Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Slums, Tent Cities, & Hope

In a local environment where the tent city along the American River has become international news after its exposure on the Oprah Show, calling forth the mayor and governor to proclaim that they will fix the problem, it is productive to take a longer look at the issue of housing for the poor of the world, and this article about the world’s slums, from City Journal, is instructive.

An excerpt.

“Close to 120 years have passed since Jacob Riis published How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York. Using stereoscopic camera, magnesium flash powder, and riveting language, the Danish-born onetime crime reporter seared bleak, iconic images of New York’s low-income neighborhoods into the American consciousness. Though today Riis is almost universally celebrated—new biographies continue to appear—he helped set housing policy on a course that would prove tragically misguided. In particular, he inspired a range of government policies that viewed slums as bleak wastelands that transformed their residents into paupers and criminals and therefore had to be radically changed or eradicated.

“The problems that Riis and the housing-reform movement sparked are still relevant today, since slums, unlike many ills that worried nineteenth-century social reformers, remain very much with us. Indeed, their scale in the developing world dwarfs that of Riis-era New York. The United Nations estimates that in 2001, 924 million people, or 31.6 percent of the world’s urban population, lived in slums; the number today surely exceeds 1 billion. As Planet of Slums author Mike Davis writes, residents of the new slums constitute the “fastest-growing and most unprecedented social class on earth.”

“The harrowing descriptions of the conditions in Third World slums in a tide of recent books on the subject, including Davis’s, are in the Riis tradition. But the books’ overall assessments and reform prescriptions often are decidedly not. A relative consensus has formed about how best to address the new slums’ problems, and surprisingly, it appreciates what the UN calls the “positive” elements of slum life, shaped by a population characterized not as oppressed and helpless but as resourceful and creative. Journalist Robert Neuwirth, for instance, extols slums as places where “squatters mix more concrete than any developer. They lay more brick than any government. They have created a huge hidden economy. . . . [They] are the largest builders of housing in the world—and they are creating the cities of tomorrow.” In keeping with this encouraging trend, the UN even describes the Third World’s informal settlements as “slums of hope.”

“What, exactly, are slums? Some, especially in the developed world, are once-affluent neighborhoods gone to ruin; others were once public housing. But most are gigantic, tightly packed concentrations of flimsy shacks and shanties that rural migrants have built on the outskirts of cities—what the UN calls “vast informal settlements that are quickly becoming the visual expression of urban poverty.”

“Most of these settlements are in the developing world. Of the 924 million slum dwellers worldwide in 2001, 554 million lived in Asia, in such cities as Mumbai and Kolkata in India and Karachi in Pakistan. Another 187 million lived in Africa, in places like Cairo, Durban, Johannesburg, and Nairobi. And 128 million lived in Latin America and the Caribbean (famously, in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo). Only 54 million were in developed countries.”

Monday, March 30, 2009

Great Mayors and Great Cities

Here is a nice article from Project for Public Spaces which looks at how the mayor’s office can play the leading role in remaking a city and creating a truly great place congruent with a city’s history and assets, with parks playing a major role.

With the election of a new mayor this past November and the obvious need to help remake the city, from lower K Street to the lower area of the American River Parkway within the city limits, two of Sacramento’s greatest assets but currently two of the least safe places for families to visit, it is a timely article.

An excerpt.

“Here's how Joseph Riley Jr.—who has been at the helm in Charleston, South Carolina, for 30 years, making him one of America’s longest-serving mayors—describes the job: “You have a personal relationship with people. You pick up their garbage. You make them feel safe. You try to help them when they are in trouble. It’s a chance to do things directly for people—for the poorest person in town as well as the rich.”

“No one would cast Riley, a small, dignified man who speaks with a soft voice, in the role of a political powerbroker. Yet he has reshaped this city of 105,000 to such an extent that few who knew it in the 1970s— as a poor, racially torn backwater that had lost hope in the future—would recognize it today.

“Riley vigorously led Charleston’s turnaround by paying careful attention to the strong sense of place that characterizes this city. He has preserved the city’s historic qualities, and even improved upon things with charming new parks, developments and attractions that blend in with the classic 18th- and 19th-century architecture everyone loves. Charleston is also known around the world for its springtime Spoleto arts festival, which Riley brought to town in partnership with the famous Italian composer and impresario Gian Carlo Menotti.

“For most Charlestonians, however, these accomplishments pale in comparison to Riley’s leadership during the devastating Hurricane Hugo of 1989. After ordering an all-out evacuation, Riley and city staff helped people flee to safety and stayed behind to protect the city. Almost as soon as the winds died, he launched a full-force program to make Charleston “more beautiful and vital than ever.” The triumph of Riley’s rebuilding efforts can be seen in the delighted smiles of tourists who come from all over the U.S. to wander the city’s streets and in the envious looks of other mayors who come to learn Charleston’s secret at the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, which Riley founded in 1986.”

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Nonprofit Funding Models

This is an excellent article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review that can stimulate thinking about nonprofits and, for nonprofit leaders, can provide some guidance on the reality that nonprofits are always in two types of work, that of their mission, and that of raising funds to support their mission.

And though there are some models left out, it is a good introduction to thinking about nonprofits in this important way.

An excerpt.

“Money is a constant topic of conversation among nonprofit leaders: How much do we need? Where can we find it? Why isn’t there more of it? In tough economic times, these types of questions become more frequent and pressing. Unfortunately, the answers are not readily available. That’s because nonprofit leaders are much more sophisticated about creating programs than they are about funding their organizations, and philanthropists often struggle to understand the impact (and limitations) of their donations.

“There are consequences to this financial fuzziness. When nonprofits and funding sources are not well matched, money doesn’t flow to the areas where it will do the greatest good. Too often, the result is that promising programs are cut, curtailed, or never launched. And when dollars become tight, a chaotic fundraising scramble is all the more likely to ensue.

“In the for-profit world, by contrast, there is a much higher degree of clarity on financial issues. This is particularly true when it comes to understanding how different businesses operate, which can be encapsulated in a set of principles known as business models. Although there is no definitive list of corporate business models,2 there is enough agreement about what they mean that investors and executives alike can engage in sophisticated conversations about any given company’s strategy. When a person says that a company is a “low-cost provider” or a “fast follower,” the main outlines of how that company operates are pretty clear. Similarly, stating that a company is using “the razor and the razor blade” model describes a type of ongoing customer relationship that applies far beyond shaving products.

“The value of such shorthand is that it allows business leaders to articulate quickly and clearly how they will succeed in the marketplace, and it allows investors to quiz executives more easily about how they intend to make money. This back-and-forth increases the odds that businesses will succeed, investors will make money, and everyone will learn more from their experiences.

“The nonprofit world rarely engages in equally clear and succinct conversations about an organization’s long- term funding strategy. That is because the different types of funding that fuel nonprofits have never been clearly defined.3 More than a poverty of language, this represents—and results in—a poverty of understanding and clear thinking.

“Through our research, we have identified 10 nonprofit models that are commonly used by the largest nonprofits in the United States. (See “Funding Models” on page 37.) Our intent is not to prescribe a single approach for a given nonprofit to pursue. Instead, we hope to help nonprofit leaders articulate more clearly the models that they believe could support the growth of their organizations, and use that insight to examine the potential and constraints associated with those models.


