Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas & New Year Break

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Blogging will resume Monday January 3, 2011.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gibson Ranch

The editorial in the Sacramento Bee lamenting the decision by the County Board of Supervisors to turn over management of the shuttered Gibson Ranch to a group headed by a long time public servant and prominent philanthropist, whose history in the area is substantial, seems oddly inappropriate considering the park will now reopen with a very good chance it will be well-cared for and even enhanced.

An excerpt.

“It is hardly surprising that Sacramento County supervisors have agreed to pursue an ill-advised deal with developer Doug Ose over the future of Gibson Ranch. Supervisors have been making reckless financial decisions for years. On Tuesday, they added to their legacy.

“The deal negotiated between Ose and interim County Executive Steve Szalay would allow Ose to take over Gibson Ranch, a 345-acre public park, and operate it for 10 years as a profit-making entity. Ose would pay $1 a year to take over this historic ranch. The county, in turn, would commit $500,000 over five years to upgrade facilities in this privatized park that Ose would control.

“Szalay and Ose touted the deal as the best way to get Gibson Ranch reopened in a short period of time. They both claim it would save the county money in the long run, because the cost of mothballing Gibson Ranch is about $212,000 yearly.

“While those arguments have some merit, Szalay and supervisors who voted for the deal – Roberta MacGlashan, Susan Peters, Don Nottoli and Jimmie Yee – utterly ignored the potential risks to the county. In particular, the deal, as now written, allows Ose to invest whatever amount of money he wants in profit-making businesses – ranging from a pet motel to an RV park. If the county wanted to end the agreement before 10 years, it would have to repay Ose for his investment costs and percentage of lost revenue. That could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and possibly more.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Homelessness & San Francisco, Part II

The sit-lie law was passed recently in San Francisco, and a column in the San Francisco Chronicle examines the response.

An excerpt.

“Nobody likes to lose an election, especially when you are convinced you will win. But now that the voters of San Francisco have spoken in favor of the sit/lie law, opponents have to make a decision.

“If they want to mutter and grouse about the election, that's fine. They've been muttering and grousing about other, similar issues they opposed - Care Not Cash, the Community Justice Center - for years.

“But if they follow through with threats to challenge sit/lie in the courts, we have to question their motives. They can't say that putting the financially strapped city through a costly lawsuit - which they would probably lose - is representing the will of the people. More than 105,000 voters supported sit/lie.

"That would be like giving the middle finger to the city," said Police Chief George Gascón, who supported the measure. "This is more of an ideological statement. It is not about winning in court, which is unlikely since it has been challenged and confirmed in our courts and in our circuit. It is more about continuing to fight."

“Opponents can say that the San Francisco version is citywide, not just confined to the business corridors as it is in Seattle. But this was a citywide vote, and the measure passed handily.

“It brings into question that age-old question: Who really speaks for the majority of residents? Sit/lie opponents were certain that they did, and that the proponents were just a few malcontents and big money developers.

"You'd hear that it was a couple of merchants in the Haight, or downtown interests," Gascón said. "That's bull crap."

“Clearly the tide has turned since a less restrictive sit/lie ballot measure failed in 1994. But the far-left advocates seem intent on ignoring the voice of the voters.

“Opposition leaders have claimed the sit/lie law violates the Fourth and Eighth Amendments. But the Fourth defines "unreasonable search and seizure," and the Eighth concerns "excessive bail, fines and cruel and unusual punishment."

“Those arguments may be tough to prove. A cornerstone of the measure is that a warning is required from the officer before someone sitting on the sidewalk can be cited. There won't be any unreasonable search or cruel and unusual punishment if the person simply gets up and moves.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gibson Ranch, Part II

As reported by the Sacramento Bee, the county will move forward with the plan to turn over management of the park to a forprofit entity.

It is heartening to see innovation and creativity become part of the mix of local parks management.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“Sacramento County supervisors voted Tuesday to move forward on a deal that would turn over Gibson Ranch to a private developer, rejecting the option of opening up the process for more proposals.

“The vote means former congressman and real-estate developer Doug Ose will take over the now-closed property near Elverta, unless the county and Ose can't agree on the particulars of a contract.

“Ose said he hopes to sign an agreement with the county by February and reopen Gibson Ranch by April 1. The county closed the park earlier this year because of budget problems.

“Supervisors endorsed the tentative agreement reached so far by Ose and interim County Executive Steve Szalay: Ose will lease the 345-acre historic property for $1 a year. In exchange, he must maintain the ranch, keep it open to the public and provide services.

“The county will pay $100,000 a year in deferred maintenance costs.

“Remaining to be decided: What penalties will Ose face if he fails to deliver and what kinds of services will be provided at the ranch. Szalay said the county could end the agreement at any time.

“Supervisors voted 4-1 to direct Szalay to bring back a final agreement, handing Supervisor Phil Serna his first defeat during his first meeting on the board. Serna, who replaced Supervisor Roger Dickinson, voted against the agreement, saying the county should reopen the process for more proposals.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gibson Ranch

The proposal to open the Ranch to the public under a lease management agreement comes from a family with a long-established record of public service and philanthropy, is supported by many locally, and is congruent with standard lease management agreements involving some form of privatization, as we posted earlier here and here.

Given that, the opposition as stated in this Sacramento Bee editorial seems overwrought.

An excerpt.

“For Sacramento County supervisors, decision time could come today on what to do with Gibson Ranch regional park.

“Interim County Executive Steve Szalay's staff report, however, is so contradictory that the supervisors truly are on their own.

“The obvious action: Start over.

“That report notes that a selection advisory committee and county staff recommended rejection of the only proposal submitted, which came from developer and former congressman Doug Ose. Further, it acknowledges that since then "several new entities have approached Regional Parks and expressed interest in submitting a proposal for the operation of Gibson Ranch." So why not see what's out there, instead of proceeding with the only, still deeply flawed proposal that the county has received? This is a case where competition would be better than negotiating a sole-source contract.

“Yet the county executive now is recommending that supervisors "finalize negotiations" with "Gibson Ranch LP" – an entity proposed by Ose that does not yet exist and has no experience with park operations.

“This makes no sense whatsoever.”

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Surgery & Blogosphere Absence

Emergency surgery right after Thanksgiving, and the subsequent recuperation will keep me from the blogosphere for a few more days.

Enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving week and we'll resume posting on the 29th.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Homelessness in San Francisco

A model of what can be done right and what has been done terribly wrong, the City by the Bay has a twisted history of dealing with homelessness and the public disorder it has brought to the city streets.

That history is chronicled by Heather McDonald, the best writer on the issue in America, in City Journal.

An excerpt.

“The homelessness industry has pulled off some impressive feats of rebranding over the years—most notably, turning street vagrancy into a consequence of unaffordable housing, rather than of addiction and mental illness. But for sheer audacity, nothing tops the alchemy that homelessness advocates and their government sponsors are currently attempting in San Francisco. The sidewalks of the Haight-Ashbury district have been colonized by aggressive, migratory youths who travel up and down the West Coast panhandling for drug and booze money. Homelessness, Inc. is trying to portray these voluntary vagabonds as the latest victims of inadequate government housing programs, hoping to defeat an ordinance against sitting and lying on public sidewalks that the Haight community has generated.

“The outcome of the industry’s rebranding campaign—and of the Haight’s competing effort to restore order—will be known this November, when San Franciscans vote on the proposed sit-lie law. That vote will reveal whether San Francisco is ready to join the many other cities that view civilized public space as essential to urban life.

“Four filthy targets of Homelessness, Inc.’s current relabeling effort sprawl across the sidewalk on Haight Street, accosting pedestrians. “Can you spare some change and shit? Will you take me home with you?” Cory, a slender, dark-haired young man from Ventura, California, cockily asks passersby. “Dude, do you have any food?” His two female companions, Zombie and Eeyore, swig from a bottle of pricey Tejava tea and pass a smoke while lying on a blanket surrounded by a fortress of backpacks, bedrolls, and scrawled signs asking for money. Vincent, a fourth “traveler,” as the Haight Street punks call themselves, stares dully into space. All four sport bandannas around their necks—to ward off freight-train exhaust as they pass through tunnels, they explain—as well as biker’s gloves and a large assortment of tattoos and metal hardware. The girls wear necklaces and bracelets of plastic disks and other hip found objects; their baggy tank tops and stockings are stylishly torn.

“A petite Asian woman passes the group and smilingly hands Cory the remains of a submarine sandwich. Suddenly, all four are on their feet, tearing at the sub. As Zombie stuffs the bread into her mouth, partly chewed chunks fall back out onto the ground.

“Such juvenile hobos see themselves as on a “mission,” though they’re hard-pressed to define it. Sometimes they follow rock bands, and other times more mysterious imperatives, between Seattle, Portland, Santa Cruz, Berkeley, Venice Beach, and San Diego. Some are runaways; some are college dropouts; others are years older. Eeyore says she got kicked out of her Riverside, California, home at 14 because she was “a punk and an asshole.”

