Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Have a wonderful Memorial Day!

A very nice reflection on this day’s meaning from Mark Helprin in the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt.

“In American military cemeteries all over the world, seemingly endless rows of whitened grave markers stand largely unvisited and in silence. The gardeners tend the lawns, one section at a time. Even at the famous sites, tourism is inconstant. Sunsets and dawns, winter nights, softly falling snow, and gorgeous summer mornings mainly find the graves and those who lie within them protected in eternal tranquility. Now and then a visitor linked by love, blood, or both will come to make that connection with the dead that only love can sustain.

“Sometimes you see them, quiet in some neglected corner beneath the trees or on a field above the sea, but numbers and time make this the exception. If not completely forgotten, the vast ranks of Civil War dead are now primarily the object of genealogy and historians, as the fathers and mothers, women, children, and brothers who loved them are now long gone. As it is for everyone else it is for the dead of all the wars, and neither proclamations nor holidays nor children innocently placing flags can cure it.

“Nonetheless, a universal connection links every living American with those who have fallen or will fall in American wars and overrides the lapses in sustaining and honoring their memories. We are and shall be connected to them by debt and obligation. Though if by and large we ignore the debt we owe to those who fell at Saratoga, Antietam, the Marne, the Pointe du Hoc, and a thousand other places and more, our lives and everything we value are the ledger in which it is indelibly recorded. And even if we fail in the obligation, it is clear and it remains.”

Trail Rules

As the Sacramento Bee renews its annual review of the rules for everyone using the Parkway trail, it is obvious that we need to consider expanding the trail to create separate trails for bicyclists, pedestrians, and equestrians to reduce the danger of serious accidents, as we noted in 2008.

An excerpt from the Bee.

“The parkway, the river and the trail – officially the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail – are, all together, a special place. Just recently, the pros from the Amgen Tour of California marveled at its beauty and length, and revered cycling broadcaster Paul Sherwen said it may be the best biking trail in America….

“Pat Sweeney is an owner of Fleet Feet on Sacramento's J Street and a serious triathlete. He uses the trail; his customers use the trail. He sees the phenomenon every year about now: First-timers are shocked by the traffic. Often they don't pay attention to what everyone else is doing.

"The newbies don't understand the volume out there," he said. "They're on the wrong side, or they cruise in both lanes, or they're moms with baby joggers wanting to walk side by side. And sometimes they get mad at everyone else."

“Flannery says he and his rangers see that newbie problem with families who let their young children wobble around the trail, unaware that as many as 5 million people use it in a year, and some are in a train of bikes going 20 mph or faster. (By the way, the rangers don't ticket for riding faster than the 15 mph posted limit. They do ticket for being out of control.)

"The bike trail probably isn't the best place to teach your child to ride," he said diplomatically. I say, it would be just as smart to let your kids wobble around on Fair Oaks Boulevard. Or is that mean?

“In any case, that's why Flannery is big on talking about trail rules now.

"When we make a big deal of them in spring, that pays off the rest of the year," he said.

“And they're not just rules, they're also basic safety advisories. In a car, you stay in your lane, not just because it's a law but because it's how you stay alive.

"Not crashing into that bike moving at 20 mph-plus is also a healthy concept.

“So the first rules and safety guidelines should be easy.

“• If you're on foot, walk on the left side, facing oncoming bikes, so everyone can see everyone. How hard is this to figure out? Most everyone else you'll see is on the left side, plus it's painted on the trail.

“• Even better, stay on the dirt whenever you can.

“• And cyclists, stay in your lane.”

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Restoring Streams

There are many efforts to restore streams to enhance the ability of salmon and other fish to spawn, as well as providing the quality stream enjoyment experience so wonderful a part of being close to streams.

One strategy focuses on using markets to restore streams and this report from the Property Environment Research Center, summarized here, outlines the strategy.

An excerpt from the summary.

“Western water law is a bit peculiar. It provides limited usage rights to parties who have legal claims on water. Most of the rules date to the settlement of the western United States in the nineteenth century. The traditional rules, which were codified by state legislatures, worked well in an agricultural economy. But, as changes in values evolved, some limits inherent in the prior appropriation doctrine have become apparent. It was, and still can be, difficult to change the use of water from its historic designation to one with greater value. Such is the case for restoring instream flows through water markets.

“Societies with strong property rights allow parties to protect their property, develop it, trade it, or give it away. They enjoy greater prosperity and freedom than societies that impose many restrictions on property or suffer from a lack of clarity in rules. As Brandon Scarborough explains in this Policy Series, restrictions in water rights and uncertainty about how particular water trades can be affected limited the ability of parties to voluntarily use water for environmental benefits.

“As often happens when the rules are unclear, people make do and struggle to create new arrangements that allow resources to move to higher-valued uses. Water rights have evolved in recent years as parties express desires to sell, lease, or give water for environmental or recreational purposes. Legal entrepreneurs plowed new ground. Some states have assisted in the move to expanded water rights, others have been less supportive. This Policy Series provides guidance for improving the legal environment for parties who wish to engage in the beneficial exchange of water rights.”

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Nonprofit Concentration Hurts Adjacent Areas

The community discussion reported in this story from the Maui News—while reflecting the situation in the Hawaiian town—also resonates with a Sacramento situation.

Congregating the homeless concentrates the culture of homelessness, continuing the downward cycle.

It is accepted as fact—by local business and residential communities—that the concentration of homeless and other social service nonprofits in the Richards Blvd/12th Street/North Sacramento vicinity has severely degraded the quality of life and public safety for businesses and residents in and around the area, validated in a recent story from the Sacramento Press.

An excerpt.

"Our area is swarming with homeless and transient individuals that negatively impact our businesses," River District PBID Executive Director Patty Kleinknecht said during the public hearing. She noted a McDonald's restaurant and a nearby gas station have problems with aggressive panhandlers and loitering.

"People don't feel comfortable in that environment. We all know we tend to avoid those business environments and areas where we don't feel comfortable," she added later. "In this economy, businesses need all the customers they can get."

It also has a severe impact on the Parkway as the concentration of domestic services attracts illegal homeless campers to the Parkway, where many have been camping for several years.

This negative impact extends to downtown where panhandling, loitering, and related crime have added to the long-term difficulty of renewing the lower K Street area.

Helping the less fortunate or those who have fallen on hard times is an important aspect of community and individual compassion and charity; but it is not something that should be at the expense of the public safety or economic viability of the larger community.

Helping another should not harm someone else.

An excerpt from the Maui News.

