Sunday, November 30, 2008

Green Economy

Sacramento--with new dynamic political leadership--is wonderfully positioned to provide leadership around green issues, particularly if it embraces the need for more water storage, nuclear energy, and innovative management of parks and open spaces.

Here are two large projects and one smaller one, where Sacramento can provide leadership, in addition to those mentioned in the article from the Bee.

1) Bring Rancho Seco back online, thereby providing clean nuclear power for our growing region.

2) Lead the effort to finally build the Auburn Dam, thereby providing 2.3 million acre feet of new water storage, raise our flood control level to the gold standard of 500 years, and produce 400-600 mega watts of clean hydroelectric power.

3) Establish public private partnerships to manage large signature park areas like the American River Parkway, to create a more prosperous environment in a shrinking government funding atmosphere.

An excerpt from the article.

“For Sacramento, the light at the end of the economic tunnel may be green.

“The largest solar-panel factory on the continent is taking shape in McClellan Park. Economic development officials say more than half the companies checking out the region are in clean-tech. And state government is rolling out the nation's most ambitious energy-efficiency and renewable power programs, making it a huge potential ally – and customer – for the green economy.

"We think the environment is perfect," said Cheryl Beninga, managing director of American River Ventures, a $100 million private-equity fund in Roseville.

“Barack Obama's election win has added to the excitement. During the presidential campaign, Obama pledged to spend $150 billion over 10 years to create 5 million green jobs, and green-tech investment looks to be one of the pillars of the economic stimulus package he's been promoting over the last week.

“Green technologies reach from solar cells and biofuels to ultra-efficient lights and vehicles and more. The sector is an appealing engine for growth because it promises to generate a wide range of jobs – from manufacturing and construction to engineering and finance – while reducing pollution, trimming waste and cutting fossil fuel consumption.

“Sacramento already has a promising foothold in several green industries. But the region has missed opportunities in tech booms past – from software to biotech – and there's reason to be skeptical this time, too.”

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Water Storage & Global Warming

This article from the Bee points to a terrific idea for storing water underground and a storage technology that most certainly needs enriching.

With the current possibility of raising Shasta Dam 200 feet—to the height to which it was originally engineered—we could triple the storage there to about 13.8 million acre feet.

With the building of Auburn Dam—one of the few dams that could still be built in California—we could add another 2.3 million acre feet.

With the 10-50 million acre feet of underground storage envisioned by Professor Fogg, California would be realizing the level of water storage needed to not only provide for the existing needs of the state but also much of the future needs, even with the results of a reduced snow pack due to global warming.

An excerpt.

“The likely effects of climate change on local water resources in places like Sacramento are still being researched by climate and hydrologic scientists, but one thing is fairly certain: There will be less snow in the Sierra Nevada in the coming decades…

“Currently, the state has no working storage alternative that would adequately compensate for declines in the snowpack. One approach is to build more dams and raise the heights of existing dams, but there is a consensus that the problem cannot be solved solely by augmenting surface storage.

“Subsurface storage is a tantalizing alternative and could be vastly increased if certain technical hurdles and limitations in our knowledge of the underworld could be addressed.

“The tantalizing part: Currently there is space for storage of an additional 10 million to 50 million acre-feet of water in the Central Valley, one of the largest aquifer systems in North America. For perspective, consider that the combined capacity of our four largest reservoirs (Shasta, Oroville, Trinity and New Melones) is 13 million acre-feet. Some subsurface storage and recovery of water have already been done in the Central Valley, but the time has come to adopt a grander vision on how to better use this vast below-ground reservoir on a regional scale.

“The technical hurdles part: Water percolates slowly into most aquifer systems. To capture more winter runoff and move it underground will either require new reservoirs to hold the water while it is doled out to spreading basins or a way of optimizing how water soaks into the earth. The latter has not been seriously considered but, I would argue, becomes plausible with greater knowledge of the subsurface "anatomy."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Electric Cars

In the arena of energy alternatives, the operative word should be alternatives; ensuring that public money isn’t solely dedicated to one source of potential alternative energy as this recent decision around electric automobiles appears to have done.

Options work when they are freely explored and the capitalistic market has proven itself best able to provide the environment for that exploration, and it should be supported across the board by government.

This article explores that decision.

An excerpt.

“With the support of Governor Schwarzenegger, the mayors of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose last week announced a $1-billion joint plan to make the Bay Area “the electric-vehicle capital of the world.” The announcement follows President-elect Obama’s pledge to reinvigorate the nation’s economy with millions of “green collar” jobs. Such well-intentioned government policies, however, could turn the “green collar” into a “green noose.”

“Mayors Gavin Newsom, Ron Dellums, and Chuck Reed established a partnership with Better Place, a Palo Alto-based startup backed by $200 million in venture capital investment. Rather than manufacture or market electric cars, Better Place will build the infrastructure to support them. According to the company, this will include 250,000 charging stations across the Bay Area by 2012. Though the cities will not offer a direct subsidy, they will provide Better Place with significant advantages over rival technologies.

“This “public-private partnership” will prop up electric vehicles through tax incentives, favorable regulations, and rights to build on public land, as well as exclusive contracts for public transportation, city-owned vehicles, and government buildings. Despite the economic downturn, private investments in a diverse array of competing clean technologies surged to a record $1.6 billion last quarter. Declaring plug-in vehicles the only game in town rigs the competition and throws many promising Bay Area startups under the electric bus.

“Companies such as South San Francisco-based Solazyme and LS9, and Emeryville-based Amyris Biotechnologies, are using advanced genetic engineering to create a new generation of clean, renewable biofuels. Silicon Valley startups including PolyFuel and Bloom Energy are building revolutionary hydrogen and natural gas fuel cells. Other ventures aim to harness solar power efficiently, or develop cleaner diesel engines. Unfair privileges for the electric-vehicle industry will make it harder for these companies to compete.”

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from the White House

President's Radio Address

"THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week, Americans gather with loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving. This holiday season is a time of fellowship and peace. And it is a time to give thanks for our many blessings.

