Wednesday, March 31, 2010

County Shifts Priorities

In a strategy to reduce costs during a period of funding crisis, the idea mentioned in this Sacramento Bee article to partner with a nonprofit organization in the management of the American River Parkway is an excellent one.

Often crisis leads to strategies that are better than what they replace, and this could very well be one of them.

The success of signature parks being managed by a nonprofit organization has been well-documented in New York, where Central Park has been managed by the Central Park Conservancy for many years, and in Pittsburgh where the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy contracted with the city in 1998 to manage Pittsburgh’s four regional parks.

It is also a change being considered by San Francisco after council members visited the Central Park Conservancy, the national model for the strategy.

Our strategy suggestion is to develop the Joint Powers Authority (JPA), currently being discussed, and have the JPA create the nonprofit; seeking leadership through a national search for an executive director experienced raising the millions needed to properly manage and enhance the Parkway.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“Crisis is an opportunity for change.

“That's the message from Sacramento County's interim executive officer, Steve Szalay, to the Board of Supervisors.

“With the county facing a projected $118 million deficit, Szalay unveiled possible ways for county government to reshape itself….”

“After weeks of meetings with top officials, soliciting feedback from employees and talks with the private sector, Szalay compiled a list of changes, which he's calling "a blueprint for future improvements," according to documents he presented to the Board of Supervisors last week.

"The whole intent of this is to save money, improve services, raise revenue – to change the organization to one that constantly thinks of these things," Szalay told the board.

“The list includes nine areas of focus, including places the county can look to contract out, consolidate or share services with other governments like the city of Sacramento.

“The county has already started ticking off items on the list.

“At Tuesday's meeting, the supervisors approved transferring control of the Mather Community Campus – site of key area homeless programs – to Volunteers of America.

“Szalay's list included a number of other programs where the county could consider a similar transfer, including the Effie Yeaw Program and maintenance of the American River Parkway.”

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Value of Nonprofits

In this editorial from the Sacramento Bee, we see the current value of using nonprofits to perform some aspects of public service which they might be better able to do than government (which we suggest could be applied to management of the Parkway) which in this case looks at the economic value.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento County workers have priced themselves so high that the public they serve is sometimes better off when county government bows out.

“The transitional housing program at the Mather Community Campus set to be taken over by Volunteers of America this week illustrates the phenomenon.

“In 1996, a voter-approved ordinance made it easier for Sacramento County to contract out for services to organizations like VOA. But that ordinance, codified as 71J in the county charter, also barred the county from displacing existing county workers with private sector employees.

“With the county in tough economic times and county workers facing layoffs, Sacramento County Counsel Robert Ryan has interpreted 71J and state civil service case law to mean that county workers can displace private sector contract workers in any job that county workers can perform. Displacement is permitted even if the county worker is more costly and less skilled and experienced than the contract worker, and even when county workers are taking on jobs they've never performed in the past.

“Armed with that interpretation, county case managers threatened with layoffs from county social service agencies last year were able to displace private case managers for formerly homeless clients at the Mather Community Campus.

“Because county worker pay and benefits were so much higher, six private workers had to be laid off to bring in just three county employees. Case loads at Mather immediately doubled and services suffered.”

Monday, March 29, 2010

San Joaquin Flows Again

This is a great story of river restoration from the Fresno Bee.

An excerpt.

“The San Joaquin River is now flowing from Friant Dam to the Pacific Ocean, reaching the first milestone in a plan to bring back Chinook salmon.

“Restoration of the state's second-longest river should achieve another major goal this summer - a continuous run of water to the ocean even during the dry months of August, September and October.

“It has been decades since the river flowed continuously from the dam to the ocean during spring, summer and fall without the help of an unusually wet year.

“The connection with the ocean happened about two weeks ago, officials said.

"This is a big moment," said Monty Schmidt, senior water resources scientist for the Natural Resource Defense Council, a national environmental watchdog with an office in San Francisco. "It's a big step toward having a living river again."

“The San Joaquin had been mostly dry for about 60 miles over the last six decades after Friant was built to provide irrigation water for farmers and flood protection for surrounding residents.

“The NRDC filed a lawsuit in the late 1980s to revive the river. Nearly two decades later, environmentalists, farmers and the federal government signed an agreement to restore the river.”

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Suburban Living

A wonderful quote from a book—Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir—about growing up and living in the largest suburb in the world, Lakewood, California, from the Wall Street Journal.

The quote:

“I once thought my suburban life was an extended lesson in how to get along with other people. Now I think the lesson isn't neighborliness; it's humility. When I stand at the end of my block, I see a pattern of sidewalk, driveway, and lawn that aspires to be no more than harmless. That's important, because we live in a time of great harm to the ordinary parts of our lives, and I wish that I had acquired more of the resistance my neighborhood offers. . . . Loyalty is the last habit that more sophisticated consumers would impute to those of us who live here; we're supposed to be so dissatisfied in the suburbs. But I'm not unusual in living here for all the years I have. Perhaps like me, my neighbors have found a place that permits restless people to be still. The primal mythmakers of California are its real estate agents, and one of them told me once that this suburb still attracts aspirant homebuyers because "it's in the heart of the metroplex." Maybe it's just in the heart.”

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Suburban Living

A wonderful quote from a book—Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir—about growing up and living in the largest suburb in the world, Lakewood, California, from the Wall Street Journal.

