Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ice Cream & American River Parkway Plan Announcement

1) Giving away ice cream on the Parkway is a wonderful thing to do and so nice for those lucky few who were there to receive it from the old fashioned ice cream delivery bike. A very good thing.

An excerpt from the Bee report.

“Every once in a while, Stewart Katz, the attorney well known for taking on prison-abuse and police-brutality cases, likes to ride his antique ice cream delivery bicycle and – this is the controversial part – give away ice cream.

“In the courtroom or behind closed doors during depositions, Katz is a pugilist, practically seething at injustice and willing to slug it out with anyone on the witness stand. His hourly rate is, by today's standards, a modest $250.

“Then there's the softhearted guy who rolled onto the American River bike trail Saturday, intent on giving away 132 ice cream treats. His son, Alex, 7, sat on the bicycle's freezer box and held a homemade sign, "Free ice cream."…

“Katz bought his post-World War II vintage ice cream bike for $500 on eBay nearly three years ago and set about restoring it. He stripped the paint and the rust, rebuilt the collapsed freezer box and repaired the wheels.”

2) American River Parkway Plan
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, August 30, 2008

Local officials are in the process of updating the plan governing the use of the American River Parkway. The plan controls what gets planted, dictates recreational activities and controls building rules along the 23-mile parkway from Discovery Park to Lake Natoma.

New uses:

• Mountain biking on some dirt roads.
• Updated building aesthetic controls.
• Updated rules on plantings and river flows.
• Seven acres near River Bend Park (formerly known as Goethe Park) zoned for an interpretive center and native plant nursery.
• Bike and pedestrian bridge allowed near Highway 160 and Discovery Park.

Ideas rejected:

• Off-leash dog area.
• Rancho Cordova expansion of Live Steamers miniature railroad

Key votes:

• Wednesday: Approved by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.
• Sept. 15: Before Rancho Cordova City Council at 5:30 p.m.
• Sept. 18: Before Sacramento City Planning Commission at 5:30 p.m.
• Oct. 7: Before Sacramento City Council at 6 p.m.
• January 2009: Approval required of state Legislature.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Wrong Solution & Housing Prices

1) Rather than creating conservation regimes that may extend far into the future—as this editorial suggests even during periods when more than enough water is available—as a response to current dry conditions, the proper response is to capture more of the wealth of water that falls on Northern California during the normal wet years; and that involves dams.

2) The decline in housing prices in California (with a mention of Sacramento) is the subject of this article from New Geographic.

An excerpt.

“To read the popular press, one gets the impression that the collapse of the housing market is concentrated largely in the suburbs and exurbs, as people flock back to the cities in response to the mortgage crisis and high gas prices. A review of mortgage meltdown “ground zero” California indicates the picture is far more nuanced.

“California’s metropolitan areas have seen the greatest median house price decreases in the nation. Each of the four largest metropolitan regions, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego and Sacramento have experienced median house price decreases of more than 25 percent over the past year... These decreases have not been distributed in a way that belies much of the ‘Back to the City’ hype….

Sacramento: Sacramento indicates the most unexpected results, with the central area experiencing by far the largest house price declines, at 42 percent. The lowest house price declines were one-half that rate, in the outer suburbs (generally more than 10 miles from downtown), at 21 percent, while the inner suburbs experienced a decline of 29 percent.”

Friday, August 29, 2008

One Parkway Portal

One great benefit of having a single parkway management entity is that you also then get a single portal for information about what is going on in the Parkway, as shown by the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy’s regular newsletters for what is going on there.

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.

As it is now for Parkway info access, there are several portals for information about Parkway events, increasing the difficulty of the public to ascertain what is going on, where, and when.

Here are some of the several portals.

Sacramento County Parks

American River Parkway Foundation

American River Natural History Association

Save the American River Association

Effie Yeaw Nature Center

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Water Shortage & Dams

We are seeing the continuing results from the current dry spell, as this article from today’s Sacramento Bee reports—and we pray it won’t be extended much longer—but there have been solutions available for public leadership to act upon and it involves the building of new dams, and perhaps the raising of an existing one.

Along with the obvious solution for our area, the building of Auburn Dam (which would double our storage capacity), supported by groups—including us—like the Auburn Dam Council, there is another that would solve the water problems for the larger region and that is the raising of Shasta Dam to its originally engineered height of 200 feet higher than it now is, tripling its water supply, which an 2004 article from the Los Angeles Times describes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Panhandling and the Public Square

As our community—and communities around the country—struggle with the impact of aggressive panhandling on the growth of their downtown cores, the knowledge that the panhandlers are getting training, and that for many, it is more a profession than a need, may cause some concern; beyond that of helping the truly needy.

A recent article examines that.

An excerpt.

"Barbara Bradley, an editor with the Memphis Commercial Appeal, moved into the River City’s reviving downtown about a year and a half ago, loving its “energy and enthusiasm.” But a horde of invading panhandlers has cooled her enjoyment of city life. Earlier this year, she recalled in a recent column, as she showed some visitors around the neighborhood, “a big panhandler blocked the entrance to our parking area and demanded his toll.” Now a nervous Bradley avoids certain downtown areas, locks her car when fueling up at local gas stations, and parks strategically, so that she can see beggars coming before getting out of her car. “When I hear someone call out ‘ma’am, ma’am’ anywhere in downtown or midtown, I run.”

"She’s not alone. Cities have overcome myriad obstacles in revitalizing their downtowns, from lousy transportation systems to tough competition from suburban shopping malls. But nearly 15 years after New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his police chief, William Bratton, vanquished Gotham’s notorious squeegee men and brought aggressive panhandling under control, other cities are facing a new wave of “spangers” (that is, spare-change artists) who threaten their newfound prosperity by harassing residents, tourists, and businesses. Unlike their predecessors in the seventies and eighties, many of these new beggars aren’t helpless victims or even homeless. Rather, they belong to a diverse and swelling community of street people who have made panhandling their calling.

