Friday, July 31, 2009

Buy Local?

It has become a mantra, but some of the reasons given why it is better than buying global are suspect, and buying global might pencil out actually satisfying the reasons given for buying local, better, as this article from Financial Post reveals.

An excerpt.

“Activists tout low “food miles” to discourage consumers from buying foods produced in and transported from distant locations. This movement argues that locally produced food is not only fresher and better tasting — which can be plausible claims — but is also more nutritious, beneficial for the local economy and better for the environment because it requires less energy to reach consumers’ table.

“The appeal of the food mile perspective, with its promise to reconnect people with food, neighbouring producers and seasonality, while delivering environmental, economic, health and social benefits, is understandable. At root, however, this perspective is infused by activists’ distrust of large corporations and their romanticization of subsistence agriculture rather than fact…

“Local produce and the eschewing of trade — subsistence agriculture, which is ultimately what food miles boil down to — is of course feasible but it implies significant trade-offs that may not be readily apparent to those who have never experienced it. Because of bad weather, plant and agricultural diseases, pest infestations and an inability to draw on the surplus food generated in other agricultural regions, individuals living in subsistence agricultural production systems were throughout history subjected to much lower living standards, famines and starvation than individuals who benefited from long-distance trade. Restrictive local food policies would imply, even in the world’s currently most advanced and productive agricultural areas, much higher prices and a drastic reduction in the quantity and diversity of foods available to human beings.

“Our modern globalized food supply chain is a demonstrably superior alternative that has evolved through constant competition and ever more rigorous management efficiency. Indeed, a world food chain characterized by free trade and the absence of agricultural (and other) subsidies would deliver lower prices and more variety in a manner that is both more economically and environmentally efficient. The underlying principle would be very simple. As the Scottish economist Adam Smith wrote more than two centuries ago, it is the “maxim of every prudent master of a family, never to attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy.” Feeding a rapidly growing world population in a sustainable manner requires long-distance trade to insure that food is produced most efficiently in the most suitable locations, in the process economizing on all required inputs relative to alternatives.”

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Humans First

The drought that is being amplified by the government in denying water to farmers so that fish can have it, is reported by USA Today, and it is story reminiscent of how the logging industry, subject to similar government policies mandated by environmentalist's law suits, was essentially shut down in the West.

An excerpt.

“FIREBAUGH, Calif - The road to Todd Allen's farm wends past irrigation canals filled with the water that California's hot Central Valley depends on to produce vegetables and fruit for the nation. Yet not a drop will make it to his barren fields.

“Three years into a drought that evokes fears of a modern-day dust bowl, Allen and others here say the culprit now isn't Mother Nature so much as the federal government. Court and regulatory rulings protecting endangered fish have choked the annual flow of water from California's Sierra mountains down to its people and irrigated fields, compounding a natural dry spell.

"This is a regulatory drought, is what it is," Allen says. "It just doesn't seem fair."

For those like Allen at the end of the water-rights line, the flow has slowed to a trickle: His water district is receiving just 10% of the normal allocation of water from federal Bureau of Reclamation reservoirs. He says he's been forced to lay off all his workers and watch the crops die on his 300 acres while bills for an irrigation system he put in are due.

"My payments don't stop when they cut my water off," Allen says.

“Although some farmers with more senior water rights are able to keep going, local officials say 250,000 acres has gone fallow for lack of water in Fresno County, the nation's most productive agriculture county. Statewide, the unplanted acreage is almost twice that.

“Unemployment has soared into Depression-era range; it is 40% in this western Fresno County area where most everyone's job is dependent on farming. Resident laborers who for years sweated in fields to fill the nation's food baskets find themselves waiting for food handouts.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Nonprofit World Grows

In what would seem, at first glance, that a down economy would stifle the start of new nonprofit organizations that have to depend on the generosity of others for their success, is apparently not true, as this story from St. Louis notes.

An excerpt.

“An executive and regular donor was planning a charity golf tournament. An active church had plans for a new project in north St. Louis.

“Both needed an official vehicle for their plans, an organization to carry the banner. But rather than look to existing groups, they all founded nonprofit organizations. And in taking matters into their own hands, they joined a gathering legion who have incorporated nonprofits to match their passions and ideas.

“In Missouri, the number of new nonprofit corporations founded annually has risen steadily this decade, from 1,233 in 2000 to 2,257 in 2007. In 2008, the number exploded to 3,082, almost a 37 percent increase in a single year. In all, the state has more than 52,400 registered nonprofits.

“In Illinois, nonprofit incorporations have increased almost every year since at least 1970, though they fell this year. There are almost 85,400 nonprofits in the state.

"They're simply moral or social entrepreneurs that are concerned about the issues," said Kirsten GrĂžnbjerg, a professor at Indiana University and a chair at the Center on Philanthropy. "I get a request at least once a month from someone else who says, 'I'm starting a new nonprofit. Tell me what to do.'"

“Nationally the trend looks much the same; for decades, entrepreneurs have taken their resolve to the not-for-profit sector each year in greater numbers.

“Experts can't come up with any single reason why the nonprofit sector has grown like it has. But they all see one common thread: the almost mythic American, can-do spirit, as people with passions figure they can do it best themselves.