“WAILUKU - Even as the makeover of Wailuku town continues in a decades-long redevelopment project, some merchants and residents expressed concern Friday that a concentration of social services in the area could attract homelessness and crime.

“Wailuku either already is or will soon become home to a halfway house, housing for the developmentally disabled, a residential mental health care center, a free clinic, a battered women's shelter and a soup kitchen, said resident and commercial broker Susan Halas.

"I'm not advocating kicking any nonprofit out, not at all, but maybe we should consider that we are at a tipping point," Halas said when reached by phone Friday. "At some point, if you only have people there because they are receiving assistance, if nonprofits occupy a large percentage of your available space, then it becomes difficult for for-profits to come in."

“But Wailuku businessman Richard Dan said Market Street was in no way a new hotbed of crime.

“Dan agreed there is a problem with "annoying" drunks at the privately owned banyan tree park at the corner of Market and Vineyard streets but said that overall the complaints are overblown.

"They are trying to say there are junkies nodding off in the alleys, and that's not the truth," Dan said.

“The Maui Redevelopment Agency has adopted a plan for the 60-acre area calling for mixed use, such as buildings that combine residential, business, office and retail functions. But Executive Director of Wailuku Main Street Association, Jocelyn Perreira said the group still has a way to go toward its goal.

“Some residents and merchants blame the MRA - a recommending agency for redevelopment in Wailuku - for the influx of nonprofits to the area. Others say it's still too early to pass judgment on the effects of a master plan developed years ago.”

Friday, May 28, 2010

Global Warming Skepticism Becomes Legitimate

The skeptics become normative when evidence surfaces that the ‘true believers’ have cooked the books, as this article in the New York Times muses.

An excerpt.

“LONDON — Last month hundreds of environmental activists crammed into an auditorium here to ponder an anguished question: If the scientific consensus on climate change has not changed, why have so many people turned away from the idea that human activity is warming the planet?

“Nowhere has this shift in public opinion been more striking than in Britain, where climate change was until this year such a popular priority that in 2008 Parliament enshrined targets for emissions cuts as national law. But since then, the country has evolved into a home base for a thriving group of climate skeptics who have dominated news reports in recent months, apparently convincing many that the threat of warming is vastly exaggerated.

“A survey in February by the BBC found that only 26 percent of Britons believed that “climate change is happening and is now established as largely manmade,” down from 41 percent in November 2009. A poll conducted for the German magazine Der Spiegel found that 42 percent of Germans feared global warming, down from 62 percent four years earlier.

“And London’s Science Museum recently announced that a permanent exhibit scheduled to open later this year would be called the Climate Science Gallery — not the Climate Change Gallery as had previously been planned.

“Before, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this climate change problem is just dreadful,’ ” said Jillian Leddra, 50, a musician who was shopping in London on a recent lunch hour. “But now I have my doubts, and I’m wondering if it’s been overhyped.”

“Perhaps sensing that climate is now a political nonstarter, David Cameron, Britain’s new Conservative prime minister, was “strangely muted” on the issue in a recent pre-election debate, as The Daily Telegraph put it, though it had previously been one of his passions.

“And a poll in January of the personal priorities of 141 Conservative Party candidates deemed capable of victory in the recent election found that “reducing Britain’s carbon footprint” was the least important of the 19 issues presented to them.

“Politicians and activists say such attitudes will make it harder to pass legislation like a fuel tax increase and to persuade people to make sacrifices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Legitimacy has shifted to the side of the climate skeptics, and that is a big, big problem,” Ben Stewart, a spokesman for Greenpeace, said at the meeting of environmentalists here. “This is happening in the context of overwhelming scientific agreement that climate change is real and a threat. But the poll figures are going through the floor.”

“The lack of fervor about climate change is also true of the United States, where action on climate and emissions reduction is still very much a work in progress, and concern about global warming was never as strong as in Europe. A March Gallup poll found that 48 percent of Americans believed that the seriousness of global warming was “generally exaggerated,” up from 41 percent a year ago.”

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Environmentalism & the Public Good

Though caring for the environment in a balanced way is a great public good and a heritage many American leaders share, the environmental lobby often appear to act as if the public good does not matter, as this article from New Geography notes.

An excerpt.

“The awful oil spill in the Gulf--as well as the recent coal mine disaster in West Virginia--has added spring to the step of America's hugely influential environmental lobby. After years of hand-wringing over global warming (aka climate change), the greens now have an issue that will play to legitimate public concerns for weeks and months ahead.

“This is as it should be. Strong support for environmental regulation--starting particularly under our original "green president," Richard Nixon--has been based on the protection of public health and safety, as well as the preservation of America's wild spaces. In this respect, environmentalists enjoy widespread support from the public and even more so from the emerging millennial generation.

“Conservatives who fail to address this concern will pay a price, even more so in the future. The Bush administration's apparent clubbiness with conventional energy interests has undermined the GOP's once-proud legacy on environmental causes. The oil spill could prove a great campaign issue for Democrats assigning blame for the disaster on lax Republican regulators and their oil company chums.

“But there's also a danger for Democrats who tilt uncritically toward "green" policies. Instead of following the environmentalists' party line, they should adopt a balanced approach adding both economic and social needs to their concept of "sustainability."

“Sadly, many in the administration seem anxious to extend environmental regulation into virtually every aspect of life. Legitimate concerns over pollution and open space preservation, for example, have now been conflated with a renewed drive to strangle suburbia in favor of forced densification.

“The administration's "livability" agenda, as suggested by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, for example, proposes policies that favor dense urban development over the dispersed living preferred by most Americans. This, notes analyst Ken Orski, represents an unprecedented federal intrusion over traditional local zoning and local decisions.

“This centralizing tendency supports a wide array of interests, notably big city mayors and urban land speculators, and also is eagerly promoted by many architects, the media and planning professors. Not surprisingly, less intrusive ways to reduce energy use, such as telecommuting or the dispersion of worksites closer to people's homes, have elicited very little administration support.

“Herein lies the Achilles heel of environmentalism--its profound disconnect from public preferences and aspirations. By embracing such a radical social engineering agenda, the greens may end up undermining their own long-term effectiveness.

“The first sign of this pushback, notes analyst Walter Russell Mead, can be seen in growing skepticism about climate change policies both here and in Europe. At a time of severe economic challenges, greens and their political allies need to consider how specific environmental costs threaten an already beleaguered middle and working class.”

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

County Parks Holiday Fee Increase

A bad idea is reported by the Sacramento Business Journal.

