Monday, June 30, 2008

Water Regulation, Increasing Supply & Delta Smelt

1) The trouble with this proposed water regulation plan, is that while everyone can agree that all natural resources need to have some sort of regulation built around their use, there also needs to be a corresponding plan to acquire more of the natural resource, if possible.

2) In this case, there are certainly ways to enlarge our water supply during wet years to be more prepared for the dry ones.

Along with the obvious solution for our area, the building of Auburn Dam, still supported by groups—including us—like the Auburn Dam Council, there is another that would solve the water problems for the larger region and that is the raising of Shasta Dam to its originally engineered height of 200 feet higher than it now is, tripling its water supply, which this 2004 article from the Sacramento Bee describes.

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 sustainability(from Auburn Dam) and extra flood protection.

3) Fish hatcheries have long been a good method to protect fish that need help due to the development of technologies to increase the human use of the water flowing from their aquatic habitat, and it would make sense that it could also be of good use in relation to the Delta smelt this editorial addresses.

It is certainly something deserving of consideration and research.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Smoky Air & Salmon Runs

1) The Sacramento Bee today has a good overview of the air problems we’ve had over the recent years to help put this particular period in perspective, and today looks to be clearing a bit, at least in our Sierra Oaks neighborhood.

2) The salmon run in the Northwest is booming, while ours is miniscule, and the most perceptive comment about it is:

"It's a mystery. This is nothing like what was predicted," said Brian Gorman, spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service.”

For those of who feel that much of nature is a mystery and for good reason, this doesn’t come as a surprise. The seasons wax and wane, as do the creatures sharing our earth, and it is a central part of our stewardship to remember how little we really do know about why, but prudence reminds us to try not to do too much to ‘fix’ a problem we often do not understand.

Sometimes, just letting nature take its course is the best public policy.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Gas Prices & Freedom

In this insightful column by the economist and regular columnist for the New York Times, Paul Krugman, he correctly identifies the huge rise in oil prices for what it is, a result from the steadily increasing demand of the emerging economies, which in all other contexts than the cost to our pocketbooks, is a very good thing.

The increased freedom that the consumers of the world have when they are able to afford the artifacts of middle class culture—as we have for decades—will slowly result in a corresponding freedom of thinking leading to, one continues to hope, better governance from the political leaders of their countries, with a higher respect for human dignity.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Folsom Trail, Hamlet & River Tragedy

1) Great news from Folsom, in yesterday’s Bee, an excerpt:

“FOLSOM – The city has won a $750,000 grant to build a nature trail from near Old Town Folsom to Lake Natoma, the state announced Wednesday.

“The 2,500-foot trail will include a lighted pedestrian promenade along the shore of Lake Natoma and will comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a press release from state Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman.”

The access for the disabled is the real great part, as they just have some difficulty getting down to one of the best places in our community to recreate or just sit and watch the weather.

2) Victor Davis Hanson has a great column at Patriot Post about our Hamlet-like uncertainty regarding building the infrastructure we need—pretty relevant during a time of drought in California and floods in the Midwest.

Here is an excerpt:

“In my home state of California, we spent a decade arguing over the replacement for portions of the aging and earthquake-susceptible San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Now that the design has finally been agreed to, it will be several years before it is finished. That's quite a contrast to the original bridge that was completed in just over three years.

“California is also in yet another predictable drought and ensuing water shortage. Despite strict conservation and new water-saving technology, we simply don't have enough water for households, recreation, industry and agriculture. Building new dams, reservoirs and canals, you see, would apparently be considered unimaginative and relics of the 20th century.

“The causes of this paralysis are clear. Action entails risks and consequences. Mere thinking doesn't. In our litigious society, as soon as someone finally does something, someone else can become wealthy by finding some fault in it. Meanwhile a less fussy, more confident world abroad drills, and builds nuclear plants, refineries, dams and canals to feed and fuel millions who want what we take for granted.