The quote:

“I once thought my suburban life was an extended lesson in how to get along with other people. Now I think the lesson isn't neighborliness; it's humility. When I stand at the end of my block, I see a pattern of sidewalk, driveway, and lawn that aspires to be no more than harmless. That's important, because we live in a time of great harm to the ordinary parts of our lives, and I wish that I had acquired more of the resistance my neighborhood offers. . . . Loyalty is the last habit that more sophisticated consumers would impute to those of us who live here; we're supposed to be so dissatisfied in the suburbs. But I'm not unusual in living here for all the years I have. Perhaps like me, my neighbors have found a place that permits restless people to be still. The primal mythmakers of California are its real estate agents, and one of them told me once that this suburb still attracts aspirant homebuyers because "it's in the heart of the metroplex." Maybe it's just in the heart.”

Friday, March 26, 2010

Helping Salmon Spawn

This is a wonderful story, from the Sacramento Bee, about the capability of human technology to restore spawning sites for salmon, which are needed due to the other wonderful human technology story—the building of dams on the American that save Sacramento from flooding and produce hydroelectric power—and, along with hatchery technology, can do a lot to keep the salmon run in the American rich and productive.

An excerpt.

“New fish spawning areas in the American River are bristling with fresh nests of steelhead eggs – so many that officials urge anglers and others not to wade in the area.

“Salmon and steelhead breed by laying eggs in riverbed gravel. They use their powerful tails to sweep out circular nests in the gravel to hold their eggs.

“Appropriate gravel is in short supply, however, due to a century of dam building, mining and other activities.

“To address this problem, hundreds of truckloads of gravel were spread in two riverbed areas just downstream from Nimbus Dam over past the two years in a joint project by the Sacramento Water Forum and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

“The project has succeeded in coaxing more fish to lay eggs in the American River. Salmon and steelhead have created at least 347 gravel nests – also called "redds" – in the restored areas, according to surveys by Cramer Fish Sciences, a consultant hired to monitor the project.

“Joe Merz, a senior scientist at Cramer, said the salmon and steelhead redds counted this year could produce nearly 800,000 young fish.”

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nonprofits & the Homeless

Nonprofits traditionally do a much better job of working on social problems than government, primarily due to the principle of subsidiarity, and this forthcoming arrangement—as reported by the Sacramento Bee—between the County and Volunteers of America could be of benefit to all, while keeping a threatened program alive.

An excerpt.

“The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors is poised to transfer control of the Mather Community Campus – site of key area homeless programs – to Volunteers of America.

“The supervisors are scheduled to discuss the measure at 11:30 a.m. today at board chambers, 700 H St.

“The move comes about six months after the county's budget problems threatened to close the campus and is part of a larger shift of social services from the county to local nonprofits.

"In the next couple years the face of nonprofit work in the community is going to change," said Leo McFarland, VOA's president and chief executive officer. "We're just testing this out."

“Mather Community Campus has been around since 1995 on the site of the former Mather Air Force Base. The campus offers transitional housing for about 320 people who might otherwise be homeless and provides them with vocational training, job search assistance, children's services and meals.

"It's a renewal. It's people who have a second chance to really turn their lives around," McFarland said.

“Grappling with budget deficits, the county cut much of the program's funding this fiscal year. General fund money for the campus dropped from about $2.5 million the past two years to about $400,000 for the fiscal year that ends June 30. The Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency helped offset the loss of general fund money this year so officials could find a way to keep the campus open.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

K Street Plan #4,398

At this point, for those of us who have been here since the beginning—when K Street was still a great main street everyone enjoyed—this continuing bumbly-fumbly attempt to do something about it that actually has people wanting to be there, has become one of those endless metro dramas that almost doesn't make much difference anymore; though we must say, that hope does spring eternal, that some day, some way, Sacramento will have a downtown we can all be proud of.

The Sacramento Bee reports on the latest plans.

An excerpt.

“Four proposals to revamp the K Street Mall released Monday range from a subtle infusion of retail and housing to a near total remake of the downtown corridor.

“All the development teams told the city they could begin site work by next year. Financing details remained vague, however.

“The City Council is expected to vote in mid-May on which team it wants city staff to work with.

“City officials hope that this round of proposals produces some concrete results in a bleak stretch of turf that includes several demolished and many vacant buildings.

“In the past decade, the city spent $40 million to buy roughly a dozen properties for another development plan. This plan, led by Southern California furniture retailer Joe Zeiden, fell apart after the city spent four years haggling with one major property owner and the economy soured.

“Mayor Kevin Johnson Monday said it will pay off for the city to have those parcels in the bank. Thanks to those acquisitions, he said, "downtown and the J, K, L corridor is a gold mine."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Arden Arcade

The movement to create a new city within the County has passed an important hurdle, and that is very good news, as reported by the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

“After almost 4 1/2 years of fits and starts – filled with community meetings, fundraising issues and bureaucratic hurdles – a small band of incorporation proponents has finally overcome the critical first phase in making Arden Arcade a brand new city.

“With two key studies released recently showing such a city is both financially feasible and environmentally sound, cityhood proponents are now turning their attention to getting incorporation onto the November ballot.

"While it was a large task getting the funding and making it through the (two reports), that was kind of like step one," said Michael Grace, the Arden Arcade Incorporation Committee's vice chair.

“Arden Arcade is a community of 100,000 in unincorporated Sacramento County. Proponents want a city bounded on the north by Auburn Boulevard, on the west by Ethan Way, on the east by Mission Avenue and on the south by Fair Oaks Boulevard.”

Monday, March 22, 2010

Save Whales or Salmon?

Considering that killer whales eat about 300 pounds of fish a day and their favorite is salmon, and there are about 90 of them, one can see the dilemma environmentalists face, as reported by the Fresno Bee.

The obvious answer is to increase the salmon population through hatcheries, which is aleady being done as we posted before, but the process could be greatly enhanced.

An excerpt.

