Monday, August 31, 2009

No Money, No Parks?

While the threat of closing popular recreational areas—or reducing public safety funding—has often been government’s way of stimulating acquiescence to tax increases (County Parks threatened to close the Parkway in 2004 under much less perilous economic times) this does appear to be a time of substantial and real shrinkage of government funding; and with a state legislative unwillingness to address one of the major causes of government shortfalls, substantial public employee retirement packages being one area that could be examined, parks are apparently taking the hit.

An article from the Sacramento Bee looks at the issue.

An excerpt.

“California is on the brink of another American first, this one rather dubious: In a week or two, officials say they will start shutting down 100 state parks, an exercise in government retrenchment unprecedented for a citizenry that cherishes the outdoors.

“The cutbacks – which involve closing the parks much of the year – are a Band-Aid on a bleeding state budget. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, when he signed the budget, penciled in a $14 million cut for California State Parks, a relatively meager slice amid much bigger reductions.

“The cut to parks amounts to 0.05 percent of the $26 billion deficit the new budget tries to resolve.

“But for many residents, when parks start shutting their gates, that meager slice will be the most visible fallout yet from the state's budget troubles.

“State parks are a major economic engine and source of community pride in small towns like Angel's Camp, Grass Valley and Garberville. Nearby parks bring more than 100,000 visitors annually to each of those communities.

"If it were to close down entirely, that's a great loss to the community," said Tom Stade, a volunteer at Empire Mine State Historic Park near Grass Valley. "I've spent 18 1/2 years here, and I would hate to see it close. It would hurt very much."
“Soon after Labor Day, the state is scheduled to release the list of 100 parks – out of 280 in the system – that it plans to close for various portions of the year.

“Technically, people still could access some parks for day hikes, albeit at their own risk. The cost savings will come from suspended or reduced visits by park rangers, maintenance workers and park aides. The money spent daily to fill gas tanks, keep lights on, print brochures, buy toilet paper and haul garbage will come to a halt.”

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Meanest City, Homelessness, & Public Safety

Los Angeles was recently ranked as the meanest city in the nation—as reported by the LA Daily News—for its successful efforts to reduce the crimogenic degradation unrestricted homelessness often creates in urban areas, and a revealing story from City Journal gives a horrifying look at what had been happening in Los Angeles’s Skid Row before those efforts took hold.

The folks who created the report awarding the ranking—which also mentions Sacramento on page 77—are working to decriminalize aspects of homelessness that most communities, including Los Angeles, demand as public safety measures, and as Sacramento struggles to come to terms with its homeless population, these resources are valuable for the insight they provide into the various strategies being played out across the country around this issue resonating within our local communities.

An excerpt.

“Los Angeles is famous as the nation's capital of movie stars and rich and envied people. But its lesser-known distinction as the nation's homeless capital has earned it a new title: the "Meanest City" in America.

“In a report released Tuesday, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless named Los Angeles the No. 1 "Meanest City" out of 273 nationwide.

“The report says a primary reason for the dubious honor was a new Los Angeles police crackdown called the Safer Cities Initiative that it claims has trapped tens of thousands of poor, homeless and disabled residents in the criminal justice system.

“In January 2006 - before the Safer Cities Initiative began - a similar report released by the same group ranked Los Angeles as the 18th "Meanest City."

“Advocates for the homeless said the city vaulting up the negative rankings reflects government decisions that are harmful to the homeless.

"This isn't to say that homelessness and criminalization isn't a problem everywhere, but to be pointed out as the worst among more than 270 cities is a strong indictment of policies that continue to put police over housing as the main response to homelessness," said Becky Dennison, co-director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, a community organization and advocacy group that works with homeless and low-income people.

“But a spokesman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa blasted the report, calling it “short-sighted and misleading."

"It fails to detail the city's housing-first strategy, which reflects national-best practices for housing and services that help homeless individuals stay off the streets," said Villaraigosa spokesman Casey Hernandez in a written statement. "And the assertion that Los Angeles criminalizes homelessness is simply false."

“He said the mayor has committed more than $100 million since 2007 to housing the homeless, and funded more than 1,078 housing units for the homeless, more than in the past 12 years combined.

“The Safer City Initiative, he said, has helped reduce crime by more than 35 percent, particularly in areas with high populations of homeless.

"The city's first priority is to protect our most vulnerable residents from violent crime," Hernandez said. "The city dedicated an additional 50 officers to Skid Row to protect its residents and remove a significant criminal element that historically hinders efforts to provide services to the homeless."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Water Bond

One hopes this bond discussion—as reported by Capital Weekly—forms into a bill that includes the much needed elements of building additional dams for water storage and a canal to move water from the water rich north to the water poor valleys south, and includes stringent requirements for all Californians to be as thrifty with their water as possible without harming the economy or food production.

An excerpt.

“A plan to get voter approval on $11.7 billion in new water projects that include reservoirs, Delta environmental protections and even a massive canal is under consideration in the Capitol, the latest in a series of proposals targeting California's water problems.

“The plan - not yet in the form of a bill - would place a bond issue before voters in November 2010. It is being pushed by Assemblymember Anna Caballero, D-Salinas.

“Lawmakers in both parties and the governor have been attempting to negotiate a water package that includes new storage and greater deliveries of water into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta east of San Francisco and to the San Joaquin Valley and Central California. They also are considering the construction of a canal to carry water from the Sacramento River in the north around the Delta to the California Aqueduct, which would move the water southward.

