Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cal Expo Arena Plan

This is clearly one of the most important economic discussions to take place in our area since the Sacramento Kings came to town (disclosure: my cousin Gregg Lukenbill played a major role in that wonderful addition to Sacramento); and will become a tremendous stimulus to local economic development.

The Parkway is a huge part of this as the residential part of the development can open up that area of the Parkway to a much higher use by the public, and in the process create a highly desirable community in which to live, which will also help restrain the current rather destructive consequences of the homeless camping in the area.

An excerpt from the Bee story.

“National Basketball Association officials laid out a sparkling vision for Cal Expo on Friday with artists' drawings of an imposing basketball arena, fairground Ferris wheels and scores of town houses, shops and restaurants on teeming, pedestrian-packed streets.

“The vision, however, is still way short on details on how to make the multibillion-dollar project pencil out, and who would pay what share, they admitted.

“The presentation, nearly two years in the making, was good enough, however, to win a thumbs up from the Sacramento Kings, who are desperate for an arena that can make more money.

“It also won a quick go-ahead from Cal Expo officials eager to reinvent their faded fairgrounds. "This project far exceeds our wildest expectations of how Cal Expo could be," Cal Expo board member Rex Hime said.

“The Cal Expo board authorized its staff Friday to begin a national search for a developer to partner with Cal Expo and the NBA on what would be a massive, 25-year building project, starting with an arena and modern fairgrounds at the eastern edge of the property, where the racetrack now stands.”

Friday, February 27, 2009

California's Economy

This article pulls a bunch of statistics together to paint a most unflattering picture of our state’s economy.

With all of this, my California optimism (optimism being one of our state's greatest assets) believes we will rebound sooner than later and much stronger.

An excerpt.

“A New York Times story about the budget deal that California legislators struck last week to close the state’s monstrous deficit noted that, “California is an example of what you will see across the country” as state budgets come under pressure from the declining economy.

“Hardly. While many states are grappling with budget problems, none are nearly as large as California’s relative to its size--$41 billion in a state of 37 million, or $1,108 per resident. Even New York, the next most fiscally pressed state, clocks in with a mere $13 billion for 19 million residents, or $685 per capita.

“There’s good reason why most states won’t fall down the fiscal black hole where California now dwells. This is a state whose politicians, public sector unions and advocacy groups have been living in a fantasy world of overspending, investment-deadening taxation and job-killing regulation. Looking out over the state’s prospects and examining the budget deal that legislators have put together (jerry-rigged as it is with revenue gimmicks and unrealistic projections), the only question is who will be begging Washington for more money sooner, the banks, the auto companies or the Terminator?

“The similarities between California and the auto companies are especially striking. Neither can afford their workforce. California schools pay their employees 35 percent more on average in wages and benefits than the national average (17 percent more when adjusted for the state’s higher standard of living), a significant bite because the state funds much of local education (to the tune of $42 billion last year). Benefits are a big part of these costs. A public employee in California with 30 years of service can already retire at 55 with more than half of his salary as pension, and public-safety workers can get 90 percent of their salary at age 50.

“Another budget buster is California’s spending on social services, clocking in at about 70 percent more per capita than the national average. Leading the way is state spending on cash assistance programs (that is, welfare), where the state expends nearly three times more per resident than other states. There’s a good reason for this rich budget. California’s legislature has only reluctantly embraced federal welfare reform, and for years the state has had one of the worst records in moving people from welfare to work because state law limits the ability of welfare administrators to sanction those who refuse to participate in work programs.

“The rich program of social service benefits is also burdensome because of the state’s large low-wage immigrant population. As Milton Friedman observed in the mid-1990s, you can’t have porous borders and a welfare state. The incentives are all wrong. California has become a case-study in that notion. A report by economists working for the National Academy of Sciences in the mid-1990s concluded that the average native-born California household paid about $1,100 in additional taxes because of government services used by immigrants whose own taxes don’t come close to covering their cost to society. It would be very interesting to see what the numbers are today.

“But California doesn’t just have a spending problem. Increasingly it also has economic and revenue problems. Even as I write this other neighboring states are running ads in local newspapers inviting California businesses to move their headquarters out of the state. That’s advertising money well spent. A poll of business executives conducted last year by Development Counsellors International, which advises companies on where to locate their facilities, tabbed California as the worst state to do business in.

“There are a host of reasons why California has become toxic to business, ranging from the highest personal income tax rate in the country (small business owners are especially hard hit by PITs), to an environmental regulatory regime that has made electricity so expensive businesses simply can’t compete in California. That is one reason why even California-based businesses are expanding elsewhere, from Google, which built a server farm in Oregon, to Intel, which opened a $3 billion factory for producing microprocessors outside of Phoenix.

“In the race for the exits, residents are accompanying businesses. In just one decade California made a remarkable turnabout, going from a state with one of the highest levels of net in-migration to the state with the second highest level of domestic net out-migration. Typically people either head for the exits because they are seeking more economic opportunity or because they are being driven out by high housing costs. You get a little bit of both in California because the state’s zoning regulatory schemes keep housing production artificially low and housing prices high even in a mediocre economy.”

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Oprah’s Tent City Show

It is very sad to see the harm that is being done to people as our economy struggles to right itself and one hopes it does soon.

The show on Oprah actually showed—as much as the tragedy of people on the streets—the giving heart of Sacramentans who are doing so much to help and that is a good thing, though the tent city now growing in the Parkway behind the Blue Diamond plant will cause great harm to the Parkway, probably for years to come, and that is a very bad thing.

The show also failed to present a balanced approach to the homeless situation, focusing only on those who apparently have lost their homes through the current recession, and much of that aspect of it raised more questions than answers.

Click here for a link to the show.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Homeless in Sacramento & Oprah

As a community that has created a magnetized downtown/midtown area attracting homeless from around the country with the domestic services that have been provided for so long (and during these especially perilous economic times, so richly deserved), it is only fitting that we become part of the Oprah show, as the Bee reports.

However, the self-serving comparisons to the Great Depression, the fallacy of which we blogged on several days ago, are not only revealing of how badly educated too many folks—who should know better—are about how bad things really were during those times, but an insult to the families who lived through them.

I’ll be watching today at 4.

“A national spotlight will shine on Sacramento today, and the images promise to be less than flattering.

“In a program about the recession and a growing homeless population, the wildly popular "Oprah Winfrey Show" this afternoon is featuring California's capital city, among other venues. The program will include interviews with struggling families at the Cal Expo and St. John's shelters, shots of homeless children at the Mustard Seed School at Loaves & Fishes and a sprawling "tent city" near the Blue Diamond almond factory where hundreds of men and women sleep every night.