"Like most countries, America has always had its share of itinerant travelers, vagabonds, and hoboes. But panhandling became a more pervasive and disturbing fact of urban life in the 1970s—a by-product of the explosion in homelessness that resulted from rising drug use and the closing of state-run mental institutions, which released scores of helpless psychiatric patients back into society. Though studies showed that only a small percentage of homeless people panhandled—mostly alcoholics and drug addicts seeking their next fix—the sheer numbers of street people still meant lots of beggars. By the crack epidemic’s late-eighties peak, New York City in particular was home to a massive panhandling presence. A 1988 survey by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority found that 80 percent of subway riders disliked the constant harassment. “I was raised never to pass a beggar by, but there are too many of them and I’m sick of it,” one Manhattanite told the New York Times. “I feel like this is becoming beggar city.”

"The problem soon turned from irritating to alarming in “beggar city,” as incidents of aggressive panhandling leading to violent crime began showing up regularly in the headlines. In 1988, an itinerant panhandler on Manhattan’s Upper West Side murdered his girlfriend’s three-year-old daughter, whose dead body he then stuffed into a baby carriage and took out on his rounds, along with the girl’s still-living brother. A year later, an aggressive panhandler stabbed to death a 32-year-old computer engineer in a confrontation on West 114th Street in Manhattan. Shortly after, in the Bronx, an 18-year-old boy died from stab wounds inflicted by a panhandling immigrant who knew just four English words: “Give me a dollar!”

"The escalation—and other cities faced it, too—shouldn’t have been surprising. “If the neighborhood cannot keep a bothersome panhandler from annoying passersby . . . it is even less likely to call the police to identify a potential mugger or to interfere if a mugging actually takes place,” wrote political scientist James Q. Wilson. One change in policing that had contributed to the growing disorder, observed Wilson, was curtailing foot patrols in favor of squad cars. In the past, an officer on the beat would discourage panhandlers; now he just drove on by.

"New York, fed up with the disorder, began to crack down on panhandling in the early nineties. The effort started in the subways, spearheaded by the Bratton-led Metropolitan Transit Authority police, who combined policing with outreach efforts for homeless beggars willing to come in off the streets. The cleanup continued when Bratton became Giuliani’s first police commissioner in 1994 and took on the squeegee men—insistent panhandlers who intimidated Manhattan drivers by washing their car windows and then demanding payment. After a study by criminologist George Kelling found that three-quarters of the squeegee men weren’t homeless and that half had felony records, cops began arresting them for blocking traffic. That put an end to the shakedowns in a matter of weeks."

Continue reading the article.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Komodo Dragons & American Environmentalists

There have been many wonderful benefits, and unfortunately, also many tragic results of the environmental movement, and a recent article from the Wall Street Journal reports on one of the tragic ones.

“KAMPUNG KOMODO, Indonesia -- At least once a week, an unwelcome intruder crawls under a clapboard wall and, forked tongue darting, lumbers its way into Syarif Maulana's classroom.

"Then, everyone screams, there is no more school, and we all run away very fast," says the 10-year-old boy. "We are very afraid."

“The intruder, a Komodo dragon, is the world's largest lizard, an ancient, fierce carnivore found only on a handful of remote islands in eastern Indonesia. Reaching 10 feet in length, the dragons feed on buffaloes, deer and an occasional human. Just a year ago, a boy about Syarif's age died in a dragon's jaws, his bones smashed against rocks to facilitate reptilian digestion.

“That killing, and a spate of other close encounters, has fanned a panic in the dragons' main habitat, the Komodo National Park. Touted by Indonesia as its "Jurassic Park," this rocky, barren archipelago is home to some 2,500 dragons and nearly 4,000 people, clustered in four fishing villages of wooden stilt houses.”

“These locals have long viewed the dragons as a reincarnation of fellow kinsfolk, to be treated with reverence. But now, villagers say, the once-friendly dragons have turned into vicious man-eaters. And they blame policies drafted by American-funded environmentalists for this frightening turn of events."

Continue reading article.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dams Look Very Attractive

In counterpoint to this Sunday opinion piece in the Bee, dams are the most attractive way to solve the water problems in the state of California—and specifically addressing the provision of a stable water supply to Southern California with water stored behind those dams in Northern California—it is necessary to build the peripheral canal.

Most experts know this as do wise legislative leaders such as Governor Schwarzenegger and Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Along with the obvious solution for our area, the building of Auburn Dam (which would double our storage capacity), supported by groups—including us—like the Auburn Dam Council, there is another that would solve the water problems for the larger region and that is the raising of Shasta Dam to its originally engineered height of 200 feet higher than it now is, tripling its water supply, which an 2004 article from the Los Angeles Times describes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sierra Chipmunks & Dirt Building

1) There may be many natural reasons for critters seeking higher ground—as reported by the Bee—since ancient times it has been a way to move farther away from danger or seek food, though the continuing narrative of global warming being caused by the progress of human civilization would have us conclude otherwise; it is good to remember that hundreds of scientists recently reported to the Senate that was not the case.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“For years, climate change was a story told largely via melting snow and ice. Now, species and ecosystems are feeling the heat, too. Butterflies are expanding their ranges northward. Migratory birds are arriving earlier in the spring. And here in the Sierra and in other mountain ranges around the world, species not considered migratory at all – from stately conifers to diminutive chipmunks – are on the move, creeping upslope toward cooler, more hospitable abodes.

“Along with that movement comes stress and danger. Ultimately, national parks such as Yosemite could lose significant portions of their mammal species as habitats unravel due to climate warming from the buildup of greenhouse gases, according to a 2003 paper published by the National Academy of Sciences.

"Animals that can fly are in pretty good shape," said David Graber, chief scientist for the National Park Service in California. "Animals that are relatively static have a much more limited ability to move. If climate changes faster than they can find new habitat, they're out of business."

2) Sometimes the old ways are still the best ways as this exciting project shows with its dirt and straw benches…very cool, but if volunteers cannot continue to build these, one wonders what the cost will be for the project built with paid labor.

An excerpt from the article from today.

“Sometimes in order to be good to the earth, you have to become one with the earth.

“That explained all the muddy feet and hands at the new "Good Project" in West Sacramento, where development company LJ Urban is building 35 environmentally friendly homes.

“The vertical single-family units on the 1.62-acre plot are known for using sustainable products such as wood trim harvested from trees on the site and kitchen countertops made from recycled paper. The list goes on.