"That 'Let's take charge' attitude leads them to start a nonprofit," said Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of Guidestar, a national clearinghouse of nonprofit data that is itself an independent tax-exempt organization. "They're saying, 'I'm not going to wait for someone else to do it. I'm not going to wait for the government to do it. I'm going to do it myself.'"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Evolving Philanthropy

As we’ve noted in a recent press release, the central strategy of creating a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) for the Parkway, would be for the JPA to initiate the subsequent creation of a nonprofit organization to provide daily management and supplemental fund raising.

Crucial to the success of this organization would be the selection of a professional nonprofit executive with a graduate degree in some aspect of the nonprofit world.

This is very important due to the dramatic changes in the world of fund raising and managing a nonprofit organization, that has occurred over the past several years.

I have been involved with the nonprofit sector since the 1970’s and the changes I’ve witnessed are impressive; for one, the growth of the academic degrees available in the field, from virtually none then to hundreds now, including doctorates.

There is also a substantial generational change among philanthropists, and Kimberly Palmer has a good post about the changing landscape.

An excerpt.

“For a new generation of philanthropists, giving to charity isn't just about writing checks. Instead, the focus is on volunteering, socializing, and networking -- while also contributing to good causes. "Many Generation X-ers are more interested in social advocacy and engagement philanthropy," says Dwight Burlingame, associate executive director at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. That means they are more likely to want to work directly with organizations instead of just donating money, he explains.

“The center has found that giving rates tend to go up with education levels: 90 percent of those with graduate degrees contributed to charity, compared to 58 percent of those with high school educations or less. For a college graduate, the average annual gift is $2,633.

“Here are three of the most popular ways 20 and 30-somethings are giving back -- and how you can, too:…”

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tribal vs Government Forest Management

This news piece looks at tribal management as opposed to public management, of side-by-side forests, and the results are in, tribes win.

The full report (32 pages) is here.

An excerpt from the news piece.

“In this policy series, Alison Berry continues her work on the quality of forests that result under different management schemes. She contrasts side-by-side forests in Montana. One is operated by the United States Forest Service under the watchful eye of Congress. The other is run by Indian tribes on reservation lands. The Indians win this battle.

“Berry shows that the tribes manage their land more efficiently for timber production and for ecological value. On both the cost and output side of the equation, the tribes do a better job. This is not because Indians are born to appreciate the environment more than people who work for the Forest Service. As Berry explains, the tribes need forest productivity to support their livelihood. The Forest Service is a federal bureaucracy.

“There is a lesson to be learned here. Congressional policies controlling the massive areas of timber land are not producing good results no matter how they are measured. A for-profit lesson from the Native Americans is in order.”

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tragedy Upon Tragedy

As reported by the Sacramento Bee, that of the death of a homeless man apparently beloved by many, and that of the communities surrounding that portion of the American River Parkway who have long lost the ability to safely recreate or otherwise venture into it, as it has become unsafe as a result of the long-term and large-scale illegal camping by the homeless that has been allowed to continue for many years.

An excerpt.

“Jason Johns helped convict the murderers of a Sacramento homeless man, but he felt like that wasn't enough. Since he couldn't help the victim himself, he turned his attention to helping the man's community instead.

“Johns was foreman of the jury that convicted two men of the murder of a homeless man – Michael Wentworth, more popularly known as "Gremlin" – in 2008. But one month after the trial ended in early June, Johns couldn't forget Wentworth – or the Sacramento homeless community he had learned about during the trial.

“Johns called Heath Patterson, a volunteer with Christian homeless outreach group Project 61 who had been a close friend of Wentworth's. He learned that Patterson was organizing a barbecue to honor Wentworth's life and contributions to the homeless community.

“After talking to other members of the jury, Johns discovered that he wasn't the only one who wanted to help.

“So Saturday afternoon, Johns and four other jurors rolled up their sleeves and served hot dogs and hamburgers to approximately 250 homeless people under the 12th Street bridge.

“Barbara Prewitt, another juror, also said that she was inspired to service by the story of Wentworth's murder.

"The trial itself was heartbreaking on one hand, but very eye-opening on the other hand," said Prewitt. "It just touched me as far as who these people are."

“Patterson, who had been friends with Wentworth for five years, began the barbecue with a prayer circle. He then read a poem he had written, titled "The Saint of the American River Parkway," in which he described Wentworth as a man who would "toss you a sleeping bag and a tiny ripple of hope."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Budget Deal & Parks

According to this story from the Los Angeles Times, it appears the deal will pull money from local governments that are now used to help parks, among others, so we will have to wait for the details, but it probably means even more pain for the Parkway.

An excerpt.

“Schwarzenegger appeared ready to overlook those flaws because Democrats acceded to several of his demands: not to raise taxes; to reorganize state boards and commissions; to place new sanctions on welfare recipients who don't meet work requirements; to increase oversight of home healthcare aides to root out fraud; and other measures he said would reform state government.

“The governor said those changes would ultimately save taxpayers $5 billion a year.

“Democrats appeared pleased once the bruising battle had ended, though they had made cuts in services for California's poor and vulnerable citizens that they said would have been unthinkable in years past.

“The reductions would lead to the loss of health insurance for many children, home healthcare for thousands of seniors, the end of welfare checks for many low-income families and the closure of as many as 50 state parks.

“Local governments would lose nearly $2 billion that they rely on to operate their own parks, law enforcement and transportation programs. Schools would take a multibillion-dollar hit.”

Friday, July 24, 2009

Will on Climate Change

In his singular way, George F. Will notes the current climate change push.

An excerpt.