One reason why the nonprofit sector has not developed its own lexicon of funding models is that running a nonprofit is generally more complicated than running a comparable size for-profit business. When a for-profit business finds a way to create value for a customer, it has generally found its source of revenue; the customer pays for the value. With rare exceptions, that is not true in the nonprofit sector. When a nonprofit finds a way to create value for a beneficiary (for example, integrating a prisoner back into society or saving an endangered species), it has not identified its economic engine. That is a separate step.”

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Rancho Cordova Bond Ratings

One of our local cities is doing well financially, as reported by the Rancho Cordova Post.

An excerpt.

“A report issued by financial leader Standard & Poor’s, upgrades the City of Rancho Cordova by two steps to an A+ rating. “This is outstanding news for such a new city, especially in trying economic times,” said Dan Skoglund, Mayor of Rancho Cordova.

“This is a great recognition of the hard and conscientious work of our City Manager, Ted Gaebler, our Finance Director, Donna Silva, and the rest of the staff who works day in and day out to make our city fiscally sound,” the Mayor continued.

“This boost in our bond rating is a tribute to our staff and Council,” said Ted Gaebler, City Manager. “This is a strong and thriving city which is especially significant in light of the downgrading of the State’s credit rating.” Standard and Poor’s downgraded the State of California to an A in February and Fitch just reported a downgrading on the State from A1 to A2. California now has the lowest bond rating in the nation.”

Friday, March 27, 2009

Urban/Suburban Migration

In this column from Wendell Cox the recent report from the census Bureau is reviewed.

One fact that turned up is that the Sacramento metro region grew by 300,000.

An excerpt.

“The Bureau of the Census has just released metropolitan and county population estimates for 2008, with estimates of the components of population change, including domestic migration. Consistent with the “mantra” of a perceived return to cities from the suburbs, some analysts have virtually declared the new data as indicating the trend that has been forecast for more than one-half a century. In fact, the new population and domestic migration data merely indicates the end of a domestic migration bubble, coinciding with the end of the housing bubble.

“Metropolitan Area Growth: As usual, the metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 population increased above the national rate of 7.8 percent, at 9.2 percent from 2000 to 2008. Smaller metropolitan areas (between 50,000 and 1,000,000 population) grew at the national rate of 7.8 percent. Also continuing a long-standing pattern, areas outside metropolitan areas (including rural areas) grew slower, at only 0.7 percent (Table 1).

“The overall trends, however, mask significant variations. The nation’s two metropolitan areas with more than 10,000,000 population are experiencing growth rates less than one-half the national average. New York grew only 3.6 percent, while Los Angeles – which for decades experienced above average growth, could manage only one-half the national average rate, at 3.8 percent. Indeed, Chicago grew faster, at 5.0 percent. If 2000s growth rates were to continue to 2050, Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta and Phoenix would exceed Los Angeles in population, while Houston would pass Los Angeles shortly thereafter. This is not a prediction – population growth in these fast growing areas will likely slow as they get larger – but is merely offered to show how moribund the Los Angeles growth rate has become.

“The strongest growth was among metropolitan areas with between 5,000,000 and 10,000,000 population, which added 12.1 percent to their populations. This was driven by gains of more than 1,000,000 in Dallas-Fort Worth and Atlanta, nearly 1,000,000 in Houston and over 500,000 in Washington (DC). Philadelphia’s growth rate, however, was even less than that of New York or Los Angeles, at 2.7 percent.

“There was also strong growth (9.5%) among the metropolitan areas with between 2,500,000 and 5,000,000 population. This was driven by an increase of more than 1,000,000 in Phoenix and more than 800,000 in Riverside-San Bernardino. San Francisco (3.3 percent) and Boston (2.7 percent) grew at less than one-half the national rate, while Detroit lost population.

“The metropolitan areas with between 1,000,000 and 2,500,000 population also grew more than the national average, at 10.5 percent. The strongest growth was in Las Vegas, which added nearly 475,000 residents. Charlotte, Sacramento and Austin also added more than 300,000. Providence, Milwaukee and Hartford all experienced growth at less than one-half the national rate; while Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Katrina ravaged New Orleans all lost population. Tucson became the nation’s 52nd metropolitan area with more than 1,000,000 population in 2008, having added nearly 20percent to its population since 2000.”

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Opportunity from Threat

During these tough financial times, probably even more so for nonprofits and government than business, the ability of management to realize the opportunity within the threat is key.

In our area, this would be an excellent time to consider a new governing structure for the Parkway—a Joint Power Authority—bringing in new public funding and opening up the opportunity of much greater private philanthropy, which we discussed in the January 20 Press Release on our website.

Discovering the opportunity in threat is the subject of a Harvard Business Review article.

An excerpt.

“No one needs convincing that the economic situation we’re facing today is almost unprecedented. Yet much of the advice that executives have received is remarkably similar to what they heard during the recession in 2000. Particularly in Western enterprises, the preferred antidotes seem to be standard ones: Evaluate your risks, develop contingency plans, focus on your core, reduce costs, expect the unexpected, and so on. The unspoken objective appears to be to survive or, at most, to maintain market share.

“Like many orthodoxies, however, this will not serve companies well today. The world has changed so much because of, among other reasons, deregulation, lowering of trade barriers, rapid technological advances, demographic shifts, and greater urbanization, that strategies that worked a decade ago are unlikely to do so anymore. Previously, downturns often favored incumbents, which possess economies of scale and customer relationships that allowed them to prevail over upstarts. What’s different now is that companies from several emerging markets are poised to wrest market share from, or even take over, Western firms. What’s more, recessions can alter industry dynamics. Studies conducted by both McKinsey & Company and Boston Consulting Group show that around a third of the companies in the first quartile of their industries tumbled from their perches during the 2000 slowdown. Only 10% of them had clawed back five years later, while 15% of today’s market leaders vaulted to the top during that recession.

“Smart companies perceive not just threats in a recession but also opportunities. Their goal is to grow so they can emerge stronger from the downturn. In fact, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, companies like General Electric, Kellogg, and Procter & Gamble outmaneuvered rivals to become leaders. They turned adversity into advantage in different ways, but a quick analysis reveals one common thread: During the Depression, these companies developed value-for-money strategies: They grew by delivering products and services that enabled hard-hit consumers to do more with the same resources and become more effective; to do the same with fewer resources, thereby improving their efficiency; or to do less with far fewer resources, which helped them economize.

“Value for money has again become a strategic imperative—and not just because of the recession. Even before the slowdown began, there were signs that it ought to be a major consideration for companies. In developed countries, increases in household income over the past decade have favored the top 20% of earners, while the spending power of most families has stagnated or declined. Many people in the United States, for instance, have found it difficult to maintain their standard of living after paying for such necessities as their mortgage, transport, utilities, and health care without borrowing money. More recently, small salary increases and the steady drumbeat of job losses have turned many consumers into value shoppers, as they tighten their belts.

“Unsurprisingly, Wal-Mart has been gaining share from premium retailers, and apart from luxury cars, only sales of small or fuel-efficient vehicles have been growing over the past five years. In Western Europe, according to a recent Credit Suisse study, the market share of value-priced store brands rose by two percentage points in 2007 while that of premium labels fell by the same amount.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New American River Bridge Opens

The replacement for the Folsom Dam Bridge will open March 28, and that is very good news, from the Rancho Cordova Post.

An excerpt.

“With somewhat limited access across the American River, many commuters find their daily trips to or from Rancho Cordova frustrating at best. But as of March 28th, another option will be available. Folsom Lake Crossing Bridge is scheduled to open to traffic on March 28th. Not only will this easy access route prove beneficial for commuters, but for leisurely activities in the area as well.