“Some environmentalists oppose the proposal as harmful to the Delta, and Delta interests are fearful of being frozen out of the discussions.”

Friday, August 28, 2009

Parks Again On Chopping Block

As this story from the Sacramento Bee notes, County Parks is again facing cuts, and one is rather dramatic—the proposed closure of Gibson Ranch Regional Park.

As local governments discuss forming a JPA for the Parkway, as we noted in our press release, it is crucial to also discuss the following step of creating a nonprofit organization for fund raising and management to address the serious funding gap that has been plaguing the Parkway for several years and will apparently become even more onerous.

An excerpt.

“County Executive Terry Schutten's office has been working with department heads to come up with enough trims to eliminate the growing deficit. The Board of Supervisors will begin discussing the staff proposals Sept. 8.

“Among the cuts proposed:

“• Closing the South City Health Center two days a week. The clinic is one of two county clinics operating fulltime.

“• Eliminating 50 of the 100 beds at the Mental Health Treatment Center and shutting its crisis unit. The treatment center is the main county-run psychiatric hospital.

“• Closing Gibson Ranch Regional Park to the public.”

Thursday, August 27, 2009

ARPPS Letter Published Today

Suburban growth has its place

Re "Urban blueprint evolves" (Page A1, Aug. 24): In this analysis of the future growth patterns in our region, the tendency to dismiss the value of suburban development in favor of urban fill-in is misplaced.

Both are smart growth patterns, smart for different people at different times in their lives, and both growth paths are good for our region. Sprawling suburbs with yards and open space are where most people want to live, especially families with children. Compact inner cities are very desirable for many young people and many retirees, and the charm and beauty of Sacramento is that we have ample room to grow in both areas.

I spent many of my younger years living in the midtown and downtown areas, often without a car, and enjoyed it very much. As I became older, married and had children, the move to the suburbs was a natural, and we plan to remain here for the rest of our lives.

– David H. Lukenbill, Sacramento

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Urban/Suburban, Both Smart Growth

In this analysis of the future growth patterns in our region in the Sacramento Bee, the tendency to dismiss the value of suburban development in favor of urban in-fill is misplaced.

Both are smart growth patterns, smart for different people at different times in their lives, and both growth paths are good for our region.

Sprawling suburbs with yards and open space are where most people want to live, especially families with children, and the longevity of the love for suburban living has been posted on several times, one is here.

Compact inner cities are very desirable for many young people and many retirees, and the charm and beauty of Sacramento is that we have ample room to grow in both areas, and in this previous post two urban growth models are examined.

I spent many of my younger years living in the midtown and downtown areas, often without a car, and enjoyed it very much.

As I became older, married and had children, the move to the suburbs was a natural, and we plan to remain here, close to the Parkway, for the rest of our lives.

The Parkway is central to both of these patterns as it winds its way through the suburbs and downtowns of its adjacent cities, offering a wonderful recreational and exploratory sanctuary close by for all.

An excerpt.

“Some day this housing crash will end. Judging from history, Sacramento's ranks of developers will snap right back into growth mode – building a fresh wave of new homes.

“The big question: Will this new wave of growth create a more urban, compact Sacramento, as many community activists and politicians hope? Or will it follow the time-tested pattern of past booms in the late 1970s, the second half of the 1980s and the first half of this decade, pushing ever-larger homes farther into farmland?

“Perhaps it's easiest to expect more of the same. Suburban development has for decades been Sacramento's main growth industry, aside from state government.

“During this decade's housing boom, builders constructed 156,000 homes, condos and apartments in the Sacramento region – largely on empty land in suburban cities. Much of this last wave of housing on former farmland has proved especially vulnerable to shredded values and foreclosures – a fate far less common in established neighborhoods closer to jobs.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Transportation Failure

Many years ago, a horrible set of decisions were made by public leadership that attempted to re-direct this primarily suburban and car oriented state into an urban and mass transit oriented one, directly against the best interests of the public and the economy, which are dependent upon efficient, reliable transportation able to go anywhere personal and business considerations require.

The results are clearly evident and captured in this recent column by Dan Walters.

An excerpt.

“When Jerry Brown began his first stint as California's governor in 1975 – he apparently yearns for a reprise next year – he more or less shut down the highway construction program that had transformed the state, for better or worse, in the three decades following World War II.

“Despite legislative pressure, which included eliminating state Transportation Department Director Adriana Gianturco's salary, major highway construction was put on what turned out to be semi-permanent hiatus.

“A few new freeways were built, such as the Century Freeway in Los Angeles and Interstate 5 between Sacramento and Stockton. But dozens of projects, some of them in the works for decades, were erased, leaving Caltrans' last official freeway map a quaint artifact.

“For instance, the map depicts a 350-mile-long, north-south freeway along the east side of the San Joaquin Valley, linking Bakersfield with Marysville, but only brief stretches of Highway 65 on the north and south ends were ever built.

“The most controversial gap in the freeway system is Interstate 710, which runs northward from Long Beach, but abruptly ends at Alhambra, 4.5 miles short of its intended connection with Interstate 210 at Pasadena.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

California Failing, Badly

In a major marker of how well California performs in the business sector, a new report from Pacific Research Institute ranking labor performance, shows us almost last, beating only Michigan and Mississippi.

An excerpt from the news release with link to the report at the jump.

“California's labor performance during the past five years is among the worst-performing in the nation, ranking 48th and besting only Michigan and Mississippi, according to a report released Wednesday.