“In our present comfort, Americans don't seem to understand nature. We believe that our climate-controlled homes, comfortable offices and easy air and car travel are just like grass or trees; apparently they should sprout up on their own for our benefit.”

3) Another possibly tragic drowning in the American River is reported in the Bee today.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Farming & Camping in the Parkway

1) The Soil Born Farm in the Parkway, reported on by the Bee, is an excellent use of Parkway land, but illegally camping is not.

2) The recent legal decision in Fresno that awards a settlement to homeless campers, illegally camping in public, for the destruction of their personal property that occurred during police sweeps to remove their campsites, will hopefully lead to a more humane way of dealing with their personal possessions already adopted by many locales, who provide warnings in advance of sweeps, and storage for personal items taken during sweeps for later recovery by the homeless.

It is crucial to remember that ensuring the communities adjacent to the North Sacramento, Midtown and Downtown areas of the Parkway (most used by the homeless for illegal campgrounds) the ability to safely use their part of the Parkway is not a permission to treat the already suffering homeless more cruelly than they are already living, though often through their own choice.

We can do both, ensure the communities adjacent to the Parkway can use it safely, and move the chronic homeless—who make up the majority of Parkway campers—into Housing First programs and out of illegally camping in the Parkway.

We have provided some ideas for this in our research report from 2005, The American River Parkway Lower Reach Area: A Corroded Crown Jewel; Restoring the Luster. A Conceptual and Policy Primer, (pages 25-42)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nuclear, High Tech, Water Meters & Audits

I did not know, nor I suppose did many others, that another major role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—aside from its nuclear watchdog role which has led to its prominence as it attempts to control nuclear development in Iran—is the promotion and dissemination of civilian sources of green technology.

This article from the Wall Street Journal fills us in on that work.

The Sacramento Business Journal reports that Sacramento is doing very well in the development of high-tech companies—and jobs—on a nationwide comparison.

Here is an excerpt:

“The Sacramento region created the fifth-most high-tech companies nationwide -- and employees in the industry earn twice as much as other private-sector workers, according to a report released Tuesday…

“The average high-tech employee earns $83,518 per year in the Sacramento region, more than double the $41,368 for other private-sector workers…

“The Sacramento region has 43,700 high-tech jobs at 1,945 companies”

The Sacramento Bee reports that the Sacramento city council vote on water meters has been delayed due to the discovery of some serious problems with the responsible agency, like thousands of missing meters, which were due to be installed in area homes and businesses.

The Bee also notes that water audits are a great idea, and pretty easy to get.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bad Air & the Yellowstone Fires of 1988

Though it is very atmospheric if you are a photographer or other type of artist who can use the beautiful coloring in our Valley this week for inspiration, it is the kind of air that is horrible for any with asthma or other breathing restrictions, and the best place is indoors.

This article from today's Bee provides the necessary information.

Many experts feel the Yellowstone Fires of 1988 and the ensuing year of fires in the West began a series of discussions—still ongoing—about how to manage wild lands for protection from fires; and the aftermath of the fires of 1988 sure leads to a need to find that how, as this excerpt from an article in PERC Reports about the Yellowstone fires and the resulting search for sound policy, notes:

The Aftermath

“By the end of the 1988 fire season, up to 2 million tons of particulates, 4.4 million tons of carbon monoxide, 129 tons of nitrogen oxide, and 106 tons of hydrocarbons were released into the air and dropped in the form of air pollution as far away as Boston, Mass., and Amarillo, Texas. Enough commercial timber to build 11,000 homes burned in surrounding national forests. Overall, the fires cost nearly $140 million--14 times Yellowstone's annual budget.

“Of the 25,000 firefighters who passed through the fires, two died--one in a plane crash and the other when a tree fell on him. Across the West, 6 million acres burned, the most since 1960, when agencies began keeping good records.”