An excerpt.

“A day in the park will cost a few dollars more during holiday weekends this summer, but ease the financial burden and provide much-needed staff at the regional parks in Sacramento County.

“Regional parks director Janet Baker said the county will increase vehicle parking fees during the three summer holiday weekends — Memorial Day, which starts Saturday; Fourth of July; and Labor Day. Vehicle fees will increase from $5 to $8, while vehicles with trailers will also pay more — from $10 to $13. However, fees will decline after the holidays.

“The summer holiday weekends are by far and away the busiest time for regional parks’ staff,” Baker said. “To help off-set the ranger and added maintenance costs that keep our regional parks in the best shape possible for visitors, we are implementing this new fee increase.”

“Thousands of visitors will enjoy the region’s 15 parks, including the American River Parkway, Mather Regional Park and Gibson Ranch, during the three-day weekend. And the additional visitors will require everything from more rangers and maintenance staff to emergency-service crews.

“The additional — and temporary — park fees will generate an estimated $7,000 for the county, which continues to battle financial shortfalls.”

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Regional Parks Tax Increase Proposal

The recent proposal to the County Board of Supervisors, to fund county regional parks, Sacramento County Regional Parks Strategic Workshop, was commented on by ARPPS in a press release yesterday, posted here and, also posted to our website.


For Immediate Release May 24, 2010 Sacramento, California


A proposal was presented to the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors this month by the regional parks department, with support from some Parkway advocacy groups, to consider adopting one of three strategies to provide money for regional parks.

Each strategy calls for an increase in taxes requiring a two-thirds vote for approval.

Each strategy uses the American River Parkway as the lead park for the marketing of the tax increase for all regional parks.

While appreciating the concern the supporters of this proposal have for the Parkway, this is a direction that could actually cause more harm than good. Potentially, this could divert resources and attention from strategies which have a chance of becoming reality and promise more long term funding sustainability. There is a better way.

Raising taxes to pay for parks is not an equitable approach, as those who do not use parks, or realize an adjacent property benefit, would be required to pay an additional tax for something they do not use or benefit from.

Those who live adjacent to the North Sacramento area of the Parkway are already burdened by neighborhood crime and habitat degradation caused by the illegal camping of the homeless. These citizens will see no value in having their taxes increased to continue failed policies.

There is a better way, and it can be found in the funding success of other signature parks, such as the Central Park Conservancy and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

Seek support for the American River Parkway through the non-coercive method of philanthropy tied to nonprofit daily management and Joint Powers Authority governance. (see published article posted to blog)

Based on the deep love the regional community has for the Parkway, a philanthropic strategy offers more promise than a tax increase.

Organizational Leadership
American River Parkway Preservation Society
Sacramento, California
May 24, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Happier After 50

In what those of us lucky enough to make it to 50—and probably live in the suburbs—already know, life gets better, and this Gallup survey validates that, as reported by Science Magazine.

An excerpt.

“It doesn't matter whether you're employed, whether your children still live at home, or even whether you're married. Life gets better after age 50. A new phone survey of hundreds of thousands of Americans confirms that people tend to be happier, less anxious, and less worried once they pass the half-century mark.

“The main measure of well-being is called global well-being, which involves asking people how good they feel about their life in general. "That's been the standard in survey research," says psychologist Arthur Stone of Stony Brook University in New York state. But, he says, "this kind of question requires people to make a lot of judgments." For example, who should you be using for comparison: Your peers? Bill Gates? Victims of famine? The life you thought you'd have? It's also difficult to measure logistically: Scientists often ask people to wear pagers, and researchers beep them several times a day to remind the volunteers to record their feelings.

“Stone took a different, easier approach. Thanks to his work as a senior scientist with the Gallup Organization, which conducts a huge, ongoing telephone survey in the United States with questions on topics such as how well the president is doing his job and how confident consumers are in the economy, he was able to help write questions about specific emotions people felt the day before they took the survey. The survey reached more than 350,000 people in 2008 from all regions of the United States.

“Stone's team found that global well-being declines from the 20s to age 50, then increases steadily. Happiness and enjoyment also increase after age 50. Although sadness is fairly flat throughout the age groups, most negative feelings decline with age. Worry stays level until about 50, then drops. Anger falls steadily from the 20s; stress peaks in the 20s, starts a decline, then plummets after age 50. The patterns are almost identical for men and women, although women have more stress, worry more, and are sadder at all ages, despite reporting better global well-being than men at most ages.”

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Suburbs & Cities

The war against the suburbs by the environmentalists, via the troubling narrative that the best way to live is in a high-density city (maybe for singles but not families) where you don’t have good schools, a yard, or need a car, is being amplified in this plan being promoted by the government, as New Geography reports.

An excerpt.

“Fostering livable a transformative policy shift for U.S. DOT,” announced grandiloquently in the Draft U.S. DOT Strategic Plan released for public comment on April 15, 2010. But what exactly does the Administration mean by “livability” and how does it intend to translate this vague rhetorical abstraction into a practical reality?

“To get an understanding of the Administration’s intentions one must delve into the stilted language and bureaucratic jargon of its policy pronouncements, notably the “HUD-DOT-EPA Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities” and the above-mentioned Draft Strategic Plan. “Livable Communities,” says the latter, are “places where transportation, housing and commercial development investments have been coordinated so that people have access to adequate, affordable and environmentally sustainable travel options.” The Interagency Partnership Agreement speaks in similar vague generalities. It defines livability principles as including “more transportation choices,” “equitable, affordable housing” and “reliable access to employment centers, educational opportunities and services.” Give credit to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to reduce these abstract concepts to plain language. “Livability,” he said, “ means being able to take your kids to school, go to work, see a doctor, drop by the grocery or post office, go out to dinner and a movie, and play with your kids in a park, all without having to get in your car." In other words, “livability” in the Secretary’s mind means living in a dense urban environment where walking, biking and transit are realistic alternatives to using the car.

“But this definition is too narrow for most Americans whose notion of “livability” may include living in suburban communities and enjoy such obvious amenities as a safe neighborhood, access to good schools, the privacy of one’s own backyard and the freedom, comfort, convenience and flexibility of personal transportation. If “livability” becomes a euphemism for a federal policy of favoring high density, transit-dependent living, then we are moving closely to “newspeak” when words mean whatever Big Brother intends them to mean.