"During this holiday season, we give thanks for generations of Americans who overcame hardships to create and sustain a free Nation. When the Pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving nearly four centuries ago, they had already suffered through a harsh and bitter winter. But they were willing to endure that adversity to live in a land where they could worship the Almighty without persecution. When President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, the United States was in the midst of a terrible civil war. But in that hour of trial he gave thanks -- because he believed America would weather the storm and emerge into a new era of liberty.

"During this holiday season, we give thanks for those who defend our freedom. America's men and women in uniform deserve our highest respect -- and so do the families who love and support them. Lately, I have been asked what I will miss about the presidency. And my answer is that I will miss being the Commander-in-Chief of these brave warriors. In this special time of year, when many of them are serving in distant lands, they are in the thoughts and prayers of all Americans.

"During this holiday season, we give thanks for the kindness of citizens throughout our Nation. It is a testament to the goodness of our people that on Thanksgiving, millions of Americans reach out to those who have little. The true spirit of the holidays can be seen in the generous volunteers who bring comfort to the poor and the sick and the elderly. These men and women are selfless members of our Nation's armies of compassion -- and they make our country a better place, one heart and one soul at a time.

"Finally, I have a special note of thanks to the American people. On this, my last Thanksgiving as your President, I am thankful for the good will, kind words, and heartfelt prayers that so many of you have offered me during the past eight years. I have been blessed to represent such decent, brave, and caring people. For that, I will always be grateful, and I will always be honored. Thank you for listening."

# # #

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

To Stock or Not to Stock

The decision to stock lakes normally utilized by people attracted to the fishing, and the subsequent economic benefit of their visits, is rightfully absorbed by the locales benefiting from it, and this current decision—noted in this article from today’s Sacramento Bee—should encourage those locales to begin the planning to accomplish this.

This planning might include being prepared to counter action that may someday be designed to restrict their ability to stock their streams, rivers and lakes on their own, in furtherance of a somewhat ambiguous environmental position that the ancient human practice of the domestication of animals somehow harms wild animals; when we have several examples--such as the buffalo--where domestication may actually have saved animals from extinction.

An excerpt.

“Alpine County depends heavily on fishing.

“Plentiful trout in the sparsely populated area 45 miles southeast of Placerville draw anglers who, in turn, keep restaurants and hotels running.

“So when the state Department of Fish and Game this week released a list of lakes and streams that won't be stocked with fish until at least 2010, it landed in Alpine County with a thud.

"These waters are our economy," said Skip Veatch, an Alpine County supervisor and its former sheriff. "If they are not populated our economy is going to go down the drain."

“Last week, state Fish and Game officials agreed to stop stocking fish reared in hatcheries – including trout, bass and catfish – in lakes and streams where the practice threatens 16 native fish and nine native frog species. The deal was struck with environmental groups pushing reforms of state hatchery and stocking programs.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Farmer’s Property Rights in China

This is a very interesting article on the slowly changing situation in China, as the state keeps tinkering with how to improve production of agricultural resources while retaining the trust and good will of the farmers; and if it is emblematic of other changes in China, it is a very good thing.

An excerpt.

“The statistics are startling. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) constitutes 22 percent of the world’s population but only 7 percent of the world’s arable land. And 50 percent of that area has been severely eroded. Desertification is occurring in almost 30 percent of China and salinization affects 10 percent of the nation…

“The degradation of China’s agricultural lands— particularly those in the western provinces with their fragile soils and harsh climate—presents a multitude of issues. Environmentally, the rivers are choked with silt, the air is polluted by sand storms on top of motor vehicle exhausts and factory wastes, plants and animals are being pushed to extinction, and the western landscape has taken on a lunar quality. Socially, the livelihoods of millions of farming families are being jeopardized by diminishing productivity and an increasing frequency of natural disasters such as floods and mud slides. Politically, the pressure of dissatisfied, poor, rural households seeking to relocate to wealthier urban areas is unnerving to the Central Council of the PRC.


“In recognition of these issues, in 1999 the Chinese Government instituted the Conversion of Cropland to Forest and Grassland Program (CCFGP) in an attempt to stabilize the soils of highly erodable areas. Under the program—often called the Grain for Green Program—farmers are paid a combination of cash and grain to plant tree seedlings or perennial grasses (provided free) on previously cropped or barren land.

“The program has been enthusiastically embraced by more than 15 million farm households across 25 provinces. Between 1999 and 2005, 55 million acres were converted. The Chinese government has budgeted US$43.6 billion for CCFGP and it is expected to increase forest and grassland areas by 93 million acres by 2010…

“What the CCFGP did for farmers was to provide an assured source of annual income in the period when the new land uses were being established and before they could yield readily accessible annual income streams. In essence, the program lowered the risks of land use change created by the insecure property rights.

“The message relating to property rights has not been lost on the Chinese government. One component of the CCFGP has been an extension to 70 years of the use rights farmers have over their outputs if they enroll in the program. In 2007, the annual meeting of the Central Council discussed the prospect of instituting private property rights over more intensively used agricultural land. Should this occur, the extent of the government’s budgetary commitment to the continuation of the CCFGP, and numerous other resource protection schemes (including the Shelterbelt Development Program and the Sand Control Program for Beijing and Tianjin) could be reduced while more environmental protection is being achieved.”

Monday, November 24, 2008

Birth of the Burbs

In the birthplace of the suburban American dream, the problems now seems to be that there is no longer any more room for new homes at an affordable price, and it is proposed, in this article, one cause of that.

An excerpt.

“Yet it is precisely the constraints on new housing that has served as a principal cause for Long Island problems. Long Island was the birthplace of the suburban American Dream, in principal measure because new housing development was permitted to occur at land prices reflecting little more than its agricultural value plus a premium to the selling farmer. The same financial formula expanded the American Dream throughout the country and many parts of the world, at least until urban planners were able, in some instances, to drive the price of land so high that housing was no longer affordable to average households.

“Indeed, land use regulation throughout the New York suburbs downstate, in New Jersey and Connecticut has long since rationed land for development. As a result, once loose mortgage loan standards became the practice, house prices escalated. Throughout the New York metropolitan area, the Median Multiple – median house prices divided by median household incomes rose from 3.2 to 7.0, in the decade ending in 2007. In traditionally regulated markets – like Long Island in the past and still much of the country in the present – the Median Multiple has been 3.0 or less for decades.