“Of all the destinations on the “traveler” circuit, the Haight carries a particular attraction to the young panhandlers, thanks to the Summer of Love. Starting in late 1965, waves of teens from across the country began pouring into what was then a ramshackle, blue-collar neighborhood of pastel Victorian houses and low-rent businesses, drawn to the emergent drug culture and its promised liberation from the bourgeois values of self-discipline and hard work. “The time has come to be free,” a local flyer proclaimed. “Be FREE. Do your thing. Be what you are. Do it. Now.” This insipid philosophy was eventually co-opted by consumer capitalism, while the hippie ethos gave way to punk, daisy chains to piercing, acid to meth, and mindless utopianism to mindless nihilism. In the Haight itself, national chain stores like American Apparel, McDonald’s, and Ben & Jerry’s found a place next to the head shops, tie-dye boutiques, and check-cashing outlets. But the kids kept coming.

“The defining characteristic of all these “travelers” seems to be an acute sense of entitlement. “If you can afford this shit on Haight Street, then goddamn, you can probably afford to kick down $20 [to a panhandler] and it won’t fucking hurt your wallet,” a smooth-faced blond boy from Spartanburg, South Carolina, defiantly tells the camera in The Haight Street Kids, a documentary by Stanford University’s art department. I ask the group on the blanket: Why should people give you money? “They got a dollar and I don’t,” Cory replies. Why don’t you work? “We do work,” retorts Eeyore. “I carry around this heavy backpack. We wake up at 7 AM and work all day. It’s hard work.” She’s referring to begging and drinking. She adds judiciously: “Okay, my liver hates me, but I like the idea of street performance. We’re trying to get a dollar for beer.” More specifically, they’re aiming for two Millers and a Colt 45 at the moment, explains Zombie. Aren’t you embarrassed to be begging? “I’m not begging, I’m just asking for money,” Cory says, seemingly convinced of the difference. How much do you make? “In San Francisco, you don’t get much—maybe $30 to $40 a day,” says Eeyore. “When you’re traveling, you can make about $100 on freeway off-ramps.”

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Future & Reason

In times of great uncertainty, words of wisdom are always appreciated and this short excerpt in today’s Wall Street Journal, written in 1953, is timeless.

An excerpt.

“When I was a younger man, I believed that progress was inevitable—that the world would be better tomorrow and better still the day after. The thunder of war, the stench of concentration camps, the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb are, however, not conducive to optimism. All our tomorrows for years to come will be clouded by the threat of a terrible holocaust.

“Yet my faith in the future, though somewhat shaken, is not destroyed. I still believe in it. If I sometimes doubt that man will achieve his mortal potentialities, I never doubt that he can.

“I believe that these potentialities promise all men a measure beyond reckoning of the joys and comforts, material and spiritual, that life offers. Not utopia, to be sure. I do not believe in utopias. Man may achieve all but perfection.

“Paradise is not for this world. All men cannot be masters, but none need to be a slave. We cannot cast out pain from the world, but needless suffering we can. Tragedy will be with us in some degree as long as there is life, but misery we can banish. Injustice will raise its head in the best of all possible worlds, but tyranny we can conquer. Evil will invade some men's hearts, intolerance will twist some men's minds, but decency is a far more common human attribute, and it can be made to prevail in our daily lives.

“I believe all this because I believe, above all else, in reason—in the power of the human mind to cope with the problems of life. Any calamity visited upon man, either by his own hand or by a more omnipotent nature, could have been avoided or at least mitigated by a measure of thought. To nothing so much as the abandonment of reason does humanity owe its sorrows. Whatever failures I have known, whatever errors I have committed, whatever follies I have witnessed in private and public life, have been the consequence of action without thought.”

Friday, November 19, 2010

Illegal Camping in the Parkway

Yesterday we posted our letter about it published in the Bee, headlined with a picture of the Parkway trashing resulting from illegal camping.

The organization that has taken the lead in advocating for a focus on public safety and removing the scourge of illegal camping from the Parkway is the North Sacramento Chamber of Commerce, and their webpage devoted to that issue has many photos documenting the widespread damage caused over the many years this has been allowed to continue.

An excerpt.

“The capital region is maturing and that can be seen in many of its aspects, from the creation of vibrant new cities, the increased energy of downtowns, people and business migrating in instead of out. For those of us who have been here for generations, it is particularly rewarding to see the growth and appreciation of all that our region has to offer. The maturing process is also evident in the consciousness of the development community regarding natural resources and is indicated by the folding in of parkways, greenways and open space into new developments, many connecting planned trailways with the American River Parkway. Overall, we see an acknowledgement that creating homes and places for people to live and work is very conducive to preserving and accessing the natural resources many come to our community to enjoy.

“In North Sacramento however, the community's access and enjoyment of it's greatest natural resource, the American River Parkway has been restricted, due to the problem of illegal camping, primarily by the homeless. While the North Sacramento community is understanding and accepting of the fact that a community needs to treat those of distressed circumstances with compassion and dignity, it is also vital that the same generosity of spirit be extended to the distressed community unable to enjoy the natural resources within it's boundaries.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

ARPPS Letter Published

In the Sacramento Bee today.

No tent city in parkway

Re "Initiative reports progress finding shelter for homeless" (Our Region, Nov. 16):

The article reports that the creation of a tent city is probably going to be included in Sacramento's homeless strategy.

The stretch of the American River Parkway from Discovery Park to Cal Expo has been the illegal tent city for the homeless for many years.

The adjacent neighborhoods, which have long been unable to enjoy their part of the parkway due to the illegal camping, surely hope that if a legal tent city ever does become a reality, that it is located somewhere else.

– David H. Lukenbill, senior policy director, American River Parkway Preservation Society

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

California’s Green Lobby

Another in a long list of uncomfortable stories for Californians to read about the results of the midterm elections comes from the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt.

“California officials acknowledged last Thursday that the state faces $20 billion deficits every year from now to 2016. At the same time, California's state Treasurer entered bond markets to sell some $14 billion in "revenue anticipation notes" over the next two weeks. Worst of all, economic sanity lost out in what may have been the most important election on Nov. 2—and, no, I'm not talking about the gubernatorial or senate races.

“This was the California referendum to repeal Assembly Bill 32, the so-called Global Warming Solutions Act, which ratchets the state's economy back to 1990 levels of greenhouse gases by 2020. That's a 30% drop followed by a mandated 80% overall drop by 2050. Together with a $500 billion public-pension overhang, the new energy cap dooms the state to bankruptcy.

“Conservative pundits have lavished mock pity on the state. But as America's chief fount of technology, California cannot go down the drain without dragging the rest of the country with it.

“The irony is that a century-long trend of advance in conventional "non-renewable" energy—from wood to oil to natural gas and nuclear—has already wrought a roughly 60% drop in carbon emissions per watt. Thus the long-term California targets might well be achieved globally in the normal course of technological advance. The obvious next step is aggressive exploitation of the trillions of cubic feet of low-carbon natural gas discovered over the last two years, essentially ending the U.S. energy crisis.

“The massive vote against repeal of the California law—62% to 38%—supports an economy-crushing drive to suppress CO2 emissions from natural gas and everything else. In a parody of supply-side economics, advocates of AB 32 envisage the substitution of alternative energy sources that create new revenue sources, new jobs and industries. Their economic model sees new wealth emerge from jobs dismantling the existing energy economy and replacing it with a medieval system of windmills and solar collectors. By this logic we could all get rich by razing the existing housing plant and replacing it with new-fangled tents.

“All the so-called "renewables" programs waste and desecrate the precious resource of arable land that feeds the world. Every dollar of new wages for green workers will result in several dollars of reduced pay and employment for the state's and the nation's other workers—and reduced revenues for the government.

“Most destructive of all is the bill's stultifying effect on America's and California's most important asset: the venture capital industry, which accounts for the nation's technological leadership, military power, and roughly a fifth of GDP.”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

California Dreaming

There will be a lot of sharp comments—like those in this article from New Geography—as a result of the midterm elections.

An excerpt.

“In the future, historians may likely mark the 2010 midterm elections as the end of the California era and the beginning of the Texas one. In one stunning stroke, amid a national conservative tide, California voters essentially ratified a political and regulatory regime that has left much of the state unemployed and many others looking for the exits.

“California has drifted far away from the place that John Gunther described in 1946 as “the most spectacular and most diversified American state … so ripe, golden.” Instead of a role model, California has become a cautionary tale of mismanagement of what by all rights should be the country’s most prosperous big state. Its poverty rate is at least two points above the national average; its unemployment rate nearly three points above the national average. On Friday Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was forced yet again to call an emergency session in order to deal with the state’s enormous budget problems.

