Thursday, April 30, 2009

County Funding & the Parkway

Though the Parkway is not mentioned in this Bee article, it is obvious that the ongoing shortage of funds available for basic maintenance in the Parkway will shrink even more this year.

The solution we have proposed for stabilizing funding for the American River Parkway is to establish a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) of local government entities, to govern the Parkway and contracting with a nonprofit organization to provide management and a supplemental fund raising capability through philanthropy, which you can read about on our website in our Press Release from January 20, 2009.

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 Bee article.

Sacramento County has been talking a lot in recent weeks about the possibility of massive cuts to the high-profile sheriff's and probation departments as officials try to close a projected $187 million general fund shortfall in the fiscal year starting July 1.

Missing in the discussion, however, has been the impact on smaller departments - the agencies that test scales at grocery stores, run elections and pick up stray dogs.
The dollar amounts might not be shocking, but the impact of the cuts would be massive, officials say.

"We all want the money and there's only so much to give," said Jill LaVine, Sacramento County registrar of voters, whose department is proposing to lay off 10 of its 38 employees.

LaVine had requested $9.2 million for her fiscal 2009-10 budget, but the County Executive's Office has proposed $5 million. This means the Voter Registration and Elections Department would have to cut $4.2 million by the end of June.

The cuts, as proposed, wouldn't affect the May special election. But for the June 2010 primary election, there would be no sample ballots published, no mailing out of the vote-by-mail ballots (you'd have to pick up your own), no Spanish translations of election materials, no outreach programs.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sacramento River Conference Announcement

The future of California is joined at the hip with the Sacramento River…
... says UC Davis geologist, Dr. Jeff Mount. Please join Dr. Mount and other top water leaders for this exciting event! Learn from the experts about the state of the Sacramento River Watershed and its role in California’s future. Get the latest news on the hottest topics including:

• How are Global Warming and the Drought affecting the Sacramento River Watershed? How do we better plan in this uncertain climate?
• Using a watershed approach to Flood Management… can we make it work?
• How will a Delta Solution affect the Sacramento River Watershed? California?
• Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Planning: drought, climate change, water supplies… How to make IRWM work at the regional and watershed level.
• Latest on the Salmon Crisis… What’s to blame? What’s the solution?
• How do we create a Shared Vision for the Watershed? Share your questions, make recommendations, and provide feedback on how to improve conditions and create the best future for the Sacramento River Watershed and its communities.
Doors open at 8:00 AM. A “Local, Home-Grown” Informal Reception will immediately follow the Forum Program featuring locally grown food and beverages.


Speakers (bios to follow) in alphabetical order

Ben Carter
Chair, Central Valley Flood Protection Board

John Garamendi (invited)
California Lieutenant Governor

Pete Ghelfi
Director of Engineering
Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency

Donald Glaser
Regional Director
Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region

Tom Gohring
Executive Director
Water Forum

Phil Isenberg
Chair, Delta Vision Task Force
President, Isenberg/O’Haren

Kevin Johnson
City of Sacramento

Ken Kirby
Kirby Consulting Group

Todd Manley
Director of Government Relations
Northern California Water Association

Liz Mansfield
Office of Watershed Management
El Dorado Irrigation District

Robert Meacher
Plumas County Board of Supervisors

Dr. Jeff Mount
UC Davis

Frank Piccola
Chief, Planning Division
US Army Corps of Engineers

Lester Snow
California Department of Water Resources

Dr. Tina Swanson
Executive Director
The Bay Institute

John Woodling
Executive Director
Regional Water Authority

Greg Zlotnick
Director of Office of Delta Policy and Imported Water
Santa Clara Valley Water District

Additional Info Link

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The West & Land Management

As the region of the country where the vast majority of public lands lie, it is always crucial to examine how those lands re being managed, for the common good is not always met by how bureaucratic land managers decide to govern our public lands.

This book blurb from the Property and Environment Research Center in Montana takes a look.

Who Is Minding the Federal Estate? is for anyone interested in improving the condition of our public lands. Fretwell begins by examining the origins of the federal estate, which, though originally intended to be a temporary clearinghouse, now comprises a third of the U.S. landmass. She describes the evolution of laws governing that estate, and of the public conception of wilderness, which was once thought to be abundant and in need of taming, but is now considered to be inviolable and even sacred. In non-technical prose that draws on economic theory and empirical analysis, Fretwell investigates patterns of federal land management and mismanagement. The book closes by offering alternatives that will improve stewardship of the federal estate by freeing public land from the grasp of politicians who come and go in favor of a sustainable, long-term management ethic. These alternatives come unshackled by policies that lead to disasters such as the recent and ongoing epidemic of massive fires sweeping the forests of the West.”

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fix the Center

In the endless drama and periodic discussions of what to do about K Street, continued in this article from the Sacramento Bee, it is often remarked that part of the importance of fixing it up is that K Street is the center of Sacramento.

Actually, the real center of Sacramento should be the two rivers that frame the city and as those rivers are continually developed, that will ultimately create more momentum to solve the great K Street conundrum than any specific plans directed towards K Street itself.

Beatifying and developing the riverfronts of the Sacramento and the American River will create a adjacent recreational destination for downtown visitors that currently does not exist, primarily due to public safety and maintenance issues caused by illegal camping and the resulting crime and environmental degradation.

Examining other river cities, such as Portland, reveals the tremendous magnet developed riverfronts create for a city’s downtown.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

"Over the past decade, public and private investors have poured more than $170 million into the K Street Mall.

"Results have been mixed for the six-block pedestrian strip between Downtown Plaza and the Sacramento Convention Center. In the 700 and 800 blocks, 14 empty storefronts face K Street. Most evenings the street is empty.

"There are signs of improvement. Work has begun on a nightclub, bar and gourmet pizzeria between 10th and 11th streets, and a 409-room hotel has been proposed for the vacant lot at Eighth and K. The city is about to begin a $4 million streetscape project.

"But success remains elusive."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Thoreau on Earth Day

It is always instructive to take a look at the founding visions of those whose ideas are often followed in change movements, and those of Henry David Thoreau, perhaps the quintessential American minimalist, are germane in the era of the nationalization of environmental regulation promoted by the environmental movement.

This article from the Los Angeles Times does that.

An excerpt.

“Earth Day is upon us, and with it, several "green" events, including the broadcasting of "Walden: The Ballad of Thoreau" on public television and in schools. This is surprising at a time when government involvement in the environment is all the rage. Henry David Thoreau, who wrote that "government is best which governs not at all," is probably writhing in his grave.