“Various regulations have led to this precipitous decline in the area’s housing affordability, virtually all of them falling under the category of “smart growth.” There are the regulations that have placed large swaths of perfectly developable land off limits for housing. There are large lot zoning requirements that have forced far more land than the market would have required to house the same number of people, producing an entirely artificial “hyper-sprawl.” Much of this ostensibly has been done in the interests of controlling “sprawl.” Where quarter acre lots would have been the market answer, planning authorities often have required one-half acre, one-acre and even more as minimum lot sizes.”

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Helping the Salmon

Though this Bee article appears to only consider wild salmon in its projection of the imminent demise of the species, the hatchery raised and ocean farmed salmon are doing fine, and many feel that human intervention is the future of salmon sustainability, as has been the process of most animal domestications throughout human history.

In the ancient ways of domesticating wild animals for food, transportation, recreation, education, companionship, and commerce the balance has always been tilted more towards what is good for humanity than what is good for the animals and that is a proper balance, while always remembering and honoring the vital role animals play within our world’s cultures and our responsibility to treat them (as all of nature) with respect and kindness.

An excerpt.

“The fish that define life in Sacramento's rivers are at greater risk of extinction than experts had previously thought.

“A study by UC Davis scientists, released on Wednesday, predicts 65 percent of California's salmon and trout species may become extinct within a century.

“The research was commissioned by the environmental group California Trout to call attention to the plight of 31 native salmon, steelhead and trout species in the state. Three researchers from the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences examined threats to the fish and estimated their likelihood for extinction.

“The study was led by Peter Moyle, professor of fish biology at UC Davis and a leading authority on salmon and trout.”

While there are obviously some problems that still need to be addressed, the long-term health of the salmon—as our oceans and rivers come under more pressure from expanding global population—will largely depend upon the technology being developed in hatcheries and ocean farming and the prognosis is very good.

An excerpt from one ocean farming organization's website.

“Raising Ocean-Farmed Salmon: Given the great taste and nutritional benefits of ocean-farmed salmon and the demand for fresh fish, the number of ocean salmon farms has grown tremendously over the past decade. While many people buy and eat ocean-farmed salmon, many aren't familiar with the processes that go into producing fresh fish year-round.

“Salmon hatcheries: Salmon hatcheries include complex operations such as the gathering of eggs and egg fertilization. It generally takes between 12 to 18 months from when the eggs are fertilized until the juvenile salmon leave the hatchery for the ocean farms.

“Fish Development: Once the eggs have been fertilized and hatched, the juvenile salmon, or fry, are sorted into tanks where they are closely monitored. Sorting ensures that each fry has plenty of space to grow, and the water is monitored to ensure optimal conditions for growth.

“Ocean Farms: Young salmon are grown in freshwater for a period between half a year to over one year. The salmon are then released into net pens in the ocean (typically 100 meters across and 30 feet deep) where they are reared into adulthood.

“Farm Maintenance: Typically, ocean farms have divers who monitor the cages weekly to repair nets and check on the status of the fish. Strong, thick plastic cages protect the salmon and nets from storms and predators, while also minimizing escapes.

“Harvesting Salmon: Within about 18 months of living in the ocean farms, salmon reach their harvest size. The entire harvesting process is designed to ensure high quality, fresh salmon. Once salmon are harvested at the farms, they're quickly shipped to the processing plant.”

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Affordable Housing

The decision by Rancho Cordova, reported in the Bee, to reconsider its affordable housing requirement, is the realization that sometimes leaving development decisions to the relatively freely-chosen and market-driven direction of the developers will result in a much more viable community than forcing compliance to regulations arguably doing little for ambiguous social prescriptions.

An excerpt.

“This year, Rancho Cordova is required to update its "housing element" – a plan laying out housing policy for five years. All jurisdictions are required to submit a housing element to the state's Department of Housing and Community Development.

“Under its original plan, which the city adopted after incorporating in 2003, Rancho Cordova had required 10 percent of new residential units to be affordable. But in a 3-2 vote earlier this month, the City Council went against city staff's recommendation and decided to drop the 10 percent requirement from the plan the city will submit for state approval.

“Mayor Linda Budge supported dropping the 10 percent requirement, which she said is an impediment to development in this rough economy.

"It gets us beyond today's current economic climate," Budge said at the council's Nov. 3 meeting.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

Infrastructure Investment

While agreeing in principle with this editorial in the Sacramento Bee—that an investment in the nation’s infrastructure is wise in a time of economic turmoil—the specifics should focus on what is really needed; road and freeway enhancements, more bridges, nuclear power plants, new and enhanced dams for water storage, flood protection, and hydroelectric power; all of which would probably be much better investments for the long-term economic benefit of our nation than most of those mentioned in the editorial.

An excerpt.

“All across the country, bridges, sewage treatment systems, roads, schools and flood-control levees are in sorry shape. Some are literally crumbling, posing threats to life and property.

“If Congress were to invest quickly in an array of projects, with an emphasis on public safety and environmental protection, it would provide a lasting legacy. It would also create tens of thousands of jobs while helping some cities and states deal with their own budget troubles.

“Consider, for instance, the nationwide problem of sewage overflows. Many older cities, such as Sacramento, have combined sewer-stormwater systems that overflow during big storms, dumping untreated waste into rivers and drinking-water reservoirs.

“According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, at least $202 billion is needed to prevent sewer overflows at some 16,000 wastewater treatment plants across the country. While Congress can't invest that kind of money immediately, it could make a downpayment on a health threat that grows bigger every year.

“Also consider the nation's rail and bus systems. According to the American Public Transit Association, $4.6 billion worth of transit projects are ready to begin construction today nationwide. Investing in transit will pay off in cleaner air, while providing jobs for laid-off manufacturing and construction workers.”

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Good News About News

This article notes how an aspect at the center of democracy—as noted by De Tocqueville in his book Democracy in America—small voluntary organizations are helping drive good government by uncovering bad government where larger media has too often over-looked it.

An excerpt.

“SAN DIEGO — Over the last two years, some of this city’s darkest secrets have been dragged into the light — city officials with conflicts of interest and hidden pay raises, affordable housing that was not affordable, misleading crime statistics.