“This state of crisis is likely to become the norm for the Golden State. In contrast to other hard-hit states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Nevada, which all opted for pro-business, fiscally responsible candidates, California voters decisively handed virtually total power to a motley coalition of Democratic-machine politicians, public employee unions, green activists and rent-seeking special interests.

“In the new year, the once and again Gov. Jerry Brown, who has some conservative fiscal instincts, will be hard-pressed to convince Democratic legislators who get much of their funding from public-sector unions to trim spending. Perhaps more troubling, Brown’s own extremism on climate change policy–backed by rent-seeking Silicon Valley investors with big bets on renewable fuels–virtually assures a further tightening of a regulatory regime that will slow an economic recovery in every industry from manufacturing and agriculture to home-building.

“Texas’ trajectory, however, looks quite the opposite. California was recently ranked by Chief Executive magazine as having the worst business climate in the nation, while Texas’ was considered the best. Both Democrats and Republicans in the Lone State State generally embrace the gospel of economic growth and limited public sector expenditure. The defeated Democratic candidate for governor, the brainy former Houston Mayor Bill White, enjoyed robust business support and was widely considered more competent than the easily re-elected incumbent Rick Perry, who sometimes sounds more like a neo-Confederate crank than a serious leader.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

Press Release: Helping the Homeless


For Immediate Release November 15, 2010 Sacramento, California


The homeless issue is a Parkway issue as the Lower Reach of the Parkway—Discovery Park to Cal Expo—has been the de jure tent city for the homeless for years.

As the cold of winter invigorates the urgency of public policy strategies to alleviate the suffering of those who are homeless, we do well as a community to remember that the primary and most effective help is often a balanced combination of giving aid and inspiring those aided to begin the internal work of personal transformation that will elevate them beyond the need for aid.

Providing services without inspiring internal change generally leads to a tragic continuation of the problem

In this regard, we might note the words from the seminal book, To Empower People: From State to Civil Society, by Peter Berger & Richard John Neuhaus, who wrote:

“Time and again, I found that indigenous community leaders have substantial long-term impact because they have been able to affect not only the behavior of those they serve but also the internal base of values that determines behavior. In tackling the most critical problems that confront low-income communities, they have made distinctions—as most top-down programs do not—between poverty that is caused by factors outside an individual’s control (for example, lay-offs or extended illness) and that which results from the life choices an individual makes (drug-addiction and out-of-wedlock births, for instance). They recognize that, with regard to poverty that results from an individual’s choice, an internal change is prerequisite for any external programs or aid to have lasting and substantial effect.

“Grass-roots activists who live within the same zip code as the people they serve have a unique capacity to inspire this kind of transformation. In many cases they have suffered—and have overcome—the same problems that they are guiding others to battle. They are often living examples of achievement against the odds, and they provide models of the values and principles that they espouse. Hundreds of testimonies from effective grass-roots leaders have shown that their foundation of faith has enabled them to see potential for transformation and revitalization where professionals have limited their goals to custodianship.

“Furthermore, surveys have shown that a base of local support is a more natural and more approachable resource than professional services that are “parachuted in” to the communities. When queried, hundreds of low-income people responded that if they confronted a crisis they would turn first to family members, friends, local churches, and other organizations that are indigenous to their communities for help. Only as a last resort would they choose to turn to a professional service provider.

“In spite of this reality, we continue to use a service delivery system that relies on what is the last choice of those who are in need.”

Berger, P. L. & Neuhaus, R.J. (1996). To Empower People: From State to Civil Society. (2nd Ed.) Washington D.C. The AEI Press. (pp. 106-107)

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and remember that empowerment is more truly compassionate than pity.

Organizational Leadership
American River Parkway Preservation Society
Sacramento, California
November 15, 2010

Contact Information

David H. Lukenbill, Senior Policy Director
American River Parkway Preservation Society
2267 University Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95825
P: 916-486-3856 E:
W: B:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Salmon Return

In tune with the natural cycles of wet years and dry years, this is a good year for the salmon, which is very good news, as reported by the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

“Salmon are returning to Central Valley rivers and streams in impressive numbers this fall, restoring hope that years of shortages and fishing closures are over.

“It's a dramatic turnaround from last year, when the Central Valley fall chinook salmon run hit a historic low. Scientists blamed poor ocean conditions and a century of habitat degradation in freshwater spawning areas.

“It got so bad that federal officials closed commercial fishing in 2008 and 2009, taking California salmon off dinner menus for the first time ever.

“Now the fish are surging back. The numbers are not nearly as robust as in decades past. But ocean conditions have improved, and myriad small habitat projects are starting to bear fruit.

“Bryon Harris, 26, saw the results. He was walking along Auburn Ravine in Lincoln recently with a friend. The stream runs through Placer County before emptying into the Sacramento River via the Natomas Cross Canal.

"We hear this flopping and it sounded like the rocks were crashing," said Harris. "We look over and there's a big old salmon right there … and there's a few more trapped in there, trying to make it. It was jaw-dropping, almost."

“The salmon made it that far because this is the first year in decades that a number of small, seasonal diversion dams have been removed from the stream. As a result, 3-foot salmon have been seen thrashing upstream behind mini-malls and housing tracts in suburban Lincoln.

“The volunteer group Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead persuaded landowners – with a nudge from law enforcement – to remove the irrigation dams. Federal law requires removal between Oct. 15 and April 15 so salmon can pass. But before they were reminded this year, many owners either didn't know or forgot.

"I've fished the Auburn Ravine for 10 years at least, and I've never seen a salmon in there, ever," said Harris. "I was shocked."

“The Central Valley's major salmon hatcheries are reporting big increases in spawning fish compared with last year. This includes hatcheries on Battle Creek and the Feather River, among the biggest contributors to the population.”

Friday, November 12, 2010

City Expansion: Good Discussion to Have

With the failure of the recent incorporation of Arden Arcade, further discussion about bringing under-served residents into the service area of the city of Sacramento, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, makes good sense.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson touched a nerve last week when he said he'd like to see a conversation take place over whether the city should merge with unincorporated areas of the county.

“While stopping short of suggesting Sacramento embark upon its own manifest destiny, the timing of the mayor's remarks played a big role in the reaction.

“Just two days earlier, voters in the unincorporated Arden Arcade community soundly defeated a measure proposing cityhood for that area of the county. The mayor said he was relieved with the result and said there could be advantages to having Arden Arcade fold into the city.

“Both sides on the Arden Arcade incorporation debate have come out against having their community of 100,000 residents gobbled up by the city of Sacramento. With that in mind, here are a few answers to some of the questions swirling about city-county consolidation.

“Has the city looked at annexing portions of the county?

“Scot Mende, the city's new growth manager, said there are five areas of the county that the city will study annexing over the next 20 years as part of its general plan: Arden Arcade, Freeport, Fruitridge-Florin in south Sacramento, the Rosemont-East Policy Area and the Natomas Joint Vision Area.

“To date, discussions have been held only on the Natomas area, a 10,000-acre swath of land north of the city made up mostly of farms and Sacramento International Airport. As for the other areas:

"We've spent a minimal amount of time thinking about them," Mende said.

“The City Council could vote to initiate the annexation process for Freeport, Fruitridge-Florin and Rosemont because those areas are in the city's "sphere of influence," loosely defined as areas within the city's natural future expansion. But those areas have been in the sphere of influence since 1981 with no movement by the city toward annexing them.

“Even if the council votes to move forward with annexation, the Local Agency Formation Commission would need to approve the proposal. It would go to voters for approval if enough signatures were gathered in those areas protesting annexation.

“Arden Arcade and the Natomas Joint Vision Area are not in the city's sphere of influence, although they could be labeled with that distinction in the future.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

California as “the Lindsay Lohan of States”

A very funny—and tragically true—analysis of California since the last election, from the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt.

“Listen up, California. The other 48 states—your cousin New York excluded—are sick of your bratty arrogance. You're the Lindsay Lohan of states: a prima donna who once showed some talent but is now too wasted to do anything with it.

“After enjoying ephemeral highs and spending binges, you suffer crashes that culminate in brief, unsuccessful stints in rehab. This cycle repeats itself every five to 10 years, as the rest of the country looks on with a mixture of horror and amusement. We'd feel sorry for you if you didn't constantly flip us the bird.

“Instead, we're making bets on how long it will be before your next meltdown. Oh, wait—you're already melting down.

“You've racked up nearly $70 billion in general obligation debt, and that doesn't include your $500 billion unfunded pension liability. Your own analysts predict you'll face a hole of at least $80 billion over the next four years.

“Your government's run by a brothel of environmentalists, lawyers, public-sector unions and legislative bums. When they're not taxing or spending, they're creating regulations and commissions like the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology and the California Blueberry Commission. Many businesses would leave if it weren't for your sunny climate.

“Which may explain why you're so obsessed with climate change. If your climate changes, no one, including your Hollywood friends, would tolerate you anymore. So you've created a law to tax carbon emissions—no matter that it will kill jobs.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gibson Ranch Privatization: Follow Up

The board of supervisors has agreed to study the privatization proposal, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, and that is very good news.