“The 1,000-foot bridge will link Folsom-Auburn Road to East Natoma Street and the newer areas of Folsom to Old Folsom. The historic part of town should see a dramatic decrease in traffic congestion, which will hopefully lead to fewer accidents and greater safety for drivers. Folsom Lake Crossing Bridge will see about 25,000 vehicles on weekdays. The bridge will have separate pedestrian and bike lanes for further safety precautions.”

And for those of you who want the history and technical information about the new bridge, it is here, at Road Traffic Technology site.

An excerpt.

“The Folsom Dam Bridge will replace the dam road that was closed in 2003 following security issues after the 11 September terrorist attacks. The Bureau of Reclamation carried out an assessment on potential targets for further terrorist attack and it was felt that the dam offered a potential target with hundreds of thousands of people in Folsom City at risk.

“The dam road started as a service road when the structure was first opened in 1955 (three turbines with an output of 199MW) but over the years traffic had grown to some 18,000 vehicles a day and the road had become a major artery into the city.

“The closure of the dam road threw the traffic system into disarray and some called for the dam road to be reopened – the alternative routes were gridlocked and this has affected local businesses (40% reduction in business).

“John Keys, commissioner of reclamation, commented: "The mission of Folsom Dam is to provide flood control and power and water to California. It is our responsibility to ensure that the dam continues to protect the lives and property of the citizens of the Sacramento area. While it has become essential to close the roadway that runs over the top of Folsom Dam, we are continuing to consult with congressional representatives, local officials and citizens about the impacts of this decision."

“In 2004–2005 a new $75m bridge crossing of the Sacramento River went into the planning stage with construction beginning on 22 February 2007. The new cast-in-place segmental concrete bridge is expected to be opened by spring 2009. The bridge, which will be situated just west (100 yards downstream) of Folsom Dam will now reduce much of the traffic congestion in Folsom (estimates allow for 26,000 cars a day using the new bridge when it is opened).”

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Mayor & Federal Funds

Given the reliance on federal funding many projects in the city of Sacramento rely on, and those of regional projects needing signatures of the mayor and other governing executives, the discussion around the legality of awarding federal funds is an important one, and this is the latest.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson disputes a legal memo suggesting the city likely is barred from receiving federal grants because of problems alleged at an urban Peace Corps-style program he founded.

"I don't think he will be correct on that," Johnson said today, referring to an opinion by Frederic M. Levy, a contracting and compliance expert. "All indications are that the city of Sacramento won't be impacted."

“The analysis sought by City Attorney Eileen Teichert found that the city likely is barred from getting federal money -- including tens of millions of dollars the city expects from the new stimulus package -- because Johnson is on a list of individuals who are suspended from receiving federal funds…

“Johnson said his own attorney had talked to the city attorney and Rep. Doris Matsui, adding, "There is not one single penny prevented from coming to the city of Sacramento. There hasn't been any concern or caution on the part of anybody back in Washington."

“As evidence, Johnson noted that the city already has received $30 million in federal funds since he became mayor.”

Monday, March 23, 2009

Breton on Sacramento Homelessness

Another terrific column, and be sure to read the comments online, that says what most folks who have been paying attention to this issue for some time, have always known; that our public leaders have helped create a magnet in Sacramento that draws homeless from around the region, to the detriment of the neighborhoods adjacent to homeless services or illegal homeless camping, and in particular, the American River Parkway, which is unfortunately, the closest available (though illegal) camping area to the concentration of services along North 12th street.

A must read.

An excerpt.

“There are many who say it's deplorable that the homeless are "forced" to live in squalor along the American River. Forced? Really?

“Then there are the concerned and critical citizens who worked with Mayor Kevin Johnson this week to hammer out a "solution" to Sacramento's homeless issue.

“One wonders, how many of these people would be willing to have a homeless camp next to where they live?

“How many of you would?

“Johnson is going to bring the issue before the City Council on Tuesday. He said he is willing to consider a permanent tent city in Sacramento.

“Maybe a good spot would be the Fabulous 40s? Or Curtis Park, Land Park, McKinley Park, East Sacramento or the Pocket?

“Or how about taking a regional approach to homelessness and spread the responsibility around?

“That could mean a homeless camp in downtown Davis or in El Dorado Hills, Granite Bay, Carmichael or Fair Oaks.

"Surrounding communities have to step up," Johnson told me on Thursday. Yes. But if the past is any judge, they won't.

“We tend to stick homeless people next to poor people or people with no political power.

"We're upset that we haven't been heard," said Chris Dunne, who lives in the north Sacramento neighborhood next to where homeless people have been camping along the American River. "We've seen attacks on bike riders, drug dealers, prostitution. … Is it fair for all the homeless people in the area to be dumped in one spot?"

“None of this is fair. Politics and policies in surrounding communities push out homeless and they gravitate to Sacramento. Homeless advocates push for more services in Sacramento, with barely a nod to people like Dunne – or the reality that Sacramento is a homeless magnet.

“The homeless freely admit this:

"I'm not in Roseville or Rocklin because Roseville and Rocklin export their homeless to Sacramento," said John Kraintz, a long-time homeless person who spoke at Johnson's press conference on Thursday.”

Sunday, March 22, 2009

County Parks 5oth

Sacramento County Parks celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with a host of activities, as reported by the Rancho Cordova Post.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento County Regional Parks are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year and are hosting 50 (or more) events to celebrate the occasion. From April through October, area parks will be hosting events for families to enjoy all summer long. Sacramento County is home to 15,000 acres of park land and miles of hiking and biking trails, much of which is in Rancho Cordova.

“Saturday, April 4th kicks of the first of the 50+ events with the American River 50 mile Endurance Run. The Run will begin at 6:00 a.m. on the Guy West Foot Bridge by University Avenue and will continue along the American River biking and walking trails for 50 miles to the Auburn Dam Overlook. The Endurance Run will host 650 runners this year, and sign ups closed on February 26. But that shouldn’t stop families from cheering the runners on. A map of this years race and runner information packets can be found at the American River 50 website.”

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tent City to Fold

It appears to be the close of one part of a long running tragic tale, the tent city on the south side of the American River will be closed, but the camping that has been in existence on the north side of the river for many years—to the ongoing anguish of the residents and businesses of North Sacramento—will probably remain.

This is a very sad story, for all concerened, and just part of it can be read at the website of the North Sacramento Chamber of Commerce, the only local organization that has consistently tried to have the illegal camping stopped.

None of the other Parkway advocacy organizations, nor other public leaders, (though it appears our new Mayor may be the leader, finally, prepared to take this issue on) have shown any consistent effort to join them, and as this enduring problem has severely impacted the lower third of the Parkway for some decades now, it cannot really be claimed that the Parkway is a regional jewel until it is addressed.

An excerpt from the Bee story.

“Homeless campers who live inside Sacramento's tent city will be asked to move to shelters and other indoor structures, officials said Thursday.

“Responding to growing concern and criticism about the burgeoning homeless encampment north of downtown, Mayor Kevin Johnson announced a plan to move as many as 150 campers to "safer, more sanitary" grounds.

“The Sacramento Municipal Utility District, which owns the bulk of the tent city property, plans to fence off the area within the next month, a spokeswoman said.

“Homeless people have illegally camped in the area off the American River Parkway for years. But the issue took on new life when Oprah Winfrey featured it on a recent television program focusing on "the new faces" of homelessness.