“The episode airs at 4 p.m. on KCRA Channel 3 and at 9 p.m. on KQCA My58.

“Disturbing as the subject matter may be, homeless advocates said they are thrilled about the attention.

"It should be an eye-opener for everybody," said Joan Burke, director of advocacy for Loaves & Fishes, which offers meals and various other services for the homeless, including a family shelter, various recovery programs and a medical clinic.

"But we shouldn't just be shocked, we should take action to change things, because it's unacceptable," Burke said. "It is unacceptable that in this day and age we have gone back to a situation like we had during the Great Depression."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cities, Suburbs & Environmentalism

An interesting article from City Journal postulating that the resistance the environmental movement encourages against most city development, is actually bad for environmentalism, a paradox operating in many fields, unfortunately.

An excerpt.

“On a pleasant April day in 1844, Henry David Thoreau—the patron saint of American environmentalism—went for a walk along the Concord River in Massachusetts. With a friend, he built a fire in a pine stump near Fair Haven Pond, apparently to cook a chowder. Unfortunately, there hadn’t been much rain lately, the fire soon spread to the surrounding grass, and in the end, over 300 acres of prime woodland burned. Thoreau steadily denied any wrongdoing. “I have set fire to the forest, but I have done no wrong therein, and now it is as if the lightning had done it,” he later wrote. The other residents of Concord were less forgiving, taking a reasonably dim view of even inadvertent arson. “It is to be hoped that this unfortunate result of sheer carelessness, will be borne in mind by those who may visit the woods in future for recreation,” the Concord Freeman opined.

“Thoreau’s accident illustrates a point that is both paradoxical and generally true: if you want to be good to the environment, stay away from it. Move to high-rise apartments surrounded by plenty of concrete. Americans who settle in leafy, low-density suburbs will leave a significantly deeper carbon footprint, it turns out, than Americans who live cheek by jowl in urban towers. And a second paradox follows from the first. When environmentalists resist new construction in their dense but environmentally friendly cities, they inadvertently ensure that it will take place somewhere else—somewhere with higher carbon emissions. Much local environmentalism, in short, is bad for the environment.

“Matthew Kahn, a professor of economics at UCLA, and I have quantified the first paradox. We begin by estimating the amount of carbon dioxide that an average household would emit if it settled in each of the 66 major metropolitan areas in the United States. Then we calculate, for 48 of those areas, the difference between what that average household would emit if it settled in the central city and what it would emit in the suburbs….

“But California’s abundant restrictions on new construction don’t do much to deter building across America as a whole. No matter what the Bay Area does, plenty of new households will come into being, and they will need new homes. By restricting local development, California regulators just make sure that construction occurs someplace else. That someplace else tends to be a lot less environmentally friendly than the California coast, blessed as it is with a superbly temperate climate. The net result of this process: land-use restrictions in California increase carbon emissions and raise the risks of global warming.

“The great irony, of course, is that land-use regulations are so often justified by environmental arguments. In the early 1960s, California was still fairly friendly to new development. Then an environmental movement emerged that tried, for example, to “Save the Bay” by preventing development near San Francisco. Town after town increased regulatory barriers to new construction, such as growth controls, which limit the number of permits that can be issued at the local level. Further, in 1972, the California Supreme Court handed the state’s environmental movement a stunning victory in Friends of Mammoth v. Board of Supervisors of Mono County, requiring large numbers of private developments to undergo environmental impact reviews. The reviews are fundamentally one-sided: they consider only the impact on the local environment if the development occurs, not the impact on the national or global environment if the development fails to occur. In principle, all environmental reviews in the Golden State should consider the fact that if building doesn’t occur in coastal California, then it is likely to occur someplace with considerably higher carbon emissions.

“So California environmentalists have things exactly backward. If climate change is the major environmental challenge that we face, the state should actively encourage new construction, rather than push it toward other areas. True, increasing development in California might increase per-household carbon emissions within the state if the new development, following the current model, took place on the extreme edges of urban areas. A better path would be to ease restrictions in the urban cores of San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego. More building there would reduce average commute lengths and improve per-capita emissions. Higher densities could also justify more investment in new, low-emissions energy plants.”

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oregon Dreaming

Oregon has always held a special place in the hearts of westward seeking Americans, even Californians, but at the present time its economy is tanking, as this article notes, and rebuilding might be hampered by the state’s excessive regulation, which California has been emulating.

An excerpt.

“There is something about Oregon that ignites something close to poetic inspiration, even among the most level-headed types. When I asked Hank Hoell recently about the state, he waxed on about hiking the spectacular Cascades, the dreamy coastal towns and the rich farmlands of the green Willamette Valley.

"Oregon," enthused Hoell, president of LibertyBank, the state's largest privately owned bank, from his office in Eugene, "is America's best-kept secret. If quality of life matters at all, Oregon has it in spades. It is as good as it gets. It's just superb."

“As developer Shelly Klapper, a rare skeptic in the Beaver State, reminded me: "This is a state that buys its own hype."

“Hype or not, however, Oregon is hurting – something that's clear to even the most self-respecting narcissist. Over the past year, Oregon's economy has fallen off a cliff just about as fast as any state in the union.

“A year ago, things seemed very different. Sunbelt boom states like California, Arizona and Nevada were already heading into deep recession, but green Oregon seemed oddly golden. Both its small cites and one big town, Portland, were outperforming the national norms. Oregonians saw their state as better – not only in terms of green and good, but also in terms of basic job growth.

“But since last winter, Oregon's unemployment rate has soared from barely 5.5% to well over 8%, the sixth worst in the nation. Indeed, according to a recent projection by the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), Oregon's jobless rate could reach close to 10% by the end of the year.

“Well into 2010, Oregon's overall economy will shrink more rapidly than the nation's as a whole, notes UCSB forecaster Bill Watkins. He traces a sharp downturn there to many factors, including one of the toughest regulatory regimes in North America.

“In tough times, companies generally expand in localities that are friendly to commerce – say, states like Texas or nearby Idaho. Few would rate Oregon highly in that regard.”

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Global Cooling? A Remembrance

What is important to take from this article by George Will about the global cooling (and others) scare in the 1970’s, is that leaders will often misrepresent reality to satisfy their agendas—which I’m sure is not news to anyone—in complete contradiction to the guiding principles of public administration applying to the integrity of leaders whose charge is to protect the citizens in their care and treat them with dignity, not lie to them.

In all too many cases, and we rarely discover the truth until after the fact, statistics and assumptions are presented to persuade us to do something, usually with our money, and it is good to remember the history of these pleas, usually transmitted as end-of-the-world warnings, is that most of them were untrue, as this article does.