Unfortunately, the opposition—as can be seen by the staff report online (pp. 5-6)—build their opposition primarily from their in-house regional park proposal, which would increase taxes.

An excerpt.

“Developer and former congressman Doug Ose's proposal to take over Gibson Ranch Regional Park is still alive.

“That's because the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors went against the advice of the Regional Parks Department director and an advisory committee – both of which came out against Ose's proposal – and directed the county executive to negotiate with him.

“Ose has proposed a 50-year lease of the Elverta park and a multimillion-dollar capital investment from the county – terms that county staff opposed and supervisors said they couldn't support.

“A majority of supervisors, however, said they want to get the park reopened quickly and hope County Executive Steve Szalay can negotiate revised terms with Ose.

“The board also directed county staff to prepare a new request for proposals while Szalay is negotiating with Ose. That way, if the county is unable to come to terms with Ose, officials can quickly put out a new request for bids.

"There is a sense of urgency," Supervisor Don Nottoli said.

“About a dozen area residents and horse boarders attended Tuesday's meeting to show their support for Ose. A small but passionate group of horse owners have boarded their animals at the park for years and are supporting Ose, who would keep L&M Concession Management on to run the boarding stables.

"Please open up this park. Please negotiate with Doug Ose," resident Bobbie Sundberg implored the board.

“Resident Keith Weber, who ran unsuccessfully for the Board of Supervisors last spring, called the Ose proposal the county's last chance to find someone to open the park. "Take a drive out to Gibson and see how you feel as a community member driving up to a closed park," he said.

“Countering the supporters were a few parks advocates. They questioned the privatization of public parkland and worried that the move would hurt a long-term effort to create a regional park district.”

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Gibson Ranch Privatization

Hopefully, the County will not follow the advice reported in this article in the Sacramento Bee, and fully consider the proposition for privatization which is on the table and appears—given the very limited information publically available—to be one that is good for everyone.

That the project for privatization is headed by former public servant Doug Ose, who has an excellent history of caring for and helping the regional community, is reassuring.

An excerpt.

“If developer and former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose hopes to take over Gibson Ranch Park, it will be against the advice of Sacramento County officials and a special committee.

“The head of the county's Regional Parks Department and an outside advisory committee are recommending that the Board of Supervisors reject Ose's proposal to run the Elverta park as a for-profit venture.

“In addition, they are calling on the supervisors to broaden the search for organizations to run the park.

“The supervisors are scheduled to discuss Ose's proposal at today's board meeting.

"It's really not in the best interest of the county or community for the long term," said Janet Baker, Regional Parks director.

“County officials have been looking to offload responsibility for the 350- acre park since June, when supervisors passed a budget stripping the park's funding.

“At that time, the cash-strapped county asked for proposals. The bids were due in early September – about the time the park closed to the general public. Ultimately, only Ose submitted a bid to take over Gibson Ranch.

“The county had asked interested organizations to submit plans showing how they would operate the park under a five-year concession agreement, with the possibility of receiving two five-year extensions. Park officials want the option to take the park back when finances improve or possibly to include Gibson Ranch in a regional park system if voters approve such a district.

"Mr. Ose's proposal is very, very different," Baker said.

“County officials are refusing to make Ose's proposal public until after the board votes on it.

“County Counsel Robert Ryan said the county's policy is to not release proposals until the board acts on a staff recommendation. Even though Ose is the only bidder in this case, if the board rejects his proposal, the information could give competitors an unfair advantage in a second round of bidding, he said.”

Monday, November 08, 2010

A Wet Winter?

It certainly is starting out as one, and that is a very good thing, unless it gets too wet and then the lack of adequate flood protection reminds us of the failure of public leadership to be more concerned with public safety than esoteric environmental theories largely built on a belief that the natural environment—minus human beings—is superior to the human one, as the foundational theories of environmentalism, deep ecology, proclaim.

This article from the Sacramento Bee examines the possibility of a wet season.

An excerpt.

“Sunday's showers might be a sign of things to come: Scientists say a powerful La Niña effect could push cold storms into Northern California this winter, one after another.

"There's a good chance you're going to get a soaking," said Bill Patzert, an oceanographer with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

“Or maybe not, he said.

“During a La Niña year, cooler-than-normal temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean push the jet stream – and Pacific storms – north.

“The Pacific Northwest stays cold and rainy; the Southwest remains warm and dry.

“Sacramento, on the dividing line, can go either way.

“Patzert said this year he'd bet on wet.

"Because the jet stream is so strong," he said, "I think there's a better-than-even chance you're going to see Northern and Central California get lots of rain."

“La Niña is the flip side of El Niño – a weather pattern associated with warmer-than-normal temperatures in the Pacific and heavy rains to the south.

"Both of these climate phenomena, which typically occur every two to five years, influence weather patterns throughout the world and often lead to extreme weather events," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a news release warning of potential La Niña effects.

“Last year's El Niño resulted in record-breaking precipitation in some parts of the nation and record drought in others. La Niña has the potential for equal extremes, the agency said.”

Friday, November 05, 2010

Privatization, Two Views

This article from New Geography, looks at privatization as it should be—exemplified by former mayor Stephen Goldsmith in Indianapolis—and how it is becoming in some circles, the province of investors.

An excerpt.

“Privatization has long been advocated by many conservatives as a good government measure. Traditionally, privatization was used a tool that subjects government monopolies to competition from the marketplace, driving down costs and improving quality of service. Privatization pioneer Steve Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis and now deputy mayor of New York City, used to apply what he called the “Yellow Pages test.” If he could open the Yellow Pages and find several companies providing a service, he wondered why government should be in that business.

“As Mayor, Goldsmith privatized dozens of city services in Indianapolis, saving the city an estimated $120 million the process. This ranged from contracting out services, to forming a public/private partnership to implement a $500 million infrastructure improvement plan to hiring private managers to run – but not own or lease – the airport and water utility.

“Today, sadly, privatization is less about Goldsmith style operational effectiveness and more about providing jackpots for financiers who stand at the core of a growing privatization-industrial complex. Cities and states salivate over ways to sell or lease off underperforming public asset for large payouts. With local governments cash-strapped and the public unwilling to pay more in taxes, it is politically difficult to even bring user fees to a market rate. Combined with the potential billions in payoffs – Indiana received $3.9 billion for its toll road and Chicago $1.1 billion for its parking meter system – the appeal is obvious.

“But these transactions differ markedly from the Goldsmith-style privatization. They are driven not by efficiencies but by an investment banker mindset focus on money and narrow parameters of the asset operations. They also provide enormous temptation to elected officials to grab the money now even at the expense of future generations. They are also rife with potential conflicts of interest and incentive problems.

“One major source of conflict comes with the professional advisors that drive the deals. Since long term leases involve so much money and are so complex, they require millions of dollars of services from investment banks, lawyers, financial advisors, etc. Unlike for typical government transactions such as issuing bonds or contracting out services like printing, building maintenance, or call centers, for which cities have some experience, the vast majority of cities have little in house expertise for complex financial transactions.

“Thus local officials are at the mercy of these out of town experts to give them the best advice they need to defend the public's interest. But what advice can we expect from these firms, who have a stake on highly leveraged deals? The people in the firm may be technically competent and possess the highest levels of personal integrity, but still are prisoners of a structural conflict of interest in promoting privatization transactions.”

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Marketing Yosemite

Well, not quite that extreme, but market principles are worth a look to deal with national park problems, as this article in the Los Angeles Times reports.

An excerpt.

“Ken Burns makes amazing documentaries, but even more amazing is that the Oct. 15 fluff piece on national parks by Burns and Dayton Duncan, "Preserving national treasures," made it to print in The Times.

“The article can be summed up as such: National parks are wonderful, and thank you President Obama for saying that. Unfortunately, there's no meat, no proposals, just nostalgia. But "where's the beef" when our antiquated parks could use a real makeover?

“Burns and Duncan rightly pay homage to Yosemite, "the home of spectacular waterfalls, silent groves of ancient trees and an unequaled alpine wilderness." They go on to highlight record attendance "in the midst of an economic downturn," similar to park attendance going up during the Depression.

“But relying on recessions and depressions to boost park attendance is a bad business model. In other words, national parks can't compete against other venues in good times; they can only compete when Americans don't have jobs or money. Moving parks closer to self-sufficiency would ensure their viability in the good and the bad times.

“So what does park visitation look like when the economy is thriving? Not great. Park visitation peaked in 1987. And in 2008, fewer people visited the national parks than they did 20 years ago. As the Economist cautioned in July 2008, when Americans lose their interest in the national parks again, "they will become less willing to pay for them through taxes."

