row. I would take vacation time to do this.

“Though they're not the only ones who litter, the homeless are part of the equation on the lower three miles of the parkway. What have you observed about that population over the years?

“It was almost like society itself. There were drug addicts and mentally ill who were really not approachable. But there were also regular everyday people who were just trying to get by. You can stereotype a whole group if you want, but they are all very different people.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Railyard Development, Atlanta

Here is an interesting story about a railyard development in Atlanta that has many of the same markers floating around the development of the railyard in Sacramento, and in Atlanta, one element that doesn’t seem to fit the typical urbanism template is how conducive the development is to the car driving public; almost suburban in that sense—like the wonderful free parking—long a suburban right of nature.

Here is an excerpt.

“Atlantic Station is a new development near the core of Atlanta being built on disused railroad tracks. It combines residential, housing and retail uses and, among proponents of the New Urbanist movement and is often held up as a model for developments to come.

“Atlantic Station is traditionally urban but is surprisingly suburban. On the surface, Atlantic Station appears to fit many of the New Urbanist design criteria. The buildings start at the sidewalk (pavement) line, rather than being behind parking lots. There are no indoor shopping malls. Instead the stores are directly on the streets, reminiscent of old downtowns or the first shopping centers, like Country Club in Kansas City.

“Some of the normally superficial New Urbanism, however, is even more ephemeral in Atlantic Station. For one thing, prime New Urbanist lynchpins --- anti-automobile design, pedestrian orientation, transit orientation, paid parking, banning of big box stores --- do not apply there.

“Throughout the development there are entrances at the sidewalk level that look like New York subway entrances. As in New York, they go down. But they don’t go down to a subway --- that’s well beyond walking distance, across one of the nation’s widest freeways in Midtown. Instead, the stairs --- at least 16 such entrances --- lead down to a three-story parking lot that appears to be under the entire development. Houston could not have done it bigger or better.

“The architects did not design Atlantic Station from the ground up --- they designed it with three levels of parking under the stores, residences and streets. Thus, this “pedestrian oriented development” sits on a foundation of automobile orientation. And don’t think that the parking lots are only below the surface. Virtually all of the tall office and residential towers have a number of floors above the parking lot platform, though to the credit of the architects, they are not obvious.

“Another rather suburban feature is free parking. A staple of current urban planning is that parking should not be free. The opponents of free parking believe that if only free parking were outlawed, people would flock to inner cities and transit. And to be sure, the little street parking provided in Atlantic Station is metered, which means people must pay. But on all of the parking meters there are signs to the effect that two hours of free parking are offered in the underground lots.”

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Government Communications

Though it sounds like an oxymoron more often than naught, the rewards from government communicating honestly to the public are substantial and can help in the partnership that both must be involved in to render more value to that which both desire, the public good; of particular application to the Parkway.

Good government communication with the public through the media is the subject of this article.

An excerpt.

“Those of us who work in or with government know only too well the problems that can arise when journalists start paying attention to performance data from government. Declining performance, missed targets, and performance that is worse than peers are fodder for a nasty news story. Our instinct, therefore, is to fear the media and hope it will ignore our measurement efforts.

“Bad instinct. Instead of running from the media, we should run to it — but armed with data to get reporters to write articles that will help government tackle social, environmental, and economic problems. We should also think more strategically about other key audiences that can use government data to make better decisions to improve societal outcomes.

“Check your local paper. If it is like my mine, it carries several stories every day with data about problems that government agencies are trying to reduce. Some even report government successes. One day this month, for example, the lead story in my local paper reported the increase in state residents with healthcare coverage linked to the state health care reform law. On another page, there was a story about a new link between arsenic and diabetes, based on a "new analysis of government data," and another, again citing government data, reported racial disparities in the use of corporal punishment by schools. Yet another story reported the number of college students who died from drinking. Three editorials included data, while the front page of the metro section featured two maps showing obesity rates in every state from 1991 through 2007. Simply put, the paper was packed with stories using data gathered by government or nonprofit organizations.”

Friday, September 19, 2008

Walnut Crop Announcement & Panhandler Marketing

1) Record harvest estimate – 750 million pounds
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"This year's harvest of California walnuts will be the biggest ever, according to a forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"Farmers are likely to gather about 750 million pounds of walnuts this fall, beating the 2005 record by more than 5 percent. Walnuts are one of the top three crops in the Sacramento Valley.

"The state's walnut harvest has grown roughly 80 percent in the past 20 years, according to the USDA figures."

– Jim Downing

2) Like any good business plan, the art of panhandling is developing marketing tools to advance its cause and is using technology to further communicate those tools, as this post indicates.

An excerpt.

Tips for panhandlers, from panhandlers

“Currently, the direct, humorous approach is in vogue. That's why in many cities today you'll hear some version of: "I won't lie to you, I need a drink." Panhandlers also report that asking for specific amounts of money lends credibility to pitches. "I need 43 more cents to get a cup of coffee," a panhandler will declare; some people will give exactly that much, while others will simply hand over a buck.

Oddly, the tips are offered on-line:

“If it seems unlikely that a homeless person would surf the Web for advice on how to panhandle, that's exactly the point: many aren't homeless and are lying about their circumstances.”

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Climate Change

A former member of the Thatcher government writes a book about global warming from a provocative position; what if the worst scenarios are correct and what can we do?

The review is in the Weekly Standard. (link requires subscription to read in full)

An excerpt.

“He is, as he emphasizes, not a scientist--and his approach also demonstrates a sense of what is appropriate for him to undertake. But he is more than credentialed to talk about implementing policy and, at the outset, he articulates exactly what is at issue--surprisingly easy to lose sight of--for policy- makers addressing climate change: "What has been the rise in global mean temperatures over the past hundred years; why we believe this has occurred; how much, on this basis, are temperatures likely to rise over the next hundred years; and what are the consequences likely to be."

“Acknowledging that "the twentieth century ended slightly warmer than it began" (by 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit), Lawson points out that there has been no significant warming since the beginning of this century. This cessation was not predicted by the computer models that experts rely on for forecasts of future warming. Predictions have been adjusted to account for the pause, and warming is now expected to resume next year. But, says Lawson, "we shall see" whether it does.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)--"far and away the most authoritative and influential" of existing climate change organizations, according to Lawson--predicts in its latest report that, by 2100, the global average temperature will have risen between 3.2 degrees and 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit. The general consensus for preventing this predicted warming is to enact policies that force the reduction of man-made carbon dioxide emissions, which create a greenhouse effect in the atmosphere. But the cost of mitigation would be extraordinary because of global reliance on carbon-based energy.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Light Rail & Growing Charlotte

1) A recent letter to the editor in the Sacramento Bee recounts experiences similar to other accounts and helps explain why so few will ride light rail on a regular basis.