"It is fascinating the whales specialize in a particular species, and the species they focus on is one of the rarer ones and in some case protected," said Michael Ford, the director of the conservation biology division at the National Marine Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. "Recovery of the whales could be dependent on the recovery of salmon. It is all related."

“Ford was among a group of U.S. and Canadian scientists who published the results of their study in the recent edition of the journal Endangered Species Research.

“The problem of killer whales nibbling on declining salmon runs isn't just an international one. Federal scientists say that Puget Sound killer whales may also be taking their toll on endangered salmon from California.

“Though their numbers fluctuate, about 90 killer whales make up the southern resident population that swims the inland waters of Washington state and British Columbia from south Puget Sound to the Strait of Georgia. From late spring to early fall, the whales stay in the inland waters. During the winter they're known to roam the Pacific Ocean from northern California to Vancouver Island.

“The whales weigh between 6,000 and 12,000 pounds and can eat up to 300 pounds of fish a day.

“From 2004 to 2008, scientists from both countries followed the orcas in small boats near the San Juan Islands in Washington state and the western Strait of Juan de Fuca in British Columbia.”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Frog Habitat Increased

In a huge economic loss to the counties affected, the federal government took over a million acres out of use to protect red-legged frogs, as the Los Angeles Times reports.

An excerpt.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday designated 1.6 million acres in California as critical habitat for the endangered red-legged frog, made famous by Mark Twain in his story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."

“The amphibian, once so plentiful that it was commonly featured on restaurant menus, eventually became endangered because of development encroaching on its habitat and the effects of pesticides and other chemicals.

“The habitat area is divided into 50 units across 27 California counties, including six counties that previously did not have designated critical habitat: Mendocino, Sonoma, Placer, Calaveras, Stanislaus and Kings.

“It was the third time the agency has attempted to assign a protected area for the frog. Prior efforts were thwarted, first in 2001 by a lawsuit from the building industry, which objected to setting aside 4.1 million acres for frog habitat. Most recently, the agency reduced critical habitat to 450,000 acres in a controversial 2006 decision by Interior Department official Julie MacDonald, who was found to have provided internal documents to lobbyists and pressured scientists to alter their conclusions. MacDonald later resigned….

“The Fish and Wildlife Service estimated the 20-year economic impact of the habitat designation to be $159 million to $500 million, with about 90% of the impacts on new development. Of the total cost, $48.4 million of the cost is projected crop loss.”

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cosumnes River Funding

Some recovery funding will go to the Cosumnes River Preserve as reported by the PR Newswire.

“Today, the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and The Nature Conservancy of California announced they have signed the conservation easement for a $2.2 million project in the Cosumnes River Watershed, funded through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). Restoration planning efforts will begin soon on the 600+-acre project.

“One year after the passage of ARRA, the Recovery Act is providing over $23 million for flood control and water quality work through NRCS in California, as part of public and private partnerships and contracts. President Obama signed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law Feb. 17, 2009, to help jumpstart the nation's economy.

"This project is one of many in California designed to benefit the environment and boost local economic investment as part of ARRA," said Ed Burton, State Conservationist for NRCS in California. "This project will have a positive impact on the local community for years to come."

“The federal funding will reconnect a section of the Cosumnes River with its historic floodplain, improving wildlife habitat in one of the biologically richest regions in California's Central Valley, while providing protection for agricultural and urban lands continually threatened by flooding. In addition, the project will offer local job opportunities in order to complete the restoration work.

“The project places 617 acres and 1.5 miles of river frontage into permanent floodplain easement. Floodplain easements allow an increase in the area available to accept floodwaters at high flows, encouraging rivers to occupy their historic floodplain, helping to reduce floodwater velocities, improve water quality and increase wildlife habitat.”

Friday, March 19, 2010

Silver Lake & Effie Yeaw

Comstock’s Magazine, in their March 2010 issue notes the importance of public private partnerships in the case of the Silver Lake Campers Association, a nonprofit that has been helping the city of Stockton take care of Silver Lakes Camps for 50 years.

As Sacramento County Park’s Effie Yeaw Nature Center struggles to survive, Silver Lake Camps is a model worth emulating, as a local nonprofit, the American River Natural History Association considers partnering with the County to operate the Nature Center.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

U.S. Demographics, 2050

The future looks very good for our country in the demographic profile reported by New Geography.

An excerpt.

"To many observers, America's place in the world is almost certain to erode in the decades ahead. Yet if we look beyond the short-term hardship, there are many reasons to believe that America will remain ascendant well into the middle decades of this century.

"And one important reason is people.

"From 2000 to 2050, the U.S. will add another 100 million to its population, based on census and other projections, putting the country on a growth track far faster than most other major nations in the world. And with that growth -- driven by a combination of higher fertility rates and immigration -- will come a host of relative economic and social benefits.

More fertile

“Of course the percentage of childless women is rising here as elsewhere, but compared to other advanced countries, America still boasts the highest fertility rate: 50 percent higher than Russia, Germany or Japan, and well above that of China, Italy, Singapore, Korea and virtually all of eastern Europe.

“As a result, while the U.S. population is growing, Europe and Japan are seeing their populations stagnate -- and are seemingly destined to eventually decline. Russia's population could be less than a third of the U.S. by 2050, driven down by low birth and high mortality rates. Even Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has spoken of "the serious threat of turning into a decaying nation."

“In East Asia, fertility is particularly low in highly crowded cities such as Tokyo, Shanghai, Tianjin, Beijing and Seoul. And China's one-child policy -- and a growing surplus of males over females -- has set the stage for a rapidly aging population by mid-century. South Korea, meanwhile, has experienced arguably the fastest drop in fertility in world history, which perhaps explains its extraordinary, if scandal-plagued, interest in human cloning.