“Instead of keeping environmental management at the local level where it is most efficient, we are moving toward more centralization. This trend -- call it green nationalism -- is not new. Theodore Roosevelt's "New Nationalism" platform moved the country away from local control of resources toward bureaucratic management for the masses. Roosevelt set aside 200 million acres of public land and created federal management agencies, such as the Bureau of Reclamation and the Forest Service. These agencies were to "produce the greatest good for the greatest number" -- a noble but impossible goal. …

“Managing resources from Washington means politically directed projects, which often ignore fiscal realities and long-term environmental effects. The Forest Service's Smokey Bear campaign, for example, was created to prevent wildfires and protect lumber for the armed forces. Smokey came to symbolize decades of fire suppression, which unfortunately has resulted in today's catastrophic accumulations of fuel in our forests and exorbitant taxpayer costs to fight wildfires. In 2006, the Forest Service spent $1.5 billion for emergency fire suppression; 45% of its budget for 2008 was committed to fire prevention and suppression.

“Green nationalism didn't stop with Roosevelt. President Nixon helped build an unprecedented bureaucratic morass: the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA; the Clean Air and Clean Water acts; the Endangered Species Act; and the list goes on. Environmental improvements continued under these regulations but with a much higher price tag than in the previous decades.

“Have regulations gone too far? These have come with bloated bureaucracies spending billions of taxpayer dollars. Environmental scholars such as New York Law School professor David Schoenbrod agree that "the best estimates are that we could have achieved the present level of environmental quality at a quarter of the direct cost." NEPA, for example, created a logjam for the Forest Service by halting timber sales and forcing the agency to spend resources defending itself in court. Meanwhile, millions of acres go unmanaged, exacerbating the already heavy fuel loads."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Economic Value of Parks

A valuable new report from the Trust for Public Lands showing the economic value of city parks, and Sacramento’s parks are one of the five areas profiled.

Here is an excerpt from the announcement and the link to the report is there.

“In 2003, The Trust for Public Land's Center for City Park Excellence gathered two dozen park experts and economists in Philadelphia for a colloquium to analyze how park systems economically benefit cities. Based on this conversation and subsequent consultation with other leading economists and academics, the center identified seven attributes of city park systems that provide economic value and can be measured. While not every aspect of a park system can be quantified, this report examines seven major factors:

• Property value
• Tourism
• Direct use
• Health
• Community cohesion
• Clean water
• Clean air

“While the science of city park economics is still in its infancy, TPL has worked to carefully consider and analyze these values. After describing the value factor and the rationale for calculating it, this report provides real-life example of the mathematical outcomes, based on the first five test cases undertaken in this program—the cities of Washington, D.C., San Diego, Boston, Sacramento, and Philadelphia. 30 pages.”

Friday, April 24, 2009

Railyards Work Begins

A significant chapter begins in the restoration of Sacramento’s downtown and the primary focus of leadership on its continuance, though buffeted by the uncertain economic times, will prove key to its success; not necessarily the hallmark of past generations of Sacramento leadership.

However, one hopes for the best, and celebrates this new beginning in the railyards, as eventually, the work will do wonders for the lower Parkway, so troubled by illegal camping, crime, and environmental degradation over the past few decades.

An excerpt.

“For years, it seemed nothing would happen in the barren space that is the downtown railyard. Today, Sacramento finally sees the launch of a much-awaited makeover of the massive downtown railyard site.

“Crews begin laying the base for three major roads and two bridges in downtown Sacramento's northwest corner, setting in motion what developers say will be the biggest urban infill project in the country.

"This is a historic moment," said Suheil Totah, the Sacramento head for Atlanta-based railyard owner Thomas Enterprises. "This is the beginning of the future of (downtown) Sacramento."

“But, in keeping with the project's history of fits and starts, today's launch remains shadowed by financial uncertainty.

“To start construction, the Thomas development company was forced to front funds by leveraging some of its properties in other parts of the country, representatives said.

“But it's counting on tens of millions of dollars in promised state infrastructure bond funds to keep the project on track, and more in city and federal funds this year.

"The sooner, the better," Totah said Wednesday after a nail-biting winter when the state, in a budget crisis, froze funding for this and other projects.

“State officials recently began selling bonds to finance projects. The railyard was identified Wednesday among the California projects that will receive their promised funding; however, state finance officials said that money won't start flowing for at least a month.

“The Thomas company will host a formal groundbreaking ceremony today for what is expected to be a 20-year community-building project.”

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Money & Green

This article from the New York Times makes a very interesting case, that the more affluent countries become, the more they also become environmentally friendly—a counter-intuitive idea in conflict with the current intellectual climate where the industrialized countries are blamed for the polluted environment with too little recognition for the benefits of the resulting techological advances.

This graph, and narrative, supports the case.

An excerpt.

"When the first Earth Day took place in 1970, American environmentalists had good reason to feel guilty. The nation’s affluence and advanced technology seemed so obviously bad for the planet that they were featured in a famous equation developed by the ecologist Paul Ehrlich and the physicist John P. Holdren, who is now President Obama’s science adviser.

"Their equation was I=PAT, which means that environmental impact is equal to population multiplied by affluence multiplied by technology. Protecting the planet seemed to require fewer people, less wealth and simpler technology — the same sort of social transformation and energy revolution that will be advocated at many Earth Day rallies on Wednesday.

"But among researchers who analyze environmental data, a lot has changed since the 1970s. With the benefit of their hindsight and improved equations, I’ll make a couple of predictions:

"1. There will be no green revolution in energy or anything else. No leader or law or treaty will radically change the energy sources for people and industries in the United States or other countries. No recession or depression will make a lasting change in consumers’ passions to use energy, make money and buy new technology — and that, believe it or not, is good news, because...

"2. The richer everyone gets, the greener the planet will be in the long run.

"I realize this second prediction seems hard to believe when you consider the carbon being dumped into the atmosphere today by Americans, and the projections for increasing emissions from India and China as they get richer.

"Those projections make it easy to assume that affluence and technology inflict more harm on the environment. But while pollution can increase when a country starts industrializing, as people get wealthier they can afford cleaner water and air. They start using sources of energy that are less carbon-intensive — and not just because they’re worried about global warming. The process of “decarbonization” started long before Al Gore was born.