"Going green isn't worth light-rail risks

"I recently started to ride light rail because of the high cost of fuel, as I'm sure many people have done.

"The trouble is that what you have to put up with in the public transportation system makes it not worth the effort. Since I have been riding, I have witnessed mentally unstable people screaming and berating other passengers, smelly homeless people, aluminum can collectors with large bags of stinky cans, people drinking alcohol and leaving the bottles, and teenagers with no respect for anyone around them.

"I have feared for my safety a few times when strange individuals have confronted me or got off the train with me when it was dark outside.

"Why should people try to be green by not driving their cars when they have to put up with these types of people? It's not worth the risk for my safety.

"– Rick Wagner, Sacramento"

2) Charlotte, North Carolina (not much bigger than Sacramento and we, who are thinking of becoming a green technology powerhouse, could note how they did it) is emerging as a financial powerhouse, as reported by New Geography.

An excerpt.

“Charlotte’s emergence has been remarkably rapid. When John Harris was growing up on a dairy farm outside Charlotte some six decades ago, it was still a sleepy little southern town. “It was a quiet kind of place back then,” he recalls. “We were a stepchild to the people back East.”

“Today, Charlotte is a stepchild no longer. Taking advantage of a traditional Southern sense of being under-estimated, the leadership in this region of some 1.5 million has worked to become not only a bigger place but an important one.

“The stepchild always has to work harder,” explains Harris, one of the region’s leading real estate powers. “We’ve always known what it’s like to be ‘have nots,’ not the ‘haves.’”

“Like Houston, Charlotte represents a classic opportunity city, a place built by newcomers used to not getting too much respect. While other New York rivals like Chicago and San Francisco could seem cosmopolitan enough to be real contenders, Charlotte has emerged very much out of nowhere, in a charge led by people who, at least before the last decade or so, seemed like nobodies.

“Charlotte’s ascendancy has not been brought about by a well-developed hierarchy but by entrepreneurs like Bank of America’s Hugh McColl, many of whom came from smaller southern cities to Charlotte in the 1960s and 1970s. In the ensuing decades, through mergers and regional expansion, Charlotte has vaulted past not only its southern rivals but traditional banking power centers like Chicago, Pittsburgh and San Francisco.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

ARPPS Commentary Published

Our commentary on the Parkway Plan Update was published in the Rancho Cordova Post.

An excerpt.

“One of the major items we worked on during the initial planning period for the formation of a new nonprofit advocacy organization—the American River Parkway Preservation Society— in 2002, was to encourage the planning update process to be conducted.

“Soon after, the update process finally began and now is reaching completion—for which we are very happy—and the community should feel a certain sense of pride in the work that has been done.

“The crucial piece of the completion is to ensure that in the future, the update process sticks to the original five year sequence of review and update, as new issues will evolve requiring new planning…

“However, what has still not been addressed adequately in this updated plan are two of the key issues that threaten the Parkway.

“The American River Parkway is the most important recreational area in our region and it has serious financial and public safety issues not being dealt with effectively.”

Parkway Letters

Two excellent letters published today about the Parkway; the first on illegal camping and helping the homeless, the second on the bike trail and helping all of us traverse the Parkway more safely.

Letters to the Editor
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Illegal camping a serious problem

I applaud Sacramento's 10-year plan to end homelessness, and I also agree with David Lukenbill's letter that illegal camping along the American River Parkway is a serious problem and intimidates otherwise lawful users of the area ("Illegal camping has consequences," letters, Sept. 11).

Those who find themselves homeless due to job loss, medical crisis or domestic issues deserve our full support in the way of programs and services to get them back into housing and employment. Those severely disabled or too ill, mentally or otherwise, to keep independent housing or employment are our responsibility to care for, as well. They do not deserve to be sleeping on the streets.

However, even the fiercest homeless advocates cannot deny that some have simply become accustomed to a lifestyle free from responsibility. Free daily meals, enough panhandled cash for alcohol, and a sleeping bag along the American River Parkway are all that some seem to want or need. The memorial to the murdered homeless man several months ago still stands in the midst of the homeless camp on the American River Parkway, where dozens still camp. Why does the city allow illegal activity despite the protests of the community?

– Chip Powell, Sacramento

Parkway rules are cyclist imperialism

Departing from the letter to the editor "Rules of the road are helpful" (Sept. 12), I see Rick Kushman's article apprising the public of the "rules" of the bikeway as an imperialistic way of securing the bike path for Lance Armstrong wannabes.

The bike path is for everyone. Not just those who have mastered bike riding 1A. The idea that families with small children should be discouraged from using our 32 miles of gorgeous bike-walking-running pathway is ridiculous.

If bikers are truly obeying the 15 mph rule, there should be no problem with children and new bike riders, as well as those incredibly rude hikers or runners who dare to step off the dirt path to actually use the pavement (sarcasm intended). The bike path was paid for by all of us taxpayers, not just those who have appropriate bicycle etiquette and decal-covered clothing.

I am a bike rider who has used the parkway for 20 years, and I have noticed in the past seven years the increase in rude behavior of ├╝ber-bikers, who should truly be on the road instead of the parkway. The rules should be dictated to them – not to those families and children we are trying to encourage to exercise and get fresh air.

– Mimi Sharpe, Sacramento

And there is one response to Ms. Sharpe's letter, also posted at sacbeee.com comments

"Ms. Sharpe: you need to get the signs on the trail changed ("walkers and joggers use left shoulder") for it to become something different.I'm a trail user since 1970. As a cyclist I've hit two female joggers, both times clearly their fault (one fled the scene and I lay on the pavement for an hour for an ambulance). As a runner, I used the hiking/horse trail which runs parallel to the bike trail. Much safer.

I would never take my children or grandchildren on the trail until their skills as bikers or hikers were such that they could take care of themselves. Asking bikers and runners to share that narrow piece of pavement is quite risky. You will change your mind the first time you hit a clueless pedestrian who steps in front of you with no warning whatsoever. And it can happen at very slow speeds. The one which nearly killed me involved a speed of about 5 mph. Have a nice day."


Monday, September 15, 2008

Carriage Rides & Sutter’s Landing Park

1) One of the many things we would like to see available in the Parkway are carriage rides and this long-term local carriage company, reported by the Bee, are just the folks to do it.

An excerpt.