“The show sparked international interest and public outrage, prompting elected officials to convene meetings to figure out a solution.

“Johnson has been meeting with a coalition of government leaders, property owners, homeless advocates and others during the past two weeks to discuss how to deal with the camp near the Blue Diamond Growers almond processing plant.

“The resulting plan, to be brought before the City Council on Tuesday, calls for relocating the campers to various types of temporary and permanent indoor housing, including existing shelters and modular buildings at Cal Expo.

“Funding for the project will include local redevelopment money, Johnson said. He said the exact costs and funding mechanisms will be laid out Tuesday, and that he is confident the money will be available. "People living around the river deserve respect and dignity," the mayor told a throng of news media. "For far too long, we've ignored the challenge."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sacramento’s Riverwalks

The emergence of river walks on both sides of the Sacramento River, reported by the Sacramento Bee, is a wonderful development that one hopes to see soon replicated—through an expansion of the very over-crowed existing trails and paths—in the American River Parkway.

An excerpt.

“San Antonio has its Riverwalk, though the waterway it showcases is less than inspiring – small enough that the city drains it once a year for cleaning.

“Still, its dyed green water on St. Patrick's Day drew about 15,000 to the hotels, restaurants and bars along Riverwalk.

“Activity along the Sacramento River was more sedate this week.

“However, Sacramento and West Sacramento officials are moving ahead with construction of pedestrian walkways to create more of a riverfront buzz.

"Other cities have done it with a less impressive waterway – and San Antonio is a perfect example," said Val Toppenberg, West Sacramento's director of development. "They have created a wonderful environment with what is essentially a canal."

“Along the Sacramento River, sections of a promenade are either completed, planned or under construction on both sides of the river.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Brooks on the Economy

A very insightful look from David Brooks at the changing tenor of the American culture over the past several months of the economic turmoil.

An excerpt.

“In short, the United States will never be Europe. It was born as a commercial republic. It’s addicted to the pace of commercial enterprise. After periodic pauses, the country inevitably returns to its elemental nature.

“The U.S. is in one of those pauses today. It has been odd, over the past six months, not to have the gospel of success as part of the normal background music of life. You go about your day, taking in the news and the new movies, books and songs, and only gradually do you become aware that there is an absence. There are no aspirational stories of rags-to-riches success floating around. There are no new how-to-get-rich enthusiasms. There are few magazine covers breathlessly telling readers that some new possibility — biotechnology, nanotechnology — is about to change everything. That part of American culture that stokes ambition and encourages risk has gone silent.

“We are now in an astonishingly noncommercial moment. Risk is out of favor. The financial world is abashed. Enterprise is suspended. The public culture is dominated by one downbeat story after another as members of the educated class explore and enjoy the humiliation of the capitalist vulgarians.

“Washington is temporarily at the center of the nation’s economic gravity and a noncommercial administration holds sway. This is an administration that has many lawyers and academics but almost no businesspeople in it, let alone self-made entrepreneurs. The president speaks passionately about education and health care reform, but he is strangely aloof from the banking crisis and displays no passion when speaking about commercial drive and success.

“But if there is one thing we can be sure of, this pause will not last. The cultural DNA of the past 400 years will not be erased. The pendulum will swing hard. The gospel of success will recapture the imagination.”

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

California Valleys and Water

The miracle that controlling the water rich north through dam building and moving water to the soil rich valleys has resulted in a breadbasket that provides food to the world, and it is continually threatened by an ideology that is built upon very shaky precepts; according to this must read article.

An excerpt.

“The great Central Valley of California has never been an easy place. Dry and almost uninhabitable by nature, the state's engineering marvels brought water down from the north and the high Sierra, turning semi-desert into some of the richest farmland in the world.

“Yet today, amid drought conditions, large parcels of the valley – particularly on its west side – are returning to desert; and in the process, an entire economy based on large-scale, high-tech agriculture is being brought to its knees. You can see this reality in the increasingly impoverished rural towns scattered along this region, places like Mendota and Avenal, Coalinga and Lost Hills.

“In some towns, unemployment is now running close to 40%. Overall, the water-related farming cutbacks could affect up to 300,000 acres and could cost up to 80,000 jobs.

“However, the depression conditions in the great valley reflect more than a mere water shortage. They are the direct result of conscious actions by environmental activists to usher in a new era of scarcity.

“To some extent, such efforts reflect some real limits imposed by the growth of population. Constructive long-term changes in the conservation and utilization of all basic resources – energy, water and land – are not only necessary, but also inevitable.

“Yet the new scarcity does not simply advocate humane ways to deal with shortages, but seeks to exacerbate them intentionally. This reflects a doomsday streak in the contemporary environmental ethos – greatly enhanced by the concern over climate change – that believes greater scarcity of all basic commodities, from land and water to energy, might help reduce the much detested "footprint" of our species.

“One key element of this agenda has to do with reducing access to critical resources like water beyond those required to support existing uses. To be sure, two years of below-average precipitation helped create central California's current water shortage. Planting crops such as cotton, which needs lots of water, may also have contributed to the problem.

“However, this only explains part of the problem, which increasingly has to do not with vicissitudes of nature but conscious political action. In prior dry periods, the state has managed its water resources to supply farmers and other users as effectively as possible. Today, in response to seemingly endless litigation to protect certain fish in the Delta region west of Sacramento or to "revitalize" valley streams, enormous amounts of water have been allowed to flow untapped into San Francisco Bay.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Charging to Fish on the River

A wonderful story about what happens when an innovative landowner of a prime fishing area fixes it up and charges people to fish there.

Food for thought.

An excerpt.

“Doug Barclay vividly remembers a fall day in the early 1980s when he said upwards of 3,000 people were on his New York property along the lower Salmon River, parking on both sides of the road—all the way back to the village of Pulaski, more than a mile away. “What am I going to do from a liability standpoint? How am I going to handle this?” he said in an interview of the salmon-crazed hordes of fishermen that were trashing and trespassing on his property day after day during the annual fall spawning run of chinook and coho salmon. He recalled the excessive drinking, the garbage on the sides of the river and all over his land, and the louts who defecated along the road near his house.

“Barclay, then a New York state senator nearing the end of two decades in office, said he approached one man who was walking toward the river with his son and reminded him that he was on private property. The response?

“They went in and sort of just said, ‘The hell with you,’” he recalled, adding the two were quickly followed by more than two dozen other anglers with the same attitude.

“It’s been more than two decades since Barclay opened the Douglaston Salmon Run, a pay-to-fish business along what unquestionably is the best place to fish on the river for spawning salmon and trout from Lake Ontario because of its closeness to the lake. Anglers are charged $30 a day to fish, parking in a lot off Lake Road. The lot has a 300-vehicle capacity.

“Barclay, 76, keeps trespassers off his property with posted signs and a team of 15–20 employees. Each year, he said, he’s expanded his offerings to clients, making the property more and more amenable to anglers. He has put in a fish cleaning station and paths, and offered exclusive lodging for anglers and hunters in five separate lodges on his 5,000 acres of land that has been in his family for seven generations.

“Recently he has expanded his private fishing area slightly through lease agreements with two adjacent landowners who, like Barclay, want to control the angling crowds on their land. He’s looking into expanding his services for those willing to pay for them. He sees his business as an example, a magnet to help bolster the North Country economy.”