“Unfortunately, China's president had to dash home to suppress ethnic riots. Had he stayed in Italy at the recent Group of Eight summit, he could have continued the Herculean task of disabusing Barack Obama of his amazingly durable belief, shared by the U.S. Congress, that China -- and India, Brazil, Mexico and other developing nations -- will sacrifice their modernization on the altar of climate change. China has a more pressing agenda, and not even suppressing riots tops the list.

“China made this clear in June, when its vice premier said, opaquely, that China will "actively" participate in climate change talks on a basis of "common but differentiated responsibility." The meaning of that was made clear three days later, at a climate change conference in Bonn, where a Chinese spokesman reiterated that his country's priority is economic growth: "Given that, it is natural for China to have some increase in its emissions, so it is not possible for China in that context to accept a binding or compulsory target." That was redundant: In January, China announced that its continuing reliance on coal as its primary source of energy will require increasing coal production 30 percent in the next six years.”

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shoehorn Parks

A wonderful concept is shoehorning parks into areas in urban environments that one normally does not associate with parks, but it is being done with style, as this article from The Trust for Public Land notes.

An excerpt from the news release.

“From Boston to Seattle, crowded cities are finding ways to create parkland in untraditional places. Amid the new high-rises, parking lots and shopping malls, cities are reclaiming space from old factories, railyards and airports, sharing space with schoolyards and cemeteries, and building parks on the tops of roofs and reservoirs. Imaginative strategies from creating park land in cities that seem "all built out" also include cleaning up old waterfronts , closing roadways to cars, and more. In the May, 2009 issue of Landscape Architecture magazine, TPL's Peter Harnik tells the story of today's "Shoehorn Parks."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ozone Holes & Climate Change

As this Washington Post article explains, what we thought would work to solve one problem—which it seems to have done—has made another worse; which should remind us to be very careful playing around with something as large, as complicated (and about which we still know very little) as the global climate, until we are pretty sure we know what we are doing.

An excerpt.

“This is not the funny kind of irony: Scientists say the chemicals that helped solve the last global environmental crisis -- the hole in the ozone layer -- are making the current one worse.

“The chemicals, called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), were introduced widely in the 1990s to replace ozone-depleting gases used in air conditioners, refrigerators and insulating foam.

“They worked: The earth's protective shield seems to be recovering.

“But researchers say what's good for ozone is bad for climate change. In the atmosphere, these replacement chemicals act like "super" greenhouse gases, with a heat-trapping power that can be 4,470 times that of carbon dioxide.

“Now, scientists say, the world must find replacements for the replacements -- or these super-emissions could cancel out other efforts to stop global warming.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Urban Backfill

Sacramento is examining the utilization of alley space to allow more development in the already well-developed mid and downtown areas (as reported in this article from the Sacramento Bee, and this article from New Geography looks at the principle in a larger sense.

First, an excerpt from the Bee article.

“As prime storefronts fill up in midtown, and as lease rates escalate, the hunt is on for new, affordable space.

"They're not making any more land in midtown," said Zeth, adapting Mark Twain's adage: "Buy land – they're not making it anymore."

“Zeth is one of a group of developers who are groundbreaking their way to a new concept for the city: turn alleys into lanes of commerce and urban living, complementary venues to established stalwarts on midtown streets.

“Developers and other supporters are joining together to win city backing on plans to convert three alleys: the restaurant row, another alley with new condominiums and a third with new landscaping, including solar lighting.”

And from the New Geography article.

“Back fill provides an alternative below the line. Overlooked spaces are being discovered by many people as ideal for temporary use, and with only a small cost for a license or permit, new marketplaces, street performances, and other people-intensive activities are rushing in to fill the void. Again, a city with any savvy will try to apply a regulatory and fee drag on this activity; fortunately for the citizens, this usually takes a long time, and in the meantime, many cities are acquiring the look of a genteel form of Blade Runner, with person-to-person commerce taking place among the currently decaying and abandoned edifices and infrastructure.

“Still other parts of the city are trying to beautify their abandoned spaces by planting them, sometimes with gardens, figuring lush landscapes can hide the fact that their core is not as desirable as it once was. And still others fence them off, creating a new canvas for graffiti artists and advertising, and returning the abandoned spaces into wilderness.

“All of this belongs to the study of old field succession, which traditionally has been an agricultural science. For urban cores, this approach suggests a new way to reuse abandoned space. Increasingly, agriculture may not belong exclusively to the rural condition, but can be adapted to the city itself.”

Monday, July 20, 2009

Rancho Cordova Vision

Ted Gaebler, city manger of Rancho Cordova, one of the most astute and skilled pubic administrators in our region, further validated by the national award he just won, explains his vision for Rancho Cordova in this story from the Rancho Cordova Post.

An excerpt.

“City Manager Ted Gaebler has a dream for Rancho Cordova, and it is one he is intent on fulfilling.

"Gaebler, who just won the ICMA Career Development Award and is also the best-selling author of “Reinventing Government,” spoke to members of the Cordova Community Council yesterday at their monthly luncheon about how the government behind the city is run and where he sees it going in the future.

“We specifically set out not to build a government that would start out being disrespectful,” he said. “They wanted me to create a community that we can be proud of.”

“When Gaebler joined the city in Oct. 2003, the City Council charged him with helping to shape the way their government would grow.

“Their aim was to create ”a city government that has never existed before in California,” he said.