"The old wealth-is-bad IPAT theory may have made intuitive sense, but it didn’t jibe with the data that has been analyzed since that first Earth Day. By the 1990s, researchers realized that graphs of environmental impact didn’t produce a simple upward-sloping line as countries got richer. The line more often rose, flattened out and then reversed so that it sloped downward, forming the shape of a dome or an inverted U — what’s called a Kuznets curve."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

USBR & DFG Announcement

Public Scoping Meetings Scheduled for the Nimbus Hatchery Fish Passage Project EIS/EIR

“The Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) are seeking public input to develop an Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) for the Nimbus Hatchery Fish Passage Project (Project). Reclamation is the lead Federal agency for the EIS under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); DFG is the lead State agency for the EIR under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

“The Nimbus Fish Hatchery is located along the lower American River, one quarter mile downstream from Nimbus Dam in Gold River, Calif. Reclamation built the hatchery in 1955 to mitigate for the loss of spawning habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead trout by the construction of Nimbus Dam; DFG operates and maintains the hatchery. The existing fish weir, which helps adult salmon enter the fish ladder, is aging, is susceptible to damage from high flows, and is requiring annual flow reductions for maintenance. Reclamation has tentatively identified two alternatives: replace the existing weir with a new weir structure, or extend the fish ladder from the hatchery to the Nimbus Dam stilling basin, using the basin itself to hold and divert fish into the ladder. With the second alternative, the existing weir would be permanently removed and DFG would assess potential changes in local fishing regulations. The EIS/EIR will evaluate these and a no-action alternative.

“Two meetings to obtain public input on the scope of the environmental documents will be held:

“Thursday, April 30, 2009
Afternoon Meeting, 1-3 p.m. - or - Evening Meeting, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
California State University Sacramento Aquatic Center
1901 Hazel Avenue, Gold River, California

“In December 2003, Reclamation held two public scoping meetings as part of an Environmental Assessment (EA) that was then being prepared for the “Nimbus Fish Hatchery Weir Replacement Project.” The resulting public input showed that an EA was insufficient and an EIS/EIR was needed. These scoping meetings are the beginning of this EIS/EIR process.

“Written comments on the scope of the EIS/EIR will be accepted until close of business Thursday, May 28, 2009, and should be sent to Mr. David Robinson, Bureau of Reclamation, Central California Area Office, 7794 Folsom Dam Road, Folsom, CA 95630 or e-mailed to For additional information, please contact Mr. Robinson at 916-989-7179 or, or Mr. Joe Johnson, DFG, at 916-358-2943 or e-mail, or visit the Project website at
# # #

“Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Green Home Economics

An excellent article about the real costs involved in going green in your home, from someone who believes in green and has been involved since the beginning.

A good read.

An excerpt.

“Much of the debate about ways to create a landscape of green homes today has focused on the new tax credits for residential energy efficient windows, solar panels and geothermal options. Passive solar and other design methods which make more sense have yet to qualify for tax credits. If history is any guide, this is an error that may take us down the wrong path.

“Yesterday And Today

“To best understand the direction of today’s green movement, let’s remember the first green era, when the Carter Administration offered a 50% tax credit to solve our energy consumption and pollution problems. The most prolific of the tax financed energy saving devices were unsightly rooftop solar water heaters that marred the suburban landscape. Those solar units cost $5,000 or more installed (1983 dollars). So you, the tax payer, financed $2,500 per home. Unfortunately the heaters had a short life span. Over a decade most wore out and disappeared. The good news was the developed landscape looked better without those things … the bad news was the tax payers likely paid billions for systems that quickly failed.

“Back then, I too was a participant in this green era. I built a 1980’s state-of-the-art home: Passive solar, earth bermed, with a 10kW Bergey Wind Generator, of which the tax payers reimbursed me $13,000….

“In 1983 this home cost about $121,000. Twelve years later it was appraised at $186,000. It’s architectural oddity severely limited it’s resale potential. In those years of good home appreciation, had it been a conventionally built, the nearly 4,000 sq.ft. lake front home should have been worth a minimum of $350,000. I had lost nearly $200,000 by going green. In fairness the loss was due to the underground construction and lack of curb appeal, and had nothing to do with its passive solar design, which is why we used passive solar again on our new home.

“Late in 2008, I found myself building Green again, this time as a requirement of a land purchase I made from the City of St. Louis Park, Minnesota. I had to agree to build to MNGreenStar certification, a derivative of LEED modified for severe cold climates.

"This time, in a similar situation to the ‘80s, the housing market downturn coincides with an increase in energy awareness and we have a government controlled by the Democratic Party. We have not found any new Green solutions that simultaneously reduce both initial housing costs and energy consumption. It seems that higher an EnergyStar rating on an item, the more expensive it becomes. The option today still remains to pay more now, for the promise of reduced costs later. …

“Why Passive Solar instead of Geothermal?

“Since Passive Solar is a very low cost design method and our home has a large unobstructed southern exposure, it simply made sense. This first winter the passive solar was inoperable because we discovered Anderson delivered the wrong glass, reflecting the suns energy out, not letting it in. Regardless, our first gas bill for the January 2009 winter (most days the high was below zero) heating period bill was only $200 at a nice and toasty 72 degrees . We used a conventional 95% Bryant HVAC system with a 3 phase air exchanger, plus a separate gas heater for the garage, a 14,000 BTU Fireplace, and three separate gas cooktops – and 3,600 sq.ft. to heat.

“Considering that the average home sells every 6 years, a home buyer is not likely to recover the initial investment on a $20,000 to $60,000 geothermal system, leaving the cost benefit a future home buyer. There is likely to be a significant long term mortgage on the home, so the interest on a $40,000 geothermal system might eventually add up to over $100,000.”

Monday, April 20, 2009

Environmental Indicators

The annual index has been released, and it is, as always, a perceptive and noteworthy addition to the ongoing discussion around environmental issues.

An excerpt from the news release.

“San Francisco – The Pacific Research Institute (PRI) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) released the 2009 Index of Leading Environmental Indicators, an annual report highlighting the significant environmental developments and milestones in the United States and worldwide. The 2009 edition marks the anniversary of key moments in environmental history, including the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker disaster, the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, and perhaps the most iconic event in environmental history -- the Cuyahoga River fire of June 1969.

“The recovery of the ecosystems of both the Cuyahoga River and Prince William Sound has been nothing short of remarkable, though it seldom gets much attention in the media or from environmentalists,” said Steven F. Hayward, author of the Index, and a senior fellow at PRI and the F.K. Weyerhaeuser Fellow at AEI. “However, some more diffuse or wide-scale problems, such as the restoration of the Florida Everglades, remain mired in bureaucracy or opaque from a lack of reliable data, with little progress being made.”

“Other important news of environmental progress from the last year includes:

• Growing evidence that the tropical rainforests may now be expanding faster than they are being cut down, though more data are needed to determine the nature and extent of reforestation trends.

• The world’s most severe environmental problems, as ranked by the Blacksmith Institute and Green Cross Switzerland, are overwhelmingly problems of poverty in developing nations. No American or Western European city ranks among the top 50 cities in the world for air pollution in a World Bank ranking.