“How does the Administration intend to promote its vision of “livable communities?” Again, we must turn to the dense prose of its official policy statements. “To achieve our Livable Communities agenda,” states the Draft DOT Strategic Plan, “DOT will (1) Establish an promote coordination and sustainability in Federal infrastructure policy; (2) Give communities the tools and technical assistance they need so that they can develop the capacity to assess their transportation systems...; (3) Work through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities to develop broad, universal performance measures that can be used to track livability across the Nation...; and (4) Advocate for more robust state and local planning efforts and create incentives for investments that demonstrate the greatest enhancement of community livability...”

Saturday, May 22, 2010

California Policies & Business

Silicon Valley is surely the American model for business entrepreneurship, but much of what it has done lately—which has led to many jobs fleeing the state—has been in response to an overly burdensome regulatory atmosphere in the state whose innovation and creativity gave the Valley its birth.

An article from City Journal examines this.

An excerpt.

“Eric Demers can’t remember how many pseudo–Silicon Valleys he has seen around the world while traveling for Advanced Micro Devices. The globe’s second-largest microchip designer and producer (after Intel), AMD was created 40 years ago in the authentic Silicon Valley in California. Demers, the firm’s chief technology officer, has no intention of moving. Across the world, he points out, private and public attempts to create new Silicon Valleys have achieved only “pale copies” of the original.

“That original has remained the undisputed cradle of high-tech and communications innovation. Historic leaders like Hewlett-Packard and Intel have stayed here; more recent giants Google, Facebook, and Twitter cluster around the pioneers. The Valley’s economy, concentrated in a 60-mile corridor running from San Francisco to San Jose, attracts one-third of all venture capital invested in new businesses in the United States—39 percent in 2009, though the $7 billion made it a slow year. A new start-up launches every working day. From among these high-tech ventures will emerge the next Google or Intel.

“Silicon Valley faces a serious threat, however: the fiscal and regulatory earthquakes rocking California, which verges on becoming a failed state. Measured by per-household state and local government spending, California ranks third-highest in the nation, behind Alaska and New York. The state government is trying desperately to squeeze money out of any profitable activity to meet the crippling costs. Further, California continues to impose onerous regulations on the private sector. High taxes and stifling regulations give companies a strong incentive to move elsewhere. In this increasingly business-hostile environment, will Silicon Valley’s unique entrepreneurial spirit survive?

“Forty years ago, when Silicon Valley began to expand and soon came to dominate the high-tech universe, most of its companies were manufacturing enterprises, producing microchips and computers right on the spot. No longer. Starting in the 1980s, Valley firms began moving away from production to concentrate on inventing new products and services. AMD, for example, outsourced most of its manufacturing years ago to factories in countries like China, India, and Taiwan—places with lower wages and high production quality. The approximately 3,000 employees at the company’s Sunnyvale offices are designers, marketers, accountants, and mechanical engineers; what tiny production lines remain are for building prototypes.

“Was so much outsourcing necessary? Jason Clemens, research director for the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, one of California’s few free-market think tanks, acknowledges that countries like Taiwan offer a powerful “pull” factor for shifting manufacturing to East Asia. But there has been a major “push” factor, too, Clemens argues: the Golden State’s excessive income and property taxes and its web of regulations, which, he believes, have driven up outsourcing. As Berkeley-based journalist Francis Pisani puts it: “Outsourcing is the only answer to taxes and regulations.”

“California has piled every imaginable burden on businesses. Minimum-wage laws are among the highest in the country, and health and safety regulations are among the strictest; cities like San Francisco and San Jose require businesses to offer employees health insurance; labor laws are extremely union-friendly; environmental policies drive up energy costs—and on and on. Small firms have the toughest time in this business-toxic climate. A recent study by Sanjay Varshney, dean of the College of Business Administration at California State University in Sacramento, estimates that the cost of state regulations in 2007 reached an average of $134,122 per small business—the equivalent of one job lost per company. And it’s not just the small guys: Google, which uses colossal amounts of electricity, is building its data centers in other states or abroad, where energy is much cheaper.”

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Golden State?

I deeply love my native state, but what is currently going on with the state government is not a process to which one can place much affection, per this article from the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt.

“Last week California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said revised budget numbers show the state is now $19 billion in debt. Say what? This is like a Hollywood horror story that has a new sequel every six months. The income and sales tax increases enacted last year were supposed to stanch the red ink, but the debt keeps rising.

“Mr. Schwarzenegger said that the "budget process is broken" -- no kidding -- and that the state now faces a "Sophie's Choice" of bad and worse options. His new budget calls for the elimination of whole programs and large reductions in health and welfare services.

“Democrat Darrell Steinberg, the senate president, called the proposals a "non-starter" and said he was "disappointed that the governor has chosen to surrender." Democrats hope to wait out the crisis until lame duck Arnold is gone from office in seven months, but by then California might be Greece. The state already has the worst bond rating in the country.

“Everyone knows that a main source of these fiscal woes is pension obligations, yet Democrats continue to resist substantive reform. "The cost of employee retirement benefits this year is $6.1 billion," said Mr. Schwarzenegger. "That is more than what it would cost to keep [the welfare-to-work program] CalWorks, child care, mental health services and in-home supportive services."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Park & Ride Announcement

Regional Parks Sponsors Park ‘n’ Ride FREE Event on May 20

In celebration of Bike to Work Day, parking fees will be waived at four Parkway locations

Sacramento, CA, ‐‐ In support of the regional “Bike to Work Day”, Regional Parks will host Park ‘n’ Ride: a special day of free parking at four locations along the American River Parkway. The American River Parkway Jedediah Smith Bike Trail is popular among local bike commuters, and Park ‘n’ Ride this is the perfect chance for novice commuters to give commuting by bicycle a try. Parking fees will be waived at the following locations:

• Lower Sunrise Recreation Area
• William B. Pond Recreation Area
• Sacramento Bar
• Howe Avenue River Access

From 6‐10 a.m., energizer stations with coffee, juice and bagels will be available for event participants, donated by the American River Parkway Foundation. At the four energizer stations, parks Annual Passes and Parks Supporter Passes will be available for sale.

Anyone who purchases a pass at one of these locations will be entered to win a Trek 7.2 FX with survival kit, valued at $650 courtesy of Bicycles Plus. The bike will be presented to the winner during Capitol Bike Fest, starting at 11 a.m. at the State Capitol on May 20.

Energizer Stations are located at:

• Lower Sunrise Recreation Area
• William B. Pond Recreation Area
• Mile Marker 8, near Guy West Bridge
• Howe Avenue River Access

For more questions about Park ‘n’ Ride, please call Regional Parks at 916‐875‐6961 or visit

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Suburban/Urban Diversions

While some attempt a spin supporting the "dying suburbs" narrative from recent census data, the spin stops at the New Geography story revealing that the data clearly show no change in the historic migration to the suburbs rather than to the cities.