“That’s been in writing for six years, and it guides what we as a staff do. We’re trying to create something that gets back to the luster, joy and hope and aspirations that Americans have for their institutions.”

“He described the government he and the City Council set out to create as “different, more respected and less bureaucratic,” as well as more flexible and innovative.”

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Press Release: JPA Approved by Parks Commission

The Need for an American River Parkway Conservancy Via Approved Joint Powers Authority

Last month, the Sacramento County Recreation & Park Commission approved further discussion of a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) Agreement for consideration by the respective jurisdictions of Folsom, Rancho Cordova, Sacramento City, and Sacramento County.

ARPPS applauds the short-term purpose of this discussion approval which: “is to formalize the cooperative working relationship of each of these jurisdictions”; however, ARPPS does not approve the long-term goal which: “would be to impose a Benefit Assessment District for the American River Parkway” (Recreation & Parks Commission, June 25, 2009, Agenda Item 2, p. 2)

ARPPS noted in a January 18, 2008 press release that the concept of a benefit assessment district and subsequent property tax increase was not a good idea for an already over-taxed public, and a better method is to raise funds philanthropically.

What would allow the JPA to raise substantial supplemental funding would be for the JPA to create a nonprofit conservancy, the American River Parkway Conservancy is our suggested name, dedicated to the management and funding of the Parkway.

The ability of nonprofit organizations to raise funds for worthy causes, even in a bad economy, is well proven.

Last year over $300 billion was raised by nonprofit organizations nationally and 75% of that came from individual donors.

Creating a nonprofit organization and raising money philanthropically is the strategy taken by other signature parks, such as Central Park in New York City, where the Central Park Conservancy manages the park and raises funds, raising 85% of needed funding.

While there may be little to compare between Sacramento and New York City, we can compare the significance of Central Park to New York City, to the significance of the Parkway to the Sacramento region, and from that perspective learn valuable innovations about sustaining and enhancing our beautiful resource.

In addition to learning from others, it is also crucial to ensure that the executive management of a future Parkway Conservancy is a nonprofit management professional adept at raising funds in all of the ways necessary to be of significant financial help to the Parkway.

In addition to the ongoing strategy of social enterprise, there are many methods of fundraising:

• Annual giving programs such as direct mail, events, internet-based new media/direct response, telemarketing, and volunteer-led solicitations.
• Major giving programs such as corporate support, cause-related marketing, grants from foundations and government, major gifts from individuals, planned giving, and capital campaigns.

The well managed nonprofit that needs substantial amounts of money, like a Parkway Conservancy certainly would, will need to conduct all of these efforts throughout the year, while keeping the ongoing fundraising creative and vibrant to ensure the continued interest and loyalty of funders.

In the trying economic times our region has been dealing with, any discussion of increasing taxes is counter-productive; but the love our community has for the Parkway is very evident and, given professional nonprofit management and fund raising leadership, an American River Parkway Conservancy could be relied on to rally that love around preserving, protecting, and strengthening the Parkway long into the future.

Organizational Leadership
American River Parkway Preservation Society
Sacramento, California
July 14, 2009

Contact Information

David H. Lukenbill, Senior Policy Director
American River Parkway Preservation Society
2267 University Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95825
P: 916-486-3856 E: Dlukenbill@man.com
W: www.arpps.org B: www.parkwayblog.blogspot.com

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Special Districts & the Parkway JPA

One of the great uncertainties about the long term goal (to create a special benefit assessment district) of the recently approved Joint Powers Authority (JPA) by the Sacramento Country Parks Commission, is that the money it collects from the new property taxes it could impose, are not safe from state raids during trying financial times, as this article from the Sacramento Bee notes.

Funds collected philanthropically through the nonprofit conservancy we propose the JPA create—see our press release—would however, be completely safe.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

"Bolstering state coffers with local government funds would replace revenue lost by killing proposals to hike taxes on cigarettes, impose an oil extraction tax and raise vehicle registration fees to bankroll state parks.

"A three-pronged revenue package totaling more than $4 billion this year from cities, counties and special districts is the acknowledged choice within budget negotiations, according to multiple sources familiar with the talks.

"Senate Republican leader Dennis Hollingsworth is pushing an alternative idea, involving borrowing against redevelopment funds, but it likewise involves local government.

"Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger's spokesman, declined comment Thursday.

"Jean Hurst, lobbyist for the California State Association of Counties, said recession has taken a huge toll, and local governments would be hard-pressed to shoulder a heavier load.

"If we're talking about all three components, I think 'devastating' is not a strong enough word to describe how it will affect local government," she said.

"The three-pronged revenue package from local governments consists of:

"• Borrowing $1.9 billion in property taxes from cities, counties and special districts. Under voter-approved Proposition 1A, the money would have to be repaid within three years."

Friday, July 17, 2009

K Street Traffic

We agree with this recent editorial from the Sacramento Bee that K Street should have another hotel and be reopened to automobile traffic, as it will finally rectify a very bad idea to close the street so many years ago.

The model for downtown Sacramento has to be that of a bustling state capitol of the largest state in the nation, where the preponderance of business comes from the resident state legislature, state administrative offices, and the numerous lobbyists, attorneys, association and organization professionals, and all of the other services connected to them.

And we can add to the governmental mix the administrations of the city of Sacramento and Sacramento County.

This necessarily imposes some restrictions as to the hours the city is occupied to any degree, but a bustling day-time and early evening city is preferable to what we now have; an uncertain downtown struggling to be something it is not nor probably can ever be, a 24 hour city.