“Even more remarkably, America will expand its population in the midst of a global demographic slowdown. Global population growth rates of 2 percent in the 1960s have dropped to less than half that rate today, and this downward trend is likely to continue -- falling to less than 0.8 percent by 2025 -- largely due to an unanticipated drop in birthrates in developing countries such as Mexico and Iran. These declines are in part the result of increased urbanization, the education of women and higher property prices. “The world's population, according to some estimates, could peak as early as 2050 and begin to fall by the end of the century.”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mass Traveling

In this book review of The Lunatic Express in the Wall Street Journal, we see the reality of travel by the masses of the poor in the world, putting that which we often complain about, but is relatively heavenly, into its proper context…we are a lucky people.

An excerpt.

“No one pretends anymore that it is fun, or even pleasant, to fly on any airline in the U.S. these days. It is a task—a travail, from which French linguistic origins the word travel is most appositely derived—to which few can possibly look forward. Perhaps only being trapped overnight, waterless and powerless, in an Amtrak siding in Indiana, or changing buses before dawn in a Greyhound depot in West Virginia coal country, can offer up a more sobering experience of what it is like to be on the move in America today.

“And yet, for all its shortcomings, the process of wandering anywhere in this country, between Bangor and Baja, or between Kodiak and Key West, remains an experience that is an order of magnitude more acceptable— and, crucially, many orders of magnitude more survivable—than is endured by most of the rest of the traveling world. For the planet's poor—which means the vast majority of humanity—the simple business of getting from place to place is almost invariably a savage and insufferable nightmare, unsafe and unsanitary, run by incompetents and regulated by crooks.

“Carl Hoffman, a courageous and interestingly untroubled man from Washington, D.C., has done a great service by reminding us, in "The Lunatic Express," of this abiding truism: that the world's ordinary traveler is compelled to endure all too much while undertaking the grim necessities of modern movement. Mr. Hoffman spent a fascinating year going around the world precisely as most of the world's plainest people do—not on JetBlue or United or American or Trailways, modes of transport that look positively heavenly by comparison, but in the threadbare conveyances of the planet's billions.

“So he headed across the Andes crammed inside half-welded and smooth-tired buses. He sardined himself into the creaking fuselages of the notoriously unsafe airlines of former Soviet-bloc banana republics. He sweated on Indian or African railway trains (the Lunatic Express of the book's title is the nickname of a train in Kenya) that were filled to bursting—though with the numbers occasionally reduced as passengers gasping for fresh air had their heads lopped off by passing bridges. He slept on the bilge-water-stinking hammock-decks of ferries, in the Philippines and the Ganges tributaries, that tip over more regularly than cattle outside Wisconsin college towns, and with the accumulated drownings of thousands.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Overheated Discussion

A perfect example, in this story from the San Francisco Chronicle, of the over-the-top discussion about an issue no one really knows much about—why are there fewer salmon in some years than others—also reflected in the discussion on global warming revealed through the lens of Climategate, indicates why the era of environmentalism as an intelligent driver of public policy is coming to an end.

Much good has been accomplished, no one doubts, but the desperation of the rear guard can undo much of the good will established by the truly good work of the past.

Underneath this type of thinking—that nature is more important than humans—is the ideology of deep ecology, also slowly losing its ability to influence thought leaders.

An excerpt from the Chronicle article.

“California is at war with its native salmon. Historically, hundreds of thousands - some estimate millions - of salmon migrated through the San Francisco Bay to Central Valley streams to spawn. The era of big dams changed things dramatically, but even 30 years ago California had enough salmon to support major fishing fleets.

“Since the 1960s, however, salmon populations have declined dramatically, resulting in listings under federal and state endangered species laws. In the almost two decades since the endangered listing, the situation has only worsened. In the past five years, this decline has become a free fall. Unless we change course, salmon runs face the very real prospect of extinction and California faces a possible permanent loss of our salmon fishery.

“Why? There is no single answer, but at the heart of the issue is that, since salmon were listed as an endangered species, the state and federal water projects have substantially increased the amount of water pumped out of the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta estuary. In short, we have not managed our water system to account for the basic needs of salmon.”

Monday, March 15, 2010

Elk Grove’s Growth

Just as Sacramento was able to build in the flood plain—an area in which I live with several thousand other residents—so should Elk Grove; assuming they take the type of flood prevention and habitat protection precautions legally mandated.

The discussion about the expansion is reported by the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

“The battle surrounding Elk Grove's bid to expand southward by 10,500 acres won't be the last land war.

“But for people living in or near the proposed expansion area, the stakes are high:

“• For landowners, the current plan to create a mile-wide buffer straddling Eschinger Road threatens to limit what they can do with their property. The buffer would separate urbanized and agriculture areas.

“• Environmentalists and Wilton residents south of the Cosumnes River area fear that Elk Grove's expansion into the Cosumnes River floodplain will jeopardize habitat and a legacy of peaceful country living.

“The city expansion bid is under review by the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission….”

Sunday, March 14, 2010

$1 Million Gift to Park

The recent gift to the Central Park Conservancy, reported by the West Side Independent news, to replace trees lost in a storm is an example of the type of generosity accompanying the nonprofit management and fundraising of parks.

Donors will generally not give that type of a gift to government-run park facilities due to uncertainty about it being devoted to the donor’s desires, but with a nonprofit that has built a reputation for independence and park dedicated management and spending, plus the federal laws governing donor intent, pretty much ensure a level of comfort in making large gifts.