• The U.S. Geological Survey sampling of drinking water drawn from surface waters in 17 areas around the continental United States found very low (non-hazardous) or no presence of 258 different man-made chemicals.

• Air pollution levels are falling in the 10 most polluted cities in the U.S., by as much as 27 percent over the last decade in the case of fine particulates in Los Angeles.

• Stratospheric ozone -- the “good” kind of ozone, akin to “good cholesterol in blood -- appears to have reversed its long-term decline and is now increasing over the U.S. The level of ozone-destroying chemical compounds in the atmosphere declined 12 percent from 1995 through 2006.

• U.S. carbon emissions rose 76 million tons in 2007 (the most recent year for which data are available), after having fallen 81 million tons in 2006. Most of this increase was attributable to colder weather in the winter of 2007.”

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rancho Cordova

Several days ago Rancho Cordova was notified that it is a finalist for an award as a great American city, and it is an acknowledgement surely merited, as this Sacramento Business Journal story reveals.

This puts Rancho Cordova into pretty good company as you can see by the list of other finalists.

We were living in Gold River when Rancho was in the initial process of its incorporation and I tried to get my neighbors to join the effort, but was unsuccessful; though the subsequent history has certainly shown that it would have been a smart move by Gold River to have become part of the new city.

There are many reasons for Rancho Cordova’s success, beginning with the folks who led the effort and continue to exert their wise influence over its growth.

The hiring of Ted Gaebler, one of the country’s best public administrators and the co-author of a public administration classic, Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming the Public Sector, was a very good decision; and even the struggle with Sacramento County during the incorporation and after, all of which led to a baptism by fire of the new city and its leaders, developing skills that are serving them well now.

One of the major results of the incorporation has been their involvment in the American River Parkway, which is a very good thing.

An excerpt from the news story.

“Rancho Cordova is a finalist for an All-America City Award, a high-profile honor that recognizes communities that address issues from crime to economic development.

“The city, which was incorporated in 2003, is among 32 finalists for the honor. The National Civic League will award 10 cities with the All-America City Award in June in Tampa, Fla.

“We feel honored and privileged to be finalists in this very prestigious competition,” Rancho Cordova city manager Ted Gaebler said in a news release. “Even though we are a young city, we have responded to and developed strong relationships with the various segments of our community that demonstrate the inclusiveness, collaboration, civic engagement and innovation of the All-America City Award.”

“The city has earned a two-step upgrade in its bond rating to an A+ by Standard & Poor’s, and Rancho curbed property and violent crimes by 25 percent and 14 percent during the past year, respectively.”

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Politics, Bareknuckled & Good

Politics always needs to engage the public and passionate partisanship appears to have done that, as the level of engagement has increased as the television viewing habits of many Americans revolve around the 24 hours news channels.

This article from Brookings looks at that.

“From the steps of the Capitol on January 20th, President Barack Obama appealed for an end to the politics of “petty grievances” and “worn-out dogmas.” The year 2009 was supposed to mark the dawn of a post-partisan era. With any luck, Democrats and Republicans would stop quarreling, and would finally get down to work together. The time had come, exhorted the new president drawing from Scripture, to lay “childish” polemics aside.

“But childish or not, America’s partisan politics have remained as stubbornly intense and polarized as ever. To paraphrase more Scripture, the lambs remain unwilling to lie down with the lions. And there are few signs of partisan swords being turned into plowshares. Far from opening a new age of bipartisan comity in the House of Representatives, the president and the Democratic majority received not a single Republican vote in their first big legislative test, the roll call on the so-called American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the “stimulus”). More recently, not one Republican in the Senate or the House voted for the concurrent resolution on the president’s budget. More, not less, of such party-line voting probably lies ahead.

“So here’s a heretical thought: Maybe, among the many inflated expectations that we attach to the Obama presidency and should temper, those about the advent of “post-partisanship” ought to be lowered, drastically. In other words, get over it. The rough-and-tumble of our party politics is here to stay. What’s more—and this is even greater heresy—not everything about that fact of political life is horrible.”

Friday, April 17, 2009

Urban Growth, Two Models

In this perceptive article about urban growth, two models are examined; one that drives out the lower & middle income residents and one that attracts them.

Sacramento is surely in position to model the latter, though sometimes leans towards the more glamorous former, but hewing to its natural heritage will pull us towards the latter, and that is a very good thing.

An excerpt.

"What does urban success look like? Ask people around the country and they’ll probably say it looks something like Chicago.

"Arguably no American city over the past decade has experienced a greater urban core renaissance than Chicago. It is a city totally transformed. The skyline has been radically enhanced as dozens of skyscrapers were added to the greater downtown area. Millennium Park opened as a $475 million community showplace full of cutting edge contemporary architecture and art. There has been an explosion in upscale dining and shopping options, as well as large numbers of new art galleries, hotels, clubs and restaurants.

"But perhaps nothing shows the transformation of Chicago more than the huge condo boom, with thousands of new units coming online every year. This sent development waves rippling out from the Loop and North Lakefront, often into places that just a short time ago were no man’s lands. If you told someone 15 years ago you lived in the South Loop, they would have said, “Huh?” If you had told them you lived by the old Chicago Stadium, they would have thought you had lost your mind. These and other neighborhoods that were once derelict or dangerous, as well as some that were low key ethnic enclaves, have been transformed into bustling yuppie playgrounds for the new “creative class”.

"But there has been a downside to this for Chicago as well. The influx of the educated elite into the city has significantly raised housing prices in large parts of the city, rendering it unaffordable to others. Supporting the amenities demanded by the city’s new residents costs money, so taxes have gone up, doubling the squeeze on the city’s traditional residents, forcing many of them out.

"So in the end, despite its building boom, it is actually losing people. The Census Bureau estimates the city of Chicago’s population declined by about 60,000 people since 2000. That’s not much on a percentage basis, but, considering the urban core boom, it is telling. While Chicago’s metropolitan area continues to grow, it is doing so slower than the national average and has significant domestic out-migration. Chicago’s metropolitan area saw net domestic out-migration of 42,000 in 2008 and 57,000 in 2007. To put this in perspective, the poster child metro for urban decline, Detroit, Michigan, only lost 62,000 and 58,000 people in those years respectively. Only Chicago’s continued appeal as an immigrant magnet kept it from posting large overall migration losses as it had very high international in-migration.

"Chicago is an incredible urban success story, but only for some. International immigrants and the creative class are flocking, but everyone else is leaving.