“The Bee spoke with Rick Newborn, whose Top Hand Ranch offers everything from $10 loops around Old Sacramento to $1,000-plus horse-drawn hearse service…

"How's business lately?

"We've been surviving – just not as well as we did in the past. It's the economy, and there's also a lot of little things digging at us. The price of hay has tripled in the last five years. There used to be a lot more tour buses that parked in Old Sac. In the 1980s, there were six carriage companies (in Old Town) – now there are only two.

"What's your busiest time?

"Our best season is probably in the springtime, around spring break. Late fall is also good – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. It's slowest after New Year's. Summer is in-between. We shut down when it gets above 100 degrees, so we lose a lot of hours on hot days.

"What are your days like?

"I start getting the horses ready at about 8 a.m. (in Rescue, east of El Dorado Hills). We get into Sacramento by 10 a.m., and at 11 a.m. we're on the street. Right now, I'm spending most of the day reshoeing horses (while employees run the carriages). On a weekday, we'll pull out of town around 7:30 p.m. Old Sac is about half our business. The rest is contract work – weddings, funerals, parades. We try to take Mondays off.:"

2) The proposed park upgrade reported in the Sacramento Bee, is a wonderful addition to the Parkway area and if the zoo can relocate there also, a real destination point for the region, adding to the already regional draw of the Parkway.

This will eventually also raise the legitimate usage of that area of the Parkway, thus helping reduce the wide-spread illegitimate use.

An excerpt.

“The sign may say, "Welcome to Sutter's Landing Regional Park," but this spot near midtown doesn't exactly have its arms open to visitors.

"The first thing you see is all this asphalt," said Sacramento City Councilman Steve Cohn, whose district includes the midtown neighborhood.

“The city is launching an innovative plan to plant trees and native grasses on top of the blacktop-capped former landfill at the north end of 28th Street. The result will be new places for recreation and access to the American River.

“Last week, the Sacramento City Council approved $1.2 million in bond funds for the project's first phase, which will include a 4-acre landscaped dog park, basketball, handball and bocce ball courts, and improved river access points.

“Constructing a landscaped park atop a landfill is a complex proposition, and Sutter's Landing will be the first of its kind in the region, Cohn said.”

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Parkway Taxes & The Supercollider

1) As the somewhat dormant plan—for the moment anyway—to increase taxes on adjacent property owners to pay for the long-term funding deficit for the Parkway, it is instructive to read about how many people are responding to ever-increasing taxes in the two already highest-taxed states, California and New York, which this article does.

An excerpt.

“Anyone who thinks the path to "fiscal discipline" is through higher taxes ought to look at the current budget spectacles in New York and California. The two liberal states have among the highest tax burdens in the country, yet both now find themselves with huge budget deficits and are debating still higher taxes to close the gap.

“California has the highest state income tax rate in the country (10.3%), while New York State also has a high income tax rate (6.85%), with the combined state and city rate rising to 10.5% in New York City. Their overall government spending totals also happen to top the national charts. And, what do you know, California is $15 billion in the red this year while New York is trying to close a $6.4 billion 2009 budget hole, which budget expert E.J. McMahon of the Manhattan Institute expects to grow to $26 billion over three years…

“The politicians who want all these new taxes are the same ones who scratch their heads and wonder why so many hedge funds are already based in Connecticut, or why Manhattan is losing its status as financial capital of the world. So far the only voice of reason has been Democratic Governor David Paterson, who has attacked the tax increase and wants spending cuts first.

“Mr. Paterson knows what he's talking about, as New York State spending has climbed by 45% in the last five years, according to the Manhattan Institute. As for California, its spending soared to $145 billion in 2008 from $104 billion in 2004. Every time the politicians raise taxes, they merely lift their spending by as much or more, and then plead poverty and demand another tax hike during the next economic slowdown.

“The "progressives" who dominate politics in these states target the rich on grounds that they have the ability to pay. They also have the ability to leave. From 1997-2006, New York State lost 409,000 people (not counting foreign immigrants). For every two people who move into the state, three flee. Maybe the problem for New York is merely bad weather, not high taxes.

“Except that sunny California is experiencing a similar exodus. Over the past decade 1.32 million more native-born Americans left the Golden State than moved in -- despite beaches, mountains and 70-degree weather. Mostly the people who have fled are the successful, the talented and the rich.”

2) In one of the most wonderful examples of what science can do, the new supercollider is super in many ways, but why did it get built in Europe rather than the United States, the world leader in advanced physics research, until now, as this article explains.

An excerpt.

“At the heart of this debate is a truly mammoth machine, 17 miles in circumference, straddling the French-Swiss border. After $8 billion and 14 years of work by thousands of physicists and engineers, the LHC has finally been fired up. It's purpose is to accelerate two beams of protons to 99.999999% light speed in a huge tube in opposite directions and then slam them into each other to recreate the sizzling temperatures found at the instant of the Big Bang, and thereby unlock the greatest secrets of the universe.

“At the very least, physicists hope to find a new particle, called the Higgs boson, the last piece of the Standard Model of particles. But some physicists hope to do even better. The LHC might shed light on the "theory of everything," a single theory which can explain all fundamental forces of the universe, a theory which eluded Albert Einstein for the last 30 years of his life. This is the Holy Grail of physics. Einstein hoped it would allow us to "read the Mind of God."

“Today, the leading (and only) candidate for this fabled theory of everything is called "string theory," which is what I do for a living. Our visible universe, according to this theory, represents only the lowest vibration of tiny vibrating strings. The LHC might find something called "sparticles," or super particles, which represent higher vibrations of the string. If so, the LHC might even verify the existence of higher dimensions of space-time, which would truly be an earth-shaking discovery.

“But why, some ask, is this machine being built in Europe, and not the U.S.? President Ronald Reagan originally wanted to build a much larger machine, called the Super Conducting Super Collider, outside Dallas, Texas, to maintain U.S. leadership in advanced physics. Congress allotted $1 billion to dig a huge circular hole for the machine. But Congress got cold feet and cancelled it in 1993. Then Congress gave physicists another $1 billion to fill up the hole! As a consequence, Congress guaranteed that leadership in advanced physics would pass from the U.S. to Europe.”

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Quantifying Environmentalism

A very interesting article from Harvard Business Week.

An excerpt.

“There are many methods, most financial, to measure the success of companies in meeting goals. But the question becomes a lot harder at Harvard Business School when MBAs are challenged to measure the efforts of environmental organizations like Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly the World Wildlife Fund).

“Greenpeace's goal is "to ensure the ability of the earth to nurture life in all its diversity" and WWF's is "to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature."