“Think tank Pacific Research Institute's study found that the state ranked a mediocre 24th among all states in its ability to expand the economy and incomes; in the bottom 20 for private-sector employment growth; in the bottom 20 for the length of unemployment; and in the bottom 20 for the average unemployment rate.

“California’s current economic woes are often blamed on the national recession,” said Jason Clemens, PRI director of research. “But the state’s suffering precedes the current cyclical downturn. California’s mired economic structure has been hampering growth for years.”

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Innovative Technology, Some Cool Things

These are some really great designs that do good while being cool, well…maybe the cutlery pen isn’t too cool.

An excerpt from Fast Company.

“Most people bury the greeting cards they receive in drawers, but you can bury Garden Greetings in the backyard and watch them sprout into flowers or herbs. Embedded with seeds, the cards are "tree-free" -- instead, Botanical PaperWorks uses 3.5 tons of paper waste a year. The cards retail for $5 apiece at specialty stores such as Paper Source.

“Approximately 39 billion pieces of disposable cutlery are used in the United States each year; that's 42 place settings per person. These 100% biodegradable, nontoxic, and hygienic pen caps take chewing on your Bic to a new level. Made from natural starch and fiber, the reusable caps, a Designboom "Dining in 2015" winner, will be available in October.”

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Governor Wants Dams

It is heartening to see the governor exhibiting common sense regarding the huge need for additional surface water storage for California as part of any new legislative water plan, as reported by the Fresno Bee.

Now what is crucial is that it actually becomes legislation.

An excerpt.

“SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday said he will reject any proposal to overhaul state water policy that fails to include funding for new dams.

“The governor made his comments Tuesday outside the Capitol as lawmakers were holding a hearing on a package of bills intended to upgrade California's decades-old water-delivery system.

“Schwarzenegger and lawmakers from both parties have made water-related issues a top priority now that the state's fiscal mess has been addressed. Yet the legislative package before lawmakers this week was written by Democrats and omits funding to build reservoirs, prompting critical comments Tuesday from GOP lawmakers and the Republican governor.

“Schwarzenegger has joined Republican lawmakers and some Democrats who represent districts in the Central Valley in pushing for dams and expanding underground water storage.

"I will not sign anything that does not have above-the-ground and below-the-ground water storage," Schwarzenegger said during a news conference on the steps of the Capitol, surrounded by Central Valley farm workers bused to Sacramento for the day. "We need a whole package to restore our water today and ensure that we have water for tomorrow."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Climate Change Modeling Tools

The tools used to determine climate change by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were recently applied to a previous warming period, and the results indicate we may, wisely, step back from basing too many major policy decisions—especially those impacting our struggling economy—on their conclusions.

An excerpt from the article by Pacific Research Institute.

“A recent study of paleoclimate, the results of which appear in the August issue of Nature Geoscience, finds that today’s climate models do not accurately predict the most similar previous episode of climate warming in the geologic record. While this should not cast doubt on the value of climate models in tools to analyze drivers and projections of climate change, the study does point out that our understanding of climate dynamics remains imperfect.

“The authors of the study, Carbon dioxide forcing alone insufficient to explain Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum warming, include Richard E. Zeebe of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, Department of Oceanography, University of Hawaii at Manoa; James C. Zachos of the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department, University of California, Santa Cruz; and Gerald R. Dickens of the Department of Earth Sciences, Rice University. Their research focused on the models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to generate climate projections.

“In an analysis of proxy climate data from the geologic ocean sediment records, the researchers studied the ability of these models to replicate the warming observed during the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a period of 5-9 degree C warming that occurred about 55 million years ago. The researchers found that the models predicted only about half of the observed warming, indicating that an additional mechanism, beyond carbon dioxide concentrations, was responsible for a significant amount of the warming during that period.

“The PETM was not, of course, exactly the same sort of conditions we have today. Conditions at the beginning of the warming trend were different, with initial CO2 concentrations strikingly higher, for reasons that are not known. For the most part, there were no large amounts of ice on the earth’s surface during the PETM, and the energy dynamics of ice are significant. Nonetheless, the inability of the climate models adequately to capture a previous episode of climate change does suggest that our models are missing potentially key relationships.”

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tent City in Sacramento

While certainly understanding and agreeing with the idea that those who are struggling to remove themselves from being homeless need the help of the community—an issue we addressed by offering one solution (tailored for Sacramento) that is working in other parts of the country in our 2005 report, (pp. 32-37); the project currently being proposed, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, seems directed towards the chronic homeless who will, by the very definition of chronic homelessness, be very resistant to even moving into the structured tent city and it will possibly wind up becoming a permanent encampment, probably located near the Parkway and existing homeless services, further degrading those areas.

A post regarding an article about the daily life among the homeless in Sacramento’s tent city in 2008, will help put what is being proposed into context, as it has an excerpt from the very revealing article from Sacramento News & Review that should be required reading by those public leaders making the decision to create a permanent tent city here.

And, finally, still about the best thing written about the homeless in America are the two chapters, Chapter 4: The Homeless, and Chapter 5: Homelessness and Liberty, in the book by Myron Magnet: The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties’ Legacy to the Underclass.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“City leaders, business owners and homeless advocates have crafted a plan to create a legal "safe ground" where people without permanent housing could camp without police interference.

“A task force assembled by Mayor Kevin Johnson has drafted a report outlining a campground that would house up to 60 people and offer basic amenities such as running water and garbage pickup. The camp would be run by a governing board of homeless people, with the help of a social worker or case manager, and would have strict rules against drug and alcohol use and violence.