Monday, March 16, 2009

Expo Arena

What the key element of this plan seems to have going for it is that it has the potential to create a destination enclave that could be very attractive; with professional sports, riverside housing, state fair, convention size meetings, all packaged in a suburban setting central to the rest of the region’s amenities.

With that going for it, many of the more optimistic revenue and cost projections might be realistic.

Whatever occurs, we do have a lovely plan to mull over.

An excerpt from the Bee’s article.

“The National Basketball Association's plan for a dense urban village near the shore of the American River, anchored by a modern state fairgrounds and a new arena for the Sacramento Kings, reflects an intriguing vision for the future of a space that is woefully underused today.

“Hundreds of acres now covered by dirt lots, asphalt parking and the sprawling Cal Expo fairgrounds would be converted over two decades to offices, shops and hotels – and apartments and condos for thousands of residents. In theory, at least, people would have a chance to live near where they work, or live there and work downtown, putting less stress on the region's overburdened highways, at least at those times when a basketball game wasn't scheduled.

“But while the colorful sketches in the plan's schematics might be fun to ponder, the proposal, like so much in life, will ultimately come down to money. Money the developers would pay for the use of public land, plus taxes paid by the commercial and residential tenants, would help finance the new arena and fairgrounds.

“Much of the current Cal Expo property would thus be converted from a public asset into a primarily private one, but in a way that would not involve raising taxes. The NBA and the Kings hope this would prove more palatable to Sacramento residents who have amply demonstrated that they will not support a tax increase to help house the Kings and their fans in style.

“If the plan progresses far enough, Sacramentans, and ultimately the state Legislature and the governor, will someday have to decide if they want to use the proceeds of such a deal to aid a privately owned sports franchise.
“But before we ever get to that point, the first question is this: Would the plan produce enough revenue to build an arena while still delivering on its promise to finance new digs for the fair?”

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wireless Innovations

With the coming of water meters to our fair city and the deficit still being absorbed, with the potential for more to come, the technology being used in Florida, as reported by Harvard Innovation News, is something we should take a look at.

An excerpt.

“The village of Wellington is rolling out a citywide wireless network that will increase the efficiency of its city services. The initial service will automate the city's water meter reading. Currently an employee must drive by a water meter and it sends a signal to an electronic device inside the driver's car. But with the new wireless network the meters will be read from a centralized location on a daily basis versus a monthly basis as they are now.

“Village officials say the new system will save the village time, money and free up employees' time to perform other duties. By reading the meters on a daily basis the system will have the ability to flag suspected water leaks and officials can then contact homeowners.

"We're always trying to find ways to be progressive, do the best with people's taxes and make life easier for the people in the village," said Tom Amburgey, the village's chief information officer. He said other municipalities in the area may have some Wi-Fi capabilities but "we're really the first to go this far in this area."

“Every 10 years the water meters must be changed out anyway and it was during the water meter review process that they found out about this new system. The total cost of the project is $4.3 million.”

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Tent City & The Parkway

The entire incident of the tent city that has been allowed to form on open land adjacent to the American River Parkway—which in terms of preserving the Parkway’s natural resources is ‘in’ the Parkway—the international publicity arising from it, the reaction and non-reaction of homeless advocates, public leadership, and Parkway advocates, is providing some important moments for us all.

We saw, in the sudden outpouring of help that made its way to the tent city, the great compassion all of us feel for those who are without the basics of food and shelter any life requires, and that is a very good thing about our community.

What we haven't seen is much of a call to protect the Parkway from the obvious stress being placed on it by unrestricted camping—though technically on private land—so close to it that the environmental damage of the impact of large-scale campgrounds without any facilities normally available to campgrounds, can only be imagined, but one can assume it will be of significant impact.

Had a Joint Power Authority been governing the Parkway (which we have called for, see our January 29, 2009 Press Release), the permanent management staff would have surely been on top of this situation from the beginning, considering the direct and destructive environmental impact it was having on the Parkway.

It is crucial that we give the Parkway a governing and management voice that has more public resonance than that of the relatively small and inadequately staffed resources that the Parkway advocates groups are able to bring to bear when events of this magnitude arise, that have the potential to cause great harm to the Parkway.

Today’s article from the Bee attempts to put all of this into context.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento's humble "tent city" has gone international.

“Across the country and around the world, newspaper readers and television viewers are being introduced to the sprawling campground where 100 to 200 homeless men and women sleep each night…

“The huge wave of media attention that followed a recent Oprah Winfrey program featuring the tent city has spurred donations, ideas and volunteers. But it also has complicated things for officials who suddenly have found themselves in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons…

“But even advocates acknowledge that some of the reporting has been misleading or downright inaccurate. Various media outlets have reported that 1,200 people live at the camp, four to five times higher than the actual population of the tent city on any given night, they said. The larger number represents the total number of homeless people living in shelters, camps and other places in the Sacramento area.

“Some news organizations are erroneously portraying the tent city "as a refugee camp" for formerly middle-class people who have been hit by the recession, said Tim Brown of the Sacramento Ending Chronic Homeless Initiative.

"While it's very true that we are seeing increasing numbers of middle-class families hitting the streets, it's still a very small percentage," Brown said. "At tent city, 90 percent of the people are chronically homeless."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Solar Texas

With the potential to be one of the leading areas of alternative energy, Sacramento should be paying attention to what other contenders for energy leadership are doing.

Austin, Texas is looking at trying a solar array that would be huge, but also may incur huge costs for residents, as reported by the Austin Statesman.

An excerpt.

“The Austin City Council approved a $250 million solar array Thursday that will be among the largest in the world.

“The council gave a unanimous thumbs up to a private company's proposal to build and operate a 300-acre solar array on land near Webberville, east of Austin, and sell the power to Austin. The array is scheduled to be operating by the end of 2010.

“Advocates said the project will help make Austin more eco-friendly and position the city among the nation's leaders in the solar-power industry, possibly attracting employers.

“But critics said the project is too costly, particularly in a sliding economy.

“Partly to address those concerns, the council decided it will sell the array's power to Austin customers who volunteer to buy it, instead of increasing every customer's bill.

“But that plan requires customers willing to pay significantly higher monthly bills, though the amount is not known.

“If too few customers sign up to use all of the electricity, the leftover will be added to everyone's bills, said Roger Duncan, head of Austin Energy, the city's electric utility.”

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Delta Vision Foundation

The group that developed the Delta Vision Plan—having concluded its work—has reorganized as the Delta Vision Foundation to work to ensure its strategy is sustained, and this is very good news.

A key element of their strategy is working to see that the Delta is governed by a single entity, as their news release notes:

“A critical component of the recommendations package is the establishment of a single governance structure with the authority, responsibility, accountability, science support and secure funding to achieve the Strategic Plan's goals. Currently, more than 200 federal, state and local government agencies have some jurisdiction in the Delta.”

This is an important strategy and also one we recommend for the American River Parkway, as noted in our Press Release of January 20, 2009.

An excerpt from the Delta Vision Foundation News Release:

“Sacramento - Today, members of the concluded Governor's Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force announced they have reorganized under a new name and with non-governmental support. The newly formed Delta Vision Foundation has assembled to advance the set of recommendations and strategies proposed in their Delta Vision Strategic Plan, released in November 2008. Governor Schwarzenegger appointed the Task Force in 2006, to create an independent blueprint for a sustainable Delta, and a reliable water supply for California.