This could be the future for the Parkway if the Joint Powers Authority—already being discussed by local leadership—comes into being, and creates a nonprofit organization for Parkway management and fund raising, as we’ve written about in postings to our news page and as part of our strategy at the strategy page on our website.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fishing & Farming

This is a nice article on efforts to be able to do both well, while accommodating each, as reported by the Property & Environment Research Center.

An excerpt.

“Streams that once meandered across open valley floors, providing essential fish habitat, are now channelized by roads, railroads, and agricultural operations. This loss in tributary habitat is a limiting factor in efforts to recover declining fish populations in the Pacific Northwest.

“In the Entiat River Valley, a tributary of the Columbia River Basin, agricultural activities and transportation development simplified the riverine system and erased significant fish habitat. An environment essential to river system health and the survival of salmon and steelhead populations was gradually replaced; healthy cottonwoods and dense, overhanging shrubs gave way to fruit trees.

“For several generations, many farmers within the Entiat Valley enjoyed fishing for wild steelhead and salmon from the banks of their orchards. In fact, orchardists planted apple, pear, and cherry trees right up to the river bank, as this was the general practice. While farming continued in the Entiat Valley and throughout the Northwest, recognition was building that the fish in the Columbia River Basin were in precipitous decline. With this awareness came tension between salmon recovery efforts and farming operations. Despite such tensions, the Entiat Valley community endorsed salmon recovery efforts in their watershed.”

Friday, March 12, 2010

California’s Strength

In the midst of the often horrible news emanating from public leadership—or the lack of it—about the future prospects for our state, there is one constant, our capacity for innovation, which this post from Fox and Hounds Daily notes.

An excerpt.

“Amid the wreckage of California’s economy and our diminishing competitiveness, one California character trait abides: innovation and the prospect of cashing in on it.

“According to a survey by the research firm VentureSource, fully 33 of the top 50 venture capital-backed firms (two-thirds), and 15 of the top 20, are located in California, a striking reminder that intellectual capital and innovation start right here. And since many of these firms are spinning off from research undertaken at our great universities, this drives home the importance of investing in a strong public university system for the future health of our economy.”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Condors

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the wonderful efforts to save this giant and majestic vulture.

An excerpt.

“A lonely cave on a cliff in the rugged Pinnacles National Monument is the setting for a story of two love birds who found one another despite unimaginable hardship and decided to bring new life into a world that almost destroyed them.

“They are, of course, giant corpse-munching vultures, but wildlife biologists could not be more thrilled if they were Romeo and Juliet.

“The lovers in this case are California condors and together they have built the first condor nest in the Pinnacles in more than 100 years, a pivotal moment in the effort to bring back the majestic birds from the brink of extinction.

"Condors historically called the Pinnacles home, but because of the declining population the birds have not nested in the park in 100 years," said Carl Brenner, the chief of interpretation and education for the national monument, which is in the Gabilan Mountains about 30 miles south of Salinas. "Forty years ago there were no condors in the park. This is a milestone for the park recovery program."

“A nest with a single egg was found recently in a cave on top of a cliff known to rock climbers as Resurrection Wall, on the west side of the park. The egg is the product of a romance between 7-year-old condors with the decidedly unpoetic names 317 and 318.

“The lower-numbered female, released in the park in 2004, is one of 26 condors who now reside in and around the Pinnacles. Her mate is from a flock that hangs out along the Big Sur coast, Brenner said.

“The pair was first spotted in February displaying feathers, flashing their brightly colored heads and necks and performing other shamelessly flirtatious rituals associated with condor courtship. Biologists tracked the pair to their nest using radio telemetry and global positioning technology and confirmed the egg.

“With a wingspan of 10 feet, the California condor is the largest North American land bird and a symbol of a time when the far West was an untamed wilderness. The massive black vulture is one of the world's longest-living birds, with a lifespan in the wild of 35 to 40 years.

“Once widespread across North America, the condor has declined precipitously since the 19th century when they were hunted and poisoned with the lead shot that was often left in meat they scavenged.

“Despite being listed on the federal endangered species list in 1967, only 22 remained in the world in 1987, prompting conservationists to capture the remaining birds and start a breeding program at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Valley Farming History

This article from the Western Farm Press is a good look at the farming in the San Joaquin Valley from the perspective of one of the farming families.

This is truly one of the breadbaskets of the nation and what happens here is of vital interest to the well-being of our state.

An excerpt.

“Second-generation San Joaquin Valley farmer John Diener refuses to accept the adage that history repeats itself.

“History repeating itself will eventually mean the demise of the richest agricultural valley in America.

“Diener, 58, farms on the West Side of the San Joaquin where he and his neighbors are fighting with one hand for fresh irrigation water to grow crops, while with the other they are challenged to economically dispose of subsurface, perched water.

“Diener farms out of Five Points, Calif. He is doing everything he can think of to survive two opposing dilemmas that are like a vise squeezing him and his peers in the middle. However, is it more than personal. At stake is a major food source for a nation, and he is passionate there is no alternative but to successfully meet both challenges.

“Thirty percent of the all the processing tomatoes grown in the U.S. are produced in Fresno County; 30 percent of the country’s grapes are produced here,” he says, listing two of the myriad of facts that make Fresno County the No. 1 agricultural county in the nation.

“He bristles at the notion that somehow growing food in the San Joaquin Valley is bad. Without its bounty, people will take to the streets and riot for food, he believes.

“Lost in the battles over getting water to irrigate and the equally important farmland drainage issue is the unmistakable truth that it is the climate that makes the Valley so enviably productive. Diener believes most people are unaware of this one fact that makes the Valley so productive.

“There is nothing you cannot grow in abundance in the San Joaquin Valley if you have the water and drainage, Diener says.