An overwhelming majority of people--since ancient times--prefer to live in the suburbs rather than the downtowns of cities.

An excerpt.

“The week opened with an important report on metropolitan demographics by the Brookings Institution, only to be followed by the Census Bureau's annual report on migration, which contained a different message than the Brookings report. We offer yet a third analysis, since both the Brookings and the Census Bureau reports classify up to one-sixth of suburban population as not being in the suburbs.

“Brookings: The new Brookings State of Metropolitan America report examined trends in the 100 largest metropolitan areas using Census Bureau data between 2000 and 2008 (the census and the American Community Survey). Brookings highlighted findings that some "primary cities" were experiencing an increase in white population, while the rest of the metropolitan area (which it called suburbs) was becoming more diverse. Not uncharacteristically, the core city oriented press took the bait and embellished a bit on the findings. MSNBC characterized the report as indicating that "many younger, educated whites move to cities for jobs and shorter commutes." Brookings, which largely shares and encourages the urbanist media spin, calls this movement of young, educated whites from suburbs to the cities "bright flight."

“Brookings also expanded is previous finding that the majority of people in poverty live in suburbs to note that a majority of Hispanic and African-Americans now live in the suburbs. This is really not all that surprising, since suburban areas continue to grow faster and comprise the overwhelming share of metropolitan population.

“Census Bureau: Just a day or two later, the Census Bureau published its annual analysis of migration in the nation. The basis of this report is the Current Population Survey, which like the American Community Survey is conducted by the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau report received considerably less press attention than the Brookings report, perhaps it would be hard to characterize any of its findings as being consistent with the favored "death of the suburbs" line. The previous annual editions back to the beginning of the decade indicate little difference from the 2008-2009 migration trends in the current report.

“The Census Bureau analysis indicates that, almost regardless of the category, many more people are moving from "principal cities" to what it refers to as "suburbs."
• Every ethnic group is moving to the suburbs in greater numbers than to principal cities. Three times as many Hispanics are moving from principal cities to the suburbs as from the suburbs to principal cities. The same is true for twice as many African-Americans and Asians. Whites are moving to the suburbs at 1.5 times the rate of their moving to principal cities (Figure 1).
• Every age group but one is moving to the suburbs at substantially above the rate of movement to the principal cities. There is strong movement among people aged from 20 to 25 to the suburbs rather than the principal cities (Figure 2). The one exception was that among people over 85 years of age, not exactly the epitome of the “bright flight” cited by Brookings and the media.
• The overwhelming migration from principal cities to the suburbs, rather than from suburbs to principal cities was characteristic across all income categories.
• There is, in reality, little "bright flight" to report. Among people with college and graduate degrees, nearly twice as many moved from principal cities to suburbs as moved from suburbs to principal cities (Figure 2). While the Census report does not provide mobility information on educational attainment by age, there was strong movement of young adults to the suburbs (noted above).”

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Medical Hub

It seems Sacramento is growing a medical technology sector that promises to grow bigger—as reported by the Sacramento Bee—creating more well-paying jobs and attracting more people, all very good news.

An excerpt.

“Here's a nugget of hope, pulled out of a grim economy: Sacramento is carving out a niche in the promising field of medical technology.

“Local entrepreneurs are using brainpower to create tools to treat disease, which in turn could create high-paying jobs.

“There are at least 54 medical device firms headquartered in a nine-county area centered on the capital. An additional 19 companies have a substantial presence, according to MedStart, a nascent effort by the Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance to turn the region into a medical technology hub.

"We were amazed at how big of an existing industry we already had here," said Cary Adams, who helped launch MedStart two years ago.

“From new stem cell therapies to tiny, umbrella-like devices that scoop stroke-causing clots out of blood vessels, local firms are part of a lucrative $123 billion national industry.

“In 2006, the U.S. medical technology industry employed nearly 360,000 workers, generating $21.5 billion in salaries and producing $123 billion worth of products, according to the most recent data available from the Advanced Medical Technology Association.

“The wave of aging baby boomers is driving growth in the overall health care segment, of which medical technology is a part. Health care is expected to account for nearly one in every five dollars spent in this country by 2020.”

Monday, May 17, 2010

Downtown & Suburbs

As we have been blogging on for years, here and here for example—inspired by the premium suburban narrative and data blog, New Geography—people prefer suburbs to downtowns for a whole bunch of reasons, and fighting that obvious trend is city suicide…with the endless K Street drama as case one.

Dan Walters, as usual, nails it.

An excerpt.

“California's population exploded in the post-World War II era, thanks to a wave of migration from other states and the postwar baby boom. It nearly tripled from 6.9 million in 1940 to 19.9 million, the largest in the nation, by 1970.

“As the state's metropolitan areas expanded, agricultural fields evolved into vast housing tracts. A new phenomenon, the sprawling suburban shopping center, sprang up to serve the appetite of young families for consumer goods.

“The trend petrified traditional downtown retailers and property owners, who saw suburban rivals as not merely serving growth but luring away existing customer bases. They desperately sought ways to dam the outgoing tide of trade.

“Fresno offered one of the earliest responses in the mid-1960s, erasing auto traffic and parking along Fulton Street, its chief retail boulevard, and converting it into a pedestrian mall with ample off-street parking. The Fulton project's backers theorized that if the suburban mall's chief attractions were free parking and the ability to stroll from store to store without dodging cars, they could be matched in a downtown setting.

“Fresno was not alone. While larger cities shunned the downtown mall concept, some smaller ones embraced it – most notably Sacramento, which soon followed Fresno's Fulton Mall with its own K Street Mall, decorated with a series of concrete fountains.”

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Early Parkway History

The Sacramento Bee has published a nice story about the visionary people who played an early role in the American River Parkway ( a subject we posted on previously), with a focus on Elmer Aldrich, who recently died.

I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Aldrich a few years ago and he sent me a copy of his 1952 article, A Long-Needed Park System For The Sacramento Region—which should be republished—which is truly visionary.

In it he wrote:

“We have in the Sacramento region a perfect stage setting for a conservation project of note. Sacramento, at the Apex of two great river courses, is perhaps the only city of its size in the country that has not developed them into parks or at least made them available for public use.