"But there is another group of cities in the Midwest, much smaller cities, that are often overlooked, but which offer an alternative model. Places like Columbus, Indianapolis, and Kansas City provide a mirror image of Chicago. Their downtowns have resurged, if not from their glory days in the 1950s, then since their nadir in the 1970s. There is also significant condo construction in their cities. But, beyond these superficial similarities, they are nothing like Chicago. They lack the urban energy of that colossus, its huge inventory of swanky shops and high-end fine dining. They haven’t had a skyscraper boom. Most of their downtown development still requires significant tax subsidies. They feature largely vanilla brand images that don’t give them the coolness factor. And they continue to struggle in attracting top talent to live there.

"Yet in many ways these cities show signs of demographic and economic health that Chicago could only dream about. The Columbus, Indy, and KC regions are all growing faster than the national average in population and, unlike the vast bulk of the Midwest, have significant domestic in-migration. They are outperforming the nation in employment. In fact, it can be argued that they have as much in common with the Sun Belt as the Rust Belt. People are voting with their feet to move to these places. Between 2000 and 2005, about 7,000 net people moved from the Chicago metro area to Indianapolis, for example.

"One key to this lies in affordability. For years Indianapolis has been ranked as the least expensive major housing market in America. Blessed with few natural barriers and pro-private sector governments, housing supply in these cities has grown along with population. Yet at the same time the negative impacts of sprawl have been mitigated by their modest – compared say to Dallas, Phoenix or Houston – growth rates and relatively small size. This leaves them attractive, affordable, and offering a very high quality of life to people without elite professional incomes.
In short, these cities are just as successful as Chicago; they just do it their own way and serve a different market.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Sometimes it really does seem that the environmental movement—which has done some substantial good for our country—gets too carried away and really does want to activate what the acronym means “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone.”

Here’s the latest from Pacific Research.

An excerpt.

“Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) is closing down an El Dorado county sawmill that has been around since 1889. SPI will also close another sawmill and electric power plant in Tuolome county. Two more SPI mills in Plumas and Humbolt counties will also close, leaving hundreds of workers without jobs.

One reason for the closings is the drop in new-home construction. Anti-growth activists will be happy about the shutdowns, part of their stance known as BANANA – Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone.

Drexel University, for example, wants to build a campus on donated land near Roseville already approved for development. The Sierra Club opposes the new campus, which they fear will lead to other growth, such as homes. This anti-growth stance, however, will hinder rather than help the environment.

“California environmentalists are tireless in their efforts to stop new development, but for the good of the planet, maybe they should lighten up,” explains Edward Glaeser, professor of economics and director of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at Harvard University, in the March 4 Los Angeles Times.

“Stopping new development may seem green, but it isn't,” professor Glaeser wrote. “When new homes aren't built in California, they are built in other places that are far less environmentally friendly.”

California’s weather is better than other regions of the country, which require more energy for heating and cooling. Professor Glaeser also explains that California has plenty of land and “there is plenty of room to build.” Santa Clara county, for example, home of Silicon Valley, has a population density of about 2.2 people per acre. The state’s water problems, he adds, are not an argument against growth but for conservation, efficiency, and new technologies.

“California's growth has slowed because the state has made it increasingly difficult to build new homes,” professor Glaeser writes. “There is an almost perfect correlation between the growth of an area and the amount of housing that is permitted in that area. California has some of the toughest land-use regulations in the country, which are often justified as environmental measures. When high housing demand is met with restrictions – not construction – California homes become unaffordable and new construction goes somewhere else.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


For years, we—and many others—have been claiming that the concentration of homeless services in the North 12th Street/Richards Blvd area has served as a magnet to attract homeless from other regions and subsequently to set up illegal campsites in the American River Parkway to be close to the services, a position the illegal campers agree on, as this article notes.

It also explains how the service providers actually help them set up the illegal camps, something we had not known.

Scattering services throughout the community will be much more effective in helping the homeless, and reducing the corrosive impact that the concentration of services has on the residents of poor communities, struggling businesses, and the heavily impacted American River Parkway.

An excerpt.

“(Sacramento, CA) On Monday, police officers handed out flyers telling residents to leave within 48 hours. Construction crews began marking boundaries for a new fence to be built later this week. And homeless advocates brought trucks by to help some residents move.

“Robert Booker doesn’t want to, but he’s packing his tent. It’s Moving Day for Booker and some other tent city residents – but they’re not moving very far.

“Booker: “The two trees – the big ones – and then see that big radio tower?”

“He points to the east, maybe a couple football fields down the river – and just beyond the property line the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District plans to fence off later this week.

“Booker: “Between those two is a clearing right there, and that’s where we’re moving.”

“Ben: “You’re basically moving the minimum distance to get off the property.”

“Booker: “Exactly. Because the services are over here – Loaves and Fishes, Salvation Army. So the further you get away from it, the harder it is to use the services.”

“Booker walks over to a nearby pickup truck and starts loading it up. The truck belongs to Garren Bratcher, who works at the nearby Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen. He’s been driving back and forth from the old campsite to the new one all morning long.

“Bratcher: “I brought my pickup, and Loaves and Fishes paid for the gasoline, and just helping people move. If they need assistance, they can put their stuff in my truck and I’ll take them wherever they want to go.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wilderness, Another Side

The recent designation of new wilderness areas creates new issues and this article takes a look at some of them.

An excerpt.

"This legislation guarantees that we will not take our forests, rivers, oceans, national parks, monuments and wilderness areas for granted, but rather we will set them aside and guard their sanctity for everyone to share. That's something all Americans can support." Those were the words of President Barack Obama on March 30 when he signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act that placed an additional 2 million acres of public land under the federal government's most stringent use restrictions. To anyone who knows the record of public land management, however, these words of preservation and unanimous support ring hollow.

“If we used a measure like our stock indexes as a public land management barometer, it would be lower than the Dow Jones. Consider three measures of public land stewardship.

“Environmental Irresponsibility--Decades of fire suppression by the Forest Service have disrupted natural fire cycles and turned many western forests into tinderboxes waiting to burn. Dense stands of spindly deadfall and underbrush now occupy land once characterized by open savannahs and large, widely spaced trees. One result is larger, more intense fires that burn the publicly owned forests to the ground. Indeed, by the Forest Service's own estimates, 90 to 200 million acres of federal forests are at high risk of burning in catastrophic fire events. Bans on thinning and salvage harvesting have not only exacerbated the fire danger in public forests but it has also left them more susceptible to disease, insects and high winds. Not only do the fires put enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, the fact that the forests are dead or dying means that they are not sequestering carbon, as healthy ones do.