“Investigations ensued. The chiefs of two redevelopment agencies were forced out. One of them faces criminal charges. Yet the main revelations came not from any of San Diego’s television and radio stations or its dominant newspaper, The San Diego Union-Tribune, but from a handful of young journalists at a nonprofit Web site run out of a converted military base far from downtown’s glass towers — a site that did not exist four years ago.

“As America’s newspapers shrink and shed staff, and broadcast news outlets sink in the ratings, a new kind of Web-based news operation has arisen in several cities, forcing the papers to follow the stories they uncover.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Watching Wildlife is Good for the Economy

As we become a more educated society and more appreciative of the often limited opportunities to view nature, the value of watching wildlife becomes more precious; as does the opportunity to enjoy the sanctuary aspects of the Parkway, both of which are good for the economy.

The Parkway accounts for over $350 million in spending in our region according to the 2006 Financial Needs Study (page vi)

Excerpt from the report on Wildlife Watching.

“Wildlife watching is one of the most popular types of outdoor recreation in the United States. Nearly a third of the U.S. population, 71 million people, enjoyed closely observing, feeding, and photographing wildlife in 2006. Wildlife watching around the home and on trips is an important and growing form of recreation. Eight percent more people participated in 2006 than in 2001.

“In addition to contributing significantly to people’s enjoyment of the outdoors, wildlife watching has a substantial impact on the nation’s and states’ economies. The $45.7 billion spent on wildlife equipment and trips in 2006 contributed substantially to federal and state tax revenues, jobs, earnings, and economic output.

“This report presents estimates of the national and state economic impacts of wildlife watching, which were derived using data from the 2006 Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation Survey (FHWAR). The following topics are addressed: (1) national participation in wildlife watching; (2) expenditures associated with participation in wildlife watching; (3) estimates of the total economic activity generated by these expenditures; (4) total employment and employment income associated with these expenditures; and (5) estimates of associated state and federal tax revenue. Two other reports used the 2006 FHWAR to address the national and state economic impacts of hunting and fishing.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pods are back!

Another kindly reader, Evan Flink, has sent along some information about the Pod Car technology that indicates some success, he says:

“Currently, the British company ULtra is building a system at Heathrow to connect the parking lot with the new Terminal 5, and ultimately, to every terminal in the airport. This will be a true PRT system, with driverless cars & properly sized guideways.

Here is a link to a picture at the ULtra website - just a week or so ago they had the first run of a production vehicle over the completed guideway.

“The Masdar City project in Dubai, touted to be the first carbon-neutral city, is designed to use PRT, Segways & walking for travel within the city, & Light Rail for inter-city travel. Projects are also in development in Uppsala, Sweden and Daventry, England, & a Request for Proposal was recently let in Santa Cruz.

“PRT is the first real innovation in public transit in 100 years & has the potential to do, when built out, what Light Rail & Busses cannot - get a large segment of the population out of their cars & onto transit.”

And this is what I also would agree on; that the public will not abandon their cars until they have a safe, relatively private system that has the capability to really get them around to where it is they need to go, which the Pod Car technology appears to have the capability to do.

Most folks do not feel that comfortable on the traditional forms of mass transit; they do not want to be screamed or leered at, groped, solicited for money, intimidated or otherwise discombobulated by the often unruly and inappropriate behavior of too many of our citizens on too many of our mass transit systems.

Monday, November 17, 2008

K Street: Endless Debate & Drama

One piece of reality that seems to keep getting lost in the long-running debate and drama of K Street, is that Sacramento is a government town and almost all of the jobs downtown are connected to the government in some way, either through serving its employees or as vendors for its services.

What this means, in a general sense, is that after government closes up shop for the day, almost everyone leaves. Most of them go home to the suburbs and that is where most shopping and other spending done after work hours is concentrated, close to where people live, handy to reach in their cars and where they can park relatively close to their shopping, dining, or recreational destinations and not pay for parking. They also do not want to be screamed or leered at, solicited for money, intimidated or otherwise discombobulated by the often unruly and inappropriate behavior of too many of our citizens on too many of our downtown streets these past several years.

A lot has changed in how people are choosing to live (some new cities in the area seem aware of it) and though it was noticed several years ago by urban observers, too few folks who make planning policy decisions seem to be taking account of it.

Bogart (2006) remarks.

“Even by 1960 observers such as Jane Jacobs and Jean Gottman had discerned a new structure for metropolitan areas, although popular interpreters of their work have neglected this insight. This new structure was called the polycentric city, in recognition of the multiple centers of economic activity that now comprised the metropolitan area. While some people have recognized this change for more than forty years, it still has surprisingly little impact on the design of public policy. With notable exceptions, such as Phoenix’s urban villages [perhaps one of the reasons our new mayor called it his number one city to look for inspirational urban ideas] planning concept, most metropolitan areas remain wedded to a picture of the world in which the downtown of the central city is the dominant employment center. Local governments and private individuals devote great resources to reverse the exodus of businesses from the downtown. Some of this activity is appropriate, but much of it has an impact resembling that of King Canute’s orders to the tide.”

(Don’t Call it Sprawl, Metropolitan Structure in the Twenty-First Century, William T. Bogart, p. 9)

An excerpt from an article in the Bee describing the latest K Street dramatic turn.

“The path is finally clear for the Southern California furniture retailer to transform the bedraggled 700 block of downtown Sacramento's K Street into a spiffy row of upscale stores. It's not clear, though, that Zeiden still intends to do so – at least not without more money from the city's treasury.

“Zeiden had been blocked for at least four years by the property's longtime owner Moe Mohanna, who had refused to sell. Last month, the city and Mohanna reached a settlement, avoiding an eminent domain trial. The Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency took ownership of Mohanna's nine properties on the 700 and 800 blocks, the bleakest stretch of K Street.

“But Zeiden was noticeably absent from a celebratory meeting in which Sacramento's City Council approved the deal with Mohanna.

“Since then, Zeiden has not responded to The Bee's attempts to contact him at the Gardena headquarters of his family's Z Gallerie furniture chain.

“City officials say the severe downturn in the retail economy has prompted Zeiden to rethink his K Street proposal. He likely will ask the city to kick in more money before he moves forward, said Leslie Fritzsche, Sacramento's downtown development manager.”

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pods May Not be Coming

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on the pod cars, a kindly reader sent me this link to his article examining the history of the pod car science; and it’s not such a good history.