“Approximately six months ago a civic-minded handful of citizens met in the County Court House and decided to do something about making plans for developing natural type parks along the rivers. This group now known as The River Recreation and Parks Association is soliciting support from all local clubs and civic groups. Briefly their three-point program is this:

“(1) Promote development of areas along the rivers in city ownership.

“(2) Promote the acquisition and development of river recreation areas by the State, and

“(3) Promote the establishment of a Regional Park District.”

(From “The Observer”, the newsletter of the Sacramento Audubon Society, in the March-April, 1952 issue, pages 2-3.)

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee story.

“Sacramento has had its share of farsighted people who have fought for public parks and natural areas. What has been difficult, however, is translating vision into reality. It has taken the persistence of people who devote their lives to an idea and a place.

“Elmer Aldrich, who died May 7 at age 95, was one of them. His life's work was envisioning and shepherding a park system for the Sacramento region. The American River Parkway, which Aldrich championed for more than 60 years, is one result.

“A naturalist and state parks conservation supervisor, Aldrich came to Sacramento after World War II and lived in River Park. From the beginning, he saw the potential value of the Sacramento and American rivers and the potential threat of sprawl in the postwar boom.

“In 1952, Aldrich wrote a piece for the Audubon Observer titled "A Long-Needed Park System for the Sacramento Region." It could be a blueprint still today.

"We have in the Sacramento region," he noted, "a perfect stage setting for a conservation project of note. Sacramento at the apex of two great river courses is perhaps the only city of its size in the country that has not developed them into parks or at least made them available for public use."

“He announced that a "civic-minded handful of citizens" had created a group to "do something about making plans for developing natural type parks along the rivers." This group sought an "integrated park system" connected by a parkway – on the Sacramento River from Verona, 15 miles north of the city, to Rio Vista, 50 miles south of the city, and on the American River from Folsom Dam to the confluence.

“Aldrich was not the first to come up with this idea. Wanting to plan a city worthy of the capital of California, Sacramento in 1914 hired John Nolen, a renowned city planner and landscape architect, to design a park system to rival Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The city never fully implemented it. But Aldrich had seen Nolen's maps outlining a river parkway.”

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Super Tankers can Suck up Oil

That is true, according to this story from Fast Company and if so, one wonders why it hasn’t been done in the Gulf.

An excerpt.

“Underwater robots, containment domes, top hats, hot taps, junk shots ... the potential fixes to the Gulf Oil Spill sound like they come straight from a cringeworthy disaster flick (or a PR think tank). But what if the solution is right under our noses? What if it's already sitting in the Gulf? John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell Oil, and Nick Pozzi, a former pipeline engineering and operations project manager for Saudi Aramco, think it might be.

“According to Hofmeister, oil supertankers could be used to suck up massive amounts of oil--possibly millions of barrels at a time.

“In an interview with, Hofmeister explained that a little-known Saudi oil spill from an offshore platform in the early 1990s dumped more crude into the sea than any spill in U.S. history (think hundreds of millions of gallons). But the government and local press kept it quiet. And that's why one of the big fixes in the Saudi oil spill--the oil-skimming supertanker--hasn't been publicized.

"[They] figured out how to deploy supertankers that had the ability to both intake and discharge liquids in vast quantities with huge pumps," Hofmeister explained. "The supertankers could simply suck in seawater and oil simultaneously--they can hold millions of barrels--and when full, they could discharge oil at a port into tanks where they could separate oil from water. The idea is novel in that you can get massive of oil amounts quickly." Once the supertankers make it to the port, water can be treated and discharged, and oil can either be used or destroyed.”

Friday, May 14, 2010

ARPPS Letter Published in the Sacramento Bee Today

Let nonprofit run parkway

Re "Give a little love to our local parks" (Editorial, May 11): While the idea of adequately funding the American River Parkway and other regional parks resonates with many in the region, the idea of increasing taxes, as called for in a Bee editorial, on an already overtaxed population does not.

There is a better way to raise money for the American River Parkway. What many jurisdictions have done to help their signature parks is convert to nonprofit daily management and philanthropic fundraising, under contract to local government park ownership. This model has worked very well in New York City and Pittsburgh.

The advantages are many, besides the obvious one of not raising taxes. The funds raised by the park nonprofit are safe from the type of government fund-shifting common during periods of economic stress. Philanthropic fundraising allows for parkway enhancements we have not seen in years as the county has been running a substantial shortfall for basic maintenance funding for the parkway.

The strategy we favor is to have the parkway-adjacent cities and the county form a joint powers authority for governance and core funding. The JPA would then create a nonprofit organization, which contracts with the JPA for daily management and supplemental fundraising for the parkway.

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

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tax Increase for Parks?

With a lead photo reminding us of the illegal camping problem in the Parkway, this article from the Sacramento Bee reports on the effort to form a special regional park district—requiring the raising of taxes—to fund the parks.

We feel there is a better way to support the American River Parkway—without raising taxes on already over-burdened taxpayers—which is detailed on our website news and strategy pages.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“To address the threat to regional parks – including the renowned American River Parkway – Sacramento County officials are considering asking voters for a new tax to fund the system.

“In addition, county officials are considering a wholesale reorganization of the parks department – possibly forming a separate district to run the parks.

“The county is grappling with a projected general fund deficit of $166.5 million for the coming fiscal year and may cut the parks department's budget by 40 percent.

“The proposed fixes wouldn't help with budget cuts the Board of Supervisors is set to make in several weeks. Officials are, however, hoping reorganization could provide a long-term solution for the region's parks, which often lose out on funding to mandated social service programs or politically popular agencies such as the Sheriff's Department.

"The current model is not a sustainable model," Paul Hahn, administrator of the county's Municipal Services Agency, told the board at a parks workshop Wednesday. "We need to think differently."

“Nearly 100 parks supporters, many wearing green shirts, filled the chambers Wednesday afternoon to support officials' efforts to find a stable revenue source for the parks and to urge supervisors to keep funding parks until such a source is in place….

“Baker presented three options the parks department is considering. They include forming a new regional parks and open space district; partnering with neighboring cities and districts; or creating a community facilities district.

“The bureaucratic hurdles are slightly different under each scenario, but all would require approval by a two-thirds vote of the public to approve a new tax.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Regional Parks District?

While the idea of adequately funding the American River Parkway—and other regional parks—resonates with many in the region, the idea of increasing taxes, as called for in a Sacramento Bee editorial from yesterday, on an already over-taxed population does not.

There is a better way to raise money for the American River Parkway and we have outlined it in several news releases and on our website strategy page.