“So when it came time to build two benches in the public area of the property, it was a safe bet they wouldn't be normal benches.

“The stylish, curved benches came together Saturday with the most basic materials taken from the job site – dirt, sand and stone. It's similar to the cob-style earthen structures built in England and elsewhere that have stood against the elements for hundreds of years….

“Noting there are cob homes in England still standing after five centuries, Baker said, "This method has been used for 10,000 years. People all around the world have been building their houses like this."

“In addition to building benches, the outing Saturday served as a workshop for earthen structures and involving the community. About 25 eager people signed up for Saturday's dirty work.

"I think it's great," said Carla Dhillon as she mixed mud and straw by stomping and kneading with her bare feet. "It's labor-intensive, but that's not always a bad thing."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Solar Freeways

Solar power is being used to power the lights on freeways in Oregon and it appears to be a pretty good idea—though still very expensive—according to this news story from the Harvard Government Innovators Network.

An excerpt.

“In an attempt to spur the spread of solar power, the Oregon Department of Transportation on Thursday unveiled the nation's first solar panel project on a major U.S. highway.

“At the interchange of Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 near Tualatin, a row of solar panels about 5 feet wide and two football fields long will start generating electricity by the end of the year.

“The panels will feed electricity directly to PGE's systemwide grid and account for 28 percent of the energy needed to power lights that illuminate the highway's sweeping interchange at night.

“Oregon's deal with Portland General Electric will give the utility its first ownership stake in a solar project and generate business for two new Oregon solar manufacturers. SolarWorld, a German company with operations in Hillsboro, will supply solar panels; and PV Powered, of Bend, will provide an inverter, an essential device.”

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Best Car? Hint, “Brown Wingtips”

If anything, other than our Constitution and baseball, can be said to represent the American ideal, it is our great love affair with cars. For Americans cars have always been much more than just about transportation and this great story from The American looks into our ongoing and deeply held love affair with our cars.

An excerpt.

“What’s the best-selling car of all time? I took an informal poll recently and made it a point to ask some people who are real car buffs. I got some interesting answers. One person said 1957 Chevy. Two people guessed Ford Mustang. Another thought it was Volkswagen’s beloved and iconic Beetle. Still another guessed the best seller was the Model T Ford. Someone came up with yet another Ford product, the once ubiquitous Taurus. Two people guessed the best seller had to be the Toyota Camry, because, as one of them said, “You see’em all over the place.”
“Well, the answer is none of the above.

“The closest guessers came up with the Beetle and the Model T. Both of these cars rank among the highest in sales. But no, the best-selling car of all time is the Toyota Corolla. That’s right, the nondescript compact Corolla, a sort of automotive wallflower introduced in 1968, has notched over 32 million sales around the world. And the figure keeps climbing.

“The second-best seller is not a car at all. It’s the Ford F series pickup truck, which has been around in various iterations since 1948. The F series has sold somewhere close to the Corolla figure (some estimates actually put it higher). But F series figures should probably be “asterisked” because the trucks range from the normal F-150 pickup to several larger heavy-duty models that some would say are different vehicles entirely. It is significant that these trucks have achieved a worldwide sales ranking while selling almost exclusively in the U.S. market. Americans love their pickups. And Ford’s “classic” pickup, the F-150, continues to be the best-selling vehicle in the United States year after year...

"Introduced in the United States in 1968, the Corolla was a homely little coupe or sedan; 60 horsepower, rear-wheel drive, stick shift. It was priced around $1,700 and it looked it. But it didn’t rattle. It had few exotic parts to break down. In fact, you could beat the hell out of it and it kept going.

"As the car has evolved over the generations—mainly as a sedan but also through various coupe and station wagon iterations—it has kept its Toyota bloodlines and remained true to its rather conservative virtues. One review of the newest Corolla notes that while its kickier rivals the Honda Civic and Mazda 3 “are the running shoes of the compact class, think of the Corolla as a nice pair of brown wingtips.”

Body Found Near Parkway Announcement Update

Body found near parkway under overpass at Howe
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, August 22, 2008

The body of an elderly man was found under an overpass Thursday morning near the American River Parkway, authorities said.

Coroner's officials have not released the man's name, pending confirmation of his identity.

Authorities said no foul play is suspected.

The body was found under the overpass at Howe Avenue and University Park Drive, a police dispatcher said.

The body was reported to police at 8:15 a.m., she said.

Niesha Lofing and Chelsea Phua

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Body Found Near Parkway Announcement

Body found under overpass near American River Parkway
By Niesha Lofing -
Published 11:17 am PDT Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sacramento County Coroner's officials are investigating a body found under the overpass near the American River Parkway this morning.

The body was found under the overpass at Howe Avenue and University Park Drive, a police dispatcher said.

A citizen called Sacramento police at 8:15 a.m. after finding the body, she said.

Sacramento County Coroner's officials are on scene.

Check back at for details as they become available.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Climate Change & Liberals/Conservatives

While it is always difficult to come to agreement when two sides are far apart on issues, it is still possible to agree on something larger than either might be willing to look at—compromising on vision—and that is the approach taken in this thoughtful article from the BreakThrough Institute.

An excerpt.

“For 20 years, liberals and conservatives have been locked in a debate about the relative seriousness of climate change. Conservatives have either denied that it was happening or played down its significance, while liberals and environmentalists have tended to see it as ecological apocalypse meriting either extreme personal sacrifice or a supposed cost-free regulatory fix.

“That debate is now undergoing a major shift. Conservatives like Jim Manzi, Newt Gingrich and others recognize that humans are affecting the climate and that something should be done about it. Liberals and environmentalists, like Joe Romm and most recently Al Gore, are beginning to recognize the political futility of peddling sacrifice, and have started emphasizing the need to make clean energy cheap. To be sure, both camps are still far apart in their view of global warming, with Romm seeing it as a future hell on earth and Manzi viewing it as little more than a rounding error. But if we fixate on these radically divergent views of the problem we risk missing some signs of agreement over what should be done about it.