“Regarding infrastructure, the National Parks Conservation Assn. notes that despite millions in stimulus money, chronic underfunding has left a backlog of about $8 billion in maintenance and preservation. The result: leaky sewer systems, crumbling roads and dilapidated buildings.

“Perhaps it's time to revisit the original vision of the national parks system. As noted by Holly Fretwell, the author of "Who is Minding the Federal Estate?," the park service's first director, Stephen Mather, believed that the ability to set appropriate fees and retain park receipts was important for responsible management, as doing so created a direct tie to those visiting and managing the resource. Under Mather's leadership, five parks became operationally self-sufficient, including Yosemite.”

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Railyards Update 351

Now that the investment group has taken control of the project, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, we hope they bring in a strong local developer to do the work, who has the depth of commitment to Sacramento to ensure this major project gets done and done well.

An excerpt.

“A week after dramatically taking ownership of Sacramento's railyard, an Illinois real estate firm has set up shop in a downtown high-rise with two immediate goals.

“Representatives of Inland American Real Estate Trust Inc. say they want to calm nerves in the capital city after a summer of uncertainty over the fate of the railyard, and to take quick steps to get the redevelopment project back on track.

“That includes working with the state to issue paychecks to railyard contractors who have done roadwork for several months without compensation. The state withheld grant funding as the site's future drifted in limbo.

“In a brief statement issued Friday, Inland also indicated that it is willing to listen to any development suggestions – including an arena – that could make sense for the site.

“The real estate investment trust took control of the 200-acre railyard site at an auction on the courthouse steps Oct. 22 after the previous owner, Atlanta-based Thomas Enterprises, couldn't pay its bills, including $193 million it owed Inland.

“It was an unusual move for Inland, done to protect investors from the bad loan. The company normally buys up-and-running, moneymaking properties such as hotels, shopping centers and apartments, not blank expanses of undeveloped dirt.

“City officials, however, say they are relieved and energized by the arrival of a deep-pocketed owner.

"We have a well-capitalized partner in the railyards," said Assistant City Manager John Dangberg. "We are definitely upbeat at this point."

“The previous owner, Thomas Enterprises, a development company, got pummeled in the economic downturn. In contrast, Inland's most recent balance sheet boasts $12 billion in assets, with 980 properties in its portfolio. Retail Traffic magazine recently ranked Inland the eighth largest retail real estate owner in the country.

“The 6-year-old company, one of five investment trusts grouped under the Inland American companies umbrella, also invests in office buildings, apartments and industrial centers.”

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Election Blogging Break

Dear Reader:

I’ll be taking an election period break from blogging until Wednesday, November 3rd, when I hope we will all share in a great wave of common sense voting, bringing committed public leadership to serve this great nation and our beloved communities.

Take care.

David H. Lukenbill

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bike Riders in LA

I haven’t ridden a bike to commute in years—and never rode one in LA—but this article from New Geography brought back many memories of the bike commuting I did way back when.

An excerpt.

“A recent Los Angeles Times article chronicled a showdown between drivers and bicyclists, inspired by the installation of bike lanes and — more significantly — the reduction of auto traffic lanes on a San Fernando Valley boulevard. The change was clearly intended to encourage cyclists, but I had to wonder: Which ones? In a city as diverse as Los Angeles, even the bike riders are divided, loosely, into different tribes.

“On a San Andreas Fault tour, on the San Francisco Peninsula skirting Silicon Valley, my friends and I passed large numbers of people riding back and forth on bicycles. They had brought their bicycles up into the Santa Cruz Mountains in the backs of their SUVs, and were riding back and forth, exercising their legs. Most of them were dressed in bicycle helmets, and costumes that looked like a cross between a surfer’s short wetsuit and a ballet tutu. It did not seem to me that this sort of activity was really going to replace the automobile for any serious purpose, and anyway, they were not commuting..

“In my own Orange County “paleo-urbanist” community we have the people of the helmets and ballet tutus, who use the streets. But we also have regular folks, who dress in shorts and often T-shirts. These ordinary adults and children use the sidewalk, not the street. I hear that many parents forbid their kids to ride in the street, especially when the street is Pacific Coast Highway. It is actually, as I understand it, illegal to ride a bicycle on most sidewalks. It is also against the law to drive more than 65 miles per hour on the freeway, to drink alcohol if you’re under 21, or (at least till November) to possess or smoke marijuana. As the young folks like to say, Bwahaha.

“I’ve heard about (I think there was an LA Times story some years ago) what I would like to call Los Midnight Riders – those who ride bicycles to work for economic reasons, not ecological ones, because they A) have jobs that don’t pay enough to support owning a car and B) have jobs with hours or locations that preclude using public transit; it either doesn’t run to where they're going, or it shuts down long before they can go home. These people are the real bike commuters. They often cannot, alas, afford proper front and rear night lights, which makes them a hazard. And they live in parts of town that may not be the best equipped with bike lanes, bike lanes being a rather bourgeois-bohemian interest.

“I taught myself to ride a bicycle at college when I was 21, not having had much opportunity or daring to learn earlier. There was a campus fad for bike riding at the time, but there were no ballet tutus or anything resembling them – ordinary shorts and the like were the costume for our rides. I felt incredibly self-righteous. For some time afterward I used the bicycle once in a while for local trips. But I did so less and less as time wore on. I still have a bicycle, and still use it occasionally, but bikes need to be kept in working order, and being of a certain age I fear I must confess that yes, yes, I do walk my bike up long or steep hills. I don’t wear a tutu, though when I get off a bike I often understand why other people do: My “privates” have gone to sleep, and when I dismount they begin to wake up with a tingling that is about as different as can be from titillation.

“Will bicycles ever become a transit option for masses of commuters? Office dress and decorum has not yet deteriorated to the point where bicycle commuting will be practical without a locker room. One would arrive at the office a sweaty mess and need to shower and change, I'd think, which could be as much of a hassle as going to a health club, and just as time-consuming.

“About a month from now I will be in Copenhagen. There, bike paths run between the street and the sidewalk, including right in front of hotels. Anyone getting out of a car must keep this in mind, for bicyclists are moving past at very high speeds! They seem to be dressed, for the most part, in long pants, and even in business suits. Not having spent a lot of time meeting with Danish bankers and lawyers, I don’t know whether or not they reek of sweat, or if their offices include huge locker rooms.”

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Parkway Car Burglaries: Announcement

From the Sacramento Bee.

“Sacramento County rangers are dealing with an explosion of car burglaries along the American River Parkway this month and are looking for help in locating two suspects for questioning.

“Typically, rangers report about seven car burglaries a month along the parkway in October but have had reports of 22 so far, Ranger Supervisor John Havicon said today.

“Several of the cars were hit Sunday at the William Pond access point or in the neighborhood nearby at Ivanhoe Way and McClaren Drive, where many people park on the streets rather than pay the park entry fee.

"The suspects are consistently breaking into the cars and using the trunk openers to get inside the trunk," Havicon said in an email. "The thieves got away with several thousands of dollars in property and cash along with credit cards, which they immediately went shopping with."

“Havicon said store surveillance cameras in shops where stolen cards were used have identified a suspect vehicle - an older dark Ford Aerostar van with running boards and a missing hubcap on the right front wheel. The cameras also captured photos of two men believed to have come from the van shopping in the stores.

“Anyone with information on the van or who sees suspicious activity in the parkway should call 916-875-PARK (7275).”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Public Salary Information Online

In an excellent example of public transparency regarding tax-payer funded government salaries, the California state controllers office has released position salary information, as reported by the Sacramento Business Journal.

An excerpt.

“The California State Controller’s office unveiled a website Monday that lists the salary, pension and other compensation of nearly 600,000 city and county employees in the state.

“The listing also includes payments to elected officials.

“The absence of transparency and accountability invites corruption, self-dealing, and the abuse of public funds,” California Controller John Chiang, in a statement. “This website will help taxpayers scrutinize local government compensation and force public officials to account for how they spend public resources.”

“The site, which can be found by clicking here, has the compensation paid in 2009 to 594,000 city and county employees throughout the state.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Flood Prone Sacramento

Sacramento has a 100 year flood protection level, which means there is a 50% chance we will flood; scary news every rainy year, which this one appears to be, based on the first storm of the season and another coming in Friday.

This article in the Sacramento Bee about the Natomas levees, points out the obvious.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento voters have made funding flood control a priority. They gave SAFCA's work a massive boost in 2007 when they approved a local property tax assessment for flood protection – not just in Natomas, but citywide. This money allowed SAFCA to seek bond funds, approved by statewide voters, to undertake the Natomas work.

“Construction started in 2008, and it is a massive project. In some stretches, the new levee is 3 feet taller and 350 feet wider. The construction cost by the end of 2011 is estimated at $360 million.

“Where the levee could not be widened, some sections include new slurry walls up to 100 feet deep to prevent seepage through sand layers underneath the levee.

“The project employs about 200 people, according to SAFCA.