"Fiscal Irresponsibility--What makes the ecological mismanagement of federal lands even more difficult to swallow is the price tag that comes with it. Every year, U.S. taxpayers spend billions of dollars on public land management, but the way in which these funds are allocated--through the congressional budgeting process--ensures the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service respond to the will of politicians.

“The result is what has been called "park barrel politics," which persists while the National Park Service maintains an estimated $9 billion backlog of construction and maintenance projects. Lest you think financial mismanagement is confined to the Park Service, consider that between 2006 and 2008 the Forest Service lost on average $3.58 billion each year. Similarly, the Government Accountability Office testified in Congress that in 2004 the BLM earned approximately $12 million in grazing revenues but spent $58 million implementing its grazing program.”

Monday, April 13, 2009

Suburbs, Alive & Well

Being a devoted resident of the most enjoyable way of live human beings have yet designed, that of the American suburb, it is good to hear that others, even during this economic downturn, are also continuing to enjoy this magnificent way of life; as this report from New Geography reveals the surge in suburban home sales.

An excerpt.

"From the very inception of the current downturn, sprawling places like southeast California's Inland Empire have been widely portrayed as the heart of darkness. Located on the vast flatlands east of Los Angeles, the region of roughly 3 million people has suffered one of the highest rates of foreclosures and surges in unemployment in the nation.

"Yet now George Guerrero, a top agent at Advantage Real Estate in Chino Hills, says he can see the light, with sales picking up and inventories finally beginning to drop. "There's been a real surge in sales," Guerrero says. "The market has come back to where it should be. I think we are ahead of the curve here of the overall recovery."

"Of course, for the moment, much of this growth is concentrated in foreclosure sales. However, even developers of new properties, such as Brookfield Homes , also report a strong uptick in sales. In his new developments in the Inland Empire, notes Adrian Foley, head of Brookfield's Los Angeles area office, sales are up 150% since six months ago.

"Although the economy is still hurting, the housing trend has become much more positive. Statewide, existing home sales have jumped 30% over the past year, taking the inventory from an estimated 16.7 months to less than seven months. In Chino Hills, it is down to six months.

"Most encouraging, this activity is taking place exactly where the market was hit hardest in the beginning – in the suburbs and at the lower end of the market, which in the Inland Empire means between $150,00 to $300,000. This could presage the resurgence of the suburbs and the prospects for the middle and working classes once again to purchase their piece of the American dream.

"Nor is this merely a Californian phenomenon. Nationwide, existing home sales – predominately in the suburbs – have been on the rise for the last few months. The strongest growth is occurring in Sunbelt markets in Arizona, Nevada and Florida, as well as in California. These places experienced some of the greatest surges in prices, which forced many buyers to turn to subprime and interest-only loans."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Salmon, Wild or Hatcheries

It appears that the salmon season has been closed again and the solution might be to fully fund the hatcheries, although many are against them, as the human management of animals for food, recreation, and companionship is an ancient human practice and the hatcheries should be fully funded.

The California state department of Fish & Game has been doing this for a long time, as noted on their website:

“The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has been rearing and stocking fish in the inland waters of California since the late 1800s when new legislation required the restoration and preservation of fish in state waters. This legislation called for the newly formed California State Fish and Game Commission to establish “fish breederies” to stock and supply streams, lakes, and bays with both foreign and domestic fish. In the early 1900s, DFG assumed responsibility for the state for stocking hatchery trout into California lakes and rivers. Since 1945, DFG has assumed responsibility for the rearing and stocking of both inland and anadromous fish species at 21 hatcheries and planting bases located throughout the state. DFG currently stocks trout in high mountain lakes, low elevation reservoirs, and various streams and creeks throughout California. Salmon have been planted mostly in rivers and direct tributaries to the Pacific Ocean, with the exception of inland kokanee, coho, and Chinook salmon populations that have been planted in reservoirs for recreational fishing.

“In 2006, a lawsuit was filed by the Pacific Rivers Council and the Center for Biological Diversity against DFG claiming that DFG's fish stocking operation did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In July, 2007, DFG was ordered by the Sacramento Superior Court to comply with CEQA regarding its fish stocking operations. DFG will be completing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to comply with the court order. In order to create a more comprehensive document, the EIR will also address DFG hatchery operations and the issuance of Private Stocking Permits. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to serve as the co-lead for the joint EIR/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and will evaluate the issuance of funds in support of DFG hatchery operations.

An article from this time a year ago indicated how much the hatcheries do to provide the salmon in the rivers.

An excerpt.

“A recent study indicates that wild salmon may account for just 10 percent of California's fall-run chinook salmon population, while the vast majority of the fish come from hatcheries. The findings are especially troubling in light of the disastrous decline in the population this year, which will probably force the closure of the 2008 season for commercial and recreational salmon fishing.

“The role of hatcheries in the management of salmon populations has been a contentious issue for many years. The new findings appear to support the idea that including artificially propagated fish in population estimates can mask declines in natural populations caused by a lack of suitable habitat.

"Our finding that 90 percent of the fish are from hatcheries surprised a lot of people," said Rachel Barnett-Johnson, a fisheries biologist with the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“Barnett-Johnson and her coworkers published their results in the December 2007 issue of the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. The main focus of the paper is the development of a new technique for distinguishing between wild and hatchery-raised salmon. The researchers validated the technique and used it to estimate the percentage of wild fish among the fall-run chinook salmon caught by commercial fishing boats along the central California coast in 2002.”

Saturday, April 11, 2009

County’s Bad News Grows

As the major funder of the Parkway and the sole manager, the bad financial news that continues to deepen at the County, does not augur well for the future of the Parkway, typically among the last in the funding queue.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento County officials announced Monday that the projected general fund gap has grown by nearly $19 million to $187 million, complicating county agencies' efforts to make ends meet.

“Based on the new estimates, top county officials have asked their department chiefs to work with dramatically reduced funding for the new fiscal year beginning July 1.

“The county has just begun talks with its unions on contract concessions – cost-of-living increases and furloughs – and is hoping federal stimulus funds will soften the blow.

“But county officials said the new budget deficit indicates that cuts to staff, programs and services are likely.

“Departments chiefs from Health and Human Services to Probation spent much of Monday trying to fathom the scope of the cuts in general fund allocations outlined for each of them late Friday.”

Friday, April 10, 2009

Innovative Energy Development

This article from Washington Monthly describes the entrepreneurial work going on in Florida due to an innovative idea (first in the country to do it) instituted by its local utilities; to buy power from independent producers.

With our generally sunny weather--well, not today--this is something Sacramento should be looking at.

An excerpt.