An excerpt.

“A corollary of Murphy's Law ("If something can go wrong, it will") is: "Things are worse than they can possibly be." Energy Secretary Steven Chu, an atomic physicist, seems to embrace that corollary but ignores Gregg Easterbrook's "Law of Doomsaying": Predict catastrophe no sooner than five years hence but no later than 10 years away, soon enough to terrify but distant enough that people will forget if you are wrong.

“Chu recently told the Los Angeles Times that global warming might melt 90 percent of California's snowpack, which stores much of the water needed for agriculture. This, Chu said, would mean "no more agriculture in California," the nation's leading food producer. Chu added: "I don't actually see how they can keep their cities going."

“No more lettuce or Los Angeles? Chu likes predictions, so here is another: Nine decades hence, our great-great-grandchildren will add the disappearance of California artichokes to the list of predicted planetary calamities that did not happen. Global cooling recently joined that lengthening list.

“In the 1970s, "a major cooling of the planet" was "widely considered inevitable" because it was "well established" that the Northern Hemisphere's climate "has been getting cooler since about 1950" (New York Times, May 21, 1975). Although some disputed that the "cooling trend" could result in "a return to another ice age" (the Times, Sept. 14, 1975), others anticipated "a full-blown 10,000-year ice age" involving "extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation" (Science News, March 1, 1975, and Science magazine, Dec. 10, 1976, respectively). The "continued rapid cooling of the Earth" (Global Ecology, 1971) meant that "a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery" (International Wildlife, July 1975). "The world's climatologists are agreed" that we must "prepare for the next ice age" (Science Digest, February 1973). Because of "ominous signs" that "the Earth's climate seems to be cooling down," meteorologists were "almost unanimous" that "the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century," perhaps triggering catastrophic famines (Newsweek cover story, "The Cooling World," April 28, 1975). Armadillos were fleeing south from Nebraska, heat-seeking snails were retreating from Central European forests, the North Atlantic was "cooling down about as fast as an ocean can cool," glaciers had "begun to advance" and "growing seasons in England and Scandinavia are getting shorter" (Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 27, 1974).

“Speaking of experts, in 1980 Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford scientist and environmental Cassandra who predicted calamitous food shortages by 1990, accepted a bet with economist Julian Simon. When Ehrlich predicted the imminent exhaustion of many nonrenewable natural resources, Simon challenged him: Pick a "basket" of any five such commodities, and I will wager that in a decade the price of the basket will decline, indicating decreased scarcity. Ehrlich picked five metals -- chrome, copper, nickel, tin and tungsten -- that he predicted would become more expensive. Not only did the price of the basket decline, the price of all five declined.”

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Auburn Dam, Part One

The Sacramento Union begins a three part series—with two articles—on the Auburn Dam, and it is a very good thing as it is still the best local solution to our water issues, including flooding (and protecting the Parkway from flood-caused degradation), water supply, and helping the salmon run in the lower American River.

An excerpt from the first article.

“The Auburn Dam is dead. Late last year, the state of California revoked water rights issues issued to the federal government to build the Auburn Dam. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation did not protest the move. Thus, an obscure bureaucracy and gleeful environmentalists tell us the deed is done.

“But wait: The Auburn Dam has been declared dead many, many times.

“Trying to Kill an Idea
Using one complaint and lawsuit after another, environmentalists have obstructed new surface water storage anywhere in California.

“Death by a thousand lawsuits,” Laura King Moon of State Water Contractors has said about water storage projects.

“Studies, engineering reports and lawsuits disproved or mitigated every complaint—so much so that the Auburn Dam remained a vital part of every single California Water Plan until 1998. Thereafter, a white water rafter, Jonas Minton, became deputy director of the California Department of Water Resources. As he had in the Sacramento Water Forum, Minton stacked the water planning process with environmental extremists; inflated water conservation projections; summarily dismissed any new water storage; delivered a report years late and waterless; and dropped the Auburn Dam from the state plan for the first time.

“To win, opponents of the Auburn Dam shout the loudest and speak the longest. Ultimately, intimidated bureaucrats and politicians have failed to protect the public interest they are obligated as civil servants and elected officials to protect.

“So on Dec. 2, an obscure California bureaucracy, the State Water Resources Control Board, unanimously voted to steal water from the Auburn Dam project. Last nail in the coffin, it is said…

“Expropriation and Evaporation
As of now, the water rights are gone. “Use it or lose it” is California’s water law for “expropriation.” While new state or federal law will be needed to reauthorize the dam and regain water rights, the dam will eventually be built under a number of foreseeable circumstances. “Building the Auburn Dam would help solve or alleviate a number of problems: recession, drought, flood, power blackout and climate change.

“To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of the dam’s demise may be greatly exaggerated since it is impossible to kill a good idea. Flooding a scenic canyon is a small price to pay for the multiple benefits of the Auburn Dam.”

An excerpt from the second article.

“How to Pay: An Accounting Problem
It is said that no one wants to pay. This is nonsense. The Auburn Dam has many beneficiaries who can pay—agriculture, water districts, electric utilities and homeowners in flood zones. Your monthly water and electricity bill is paying off the cost of the dams and canals of the Central Valley Project, the State Water Project, hydroelectric projects built by SMUD and the infrastructure of local water districts.

“Customers of State Water Contractors, which serves 30 California water districts, have paid off the entire cost of the Oroville Dam and its canals, pumps and power plants. Once claimed to be too expensive, Oroville and Folsom dams are now long paid off and saved millions in flood costs within the first few seasons of their construction. Revenue bonds will soon be paid off on hydroelectric power plants on the Middle Fork of the American River, and after 2013, the plants will continue to generate revenues. The sale of the Auburn Dam’s water and power will generate revenues to pay off its bonds, too. At the Auburn Dam site, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation very conservatively estimates that hydropower alone will produce $53-113 million annually…

“The American River Authority, a joint powers agency of San Joaquin, El Dorado and Placer County agencies, polled Sacramento voters in December 2005. Told that the dam would provide 500-year flood protection and water for drinking, wildlife, electricity and recreation, 62 percent supported an Auburn Dam, only 25 percent opposed. The 2005 ARA poll determined respondents’ top issue to be “protecting our water supply from pollution and other contamination,” at 65 percent, (like the flood disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina).

“The Auburn Dam Council conducted surveys of voters in El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento counties with 58, 59 and 62 percent supporting it, respectively. And the entire California GOP Congressional delegation urged the water board not to revoke water rights….