Monday, June 23, 2008

Water Usage, Supply, & the Indian Heritage Center

1) In this Bee Editorial from Sunday, while the mention of conservation is needed, it may also be appropriate to begin noting that there is a possibility of increasing our water supply, as a lot of water falls as rain and snow during wet years in the American & Sacramento River Watersheds, but, at present, we don’t have the capacity to store enough of it to prepare for dry years.

Along with the obvious solution for our area, the building of Auburn Dam, still supported by groups—including us—like the Auburn Dam Council, there is another that would solve the water problems for the larger region and that is the raising of Shasta Dam to its originally engineered height of 200 feet higher than it now is, tripling its water supply, which this 2004 article from the Sacramento Bee describes.

2) While we had hoped the Indian Heritage Center would have been located at their first choice, along the Parkway in the North Sacramento area, site of an ancient village, the site in West Sacramento at the confluence of the two rivers is a wonderful siting, as this Bee editorial notes.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Flood Protection & Gas Prices

1) If we ever needed another tragic reminder—since Katrina—of what happens when river cities do not have the gold standard of flood protection, the 500 year level, this article and photo from the Wall Street Journal should spur us into action demanding our own 500 year level of protection.

Here is an excerpt:

“If you've ever seen a postcard of Cedar Rapids, it was likely of City Hall and Linn County Courthouse. Their Roman and Greek architecture make them distinctive. And their location, on Mays Island in the center of the Cedar River, give the city something in common with Paris, France and Osaka, Japan – municipal buildings placed midstream in a river that both breathes life and can carry destruction.

“We knew for several days that the Cedar was going to flood. We worked hard day and night, and many people bused in from points across the city, filling sandbags and building levees with one thought in mind: that doing so would make recovery all the more possible.

“Last week, the Cedar washed into City Hall and covered the rest of Mays Island. It rose to flood the county jail, the police station and downtown businesses, the lifeblood of the community. The river crested at over 31 feet on Saturday, 15 feet above flood stage.”

2) With all the worry over the rising price of gasoline, here is a White House Fact Sheet accompanying the President’s recent call to Congress to act. There is more than enough oil available in our country but access to it, and the refinery capacity to bring it to market, have been restricted by environmental concerns—with some validity—for decades.

It now appears that most of those objections have been addressed and the current oil extraction and refinery technology does appear environmentally safe, relative to the need we have for oil.

Here is one very revealing excerpt from the Fact Sheet:

“2. Tap into the extraordinary potential of oil shale. Oil shale is a type of rock that can produce oil when exposed to heat or other processes. In one major deposit – the Green River Basin of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming – there lies the equivalent of about 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil. If it can be fully recovered, it would equal more than a century's worth of currently projected oil imports.

• “Oil shale is a highly promising resource. For many years, the high cost of extracting oil from shale exceeded the benefit, but today, companies are investing in technology to make oil shale production more affordable and efficient. While the cost of extracting oil from shale is still more than the cost of traditional production, it is also less than the current market price of oil.

• “Democrats in Congress are standing in the way of further development. Last year, Democratic leaders used the omnibus spending bill to insert a provision blocking oil shale leasing on Federal lands – President Bush calls on Congress to remove that provision immediately.”

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Transit, Railyards, the County, & Parkway Funding

This article in today’s Bee makes a good point that now that the ridership on mass transit is going up due to gas prices, is not a good time to cut funding for it; rather raising it might be more in order as the increased ridership could go away as fast as it came if the new riders find the service shoddy.

The continued progress on the Railyards is heartening, as this new money indicates—though the city did not support it as their priority—making another point about the mayoral election, which the challenger is sure to raise.

The County budget moves towards completion and with this continuing deficit, the budget of the Parkway, already suffering under a multi-year maintenance deficit of about $1.5 million annually, will sink further in the hole.

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. it's the second one down.

This is the model being used by the Central Park Conservancy to manage Central Park in New York and the Sacramento Zoological Society to manage the Sacramento Zoo.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Folsom Lake & Sacramento International Airport

The Sacramento Bee reports that Folsom Lake is emptying before summer even gets a good start and it is a continuing sad commentary on the public leaderships seeming inability to construct the necessary water storage a growing state and region demands.