“This winter, as Congress was scrambling to pass the stimulus package, the bottom fell out of the renewable energy sector—the very industry that lawmakers have held out as our best hope of salvaging the economy. Trade groups like the American Wind Energy Association, which as recently as December was forecasting "another record-shattering year of growth," began predicting that new installations would plunge by 30 to 50 percent. Solar panel manufacturers that had been blazing a trail of growth announced a wave of layoffs. Some have since cut their workforces in half, as stock prices tumble and plans for new green energy projects stall.

“But there is one place where capital is still flowing: Gainesville, Florida. Even as solar panels are stacking up in warehouses around the country, this city of 120,000 is gearing up for a solar power boom, fueled by homegrown businesses and scrappy investors who have descended on the community and are hiring local contractors to install photovoltaic panels on rooftops around town.

“One of those investors is Tim Morgan, a tall fiftysomething man with slicked-back hair and ostrich-skin boots who owns a chain of electrical contracting companies. His industry has been hit hard by the downturn, but he has a plan to salvage his business, which he explained over a drink at the Ballyhoo Grill, a gritty Gainesville bar with rusty license plates nailed to the wall and Jimmy Buffett blaring on the jukebox. Morgan intends to rent roof space from eighty Gainesville businesses and install twenty-five-kilowatt solar generating systems on each of them, for a total of two megawatts—a project that would nearly double Florida’s solar-generating capacity. He estimates the venture will cost between $16 million and $20 million and bring in $1.4 million a year. Already, he has lined up financing, found local contractors to do the installation, and staked claims to the rooftops of at least fifty businesses. "And we’re just one tiny player," he told me. "Look around. You can see how fast this thing is going to move."

“Indeed, around Gainesville similar projects abound. Paradigm Properties, a residential real estate company, plans to install photovoltaic arrays on fifty local apartment buildings and its downtown headquarters. Achira Wood, a custom carpentry outlet, is plastering the roof of its workshop—roughly 50,000 square feet of galvanized steel—with solar panels. Interstate Mini Storage is doing the same with its sprawling flat-roofed compound. Tom Lane, who owns ECS Solar Energy Systems, a local solar contractor, told me he’s planning to expand his staff from eleven to at least fifty. "The activity we’ve seen is just explosive," he said. "I’ve been in the business thirty years and I’ve never seen anything like it."

“Why is the renewable energy market in Gainesville booming while it’s collapsing elsewhere in the country? The answer boils down to policy. In early February, the city became the first in the nation to adopt a "feed-in tariff"—a clunky and un-descriptive name for a bold incentive to foster renewable energy. Under this system, the local power company is required to buy renewable energy from independent producers, no matter how small, at rates slightly higher than the average cost of production. This means anyone with a cluster of solar cells on their roof can sell the power they produce at a profit. The costs of the program are passed on to ratepayers, who see a small rise in their electric bills (in Gainesville the annual increase is capped at 1 percent). While rate hikes are seldom popular, the community has rallied behind this policy, because unlike big power plant construction—the costs of which are also passed on to the public—everyone has the opportunity to profit, either by investing themselves or by tapping into the groundswell of economic activity the incentive creates.”

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bullet Train

This is a great project and it is heartening to see it receive some more funding.

An excerpt.

“SACRAMENTO — SACRAMENTO (AP) - California's financially strapped high-speed rail project has received an infusion of $29 million to get it back on track through the middle of the year.

“Short-term borrowing by the state treasurer's office on Monday will provide the funding.

“The state's high-speed rail board had been counting on getting the money to cover its expenses through June, the end of the state's current fiscal year.

“But the state Pooled Money Investment Board froze funding for most infrastructure projects in December because of the state's budget crisis and delayed consideration of a loan for the high-speed rail board.

“That led most of the private consultants who were performing engineering and environmental reviews to stop working because they weren't being paid, said Mehdi Morshed, the rail board's executive director.

“He said the treasurer's decision to issue commercial paper to provide the $29 million was "excellent news."

"We're finally back to work again," he said.

“Voters in November approved the sale of $9.9 billion in bonds to help pay for the first leg of an 800-mile high-speed rail system, which is designed to link California's biggest cities with trains running at up to 220 mph.”

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Hazel Bridge Widening

After the good news earlier that the Folsom bridge across the American River had opened, the news the bridge at Hazel will be widened is especially welcomed, and from the plans reported in the Bee, the work will include some nice embellishments.

An excerpt.

“Work will start in about a month on the long-awaited expansion of the Hazel Avenue Bridge over the American River from four lanes to six – a bargain at $20 million.

"The extra lane in each direction will provide congestion relief," said Steve White, senior civil engineer for Sacramento County's Department of Transportation.

“Officials kicked off the construction project Friday at a ceremonial groundbreaking, with shovels painted gold and hearty handclasps all around.

“Work on the project, which the Board of Supervisors approved March 24, should begin about May 1….

“Improvements for Hazel include:

• Widening Hazel Avenue from four to six lanes from Highway 50 to Curragh Downs Drive, the first traffic signal north of the river.

• Construction of a new bike and pedestrian walkway, including bike lanes and a barrier separating bicyclists, walkers and horse riders from vehicle traffic on the bridge.

• Decorative street lighting and modest architectural treatments on the bridge.”

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Cowboy to Collusive

This article is an interesting take on the current administration’s economic policies from the always interesting New Geography.

An excerpt.

“Race may be the thing that most obviously distinguishes President Barack Obama from his predecessors, but his biggest impact may be in transforming the nature of class relations — and economic life — in the United States.

“In basic terms, the president is overseeing a profound shift from cowboy to what may be best described as collusive capitalism. This form of capitalism rejects the essential free-market theology embraced by the cowboys, supplanting it with a more managed, highly centralized form of cohabitation between the government apparat and the economic elite.

“Never as pure as its promoters suggested, cowboy capitalism always depended on subsidies to businesses such as corporate farming, suburban development, pharmaceuticals, energy and aerospace. George W. Bush and the Republican majorities of the early 2000s simply drove this essential hypocrisy to a disastrous extreme by increasing deficits and allowing deregulated financial markets to run wild. In the process, they helped drive the world economy off the cliff.

“Not surprisingly, Obama and his backers see their mission to reverse the course. However, the path they are taking may prove no friendlier — and perhaps less so — to the interests of American democracy and the middle class than those of the now-deposed cowboy posse.

“The Obama policy of collusive capitalism is most evident in the financial bailout. He has placed his economic program in the hands of a man — Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner — who can best be called, as analyst Susanne Trimbath puts it, a “lap dog of Wall Street.” A protégé of former Treasury Secretary and Citicorp board member Robert Rubin, Geithner played a pivotal role in the original Bush bailout of the Wall Street elite.