"Although our official duties concluded at the end of the year, we remain committed to meeting the challenge of securing a reliable water supply for California while protecting the Delta's extraordinary environmental resources," said Phil Isenberg, former Chair of the Blue Ribbon Task Force. "We're entering the worst drought in twenty years, the iconic salmon fishery was closed last year, and finding a durable solution for the Delta has never been more important."

“Under the new designation, former Task Force members will seek to maintain the visibility and viability of their final recommendations, and encourage the public policy process to utilize the full package of their Strategic Plan recommendations. The Foundation will issue reports and participate in policy processes. The newly constituted body will take no formal position on legislation.

“According to Delta Vision Foundation and former task force member Sunne Wright McPeak, president and chief executive officer of the California Emerging Technology Fund, "The Delta's problems cannot be fully addressed by any single action. Each recommendation in the final Plan is an important element of the over-arching strategy. These recommendations are linked just as the Delta's challenges are linked."

“Thomas McKernan, also a Delta Vision Foundation member and chief executive officer of the Automobile Club of Southern California, added "California has fought for over 30 years in an effort by one side or other to achieve their preferred goals, and that attempt has lead to stalemate. It is time to move forward in a broad framework, and to act simultaneously on all of the important issues."

“A critical component of the recommendations package is the establishment of a single governance structure with the authority, responsibility, accountability, science support and secure funding to achieve the Strategic Plan's goals. Currently, more than 200 federal, state and local government agencies have some jurisdiction in the Delta.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Permits Needed at Bannister

You now need a permit to park at Bannister Road to enter the Parkway, according to this Sacramento Bee story.

Too bad for visitors, good for the residents.

An excerpt.

“A popular parking spot for visitors to the American River Parkway will be restricted to residential permits.

“The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors approved making Bannister Road south of Fair Oaks Boulevard a residential permit parking area, the first such area in an unincorporated neighborhood. That area is popular for people who visit the north side of the San Juan rapids, said Steve Flannery, park ranger manager.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tent City in Parkway

It is estimated that 1,200 people are now in the tent city in Sacramento’s American River Parkway, as reported by this story from Britain.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the United States.

"As many as 50 people a week arrive at the tent city and the authorities estimate it is now home to more than 1,200 people…

“The city and county of Sacramento have already received $34 million to help fight the effects of the foreclosure crisis but, in the meantime, hundreds of people have moved into the shelters.

“Authorities in Sacramento, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has his office, are suffering as the state has a £30billion deficit and the tent city looks like becoming a permanent fixture.

"I can't say tent cities are the answer to the homeless population in Sacramento," Kevin Johnson, Sacramento's mayor said, "but I think it's one of the many things that should be considered and looked at.'

This local story from CBS 13 News has more details and photos.

An excerpt.

“Mayor Kevin Johnson says he knows the crisis is growing.

"They're along the American River Parkway camped out in ways we don't feel comfortable, and there's hazards because of waste and fire and police can't get in as readily as they would like," says Mayor Johnson.

“That's why he says the area should consider regulating an official "Tent City" site.

"Phoenix has a tent city," says Mayor Johnson." Seeing it in Phoenix and other cities, are things we need to look at."

“So that's what CBS13 did, we went looking for that Phoenix homeless tent city that the Mayor is talking about.

“CBS13 called the county, the city and outreach organizations. They all say it doesn't exist anymore. The only "Tent City" in Phoenix houses inmates for the county jail.

“But, CBS13 did find a regulated "Tent City" for the homeless in Ontario, California.

“90 men and women live there and taxpayers are footing the bill.

"We're spending two to three thousand dollars a month to rent the portable showers, the port-a-potties. We have mulch down, and we have trash pickup," says Schultz.”

And here is an excellent slide show of photos.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Green Jobs

We have heard a lot about green jobs and how they will save the economy. Especially in green California and it is a dream devoutly to be wished, but there is another side, and this article from City Journal explores that.

An excerpt.

“In a time of grave economic uncertainty, it’s surely positive news that we can agree on the benefits of green jobs, right? Not quite. If the green-jobs claim sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. Holding it up to the light exposes it as economically hollow. Making matters worse, a powerful green-jobs movement has emerged, made up of left-wing antipoverty activists and union leaders, all of them clamoring for a more conventional kind of green: government dollars.

“What exactly is a “green job,” anyway? The definition seems maddeningly vague. According to Time, “if you make wind turbines or solar panels, your job is reliably green.” But the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), a leading proponent of the cause, says that green employment isn’t reserved for scientists and researchers; the industry also needs “project managers, accountants, assemblers, IT professionals, customer service reps, marketing professionals and account executives.” ASES estimates that more than 8 million people already work in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and it predicts that figure to quadruple by 2030. But ASES acknowledges that no real standards exist for what constitutes a green job, so these numbers are fuzzy. Work in an energy-intensive smelting plant producing steel for a wind turbine, and you might wind up in the green-jobs column, despite the belching pollution. According to the Political Economy Research Institute, a left-wing think tank, even truck driving could be green, since long-haulers “will be in demand to transport wind turbines as well as switchgrass and woodchips for biofuels.”…

“The paucity of details to date isn’t surprising. For all the talk about green-job creation, there’s an unavoidable problem with renewable-energy technologies and the policies that promote them: from an economic standpoint, they’re big losers. Renewables can’t produce the large volumes of useful, reliable energy that our economy needs at attractive prices. Government subsidizes renewables because—all things being equal—the free market won’t. In many cases, these subsidies amount to little more than welfare for companies and industries with political connections.

“The green subsidies are considerable. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported in early 2008 that the government subsidizes solar energy at $24.34 per megawatt-hour (MWh) and wind power at $23.37. Yet even with decades of these massive handouts, as well as numerous state-level mandates for utilities to use green power, wind and solar energy contribute less than one-half of 1 percent of our nation’s electricity. Compare the green energy subsidies to the energy sources reviled by environmentalists, such as natural gas (25 cents per MWh in subsidies), coal (44 cents), hydroelectricity (67 cents), and nuclear power ($1.59). With relatively little government largesse, these sources (along with oil, which undergirds transportation) do the heavy lifting in our energy economy….

“But won’t all those new green jobs make up for whatever economic hardship results? That’s the contention of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, among the best-known and most influential evangelists for a green economy. In his most recent bestseller, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How It Can Renew America, Friedman argues that a government-directed green program would rebuild America’s national strength and bolster our economy for the twenty-first century—regardless of whether global warming turns out to be a serious problem (which he believes it is). Friedman likens his proposal to training for the Olympic triathlon. “If you make it to the Olympics, you have a much better chance of winning, because you’ve developed every muscle,” he writes. “If you don’t make it to the Olympics, you’re still healthier, stronger, fitter, and more likely to live longer and win every other race in life.”

“It’s a nice analogy, but Friedman, like Obama, sees only the upside. Danish economist Bjørn Lomborg, author of books like The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It, which decries climate-change alarmism, agrees that global warming is real and man-made, but he differs with Friedman’s response. “It is foolish to deny climate change,” says Lomborg. “But it’s also foolish to deny climate economics, which Friedman does.” Lomborg notes that Friedman’s argument “simply fails to address the cost of his proposed solutions, and fails to weigh those costs against the benefits.”

“Obama and Friedman have become the latest proponents of a common economic fallacy. One version holds that the Second World War and its aftermath were a boon for the American and European economies, since militarizing in America and rebuilding Europe spurred much-needed economic activity. Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman peddled another version when, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, he suggested a possible silver lining: the destruction of the World Trade Center would require new construction and therefore reinvigorate economic activity downtown.