An excerpt.

“Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) Personal Rapid Transit is a futuristic transportation concept with a controversial history stretching back over thirty years. PRT is loosely defined as a network of pod-like vehicles on an elevated monorail-like structure with many off-line stations. In theory, PRT is supposed to combine the advantages of the private automobile with the efficiency of fixed guideway transit. After thirty years and hundreds of millions of dollars spent on PRT research, there are no true PRT systems in operation anywhere in the world, although there have been many failed attempts. In more recent years, PRT has served another purpose as a stalking horse to stop funding for conventional transit.

“PRT had no support from traditional grassroots transit advocacy groups such as Transit for Livable Communities and the Sierra Club North Star, both of which have resolutions opposing the public funding of PRT on their web sites.

“Personal Rapid Transit began as a concept in the 1950's and '60's and found favor among urban planners at the Federal Urban Mass Transit Administration (UMTA) who believed that mass transit could only compete with the private automobile by becoming more car-like. Millions of dollars were poured into PRT research projects.

“In 1971 Minnesota Legislature appropriated $50,000 for a PRT proposal. PRT promoters from the Citizens League testified against a Metropolitan Transit Commission proposal to build rail lines as the backbone of a comprehensive transit network. The PRT study, published in 1973 recommended public funding of a project that would demonstrate the feasibility of PRT. The legislature did not fund the PRT project, but the diversion created by the PRT promoters helped to block the MTC proposal and Minnesota had to wait nearly twenty years to get it's first light rail line.

“PRT also played a role in delaying plans for rail transit in other cities. Denver citizens voted for a one-half cent sales tax in 1973. A Congressional report explains what happened next:

"UMTA began backing away from its early enthusiasm for the Denver PRT proposal in 1974. Embarrassing cost overruns in the demonstration project in Morgantown, W. Va. had cast doubt on the financial and technical feasibility of a PRT system similar to the one proposed in Denver. In addition, the Airtrans System at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport-like Morgantown's PRT, a technological predecessor of the proposed Denver system-was not performing up to specifications."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Pods are Coming!

A marvelous idea from science fiction is becoming reality and soon coming to America, pod cars run by computers shuttling people around on rails, very cool and a lot cozier than the typical mass transit.

An excerpt from the Harvard Innovations article.

“The thought of a driverless, computer-guided car transporting people where they want to go on demand is a futuristic notion to some.

“To Jacob Roberts, podcars - or PRTs, for personal rapid transit - represent an important component in the here-and-now of transportation.

"It's time we design cities for the human, not for the automobile," said Roberts, president of Connect Ithaca, a group of planning and building professionals, activists and students committed to making this upstate New York college town the first podcar community in the United States.

"In the podcar ... it creates the perfect blend between the privacy and autonomy of the automobile with the public transportation aspect and, of course, it uses clean energy," Roberts said.

“With the oil crisis reaching a zenith and federal lawmakers ready to begin fashioning a new national transportation bill for 2010, Roberts and his colleagues think the future is now for podcars - electric, automated, lightweight vehicles that ride on their own network separate from other traffic.

“Unlike mass transit, podcars carry two to 10 passengers, giving travelers the freedom and privacy of their own car while reducing the use of fossil fuels, reducing traffic congestion and freeing up space now monopolized by parking.

“At stations located every block or every half-mile, depending on the need, a rider enters a destination on a computerized pad, and a car would take the person nonstop to the location. Stations would have slanted pull-in bays so that some cars could stop for passengers, while others could continue unimpeded on the main course.

"It works almost like an elevator, but horizontally," said Roberts, adding that podcar travel would be safer than automobile travel.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

Suburbs in China

Reflecting the universal dream of families to live in detached single family housing, the homes in China are beautiful, though still restricted to the entrepreneurial and governing class and one hopes to someday see the evidence of a strong middle-class developing—in China as well as other areas of the world—which will be a sign that democracy can eventually reach all people, a dream devoutly to be wished.

The author also reviews the history of why suburbs developed and continue to do so.

An excerpt.

“As I sit here in Beijing Capital International Airport waiting for a flight to Taiyuan, I realize something universal about people. Whether in the suburbs of Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan, Xi’an, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Nanjing or even in the historical accident of Hong Kong, some of the most beautiful single-family detached housing in the world is here. It is not extensive, because it is not affordable to the great majority of Chinese. The Chinese call them “villas.” It is, however, the most expensive of housing and a goal to which many of the nation’s rising entrepreneurial class aspire.

“It may be that it was called a dream first in America, but its beginnings go back much further. For much of human history, most people who lived in large cities were forced to put up with virtually inhuman densities. By definition, large cities were compact. Indeed, they were often not a lot larger in their geographical expanse than smaller cities. Why? To be efficient labor markets, cities had to be small, so that all of the workers could get to all of the jobs – and in those days the only way to get around was by foot. As cities got larger, especially during the industrial revolution, densities rose in some neighborhoods to 200,000 and more per square mile. The lower East Side of New York topped out at 375,000 in the 1910 census and has since dropped by 75 percent…

“For the traveler interested in seeing urban areas beyond the touristic haunts, it is clear that the dream has expanded far beyond America. This is not surprising, because human beings, in general, seem to prefer their own space and will buy it if they can afford it. The Great Australian Dream involves detached housing that is nearly as large as new housing in the United States – even as planners struggle to force new houses on lots so small that a fire in one will likely spread to others. The large urban areas of suburbs from Canada to the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Sweden, Germany and all other developed nations all have experienced a rapid expansion of suburban living.

“The extent of the Universal Dream becomes even more compelling when one travels the developing world. Virtually the same pattern is evident in new suburbs of Beijing, Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok, Istanbul and Cairo. All have a smattering of single-family detached housing. Unlike the developed world, however, it cannot be afforded by much of the middle income population.”

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Energy Could be Exactly What is Needed

In light of the long lethargy that has hampered the city of Sacramento from effectively dealing with many of its most pressing problems—in particular the problem of illegal camping by the homeless in the Parkway—the “relentless energy” of Sacramento’s new mayor—noted in this column—could be just what is needed.

An excerpt.