Along with the obvious water storage solution for our area, the building of Auburn Dam, still supported by groups—including us—like the Auburn Dam Council, there is another that would solve the water problems for the larger region and that is the raising of Shasta Dam to its originally engineered height of 200 feet higher than it now is, tripling its water supply, which this 2004 article from the Sacramento Bee describes.

But public leadership has moved to build upon another crucial infrastructure; the Sacramento airport and the new plans look wonderful, very appropriate for the capital of the state with one of the largest economies in the world and with this new facility will finally live up to its name.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Future, Sandbags, Midtown, Trail, & Homeless Housing

An excellent article from the Wall Street Journal reminding us that while it is crucial to think about and plan for the future, it is foolish to allow those plans to interfere with the importance of the present, especially when disaster strikes that has not been prepared for.

The New York Times has a great article about sand bags, that primitive form of fighting floods that still works; just people, shovels, bags and sand, often from the same river the people shoveling are trying to stop from destroying their communities.

An article in the May/June issue of Via Magazine extols midtown and, in the July/August issue, a letter from a visitor from Utah comments on our Parkway bike trail:

“A trail from the capital

“Your Sacramento story (“Capital Gains”) missed one of the area’s greatest hits—and the best urban trail in the West. The Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail starts in Old Sacramento and runs 35 miles along the American River, through parks, over bridges, and past deer, rabbits, and many bird species.

“Richard Miles: Toole, Utah”

Unfortunately, as an article in today's Sacramento Bee reveals, the county has agreed with the city and voted to allow a large complex of housing for the chronic homeless, who are, as the article notes: “defined as people with mental or physical disabilities who have been on the street for a year or who have been homeless at least four times in the past three years.”

A 74 unit motel on Stockton Blvd will be converted to homeless housing, construction to start in 2009, finished in 2010, and will almost certainly degrade the surrounding area, which is too bad.

Scattered site housing is a much better way to handle this issue rather than concentrating it in one area, and we wrote a commentary on concentrating services for the chronic homeless, published in the Bee and posted to our website.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Disabled, Brazil, Energy & Wild Green

New rules governing access for disabled is very good news and one place that is in dire need of improved access is the Parkway.

An excellent article from the Wall Street Journal examining the difference between the response to plans to drill for oil off the coast of Brazil versus the United States, which reveals a significant fact that I was unaware of (regarding the importance of whether government or private enterprise wants to develop oil areas in the outcry from environmentalists), but makes perfect sense in the context of the position on government as held by the environmentalists versus that of private enterprise.

The president of our organization had a letter published today—“What a fine energy mess we’re in”—which reminds us, as we do tend to forget, that the environmentalists have been pretty much in charge of infrastructure development now for a long time, and it is time to look at the results of those policies, which are pretty dismal.

We do have cleaner air and water, and open space is now treasured much more so than in the past and credit is due; but, for the past several decades environmentalist lawsuits have virtually stopped the building of the necessary infrastructure—like dams, canals and roads—to capture and move water and people around our ever growing country.

A new related book is also out—Green Gone Wild—also by a local writer, about how the use of law suits around the Endangered Species Act, has become counter-productive and exists as much now to refill the coffers of the organizations using its regulations to restrict private property owners from exercising their property rights, as to ensure protection of habitat and wildlife.

I've just finished it and it is a great read, and a crucial read, for those of us interested in a balanced approach to protecting and preserving our natural resources.

We really can have it all, booming economies and vibrant natural areas providing sanctuary to wildlife and humans alike.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Low Income Housing

There are two housing issues we have been commenting on recently, and while both appear to be related and indicating mutual support, they are not, and require different responses.