“Means to an End
There are many ways to build a dam. It might be as simple as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Mayor Johnson informing Congress they want to reauthorize the Auburn Dam. Perhaps the Auburn Dam makes it on to President Obama’s infrastructure list. Even lacking political leadership, willing buyers and sellers of water and power might support a state or regional initiative—one not larded with “pay to play” pork and boutique environmental projects. A real dam with real water in it just might be the ticket.”

Friday, February 20, 2009

Clustering Businesses

A very interesting article on why businesses cluster in particular areas as they tend to do, and a policy primer for Sacramento.

An excerpt.

“What drives industry to locate in one region and not in the next?

“Economic geography – the distribution of economic activity over physical space – has always been central to economic development. Policy-makers trying to encourage economic activity to locate in under-developed regions want answers: Is it infrastructure? Fiscal incentives? Good business environment? Or could it be agglomeration – the compounding effect of industry clustering in a particular location?

“And if the key factor is indeed this critical mass, can the effect run from one type of industry to another? Do existing, more traditional manufacturing clusters attract newer services industry?

“The question of where and how services firms decide to locate themselves has become exceedingly central to understanding economic growth and development. Services, and especially knowledge-based services, now account for a greater proportion of advanced-country GDPs, and increasingly so for emerging economies.

“New Economic Geography (NEG) theory would argue that agglomeration advantages lock business activity into core regions. The core also supports the existence of intermediate industry in the periphery, and so specialized input-suppliers co-locate close by. For instance, think of Detroit’s production of automobiles and the auto-parts manufacturers who locate in geographically proximate Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

“The theoretical business-economics literature would also argue that manufacturing and services are intricately linked in the production chain. For example, marketing services add the finishing touches in the final stages of a manufacturing process, or research and development services result in increased production within the "real" economy. Service inputs into production, such as design, technological refinements, and branding, account for a major part of value added in manufacturing industries. The result is that it is becoming difficult to identify where the product ends and where the service begins.”

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sutter’s Fort to Sutter’s Mill

The ability to ride or trek from downtown Sacramento to Coloma, the site of the gold discovery that began the 1849 Gold Rush, is nearer to reality as this Bee article notes.

This is wonderful news and something we advocate, writing about it in our 2007 report as part of a Golden Necklace of trails embracing the historic Gold Rush region. (pp. 17 to 36)

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“Hikers, bicyclists and equestrians soon will be able to trek between Folsom Lake and Highway 49 near Coloma, following a trail along the south fork of the American River.

“The nonprofit American River Conservancy announced that it has acquired the last of 16 riverfront parcels needed to complete the 20-mile South Fork American River Trail Project.

“The 45 acres on the north side of the Salmon Falls bridge provides the southwestern trailhead next to the existing Salmon Falls parking lot, said Alan Ehrgott, director of the conservancy.

“Construction of the trail's final four miles from Salmon Falls Road to the Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Park is to begin in April. The new section likely will open to the public in late spring 2010, Ehrgott said.

“With the addition, he said, an approximately 50-mile trail from Sutter's Fort in downtown Sacramento to Sutter's Mill in Coloma will be 98 percent complete. Trails advocates hailed acquisition of the trailhead parcel.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Seeing California from New York

The view is not pretty, as this article from the New York Times, reports, including the fact that California now has the lowest Standard & Poor’s credit rating of any state in the country, unbelievable!

An excerpt.

“LOS ANGELES — The state of California — its deficits ballooning, its lawmakers intransigent and its governor apparently free of allies or influence — appears headed off the fiscal rails.

“Since the fall, when lawmakers began trying to attack the gaps in the $143 billion budget that their earlier plan had not addressed, the state has fallen into deeper financial straits, with more bad news coming daily from Sacramento. The state, nearly out of cash, has laid off scores of workers and put hundreds more on unpaid furloughs.

"It has stopped paying counties and issuing income tax refunds and halted thousands of infrastructure projects.

“After negotiating nonstop from Saturday afternoon until late Sunday night on a series of budget bills that would have closed a projected $41 billion deficit, state lawmakers failed to get enough votes to close the deal and adjourned. They returned to the capital late Monday morning only to adjourn until the afternoon, though it was far from clear whether they would be able to reach a deal.

“California has also lost access to much of the credit markets, nearly unheard of among state municipal bond issuers. Recently, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the state’s bond rating to the lowest in the nation.

“California’s woes will almost certainly leave a jagged fiscal scar on the nation’s most populous state, an outgrowth of the financial triptych of above-average unemployment, high foreclosure rates and plummeting tax revenues, and the state’s unusual budgeting practices.

“No other state is in the kind of crisis that California is in,” said Iris J. Lav, the deputy director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal research group in Washington. The roots of California’s inability to address its budget woes are statutory and political. The state, unlike most others, requires a two-thirds majority vote in the legislature to pass budgets and tax increases. And its process for creating voter initiatives hamstrings the budget process by directing money for some programs while depriving others of cash.

“In a legislature dominated by Democrats, some of whom lean far to the left, leaders have been unable to gather enough support from Republican lawmakers, who tend on average to be more conservative than the majority of California’s Republican voters and have unequivocally opposed all tax increases.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

ARPPS letter published

" An answer for parkway woes

"Re "Violence shatters parkway peace" (Our Region, Feb. 9): As the reporting of this recent shooting reveals, the incidence of crime in our beloved parkway is of great community concern.

"Unfortunately, current parkway management – and a persistent funding shortage – have been unable to increase the number of parkway rangers.

"We feel that the most significant change that could occur to raise public safety in the parkway would be to create a dedicated singular management of the parkway through a joint powers authority.

"A JPA would have the capability to raise supplemental funds philanthropically – by creating a nonprofit conservancy – helping provide a dedicated source of funding for public safety, which the current management by Sacramento County has been unable to do.

"The parkway is a signature park with a national reputation and has the capability to enter into this kind of governance and philanthropic fundraising that other parks do not. It is an opportunity worth pursuing."

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

Monday, February 16, 2009

Homelessness, Laguna Lessons

The lovely beach town in Orange County is running up against the consequences they may have created in the new law school at the University of California at Irvine—using legal tactics that are also being used in Sacramento.

In addition, the legal work is largely funded by the development interests and the community development created, which the law school is now attacking, as reported by this article.

An excerpt.

“The homeless here seem to be as mellow as the beach town in which they live. Michael and Robert, wearing sunglasses and relaxing in a park overlooking the sparkling Pacific Ocean, cheerfully list for me the meals and services available to them: coffee and Danish brought to the park every weekday morning; bag lunches and dinner feedings; showers, laundry and kitchen facilities at a drop-in center; and shelter during the winter months.