We favor forming a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) for governance and core funding, by the Parkway adjacent cities and the County. The JPA would then create a nonprofit organization which would contract with the JPA for daily management and supplemental fund raising for the Parkway.

An example of the potential is the 85% of needed funding the Central Parks Conservancy provides for Central Park in New York, and the $45 million raised by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

An excerpt from the Bee editorial.

“As Sacramento County faces a deep budget crisis, the American River Parkway and other county parks are in deep trouble. Drastic cutbacks and closures are on the table again.

“To avoid slow, steady decline in the county's parks, those who care about them will have to get creative.

“It is time to take the next steps in creating an independent regional park agency – like the East Bay Regional Park District, which was established and funded at the height of the Depression.

“While the county has been able to assemble lands for the parkway and parks, what's been missing in the postwar development of Sacramento's regional park system is a permanent, stable source of funding. And in troubled financial times, what must be avoided is the temptation to jettison those hard-won public lands. County officials should reject a piecemeal surrender of county parks to cities.

“Longtime residents will recall the attempt to create a regional parks district for our region in 1994. Measure B would have assessed homeowners $10 per year for park acquisition, maintenance and capital improvements (raising $5 million a year for 30 years). It went down, 47 percent to 52 percent. Advocates had raised less than $10,000 for that campaign.

“Yet such an option is looking better all the time. Continuing to beg for less than 1 percent of the county's budget each year simply is not working to sustain a quality regional parks system.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Increasing Dam’s Storage

This article from the San Diego Union-Tribune is about the doubling of storage capacity of a local dam by raising it 117 feet from its current 220 feet.

An earlier post, Dams are the Solution, noted the possibility of tripling the storage capacity of Shasta Dam—reported by the Los Angeles Times—if it was raised to its originally engineered height.

An excerpt from the San Diego article.

“EAST COUNTY— Construction crews will soon begin the painstaking work of raising East County’s San Vicente Dam, a project the San Diego County Water Authority calls the largest of its kind in the world.

“The $568 million effort involves boosting the 220-foot-high dam by an additional 117 feet. Work is expected to begin this spring and finish in early 2013. When the dam raise is completed, the capacity of the adjoining San Vicente Reservoir will more than double.

“The project is part of a larger, $1.5 billion effort by the San Diego County Water Authority to provide up to six months of storage in the event of an emergency.”

An excerpt from the Los Angeles article.

“REDDING - From Highway 151, Shasta Dam emerges through the fog and rain like an awesome apparition, a giant wall of concrete whose power generators humming eerily far below add to its supernatural dimension.

“As California looks for new ways to increase water supplies in the face of mounting shortages, this monstrous 602-foot facade holding back the Sacramento River seems destined to grow even taller.

“It's a perfect spot for expansion, although it's not the only site under intense scrutiny in this scramble for new water storage.

“Shasta Dam was designed to be 800 feet tall, so adding concrete to its top presents no significant engineering obstacles.

"This is like adding a room on a house, rather than building a new house," said Michael J. Ryan, the Bureau of Reclamation's Northern California area manager, whose small office overlooks the dam, the lake and, on a clear day, Mount Shasta looming large in the distance.

“But most importantly, the clean, cold water it would add to the state's supply is exactly what water managers are looking for. A taller dam means additional downstream protection against floods, more downstream supply for farms and cities and, because Shasta Lake would be deeper, more cold water to send downriver when the salmon are looking for a place to spawn....

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

"Still, tripling the size of Shasta Lake, on paper at least, would store nine times the projected 2020 water deficit for the Sacramento, San Joaquin and Tulare Lake basins during normal water years.”

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Homeless Perspective

The interesting perspective of one homeless writer on the nine day closing of the major homeless service provider in Sacramento—which is a ten part series in the Sacramento Press, concluding today—and here is the first post.

An excerpt.

“This is part one of a ten-part daily series.

“It's May Day, when people weave ribbons around a May Pole and there used to be parades with tanks past Red Square.

“This year, it's the first day of a sudden, nine-straight-day, barely-announced cessation of some essential services at the nonprofit Loaves & Fishes, which advertises itself as offering "survival services" for the homeless.

“Homeless people are used to surprise closes: In my two years of homelessness, there have been Friendship Park closures when empty hard-liquor bottles were found in the men's room trash or when people dash too fast into Friendship Park when it opens or when the L&F staff suddenly goes on retreat.

“There have been closures for holidays, of course. And there have been closures when tree branches or whole trees have fallen in the park. And there have been closures for the park to be winterized and for the heaters in and the plastic around the gazebos to be removed.

“This closure is of the latter kind, to remove the installations of winter. And to do other rather-ordinary work to perk up the grounds and facilities which suffer from unattended-to wear and disrepair.

“The question that I and other homeless people have is Why doesn't Loaves & Fishes act like other organizations and do upkeep on an ongoing basis?

“No profit-seeking business could survive if it operated with the laxity that L&F allows for itself. But Loaves & Fishes doesn't have to answer to anybody. Its donors give generously based on heart-rending pleas for cash and because the Bee, other Sacramento media and the mayor are smitten by the general concept of helping the poor, and don't take an interest in the hardscrabble reality of people trying to make do in a world where "warehousing the rabble" is the operant philosophy.”

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Earth Day Revisited

Though it is now a couple weeks since it was celebrated, this Earth Day story from the Philadelphia Inquirer reminds us of the doom and gloom predicted on the first Earth Day 40 years ago, none of which turned out to be true—nice to know given the current proclamations of doom and gloom—which will also probably turn out not to be true, as our created earth has an amazing capability of fertility.

An excerpt.

“On this 40th anniversary of Earth Day, prepare to be bombarded with apocalyptic tales of disaster. But don't let the gloom-and-doom-fest get you down. Odds are the doomsters will be wrong.

“To help "celebrate" the first Earth Day in 1970, biologist Barry Commoner wrote, "We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation."

“In a speech at Swarthmore College that year, ecologist Kenneth Watt said, "If present trends continue, the world will be about 4 degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but 11 degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age." And a New York Times editorial proclaimed: "Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction."

“Time has not been gentle with these prophecies. Four decades later, the world hasn't come to an end. Most measures of human welfare show the Earth's population is better off today than at any other time in human history. Life expectancy is increasing, per-capita income is rising, and the air we breathe and the water we drink are cleaner. And, of course, concerns about climate change have shifted from cooling to warming.

“Yet fiction can be more interesting than fact. Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford professor and prominent prophet of population doom, predicted in his 1968 best-seller, The Population Bomb, that the world would have more than seven billion people by 2000, and that "massive famines" would occur soon, "possibly in the 1970s, certainly by the 1980s."