“On the morning after he was elected mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson was standing on a downtown street corner shortly after 8 a.m., waving at motorists as they streamed off Interstate 5 and into the business district. "Thank you," Johnson called out as the drivers waved back, honked their horns or rolled down their windows and shouted their approval. "Thank you."

“Many of his new constituents were still bleary-eyed after a long night watching election returns. But Johnson had already conducted three live television interviews and was preparing for a meeting with City Manager Ray Kerridge. Later he would visit a local elementary school, and he finished the day with an appearance at the Sacramento Kings' first home game of the season.

“In between, Johnson spoke with members of his transition team to continue work on an ambitious agenda for his first 50 days in office. Typically, newly elected executives like to follow the tradition of Franklin D. Roosevelt by offering plans for their first 100 days in office. But 100 days is too long for Johnson, he says, so he vows to cut that timeline in half.

"I want to create a sense of urgency and let people know exactly where we are and what we have found and chart a clear course of action," Johnson told me as we stood on the curb in the morning chill.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Parkway Funding Shrinking ?

Based on the possible inflation of estimated Sacramento County revenue in a period of recession, the Parkway could be in for an even deeper funding deficit than it has been running for years—about $1.1 million annually just in maintenance, according to the American River Parkway Financial Needs Study Update 2006 (p. vii)—and that could inspire local leadership to consider the option taken by other municipalities in relation to funding and managing premier park space.

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—and the San Dieguito River Park in San Diego, California.

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee on the possible funding shortage at the County.

“Sacramento County, squeezed by a souring economy and less money from the state, will look to cut almost $15 million more from its $2.2 billion budget, primarily from programs that serve the area's most vulnerable.

“Yet despite downward pressure on the budget, county officials have been reluctant to scale back revenue estimates made earlier for the current fiscal year.

“Sacramento County officials said they're confident their revenue projections are sound.

“But government finance experts in the region – some of them dealing with budget cuts in their own cities and counties – have questioned how Sacramento County's projections can remain roughly the same as earlier in the year. Many municipalities are now reporting less money than anticipated as sales taxes lag and other estimates fall short.

"I'd be surprised if they're not feeling some of the same pinch," Roseville treasurer Russ Branson said. That city had earlier projected it would have $126 million in revenue for its general fund for the fiscal year that ends in 2009. That number has already been revised, down to $121 million.

“Earlier in the year, Sacramento County postponed adopting a final spending plan until California legislators adopted a state budget. That happened in late September, and resulted in cuts in funding to counties.

“On Wednesday [today] the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors will look to adopt a final budget for the 2008-2009 fiscal year. That spending plan has to account for $4.9 million less for health and human services, $7 million less for human assistance, $2.3 million less for probation and about $700,000 less for law enforcement, compared with the proposed budget the board had considered in June.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Neighborhood Electric Vehicles

A terrific strategy—in this report from the Sacramento Bee—for many communities and perhaps existing bike lanes can be enlarged to accommodate them as they could possibly be compatible with bikes.

An excerpt.

“Kids at Lincoln's Foskett Ranch Elementary know Will Honeywell as the third-grader whose parents drive a funny-looking car.

"He gets a lot of attention," said his father, David, who, with his wife, Seana, owns a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle.

"Though their NEV can still prompt questions from strangers, the Honeywells are one of more than 600 families in Lincoln who drive them as part of their everyday life.

"The vehicles are growing increasingly common in Lincoln, part of what city planners see as a trend, spreading particularly among younger residents, such as the Honeywells, who are in their mid-30s.

"And as the drivers turn to NEVs as an alternative to costly, polluting conventional cars, they find in Lincoln a city that welcomes them with miles of designated lanes.

"Today, state officials and numerous cities see Lincoln as a model of how to design communities to accommodate and even promote the use of energy-saving NEVs…

"Slightly larger than golf carts, NEVs can seat two additional passengers and travel 10 mph faster. They are equipped with seat belts, brake lights, rear lights, headlights, mirrors and a windshield. Unless prohibited, they can travel on any city street with a maximum speed limit of 35 mph.

"NEVs come in all shapes, sizes and styles, but most look like oversized bugs on wheels. They travel no faster than 25 mph but can fit four people and achieve the electrical energy equivalent of more than 150 miles per gallon of gasoline."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Homeless in Sacramento

An excellent article from Sacramento News & Review profiling the various folks who are homeless in the tent town in Sacramento’s midtown area, and the rules they live by, including a truly astounding comment on how even the homeless view those who camp in the American River Parkway…see #14 below.

This is a story that is a must-read for those who are helping make policy in our fair city around the camping by the homeless in the Parkway.

An excerpt.

“The old man wants nothing to do with the story. Not a thing. Can’t really blame him, considering what happened out here the other day. He’s talking about moving on, trying his luck in Las Vegas or Reno, getting the hell out of Tent Town.

“It’s a desolate place, a ragtag collection of tents, tarps and lean-tos pitched on a half-acre of burned and scalded scrub brush just north of Midtown, between 20th and 28th streets. Once, this patch of wasteland served as the Sacramento dump. When the Union Pacific roars by Tent Town, there’s no question which side of the tracks you’re on.

“The old man’s been out here three months. He’s a skilled craftsman, but there’s no work. There are other folks, men and women, who’ve been out here longer for the same reason. Then there are the ones who’ve been homeless for years, dragged down by drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness and disease, or just plain dumb luck.

“It makes for a volatile mix, and navigating through this no man’s land of poverty, depredation and occasional violence can be a daunting prospect. The old man knows the way, as do many of the people who inhabit this gritty tableau. Given the present economic downturn, the lessons they have learned are invaluable for those of us who may be joining their ranks sooner than we think. So, without further ado, here’s a list of survival tips from the denizens of Tent Town. May you never be in need of them…

“14. Stay away from the river

“It’s a half-mile from Tent Town to the American River, where the hard-core, chronically homeless hole up in the dense foliage leading up to its banks. The level of depravity increases the nearer you get to the water, which is why the American River Parkway is heavily patrolled by park rangers from Discovery Park to Cal Expo. “We heard screams coming from there last night,” says Kim. She’d be pretty if all of her front teeth hadn’t been knocked out. “They hauled another body out of there the other day, some mummified dude,” Ace adds. Kim shivers.”