“According to an early version of the plan, completed last week and obtained by The Bee, the program would serve as a temporary step toward permanent housing for chronically homeless people. Residents would stay for a maximum of 18 months.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Industrial City

Though the creative cities approach to urban planning has become the rage, and deservedly so—there is still a foundational role to be played by manufacturing, and this article from New Geography looks at that role.

An excerpt.

“Yet to remain both a prosperous and fair society, the United States must remain a manufacturing power. Manufacturing still provides the traditional route to middle class wages for those without college degrees. It also alone employs 25 percent of scientists and related technicians and 40 percent of engineers and engineering technicians.

“Of course, the next wave of manufacturing will differ greatly from the past. Improvements in productivity and global competition mean a bleak future for large scale, low value-added, routinized production. The era where an assembly plant provided thousands of good jobs at good wages is a thing of the past other than for the lucky few. And where there are new factories, they are often in greenfield locations like the new Honda plant in Greensburg, Indiana – halfway between Indianapolis and Cincinnati – not urban centers. Polluting heavy industry like primary metals and refining really are incompatible with neighborhoods. So what is to be done?

“One answer is to build a new industrial city focusing on small scale craft and specialty manufacturing with high value added. We're seeing a precursor to this in the rise of organic farming and artisanal products of all kinds. TV shows featuring hip young carpenters renovating homes or gearheads tricking out cars and motorcycles make these professions seem glamorous. Magazines targeted at the global elite like Monocle scour the world in favor of the finest handcrafted products from old school workshops, building demand for these products. The New York Times Magazine recently did an article making the case for working with your hands, and also noted how digitally oriented designers are rediscovering the use of their hands. Perhaps it is no surprise that sociologist Richard Sennett turned his attention to the idea of the craftsman . In short, making things, craftsmanship, and quality are back in fashion.

“The challenge for urban economies is to develop this and put it on a sound industrial and economic footing. One key might be to inspire people to start these craft oriented businesses by tapping into people's desire to purchase ethical and sustainable products. We increasingly see with foods and other items that people want to understand their provenance, to know who made them, how, with what, and under what conditions. Often today businesses catering to this desire are small scale “Mom and Pop” type operations, but there is no reason they can't be done at greater scale, or expanded into areas like organic food processing, not just organic farming. American Apparel has done just that by manufacturing low cost, stylish clothing “Made in Downtown Los Angeles. Sweatshop Free.” at scale, for example.”

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Kevin Starr on California

The great historian and one of the most astute observers of our fair state was interviewed recently by Capital Public Radio, as their press release notes.

An excerpt.

“Aired 8/14/2009 on All Things Considered

“(Sacramento, CA)

“State lawmakers face some big challenges ahead as they return to work Monday (08.17.09) following a three-week summer recess.

“They’ll be focused on the state’s overcrowded prison system, budget constraints, and possibly the elusive issue of water.

“But, a historian says another enormous task lies ahead: getting California out of the recession and restoring the state as a land of opportunity.

“Kevin Starr is a former state librarian who’s written a series of eight books on California history. His latest book was just published and it focuses on California’s so-called “Age of Abundance” from 1950 to 1963.

“Starr recently spoke with Capital Public Radio's Steve Shadley.”

Monday, August 17, 2009

Water, Water, Everywhere, Except…

to the farms that need it.

80%—95% in the Sierras—of normal rainfall is usually not considered a drought, but federal regulations from the Endangered Species Act have determined otherwise, as this article from the Wall Street Journal notes.

An excerpt.

“In 1931, a severe drought began that within a few years engulfed the Oklahoma panhandle and a third of the Great Plains in a "Dust Bowl." Tens of thousands of people fled the region—many traveling to California along Route 66, which John Steinbeck called "the mother road, the road of flight" in "The Grapes of Wrath."

“A lot of the "Okies" settled in the San Joaquin Valley. In the decades that followed, state and federal officials built dams and other irrigation projects that helped turn the valley into some of the world's richest farmland.

“But today the San Joaquin Valley is being transformed into a dust bowl. Hundreds of thousands of acres are fallow, while almond and plum trees are being left to die in the scorching sun. Tens of thousands of people have been tossed out of work—the town of Mendota alone has an unemployment rate of about 40%—and the lines for food donations stretch down streets. The reason? There isn't enough water to go around this year, and the Obama administration is drawing up new reasons to divert more of it from farms and people and into the San Francisco Bay.

“The valley has traditionally been a place where someone with few belongings, little education and even no ability to speak English could prosper by picking grapes, milking cows, or hoeing cotton fields. The hearty people who came here were Portuguese, Mexican, Armenian, Italian, Basque and Dutch, along with westward-traveling Americans and Okies. More recent arrivals are from El Salvador, Vietnam and India. I am the product of a Portuguese family that came decades ago.

“California has the largest water storage and transportation system in the world. With 1,200 miles of canals and nearly 50 reservoirs, the system captures enough water to irrigate about four million acres and provide water to 23 million people. In many cases, as with the San Joaquin Valley, water in this system is sold to communities by the federal government.

“Some claim that California is facing a three-year-old drought. But, according to the state's Department of Water Resources, California reservoirs have received 80% of their normal amount of water and precipitation in the northern Sierras has been 95% of its yearly average this year. So why isn't there more water for farms? Because theirs is a regulatory-mandated drought. The 1973 Endangered Species Act requires that the government take steps to save endangered species. In California, that's meant diverting vast sums of water into rivers and streams to protect fish. Those diversions this year have forced federal authorities to decide who to serve—fish or farmers.”