“Agriculturally, California is a “Mediterranean” climate, much like that of ancient Mesopotamia, the birthplace of modern civilization. Today it is the dusty, desolate Iraq we see on television daily. In 2,400 B.C., the Tigris and Euphrates rivers fed water to the rich Mesopotamian valleys, which also had a Mediterranean climate. With water, a highly diversified agriculture became a key part of the birth of civilization as we know it today.

“However, as John Letey, distinguished professor of soil physics at the University of California, pointed out in an article in California Agriculture, ancient history records “the turning white of the fields” of those rich valleys from salt buildup due to a lack of drainage.

“The story of Mesopotamia is ancient, but it could be repeated in California,” wrote Letey, who said 4.5 million acres of irrigated California cropland, primarily on the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley, are affected by saline soils or saline irrigation water. Already, Letey said tens of thousands of productive agricultural acres are “clearly at risk.”

“Although imported irrigation water is relatively low in salt, Letey says 1.9 million metric tons are imported daily into the San Joaquin from irrigation water and other sources. This is the equivalent of 57 railroad cars of salt. The problem is compounded by the Valley’s alluvial soils originating from mountains that were once below sea level.

“It doesn’t take history to tell Diener what his San Joaquin Valley is facing. He has seen it first hand. Land his father and uncle farmed is no longer productive from salt buildup due to a lack of drainage. He has also reclaimed salted ground to make it productive once again.

“Yet, he refuses to accept the fact that the Valley he grew up in and now farms will become a modern day Mesopotamia.

“Solutions are available and complex. Salt-laden, perched water can be gravity collected with perforated drain pipes. That water may be blended with clean water and used again to irrigate crops. If it is too salty, it can be piped to evaporation ponds where the brine is reduced to solids. A third way to dispose of the perched water would be to pipe it to the ocean.

“Diener wants history reversed using a fourth method. He believes it will be from something called Integrated On-Farm Drainage Management (IFDM). A test site for the idea is nestled in a corner of his 5,000-acre Red Rock Ranch.”

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Delta as National Heritage Area

The National Heritage Area designation is an excellent one for preserving historic areas without the restrictions that come with National Park status, and it is a designation we have suggested for the American River Watershed connected with the gold rush.

We wrote about it in our 2007 Report: The American River Parkway, Governance, Ecoregionalism. and Heritage: A Vision & Policy Primer, (pp. 30-35)

The Sacramento Bee wrote a story about the move to create a National Heritage Area in the Delta, which is a great idea.

An excerpt.

“The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is one of the world's unique landscapes, but unless you own a boat or part of an island, its natural wonders are simply hard to access…

“Already under way is a plan to declare the Delta a "national heritage area." This is a National Park Service status – without the park and its rules.

“One of the water bills signed last year by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger charged the Delta Protection Commission, a state agency based in Walnut Grove, with applying to Congress for the designation.

“The commission obtained a $10,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to prepare the proposal. A consultant has been hired, and Executive Director Linda Fiack said the proposal should be complete next year.

“If approved, the Delta would become the state's first national heritage area. The designation highlights unique historic or cultural features, and allows a region to use the National Park Service "arrowhead" logo and signage.”

Monday, March 08, 2010

West Coast Tent Cities

A report from The National Coalition for the Homeless examines the tent city eruptions in the Pacific West over the past several years and covers the situation in Sacramento—with a focus on the tent city encampment along the American River—in pages 36-43, and a hat tip to the Sacramento Homeless Blog for the news.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

County Parks Announcement

New Parkway Bike Trail signs will be going up as this February 18th News Release notes.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Warmists in Denial

As the arguments for human-caused global warming have been dismantled, the warmist hold-outs continue to deny that their argument has lost its relevancy, but, as this article from The Weekly Standard reports, it has most definitively.

An excerpt.

“It is increasingly clear that the leak of the internal emails and documents of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in November has done for the climate change debate what the Pentagon Papers did for the Vietnam war debate 40 years ago—changed the narrative decisively. Additional revelations of unethical behavior, errors, and serial exaggeration in climate science are rolling out on an almost daily basis, and there is good reason to expect more.

“The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), hitherto the gold standard in climate science, is under fire for shoddy work and facing calls for a serious shakeup. The U.S. Climate Action Partnership, the self-serving coalition of environmentalists and big business hoping to create a carbon cartel, is falling apart in the wake of the collapse of any prospect of enacting cap and trade in Congress. Meanwhile, the climate campaign’s fallback plan to have the EPA regulate greenhouse gas emissions through the cumbersome Clean Air Act is generating bipartisan opposition. The British media—even the left-leaning, climate alarmists of the Guardian and BBC—are turning on the climate campaign with a vengeance. The somnolent American media, which have done as poor a job reporting about climate change as they did on John Edwards, have largely averted their gaze from the inconvenient meltdown of the climate campaign, but the rock solid edifice in the newsrooms is cracking. Al Gore was conspicuously missing in action before surfacing with a long article in the New York Times on February 28, reiterating his familiar parade of horribles: The sea level will rise! Monster storms! Climate refugees in the hundreds of millions! Political chaos the world over! It was the rhetorical equivalent of stamping his feet and saying “It is too so!” In a sign of how dramatic the reversal of fortune has been for the climate campaign, it is now James Inhofe, the leading climate skeptic in the Senate, who is eager to have Gore testify before Congress.