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Rancho Cordova & the Parkway

It has always been our contention that the new city of Rancho Cordova should become an equal Parkway governing partner with the city of Sacramento and Sacramento County.

We felt this partly because a large part of the Parkway lies within the city limits of Rancho Cordova and partly because they have exhibited very wise public management of their resources, which this report from the Rancho Cordova Post validates.

An excerpt.

“Today, the Inaugural State of the City Address was given by Rancho Cordova Mayor Linda Budge. The address which was hosted by the Cordova Community Council was held in the City Hall. The luncheon event for residents, business, community and civic leaders was hosted by Councilman David Sander and included many notable local leaders including Sacramento County Supervisor Don Notolli and even a special guest appearance by Sacramento’s Mayor-elect Kevin Johnson. Mayor Budge presented Mr. Johnson with a key to the City of Rancho Cordova, but also noted comically that the same keys to the City had been presented to one of the Budweiser Clydesdale horses. Mayor-elect Johnson took it in stride and even expressed some envy of the City of Rancho Cordova and its’ budget surplus. The City of Sacramento has a $58 million deficit…

“In contrast to the doom and gloom outlook of the US economy and the State of California, this little city is looking upward and outward with an eye towards growth, prosperity and a better quality of life. One of the very telling statistics is that Rancho Cordova has only experienced a 3% housing foreclosure rate. In comparison to our neighbors in Sacramento and Elk Grove we are doing well and housing is becoming more affordable in this down economy. The message of the day expressed by the Mayor is that the State of the City is sound and we’ll weather this storm of uncertainty and continue to grow.”

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Tried and True

We couldn’t agree more with this editorial that decries the current idea to expend a large sum of money on unproven technology to solve the garbage problem in Sacramento.

In virtually all public service areas, rather than being the innovator—a role played more sensibly by cash flush municipalities with deep pockets—our region should consider those tried ant true ideas already proven successful in other areas.

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee editorial.

“In unmistakable terms this week, the Sacramento City Council ordered its staff to hold off on an ambitious but ambiguous plan to partner with a private firm to turn city garbage into electricity.

“Council members were right to postpone this deal. Too many important questions remain unanswered.

“Chief among the questions is a basic one: Will this process work as its proponents claim it will?

“Under the deal being negotiated, a private firm would build a plant to vaporize city garbage and use the synthetic gases created in that process to generate electricity. The city would have to deliver at least 2,100 tons of municipal waste a week as feedstock for the plant.

“This futuristic waste-to-energy proposal, which the city has been considering for many months, always has had a kind of too-good-to-be-true quality to it. It contemplates turning what has been an expensive burden for cities, garbage, into a potential gold mine, energy.

“Skeptics have raised serious doubts about whether the plan is technologically feasible. Nothing exactly like it has ever been done before, certainly not on the scale Sacramento contemplates. Critics say "plasma arc gasification," as the new technology is called, is a promising but unproven technology, particularly in the municipal waste arena.”

Friday, November 07, 2008

Michael Crichton, RIP

Michael Crichton passed away this November 4th, at age 66 from cancer, and he will be remembered, and very mnuch missed, as one of our great moral technologists, as well as a wonderful writer of speculative fiction.

He will also be remembered by many for his prescient talk in 2003 about environmentalism, and here is an excerpt from that talk in San Francisco.

Environmentalism as Religion
Commonwealth Club
San Francisco, CA
September 15, 2003

“I have been asked to talk about what I consider the most important challenge facing mankind, and I have a fundamental answer. The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.

“We must daily decide whether the threats we face are real, whether the solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we're told exist are in fact real problems, or non-problems. Every one of us has a sense of the world, and we all know that this sense is in part given to us by what other people and society tell us; in part generated by our emotional state, which we project outward; and in part by our genuine perceptions of reality. In short, our struggle to determine what is true is the struggle to decide which of our perceptions are genuine, and which are false because they are handed down, or sold to us, or generated by our own hopes and fears.

“As an example of this challenge, I want to talk today about environmentalism. And in order not to be misunderstood, I want it perfectly clear that I believe it is incumbent on us to conduct our lives in a way that takes into account all the consequences of our actions, including the consequences to other people, and the consequences to the environment. I believe it is important to act in ways that are sympathetic to the environment, and I believe this will always be a need, carrying into the future. I believe the world has genuine problems and I believe it can and should be improved. But I also think that deciding what constitutes responsible action is immensely difficult, and the consequences of our actions are often difficult to know in advance. I think our past record of environmental action is discouraging, to put it mildly, because even our best intended efforts often go awry. But I think we do not recognize our past failures, and face them squarely. And I think I know why.

“I studied anthropology in college, and one of the things I learned was that certain human social structures always reappear. They can't be eliminated from society. One of those structures is religion. Today it is said we live in a secular society in which many people---the best people, the most enlightened people---do not believe in any religion. But I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form. You can not believe in God, but you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.

“Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

“There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.”

Thursday, November 06, 2008

New Sacramento County Parks Website

While I assume, and hope, that the new website is still being developed and content added, the results so far point to one of the main problems we have been raising for several years—the lack of dedicated focus on the Parkway, the major park in the region—and why we have called for dedicated management by a nonprofit organization.

Sacramento County Parks was essentially established to manage the Parkway, but visiting the website today it is hard to tell there even is a Parkway, and in a period when funding for parks are falling nationwide, it is important to remember that the American River 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 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—and the Sacramento Zoological Society to manage the Sacramento Zoo, which they have wholly done since 1997 under contract with the City of Sacramento.

Another superb example is the San Dieguito River Park in San Diego, California—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.”

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Carbon Capturing Rocks

Rocks found in California and Oman, as well as other places, can capture carbon, as noted in this article from MIT’s Technology Review, and how cool is that!

An excerpt.

“Chemical reactions that pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it in the form of solid rock inside geological formations could offset billions of tons of carbon-dioxide emissions each year, according to researchers at Columbia University, in New York. The scientists say that research done on large rock formations in Oman suggests new ways to sequester carbon-dioxide emissions to help lessen global warming.