“Has the world become better off environmentally since these organizations were formed? Have they created value in other ways?

"The challenge for a business student is how to put a quantifiable measure on whether these organizations are successful in reaching their goals," says Harvard Business School professor Ramon Casadesus-Masanell.

“HBS Working Knowledge asked Casadesus-Masanell and Jordan Mitchell, a freelance case writer based in Barcelona, to to discuss the background of these cases and how his MBA students react to them.

“Sarah Jane Gilbert: Your research focused on two prominent environmental organizations, Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). What do these two groups have in common, and how are they different?

“Ramon Casadesus-Masanell and Jordan Mitchell: The main affinity between Greenpeace and WWF is that both are trying to promote a "public good," which is the improvement of the natural environment. Public goods are those that are non-excludable and non-rival. No one can stop anyone from benefiting from a public good such as cleaner air or uncontaminated water.

“By looking back at the history of how both organizations came to be, we can highlight some key similarities and differences.

“Greenpeace was born in Canada out of an initiative to stop U.S. nuclear testing in Alaska in the early 1970s. The idea was to campaign for peace using an ecological platform; that is, nuclear tests are not only bad for warfare and human death, but testing does irreparable damage to species and landmass. From 1971 to 1974, Greenpeace's main push was on nuclear disarmament. Many early Greenpeace members were journalists and knew how to get across a compelling story. They used the media as their weapon against powerful governments in an attempt to drive policy changes. The Greenpeace methods of "bearing witness," "direct action," and creating a "media mindbomb" became their trademarks as the organization expanded into fights for other environmental causes such as the Save the Whales and the Seal Pup campaigns.

“WWF was founded in response to the destruction of Africa's natural habitat when British biologist Sir Julian Huxley wrote articles in an English newspaper warning that large portions of wildlife would become extinct if no action was taken. The articles attracted attention from scientists, businesspeople, and nongovernmental organizations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The IUCN had been set up in neutral Switzerland in 1948 by 18 governments and 100 NGOs with the objective of coordinating activities to preserve wildlife. As of the early 1960s, however, the IUCN did not have sufficient resources to carry out its projects, which led to the idea to form a new organization focused on fundraising and conservation in coordination with the IUCN. The WWF was constituted in Switzerland in 1961 with the purpose of conserving natural resources by acquiring and managing land while coordinating and communicating the necessity of conservation to a wide number of stakeholders.”

Friday, September 12, 2008

Parkway Trail & Illegal Camping

1) The biggest problem with the Parkway trail is that it is too popular, as it should be, running through one of the most beautiful areas of our region; and given the reality of fast riding bicyclists, slow walking strollers, and other friendly groups ambling along, it is really time to consider building a separate path for walkers; preferably a decomposed granite path closer to the river (and with enough park benches to stop and rest every so often) and wide enough to allow easy passing and leave the paved path for the bikes.

The trail was recently designated a commuter route, as reported in this article, so leaving the paved trail to bikers would enhance that function.

An excerpt.

"Wouldn't things be more civil if we called it the Multi-Use Trail instead of the Bike Trail?

"I get the point, but no. First off, its official name is the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail. There's no mention of any form of workout. More on topic, most people know it's a multi-use area – except, possibly, the too-cool-for-rules riders, and we already told them where to go.

"Besides, things are what they are. We've called it the Bike Trail for decades. That won't suddenly change. We might as well call it Freedom Fries.

"Do we always have to run on the dirt shoulder?

"Whenever possible. Of course, there are places where the shoulder is too rocky or doesn't exist, but it's so much safer for everyone to run and walk on it when you can.

"Also, the decomposed granite is softer, which helps prevent injuries, and running or walking on the slightly varying ground will strengthen lots of balancing muscles in your feet and legs and make you less likely to get hurt.

"But I trip walking on the dirt and need pavement.

"This is a tough one, but the smooth parts of the shoulder – not the rough patches – are fine footing. If that's still too tricky for you, you may not be nimble enough to avoid traffic on the trail's pavement and you'd be safer walking somewhere else.
Of course, everyone has a legal right to be there, but this is another case of things-are-what-they-are. No one would walk in the middle of a busy street, and the trail can get pretty busy on weekends.

"Is there any money for improvements?

"Flannery said the trail was just designated an official commuter trail, meaning it'll get money for maintenance and other work. He said plans include improving the shoulders to give more room to everyone."

2) In a significant new code approved by the Citrus Heights City Council, the regulations against illegal camping and public drinking are strengthened in an attempt to help the homeless and the community residents living adjacent to illegal camping sites, as reported in this story.

An excerpt.

"The Citrus Heights City Council voted unanimously Thursday night to ban open containers of alcohol and unauthorized camping in a move to curb the city's homeless problem…

"One can't be arrested for sleeping in a public place if there isn't adequate shelter," said noted civil rights attorney Mark Merin, who spoke at the meeting.

"Merin also said the city would be "inviting litigation" if it attempted to criminalize homelessness.

"The council, and some city residents who said the homeless have become a problem in the city, disagreed.

"I don't believe it's written to criminalize the homeless," said City Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins. The ordinance "gives an extra tool to our Police Department."

Parkway Announcement

Drill to simulate Folsom Dam failure
By Sam Stanton - sstanton@sacbee.com
Published 9:59 am PDT Thursday, September 11, 2008

One of the Sacramento area's most popular recreation areas will be closed to vehicles for much of Saturday while authorities conduct a disaster drill simulating a failure of the Folsom Dam.

The William B. Pond Recreation Area in Carmichael will be site of the drill Saturday morning while up to 300 civilian volunteers and emergency personnel work from 8 a.m. until early afternoon, Sacramento sheriff's Lt. Bill Myers said.

The county park typically is busy on weekends with bicyclists, pedestrians, joggers, anglers and others using the area, and people still will be able to walk into the area. Cyclists also will be able to use the bicycle trail that runs through it, county Ranger Supervisor Kathleen Utley said.

The drill for the Sacramento Civilian Emergency Response Team is designed to prepare volunteers to help in the event of a catastrophe.

In this instance, officials will be simulating a failure at the Folsom Dam, either through an attack of some sort or a breach, and will be training people in search and rescue, sandbagging and other techniques.

Officials also will be doing some training for the drill at nearby Del Dayo Elementary School. Fliers and emails have been sent to alert neighborhood residents and cycling and running groups, Myers and Utley said.