“But residents and business owners complain of some vagrants' increasingly disruptive behavior. Winos drink outside of stores, then urinate and defecate on sidewalks, planters and walls. Homeless people fight among themselves and curse out other residents who complain.

“John, a 58-year-old drifter sitting on a bench outside of City Hall, told me that in his six-and-a half years living on Laguna's streets he's had "only favorable interactions with the police but nothing but bad experiences with other homeless." Indeed, just four days before John and I spoke, a 230-pound man whom the police had taken to mental-health treatment numerous times grabbed a girl jogging on the beach, promptly smacked another girl in the mouth, then punched this second victim's father when he tried to intervene.

“The Laguna City Council has been struggling to solve its homeless problem for nearly two years. Following the recommendations of a task force, it is now paying for a full-time police officer to assist the homeless with getting into treatment and off the streets. Despite a nonstop effort, the officer has found only a handful of takers. The council has also approved funding to enlarge Laguna's homeless assistance center. Neighborhood resistance, however, has blocked the expansion effort.”

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Great Depression? Hardly!

There has been a lot of talk lately about how we are on the verge of another great depression, and in addition to the silliness attributed to those proclamations by those who actually experienced that tragic time; this Wall Street Journal article puts things in perspective, a necessary antidote to the political fear mongering.

An excerpt.

“This fearmongering may be good politics, but it is bad history and bad economics. It is bad history because our current economic woes don't come close to those of the 1930s. At worst, a comparison to the 1981-82 recession might be appropriate. Consider the job losses that Mr. Obama always cites. In the last year, the U.S. economy shed 3.4 million jobs. That's a grim statistic for sure, but represents just 2.2% of the labor force. From November 1981 to October 1982, 2.4 million jobs were lost -- fewer in number than today, but the labor force was smaller. So 1981-82 job losses totaled 2.2% of the labor force, the same as now.

“Job losses in the Great Depression were of an entirely different magnitude. In 1930, the economy shed 4.8% of the labor force. In 1931, 6.5%. And then in 1932, another 7.1%. Jobs were being lost at double or triple the rate of 2008-09 or 1981-82.

“This was reflected in unemployment rates. The latest survey pegs U.S. unemployment at 7.6%. That's more than three percentage points below the 1982 peak (10.8%) and not even a third of the peak in 1932 (25.2%). You simply can't equate 7.6% unemployment with the Great Depression.

“Other economic statistics also dispel any analogy between today's economic woes and the Great Depression. Real gross domestic product (GDP) rose in 2008, despite a bad fourth quarter. The Congressional Budget Office projects a GDP decline of 2% in 2009. That's comparable to 1982, when GDP contracted by 1.9%. It is nothing like 1930, when GDP fell by 9%, or 1931, when GDP contracted by another 8%, or 1932, when it fell yet another 13%.

“Auto production last year declined by roughly 25%. That looks good compared to 1932, when production shriveled by 90%. The failure of a couple of dozen banks in 2008 just doesn't compare to over 10,000 bank failures in 1933, or even the 3,000-plus bank (Savings & Loan) failures in 1987-88. Stockholders can take some solace from the fact that the recent stock market debacle doesn't come close to the 90% devaluation of the early 1930s.”

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fabulous February

Our very dry area is getting some much needed rain and according to the weather forecasts, it may continue, which is a very good thing.

An excerpt.

“Weather forecasters are quietly using the term "Fabulous February" to describe a series of storms likely to bring heavy rain and snow to California through at least Tuesday.

“They aren't yet prepared to also call it a "drought buster." But forecaster Steve Goldstein said the approaching storms might be enough to at least bring this winter back into "normal" territory.

“The forecast, he said, calls for 4 inches of rain in the Sacramento Valley by Tuesday, and more than 6 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada.

"That's a lot of snow. We sure need it," said Goldstein, who works in the National Weather Service Sacramento office. "To bust the drought we would need a long-term period of wet weather. However, this will definitely stop the bleeding."

“Though good news for California's water supply, it does not bode well for this weekend's Tour of California bicycle race. The worst of the weather will come Saturday night through Sunday, hitting the first stage of the bike race, from Davis to Santa Rosa.

“Officials advise the public not to travel in the Sierra Nevada during the holiday weekend, as highway closures and blizzard-like conditions are possible.

“Today, the snow level will drop to 1,500 feet, with a foot or more likely near mountain highway passes.

“Saturday night, a new storm is expected to tap into tropical moisture in the western Pacific Ocean. This likely will mean more snow, but at higher levels. It also will bring strong winds, with gusts of 45 mph likely in Sacramento.”

Friday, February 13, 2009

California Stimulus

The amount of money reaching California from the current stimulus bill is substantial, as this Los Angeles Times article notes.

An excerpt.

“Reporting from Sacramento and Washington — The $789-billion economic stimulus bill headed toward congressional approval is expected to pour $26 billion into California -- building roads, upgrading schools and launching other projects intended to create or save jobs.

“The expectation is that the federal government will funnel at least $9.2 billion directly to the state treasury, mostly for education and healthcare, in the next 18 months. Millions of Californians will get a tax cut aimed at promoting consumer spending.

“But the money will only go so far in easing the state's financial pains.

“In Sacramento, lawmakers are gearing up to vote in the coming days on a state budget package that will hit Californians with nearly half a dozen new taxes and deep spending cuts in almost everything state government does. The federal windfall won't stop that from happening.

“The state's deficit through mid-2010 is $41 billion, and not all of the federal money can be used to help erase it. Some won't arrive on time. Some is specifically directed to other purposes.

“Still, lawmakers say the legislation's effect will be profound. "California cannot do without this bill," said Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara).”

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Staying Home

A report on a very interesting study about how many people stay in the states where they were born and California is pretty high on the list, coming in at 72% compared to the top stay-at-homers in New York at 82%.

An excerpt.

“In which states do folks tend to stay home? Here's a look at Americans still living in their birth states. New York and Louisiana top the list. Upwards of 82% of the US-born residents living in New York and Louisiana were born there. Looking at the map, you can see that the highest numbers reside in the rust belt and northeast. The most transplants tend to live in natural amenity rich western states, except for California.

“More than 72% of US born Californians were born in the state. That number is over 74% in LA county, but only about 60% in San Diego. Other high transplant areas include New Hampshire and Vermont in the northeast, and not surprisingly the Washington DC area, Florida, and Nevada.

“Only 41.7% of US born Alaskans were born there. I suppose if you are living in Alaska, you've come there for good reason.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Broken Windows Policing & the Parkway

We have referred to the broken windows form of policing—where even minor infractions like panhandling (or broken windows) are vigorously policed because a disorderly environment creates more disorder—in respect to the long time policy of essentially allowing camping by the homeless on the Parkway, which increases crime and reduces public safety in the Parkway and surrounding neighborhoods.