“Such thinking was effectively debunked a century before World War II. The nineteenth-century French economist Frédéric Bastiat made an invaluable contribution to modern economics by demolishing the notion that a broken window is a good thing inasmuch as it provides work for the glazier. As Bastiat observed, the money that goes to pay the glassmaker would, had the window never been broken at all, have supported some other productive enterprise. Society as a whole winds up poorer, even if the glassmaker profits.

“With his promise of 5 million new green jobs, Barack Obama heaves a brick straight through Bastiat’s window. Yesterday’s glazier is tomorrow’s solar-panel installer. The green-jobs promise amounts to killing jobs in efficient industries to create jobs in inefficient ones—hardly a recipe for economic success. William Pizer, a researcher with Resources for the Future and a lead author of the most recent report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reinforced the point at a symposium last April: “As an economist, I am skeptical that [dealing with climate change] is going to make money. You’ll have new industries, but they’ll be doing what old industries did but [at] a higher net cost. . . . You’ll be depleting other industries.” Consumers will be hurt, too, Pizer notes. Digging deeper each month to pay for expensive renewable energy, they will have less to save or spend in other areas of the economy.”

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Build it & They Will Come

According to this story from KCRA 3, tent cities create more problems than just the magnetic impact they have on the homeless from a much larger area than locally, part of the essential rationale—of helping your neighbor—underlying the public’s tentative support for them; they also attract folks just wanting to offer direct help, and that should, one would think, be celebrated.

An excerpt.

"SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Oprah Winfrey Show put the spotlight on Sacramento's homeless problem, but some say an overwhelming response from the community could make the problem worse.

"Sister Libby Fernandez, the executive director of Loaves & Fishes, said those who bring goods to Tent City are creating a major health hazard.

"Fernandez said rats and seagulls go after the trash and bring their diseases along.

"It's really not a very good thing to do," Fernandez said. "For one thing, you have to have trash pickup.

"You bring things out there like clothing, suitcases food, water ... it just builds up an accumulation of trash."

"Fernandez said she thinks homeless residents need to find help off-site and shouldn't be catered to.

"Val Jon Farris of the nonprofit iCare-America disagrees. He said he works with people directly and lets them know how to be as responsible as possible.

"Tents, sleeping bags and cots are not going to wind up in landfills," Farris said."

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Parkway JPA Article

Inside Publications has an interview about ARPPS’s position on establishing a JPA for the Parkway in their March Inside Arden issue, pages 13-14.

An excerpt.

"Most Arden Arcade residents would argue that the American River Parkway is a regional jewel, right in our own backyard. Because it is one of the area’s most important natural resources, we need to take care of it.

"That is the philosophy of David Lukenbill, senior policy director for the American River Parkway Preservation Society, whose organization feels the creation of a Joint Powers Authority would protect the parkway and ensure that it’s around for generations to come.

"A JPA would be composed of members from each community that the parkway winds through, Lukenbill says, “This type of governance will give our parkway the dedicated management and fundraising capability that is necessary to retain and enhance its premier local and national status.”

"The JPA could consist of two members apiece from the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and the Sacramento City Council, and one each from the Folsom and Rancho Cordova city councils. It also could have a member from the Community Advisory Committee, which itself would be composed of local stakeholder organizations, advocacy organizations, chambers of commerce, neighborhood associations and property owners, Lukenbill says.

"For those unfamiliar with how a JPA works, it is a well-established form of governance that is used a lot in California. Basically, it’s an agreement between local governmental entities to provide a service to the public that can be better delivered jointly. It is especially usefully when a local resource, such as the parkway, spreads across several governmental boundaries."

Friday, March 06, 2009

Coerced Philanthropy

The whole point of American philanthropy and a large part of the reason that America is the beacon of light to the world that she is, is the relative freedom of the nonprofit world and its donors to pursue those causes they passionately believe in, only restricted by the understandable tax oversight ensuring the public's awarding of a tax exemption is met with some amount of management expertise.

This new trend, reported by the Wall Street Journal, to essentially remove that level of freedom, especially from donors, is worrisome, and contradicts the sound traditional ideals American philanthropy is built upon.

An excerpt.

“Nonprofit leaders are reeling from the recent news that President Barack Obama's proposed budget would limit tax deductions on charitable contributions from wealthy Americans. But now the philanthropic world has something else to worry about. Today the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), a research and advocacy group, will release a report offering "benchmarks to assess foundation performance." Its real aim is to push philanthropic organizations into ignoring donor intent and instead giving grants based on political considerations.

“The committee is part of a rising tide of politicians and activists who are working to change the face of American philanthropy -- and not for the better.

“The report, titled "Criteria for Philanthropy at its Best," advises foundations to "provide at least 50 percent of grant dollars to benefit lower-income communities, communities of color, and other marginalized groups, broadly defined." The committee looked at 809 of the largest foundations in the country, whose combined three-year grants totaled almost $15 billion, and concluded that the majority of foundations are "eschewing the needs of the most vulnerable in our society" by neglecting "marginalized groups."

“Two years ago, an advocacy group in San Francisco called Greenlining began releasing similar reports. Greenlining's aim then was to pass legislation in California mandating that foundations report to the public the percentage of their dollars given to "minority-led" organizations and the percentage of their boards and staffs made up by racial and ethnic minorities. The legislation was dropped when several foundations promised to donate money to causes Greenlining favored.

“Now Greenlining has put out reports in Florida, Pennsylvania and New York trying to shame foundations into distributing grants differently, as well as pressure them into recruiting more "diverse" board and staff members. The NCRP report picks up on this theme to suggest that foundation boards and staffs should include people with a "diversity of perspectives."

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Cal Expo Plan

This editorial from the Sacramento Bee expresses our sentiments exactly. It is a wonderful plan, though much remains to do to see it a reality and Sacramento certainly has a lot on its development plate, but as the capital of the largest state in the country, it is something we should be able to do and do well.

An excerpt.

“As we noted 15 months ago, Cal Expo occupies some of the Sacramento region's most valuable land, adjacent to the Capital City Freeway and fronting the American River Parkway. Yet much of the year, this 360-acre site sits empty, "radiating heat and lost opportunity."

“If the economy were to rebound in a year or two, Cal Expo would be in prime position to transform this underutilized property into a desirable mix of housing, offices and shops, along with a modernized, year-round fairgrounds and entertainment district. To do that, you need to have plans in place.

“To their credit, NBA officials unveiled a blueprint Friday that emphasizes a fair amount of housing – 3.5 million square feet, much it fronting the parkway.”

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Florida’s take on Global Economy

Professor Richard Florida, who coined the phrase and research around the impact the Creative Class had on communities, has penned a piece for Atlantic Magazine that takes a historical look at the current situation in terms of what areas of the country, and the world, might be most impacted.

An excerpt.

“At first glance, few American cities would seem to be more obviously threatened by the crash than New York. The city shed almost 17,000 jobs in the financial industry alone from October 2007 to October 2008, and Wall Street as we’ve known it has ceased to exist. “Farewell Wall Street, hello Pudong?” begins a recent article by Marcus Gee in the Toronto Globe and Mail, outlining the possibility that New York’s central role in global finance may soon be usurped by Shanghai, Hong Kong, and other Asian and Middle Eastern financial capitals.