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Parkway Rangers Report

The monthly rangers report is available at the Sacramento County Parks webpage, and includes 3 deaths, a sexual battery and an indecent exposure, assault and battery, many car breakins and assorted thefts.

Be careful out there!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


In the environmental arena where the growing demand for energy results in public leadership examining the trade-offs certain strategies present, it is difficult when the energy creation strategy environmentalists accept, needs a energy delivery technology they (along with land-owners in this case) don’t accept.

This always receding-goal-post form of argument has created a clogged system where even good ideas can be derailed unnecessarily, and it is when the skill of public leadership is most sought, but rarely found.

This scenario is outlined in this story from the San Francisco Chronicle.

An excerpt.

“A new state report tries to tackle one of the touchiest issues in California's effort to expand renewable power, suggesting possible routes for new transmission lines to carry electricity from wind farms and solar plants.

“Power lines often generate intense opposition from environmentalists and landowners. But without new lines, the solar power plants and wind farms planned throughout California won't be able to ship their electricity to the towns and cities that need it.

“So several state agencies, electrical utilities, renewable power developers and environmental groups have joined together to figure out where to put new lines, hoping to prevent public fights. The effort, called the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative, released its latest report this week.

“The report examines where transmission lines are needed most, will cost the least and will cause the least harm to the environment. It doesn't recommend exact routes, nor does it specify how many lines must be built.

“Instead, it presents options, suggesting broad pathways for lines that can link planned renewable power projects to the grid. Most of the proposed lines are in the Southern California desert, while one stretches to the Oregon border.”

Friday, August 14, 2009

Parks & Funding

As government and the private sector struggle out of the recession there are many valuable strategies to be examined that can be of significant help in relation to our parks.

For sustaining signature parks like the American River Parkway, the creation of a Joint Powers Authority (JPA)—already being discussed—followed by the creation of a nonprofit conservancy for management and supplemental fund raising is a fiscally smart way to proceed.

For other parks, whose value is recognized, but not at the level where such a strategy could be worthwhile, other options for funding stability could be examined, such as a classical public/private partnership where private enterprise is allowed to seek profit while retaining the public use.

In cases where the public usage may not justify maintaining park status, sale of the public asset could be a strategy that would offer something of triple value for government by realizing a profit from the sale, and savings of funds no longer needed for management and maintenance, plus the increase in the tax base from the private development that could occur in the sold land.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Salmon Fishing

We are very fortunate to live in an area where some of the best fishing in the world is just a few hours away, as reported in this article from the Sacramento Bee, and though our local salmon fishing is not doing well right now, there are options, and a major option is to expand the hatchery technology which is already playing a major role in the salmon fishery.

American River salmon are a central part of the allure of the Parkway but with the settlement of people in the valley and the continued growth of our region; the need for dams to hold back the flood waters and provide for additional water storage became a priority, and to retain the salmon in the river, hatcheries are used.

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

Here is an informative post on the impact of hatcheries.

Here is an excerpt from the article from the Sacramento Bee.

“Our guide uttered the magic words on the drive home from a lackluster striped-bass fishing trip on the Sacramento River.

“For my boyfriend, Hank Shaw – who is obsessed with cooking – the abracadabra moment came with a description of the fish: "They're so fat it's like they come with their own butter."

“I was hypnotized by a description of the river: "The water is so clear you can see 20 feet down. Sometimes you can see the fish coming in to take your bait. And some days you don't see anyone else on the water."

"We're in," we told Jon Harrison of Five Rivers Guide Service in Orangevale. We were going salmon fishing on the Trinity River.

“Salmon fishing was becoming a distant memory for us with the unexpected collapse of the Sacramento River Chinook salmon run in fall 2007. The fish count inexplicably plunged to barely half of what was needed for a sustainable population. State and federal agencies responded by drastically curtailing salmon fishing in 2008, and again this year.

“But salmon runs on the Klamath River and its tributary, the Trinity, are in better shape, so riches await anyone willing to make the 3½-hour trip north. And for Harrison, nothing compares to the Trinity.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tent Cities

During tough economic times it is hard to be properly discerning about the stories connected to homelessness and the need for tent cities, as it may well be that many of the homeless are so as a result of the tough times.

We have several posts on this, here, here, and here.

However, during the very beginning of the national conflagration about tent cities that began in Sacramento after Oprah’s show, a local homelessness professional estimated that less than ten per cent of the homeless were connected to the economy and the rest were the chronic homeless we have been dealing with for years.

One of our members says that the situation in the Parkway is “all bad, back to the old days” which is the status of large and virtually unregulated camp sites in the North Sacramento area of the Parkway, adding to the crime in adjoining neighborhoods, and continuing the inability of the surrounding community to enter their area of the Parkway safely.

This article in the Wall Street Journal takes a look at tent cities, and Sacramento gets some prominence.

An excerpt.

“Nashville is one of several U.S. cities that these days are accommodating the homeless and their encampments, instead of dispersing them. With local shelters at capacity, "there is no place to put them," said Clifton Harris, director of Nashville's Metropolitan Homeless Commission, says of tent-city dwellers.