Residents can expect a large number of emergency vehicles in the vicinity and might hear loudspeakers.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

ARPPS Letter Published

Our letter about the reported cause of many fires in the Parkway being attributed to illegal camping by the homeless has been published, and has particular relevance in light of the recent story of a rape near the Parkway, also reportedly by a homeless person, which noted:

“The attacker is described as white, in his mid-40s, 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighing 160 to 170 pounds. He had medium-length brown hair and a full salt-and-pepper beard. He was wearing a gray shirt with writing on the front, blue jeans and white tennis shoes. He spoke with a raspy voice and a Southern accent. His appearance was dirty and he appeared homeless, investigators said.”

Here is our letter.

Illegal camping has consequences
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Re "Blaze points to homeless" (Our Region, Sept. 7): This article captures many of the concerns that residents near the American River Parkway have been expressing for years about the consequences of illegal camping by the homeless.

"While campfires that become wildfires are the recent focus, the public safety issues surrounding illegal camping have plagued the nearby community for some time and are largely responsible for the inability of families to use the area of the parkway safely.

"We have supported the housing-first approach to dealing with the chronic homeless, and it has been adopted, but it's years away from making a significant difference.

"In the meantime, vigorous sweeps by police accompanied by homeless service programs can help encourage people to connect to the existing services that can help them get off the streets and out of the camps along the river.

"Sometimes the best way to help people – and almost all of us want to help the homeless – is through a little tough love.

– David H. Lukenbill, Sacramento,
Senior policy director, American River Parkway Preservation Society

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Growth Limits & Car Sharing

1) In this article from the Washington Post the new bill by a Sacramento area legislator that would give priority to urban development over suburban, is discussed.

An excerpt.

“LOS ANGELES -- California is poised to pass the first law in the nation linking greenhouse gas emissions to urban planning, a departure from the growth approach that spawned the state's car culture and urban sprawl.

“The measure, known as SB375, aims to give existing and new high-density centers where people live, work and shop top priority in receiving local, state and federal transportation funds. The idea is that such developments check sprawl and ease commutes, in turn cutting the car pollution wafting through the Golden State.

“Authored by Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), the bill reflects California's push to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. Sponsors say the measure is part of a much-needed growth policy for a state whose population is expected to swell to 50 million from the current 38 million in two decades.

"Many places across the country have realized that if you just build spread-out developments, with the expectation that everyone will have to drive for everything, it should be no surprise when the result is excessive burning of gasoline," said David Goldberg, spokesman for Smart Growth America, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit group that helps cities and towns plan more workable, environmentally friendly growth.

"SB375 breaks new ground, because it specifically links that pattern of development to excess driving and what we need to do to address climate change," he said.

“Two years of intense negotiations have satisfied several critics of the bill and galvanized support from an unusual alliance of environmentalists, home builders, local governments and affordable-housing advocates.

“But other home builders and several business groups are among the bill's opponents. They say it adds a new layer to an already complicated approval process, opens projects up to delays and frivolous litigation, and could threaten the state's economy.

"It will hamper or completely stop infrastructure throughout the state. It will jeopardize buildings, the transfer of goods and services," said Tom Holsman, chief executive of the Associated General Contractors of California, which is joined by the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Grocers Association and the California Retailers Association in opposing the bill.”

2) This article about car sharing in the central city is a great idea. Several years ago when I lived downtown, I didn’t have a car and got around fine, riding my bike to work and walking most other places, then renting a car when needed.

However, I was also single at the time, and that is the preferred demographic for downtown living, along with childless couples, the retired, and students who can afford the cost.

An excerpt.

“You've got groceries to get at Safeway, laundry at the cleaners and that French restaurant to check out in the suburbs, but, no car.

“Soon, that may not be a problem thanks to an intriguing urban trend being studied for Sacramento.

“Just walk to a nearby parking lot, swipe a plastic card in a "members-only" car, drive it like it was yours for a few hours, then drop it off where you got it.

“Welcome to the eco-friendly world of car sharing, a European concept getting traction in larger American cities from San Francisco to New York City.

“Sacramento city officials have talked recently with two companies – one a nonprofit, the other for-profit – about bringing some form of car sharing to the central city.

"It sounds like a really cool idea," city transportation official Linda Tucker said. "It could be a good fit for the midtown area. It affords people the use of a vehicle without the expense of owning it."

“Tucker said Sacramento officials are only beginning to explore the idea, and aren't sure if it will pencil out here.

“But as more lofts and condominiums are packed into downtown, car sharing could help the city and developers reduce exorbitant parking costs, they say.”

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Parkway Vicinity Rape, Reward Offered

As reported in the Sacramento Bee this morning:

Reward offered for information on Sacramento sex assault
By Chelsea Phua - cphua@sacbee.com
Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The River Park Neighborhood Association is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the man who sexually assaulted a teenage girl near the American River Parkway.

Dave O'Toole, the Association's vice president, said on Monday that the Aug. 19 crime has unnerved the neighborhood, which has experienced only smaller property crimes.

"The crime itself was very exceptional for the neighborhood," O'Toole said. "This was very brazen, and quite frightening because it happened in the middle of the day.

Sacramento police said the girl was walking along Sandburg Drive near Glenn Hall Park around 1 p.m. when the man approached her from behind and forced her into the women's restroom, where he sexually assaulted her.

He later fled on foot in an unknown direction.

The attacker is described as white, in his mid-40s, 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighing 160 to 170 pounds. He had medium-length brown hair and a full salt-and-pepper beard. He was wearing a gray shirt with writing on the front, blue jeans and white tennis shoes. He spoke with a raspy voice and a Southern accent. His appearance was dirty and he appeared homeless, investigators said.

In addition to the association's $1,000 reward, callers to Crime Alert at (916) 443-HELP could also be eligible for another $1,000 reward and remain anonymous.

Dog Parks

The fifth guiding principle of our organization came about as a result of a meeting with Jackie Kuhwarth and leaders of other groups advocating for their particular use of the Parkway who were generally being denied access to the policy shaping decision process.

5) Continuing exclusion of responsible usage by new Parkway user groups is contrary to the spirit upon which public ownership of a natural resource is predicated.

Our Approach: The Parkway belongs to all of us. It is a community resource. The Parkway Management Plan should contain no absolute restrictions on user activity, rather a process of study and decision-making. Along with off-leash dog walking, mountain biking, full access for the disabled, inline skating, and a greatly expanded network of picnic and sitting places, there are a variety of new usages that should be under consideration to become part of the Parkway experience.

Our Guiding Principle: Regarding new parkway usages: Inclusion should be the operating principle rather than exclusion.”

An excerpt from the article in the Bee about dog parks.

“As her dogs splashed through the American River and bounded along Paradise Beach, Jackie Kuhwarth fumed over the citation in her hand.