“Most recently, he proposed selling toxic assets to hedge funds and other financiers, a plan widely denounced by a host of liberal commentators, notably Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz. The Geithner plan, Stiglitz noted this week in a New York Times op-ed, represents “the kind of Rube Goldberg device that Wall Street loves: clever, complex and nontransparent, allowing huge transfers of wealth to the financial markets.”

“The winners in the plan are the top guns of the financial industry, who would welcome further government-sponsored financial consolidation. For them, this would be vastly preferable to the more democratic alternative of selling the remaining assets of the failed large firms to dispersed, healthy, usually smaller, regional institutions.

“Largely missing from even these critiques is precisely why Obama has adopted this collusive approach while mostly avoiding anything smacking of populist anger. Perhaps one has to start with the very obvious fact that the president — despite occasional attacks on the greed of Wall Street — did not run against the financial markets but, rather, with their strong support. As early as the 2008 Democratic primaries, noted New York Times Wall Street maven Andrew Ross Sorkin, Obama had “nailed [down] the hedge fund vote.”

Monday, April 06, 2009


This column from the New York Times is a great take on the history of the current economic explosion, with its focus on the growth of the financial services industry and its closeness to Washington DC.

An excerpt.

"What happened to the global economy? We seemed to be chugging along, enjoying moderate business cycles and unprecedented global growth. All of a sudden, all hell broke loose.

"There are many theories about what happened, but two general narratives seem to be gaining prominence, which we will call the greed narrative and the stupidity narrative.

"The two overlap, but they lead to different ways of thinking about where we go from here.

"The best single encapsulation of the greed narrative is an essay called “The Quiet Coup,” by Simon Johnson in The Atlantic .

"Johnson begins with a trend. Between 1973 and 1985, the U.S. financial sector accounted for about 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In the 1990s, it ranged from 21 percent to 30 percent. This decade, it soared to 41 percent.

"In other words, Wall Street got huge. As it got huge, its prestige grew. Its compensation packages grew. Its political power grew as well. Wall Street and Washington merged as a flow of investment bankers went down to the White House and the Treasury Department.

"The result was a string of legislation designed to further enhance the freedom and power of finance. Regulations separating commercial and investment banking were repealed. There were major increases in the amount of leverage allowed to investment banks.

"The U.S. economy got finance-heavy and finance-mad, and finally collapsed. When it did, the elites did what all elites do. They took care of their own: “Money was used to recapitalize banks, buying shares in them on terms that were grossly favorable to the banks themselves,” Johnson writes."

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Europe and the Suburbs

Most of us would probably think that Western Europe is not really a place where the suburbs have done much growing over the past several years, but we would be wrong, as this article from New Geography notes.

An excerpt.

“Despite the assertions of some planners and urban boosters, urban core population loss has been the rule since mid-century throughout the metropolitan areas of Western Europe (see note below). For example, the ville de Paris lost a quarter of its population from 1954 to 1999, Copenhagen shrank 39 percent from 1950 to 1991, inner London (This includes the 13 inner boroughs and the “city” of London, which are roughly the former London County Council area) declined by a third from 1951 to 1991 while Milan‘s population declined by a quarter from 1971 to 2001.

“At the same time, widely ignored by many American observers, Western Europe has been suburbanizing strongly. Since 1965, virtually all major metropolitan area growth has been in the suburbs. Indeed the share of the metropolitan area population gains in the suburbs has been greater in Western Europe than in the United States.”

Friday, April 03, 2009

Nonprofit Transparency

The new report by Guidestar, is a welcome addition to the ongoing conversation among nonprofits about the importance of providing as much information as possible about their organizations to the public.

In today’s world, that means on an organization’s website, and ARPPS, through its annual organizational reports posted to our website, shares with the public virtually all of the information needed that Guidestar considers crucial to maintain transparency.

An excerpt from the Guidestar release.

"The State of Nonprofit Transparency, 2008

"Do you know how often nonprofits describe their programs and accomplishments on their Web sites? Do you know how often they post their annual reports? GuideStar's new report has the answers.

"The State of Nonprofit Transparency, 2008: Voluntary Disclosure Practices" is the first-ever systematic review of the information nonprofits make available to the public on the Internet.

"The report analyzes the on-line disclosure practices of more than 1,800 nonprofits and gives GuideStar's recommendations for taking nonprofit transparency to the next level."

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Broken Windows Policing

The focus on all levels of crime, even broken windows, in the now proven theory that vigorous enforcement of laws reduces crime, continues to be validated, and it is an approach that the ramifications of illegal camping in the Parkway—creating a public safety issue (and destruction of habitat and pollution of the river) for the utilization of the Parkway by the families from the adjacent communities—cries out to be adopted by local leadership.

The broken windows theory was first proposed in a 1982 article in Atlantic Monthly by George Kelling and James Q. Wilson and has proven itself as the most effective crime control policing ever, as this recent evaluation reported in a February 2009 article in the Boston Globe noted.

In Los Angeles, where police chief Bratton, an early adherent of broken windows policing, has continued his stellar work and crime continues to fall, as this article from the Los Angeles Times reports.

An excerpt.

“Crime in much of Los Angeles County and elsewhere in Southern California has dropped significantly so far this year, despite an economic meltdown that has pushed unemployment into double digits, imploded the housing market and shuttered countless businesses.

“The decline flies in the face of predictions made by many crime experts that the region would probably experience substantial increases in property-related crimes and some types of violence as more people fell into financial hardship.

“Overall in the city of Los Angeles, property crimes, such as burglary and auto theft, were down 6.4% over the same period last year, while violent crimes, including homicides and rapes, were down 4.9%. The only citywide increase was a 1.6% rise in robberies. Elsewhere in the county, the Sheriff's Department reported a 10% drop in serious violent and property crimes in the areas it patrols.

“Other large American cities similarly have bucked expectations this year. New York City posted a dramatic 14% drop in overall serious crimes, while Chicago and Houston also saw declines. Across the country, however, things are far more uneven. More than 100 large police departments have reported increases in property crimes or robberies this year, according to a survey by a police research group.

“But few other major cities in the country have been hit harder by the economy than Los Angeles, where the unemployment rate has reached 12%. Police Chief William J. Bratton sounded his familiar refrain when asked to explain why crime has not increased. "Cops matter. Police count," he said.”

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

County Parks

There is a good article providing an overview of County Parks from the new director, Janet Baker, in the ARNHA newsletter, entitled Happy Trails Ahead: The future looks bright for trails systems in our region.

It takes a look at all of the connecting trails, and has a map, to the Parkway from other parks and neighborhoods.

A good read.

Read it here.