"In Florida, Hillsborough County plans to consider a proposal Tuesday by Catholic Charities to run an emergency tent city in Tampa for more than 200 people. Dave Rogoff, the county health and services director, said he preferred to see a "hard roof over people's heads." But that takes real money, he said: "We're trying to cut $110 million out of next year's budget."

"Ontario, a city of 175,000 residents about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, provides guards and basic city services for a tent city on public land.

"A church in Lacey, Wash., near the state capital of Olympia, recently started a homeless camp in its parking lot after the city changed local ordinances to permit it. The City Council in Ventura, Calif., last month revised its laws to permit sleeping in cars overnight in some areas. City Manager Rick Cole said most of the car campers are temporarily unemployed, "and in this economy, temporary can go on a long time."…

“After years of enforcing a tough anticamping law to break up homeless clusters, Sacramento recently formed a task force to look into designating homeless tracts because shelters are overflowing. One refuge in the California capital, St. John's Shelter for Women and Children, is turning away about 350 people a night, compared with 25 two years ago, said executive director Michele Steeb….

“Some homeless are battling mental illness or addictions, or both. Municipal officials in the U.S. acknowledge the tent cities can breed crime and unsanitary conditions, but with public shelter scarce, they say they have to weigh whether to spend police time to break up encampments that are likely to resurface elsewhere.

“Pastors in Champaign, Ill., last week asked the City Council to allow people to live in organized tent communities of as many as 50 people. Legalizing the camps is more compassionate and cost-effective than forcing "poor people who are camping because they have a lack of better choices to constantly have to fear being rousted and cited by police," says Joan Burke, advocacy director for Sacramento Loaves & Fishes, a homeless-assistance agency.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Delta Update

In this update from the Delta Vision Foundation, a crucial piece is the lack—so far—of establishing the independence of the Delta Stewardship Council, which is very important to ensure.

As we have seen, regrettably, with some of the nonprofit advocacy organizations connected to the Parkway, a lack of independence often impacts the quality of public policy and strategic management advice being offered to the community and the governing entities, and that is not a good thing.

An excerpt.

“On Thursday, August 6, members of the Delta Vision Foundation (formerly the Governor's Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force) released an assessment of "pre-print" bills in the California Legislature that address the ongoing crisis in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

"The Foundation analysis findings include:
1. All seven goals of the Delta Vision Strategic Plan are addressed in the package of bills.
2. The independence of the proposed Delta Stewardship Council is not explicit, nor are provisions included ensuring that independence.
3. While the bills include effective provisions for ecosystem restoration, they fail to include targets for acreage of habitat for restoration.
4. The bills include useful additional proposals consistent with the Delta Vision Strategic Plan, including the creation of a Delta Water Master as an agent of the State Water Resources Control Board.

“On August 4, 2009, several bills that address the ongoing crisis in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta were released in preprint form. As a set, these are strong bills that build on the Delta Vision Strategic Plan (adopted October 2008), but can be improved with limited changes. The seven goals of the Delta Vision Strategic Plan are addressed, and almost all of the Delta Vision Strategic Plan strategies and many action recommendations are incorporated in the proposed legislation. For more information, see the following Assessment of Preprint Delta and Water Bills.”

Monday, August 10, 2009

County Funding & the Parkway

Parks, traditionally at the end of the line for funding, will suffer even more it appears; as County funding seems to be shrinking once again, as reported by the Sacramento Bee.

Fortunately, the planning for an eventual Joint Powers Authority (JPA) is underway that might possibly include Sacramento County, the cities of Folsom, Rancho Cordova, and Sacramento, and the Cal Expo area, (10% of the Parkway is within Cal Expo, which is owned by the state).

If the JPA is formed, our suggestion is for the JPA to create a nonprofit 501 c (3) organization to take responsibility for daily management and philanthropic fund raising to supplement Parkway funding, as noted in this earlier post.

An excerpt from the Bee story.

“Sacramento County's general fund shortfall – which has become a moving target over the past year – has jumped to $50.5 million, the Board of Supervisors learned Tuesday.

“Just a week earlier, the deficit was set at $37.6 million. Only weeks before that, the board had cut programs and laid off hundreds of employees to balance the previous fiscal year's budget.

“Tuesday's report from Chief Operations Officer Nav Gill helped drive home the realization that more job and program cuts will come in the months ahead.”

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Academics & Farmers

A group of very highly educated researchers, which says in its organizational overview that, “Our aim is to find real-world solutions to problems like water shortages, habitat destruction, global warming, and environmental injustice.” has apparently encountered the real-world of farmers in this story from the Woodland Daily Democrat.

An expert.

“Claims that California farmers can conserve more than 4-million acre-feet of water in a report scheduled for release this week lack any relationship to reality, according to the largest farm water organization in the state.

“The report was compiled by the Pacific Institute, which issued a similar report last year that was heavily criticized by representatives from the University of California and California State University systems.

“The assertion that California farmers can conserve 4-million acre-feet of water is absurd and borders on pie in the sky reasoning. The report clearly demonstrates that its authors lack a thorough understanding of California agriculture or the markets that our farmers serve around the world.

“The report, for example, calls for a shift from field crops to vegetable crops. This scenario totally ignores market demands, which are the things that dictate what crops a farmer grows.

“If our farmers follow the institute's suggestion then grocery stores would be glutted with more vegetables than anyone wants to buy. Prices would collapse and the crops would be wasted. This new report bears no resemblance to reality.”

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Downtowns as Cultural/Civic Centers

An excellent article from New Geography about the emergence of downtowns as cultural and civic centers, rather than the economic and job centers they were previously considered to be and many feel should become again.