The acceptance of the strengths of our fair city—its status as the capitol and its lovely downtown and midtown grid so interestingly mixed with residential and commercial development all beautifully embraced by our two rivers—is long over-due.

An excerpt.

“Over the years, Sacramento's central shopping district has struggled to get foot traffic beyond the 8-to-5 weekday workday.

“That's largely because the core city has lots of government and office buildings but less in the way of housing and hotels. And the city cut off K Street car traffic downtown and created a pedestrian/transit-only area.

“All this is beginning to turn around. The city now has more hotels and housing options downtown. And a couple of new developments on K Street are promising.

“One is that the City Council in May approved urban design guidelines that call for reintroducing "low-volume, low-speed automobile traffic" to K Street "to create the pass-by traffic that main street retailers so depend on." The idea would be to allow car traffic to share street space with light rail and include on-street parking. A consultant is expected to present options by October.”

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fish Over People

Turns the great equation upside down—not how it should be—and this article notes how the bad equation is playing out in the salmon fishing industry along the Northern California coast.

An excerpt.

“SACRAMENTO – The rallying cry “people, not fish” has echoed loudly from Sacramento to Bakersfield, moving Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to commit vast amounts of money and extra water to a depressed agricultural region where Dust Bowl comparisons are no exaggeration in some parts.

“But while the plight of farmers and idled farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley has captured attention, a similar deepening crisis is unfolding along California's North Coast.

“There, all salmon boats are under federal order to remain moored for a second straight year as part of an effort to prevent overfishing.

“The outlook remains grim. Drought, commitments to bring water to farms and pollution are working against them, fishermen say. River flows appear too low and too warm to sustain healthy salmon populations.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Water, Underground & Above

One thing that struck me about this article from the Sacramento Bee about getting geothermal energy from underground by breaking up rock—and thereby causing earthquakes, though said to be small—is the conjunction with another source of energy developed from above ground water storage, hydropower from dams.

A major objection about building Auburn Dam is the speculation, here and here, that it would cause earthquakes, with evidence for and against, as noted by this government report that: “Based on analysis of 55 reported cases of reservoir-induced seismicity worldwide and geologic and seismologic data for 16 selected dams and reservoirs in the Sierran foothills, WCC (1977) reached two sets of conclusions about reservoir-induced seismicity associated with Auburn Dam as proposed at that time. First, if the 1975 Oroville earthquake is assumed not to be reservoir induced, then the likelihood of an induced earthquake of the magnitude of the Oroville event (5.7) or larger is 2% to 5 % during the life of the dam. Second, if the Oroville earthquake is assumed to be reservoir induced, then the likelihood of an induced earthquake of the magnitude of the Oroville earthquake is 30 % during the lifetime of the dam. We have not been able to reconstruct the basis for these probabilities and do not endorse them. The specific probabilities of an induced earthquake of M 5.7 or larger associated with an Auburn reservoir are open for revaluation.”

So, by building a dam that would produce hydroelectric power there is at most and after a big if is determined, a 30% chance of an earthquake, which current dam construction technology could largely counteract, as opposed to drilling through rock underground that with “little doubt” will cause earthquakes, it would seem the safer bet is the dam.

An excerpt.

“ANDERSON SPRINGS – Residents in this tiny Lake County community have complained for years about the earthquakes touched off by the geothermal energy projects that tap the vast reservoir of steam in the mountains behind their homes.

“Now, with the federal government, Google and some of Silicon Valley's top venture capital firms committing millions to test a new way to mine clean energy from the earth here, the locals are finally getting some attention.

“On a ridgetop above Anderson Springs, Bay Area startup AltaRock Energy Inc. is drilling a hole more than 2 miles deep. As soon as August, the company plans to inject high-pressure water to crack the solid, 500-degree Fahrenheit bedrock, creating an artificial reservoir of superheated water. The steam will then be used to drive electrical turbines.

“If the test works, it could pave the way for essentially limitless exploitation of the heat energy in Earth's crust….

“In Anderson Springs, though, the project has homeowners worried that the regular quake activity they already contend with would get even worse. Over the past two decades, the region has experienced between 13 and 32 earthquakes each year greater than magnitude 3.0 – including six in the past two weeks – according to U.S. Geological Service data, as well as thousands of smaller quakes.

“While these are relatively small quakes, they originate near the surface and can feel stronger than the numbers suggest.

“There's little debate that the quakes are caused by the existing geothermal projects, as water is injected and withdrawn, causing rock to shift.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Forest Thinning

What has long been known by many in the forest industry is slowly becoming understood by public leadership, that if you reduce fuel by thinning forests, you reduce the damage done from the inevitable forest fires, as this article reports.

An excerpt.

“GREENVILLE – A fire lookout spotted the smoke on Labor Day, and air tankers were making drops on the flames within 20 minutes.

“But the September 2007 blaze that came to be known as the Moonlight fire quickly spread through dense, dry timber. Over the next two weeks, it cut a ferocious swath through Plumas County's forests, ultimately destroying more than 65,000 acres.

“In part because the land hadn't been logged in many years, the fire moved faster and burned hotter than most forest fires, quickly moving from tinder-dry underbrush to smaller dead trees and finally to the tops of the most towering pines.

“For years, timber harvesting on public lands has been stymied by concerns about logging's environmental damage. But now more than a few former timber workers who have visited the site wonder whether the fire could have been stopped sooner if they'd been able to thin out some of that wood years ago.