There is even a movement to create a permanent tent city on the Parkway and we blogged about it last month, here and here.

This article reports on recent research proving broken windows works.

An excerpt.

“LOWELL - The year was 2005 and Lowell was being turned into a real life crime-fighting laboratory.

“Researchers, working with police, identified 34 crime hot spots. In half of them, authorities set to work - clearing trash from the sidewalks, fixing street lights, and sending loiterers scurrying. Abandoned buildings were secured, businesses forced to meet code, and more arrests made for misdemeanors. Mental health services and homeless aid referrals expanded.

“In the remaining hot spots, normal policing and services continued.

“Then researchers from Harvard and Suffolk University sat back and watched, meticulously recording criminal incidents in each of the hot spots.

“The results, just now circulating in law enforcement circles, are striking: A 20 percent plunge in calls to police from the parts of town that received extra attention. It is seen as strong scientific evidence that the long-debated "bro ken windows" theory really works - that disorderly conditions breed bad behavior, and that fixing them can help prevent crime.

"In traditional policing, you went from call to call, and that was it - you're chasing your tail," said Lowell patrol officer Karen Witts on a recent drive past a boarded up house that was once a bullet-pocked trouble spot. Now, she says, there appears to be a solid basis for a policing strategy that preemptively addresses the conditions that promote crime.

“Many police departments across the country already use elements of the broken windows theory, or focus on crime hot spots. The Lowell experiment offers guidance on what seems to work best. Cleaning up the physical environment was very effective; misdemeanor arrests less so, and boosting social services had no apparent impact.

“Such evidence-based policing is essential, argues David Weisburd, a professor of administration of justice at George Mason University. "We demand it in fields like medicine," Weisburd said. "It seems to me with all the money we spend on policing, we better be able to see whether the programs have the effects we intend them to have."

“And this particular study, he said, is "elegant" in how clearly it demonstrated crime prevention benefits.

“The broken windows theory was first put forth in a 1982 Atlantic article by James Q. Wilson, a political scientist then at Harvard, and George L. Kelling, a criminologist. The theory suggests that a disorderly environment sends a message that no one is in charge, thus increasing fear, weakening community controls, and inviting criminal behavior. It further maintains that stopping minor offenses and restoring greater order can prevent serious crime.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Parkway Shooting Follow Up

Another story in the Bee about the recent shooting on the Parkway and the comments online at the Bee following the story are worth a read.

An excerpt from the article.

“Roberto Sanchez returned to the scene of the crime Monday morning, the spot on the American River Parkway where he was shot in the leg a little over a week ago by a pair of robbers.

“The 70-year-old retired deputy and parole agent wasn't going to let a couple of punks keep him from his regular routine, although he conceded during an interview Monday afternoon that he plans to be a little more careful in the future.

"I'm much more observant of things around me," said Sanchez, an Orangevale man who was shot Jan. 31 while walking his dogs near the bike path. "I'm just a little more cognizant of people wherever I go now."

“From his description of events, it sounds as though he was pretty observant the Saturday morning he was shot.

“Sanchez said he was out walking his two Jack Russell terriers about 100 yards off the bike path at the Sacramento Bar access to the parkway, near Sunrise and Fair Oaks boulevards. He spotted two young men who seemed out of place.

“Sanchez went into law-enforcement mode, the product of 2 1/2 years as a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy and more than two decades as a Sacramento County parole agent.

"I'd just left the parking lot, and I observed these two individuals," he said. "And they looked like they didn't belong on the bike path.

"Most people are jogging, have a bike or come to walk. These guys were dressed inappropriately, had inappropriate shoes on."

Monday, February 09, 2009

Parkway Safety

As the reporting from the Sacramento Bee of this recent shooting in the Parkway reveals, the incidence of crime in our beloved Parkway is of great community concern.

Unfortunately, current Parkway management—and a persistent funding shortage—have been unable to increase Parkway rangers.

Traditionally the public safety issue has been most prevalent in the lower third of the Parkway, from Cal Expo to the confluence with the Sacramento River, but over the past couple of years has moved upriver and this crime’s location is ominous.

We feel that the most significant change that could occur to raise the level of public safety in the Parkway would be to create dedicated singular management of the Parkway through a Joint Powers Authority (JPA).

A JPA would have the capability to raise supplemental funds philanthropically —by creating a nonprofit conservancy—helping provide a dedicated source of funding for public safety, which the current management by Sacramento County has been unable to do.

The Parkway is a signature park with a national reputation and has the capability to enter into this kind of governance and philanthropic fundraising that other parks do not, and it is an opportunity worth pursuing.

An excerpt from the article.

"Despite the recent shooting of a 70-year-old man walking his dogs along the American River Parkway, authorities say the heavily used parkway remains safe.

"But they urge people to take precautions as they enjoy the area.

"The Jan. 31 incident, in which a retired law enforcement officer was shot, robbed and carjacked, is the most violent crime in the parkway since the mid-1990s, when a disturbed young man randomly shot and wounded four trail users over a four-day period.

"The latest incident has sparked increased sheriff's and ranger patrols and the use of plainclothes rangers in some parks, and the Sacramento County sheriff says the very nature of the crime is disturbing.

"I am personally very concerned about this, because that piece of geography represents a sanctuary that people should be able to use without fear of violence,"

"Sheriff John McGinness said. "It's a sad commentary that an innocent guy on the bike trail gets shot walking his dogs."

"Sacramento County park ranger Kathleen Utley said the shooting, at 8 a.m. on a Saturday along one of the busiest areas of the parkway, was highly unusual.

"It's very bizarre," Utley said. "I've been a park ranger roughly 20 years, and I don't believe we've ever had even a carjacking on the parkway.

"I think it's very much an anomaly. At 8 a.m. on a Saturday, Sacramento Bar is very, very busy."

"The Sacramento Bar area of the parkway is near Fair Oaks and Sunrise Boulevard."

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Homeless in LA

While on a first read this article seems to be reporting a wonderful service, what the service actually does is make homelessness easier, and that is probably not what communities want to do.

One would think communities would be more interested in teaching a man to fish than giving him fish—teaching the homeless how to become householders rather than continuing in homelessness, and in New York there is a program, Ready, Willing & Able, which does just that.

We have tried to get local homelessness program leaders interested in the Ready, Willing & Able approach, as you can see from our research report from 2005, (pp. 30-37), and again in 2008 when I was on the Interagency Council to End Homelessness, but have had no luck; but hope springs eternal.

An excerpt from the article.