Providing housing throughout the community for the chronic homeless who make up the largest group illegally camping in the North Sacramento area of the Parkway, which we wrote about in a Commentary published in the Bee and which we have posted to our website, is an issue we support as it is the preferred option to the practice—currently being used by Sacramento—of concentrated housing for the homeless in one area.

Concentrated housing in this regard has a tendency to degrade the neighborhoods it is in and also reduces the effectiveness of the necessary policy of helping the chronic homeless begin to rebuild their lives as the peer impact of living within large groups of other chronic homeless will tend to dilute the development of the individual internal work needed to begin that rebuilding process.

This new issue, of requiring developers to make 15% of all their projects contain housing for low income, in an editorial from the Bee today, is not an issue we would support as it creates yet another layer of regulation around the builders of communities further shaping the type of communities they can build, and has the potential to drive many developers from a city that continues to need the kind of public income generating development that the private housing market is asking for.

It is an issue, which while perhaps laudable in its aspiration, could be disastrous in its implementation.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Jobs, College & Tiger

A report in the Bee looks at the types of jobs that might be needed over the next several years in the Sacramento region and they are mostly service jobs, which indicates a growing population and healthy economy, but comes with some educational caveats.

Drexel University is planning a major college in the foothills in the near future while establishing a graduate presence downtown Sacramento—in partnership with one of Sacramento major development families—and that is very good news.

And my goodness, how about that Tiger!!!

What a great Father's Day gift, for him and all the rest of us fathers watching the US Open who now get to watch 18 more holes today, a very good thing!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Water, Water, Everywhere

Two opinion pieces in the Bee today, one from a farmer who understands the huge amount of water that is sent through to the ocean every year could be used during dry years—like this one is shaping up to be—to water his crops and help feed the world, if we had more storage available.

The other from an environmentalist who feels that since part of the state is desert, the state’s culture and lifestyles should be shaped by that reality.

Human beings have been causing deserts to bloom for millennia and the blooming of the California desert has been possible by dams and canals.

The abundance of water that falls in the north state needs to be captured, stored, and moved around the state when needed, and we have the technolgy to do it.

One obvious solution is the raising of Shasta Dam to its originally engineered height of 200 feet higher than it now is, tripling its water supply, which this 2004 article from the Sacramento Bee describes.

The floods in the Midwest—though they appear to be receding in Iowa anyway, according to this article from the New York Times—have been reported to be 1 in 500 year floods and it gives credence to the public policy long advocated by knowledgeable flood prevention professionals, that any city located near major rivers should have flood protection at the 500 year level.

This is the level many cities in the country have already obtained, though Sacramento still struggles to reach a 100 year level.

New Orleans had a 250 year level when it flooded, and virtually every other major river city in the country has a 500 year level. To see this in a graph go to the Department of Water Resources report: FloodSafe California: Rebuilding the System, Reducing the Risk and look at page 13.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Global Drying, Transit, & Salmon Strongholds

An thoughtful article from the Wall Street Journal examining the relation of the huge planetary need for much more arable water, along with the already huge—and currently threatened in our state—need for water for human and environmental use.

This Bee editorial from today makes one good point that just when public transit is being used by a lot more people—due to high gas prices mostly—is not the time for the legislature to reduce funding but to try and get it back up to a level it can accommodate the growth, though without raising new taxes; which would cause an already over-taxed citizenry in perilous economic times, even more hardship.

This commentary on the concept of preserving salmon stronghold rivers sounds good, but, as always with ideas like this, the details are crucial and the article is painfully short on them.

The most important question that needs to be asked of all of the water related issues involving the salmon (and all aquatic life); “Is the primacy of the human need for water maintained or are the needs of the salmon (or other aquatic life) established as a priority?”

Friday, June 13, 2008

Parkway Fire, Mayoral Race, & Drought

A grass fire broke out in the Parkway near Negro Bar, and firefighters have contained it, and still on scene.

It appears that the election will be a runoff between the two major contenders in November.