"We literally wake up at 6 o'clock in the morning to the sounds of large Caterpillars," said Matt Breese, a homeowner on the land side of the Garden Highway levee along the Sacramento River. "It's shake, rattle and roll all day long, all through the house."

“Early on in the project design, Breese was told he would have to give up his house for the project. Later, SAFCA changed the design to build the levee around him.

“But Breese still lost a large slice of his front yard, along with several large shade trees. The property is now surrounded by a chain-link fence, noise and dust, and Breese's three children lost access to farm fields they used to play in.

"I'm not sure we've been through the worst of it yet," he said. "But there's always a silver lining, and I truly believe, once it's done, it's going to benefit the community."

“The eventual goal is to provide 200-year flood protection for Natomas. That means the risk of flooding would be about 13 percent over the life of a 30-year mortgage, compared with an estimated 50 percent risk now.

“The corps needs funding now just to achieve a 100-year level of protection in Natomas. It will need more money in years ahead to meet the 200-year goal.”

Monday, October 25, 2010

Great Gray Owls in Yosemite

Here is a very nice story about the majestic owls, from the Modesto Bee.

An excerpt.

“FRESNO — For years, scientists thought logging, mining and development drove North America's largest owl out of Northern California forests and into Yosemite National Park.

“Scientists are rethinking that assumption. Genetic research shows the owls in Yosemite are a subspecies, a subtly different version of the great gray owl in North America.

“Scientists say the evidence suggests the Yosemite bird was stranded by vast ice fields and glaciers in the last Ice Age, evolving in isolation for more than 25,000 years.

“Such a discovery would make news about any Yosemite creature, but the great gray owl is a wildlife emblem, swooping down on rodents in wide mountain meadows.

“The great gray is an unmistakable yellow-eyed bird with a five-foot wingspan, but it is on the state Endangered Species Act list, and bird-watchers say it is a challenge to find one. Yosemite officials say there are about 150 great grays in the area.

“The Yosemite owl is not only genetically different from great gray owls in Oregon, Idaho and Canada, it also nests slightly differently and prefers a more narrow diet of rodents, scientists say.

“More than half of California's great gray owls are in the Yosemite region, and there are very few between the park and southern Oregon. Scientists say they still do not understand why there are only a few great grays in Northern California forests.

“It is not unusual to find species in the Sierra that were stranded during the last Ice Age, said wildlife ecologist John Keane, who led the research for the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station.

“Researchers from the University of California at Davis also worked on the study, published in the July issue of the scientific journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. Scientists with the National Park Service, the state Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency were involved in the studies, which began six years ago.

“Great gray owls live at an altitude of 4,000 to 8,500 feet in the Sierra, but they migrate to lower elevations in snowy winters or when there is a lack of food.”

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hope & Change

Certain times seem to generate optimism, others pessimism, and for many observers of the public arena, this is one of those very optimistic times, as we wait for the results of the elections across the country that will surely usher in a new sense of public policy making.

With all of the hitches in the formerly ascendant narrative putting some halt to its once remorseless advance; the stiller, smaller, voices of the people have been raised in a dynamic chorus of hoping for change, and it does appear that change will occur, at least in public leadership.

Whether the change in public leadership—assuming it does happen—will actually lead to a change in public policy, remains to be seen, as many who enter the halls of power from main street often become so self-enamored by their very ascension, that they forget how and on whose shoulders they arose, but I am optimistic it will happen and they will not forget.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Railyard Development, Update 350

In today’s Sacramento Bee, the lack of a developer able to shepherd the project, is noted, and one hopes that the new ownership considers approaching some of the local developers who have the financing and experience needed to handle this massive project.

An excerpt.

“A half year of uncertainty over who's in charge of the downtown Sacramento railyard ended Friday. The question now: What's next for the massive redevelopment site that has bedeviled more than one would-be developer?

“Inland American Real Estate, a deep-pocketed Illinois-based investment company, took control of the property at a foreclosure auction Friday….

“The company indicated it understands the importance of keeping the project moving forward.

"We look forward to working with the community to redevelop this important part of the city," the Inland statement read.

"Work continued at the railyard Friday on two bridges that will carry Fifth and Sixth streets into the site, opening it up for an internal road system, offices, housing and retail buildings.

“In comments Thursday, Mayor Johnson said he is looking forward to sitting down soon with the head of Inland to talk about the new owner's vision for development of the site, and to see if Inland might be interested in helping get a sports and entertainment center built in the railyard.

"We have a new partner we have to cultivate," Johnson said.

“City officials, meanwhile said they will spend the coming weeks drawing up documents that transfer entitlements and legal responsibilities from Thomas to Inland.

“Among those, they said, is the obligation for Inland to pay the city of Sacramento $2.7 million Thomas had owed the city for the city's overpayment on 33 acres of land the city is purchasing at the lower end of the railyard around the depot.

“Assistant City Manager John Dangberg said the city needs agreements signed soon so it can resuscitate its stalled plan to move the train tracks a few hundred feet north, making room for a new transit center and potentially an arena….

“Inland's arrival on scene creates a number of questions. Inland is an investment company and property owner, but not a developer, observers say.

“The company likely will have to hire a developer to manage the railyard project. Inland has declined to say whether it plans to hire a local developer or bring someone in from outside Sacramento.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

Railyards Update 349

The difficulty with getting large public/private projects done in downtown Sacramento continues, as the railyards saga re-enters bizarro land, as reported by the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

“An Illinois investment company is poised to take control of Sacramento's downtown railyard today in an auction that would make the newcomer an instant major player in Sacramento real estate and politics.

“Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson says he's eager to quiz Inland American Real Estate executives about plans they may have for the site, as well as the company's potential willingness to help get a downtown arena built.

“And state officials say they want to hear what Inland has in mind for the site before they decide to release tens of millions of dollars in redevelopment grant funds now on hold for the massive downtown railyard property.

“Inland could take ownership of most of the 240-acre railyard at a foreclosure auction on the county courthouse steps this afternoon.

“The current owner, Thomas Enterprises, failed this year to make a balloon payment on $185 million in loans from Inland.

“Atlanta-based Thomas Enterprises bought the site from the Union Pacific Railroad in 2006, and has been slowly preparing the land for development. Company representatives did not respond to Bee requests for comment Thursday.

“Inland can, however, postpone or call off the auction, if it wants more time to negotiate with Thomas, county officials said.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Not Wikipedia!!

One of my favorite sites, but yes, the global warming propagandists have done their work there also, but now they’ve been caught and booted, as the Wall Street Journal reports.

An excerpt.

“As the world saw in the Climategate emails last year, global warming advocates have a habit of demonizing anyone who disagrees with them. Now comes the Wikipedia version of this story.

“The influential online encyclopedia is written and edited by anyone with an Internet connection, and contributors are supposed to stick to a fair recitation of the facts. So it's news that last week Wikipedia acknowledged it had been hijacked by global warming alarmists who squelched dissenting science. A group of Wikipedia arbitrators banned British blogger William Connolley from participating in any article, discussion or forum dealing with global warming.

“Mr. Connolley is a former Green Party candidate for local political office and until 2007 was a climate modeler for the British Antarctic Survey. He is also a missionary for the view that humans cause global warming, and over the years he used his power as an "administrator" on Wikipedia to rewrite the site's global warming articles. He celebrated such controversial scientists as Penn State's Michael Mann, of Climategate fame, and he presented even disputed global warming science as fact. He routinely deleted entries that presented competing views and barred contributors with whom he disagreed. He also smeared scientific skeptics by rewriting their online biographies.

“All of this was an embarrassment for Wikipedia as it became more widely known, and last year it stripped Mr. Connolley of his administrator rights. He nonetheless continued his campaign, and last week Wikipedia's group of seven dispute arbitrators banned him from the topic entirely. They also banned other posters who had turned Wikipedia into their global warming propaganda outlet.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Budget Cutting & Innovation

As our region’s governments experience the consequences of budget cutting, it is crucial to remember what is the real public issue, which this article from Governing addresses.

An excerpt.

“Budget cutting requires a unique skill set. Public officials have to think creatively about how to ensure needed public services get delivered. This means thinking outside the usual parameters regarding how to simply sustain government processes.

“Or, as former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo once put it, "It is not a government's obligation to provide services, but to see that they are provided."…

“Officials must continue to diligently work to reform governmental systems and make sure they are funded as completely as possible. At the same time, officials must look at the issue from the broader frame of the public's access to important services….

“When I was struggling with how to improve the public schools in Indianapolis, economist Milton Friedman warned me not to confuse the purpose of a public service with its provision. In the case of education, Friedman reminded me that charter schools and vouchers were totally acceptable ways to provide children with public education.

“And so it goes as we explore transportation, or homeless services, or medical or emergency care. If we can't maintain government services in the traditional way, we have an obligation to look at how to make the market work better in other ways to serve residents.