"The Moonlight fire is compelling us to rethink how we manage our forests and how we relate to the forest," said Jonathan Kusel of the Sierra Institute, a natural resource sociologist in Taylorsville who has studied timber-dependent rural communities for more than 20 years.”

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rancho Cordova Governance

We could not agree more with this editorial from the Sacramento Bee and have been a fan of the Rancho Cordova governance model from the beginning, advocating for their inclusion among the governing entities for the Parkway.

The type of public private partnership and entrepreneurship they represent was written about in a classic text in the public administration field, Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Sprit is Transforming the Public Sector, by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler.

Ted Gaebler is the city manger of Rancho Cordova.

An excerpt from the Bee editorial.

“Citing the state's inability to close its budget deficit, Fitch, the bond rating service, downgraded California's bonds last week from A- to BBB. The downgrade could cost the state's taxpayers as much as $7.5 billion in added interest over a 30-year period.

“But as California's credit rating falls, the ratings for the city of Rancho Cordova, population 65,000, have risen. Standard & Poor's, another national rating service, last month upgraded the city's credit rating two notches, to A+.

“It's difficult to compare a city the size of Rancho Cordova with the state of California and its 38 million residents. Rancho Cordova has a measly $27.1 million in debt. California owes $77.6 billion. Less debt makes maintaining good credit a lot easier.

“That said, there are things about the way Rancho Cordova conducts business that the state and local governments such as Sacramento County, which, like the state, had its credit rating downgraded recently, might want to emulate.

“Like the rest of the world, Rancho Cordova has experienced a severe drop in income during the current recession. Sales and property tax revenue fell 19 percent last year.

“But the city didn't wait months or years to react to declining income. As soon as receipts started dropping, City Manager Ted Gaebler, in consultation with the City Council, began trimming expenses. The city cut its number of building inspectors from double digits to just two. The city also cut back on street maintenance.”

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Good For Taxpayers, Not so for Government

In these trying times that is a good trade, as the property values dropping will result in lower property taxes but less funds for government—reported in the Bee—impacting the Parkway even more.

It is becoming more obvious that there should be another model adopted for supplemental Parkway funding and management and that which we have proposed—see this blog post—is an excellent alternative.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“For the first time since the taxpayers' revolt of the 1970s, the total assessed value of properties is dropping in Sacramento and across California.

“The property tax roll in Sacramento County is down 6.4 percent from last year – to $131.6 billion; in Contra Costa County it's down 7 percent; and in Merced County it's down almost 13 percent.

“The slide means less revenue for cash-starved cities and counties that rely on property tax proceeds to fund services. But there's an upside: Some homeowners struggling with the recession will see smaller tax bills later this year.”

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Eppies Great Race

One of Sacramento’s wonderful traditions, attracting people from far and wide, is Eppie's triathlon on the Parkway, and it is on board for later this month as reported by the Rancho Cordova Post.

An excerpt.

“Some of us cringe at the thought of running 6 miles. Then add in cycling over 12 miles… No thanks. If that isn’t enough for your morning work out, try paddling for another 6 miles. While many would prefer to cheer from the sidelines, others will challenge themselves in what may be the oldest triathlon in the world. Every year, Eppie’s Great Race turns the American River Parkway along Rancho Cordova into an all out triathlon.

“On Saturday, July 18th, athletes will turn out for Eppie’s Great Race; a triathlon including a 5.82 mile run, 12.5 mile cycle, and 6.35 mile paddle. The start times begin at 8, and the adaptive divisions (one person must have a disability) begin just two minutes earlier. There are many team divisions to choose from, where different people take on their own individual leg of the race. The ironpersons division is for the hard core triathlete who will take on each leg on their own.”

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cars Powered by What?

This is a hmmmm invention, article from Fast Company.

An excerpt.

“Hydrogen power has long been hampered by the lack of an inexpensive, renewable fuel. As it turns out, the solution may be right underneath us. Researchers at Ohio University have discovered that hydrogen can be produced from urine using an electrolytic process at only a fraction of the cost of generating hydrogen from water.

“Researcher Geraldine Botte and team used the fact that hydrogen molecules in urea are less tightly bound than those in water to create an inexpensive nickel-based electrode that efficiently oxidizes urea. A voltage of .037V is required to break down urea. In comparison, 1.23V are required to break down water.”

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Electric Cycles

A very cool ride was introduced Sunday in Oregon.

An excerpt.

“It's official: the Brammo Enertia, a much-hyped electric urban commuter bike, hit a Best Buy store yesterday in Portland, Oregon, and will expand to other locations nationwide soon. The $11,995 Enertia probably won't fly off the shelves like DVD players and televisions, but it's part of a growing push by the store to move into electric vehicle sales. And even though Best Buy has been selling eight models of electric bikes, scooters, and Segways at 21 West Coast stores since May, the Enertia is the crown jewel on the store's line of EVs. Best Buy has invested $10 million in Brammo and is even training in-store Geek Squad members to service the bikes.

“Why the Enertia? The bike, which goes up to 50 mph and charges in three hours from a regular outlet, is an entry-level vehicle suitable for beginners and advanced riders. So while the price may not be right for casual browsers, it's an enticing option for first-time motorcycle buyers.”

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Salmon Need Water & We Got Water

There is plenty of cold water in California for the Sacramento and American Rivers, if, we would capture more of it when it rains so that when the salmon need it, we can release it to the rivers, see this recent blog post.