“Eight years after getting that citation for allowing her dogs to run off-leash, Kuhwarth is feeling a little triumphant.

“Plans for a 4-acre dog park near the American River are on the drawing board. The enclosed expanse for dog owners and their dogs is part of a $2 million building phase at Sutter's Landing Regional Park near midtown.

“The citation prompted Kuhwarth to organize the Sacramento Dog Owners Group and wage a long civic battle for territory on the river where dogs can roam off-leash, plunge into the water and run through the wilderness.

“Her dream is still not realized. But the park near the river is a welcome compromise, she said.

"Small, fenced parks are a wonderful place for people who can't walk," Kuhwarth said. "We're not like a bunch of renegades who advocate dogs running amok."

“In her perfect world, she envisions a 25-acre dog reserve at the water's edge for her three basenjis.”

Monday, September 08, 2008

Growing up in the Suburbs

I think everyone who did grow up in the suburbs, knows—or will learn at some point in their life—that it is the best place to grow up in America, and that is the focus of this article from New Geography.

An excerpt.

“Suburbs,” the great urbanist Jane Jacobs once wrote, “must be a difficult place to raise children.” Yet, as one historian notes, had Jacobs turned as much attention to suburbs as she did to her beloved Greenwich Village, she would have discovered that suburbs possessed their own considerable appeal, particularly for those with children.

“Although some still hold onto the idea that suburbs are bad places to raise children, in virtually every region of the country, families with children are far more likely to live in suburbs than in cities. Nearly all the leading locations in percentages of married couples are suburbs, from Midwestern towns like O’Fallon, Missouri to Sugarland, Texas, Naperville, Illinois and Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

“In contrast, many of the places with the lowest percentages of children are urban centers. This includes many of the most highly touted urban cores such as Manhattan, Boston, Portland, Seattle and San Francisco.

“This is particularly true among more affluent, middle class, educated family households. Despite the rise in the number of children in a few affluent locales, such as the upper east side of Manhattan, most middle class families tend to cluster outside the city core. Even in Manhattan the number of kids falls considerably below the national average after the age of five.”

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Homeless & Parkway Fires

Once again reporting what many have been saying for years regarding the origin of Parkway fires, adjacent neighborhood crimes, the public safety hazards involved in accessing the lower part of the Parkway around the North Sacramento Cal Expo and Midtown area, the Sacramento Bee publishes an excellent article in today’s paper.

An excerpt.

“As firefighters tried to tame a blaze Saturday along the lower stretch of the American River Parkway and as cars on Highway 160 slowed to watch a helicopter dart overhead to make a water drop, Ralph Plunkett stood in the shade of the overpass, his head bowed.

“It was too soon to tell what caused the fire that raced through the underbrush, shot into the treetops and charred a large swatch of land, but Plunkett, who lives nearby in a homeless camp, already knew whom most folks would suspect.

“The homeless are blamed for the trash, for the persistence of illegal camping, for scores of petty thefts in nearby neighborhoods, for bringing down property values and, in many cases, for the fires that dot the parkway landscape during the summer dry season.

"It's making us look bad as homeless people," said Plunkett, 48, who has been homeless most of the past eight years. "Yeah, it's probably a homeless person who did this, but it's not all of us."

"There are homeless everywhere you look around here," said Vincent Talancon, a member of a nearby neighborhood watch group. "I don't want to speculate, but 95 percent of these fires are started by them, either by accident or because they just want to see fire."

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Drought Plans

While the water bank proposal reported on in the Bee is a good idea, an even better one is the completion of two projects approved long ago but still not acted on.

Along with the obvious solution for our area, the building of Auburn Dam (which would double our storage capacity), 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 2004 article from the Los Angeles Times describes:

Concrete solution for water? Raising Shasta Dam's height looms large among ideas to boost state's dwindling storage. By Dave Whitney, November 21, 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 is probably in the $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 Auburn Dam) and extra flood protection.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Five Year Anniversary, Part Two

This week is the five year anniversary of our nonprofit corporate formation in the State of California as ARPPS was officially certified by the Secretary of State on September 4, 2003; a fitting time to reflect a moment on our roots.

During the founding period of the Parkway, the County established three nonprofit organizations to help with the fulfilling of their long-range vision.

However, what later became evident was also needed (due to funding shrinkage and mangement ineffectiveness) was an independent and organized focus on developing alternative strategies to fund development and management, which led to the founding of our organization.

As we noted in our initial strategy (also posted on our website) there are five strategic issues of primary concern:

“The American River Parkway is the most valuable natural resource in our community and one of the most valuable in the nation. To preserve it, building on the foundation of our five guiding principles, we propose the following:

“(1) Preserving the Parkway is not an option, it’s a necessity.

1. Work to ensure a long-term funding goal of building a permanent financial endowment for perpetual Parkway funding support.
2. Work to ensure the creation of the American River Parkway as the Rivers of Red Gold National Heritage Area, a program of the National Parks Service, but locally managed by a nonprofit conservancy.

“National Heritage status, while allowing Parkway land ownership to remain as is, and allowing for a local conservancy to manage the Parkway, would ensure a federal funding stream long enough to develop endowment funding, and provide additional benefits that national stature endows upon a natural resource.

1. Work to ensure an existing nonprofit conservancy assumes management of the Parkway, recruiting executive leadership with academic and experiential credentials in nonprofit administration and fund development, and embrace social enterprise fund raising strategies proven successful in other parks.

“A local management conservancy can build a fund development strategy of committed local leadership and social entrepreneurship, through targeted capacity building of Parkway organizations and related social enterprise ventures compatible with the conservancy mission.

“(2) What’s good for the salmon is good for the river.

1. Work to ensure the availability of whatever amount of water is needed to ensure optimal flow and temperature for the salmon.

“To provide optimal water temperature and water flow for the salmon, it is necessary to increase the water storage capacity of the American River Watershed, providing cooling waters and increasing or decreasing flow when needed. While the suggested increase of the water storage capacity of Folsom Dam will benefit the salmon, the community should be prepared to further increase water storage capacity, if needed. The increased pressure on the river, (primarily population-driven), will eventually destroy the river’s capacity to provide the salmon the optimal conditions they need.

“(3) Regarding illegal camping by the homeless in the North Sacramento area of the Parkway, social and environmental justice call upon us to help the poor and distressed person, and the poor and distressed community.

1. Work to ensure all stakeholders realize public safety and compassion for the homeless, illegally camping in the Parkway in North Sacramento, should be equal responsibilities addressed by Parkway management, homeless advocacy organizations, and local government.