We are officially in a state of drought, according to the governor’s proclamation, and as we noted in an earlier blog, along with the obvious solution for our area, the building of Auburn Dam, still supported by groups—including us—like the Auburn Dam Council, there is another that would solve the water problems for the larger region and that is the raising of Shasta Dam to its originally engineered height of 200 feet higher than it now is, tripling its water supply, which this 2004 article from the Sacramento Bee describes.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Space, Moms, & Policing the Homeless

Aerojet, a Sacramento company, is responsible for some of the recent space-based research being conducted by NASA, through the development of its Delta propulsion systems at its Rancho Cordova location, and that is a very good thing.

This story in today’s Bee, is a wonderful example of the treasured bounties of the American River Parkway, and a reminder of how much it would benefit the Parkway walkers to have a dedicated pedestrian trail for moms walking babies in strollers, the elderly, and all other Parkway pedestrians who would benefit from being able to walk without worrying about speeding cyclists, who would also deeply appreciate having their own separate trail and not have to worry about hitting someone.

Having separate paths is only possible with a new infusion of money, and in today’s government budget climate, especially with the county cutting money from the Parks budget, it is not a current possibility.

However, with the type of plan we have long suggested for the Parkway: create a public/private partnership with a nonprofit organization to manage the Parkway—which could also raise supplemental funding philanthropically—via a contract with a Joint Powers Authority of local government; this is the type of a project that could certainly attract philanthropic funding.

Another story in today’s Bee regards the police officers who have been especially solicitous of the homeless, treating them with the dignity and helpful service they certainly deserve, but in terms of the illegal camping on the Parkway, which has rendered the ability of the adjacent communities of North Sacramento to safely use their area of the Parkway, it is important to remember that public safety is a priority.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Budgets, Big Fix, & Mayoral Votes

Well, it looks like the Parkway’s budget (part of parks and animal control), already running a serious deficit for the past several years, may be spared serious cuts in this year’s deficit reductions, but much will depend on what emerges from the public hearings which begin Thursday, June 12th.

Another note is that of the five local governmental jurisdictions adjacent or close to the Parkway: Citrus Heights, Folsom, Rancho Cordova, Sacramento County and Sacramento City, only the final two are showing deficits this year.

The Big Fix on 1-5 is right on schedule, but the mayoral vote count is heading into ‘hanging chad’ territory with the current plans to release an update total this Thursday, though not yet the final total.

Thursday June 12th will be the 10th day since the vote on Tuesday June 3rd.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Water, Homeless & the County Budget

Farmers in the valley are already cutting back on crop plantings as they will not have enough water to nourish the crops through harvest, as this article from the Fresno Bee notes, and that is not good for California, or the rest of the world who depend on California agriculture.

Along with the obvious solution for our area, the building of Auburn Dam, still supported by groups—including us—like the Auburn Dam Council, there is another that would solve the water problems for the larger region and that is the raising of Shasta Dam to its originally engineered height of 200 feet higher than it now is, tripling its water supply, which this 2004 article from the Sacramento Bee describes.

Another park, Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City is struggling with the crime related to the many homeless who congregate there, as this article from the Salt Lake Tribune vividly reveals, and they have developed programs to address it based on the principle that by encouraging legitimate usage of the Parkway, the illegitimate usage will be reduced, essentially the same concept we propose for the North Sacramento area of our Parkway struggling with many of the same issues.

Though not specified in this article in the Bee today, the shrinking of the county budget will probably also shrink the already too lean Parkway budget, and if so, that will be a very bad thing, but let us hope that proves not to be the case.

The budget hearings begin today.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Public Private Partnerships & Water Supply

Today’s Bee has an excellent profile of an advisor to our governor who understands the importance of involving the private sector in public works, particularly the sadly underfunded work of keep the states’ infrastructure up and running and able to keep pace with population and business growth.

Dan Walters presents an incisive picture of the gridlock surrounding the development of new water supply over the past four decades and it is a sad story of public leadership failure that few can find rhyme or reason for.