With this obvious reality—well understood by public leadership of times past—still being ignored by some media, as today’s Bee editorial repeats, the elusive solution that doesn’t rely on building more dams, will remain so, and editorials like this one will keep ending up writing about blank walls of water-starved rivers and degraded salmon runs.

An excerpt.

“• Central Valley salmon are suffering only because of ocean conditions. Another falsehood. Salmon runs have bounced around but have generally declined since the 1960s, even with gyrating ocean conditions. Clearly, their habitat in the Valley has degraded – a habitat that is dependent on clear, cold, abundant water.

“Through improved conservation, water banking, groundwater storage and other projects, California can help its farms and cities weather the dry periods while rebuilding a healthy fishery. That will take a cooperative approach.”

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Suburban Growth Shrinking, Cities Growing?

I had read the article in the Journal noted in this post from New Geography and had wondered about it.

However, the New Geography article validates what we have known for some time, most folks would rather live in the suburbs than cities, and demographic data continues to support that; the economy-driven fact that many people are staying in cities they now cannot afford to move from not withstanding.

An excerpt.

“For decades, those who know best have been chronicling the death of the suburbs. In every new announcement of demographic data, they find evidence that people are “moving back” to the core cities, even though they never moved away. The coverage of the latest Bureau of the Census city population estimates set a new standard. “Cities Grow at Suburb’s Expense During Recession” was the headline in The Wall Street Journal. The New York Daily News headlined “Census Shows Cities are Growing More Quickly than Suburbs.”

“Robert E. Lang, co-director of Washington’s Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech noted that inner suburbs that have developed transit systems grew more last year and that others will begin to grow faster in the future. Lang specifically cites the Washington, DC suburbs of Alexandria and Arlington. William Frey of the Brookings Institution told Time magazine that the cities are “a lot better” able to withstand the “ups and downs” in the economy.

“This is something for which no evidence was reported, but it was the “inside-the-beltway” (Washington) spin that Time and other media have been eager to adopt. Even the latest government numbers still showed the suburbs with a growth rate more than 20 percent above that of the core cities.

“Premature Death Syndrome?

“Despite the spin, an analysis of the 51 metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 population indicates that the nation’s suburbs are in no danger of being displaced as growth leaders by the central city. To start with, suburbs represent nearly 75 percent of the nation’s major metropolitan population. Further, the overwhelming evidence is that people continue to move out of the core cities in far larger numbers than they are moving in (net domestic migration).

“In 2008, the core cities accounted for 23 percent of growth in the largest metropolitan areas. This is up from the decade annual average of 16 percent (Note 1). But this improvement is not the result of more people moving to the core cities but a huge decline in domestic migration, which has driven suburban growth for decades. Thus, the story in the latest census estimates is not that the cities are growing faster. It is rather that people are generally staying put amidst the steepest economic decline since the Great Depression. Stunted hopes, not a sudden enthusiasm for urban living, have driven the relative change.”

Monday, July 06, 2009

Nonprofits & the Recession

An excellent report by John Hopkins University—at the jump—has just been released examining the impact on nonprofits around the country.

As expected, giving was down in 2008, (but still over $300 billion for the year, with 75% of that from individuals) but the nonprofit world is showing some resiliency—though anyone who has worked in the field for any length of time is not surprised—and the most well-led organizations will weather this period as they have weathered others, by being creative, tenacious, and true to their mission.

This report has some relevance for us, as the central aspect of our call for a Joint Power Authority to govern the Parkway is the creation of a nonprofit American River Parkway Conservancy to provide management and supplementary fund raising.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

California Politics & Water

As George Will wrote in his column today about Meg Whitman, a possible candidate for governor of California:

“To change Sacramento, which Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego television stations barely cover, she must find new ways to communicate with a disconnected public. Because California is second among the states only to Wisconsin in Internet connectivity, she hopes to directly arouse the state for challenges such as modernizing the water storage and delivery system that was designed for a California with half today's population.

"There is," she says, "plenty of water in California -- we can't get it from where it is to where it is needed." The result, partly because of aggressive environmentalism, is "a slow-motion Katrina" in some Central Valley towns where unemployment is above 40 percent.”

We have been posting on the plentitude of California water for some time, and the lack of the political savvy—at least since the last century—to do anything about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Take Me to the River!

One hopes that is one of the songs—a personal favorite—played at the harmonica convention in Sacramento this summer and that it will be played in the Parkway along the American River in the heat of the August day.

But for today, get out on the river and have a great July 4th!

Excerpt from the news release about the convention.

“Sacramento, CA, June 8th, 2009--Sacramento's Radisson Hotel will be rocking and rolling this summer as hundreds of harmonica players from expert to novice will descend on the city as The Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica (SPAH) kicks off its 46th anniversary convention in Sacramento, CA, from Tuesday, August 11th thru Saturday, August 15th, 2009.

“The magical sound of the harmonica is loved and appreciated around the globe. It would be tough to find a genre of music where the harmonica has not left its mark. Here in the United States, the harmonica played an important part in the birth of the blues as well as the good old days of Vaudeville. It can be found in the worlds of classical and jazz music, rock and roll, country and western, bluegrass and folk--you name it and the harmonica has created miles of smiles and dancing in the aisles!