“The researchers have shown that rock formations called peridotite, which are found in Oman and several other places worldwide, including California and New Guinea, produce calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate rock when they come into contact with carbon dioxide. The scientists found that such formations in Oman naturally sequester hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide a year. Based on those findings, the researchers, writing in the current early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, calculate that the carbon-sequestration rate in rock formations in Oman could be increased to billions of tons a year--more than the carbon emissions in the United States from coal-burning power plants, which come to 1.5 billion tons per year.”

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Green Capitalism

The ability of the markets to serve public policy often outperforms that of the government and is the basis for the long relationship free countries have with capitalism.

This is notice of a new book on the subject.

An excerpt.

“Why is green equated with regulation? Why can't green mean harnessing the power of markets to improve the environment? Is there another path to better resource stewardship? In Greener Than Thou, Terry Anderson and Laura Huggins answer these and other questions as they make a case for free market environmentalism.

“In six insightful chapters, the authors make a powerful argument for free market environmentalism. They break down liberal and conservative stereotypes of what it means to be an environmentalist and show that, by forming local coalitions around market principles, stereotypes can be replaced by pragmatic solutions that improve environmental quality without increasing red tape.”

Monday, November 03, 2008

Nuclear Power

It is good to see the narrative changing on this vital component of the power grid.

Currently, only three nuclear plants provide 15% of California’s power needs, so it is clear the addition of more plants can be a very sound direction for public leadership to move; including perhaps repowering the closed Rancho Seco plant.

An excerpt from the article in the Sacramento Bee.

“The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversees the operation of nuclear plants in the United States, but California lawmakers in 1976 imposed a ban on new plants until the NRC could resolve long-term storage for spent fuel rods or determine appropriate means for reprocessing them.

“The California Energy Commission in a 2007 report determined that little has changed in regard to waste storage or reprocessing in the country, precluding the state from reversing the moratorium.

“California currently has two nuclear sites in operation, Diablo Canyon near San Luis Obispo and San Onofre near San Clemente. The power plants were approved before the moratorium took effect and are roughly halfway through the 40-year period for which they have been licensed. A third nuclear plant near Phoenix also provides electricity to the state.

“The three plants contribute roughly 15 percent of the state's overall energy portfolio, according to the energy commission. The state also has seen the closure of three nuclear plants, including Rancho Seco in southeast Sacramento County, which voters agreed to shutter in 1989.”

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Parkway Fire Announcement & New Parkway Hotline Number

1) October 30, 2008
Fire fought on American River Parkway
From Stan Oklobdzija:

Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District firefighters are putting down a fire on the American River Parkway near Larchmont Community Park, fire officials said.

The call came in at about 4 p.m., fire officials said. One engine has been dispatched to deal with it, officials said.

2) The new Parkway hotline number is 875-7275 or 875-PARK.

This number is to report incidents on the Parkway and will link callers to county dispatchers who can notify rangers and maintenance personnel as needed.

Dispatch hours are from 7 am to three hours after sunset.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Political Philanthropy

The political giving being done by employees of the nonprofit sector is largely to liberal politicians—surprising hardly anyone—but it should be troubling to many as it reflects a lack of balance within one of the most important sectors of our society, the nonprofit sector.

It is vital to see the ideas of conservatives more active within the nonprofit sector, particularly when we are reminded that it was through the largess of the relatively conservative corporate leaders of the past—Carnegie, Ford, Rockefeller—that the sector has been able to grow and thrive these past hundred years.

An excerpt from a recent article from the Chronicle of Philantrhopy.

“Janet Marcotte, executive director of YWCA Tucson has contributed $4,600, the maximum amount allowed by law, to help Sen. Barack Obama become president. She also attended the Democratic National Convention as a volunteer and traveled to New Mexico to help drum up support for the Illinois senator.

“I haven’t been inspired like this since I was a teenager working for Robert Kennedy,” she says, referring to the 1968 Democratic primary campaign.

“Ms. Marcotte, who emphasizes that she is speaking for herself and not the YWCA, calls Mr. Obama a “rare and exceptional talent” who would do more to help the women and children that her organization serves than his Republican opponent would.

“According to federal campaign records, Ms. Marcotte has a lot of company in the charitable world: People who work at large charities and foundations have favored Senator Obama — and Democrats in general — by a large margin during this election season.

“At The Chronicle’s request, the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, compiled data from the Federal Election Commission on donations to presidential and Congressional candidates and political-party committees from staff members at the 25 wealthiest foundations and 75 of the largest charities. Of almost $1.2-million contributed from January 2007 through August 2008, 88 percent went to Democrats.

“The donors gave more than 12 times as much money to Senator Obama as to his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, of Arizona — about $399,000 to almost $32,000.

“Charity employees favored Democrats by 82 percent to 18 percent, and foundation employees by 98 percent to 2 percent.”

New Urbanism

This trendy set of ideas about living, which a recent attempt was made to be put in place in Sacramento in the Laguna area, aren’t’ working out too well, especially in the need for employment close to homes.

Sometimes the tried and true works best, and for most of civilization that is the typical suburb.

An excerpt from a New Geography article concerning this.

“Whether one believes that form follows function or that function can follow form, a town or a city needs three key elements to be healthy. Firstly, a sense of place that includes the sacred is important to people to provide a basis for spiritual involvement. The city must then be able to reliably deliver safety and security to its inhabitants in order to grow and mature. And lastly, a city must provide the means of employment for its inhabitants.

“New Urbanism, in its quest to dictate the physical form of an urban development, has ignored the last key element. An examination of New Urbanism in developments in Central Florida shows a glaring lack of employment, raising questions about their sustainability and long-term viability.

“As we enter the second decade of Celebration, it is useful to look at this city and its influence on the surrounding region. Opened in 1996, Celebration incorporated much of the design philosophy that was formulated around the idea that a city should have a certain “look.” This design philosophy was promulgated to the general public in Suburban Nation, a book that lashed out at the current suburban form and proposed a new form based on a nostalgic notion about a golden age of American town-making, generally in the first decades of the last century.

“By regulating the specific architectural form of a new development, the New Urbanists proposed to improve the blandness, placelessness, and lack of character that is the lot of most contemporary suburbs. Celebration, sponsored by Disney, opened to white-hot press acclaim nationwide. Phase 2 was opened ahead of schedule due to demand for new homes. Market values of homes rose quickly beyond the norm for Central Florida. Developers took notice.”