We explored the issue in relation to the failure to develop one part of that needed water supply—Auburn Dam—in our 2006 research report and discovered a strong connection with the religious element core to the environmental movement, which is addressed in pages 19-31 of the report.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Fires in the West

As we continue into the fire season here in California, a central event, the Yellowstone Fires of 1988, remain as a learning tool for what needs to be considered in the strategy we continue to evolve and use.

The author makes this compelling point in this excerpt from his article Yellowstone Fires of 88’

“In the American West, we live in a new world of fire--a world that appeared in 1988.

“The 1988 fire season seemed an aberration. It was among the hottest years on record. The drought across North America was the worst since the 1930s. In the former Dust Bowl states--from Montana to Nebraska and Kansas to Texas--farmers reported dark clouds of dust as their topsoil blew away. By June 1, the Soil Conservation Service estimated 12 million acres were damaged by wind erosion.

“Record temperatures hit cities across the country. American companies sold 4 million air conditioners and could not keep up with demand. Congress held hearings on the greenhouse effect and climate change.

“Twenty years later, conditions like those of 1988 are the norm. In 2006, 9.5 million acres burned, followed by 9.3 million acres in 2007. With six out of the last eight years among the worst fire seasons since 1960, it is "the indefinitely bad season," says Tom Boatner, the Bureau of Land Management's just retired chief of fire operations and a 30-year firefighting veteran.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its 2,500 scientists from around the world have concluded that the wholesale burning of fossil fuels has contributed to the warming, drying, and longer fire seasons we are experiencing today. If it continues, the forests, which capture 20 to 40 percent of the carbon that scientists say contributes to the climate’s change, will burn and turn from net carbon sinks to net carbon sources, according to scientists from the U.S. Forest Service and University of Washington.”

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Business, Environmentalism, Priorities & Governance

The business climate in California, according to the new report from the California Chamber of Commerce, is, as we all know, not so good, but there is a guarded optimism, and while the four key factors companies like about doing business in California remain strong; climate, quality of life, market access, and creative culture, the downsides; government regulation, costs of doing business here and a less than stellar educational system, also remain.

The concept of environmentalism as religion, which we addressed in our 2006 report (pp. 19-31), is touched on by in a recent book review (in the concluding paragraphs) and the writer reaches the conclusion that, except for the hysteria over global warming which distracts from the more commonly accepted and sound environmental concepts, the secular religion of environmentalism is more good than bad, and, as he presents it, is a concept worth mulling over.

There are so many things that need doing in our world that setting priorities to ensure the continued health and well-being of everyone on the planet is often a complicated and contentious task, but the Copenhagen Consensus Center does just that and their global priorities will surprise you.

Two of the newer cities in the region (Citrus Heights and Rancho Cordova) will show budget surpluses this year, while the oldest (Sacramento) shows another deficit and that leads to an obvious question about governance. What are they—the cities with surpluses—doing right?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Hunger, CC, Water, & Prop 13

One of the crucial arenas in which human ingenuity and technology has played a major role in elevating the fortunes of the poor of the world, is in the development and distribution of more food to feed the hungry, which has come about primarily through what is known as the Green Revolution, and this article by a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate reminds us of that success and the importance of building on it.

In a great reminder of how successful has been the collaboration between the public and private sector in the area of transportation, the big fix on 1-5 is moving along right on schedule under CC’s leadership, even with the troubles that have arisen, as this article notes.

A major project, already approved by the County and city of Rancho Cordova, runs into environmental trouble, and water is the key issue, reminding us once again of how crucial it is to develop additional water supplies for our region and the clearest fix is to build the Auburn Dam.

A recent presentation to the American River Authority—a possible local government support organization—reveals the progress made.

Proposition 13, as this commentary in today’s Bee notes, is a classic—and still very well-regarded—example of the public assuming leadership around an issue that elected public leadership could not, and it remains a wonderful example of why the initiative process is a very good thing.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Oil, the Hills, & Downtown Lights

The invisible hand of capitalism arises to meet the challenge of high priced oil, as it is arising to satisfy the demand for green technology, and this is a very good thing for all of us and is the great secret driving most of the world to our shores still, for capitalism—supply and demand—is a great way to increase the freedom and comfort of human beings.