“The Model Muddle

“Liberals and conservatives both rely on highly complex climate and economic models to inform their views of what should be done. The problem is not so much that the models are inaccurate as that they must, by their nature, produce a wide range of possible future scenarios. Models thus offer very little certainty upon which to base our actions. Will global warming result in so little damage that it is not worth investing any amount of money in cleaner energy sources? Or will it undermine the basis of human life on earth, which would merit extreme investments and personal sacrifice? Change a single decimal point on one of the hundreds of inter-related ecological or economic inputs -- faster-than-expected emissions from China, melting tundra, diminished albedo, slower rates of deforestation, faster economic growth -- and voila! you've constructed a radically different world.

“One of the largest uncertainties is also the one that will have the largest impact on our ability to deal with the problem: technological innovation. If we bought enough of them, could solar panels one day become cheaper than coal? Could new air capture machines suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it underground so cheaply as to obviate the need to slow emissions?”

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

City Expansion

Though this editorial appears not to agree with the folks who are considering expansion of their city boundaries, the essential concept of expanding spheres of influence is one that has been traditionally used by municipal governing entities to plan for the future, and as such it is a wise strategy to employ.

The concentration on the central core of cities as the hub of business, also mentioned by the editorial as the concept that should drive public planning, is no longer the idea driving the reality of business location and municipal growth, which is occurring much more in the suburban rings, or as William Bogart, the author of Don’t Call it Sprawl: Metropolitan Structure in the Twenty-First Century, notes:

“The dominant intellectual approach to describing cities during the twentieth century was the monocentric city model. In a monocentric city, all commercial and industrial activity takes place in the central business district, while the rest of the city consists of residential areas. This description was reasonably accurate as recently as 1950 in most cities…

“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…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.” (p. 9)

Monday, August 18, 2008


This article from New Geography looks at one of the most over-looked but growing trends in professional work, that can—as it is already doing—dramatically cut energy consumption.

An excerpt.

“The rapid spike in energy prices has led politicians, urban theorists and pundits to pontificate about how Americans will be living and working in new ways. A favorite story line is that Americans will start trading in their suburban homes, move back to the city centers and opt to change everything they have wanted for a half-century --- from big backyards to quiet streets to privacy --- to live a more carbon-lite urban lifestyle.

“Yet, there has been little talk about what could be the best way for families and individuals to cut energy use: telecommuting. For more than a decade, the number of telecommuters, both full-time and part-time, has been growing rapidly, gaining more market share than any other form of transportation.

“This seems certain to continue with the proliferation of broad-band technology -- as well as the effect of high gas prices. By 2006, the expansion of home-based work doubled twice as quickly as in the previous decade, and now is close to nine million, according to the National Highway Travel Survey of the Federal Highway Assn.

“Nationwide, according to the Gartner Group, in 2007 13 million workers telecommuted at least one day a week, a 16 percent leap from 2004. That number was expected to reach 14 million this year. In addition, more than 22 million individuals, according to Forrester Research, now run businesses from home.”

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Water Use

The water from the American River is getting short and one water agency, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, has asked its customers to reduce their use.

It is obvious that Sacramento needs more water and the obvious solution for our area is the building of Auburn Dam, which would double our storage capacity, and is supported by groups—including us—like the Auburn Dam Council.

An excerpt from the article.

“The Sacramento County Water Agency is urging all customers to immediately cut water consumption 10 percent, due to a reduction in surface water supplies from the American River.

“If customers don't achieve the 10 percent request, the agency could call for stricter measures, such as limiting landscape watering to designated days.

“The agency normally gets about 10 percent of its supply from the river via Folsom Lake.

“The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently notified the agency, however, that this supply will be reduced 25 percent due to the drought.

“Because the agency had already consumed much of its allocation due to high customer demand, the result is a total halt in river deliveries.

“It is now relying entirely on groundwater for the remainder of the year, said Herb Niederberger, water agency division chief.

“The agency serves about 60,000 customers between Rancho Cordova and Elk Grove.”

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Social Entrepreneurs & Business Friendly States

1) Quoted in the front page of this new book is a truism I—and all the folks who read history—have known about for some time, which is: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable men.” (George Bernard Shaw).

The book is The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World, and it appears, though I haven’t read it yet, to be documenting that those persistent and often unreasonable folks who just won’t give up on a problem they see worthy of attacking (they are my favorite kind of people) are those leaders vitally needed by our culture to jump in and tackle the problems most people would just prefer to ignore, but they refuse to.

2) As a capitalistic country, and as one of the most innovative states in that country, California should be among the leaders in its appeal to business, but it is just the opposite. Because of all the various forms of anti-capitalistic rhetoric and legislation that has been a staple of our fair state for a few decades, California is becoming anathema to business; and that is not a very good thing.

It also appears that the states with the most hostile business environment also are now having the most dismal budget problems…a connection…you think?

This article looks at that, and here is an excerpt.

“Shortly after he was confirmed as governor of New York earlier this year, David Paterson told a group of business executives that when he received congratulations from old friends he hadn’t heard from in years, he was surprised how many no longer lived in New York. "All of them basically said the same thing," Paterson told the group. "'Good luck in New York state, but we can't pay the taxes. The opportunities aren't there.'”

“After that experience, Paterson presumably can understand the complaints of corporate executives recently surveyed by Development Counsellors International, which advises companies on where to locate their facilities. More than four in ten of them have ranked New York as the worst state to do business in--second only to California in unfavorable mentions. The most common gripes included high taxes and anti-business regulations. Joining New York and California on the list of most unpopular states were New Jersey, Michigan and Massachusetts.

“The DCI study, coming as it did amidst growing talk of state fiscal crises around the country, is particularly revealing. Of the approximately $48 billion in accumulated budget shortfalls that the 29 states with projected deficits are facing, $33 billion, or two-thirds of the gap, is concentrated in those five states considered by corporate executives to be the least friendly to business. Meanwhile, among the five states ranked as having the best business environment, Texas and North Carolina have no projected budget gaps, and Georgia, Tennessee and Florida are facing shortfalls amounting to about $4.1 billion, or less than one-tenth of the states’ total.”

Friday, August 15, 2008

Homelessness & the River

1) The issues are directly connected as the lower part of the American River Parkway, North Sacramento, Cal Expo and Midtown have experienced varying degrees of illegal camping in their areas of the Parkway by the chronic homeless—the subject of today’s editorial in the Sacramento Bee—making it a difficult and often unsafe venture into the Parkway for residents of the adjacent communities.