“What happens at a harmonica convention, you may ask? World class performers teach and entertain from early morning ‘til late at night. Amateur and professional, male and female, young and old, they all come together with a common love and passion for the music. The sharing and jam sessions are non-stop. Attitudes and egos are left at the door. It is a musical celebration of life like no other.

“Some of this year’s headliners include Tommy Morgan, the dean of Hollywood soundtrack harmonica players, Mark Hummel, California blues legend and impresario and Jia-Yi He, master of the classical harmonica.”

Friday, July 03, 2009

On the River

The Sacramento Bee has a great article on kayaking on the American River, surely a nice weekend venture; and though its not going to be above the 100 degree mark that makes for a perfect July 4th on the river, it will be plenty warm and should be a really great day.

An excerpt.

“You know you want to.

“You've watched with envy as those kayakers glide down the American River on a hot summer day.

“But you still haven't tried it? Didn't know how to get started or where to launch from?

“Your worries are over. Just in time for the long Fourth of July weekend, here's a how-to guide to running the American below Lake Natoma. This isn't meant for experts. It's for anyone who can swim, has some common sense and wants to take advantage of one of the region's finest attractions.

“Let's get started.

“The basics

“Don't be an idiot. Wear a life jacket. Seriously. There isn't a more important thing to know about kayaking here. It may look shallow and slow and safe. It isn't. There are strong currents, deep holes and tricky spots all along it. Get a life jacket. Put it on.

“Get a kayak. There are plenty of options out there, rentals, used boats, inflatables, the ones you sit inside, the ones you sit on top of. Decide which one suits you best.

“The sit-upons are easier to crawl back on top of if you fall in. The ones you sit inside of protect you from the water better and can be used year-round, even in winter. You can find a kayak and paddle starting around $200.”

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Reorganization of State Water Administration?

One of the benefits of budget peril within government is the tendency to want to reevaluate administration to determine if any cost savings—and efficiencies—can be realized through reorganization, and this budget crisis is no exception as the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

An excerpt.

“SACRAMENTO – Overshadowed by the more immediate budget crisis, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers are crafting separate plans to restructure state fire protection and water-delivery services across California.

“Desperate to save money and under intense pressure to shrink government, lawmakers have caught reorganization fever – evaluating offices that oversee everything from fishing to logging to boating.

“Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, one of the leaders of the reorganization drive, said deliberations are designed to “see what makes sense for the 21st century.”

“What emerges could determine who controls two of the most vital public services the state provides. But major political fights loom, particularly for the water portion, given that even modest and inexpensive variations in the status quo can set off turf battles.

“No one is suggesting that the public would notice any on-the-ground change. Fire crews will still respond to alarms and water will still flow to homes, businesses and farms. Ultimately, the question will be whether those services can be done more efficiently.

“A proposal that has drawn considerable attention would create a Department of Natural Resources with command over a variety of responsibilities. That would allow the state to ax the Board of Forestry and the Department of Water Resources.

“In conjunction, lawmakers are advancing a proposal to move Cal Fire, which provides front-line protection for much of rural San Diego County, from the Department of Forestry into the state Office of Emergency Services.

“They also are looking to wrest control of the vital State Water Project from the Department of Water Resources and turn over the plumbing system to a new state-controlled utility or oversight commission. The structure of that utility has not been determined, but likely would be appointed by the governor. About one-third of the San Diego region's supply flows through the State Water Project and its headwaters, Lake Oroville.

“Lester Snow, water resources director, said just splitting off the project would be “a knee-jerk reaction with unintended consequences.”

“But, Snow added, “I'm all for” a broader review that takes into account other vital functions, such as flood management and dam safety. Legislators have suggested moving flood protection into the little-known Central Valley Flood Protection Board.”

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

River Levees

The discussion of trees or not on the levees has been going on awhile and, putting the safety argument aside for a moment, it is obvious that just from a visual and sanctuary enhancing experience—particularly in the Parkway—trees are a welcome addition.

However, considering the way the levees in our area were built—to narrow the river channels to flush out debris from gold mining—there may be no other option that serves to provide protection from flooding, as well as keeping the levees clear of trees and bushes.

This policy, if it does get implemented, could lead to an opportunity to increase the growth of trees and bushes in the Parkway away from the levees, and the design of more picnic groves and wooden lookouts accessible to the disabled, that won’t add to the weakening of the levee soil.

An excerpt from the article from the Sacramento Bee.

“The levee maintenance policy has never been applied uniformly in California. In fact, local Army Corps officials have worked with the state for years to plant more trees on levees.

“The corps commissioned a scientific peer review of its policy last year. Finished in December, the corps provided The Bee a copy last week.

"The policies and guidance lack scientific foundation, as evidenced by broad anecdotal assumptions and lack of (non-Army Corps) literature citations," the three-member review panel wrote. "The document is from the single perspective that vegetation on levees is bad and should be removed. Some vegetation may help stabilize … levees."

“This echoes the consensus of a science symposium on the subject hosted in 2007 by the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency. Numerous experts said there was little proof that trees threaten levees. On the contrary, they cited a large body of research that trees may actually strengthen levees by binding loose soils together with their roots.

“The federal policy relies largely on field experience rather than scientific studies to justify its conclusions.

“The corps stands behind its policy and rejects the critique of its scientific merit.

"We don't agree with that at all," said Eric Halpin, Army Corps special assistant on dam and levee safety. "Our primary mission is to keep public safety forefront, and not everyone has that mission. Certainly the folks that are solely focused on the benefits of trees don't have that focus."