“We need to remember, for example, that the goal isn't to provide bus service but to ensure mobility for residents. Our goal isn't to run schools, but to provide education.

“When thinking of how to do this, we need to think if there are private or nonprofit providers that could extend their service if government would reduce market barriers or provide subsidies.

“In general, it is best to politically separate those who currently provide a service from those who might oversee such an expansion. Organizations responsible for primarily providing a service tend not to be very good at licensing and/or subsidizing their competition. Local schools boards, for example, rarely approve charters that will compete for "their" students.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Marketing Ecosystems

This is another in a series of excellent reports from the Property & Environment Research Center.

An excerpt.

“When visiting a store, one expects to find useful goods and services such as apples to eat and a refrigerator to keep them chilled. We depend on similar items in our everyday lives. In much the same way, nature also provides us valuable goods and services. When we bite into an apple, if we pause to think beyond the store where it was purchased, we may think of soil and water, but probably not the natural pollinators that fertilized the apple blossom so the fruit can set. When we drink a glass of tap water, we may think of the local reservoir, but not the source of the water quality, which lies miles upstream in the wooded watershed that filters and cleans the water as it flows downhill.

“Largely taken for granted, healthy ecosystems provide a variety of critical goods and services. Created by the interactions of living organisms with their environment, “ecosystem services” provide both the conditions and processes that sustain human life. Trees provide timber; coastal marshes provide shellfish. That’s obvious. The services underpinning these goods, though less visible, are equally important. If you doubt this, consider how to grow an apple without pollination, pest control, or soil fertility.

“A specific landscape creates a range of ecosystem services. A forest at the top of a watershed, for example, provides water quality by filtering contaminants from the water as it flows through roots and soil, flood control as the water slows while moving through the watershed, pollination by those pollinators living along the edge of the forest, and biodiversity conservation if endangered plants or animals live in the woods. Or consider something as simple as soil. More than a clump of dirt, soil is a complex matrix of organic and inorganic constituents transformed by numerous tiny organisms. The level of biological activity within soil is staggering. Under a square meter of pasture soil in Denmark, for example, scientists identified more than 50,000 worms, 48,000 small insects, and 10 million nematodes. This living soil provides a range of ecosystem services: buffering and moderation of the hydrological cycle, physical support for plants, retention and delivery of nutrients to plants, disposal of wastes and dead organic matter, and renewal of soil fertility.

“Just as we tend not to think about everyday goods and services until the store is out of apples or the refrigerator stops working, so, too, do we fail to appreciate the importance of services until we suffer the impacts of their loss. One cannot easily appreciate the impact that widespread wetland destruction has had on the ecosystem service of water retention until after a flood. Nor does one fully appreciate water quality until recognizing how development in forested watersheds has degraded the service of water purification. The costs from degradation of these services are high, and are suffered in rich and poor countries alike.”

Monday, October 18, 2010

Funding Parks

Raising taxes is not the way to fund parks, though this article from the Sacramento Bee suggests it is.

Our post from yesterday about the federal government creating more parks than it can take care of, may also be applicable at the local level.

The heritage most Californians would probably prefer to have have had left to them would be protection from flooding and the subsequent adequate water storage for the state through the raising of Shasta Dam to its originally engineered height (tripling its storage) and the construction of the Auburn Dam, posted on here.

An excerpt from the Bee’s story.

“They were left to the people of California, gifts of natural beauty and magnificence to be passed through the generations.

“For California's 278 state parks, that heritage is becoming an iffy proposition.

“Amid a sagging economy and chronic state budget deficit, California's parks – like other state park systems across the nation – are at a critical financial crossroads.

“Years of budget cuts have produced a $1 billion backlog of crumbling buildings and eroding trails, according to a five-month examination by McClatchy newspapers in California. The vacancy rate among California park rangers stands at 30 percent. Reported crimes in state parks tripled over the past decade as the state added more parks – but not park rangers – a data analysis shows.

"We're on the wrong end of a 30-year downward trend," said California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman.

"The cumulative effect is leaving a state park system that is seriously degraded and, in some places, buildings on the verge of collapse."

“Nationwide, California's parks system is considered by experts to be among the most threatened. Other states – including Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, New Jersey and New York – also are struggling.

“As a result, from coast to coast, states are looking for new ways to save these public preserves from extinction. Last year, basic park operations cost Californians $235 million.

"These are all places of California's heritage," said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the nonprofit California State Parks Foundation. "It would be tragic to lose them and not protect them.

"These are the places that make California California."

“Vehicle fee gains support

“Goldstein and a wide coalition of interests believe they have a solution for California's parks in a November ballot initiative that would add $18 to the annual vehicle license fee.

“While a handful of other states have similar licensing fees, California's Proposition 21 would make the surcharge mandatory – a factor that has contributed to opposition here.

“In exchange for the fee, California motorists would have free day use at all 278 state parks, while nonresidents still would pay entrance fees.

“The proposal – opposed primarily by taxpayer organizations – would generate $500 million annually for state parks and wildlife programs.

“It has garnered wide-ranging support – from business and travel interests, environmentalists, labor, education, public health and faith communities. California State Parks has taken no public position.

"What we're trying to do with Proposition 21 is to find a long-term, sustainable solution to the problem," said Goldstein.

“Opponents, meanwhile, view the measure as more "ballot-box budgeting" that does not hold politicians accountable for setting spending priorities.

"The concern is, first and foremost, an increase in the vehicle license fee on all California drivers," said David Wolfe, legislative director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. "It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to us."

“Wolfe and others argue that the proposed surcharge is a regressive tax, affecting many people who can ill afford an $18 hike for an amenity they may never use. And, they say, it is money being peeled off vehicle registration that does not directly relate to transportation.”

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Federal Lands

This article from the National Review makes a great point, with a very revealing map.

An excerpt.

“Bozeman, Montana — The next Congress should enact a moratorium on land nationalization. The feds should stop fleecing exhausted taxpayers for fresh billions to purchase new acreage for Uncle Sam to mismanage.

“Washington, D.C., already lords over some 650 million acres, or 26.7 percent of America. These 1,015,625 square miles are roughly equal to all of Alaska, Texas, and California combined. The federal government owns 45.3 percent of California, 48 percent of Arizona, 57.45 percent of Utah, 69 percent of Alaska, and 84.5 percent of Nevada. No continental state from the Rockies west is less than 30 percent federal, as are Montana and Washington.

“But that is not enough.

“Uncle Sam is like a hyperactive brat who trips over his abandoned train set and stumbles over his spilled Legos while running out to slap a shiny new dirt bike on Daddy’s credit card. Washington constantly expands the federal estate, even while mishandling its existing properties.

“In March 2009, President Obama designated 2 million federal acres as “wilderness,” thus limiting public access and uses thereon. Unsated, Obama last April announced America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, a national listening tour to concoct new ways for Washington to interfere in natural-resource matters. A report due November 15 will include ideas for “creating corridors and connectivity” across exterior spaces, most likely through land procurement.

“Even scarier is a secret Bureau of Land Management (BLM) discussion paper leaked to Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R., Utah). Labeled “Internal Draft — NOT FOR RELEASE,” this document confirms the federal government’s infinite desire for physical enlargement.

“BLM advocates “expanded landholdings” and “acquiring parcels adjacent to its current holdings.” These envirocrats also argue that “Should the legislative process not prove fruitful . . . BLM would recommend that the Administration consider using the Antiquities Act to designate new National Monuments by Presidential Proclamation.” So, if Congress fails to grip federal acreage even more tightly, Obama should grab it by decree.”

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Water Management

This is a brief report on work in Kansas to improve water use, using volunteer efforts rather than regulatory coercion, which also works better.

The eight page report is here and this is an excerpt from the news release:

“The management of agricultural lands in the Cheney Lake Watershed is unique in that landowners have incorporated measures to improve water quality into their management practices. What began with informal discussions among area farmers about water quality is now a well-organized watershed-wide program aimed at improving water quality, protecting Wichita’s primary water source, maintaining fish and wildlife habitat, and reducing sediment runoff without sacrificing agricultural production. Among the roughly 1,000 farmers, more than 2,000 conservation practices have been implemented on a voluntary basis. The farmers of Cheney Lake Watershed have illustrated that responsible land management begins with the landowner and that a bottom-up approach to watershed management works.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

California, Bad for Business

According to this article from the Sacramento Business Journal, our fair state’s ranking is falling even lower.

An excerpt.

“California ranks No. 39 on Forbes’s latest annual list of the best states for business, falling by one spot from its 2009 ranking.

“The rankings are based on business costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life. Business costs -- including labor, energy and taxes -- are weighted the most heavily.

“California is ranked 44th best for business costs and 43rd for regulatory environment but 11th for growth prospects, 22nd for quality of life and 28th for economic climate.

“The Golden State’s $1.5 trillion gross state product is by far the nation’s largest. New York with $946 billion, is second; Texas, with $912 billion, is third; and Florida, with $588 billion, is fourth.