We have supported the most effective measure developed to address chronic homelessness—the Housing First approach—but still appreciate the concern it might be taking a bulk of the resources other homeless folks could use.

And while that is true, it is also the result of a well thought out strategy to attack the problem at its most resistive point in the hopes that further down the line others will also benefit.

In that sense it is similar to the broken-windows concept of policing or the three-strikes concept of judicial sentencing in the criminal justice system, both strategies focusing huge resources on the perceived worst area of the problem and both have worked wonderfully in the jurisdictions where they have been utilized.

2) As the two rivers become more embraced by our communities and more of us are able to live on or close to them, the need for increased resources directed towards their upkeep and enhancement becomes much greater, and the current method of just using taxes to accomplish that is a method leaving a lot to be desired.

It is important to remember that the Parkway is falling behind about $1.1 million annually just in maintenance, according to the American River Parkway Financial Needs Study Update 2006 (p. vii).

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.

An excerpt from the article about living on the river.

“Livin' on the river beats rollin' on the river any day – even if the lifestyle includes mosquito invasions, septic systems and a four-minute walk to bring in groceries from the car.

“John Gomez and Genny Sowards schlep their purchases to their boat from the Riverbank Marina parking lot, yet these two "live-aboards" don't mind the trek to their dockside retreat off Garden Highway.

“The Genny Lynn, their 45-foot Chris-Craft Commander, was the most unusual abode encountered on a recent trip down the Sacramento River, but not the most unexpected.

“That honor goes to Bob and Sue Danelz's cozy mobile home on the American River, which features a yard lush with zinnias and petunias, oodles of green ferns and multitiered views of the river.”

"The sunsets are incredible, the animals (including a flock of peacocks) amazing, the lifestyle perfect," Sue Danelz says.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Water Leadership & Low-Income Housing

1) California’s US senator is showing great leadership on the water issue by calling on state legislators to realize that we face a real catastrophe if we do not deal with our wholly inadequate water supply infrastructure, in this article from the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

“Warning that California faces catastrophic water shortages from a worsening drought, Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday upbraided state lawmakers for failing to rally behind a proposed $9.3 billion water bond for the November ballot.

“Feinstein has joined Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in calling for major improvements to state water storage and delivery systems. But their water bond plan has run aground in the Legislature.

“Lawmakers, particularly Democrats, have been loath to support the program, which would include $3 billion for water storage and $1.9 billion to repair levees and restore the ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

“Legislative efforts to place the measure on the November ballot have also stumbled amid the state's bitter budget standoff.

“In a speech to the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Feinstein urged lawmakers to end the budget stalemate and put the water infrastructure proposal on the ballot.

“She warned that that the state's water supply is drying up, with a decreasing Sierra snowpack that could shrink by 40 percent by 2050 due to global warming.

"The last major addition to California's water systems was in the 1960s," said Feinstein, who parts with fellow Democrats in calling for new dams and other storage. "Our state had 16 million people then. We have 38 million now, and we have the same water infrastructure."

2) The best point inferred in this commentary is that our experience over the years concentrating lower-income people in large projects doesn’t work, but what also doesn’t work are large investments in job and education training; another experiential based lesson—after decades of Great Society programs—we’ve learned.

What does seem to work is what has worked for generations in this country, small grassroots organizations, many driven by faith, working with people who truly want to be helped, and inspiring them to begin obtaining the tools to help themselves.

Coercive programs, whether mandating developers devote a certain percentage of housing to one group of people or another, or pushing concentrated housing for the chronic homeless into already suffering communities, just have no record of having worked.

Accepting responsibility, being prepared to work hard, and exercising free will still drives the desire for transforming an individual life, whether climbing up from poverty or changing a destructive life style, and probably always will.

Grassroots programs, usually developed and managed by folks who have “been there” are what traditionally have shown the transformative promise government—with all good intention—tends to promote and fund.

An excerpt from the commentary.

“One thing we have learned in more than 40 years of anti-poverty programs in the United States is that when large numbers of poor people are concentrated into single neighborhoods, it becomes much more difficult for them to get out of poverty. Thus, the whole thrust of U.S. housing assistance over the past 15 years has been towards helping people move to opportunity – such as the Hope VI program to demolish large public housing projects and replace them with mixed-income units, the Housing Choice Voucher Program to assist people to choose where to live, and inclusionary zoning ordinances, designed to ensure a mixture of market rate and affordable units in all new developments.

“The sad truth is that the scale of our housing assistance to low-income people in this country is tiny compared with the need. We need more housing assistance and we also need investment in education and job training, expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and more of the support low-income parents need to enter the job market including child care and health insurance.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Endangered Species & Endangered Roads

1) The Endangered Species Act looks to be somewhat endangered itself, which might be a very good thing.

Excerpts from the Los Angeles Times story.

“WASHINGTON — The Bush administration Monday proposed a regulatory overhaul of the Endangered Species Act to allow federal agencies to decide whether protected species would be imperiled by agency projects, eliminating the independent scientific reviews that have been required for more than three decades.

“The new rules, which will be subject to a 30-day comment period, would use administrative powers to make broad changes in the law that Congress has resisted for years. Under current law, agencies must subject any plans that potentially affect endangered animals and plants to an independent review by scientists at the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service. Under the proposed new rules, dam and highway construction and other federal projects could proceed without delay if the agency in charge decides they would not harm vulnerable species…

“Bob Irvin, senior vice president of conservation programs at the advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife, questioned how some federal agencies could make the assessments, when most do not have wildlife biologists on staff.

"Clearly, that's a case of asking the fox to guard the chicken coop," Irvin said, adding that the original law created "a giant caution light that made federal agencies stop and think about the impacts of their actions. What the Bush administration is telling those agencies is they don't have to think about those impacts anymore."

“But Dale Hall, who directs the Fish and Wildlife Service, said the move would not apply to major federal projects and would give his agency more time to focus on the most critically endangered species, rather than conducting reviews of projects that pose little threat.