“The body blows to the climate campaign did not end with the Climategate emails. The IPCC—which has produced four omnibus assessments of climate science since 1992—has issued several embarrassing retractions from its most recent 2007 report, starting with the claim that Himalayan glaciers were in danger of melting as soon as 2035. That such an outlandish claim would be so readily accepted is a sign of the credulity of the climate campaign and the media: Even if extreme global warming occurred over the next century, the one genuine scientific study available estimated that the huge ice fields of the Himalayas would take more than 300 years to melt—a prediction any beginning chemistry student could confirm with a calculator. (The actual evidence is mixed: Some Himalayan glaciers are currently expanding.) The source for the melt-by-2035 claim turned out to be not a peer-reviewed scientific assessment, but a report from an advocacy group, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which in turn lifted the figure from a popular magazine article in India whose author later disavowed his offhand speculation.

“But what made this first retraction noteworthy was the way in which it underscored the thuggishness of the climate establishment. The IPCC’s chairman, Rajendra Pachauri (an economist and former railroad engineer who is routinely described as a “climate scientist”), initially said that critics of the Himalayan glacier melt prediction were engaging in “voodoo science,” though it later turned out that Pachauri had been informed of the error in early December—in advance of the U.N.’s climate change conference in Copenhagen—but failed to disclose it. He’s invoking the Charlie Rangel defense: It was my staff’s fault.

“The Himalayan retraction has touched off a cascade of further retractions and corrections, though the IPCC and other organs of climate alarmism are issuing their corrections sotto voce, hoping the media won’t take notice. The IPCC’s assessment that 40 percent of the Amazonian rain forest was at risk of destruction from climate change was also revealed to be without scientific foundation; the WWF was again the source. The Daily Telegraph identified 20 more claims of ruin in the IPCC’s 2007 report that are based on reports from advocacy groups such as Greenpeace rather than peer-reviewed research, including claims that African agricultural production would be cut in half, estimates of coral reef degradation, and the scale of glacier melt in the Alps and the Andes. Numerous other claims were sourced to unpublished student papers and dissertations, or to misstated or distorted research.

“Peer reviewers in the formal IPCC process had flagged many of these errors and distortions during the writing of the 2007 report but were ignored. For example, the IPCC claimed that the world is experiencing rapidly rising costs due to extreme weather related events brought on by climate change. But the underlying paper, when finally published in 2008, expressly contradicted this, saying, “We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and catastrophe losses.” Perhaps the most embarrassing walkback was the claim that 55 percent of the Netherlands was below sea level, and therefore gravely threatened by rising sea levels. The correct number is 26 percent, which Dutch scientists say they tried to tell the IPCC before the 2007 report was published, to no avail. And in any case, a paper published last year in Nature Geoscience predicting a 21st-century sea level rise of up to 32 inches has been withdrawn, with the authors acknowledging mistaken methodology and admitting “we can no longer draw firm conclusions regarding 21st century sea level rise from this study without further work.” The IPCC ignored several published studies casting doubt on its sea level rise estimates.

“The IPCC isn’t the only important node of the climate campaign having its reputation run through the shredder. The 2006 Stern Review, a British report on the economics of climate change named for its lead author, Lord Nicholas Stern, was revealed to have quietly watered down some of its headline-grabbing claims in its final published report because, as the Telegraph put it, “the scientific evidence on which they were based could not be verified.” Like rats deserting a sinking ship, scientists and economists cited in the Stern Review have disavowed the misuse of their work. Two weeks ago the World Meteorological Association pulled the rug out from under one of Gore’s favorite talking points—that climate change will mean more tropical storms. A new study by the top scientists in the field concluded that although warmer oceans might make for stronger tropical storms in the future, there has been no climate-related trend in tropical storm activity over recent decades and, further, there will likely be significantly fewer tropical storms in a warmer world. “We have come to substantially different conclusions from the IPCC,” said lead author Chris Landsea, a scientist at the National Hurricane Center in Florida. (Landsea, who does not consider himself a climate skeptic, resigned from the IPCC in 2005 on account of its increasingly blatant politicization.)”

Friday, March 05, 2010

Going too Green?

Gas at $7.00 a gallon, yes, that’s way too green.

An excerpt from the article in the New York Times.

“To meet the Obama administration’s targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, some researchers say, Americans may have to experience a sobering reality: gas at $7 a gallon.

“To reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the transportation sector 14 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, the cost of driving must simply increase, according to a forthcoming report by researchers at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

“The 14 percent target was set in the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget for fiscal 2010.

“In their study, the researchers devised several combinations of steps that United States policymakers might take in trying to address the heat-trapping emissions by the nation’s transportation sector, which consumes 70 percent of the oil used in the United States.”

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Broken Windows Policing

Also called quality-of-life policing, is spreading, as cities absorb the results of too much tolerance for street crime and the general chaos caused by a lack of strict enforcement of public behavior laws and a misplaced indifference to the consequences of unregulated homelessness—as Sacramento currently suffers with its long-term policy of allowing illegal camping in the Parkway.

This article from the Washington Post reports on San Francisco’s slowly realizing the corrosive results too much tolerance can bring; and perhaps they will remember that under Mayor Frank Jordan and his Matrix program in the 1990’s—as reported by City Journal—they had once resolved the problem.

An excerpt from the Washington Post.

“SAN FRANCISCO -- In the Tenderloin, not far from tourists at the historic cable car turnaround, the city's incoming police chief was shocked to see open drug dealing.

“Then, in the swank Union Square shopping area, Sacramento's visiting mayor had his luggage swiped from outside a hotel.

“And in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, crucible for the hippie movement and the 1960s Summer of Love, residents and storekeepers have been complaining about overbearing transients blocking pedestrians and panhandling with their pit bulls by their sides.

“This tourist mecca, known for its panoramic views and liberal outlook, is grappling with quality-of-life crimes - and the perception that its cherished sense of forbearance has gotten out of hand.

"This is a city that absolutely relies on visitors as its main economic driver," said Steve Falk, executive director of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. "San Francisco is known for having a high level of tolerance, but ... the line has to be drawn somewhere, and I think San Franciscans are ready for that to happen."