“The public safety issue must be of equal concern to helping the homeless. Rapes, murders, beatings, assaults, and robberies occur regularly in the North Sacramento area of the Parkway, and many in the North Sacramento community are justifiably fearful about venturing into it. As a community, we can never give up on the vision that public compassion and public safety are compatible concepts.

“(4) If it can be seen from the Parkway, it shouldn’t be built along the Parkway.

1. Work to ensure visual intrusion by new development is absolutely prohibited forever, with no mitigation.

“Private property owners are not to be faulted for wanting to build large homes or commercial buildings along the Parkway, as it offers some of the most beautiful development sites in our area. However, none of us wants to see the Parkway become Malibuized. Confusion about the building regulations, as now exists, encourages that type of development. National Heritage Area status and the accompanying elevation in oversight will begin to offer the type of protection from visual intrusion caused by new development that current, virtually unregulated, Parkway development is now threatening.

“(5) Regarding new Parkway usages, inclusion should be the operating principle rather than exclusion.

1. Work to ensure local public ownership and local conservancy management operate under the guiding principle that the Parkway belongs to all of the people, who have an inalienable right to recreate within the commons.
2. Work to ensure there are designated seats on the Parkway conservancy management board of directors for organized recreational and sports users, as well as other organized stakeholders.

“As a locally managed National Heritage Area, the management position regarding use of the Parkway will become more inclusive. We will encourage a local conservancy management structure that incorporates all stakeholders and brings organized, responsible users to the decision making process by creating designated seats on the conservancy board of directors. We all want to encourage responsible usage of the Parkway, as legitimate usage is the best antidote to illegitimate usage.”

Parkway Controlled Burns?

The only reason the extreme option—of conducting controlled burns in the Parkway to reduce overgrowth—is even being considered is due to a lack of effective management of the Parkway.

Overgrowth issues in an urban/suburban park are ideally handled by a regular maintenance program that keeps the situation in check so that extreme measures with a very dangerous potential downside (like controlled burns accidently igniting fires on the many wood-shingled roofs of homes lining the Parkway) do not have to be resorted to; and the illegal camping by the homeless, from which several fires have reportedly begun, has to be reduced substantially.

However, the Parkway has been running a maintenance deficit every year for several years and overgrowth control has not been done (let alone substantially reducing illegal camping) creating the dangerous situation we now have, of tinderbox vegetation and the consideration of potentially dangerous alternatives.

The Bee reports on the discussion.

An excerpt.

“A spate of recent fires in the American River Parkway, including one near Cal Expo on Monday that climbed dangerously into the trees and even jumped the river, has prompted some officials to wonder: Is it time to renew talk about prescribed burns?

“The fires this summer have left patches of charred fields and singed trees in 10 or more places along the 23-mile parkway. This summer has been especially serious because the drought has left vegetation the driest on record, officials say.

“Prescribed burns have long been controversial in the heavily used parkway, home to abundant wildlife and used by a million people annually. But proponents maintain that if fire experts don't do the burning under controlled situations, arsonists will have their way and cause untold damage.

“The fire that began Monday, for instance, required 150 firefighters to control amid treacherous 30 mph winds. The blaze burned 16 acres of a grass field north of the river adjacent to Cal Expo.

“Ember showers carried by the winds caused the fire to jump the river and burn 16 acres at Sutter's Landing Regional Park, the nature area that was once the city dump. It also jumped the Capital City Freeway and burned 6 to 7 acres in an orchard, according to Lloyd Ogan, a deputy chief with the Sacramento Fire Department.”

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Parkway Fire Announcement

Fire along parkway burns large area west of Cal Expo
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A fire that erupted Monday afternoon along the American River Parkway was contained, but fire crews continued to monitor the situation, according to Fire Capt. Jim Doucette.

The fire, which closed the Capital City Freeway for a while, burned an area a mile long and up to a half-mile wide on both sides of the river from just west of Cal Expo to the old city dump. Fire Department investigators have not been able to determine a cause but said the fire apparently started in an area of many transient camps, Doucette said. (highlighting added)

Anyone with information is asked to call the arson tip line at (916) 808-8732.

– Bee Metro Staff

ARPPS Five Year Anniversary

This week is the five year anniversary of our nonprofit corporate formation in the State of California, as ARPPS was officially certified by the Secretary of State on September 4, 2003; a fitting time to reflect a moment on our roots.

First, why our name; American River Parkway Preservation Society.

Our mission fills that out by stating: Preserve, Protect, and Strengthen the American River Parkway, Our Community’s Natural Heart.

It was always understood by us that:

• Preserve means to ensure that the natural environment be preserved for human recreation and education, congruent with the founding principles of the Parkway.

• Protect means to ensure that the recreational and educational assets of the Parkway be adequately maintained for human use.

• Strengthen means to continually add to the Parkway by acquisition of Parkway adjacent land when it becomes available, and enhancing the recreational and educational assets of the Parkway on a continual basis.

We felt then as we do now, that none of these goals can be reached under the current funding or management strategy and we have continually called for a better way.

You can read about our ideas in a summary form on our website news page in two postings; on funding read the January 18, 2008 Press Release, American River Parkway Funding, and for management read the November 24, 2006 Guest Editorial, The American River Parkway: The Case for Management by a Nonprofit Organization.

For more details you can read our strategy, also posted on our website, with follow ups on our strategy included in our annual organizational reports, also posted on our website.

We’ll look at other founding issues for the rest of this week.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Game Warden & Another Drowning Death

1) A wonderful story in the Bee today about a professional game warden who really gets it, embracing the challenge of hunting with the respect due to the prey, an ancient American tradition movingly kept alive by this warden.

Here is an excerpt.

“In order to catch a couple of poachers illegally baiting turkeys and shooting them from a tree stand, Sean Pirtle woke two hours before dawn, hiked a mile in the dark across an orchard and through the woods and then hid in the bushes…

“At 35, the 12-year veteran of the Department of Fish and Game is fast becoming a legend among his peers.

“He's known for being so dogged he simply will not relent until he nabs a suspect, whether it's someone gunning down deer for kicks, bagging too many ducks in one day, snagging salmon or, in this case, luring wild turkeys with 100 pounds of corn.

“With the opening of dove season Monday and more hunting and fishing to follow throughout the fall, Pirtle and the 179 other game wardens in California are in the busiest part of their year…

“Pirtle is part bloodhound, bulldog, scientist, problem-solver and sleuth. A lover of the outdoors, an avid hunter and a student of nature, Pirtle can't stand to see people breaking the law, taking shortcuts and, worst of all, not respecting the animals they pursue.