"We have to have the ability to put our efforts where they're needed," Hall said, adding that individual agencies will have to take responsibility if their projects do harm a protected species. "This really says to the agencies, 'This law belongs to all of us. You're responsible to defend it.' "

2) If global warming turns out to be something other than man-made, as hundreds of scientists recently testified to the US Senate might surely be the case, then seriously impeding the ability of our economy to grow and our citizens to travel about, will prove to be a disaster, and this recent hold-up of the highway 50 expansion is one example.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“In what appears to be a California first, state highway officials are shelving a major Highway 50 widening plan in Sacramento until they can study whether the expansion will contribute to global warming.

“The state Department of Transportation announced Tuesday it will not fight a Sacramento court ruling that the agency conducted an incomplete environmental review for a project that would add lanes on the congested Rancho Cordova freeway.

“For commuters in the fast-growing Highway 50 corridor, it means no new freeway elbow room – if any at all – until at least 2014.

“The added lanes, planned between Sunrise Boulevard and Watt Avenue, would be designated for carpools, buses and high-mileage vehicles during morning and afternoon commutes.

“The freeway already has carpool lanes between Sunrise Boulevard and El Dorado Hills, and Caltrans officials have talked of extending carpool lanes into downtown Sacramento.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Downtown Edge

The downtown edge—including midtown—is, in many ways, becoming the heartbeat of downtown, and perhaps its continued steady resurgence can help pull the core of downtown into some semblance of beauty and safety and spread the inviting neighborhoods all the way to (and embracing) our two rivers…wouldn’t that be something!

An excerpt.

“There's a lot to like about the condo-retail complex rising inside a former Wonder Bread bakery warehouse in downtown Sacramento.

“But Bay Miry, of the project's D&S Development team, is proudest of an unlikely element: the loft staircases.

“Some are spiral, some cantilevered, some made of wood, others of concrete.

“No two are alike. Same goes for the "true loft" housing units, which are under construction and range from 550 to 900 square feet. They're on the market for $215,000 to $390,000.

"One thing we've learned in this market," says Miry, while touring the 95-year-old brick complex at 14th and R streets, "is you can't do cookie-cutter."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Chronic Homeless & Wind Power

1) While it is good news, from the Sacramento Bee today, that the number of chronic homeless has dropped—as they are the primary ones who camp in the Parkway in the North Sacrament, Cal Expo, & Midtown areas—it is not so good news that Sacramento has chosen to concentrate housing service to the chronic homeless, which will replicate the neighborhood degrading situation currently existing in the Richards Blvd., 12-16th street areas where a large concentration of homeless services exist serving (among others) those illegally camping on the Parkway.

An excerpt.

“It might be hard to tell from a visit to a local soup kitchen or while walking downtown Sacramento's K Street Mall, but local and national efforts to find shelter for people who are homeless for extended periods are working, officials say.

“Sacramento officials report that from January 2007 to January 2008 the number of chronically homeless was down 5 percent, even as the total number of homeless within Sacramento County increased…

“The Sacramento program got off to a quick start by identifying homes that groups of recently homeless people could share.

“Five larger facilities with onsite supportive services are in the process of being approved and built. Those facilities will add 260 permanent beds for people looking to get off the streets. The program hopes to build or find 1,600 housing units over 10 years.”

2) The Bee reports on a major wind/wave power project that could develop 40 megawatts of clean electricity, while the Auburn Dam could produce 400-600 megawatts.

An excerpt.

“The Electric Power Research Institute estimates enough wave power can be extracted from coastal waters to account for about 15 percent of California's electricity production. Wind could provide up to 110 percent, according to a Stanford University study published last year.

“Wind power off California's coast is now just a thought among power developers, and there are no concrete plans to erect turbines at sea. But optimism is fueled by NASA and university studies indicating wind over waters off picturesque Cape Mendocino is strong and consistent enough to become one of the nation's best sources of electricity.

“Offshore wind and wave technologies are promising, but they're untried. They also raise concerns about potential damage to the coast's prized vistas and fish industry.

“One proposal to draw electricity from waves off the Mendocino coast already has generated problems for developers, government agencies and coastal residents.

“Moreover, the potential for wind and waves depends on someone building transmission lines to connect offshore power to the state's grid.”

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Windmills & Salmon

1) The windmills coming in through the Port of Sacramento for the new wind farm by Rio Vista and they are some pretty big guys, as reported by Bob Shallit.

An excerpt.

“In a boon for the port's summer business, Escondido-based enXco Inc. is delivering 11 shiploads of massive components destined for the company's new Shiloh II wind farm near Rio Vista.

“About half of the parts – made in Germany and South Korea – are sitting on the ground at the port's West Sacramento facility. The rest are due in coming weeks.

“Once all have arrived, they'll be transported to the Shiloh site, where 75 turbines are expected to be in operation by year's end, eventually producing 150 megawatts of electricity for PG&E, says enXco spokeswoman Sandra Briner.

“These are big turbines, 271 feet high. Each has four sections and three blades that are 148 feet long. A complete unit weighs about 277 tons.

“Multiply that by 75 and you have better than 20,700 tons of energy-producing parts coming through the port. It's a huge piece of business – worth about $275,000, Luken says – and likely to grow, given federal tax credits offered to wind farmers.”

2) The salmon in the American River are a central part of the allure of the Parkway and that is why one of our guiding principles is: “What’s good for the salmon is good for the river.” With the settlement of people in the valley and the continued growth of our region, the need for dams to hold back the flood waters and provide for additional water storage became a priority, and to retain the salmon in the river, hatcheries are used.

While it is understandable (many folks romantasize wildness) to revere the wild salmon over those from the hatchery, as this opinion in the Bee does, the reality is that hatchery salmon, as with most species helped by human beings throughout history, have become an important part of the aquatic ecosystem and readily breed with the wild salmon, resulting in time—one assumes—in a stronger and more adaptable species that has learned to live within the world man has shaped by his need for water, the same water so beautifully populated by salmon—wild and hatchery.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Cattails & Housing First

1) Along with the building up of the soil that these acres along the Delta planted in tules and cattails accomplish, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, they are really beautiful.

An excerpt.

“On one side of the gravel road are hundreds of acres of corn. On the other is a much different crop that scientists hope will enable farmers to rebuild sinking islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, combat global warming and make a profit at the same time.