“Last year, the city's overall crime rate was the lowest in decades, with homicides down more than 50 percent. But a groundswell of gripes about "nuisance crimes" has made combatting them a priority for Police Chief George Gascon since he arrived last summer.

“The chief has gone so far as proposing a citywide "sit-lie" ordinance that would give police the authority to move and cite those who block sidewalks or otherwise intimidate pedestrians to address problems like those in the Haight-Ashbury.

"There are a substantial number of people who want to see this happen. They're very frustrated," Gascon said in an interview. "It's beyond the tipping point. The anger is very real. I'm hoping we can come up with a powerful policy that makes sense for everybody."

“Mayor Gavin Newsom, who recently moved to Haight Ashbury and was previously hesitant about Gascon's proposal due to potential divisiveness, said he will now introduce the ordinance this week to the city's Board of Supervisors.

“Newsom said he constantly hears complaints from merchants while jogging or grabbing his morning coffee. He also told the San Francisco Chronicle that he recently saw a guy smoking crack while taking his infant daughter on a stroll down Haight Street.

"It's a lot of behavior issues, a lot of drug-related and transient issues and I'm sensitive to the challenges of some of these folks," Newsom told The Associated Press. "But, at the same time, there's families there, kids in strollers, merchants there barely making ends meet. We've got to find a compromise."

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Hi-Speed Rail Troubles?

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the financial revision figures for the project are raising concerns, rightfully so.

An excerpt.

“Despite a new $2.25-billion infusion of federal economic stimulus funding, there are intensifying concerns -- even among some high-speed rail supporters -- that California's proposed bullet train may not deliver on the financial and ridership promises made to win voter backing in 2008.

“Estimates of ticket prices between Los Angeles and San Francisco have nearly doubled in the project's latest business plan, pushing ridership projections down sharply and prompting new skepticism about data underpinning the entire project.

"This just smells funny," said state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), a supporter of high-speed rail and chairman of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

“New inflation-adjusted construction figures show that outlays needed to build the first 520-mile phase of the system have climbed more than 25%, from $33.6 billion to $42.6 billion.

“And some government watchdogs are concerned that a linchpin commitment to taxpayers in the bullet train's financing measure -- that no local, state or federal subsidies would be required to keep the trains operating -- may be giving way.

“High-speed rail planners recently advised state lawmakers that attracting billions in crucial private financing will probably require government backing of future cash flow. "Without some form of revenue guarantee from the public sector, it is unlikely that private investment will occur at [the planned] level until demand for California high-speed rail is proven," project planners wrote in December.”

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Salmon, Bass, & Nature

With nature taking its course and the larger fish eating the smaller, it may be wise to allow humans to catch as many of the larger bass as possible—as the smaller salmon are protected—and so it goes.

This story from the Sacramento Bee reminds us of how little we really know, but still offers clear policy choices: increase the catch of bass and the production of hatchery salmon.

An excerpt.

“Some fish do the eating and others get eaten. That is the nature of nature.

“But if man helps one voracious eater that doesn't belong, is that fair?

“This is the essential question in a lawsuit over the striped bass, a non-native fish introduced to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta from the East Coast in 1879 to create a commercial fishery.

“Today the striper is caught only for sport – prized by anglers for its tasty flesh and hard fighting on the rod.

“But while the California Department of Fish and Game props it up as a sport fish, the striper has become the Delta's top predator, feasting on Delta smelt, juvenile salmon and steelhead. These are endangered species in California – and the focus of Herculean conservation efforts.

“The suit was brought by the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, a nonprofit made up of San Joaquin Valley water agencies linked to Stewart Resnick, a billionaire with a huge Kern County farming operation.

“Those farms require Delta water diversions to grow crops including oranges, pistachios and pomegranates. Their water supply has been reduced by federal and state rules to protect smelt and salmon, because the giant pumps that funnel water out of the Delta also kill large numbers of fish.

“The lawsuit targets the Department of Fish and Game, alleging it has ignored harm to native fish and instead acted to bolster the striper population.

"This administration has a responsibility to fix this," said Michael Boccadoro, spokesman for the coalition. "They're going to be asking voters to pass $11 billion in (water) bonds in November. How can you do that when a state agency is knowingly worsening a situation in the Delta?"

“Fish and Game has asked the court to dismiss the case, saying the plaintiffs lack standing because they don't engage in fishing in the Delta.

"We feel they don't have grounds to sue," said spokeswoman Jordan Traverso.

“There is general agreement that striped bass eat endangered fish. But there is no scientific certainty about how many they eat.

“A 1999 report by Fish and Game estimated stripers may eat as much as 6 percent of some salmon runs. Evidence uncovered by the lawsuit indicates state officials have known for years that it may be a bigger problem, according to documents the coalition obtained as part of the lawsuit.”

Monday, March 01, 2010

ARPPS Letter Published in Sacramento Bee today

Parkway can be a nonprofit

Re "Parkway needs stable, long-term source of funds" (Editorial, Feb. 21): The editorial about the American River Parkway was excellent, and calling for an arrangement that the Effie Yeaw Nature Center – threatened with closure – could enter into that might replicate the success of Fairytale Town is a great idea.

The larger issue of parkway funding is more complicated, but through governance by a Joint Powers Authority – currently being discussed by local governments – and for the JPA to then create a nonprofit organization to provide daily management and raise funds philanthropically, the funding problems for the parkway could someday become a distant memory.

We have seen the ability of nonprofit organizations – such as the Central Park Conservancy in New York City – to manage parks and raise funds on a substantial scale for beloved community resources and it could well happen with the parkway.

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