From our region, the historic downtown of Folsom is nicely profiled.

An excerpt.

“There's been a torrent of spirited banter lately about the reemergence of downtown central-cities. Much of this raucous debate is between advocates of urban revitalization, who offer an assortment of anti-sprawl messages as justification for this movement, and those who see suburban growth options as essential to quality of life in America. Adding to the fray are environmentalists who see housing density and alternative forms of transportation as the panacea for confronting our carbon-choked world. Downtown central-cities, they say, will incentivize citizens to relinquish their cars in favor of bikes and walking paths.

“These discussions largely ignore a greater significance to the reemergence of central-cities; namely, the recognition of downtowns as the epicenter of civic and cultural activity. This represents a shift away from the traditional concept – barely a century old and now antiquated – of downtown as predominately an economic and job center hub….

“Folsom, California, is indicative of a suburban community that fosters civic ties and activities through its historic downtown district. With a population of 70,000 this city located in the eastern portion of rapidly growing Sacramento County draws an eclectic crowd to its old town boardwalk setting replete with saloons, outdoor restaurants, and antique stores. The downtown core also serves as a gathering post for legions of bicyclists who have helped shape Folsom into one of the top bicycling communities in the nation.

“During summer, downtown Folsom hums with activity generated by two weekly events: Thursday Night Market, featuring live music, food and shopping, and the Sunday Farmers Market, where frequenters can purchase fresh, locally grown food from area farmers. Plans are afoot for a street-scape improvement and a storefront restoration – projects that are designed to preserve historic elements while enhancing the city's tourism desirability. Also in the works are mixed-use housing units and a restaurant that incorporates a railroad roundabout. All of this comes on the heels of a new parking structure and ice-skating rink, which debuted last year.”

Friday, August 07, 2009

Economic Good News

While there are few good stories about the current financial recession we are caught in, there is one bit of good news, and that is the reduction in government spending at all levels—based on the concept that government serves best that spends less, except for the crucial area of public safety—and we are now, as a state, close to per capita spending that we last saw a decade or so ago, and that is very good news.

An excerpt from the story in the San Franciso Chronicle.

“California's spending boomed in recent years - from $38.9 billion in 1993 to $102.9 billion in 2008 - as lawmakers poured increasing amounts of money into state services.

“But a crash in revenue collection that began 19 months ago forced lawmakers in the past two years to make the deepest cuts to the state's discretionary fund in the history of the Golden State.

“Today, general fund spending stands at $84.5 billion and the state's per capita spending is $2,301 - down to what the state was spending per person 11 years ago, when adjusted for inflation, a Chronicle analysis of general fund budgets over the past 20 years found.

“Spending is likely to continue to plunge in the coming years.”

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Technology Helping People

In the midst of environmentalist calls to restrain the use of nuclear technology, a technology which has been of overwhelming benefit to humanity, comes another benefit few of us think about—until we desperately need the testing using radioisotopes produced from nuclear reactor technology, as this article from the Sacramento Bee notes.

An excerpt.

“In Sacramento-area hospitals, important diagnostic tests are becoming costlier, slower and tougher to arrange because of a worldwide shortage of one of the most common medical radioisotopes.

“Doctors use technetium-99m to study whether breast or prostate cancer has spread to the bones, to detect potentially lethal blood clots or infections, and to peer into a beating heart to see how well it's working.

“Alternative ways to conduct most of those studies often cost more or take more time to perform. Some have more side effects.

"This has impacted a lot of hospitals pretty significantly," said Dr. David Shelton, chief of nuclear medicine at UC Davis Medical Center. "We're expecting it's going to get worse in the next couple of weeks."

“Nationwide, with distribution of technetium likely to be uneven for a few months, "it's possible some deaths could occur," said Dr. Michael Graham, president of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and a University of Iowa professor.

“Fatal misdiagnoses are unlikely, he added, but cannot be ruled out amid dwindling supplies of a tool used to study the liver, gallbladder, lungs, kidneys and more.

“Technetium is running short because two of the biggest reactors that make its precursor product are shut down, one to fix a leak and another for routine maintenance.”

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Santa Fe Railyard Park

Though quite a bit smaller than our planned railyard development, what Santa Fe has done with their old railyard, called simply, The Railyard, as reported in this article from Land and People magazine, is absolutely wonderful.

An excerpt.

“The public areas of the railyard property include the park and a connecting appendage known as the Alameda, which includes a one-acre plaza. The railyard dictated the linear nature of the site, which the design team put to good use. The sweep of the Alameda is bordered by the outdoor sheds of the seasonal farmers market and embellished at intervals with benches and tables, newly planted trees, and a round cedar water tower. The tracks of a new commuter rail line run down the center. The whole evokes railyards of the past, minus the industrial harshness and softened by adjoining narrow streets and sidewalks.” (p. 41)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Philanthropy, Pools & The Parkway

The charitable actions of the local community, as reported in the Sacramento Bee, have helped save open swimming hours at local pools that were scheduled to be shuttered, revealing the open hearts of the community amid tough financial times for the government.

While this is very commendable, it is unfortunate that it probably will not be sustainable over the long haul and one hopes the government funding is able to resume soon.

Building long term sustainability for supplemental funding for publically owned resources requires—in addition to forming a 501 © (3) nonprofit organization independent of government to accept tax deductible donations—professional leadership of the nonprofit utilizing all of the many methods of fund raising on a consistent and innovative basis over the long term.