“The alternate field is full of tules and cattails that are being grown by the U.S. Geological Survey on about 15 acres on Twitchell Island, about 5.7 square miles of rich but fragile peat soil 30 miles south of Sacramento…

“The plants can grow high enough to dwarf the average adult. As they die and decay, they slowly build up the peat. The soil under the 15-acre site has risen 1 to 2 feet since the project was moved there in 1996.”

2) The Housing First approach (which we supported and Sacramento later adopted) to helping the chronic homeless—who are the majority of homeless who have camped in the Parkway in the North Sacramento, Cal Expo , Midtown area for years—has helped, reducing national chronic homelessness by 30% , according to a new report noted in this news article.

An excerpt.

“WASHINGTON -- The number of chronically homeless people living in the nation's streets and shelters has dropped by about 30 percent -- to 123,833 from 175,914 -- between 2005 and 2007, Bush administration officials said Tuesday.

“Housing officials say the statistics, which the Department of Housing and Urban Development collects each year from more than 3,800 cities and counties, may reflect better data collection and reporting and some variation in the number of communities reporting on an annual basis. But the officials attribute much of the decline to the "housing first" strategy that has been promoted by the Bush administration and Congress and increasingly adopted across the country.

“In that approach, local officials place chronically homeless people into permanent shelter -- apartments, halfway houses or rooms -- and then focus on treating addiction and mental and health problems. HUD defines chronically homeless people as disabled individuals who have been continuously homeless for more than a year or have experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.”

Friday, August 08, 2008

Parkway Educational and Public Safety News

1) The educational aspects of having nature centers on the Parkway is tremendous, as this wonderful story relates, and it would be real nice for the communities in the region to have more nature centers along the 31 mile stretch of the Parkway to serve more kids and families as this one is doing.

2) The nature centers can also serve as a ranger station (as the Effie Yeaw Nature Center does) and that is something other areas of the Parkway, like the North Sacramento area, need desperately; and another news item indicates two more rangers have joined the Parkway force, and that is very good news.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Great Technology Heist & Private Management

While this recent event in San Francisco, where one government employee held the city’s network hostage for several days, because the city had chosen to have in-house expertise rather than consult it out to a private firm with built in redundancy, may not bear that much resemblance to the failure of government management of one of our precious resources, the American River Parkway, it may raise questions, good questions.

Some things are just done better by private organizations, whether it is building freeways fast, like just happened with the big fix, or contracting with a nonprofit organization to manage a large urban park successfully, as is being done by the Central Park Conservancy which manages Central Park in New York—and raise’s 85% of the funding needed by Central Park.

It is how we would like to see our Parkway managed, which hasn’t met its funding needs for years and has been running about $1.2 million a year behind—just in basic maintenance—for several years.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Icebreakers & Electricity

1) In the relentless search for fuel to power the world’s economy, the icebreaker ship is the tip of the spear and ours aren’t as good as they should be, as this Sacramento Bee story reports.

An excerpt.

“WASHINGTON – A new cold war is breaking out in the race for Arctic oil, natural gas and minerals, and it involves front-line icebreakers. Russia has seven and the United States has three, if you count one that's laid up in Seattle and not seaworthy.

“The competition is heating up because of global warming and high energy prices. They've made the Arctic coastline and seafloor, despite their harsh climate, one of the most appealing places in the world for energy exploration. Much the same goes for the gold, platinum, copper and other metals found in Arctic regions.

“The increased traffic that Arctic exploitation entails will mean more work for icebreakers, Adm. Thad Allen, the commandant of the Coast Guard, told a House of Representatives committee recently. So will retreating ice, which has opened the Northwest Passage (over Canada) and the Northern Sea Route (above Russia) in summer to container ships and oil tankers.

“Not only is Russia's fleet more numerous, it's also nuclear-powered, and its icebreakers are bigger. The biggest, named 50 Years of Victory, can power through more than 9 feet of solid ice without slowing down. Ice thicker than 6.5 feet reduces the strongest U.S. icebreaker, the diesel- powered Polar Sea, to backing up and ramming.”

2) Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, proposes a plan to increase electricity rather than try for energy independence by discovering and refining more oil.

An excerpt.

“What was wrong with energy independence? As the decades progressed, the United States became more and more integrated into a global economy, where goods, information, and oil move unimpeded across national boundaries. Countries around the world produce energy if they can, and buy on the world market what they need beyond their own production. Oil flows toward the highest bidder, just like all other goods. Consequently, talking about “independence” in terms of one product in an otherwise seamless global economy is a contradiction. As national policy, we must protect the U.S. economy from interruptions in the supply of such a critical commodity—whether those interruptions are related to natural or political causes. I believe that the appropriate aim is to strengthen our ability to adjust to such changes—to strengthen our energy resilience.

“We can do that by increasing our reliance on electricity.

Electricity: Energy That Sticks

“Oil moves to the highest bidder. Fleets of tankers carry it across oceans day and night. Natural gas can also move around, but with extra difficulties. On land, it can be transported in pipelines, but to carry it across oceans requires liquefaction and expensive, high-tech ships that can carry this liquid in strong, deeply cooled containers.

“Electricity can be transported only over land. In other words, it is “sticky”: it stays in the continent where it is produced.

“Equally important is the fact that electricity can be produced using multiple sources of energy. Petroleum, yes—but also coal, which is abundant in the United States, wind, hydroelectric, nuclear, and solar. Electricity is a multi-sourced form of energy. If one source suffers a shortage, we can produce electricity from another.

“Because electricity is the stickiest form of energy, and because it is multi-sourced, it will give us the greatest degree of energy resilience. Our nation will be best served if we dedicate ourselves to increasing the amount of our energy that we use in the form of electricity.”

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


In a $4 a gallon world, some of the past benefits of global supply chains—favored by Wal Mart, Ikea and others—appear to be evaporating, and that will have a huge impact on production if it continues, or perhaps not as the increased costs are just passed on to the long suffering consumers, already adjusting to $4 a gallon gas.

This article from the New York Times looks at that.

An excerpt.

“The world economy has become so integrated that shoppers find relatively few T-shirts and sneakers in Wal-Mart and Target carrying a “Made in the U.S.A.” label. But globalization may be losing some of the inexorable economic power it had for much of the past quarter-century, even as it faces fresh challenges as a political ideology.