There was a time not so long ago when moving to the foothills surrounding Sacramento was a way to escape the bad air and bad traffic of the valley and live surrounded by sparkling blue skies, pristine water, and mellow drives.

While the water and drives might still be found, the blue, clear skies have largely evaporated, as this article from today’s Bee reveals.

It appears there are some ambitious plans to light up the downtown mall in a decidedly New York way.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Trains, Automobiles & Subsidiarity

California is a state admirably suited for train travel, as this article from the San Francisco Chronicle notes, with its long profile and scattered metro areas which trains could link to quite nicely, and by using the type of high speed trains that Japan has been using, and perfecting, for decades, the trip from Sacramento to San Diego could take about three hours.

The principle of subsidiarity reminds us that sometimes it is better to do things without the often over-planned help from outside, and that is a lesson New Orleans is reliving as it rebuilds from Katrina, as chronicled in this article from City Journal.

And with the help of Brad Pitt, Harry Connick Jr., Habitat for Humanity, and the stimulus of the determined resistance to the attempt by the local government to dictate how the houses in New Orleans could be rebuilt, the principle is thriving and the city is rebuilding.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Cap & Trade

The Wall Street Journal looks at a cap and trade bill—the senate’s response to global warming—that is now coming up and finds it a real windfall for politicians, which if anything should make us shudder somewhat more than normal when congress finds a solution that will really solve it (whatever it is this time around) for good.

“Sponsored by Joe Lieberman and John Warner, the bill would put a cap on carbon emissions that gets lowered every year. But to ease the pain and allow for economic adjustment, the bill would dole out "allowances" under the cap that would stand for the right to emit greenhouse gases. Senator Barbara Boxer has introduced a package of manager's amendments that mandates total carbon reductions of 66% by 2050, while earmarking the allowances.

“When cap and trade has been used in the past, such as to reduce acid rain, the allowances were usually distributed for free. A major difference this time is that the allowances will be auctioned off to covered businesses, which means imposing an upfront tax before the trade half of cap and trade even begins. It also means a gigantic revenue windfall for Congress.

“Ms. Boxer expects to scoop up auction revenues of some $3.32 trillion by 2050. Yes, that's trillion. Her friends in Congress are already salivating over this new pot of gold. The way Congress works, the most vicious floor fights won't be over whether this is a useful tax to create, but over who gets what portion of the spoils. In a conference call with reporters last Thursday, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry explained that he was disturbed by the effects of global warming on "crustaceans" and so would be pursuing changes to ensure that New England lobsters benefit from some of the loot.”

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Environmentalists, Ammonia, & Water Supply

The point Charles Krauthammer makes in this superb column is accurate on many levels, including how he describes the position of many Americans on global warming—including mine—in the opening paragraph of his new column where he states:

I'm not a global warming believer. I'm not a global warming denier. I'm a global warming agnostic who believes instinctively that it can't be very good to pump lots of CO2 into the atmosphere, but is equally convinced that those who presume to know exactly where that leads are talking through their hats.”

He also goes on to make the case that some environmentalists are attempting to take control of much more of the economic and social sectors—though some current controls are very appropriate—through more government action.

It appears that the sewage treatment system for Sacramento has become inadequate and not up to the standards metropolitan areas of this size and growth should have and that has led to an over-abundance of ammonia in the Sacramento River, thus in the Delta, which might—though scientists are still not sure—be causing problems with certain species of fish.

Here is another opinion piece trying to continue the narrative of some environmentalists that dams are obsolete solutions to water supply, a contention that flies in the face of a common sense strategy that capturing and storing water from large seasonal storms for use when times go dry should never become obsolete, unless prudent thinking itself becomes so.