“Pirtle's reputation grew even larger recently when he was awarded the prestigious Pogue-Elms Award, the game warden's equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize. The award is given annually to an outstanding warden working in the western half of Canada and the United States.”

2) Sadly, another person died while swimming in the American River—as reported in the Sacramento Bee today—another tragic reminder of how dangerous that seemingly peaceful river can be.

Our condolences to his family and friends.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Caring for the Parkway

Our organization came into being in 2003 as a result of an awareness that the status-quo of the Parkway governing entities and community Parkway advocacy organizations was not sufficiently proactive to preserve, protect, and strengthen our Parkway.

Sadly the Sacramento Bee validated that awareness as the news from December of 2003 into January of 2004 openly talked about having to close the Parkway due to financial woes.

A similar situation occurred in New York several years ago and their response—the one we would like to see the Parkway follow—was the creation of the Central Park Conservancy; which has not only preserved and protected one of the greatest parks in the country, but strengthened it as well.

They have done this through a public/private partnership, an innovative venture philanthropy model for seeking donations and social enterprise profits poured back into the park, that has resulted in a solvent financial situation after years of deficit ridden budgets.

Here is an excerpt of a 2008 report on the Conservancy.

“After its mid-1970s near-bankruptcy, New York and Central Park were in similarly precarious shape. This former urban refuge had devolved into a rectangular showcase of despair. The Great Lawn was nicknamed “The Municipal Great Dustbowl.” Next to a torched building, trash floated in the Harlem Meer. Few could sit and lament this, since so many benches were broken.

“It was another park and another era when I was a university student and our horticulture class made a field trip to Central Park,” Douglas Blonsky recalls. “It was in such disrepair— landscapes were reduced to bare ground, historic buildings and structures were dilapidated and covered with graffiti, garbage was strewn everywhere—that we soon retreated to a bar on Madison Avenue.”

“In 1980, several philanthropists and activists launched the organization that Blonsky now leads. The Central Park Conservancy informally began to address the Park’s urgent needs. It privately funded overdue repairs to Gotham’s battered retreat and rehabilitated the Great Lawn, Turtle Pond, and Azalea Walk, among other areas.

“The Conservancy turned a literal tragedy of the commons into acres of accountability. Under “Zone Management,” the Conservancy divided the Park into 49 separate sectors.

“Each Park supervisor and uniformed gardener is now held accountable for the condition of his or her zone,” explains Conservancy spokesperson Kate Sheleg. “Accountability is the single most important factor that the Conservancy employs in the management of Central Park.” She says this policy “fosters a sense of ownership and pride among the gardeners as well as the volunteers assigned to each zone.” Merit-based pay for Conservancy employees partially reflects how well they clean and cultivate their respective zones.

“Graffiti is removed within 24 hours,” Sheleg adds. “Visible litter is removed by 9:00 each morning and continuously throughout the day; trash receptacles are emptied daily; lawns are carefully maintained; broken benches and playground equipment are fixed on the spot.” Roughly 180 regular volunteers help perform this ongoing maintenance.

“After 18 years of what some called “living together,” the Conservancy and New York City “got married,” with then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani conducting the wedding ceremony. In one of his most innovative, yet overlooked, reforms, Giuliani signed an eight-year contract with the Conservancy that essentially privatized Central Park’s management.

“This is really ensuring, documenting, and making permanent an arrangement that has grown over the years,” Giuliani said as he and the Conservancy’s then-chairman Ira Millstein inked the February 1998 deal. “We are going to leave Central Park better than it is today because of this relationship,” Giuliani predicted.

“The Conservancy’s contract has spared New Yorkers most of the Park’s operating costs. The Conservancy privately raises approximately 80 to 85 percent of the Park’s budget, while local taxpayers cover the balance. Better yet, rather than simply ladling out ever-higher sums of public dollars, the Conservancy must meet specific targets before the Department of Parks and Recreation taps the fiscal resources of the city. The Conservancy must raise and allocate $5 million annually for maintenance, repairs, landscaping, and public programs. Its contract then grants it $1 million in city funds, dedicated to specific services. If the Conservancy exceeds its initial $5 million expediture threshhold, it can receive up to $1 million more from city coffers.

“The Conservancy also collects 50 percent of net revenue, above $6 million, from Park concessions, which include Wollman Rink’s ice-skating fees, and food sales from 70 pushcart vendors and The Boathouse and Tavern on the Green restaurants. In fiscal year 2006, this generated $1.6 million in additional city payments to the Conservancy. In turn, the Conservancy says 80 percent of what it raises directly covers horticulture, maintenance, recreation, education, and public activities.

“In April 2006, New York City and the Conservancy renewed their contract for eight more years. City Hall committed $25 million to the Conservancy’s $100 million “Campaign for Central Park” capital-repairs plan. (After just three years, this seven-year fundraising appeal already has collected $111 million.) From 1980 through FY 2008, the Conservancy will have spent some $500 million in the Park, only $100 million of it from the city treasury.

"While privatizing Central Park’s management has benefited taxpayers, how has Mother Nature fared?

“Blonsky recalls a December 11, 1992, Nor’easter that barreled up the Atlantic coast, dumping two inches of rain on New York City. This deluge forced silt, leaves, and branches into Central Park’s catch basins, clogging them and causing widespread flooding. Some cars in the Park were swamped, further cluttering things. Ball fields washed away, and footpaths turned to mud. Much of Central Park remained impassable for a week. Another Nor’easter struck Gotham last April 15. The Park barely noticed. Despite a 7.6-inch downpour, it re-opened the next day.

“Clearly, that is because the Park is now green, well planted, and healthy,” Blonsky says. “We clear our catch basins regularly. In the past, they weren’t cleaned. Also, well-maintained lawns, plant beds, and landscaping really absorb rainwater. Over the years, the Park has been transformed in such a way that we now can handle floods.”

“The park thrives in dry weather, too. “My main focus in working in the Park’s 130 acres of woodlands is to create healthy soil and a diversity of plants,” says Regina Alvarez, the Conservancy’s Director of Horticulture and Woodland Management. “This supports a diversity of wildlife.” From manual weeding to careful use of herbicides to planting trees, shrubs, and wildflowers, Alvarez says the Conservancy has helped rebuild the Park’s food web—from the bugs that birds gobble to the flora on which dragonflies spread their wings. “For decades, the general public was damaging the soil and habitat,” Alvarez says. “The Conservancy has begun to reverse that."

Retrieved February 9, 2008 from PERC Reports Winter 2007 Volume 25 | Number 4