Fortunately, there are now many graduate degree programs in nonprofit management as well as many experienced nonprofit executives that could be recruited to manage the nonprofit organization we suggest be created to provide supplemental funding for the Parkway, which can be read about in our press release of last month.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“Open swim times have been revived at two Sacramento pools where funding went down the drain in June, the result of fundraising and financial help from the City Council.

“The cutbacks in pool hours were part of an $8 million hit to the city's Parks and Recreation Department budget. City pools remained open for lessons and specialized programs, but recreational swim times were curtailed.

“The biggest transformation has occurred in the River Park neighborhood of east Sacramento, where the pool at Glenn Hall Park went from being shuttered in early July to offering 10 hours of recreational swim a week a few weeks later.

“And thanks to an $18,000 infusion from a local church, neighborhood residents and City Councilman Steve Cohn, hours for recreational swim will expand to 14 hours a week this month.”

Monday, August 03, 2009

Delta Tunnel

Going under the Delta to move water around the state is being studied, according to this article from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

It is always good to see our state government stretching to embrace advanced technological solutions to the problem of storing and moving water.

An excerpt.

“' — SACRAMENTO – A possible answer to Southern California's water-delivery woes has emerged right underfoot, literally.

“The state Department of Water Resources is exploring the price and engineering challenges associated with digging a roughly 35-mile tunnel under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to bring more supplies to Southern California.

“We don't have the costs worked out,” said Lester Snow, California's water chief. “We have to look at the trade-off between the extra costs of tunneling and how it compares to a canal.”

“Although still in its early stages, the tunnel proposal intrigues water managers frustrated by the inability to secure sufficient supplies – especially during the state's prolonged drought – and worried that they may never overcome fierce resistance to building a new above-ground canal.

“In 1982, voters rejected a measure to construct the 43-mile Peripheral Canal designed to move water through the delta and toward thirsty cities and farms.

“In recent years, opposition to a smaller canal has softened somewhat as drought and regulations meant to protect endangered fish have greatly limited the amount of water pumped south.

“The delta, an estuary encompassing 1,100 miles of waterways, is near collapse. The fishery is troubled, some levees are crumbling, waterways are becoming polluted, and valuable farmland is subsiding.

“But tens of millions of people rely on the delta as a prime distribution channel. About one-third of the San Diego region's water supplies and two-thirds of the state's flow through it.

“The tunnel alternative offers some benefits, particularly by limiting the number of properties that would have to be condemned along the canal route, Snow said. Going underground also could be less harmful to fish and wildlife.”

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Budget Success?

While legislators are complimenting themselves on the budget success, the troubles ahead are ominous, as reported in the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt.

“California has avoided fiscal reality for so long it’s fitting that the state legislature reverted to subterfuge last week while voting for its third budget deal in nine months.

“Part of the latest deal—which depends in equal part on real cuts and accounting gimmicks to close a $26 billion gap—was a proposal to raise revenue by allowing new oil drilling off of existing platforms near Santa Barbara. It was a move that had been endorsed by that county’s own board of supervisors last year. But environmentalists and 43% of voters remain fiercely opposed, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

“The measure cleared the State Senate a week ago Friday and moved over to the Assembly. There Democratic Assembly Speaker Karen Bass admitted she couldn’t find enough votes for the oil-drilling lease. Thanks to the environmental lobby, it mustered only three Democratic votes and was defeated 43 to 28 with nine abstentions.

“Then things got weird. A motion to expunge the vote from the public record was made by Democratic floor leader Alberto Torrico and was approved by voice vote. It disappeared from the public record as if it had been erased, in an effort to hide their decision from voters.

“George Orwell would be proud,” GOP Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, who authored the drilling provision, told the newsletter Capitol Weekly. “It sure went down the memory hole, didn’t it?” Only one tape of the proceedings—CalChannel (the state’s version of C-SPAN)—still exists to prove it happened.

“This vote scrubbing is symbolic of the lengths to which California’s leaders went to paper over the state’s deficit. Some $1.2 billion of the money “saved” in the budget deal comes from simply shifting the day state workers get paid by one day into the next fiscal year. Cities and counties will sue to declare the state’s $3.2 billion raid on their property tax revenue unconstitutional, and they might well win in court. And the state could likely see another $6 billion to $8 billion deficit open up as early as October, forcing a new budget Band-Aid.”

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Cleaning up the Parkway

This grant—and great project—would have probably been better directed to the parents of the homeless children, as getting the homeless involved in cleaning up public space has proven to be a valuable tool for getting people out of homelessness and into a more productive life, as we noted in our policy suggestion in our 2005 research report, The American River Parkway Lower Reach Area: A Corroded Crown Jewel; Restoring the Luster, A Conceptual and Policy Primer (pp. 34-36)

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee article.

“Not long ago, they were homeless, though they don't much like to talk about that.

“Now a group of young people who live with their families at Serna Village – a housing program at McClellan Park – have decided to help spruce up the American River Parkway.

“Their first step was simply to pick up trash along a one-mile stretch of the river.

“Then they received an $8,000 grant from the parkway foundation to build a family-friendly picnic site at Tiscornia Park, a county park across the Jibboom Street Bridge from Discovery Park.

“Working with the county's Regional Parks Department and Teichert Construction, they plan to pour cement slabs, build wheelchair-accessible walkways and install a picnic table and ash pit. The project is scheduled to be finished in November.”