“The trappings of the lives of Krystle Marage and her three daughters are not unusual. There are hairbrushes and loofah sponges; Game Boys and skateboards; school books and Bibles; clothes, clothes and more clothes. These days, they have to fit it all inside four trash cans, which sit alongside 500 others in a dank warehouse, around the corner from a frozen fish distributor and a cheap hotel.

“Marage, 46, grew up on a pig-and-chicken farm in Belize. The girls' father checked out long ago, she said. She's never had money, not in Belize, not in New York, where she immigrated in 1993, and not in L.A., where she arrived last year after friends convinced her there were jobs to be had. She's always made it, one way or another.

“Two weeks ago, luck ran out. Unable to find work and living on $359 a month in county general-relief assistance, Marage couldn't carry the rent on the one-bedroom space where they'd been staying in the South Park district, not far from Staples Center. She and her daughters landed on skid row.

“Marage, a devout Christian, is sure the devil is after her. Authorities offer a more temporal explanation. The economy, they say, has soured to the point that skid row's sad parade of junkies, drunks and the mentally ill is not only swelling, but is increasingly peppered with new faces.

“Many are new to homelessness. Some are educated professionals -- a few still carry briefcases -- and one, a few weeks back, was so confident that he was but a temporary visitor that he arrived clutching a pair of unused golf cleats. Long after it became city policy that skid row is no place for children, a jarring number of the newcomers are mothers and their children.

“So, at the warehouse run by the nonprofit Central City East Assn., where the homeless have long stored their belongings in trash cans that are gently referred to as "bins," operators are contending with a clientele they've never had before. The shift, they said, is subtle but real, and they are scrambling to respond.

“Last weekend, they closed the warehouse for several hours so they could reconfigure and squeeze in more bins. Managers hope to add 50 more, although that still won't meet the need, said the association's executive director, Estela Lopez.”

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Mini-Train on the Parkway

This wonderful resource, already close to the Parkway, is one of the uses that would be real nice for families with small children to take them on a tour of the Parkway, which is now virtually impossible given the hectic nature of the trail and the unsafe nature of the off trail areas.

The Rancho Cordova Post wrote an article about it and here is an excerpt.

“The Sacramento Valley Live Steamers Railroad Museum, Inc. is a little known jewel of Rancho Cordova history. The museum is dedicated to the history and tangibility of the steam engine. However, unlike most museums where it is all look and no touch, this particular museum encourages you to not only touch the exhibits, but ride them as well. With nearly 6,300 feet of miniature track surrounding a portion of Hagan Community Park this collection of miniature 1/8 scale trains has plenty of room to roam.

“Due to their desire to preserve the history of the steam engine era, this group of individuals dubbed The Steamers, have never in their 37 years charged to ride these small wonders. Funded largely by grants and donations, The Steamers have brought an educational experience to both young and old through the use of these small scale ride-able trains.

“From March to October on the first and third Sunday of each month, these miniature locomotives are moving full speed ahead doing what they do best; making people smile. Every year The Steamers participate in a number of events hosted at Hagan Community Park. In addition, they also host two separate fundraisers; one around Halloween and another for Christmas.”

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Gold Rush to Exodus

This article offers some great ideas about how to curb the exodus of entrepreneurs from California, once considered the best place in the nation to build the American Dream for individual entrepreneurs.

An excerpt.

“On Jan. 24, 1848, James Wilson Marshall found gold at Sutter's Mill, in Coloma, Calif., sparking a mad rush of some 300,000 people desiring to strike it rich. San Francisco grew from a tiny hamlet to a boomtown in no time, and in 1850 California entered the Union as the 31st state.

“With this history at their back, state leaders might have understood that people have a propensity to get up and move when a better life is to be had elsewhere. But no. After more than 150 years of being a destination, California is becoming a place entrepreneurs, investment capital and the hardy workers who made it a global leader in agriculture, technological innovation and scientific research are fleeing. This exodus is the marker of something deeper than a national recession. It's a sign that the attempts by state leaders to spend their way back to prosperity are killing California.

“While it has the sixth highest tax burden in the nation, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, California is facing a breathtaking $40 billion budget deficit this year. This comes on the heels of a decade-long spending spree. Last year the state budget was $131 billion, up from $56 billion in 1998.

“Citizens are burdened by all manner of state regulations. To mention just one example, this year a new law enacted by ballot initiative bans cages chicken farmers use on the grounds that it is inhuman to put birds in cages that prevent them from spreading their wings. Complying with the new law will cost farmers hundreds of millions of dollars, which will force many to leave the state. And that will force us to buy our eggs from other states and, possibly, others nations, such as Mexico.

“And just as a fallen tree can divert the flow of water in a creek, bad economic policies divert the flow of investment. Entrepreneurs and investors, seeking the path of least resistance, leave when it becomes easier to make a living in more business-friendly states. In 2000, according to the state's Department of Finance, about 150,000 people moved into California. But in the years that followed the in-migration slowed, and in 2005 it reversed, when a net 52,000 people moved out. In 2008, the outflow topped 135,000 people…

“Two broad reforms are needed. The first is that we must create a part-time, nonpartisan citizen legislature -- a model that has proven effective in states like Texas (part-time) and Nebraska (part-time and nonpartisan). Californians need to be able to elect leaders whose primary interest is public service, not furthering political careers.

“The second fundamental reform is on taxes and spending. Other states have passed a Taxpayers' Bill of Rights. We need to do the same, so I and others will soon be launching a campaign to enact the following:

“- Two-year budgeting. This would allow a part-time legislature the time it needs to hold hearings, conduct negotiations, and provide oversight to determine the state's spending priorities in the first year, while in the second, write and pass the budget.”

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

California’s Green Plan

The cost of California’s "leadership" in global-warming reduction is examined—and commented on by a local legislator—in this article.

It is significant that many of the scientists asked to critique the study claim the costs have been underestimated and the benefits overestimated and if that is true, this could very possibly be extremely bad news for our already struggling economy.

An excerpt.

“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was all smiles in 2006 when he signed into law the toughest anti-global-warming regulations of any state. Mr. Schwarzenegger and his green supporters boasted that the regulations would steer California into a prosperous era of green jobs, renewable energy, and technological leadership. Instead, since 2007 -- in anticipation of the new mandates -- California has led the nation in job losses.

“The regulations created a cap-and-trade system, similar to proposed federal global-warming measures, by limiting the CO2 that utilities, trucking companies and other businesses can emit, and imposed steep new taxes on companies that exceed the caps. Since energy is an input in everything that's produced, this will raise the cost of production inside California's borders.