“This concern seems overheated. In his sweeping history, Capitals of Capital, the economic historian Youssef Cassis chronicles the rise and decline of global financial centers through recent centuries. Though the history is long, it contains little drama: major shifts in capitalist power centers occur at an almost geological pace.

“Amsterdam stood at the center of the world’s financial system in the 17th century; its place was taken by London in the early 19th century, then New York in the 20th. Across more than three centuries, no other city has topped the list of global financial centers. Financial capitals have “remarkable longevity,” Cassis writes, “in spite of the phases of boom and bust in the course of their existence.”

“The transition from one financial center to another typically lags behind broader shifts in the economic balance of power, Cassis suggests. Although the U.S. displaced England as the world’s largest economy well before 1900, it was not until after World War II that New York eclipsed London as the world’s preeminent financial center (and even then, the eclipse was not complete; in recent years, London has, by some measures, edged out New York). As Asia has risen, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore have become major financial centers—yet in size and scope, they still trail New York and London by large margins.

“In finance, “there is a huge network and agglomeration effect,” former assistant U.S. Treasury secretary Edwin Truman told The Christian Science Monitor in October—an advantage that comes from having a large critical mass of financial professionals, covering many different specialties, along with lawyers, accountants, and others to support them, all in close physical proximity. It is extremely difficult to build these dense networks anew, and very hard for up-and-coming cities to take a position at the height of global finance without them. “Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo are more important than they were 20 years ago,” Truman said. “But will they reach London and New York’s dominance in another 20 years? I suspect not.” Hong Kong, for instance, has a highly developed IPO market, but lacks many of the other capabilities—such as bond, foreign-exchange, and commodities trading—that make New York and London global financial powerhouses.

“A crucial contributory factor in the financial centres’ development over the last two centuries, and even longer,” writes Cassis, “is the arrival of new talent to replenish their energy and their capacity to innovate.” All in all, most places in Asia and the Middle East are still not as inviting to foreign professionals as New York or London. Tokyo is a wonderful city, but Japan remains among the least open of the advanced economies, and admits fewer immigrants than any other member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of 30 market-oriented democracies. Singapore remains for the time being a top-down, socially engineered society. Dubai placed 44th in a recent ranking of global financial centers, near Edinburgh, Bangkok, Lisbon, and Prague. New York’s openness to talent and its critical mass of it—in and outside of finance and banking—will ensure that it remains a global financial center.”

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Auburn Dam, Part Two

Second in a three part series on the Auburn Dam (which we have long supported building) from the Sacramento Union.

Part One is here.

An excerpt.

“The complete American River project in the original State Water Plan in the 1920s included both Folsom and Auburn dams. Though engineered as a stand-alone dam, Folsom Dam works best in tandem with a dam at Auburn.

“Without the construction of the Auburn Dam, Folsom has proven to be inadequate in providing flood protection, water supplies and recreation.

“Flood Control
Folsom is undergoing modification to improve its capacity to dump floodwater so that the dam is not overtopped and destroyed (many in the region can remember the narrow escape during the floods of 1986).

“Currently, the Folsom Dam offers less than 100-year flood protection. Its redesign to 200-year protection requires raising the dam 3 feet, improving the outlet works, constructing new auxiliary spillways and building dikes. The refit is expected to be completed in 2015 and will cost taxpayers at least $2 billion.

“If the Auburn Dam were constructed, flood control on the American River would increase to 400-year protection. The flood control operations of the Folsom Dam for the North and Middle forks of the American River would move to the Auburn Dam. Some 400,000 acre-feet of flood space would be reserved in Folsom to provide 400-year protection for the South Fork.

“Power Generation
Auburn Dam’s additional water would also increase the power generation capacity at the Folsom Dam. The water constraints on electric power generation are minimal, as long as a given amount is put into Folsom Lake each month or so. Additional hydroelectric generation from both Folsom and Auburn dams would contribute to the higher percentage of green energy recently mandated in California…

The Auburn Dam’s controlled-water flows and temperature would benefit the salmons’ fall run and the human beings who recreate in the American River Parkway. Managing up to 2.7 million acre-feet of runoff annually, the Auburn Dam would provide adequate flow of high-quality water for the salmon and protect the physical integrity of the American River Parkway for wildlife and diverse natural vegetation.”

Monday, March 02, 2009

Housing First

While we agree with the concept of housing first to address the chronic homeless (who are the folks camping, often for years, in the Parkway) we don’t agree with this application of it, which places a 80 unit housing complex containing many of the formerly chronic homeless in one concentrated space within a neighborhood that could become quickly degraded.

We support the scattered site approach which we wrote about in a May 12, 2008 article published as a Sacramento Bee Commentary, Scatter homeless housing; don't concentrate sites, posted to our website.

The scattered site application is where existing housing is leased, scattered throughout the community, generally in the lower income areas to keep costs low, and the concentration will only be of two or three units rather than 80 or 90, a significant difference in terms of preserving neighborhood character.

Bottom line, it is crucial to help the chronic homeless—and housing first works—but not at the expense of degrading the surrounding community. This is what has been done in the Richards Boulevard/North 12th street area by the large concentration of homeless services which has encouraged large scale camping in the Parkway; all of which has reduced the ability of the adjacent communities to safely use their part of the Parkway.

An excerpt.

“More than 200 of those previously "chronically homeless" people have been placed in permanent housing, officials said. Most live in single-family homes or small complexes and are clients of Sacramento Self Help Housing, which supports the "housing first" concept. MLK Jr. Village is the first "high density" project of its kind in the area.

“The "housing first" approach has proved successful in other cities, including San Francisco and Portland, Ore., but it remains controversial, even among homeless advocates.

"Handing out housing to people is not the way to go," said Robert Tobin, director of Cottage Housing, which shelters and counsels homeless people and their children in the Sacramento area. "At Cottage Housing, a home is one of the services you get if you commit to certain changes," including becoming and remaining clean and sober, he said.

“MLK Jr. Village, a project of Mercy Housing California, cost about $15 million to develop, said Stephan Daues, regional director of housing development for the organization. Its cottages, each with about 400 square feet of space, have small kitchens, dining spaces and bedrooms. The complex, in a mostly commercial area near 47th Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, has wide streets and meticulous landscaping, a communal kitchen, staff offices and rooms for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings and counseling sessions.”

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The County & the Parkway

While certainly understanding the importance of paying public employees well, it is tragic that leadership has not also planned well enough to ensure priceless public resources—like the American River Parkway—continue to see annual raises in needed funds for basic maintenance and operation (especially public safety), which instead of being sustained, have been dropping every year over the past decade.

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee article.

“In the last decade, Sacramento County has seen its payroll costs boom even as staffing levels stayed the same.

“But now that the economy has crashed, those raises and new employee benefits are becoming a big part of the budget debate as officials try to close a $55 million shortfall in its $2.2 billion general fund this fiscal year, ending June 30.

"The largest burden we have are those increases," County Executive Terry Schutten said.

“This year, the county budgeted $1.45 billion for about 14,000 positions, almost 50 percent more than it budgeted in fiscal year 2002 for roughly the same number of workers.

“At the same time, enhanced retirement benefits added significant debt – about $450 million – to the county.

“As a result, the county went from shelling out about $38.6 million in fiscal year 2002 to repay pension obligation bonds to an estimated $79.6 million this year.

“County officials project the deficit for fiscal year 2009-10 beginning July 1 could easily reach $100 million. The county is expecting to spend more than $92 million in principal and interest payments on pension obligation bonds in 2010.”