“Utah takes the top spot on the Forbes best-for-business list, pushing Virginia down to No. 2.

“The top 10 states on Forbes’ best-for-business list:
* 1. Utah.
* 2. Virginia.
* 3. North Carolina.
* 4. Colorado.
* 5. Washington state.
* 6. Oregon.
* 7. Texas.
* 8. Georgia.
* 9. Nebraska.
* 10. Kansas.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Helping the Homeless

While it is good that local politicians are eager to help the homeless, as this article from the Sacramento Bee notes, and all communities should help those who are struggling, it is crucial to remember that the greatest help one can give another is to teach them how to help themselves.

Self-help should be part of any community helping or else it is a continuation of the problem not a solution to it.

This 1997 article from the City Journal, when the two different strategies of helping the homeless—whether to give them fish or teach them to fish—were being heatedly debated, can give us some insight.

An excerpt.

“The political arguments often get testy on New York 1's popular evening TV talk-fest, The Road to City Hall. But it's hard to remember anything quite like the recent confrontation between George McDonald and Steven Banks, two of the founding fathers of the city's homeless-rights movement. McDonald instantly went on the attack, accusing the city's oldest homeless-advocacy group, the Coalition for the Homeless, of trying to torpedo the work-training program that his own organization, the Doe Fund, runs for residents of the Harlem Men's Shelter. Banks, the Coalition's high-profile lawyer, countered that McDonald and the Doe Fund were exploiting the shelter residents by charging them $65 a week for rent. Dumbfounded by the charges and countercharges, the show's genial, ultraliberal host pleaded, "You're supposed to be on the same side. What's going on here?"

“What's going on is a sea change in attitudes toward the homeless. The Coalition and other advocates remain wholly committed to the entitlement-oriented culture of the old shelter system, along with the belief that the cause of homelessness is a lack of affordable housing. But the Giuliani administration has other ideas. It has been contracting with tough-love programs like the Doe Fund to take over city homeless shelters, a new and, so far, quite successful approach that fundamentally challenges the old culture of dependency. Rejecting the Coalition's insistence that "housing, housing, housing" is the only solution for homelessness, George McDonald's program is based on the premise that the only real answer to the problem is work and personal responsibility. As McDonald recently told me, "My experience with homeless people has brought me to the conclusion that they are more capable of helping themselves than I thought, and than the advocates still think."

“George McDonald's public challenge to the Coalition's entitlement philosophy and his unexpected emergence as an ally of the Giuliani administration represent a breathtaking 180-degree political turn. For no one, not even Steven Banks, has agitated more relentlessly in the trenches of the homeless-rights movement than he. …

“McDonald contends—breaking once more with advocate orthodoxy—that New York, like the rest of America, offers his charges a sufficiency of jobs. "I believe that motivated people in the city of New York who are drug-free and reliable and show up every day for work can always find opportunity," McDonald told me. "Even with high unemployment rates and all the barriers our people have to overcome—prison records, substance-abuse episodes, and spotty employment histories—still they wind up with jobs, because they are so motivated."

“But, as Steven Banks suggested on the New York 1 program, aren't these jobs of the "dead-end" variety, leading nowhere? The concept infuriates McDonald: "Going to work, even picking up leaves or sweeping the streets, anybody who says that's a dead end doesn't have any understanding of the difference between the work culture—the free-enterprise culture—and the welfare culture. I mean, drugs lead to nowhere—to the grave. Yet the attitude of the advocates is, well, the homeless person has a right to lie on the street. The person has a right, a right, a right. That's our basic philosophical difference."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wind Power Maturing?

It appears, as this story from Fast Company reports, that wind power may actually be maturing as an industry, with China leading the way, and—if true—is very good news.

An excerpt.

“Despite earlier setbacks, wind power may have reached a tipping point. This morning we learned that Google (of all companies) is investing up to $200 million in infrastructure to support a massive wind farm 10 miles off the East Coast that will be operational in 2016. And approval was granted just last week for the first offshore wind project in the U.S., a $1 billion 130-windmill affair off the coast of Cape Cod. Earlier this year the U.K. granted licenses for nine offshore projects, which could generate up to 25% of the country's energy needs. And tiny Portugal, which has had large offshore windfarms since 2008 and opened a new onshore facility in May this year, has the second highest wind-power mix in the world.

“In light of this massive expansion in wind power generation, Greenpeace and the Global Wind Energy Council have been looking at the state of the wind-powered generating industry around the world, and have predicted how wind energy usage may evolve over the next 20 years in a new report out today. Their finding: 20% of our energy needs could be powered by wind inside 20 years--and China will lead the way.

Do we believe it?

“Among the numerous statistics in the study, there are two stand-out conclusions: In a best-case scenario, rapid uptake of wind tech by many countries around the world could result in between 11.5% and 12.3% (about 2,600 terawatt-hours) of global electrical energy needs. Continued uptake could see this figure expand to 18.8% to 21.8% (around 5,400 terawatt-hours). Even a very conservative scenario would see 4.8% of our needs met inside the next 10 years--equal to Europe's energy consumption.

“There's one simple eco-conclusion to be drawn from these figures: If the world really embraced wind power, 34 billion tons less carbon dioxide would be added to the atmosphere by 2030--that's more than the entire world's current level of CO2 output for a year, and the savings would obviously be ongoing into the future.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Naked Parkway

Police arrested two naked men indecently exposing themselves on the Parkway, as this post from the Sacramento Bee Crime Blog reports.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento police report they arrested two naked men Sunday morning in separate incidents on bike trails.

“In the first report, police said they received a call of a naked man south of Cal Expo along the American River Parkway. Police responded and arrested Lonnie C. Belton, 36, for suspicion of indecent exposure at 10:49 a.m.

“Shortly after that, Sacramento police said that a call was received about a naked man on the Two Rivers Trail north of Fifth Street. Police said they took Amit Kumar, 34 into custody on suspicion of illegal camping and indecent exposure.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Shakespeare’s Consummation

In any of the issues dealing with the Parkway: enough water, more public safety resources, funding and management stability, and greater public access; the public policy shaped by government depends upon cultural forces influencing government and over the past several years those forces have been largely driven by an environmentalist movement which gives a superior status to the natural world through the demotion of humans.

The perambulations of logic that allow environmentalists to somehow fail to understand that human beings are the intelligent aspect of the natural world are sometimes exotic, but always corrosive.

However, recent cultural/political changes seem to indicate that anti-human environmentalism is on its last legs which—if true—would be a welcome sign that a more rational and traditional perspective of human superiority accompanied by human stewardship of the natural world, may take hold once again.

It is a consummation devoutly to be wished…thank you Shakespeare.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Environmentalism Became Godzilla

Following up on yesterday's post; the past few years have witnessed the slow unraveling of the environmentalist movement, and given where it has gotten itself, that is very good news, as this cogent analysis from The American Interest reveals.

An excerpt.

“Watching the colossal and implosive decline of the once mighty green movement to stop global warming has been an educational experience. It’s rare to see so many smart, idealistic and dedicated people look so clueless and fail so completely. From the anti-climax of the Cluster of Copenhagen, when world leaders assembled for the single most unproductive and chaotic global gathering ever held, the movement has gone from one catastrophic failure to the next.

“A year ago giddy environmentalists were on top of the world. The greenest president in American history had the largest congressional majority of any president since Lyndon Johnson; the most powerful leaders in the world were elbowing each other for places on the agenda at the Copenhagen conference on climate.

“It all came to naught. The continued stalemates and failures of the UN treaty process have fallen off the front pages; as the Kyoto Protocol sinks ineffectually into oblivion, no new global treaty will take its place. The most Democratic Congress in a generation will not pass significant climate legislation before the midterms pull Congress to the right, and there will be no US law on carbon caps or anything close in President Obama’s first term, and there is less public faith in or concern about climate change today than at any time in the last fifteen years.

“Has any public pressure group ever spent so much direct mail and foundation money for such pathetic results?

“The standard rap on the greens is that they failed because they were too environmentalist. Their pure and naive ideals were no match for the evil, ugly forces of real world politics. Beautiful losers, they dared to dream a dream too gossamer winged, too delicate for the harsh light of day. Bambi, meet Godzilla; the butterfly was broken on the wheel.

“Even in defeat, the greens can’t get it right. The greens didn’t fail because they were too loyal to their ideals; they failed because lost touch with the core impetus and values of the environmental movement. Bambi wasn’t crushed by Godzilla; Bambi turned into Godzilla, and the same kind of public skepticism and populism that once fueled environmentalism have turned against it.

“The greens have forgotten where they come from. Modern environmentalism was born in the reaction against Big Science, Big Government and Experts. The Army Corps of Engineers built dams that devastated wetlands and ruined ecosystems; environmentalists used to be people who fought the Corps because they understood the limits of science, engineering, and simple big interventions in complex ecosystems.”