“Cheap oil, the lubricant of quick, inexpensive transportation links across the world, may not return anytime soon, upsetting the logic of diffuse global supply chains that treat geography as a footnote in the pursuit of lower wages. Rising concern about global warming, the reaction against lost jobs in rich countries, worries about food safety and security, and the collapse of world trade talks in Geneva last week also signal that political and environmental concerns may make the calculus of globalization far more complex.”

Monday, August 04, 2008

Sacramento Suburban & Taxes

1) The key policy statement in this excellent article about Sacramento is that about 80% of Californians want to live in the suburbs and the future of our town and region depends on realizing that, and acting on it through the shaping of our public policy.

It is one thing to revitalize the urban core—as Sacramento has been doing for several years—but if it is done at the expense of our major attraction (wonderful suburbs and the American River Parkway), we will continue to see the negative effects of a continuing drop in the net migration rate.

An excerpt.

“Although a healthier downtown with reasonable density is good for the entire region, the high-density focus does not make a good fit for a predominately middle class, family-oriented region such as Sacramento. Unlike an elite city like San Francisco, Sacramento's growth has been fueled by an influx of educated, family-oriented residents – the populations that have been fleeing such high-priced places where the housing supply is constrained.

“Long-term demographic trends, and perhaps common sense, suggest that most people do not move to Sacramento to indulge in a "hip and cool" urban lifestyle. If someone craves the excitement, bright lights and glamorous industries of a dense city, River City pales compared with places like San Francisco, New York or Los Angeles.

“The fact Sacramento has fared far better than these cities over the past 15 years suggests the region's recent problems lie not in a lack of downtown condos and nightlife, but with a housing market that, as in much of California, has been totally out of whack. Once a consistently affordable locale, by the mid-1990s Sacramento's housing prices jumped almost nine times income growth, an unsustainable pace seen in a few areas such as Riverside, Miami and Los Angeles.

“As a result, the refugees from the coastal counties who had been coming to Sacramento for affordable housing stopped arriving. Net migration to the region, more than 36,000 in 2001, fell to less than 1,000 in 2006.”

2) Dan Walters column on taxes is excellent and informs us that the courts invalidated an attempt to get around the 2/3 voter approval requirement for new taxes for general use, and last month’s ruling might have helped kill a recent attempt to increase taxes for property owners along the Parkway to pay for Parkway improvements with a simple majority vote, something that is clearly a county-wide general-use issue requiring a 2/3 voter approval.

An excerpt.

“All of the local taxes must survive Proposition 218, a measure approved by voters as a follow-up to Proposition 13 that raises the voting threshold for local taxes that are used for general purposes, such as the proposed Santa Clara tax for schools.

“That hurdle was driven home in a Supreme Court decision last month that invalidated another Santa Clara County tax, a property assessment imposed by the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority in 2001 to finance expansion.

“The assessment violated Proposition 218 because it failed to connect the revenue being collected to specific public improvements, the court said in a ruling that contained this somewhat acidic observation: "An assessment calculation that works backward by starting with an amount taxpayers are likely to pay, and then determined an annual spending budget based thereon, does not comply with the law governing assessments, either before or after Proposition 218."

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Parkway Funding

While the work of this organization which raises money for the Parkway, as reported by the Sacramento Bee today, is very important, it is also important to remember that the Parkway is falling behind about $1.1 million annually just in maintenance, according to the American River Parkway Financial Needs Study Update 2006 (p. vii), so while raising $1 million over the past 24 years with the rafting program, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised through other events, is heartily to be cheered, it is not nearly enough 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.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Saving the Planet & The Salmon

1) The argument not to drill in our country for the oil that we use, is that by blocking drilling we are saving the planet; but by increasing the opportunity for drilling in other places to meet the need we—primarily—have for more oil, what is being saved?

Charles Krauthammer reflects on that.

An excerpt.

“Consider: 25 years ago, nearly 60 percent of U.S. petroleum was produced domestically. Today it's 25 percent. From its peak in 1970, U.S. production has declined a staggering 47 percent. The world consumes 86 million barrels a day; the United States, roughly 20 million. We need the stuff to run our cars and planes and economy. Where does it come from?

“Places like Nigeria where chronic corruption, environmental neglect and resulting unrest and instability lead to pipeline explosions, oil spills and illegal siphoning by the poverty-stricken population -- which leads to more spills and explosions. Just this week, two Royal Dutch Shell pipelines had to be shut down because bombings by local militants were causing leaks into the ground.

“Compare the Niger Delta to the Gulf of Mexico where deep-sea U.S. oil rigs withstood Hurricanes Katrina and Rita without a single undersea well suffering a significant spill.”

2) Saving the salmon is absolutely crucial and this editorial is right on target because, for all intents and purposes, the salmon are the canary in the coal mine as it relates to our waters, and regardless of how many dams we might need to build to provide proper water storage for our state, we can still ensure the salmon survive, as has been done in the lower American River since the building of Folsom Dam.

One of the guiding principles of the American River Parkway Preservation Society concerns the salmon and it states: “What’s good for the salmon is good for the river.”

Friday, August 01, 2008

Parks, Power, & Drilling

1) New park data has been released by the Trust for Public Land and there are some interesting facts.

Total park-related funds per resident by city, and I calculated how much per acre:

#1 San Francisco with 3,466 acres of parks for 744,041 residents spends a total of $199,640,885 or $268 per resident and $57,599 per acre.

#2 Seattle with 6,050 acres of parks for 582,454 residents spends a total of $140,966,899 or $242 per resident and $23,300 per acre.

#6 Sacramento with 4,236 acres of parks for 453,781 residents spends a total of $ 75,714,680 or $167 per resident and $17,874 per acre.

#13 Portland with 10,685 acres of parks for 537,081 residents spends a total of $72,311,172 or $135 per resident and $6,767 per acre.

2) A new power plant has applied to build in Kern County, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, which burns most of its pollution and injects some into oil fields, helping the drilling of oil…sounds like a pretty good technology.

3) Dan Walters opines on the sentiment for drilling off California in the wake of $4 a gallon gas and its becoming quite a bit more positive.