“Now, as the Golden State prepares to implement this regulatory scheme, employers are howling. It's become clear to nearly everyone that the plan's backers have underestimated its negative impact and exaggerated the benefits. "We've been sold a false bill of goods," is how Republican Assemblyman Roger Niello, who has been the GOP's point man on environmental issues in the legislature, put it to me.

“The environmental plan was built on the notion that imposing some $23 billion of new taxes and fees on households (through higher electricity bills) and employers will cost the economy nothing, while also reducing greenhouse gases. Almost no one believes that anymore except for the five members of the California Air Resources Board (CARB). This is the state's air-quality regulator, which voted unanimously in December to stick with the cap-and-trade system despite the recession. CARB justified its go-ahead by issuing what almost all experts agree is a rigged study on the economic impact of the cap-and-trade system. The study concludes that the plan "will not only significantly reduce California's greenhouse gas emissions, but will also have a net positive effect on California's economic growth through 2020."

“This finding elicited a chorus of hallelujahs from environmental groups. The state finally discovered a do-good policy that pays for itself. Californians can still scurry around in their cars, heat up their Jacuzzis, and help save the planet. But there was a problem. The CARB had commissioned five economists from around the country to critique this study. They panned it.

“Harvard's Robert Stavins, chairman of the federal Environmental Protection Agency's economic advisory committee under Bill Clinton, told me that "None of us knew who the other reviewers were, but we all came up with almost the same conclusion. The report was severely flawed and systematically underestimated costs." Another reviewer, UCLA Prof. Matthew E. Kahn, a supporter of the new regulations, criticized the "free lunch" aspect of the report. "The net dollar costs of each of these regulations is likely to be much larger than is reported," he concluded. Mr. Stavins points out that if these regulations are a net boon for businesses and the economy, "why would you need to impose regulations like cap and trade?"

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Little Rock Reclaiming Riverfront

A very nice story from the Wall Street Journal of the efforts made to reclaim the Arkansas Riverfront in Little Rock.

An excerpt.

“LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- This capital city was named for a rock. That's clear. But ask a local to point out which rock exactly and you're likely to draw a blank stare.

“Once, people would have known: The city's namesake jutted into a crook of the Arkansas River from the steep south bank, creating a perfect landing spot for ferries and riverboats. But in 1872, huge chunks of the rock were blasted away to make room for a railroad bridge. The remnants soon disappeared from view, hidden by weeds and mud and, later, graffiti.

"It was never honored as it might have been," says Bill Worthen, director of the Historic Arkansas Museum.

“Now, that's about to change. Little Rock's once-desolate riverfront has been transformed into a hip and hopping cultural district. The capstone: A $650,000 project, launched this month, to excavate the remains of the neglected Little Rock and restore it to a place of dignity.

“The historic sandstone, which geologists estimate to be 300 million years old, will be surrounded by a walkway lined with plaques detailing the city's history. There may even be a neon sign.

“The one possible hitch: Nobody's sure how much rock the digging will turn up. The rock was little to begin with, after all, and as much as two-thirds of it might be gone. "But what the heck," says real-estate developer Greg Nabholz. "We might as well expose what we've got."

Monday, February 02, 2009

Robbery in Parkway Announcement

From the Sacramento Bee

Authorities are asking for help in locating two men who shot and robbed an elderly man who was on the American River bike trail in Fair Oaks.

A man and his wife were on the trail near Sunrise and Fair Oaks boulevards at 8 a.m. Saturday (January 31] when two men approached them, said Sgt. Tim Curran, spokesman for the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

One of the men shot the husband in the leg. He had non-life threatening injuries, Curran said.

The two suspects demanded the couple's car keys. One drove off in the victims' silver Infiniti I30, while the other man left in a green pickup truck., he said.

Deputies didn't release much description about the suspects or the clothing they were wearing.

Anyone who has information is asked to call the sheriff's department at (916) 874-5115.

Water Supply

As the Sacramento Bee reports, this is going to be a very bad drought year and conservation is only one of the tools for adequate water in California, the other is storage and the plans for storage have been available since the 1960’s.

Along with the obvious solution for our area, the building of Auburn Dam which would double our storage capacity—but now appears to be off the table though congressional action can restore it—there is another that would solve the water problems for the larger region and that is the raising of Shasta Dam to its originally engineered height of 200 feet higher than it now is, tripling its water supply, which an article from the 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.”

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee article.

“Water experts are having a hard time finding the right words to describe what lies ahead, after recording a dismally dry January in California.

"Scary," "grim," and possible "conservation mandates" are offered up.

“Yet it's easy for the experts to sound out a clear warning: This may become, simply, the worst drought California has ever seen.

"Our worst fears appear to be materializing," said Wendy Martin, drought coordinator at the state Department of Water Resources. "It's going to be a huge challenge."

“The bottom line, water officials said, is that right now, everyone must start using less water. The public can expect higher water bills and fines if they don't, because the alternative is a real water shortage – one that is threatening tens of thousands of Valley jobs.

"It's pretty scary," said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, who has more than three decades in the water-supply business. "The public needs to tighten their belts. You have to rearrange all the molecules in your brain to think about using water differently."

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Landscaping Parks

This practice, mostly art, is what, to my mind, defines the highest aspect of the relation of human beings to the natural world—when humans can shape that world to enhance its beauty while creating a harmonious sanctuary and recreational area for themselves—while honoring the ecological principles embedded in the created world.

This article from the New York Times, is about such an artist.

“RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil teems with jungles, forests and all sorts of exotic plants, flowers and trees. But until the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx came along to tame and shape his country’s exuberant flora, his countrymen had mostly disdained the natural riches that, often literally, flourished in their own backyards.

“Burle Marx created tropical landscaping as we know it today, but in doing so he also did something even greater,” said Lauro Cavalcanti, the curator of an exhibition devoted to the work of Burle Marx that runs through March at the Paço Imperial museum here. “By organizing native plants in accordance with the aesthetic principles of the artistic vanguard, especially Cubism and abstractionism, he created a new and modern grammar for international landscape design.”

“Burle Marx was born in 1909, and to mark that centenary the museum set out to show the full extent of his creativity. (The show travels next to São Paulo.) In addition to scale models and drawings of his most celebrated landscape design projects, the exhibition includes nearly 100 of his paintings, as well as drawings, sculptures, tapestries, jewelry, and sets and costumes he designed for theatrical productions. The goal is to show how his work in one field bled into his work in the others.

“He was truly a polymath,” said William Howard Adams, the chief curator of a Burle Marx exhibition presented at the Museum of Modern Art in 1991. “But the thing about him that really stands out is that he regarded landscape design as an equal partner with architecture, not as a backdrop or decoration, and elevated it to that level.”