“The world's population in 2000 turned out to be six billion, and fertility rates dropped from about five children per woman in the 1960s to about 2.5 today. While too many people remain hungry, agricultural advances have helped head off massive famines. Even as the world population doubled, per-capita food consumption in poor countries increased from 1,932 to 2,650 calories a day, and malnutrition in those countries fell from 45 percent of the population in 1949 to 18 percent today. Yet Ehrlich continues to make his catastrophic projections, and people continue to buy into them.

“This sort of faulty reasoning started some 200 years ago with the writings of Thomas Malthus, who argued that human population growth would run into constraints imposed by fixed natural resources, especially land for food production. But are resources really finite?

“Stanford economist Paul Romer said: "Every generation has perceived the limits to growth that finite resources and undesirable side effects would pose if no new recipes or ideas were discovered. And every generation has underestimated the potential for finding new recipes and ideas.”

Saturday, May 08, 2010

K Street Update #5,999

A proposal, reported by the Sacramento Press, to increase the already over-burdened and struggling businesses in the corridor by adding to the homeless population congregating there by building 75 units for homeless people; adding to the underlying problem many observers feel is responsible for the long-term degradation of K Street and one major reason why people will not go there unless they have to.

An excerpt.

“A proposal is in the works to create one of the largest permanent supportive housing projects in the city.

“The $41 million building at Seventh and H streets also is poised to become the city's newest single-resident occupancy, or SRO, structure. The infill project would feature sustainable design and materials, so the developers and architects will ask the U.S. Green Building Council to certify it as a sustainable building.

“But perhaps most unique about the public-private project being developed by Mercy Housing and the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency is that it would offer support services to formerly homeless people in innovative and mixed-population permanent housing. Its architects are Mogavero Notestine Associates of Sacramento and SERA Architects of Portland.

“Half of the mid-rise's 150 units will be set aside as for homeless people. The other half will become home to the working poor: low-income workers who earn 40 percent to 50 percent of the median income, or $20,000 to $25,000 a year.

“The 7th and H Mixed-Use Affordable Housing project differs from transitional housing, such as Mercy Housing's Quinn Cottages, which provide up to two years of transitional housing close to downtown.”

Friday, May 07, 2010

Public Compensation & Public Budgets

As one is connected to the other, it is crucial to understand what has been going on in the public employee sector versus the private over the past few years, and this article from RealClearMarkets helps.

An excerpt.

Three months ago, I wrote that it was time for a public employee wage freeze, to offset three years of much stronger compensation growth in the public sector than the private sector. One quarter on, what has happened?

“First, the good news: in the first quarter of 2010, private employee compensation growth outpaced state and local government employee compensation growth. This happened both because private sector compensation grew faster (0.6%) than any quarter in 2009, and because public sector compensation growth moderated to 0.4%. (These figures, and all employment cost figures cited here, are seasonally adjusted.)

“But we have seen blips before (as in the third quarter of 2009) with public employee compensation growth taking a brief break and then coming back the following quarter. Indeed, over the last four quarters, public employee compensation growth outpaced private growth, as it has for every period of four consecutive quarters since 2005. More quarters of private sector outperformance will be needed before we can call this a shift in the trend.

“And there is still much more to be done to bring compensation back into balance. Even including this quarter, employee compensation has grown 38% faster in the public sector than the private sector since the end of 2006. At last quarter's pace, it would take several years for the private sector to catch up with the public sector's compensation growth during the recession.

“So, what should state lawmakers do? First, they should take steps to ensure this quarter's modest growth in employee compensation costs continues for an extended period. Wage freezes were a good idea three months ago and are still a good idea now.

“They should also particularly take steps to ensure that the cost of employee benefits is contained. Public employees receive a relatively large share of their income as benefits (34%, compared to 29% in the private sector) in part because of their unusually generous health care and pension benefits. As for total compensation, the new figures on benefit cost growth are an improvement over last year - the employment cost index for public employee benefits rose just 0.3% last quarter, versus an average of 0.8% per quarter last year.

“But the gap between public and private sector benefits remains massive. In the first quarter, the average public employee earned $4.45 worth of health benefits per hour, compared to $2.01 in the private sector. In general, public employees have more generous health plans and pay a smaller portion of their insurance premiums.

“The difference is partly explained by differences in job mix - public employees tend to be more highly skilled and educated. But even comparing employees in similar job types, the differential remains. For managerial, professional and related workers, health benefits average $4.90 per hour in the public sector, versus $2.94 in the private sector. Sales and office workers: $4.11 public, $1.80 private. Service workers: $3.62 public, $0.90 private.

“This gap is not new: since the start of 2004, health benefit costs rose 31% for private sector workers and 32% for public sector workers. But as health care costs continue to soar and health insurance makes up a larger share of most employees' compensation, public employees' richer benefit packages push up their total compensation relative to the private sector.”

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Need a Dam!

Following up on yesterday’s post, where’s the Auburn Dam when good rain years reveal the very deep need for additional storage for dry years.

Excerpt from an article in the Auburn Journal.

“Striking azaleas frame this scene from Bowman resident Bonnie Lightner's property. In the foreground is Lake Clementine's North Fork Dry Dam and in the background are the snow-heavy Sierra Nevada mountains.

“For 22 years, Bowman's Bonnie Lightner has been enjoying a front-row seat from her home overlooking the North Fork American River to the ebbs and flows of the Sierra snowmelt.

“This past week things turned sensational.

“With the spring snow melt and rains continuing, Lightner watched as the water that continually spills over the Lake Clementine-North Fork dam began to flow more heavily. She judges by how many "dividers" at the top of the dam are obscured by the water and by Wednesday morning, the water was all the way across.

“That's a rare occasion, Lightner said, and indicative of the amount of water now pouring downstream from the mountains.

“This past week's rain caused rivers to rise but nothing like past events like January 1997's storm that rose nearly to Highway 49 at the American River confluence. Another major storm occurred in 1995, when heavy rains and clogged creeks in the Roseville area led to flooding, declaration of Placer County as a disaster area and a visit by then-President Bill Clinton.

“Up in the Sierra, water forecasters have been attempting to determine the impact of the colder weather, sudden increase in spring storms and heavier-than-normal snowpack will have.

“Late-season snow and rain has meant a huge jump in Placer County's Sierra snowpack to 154 percent of the average for this time of year, Placer County Water Agency reported last week.”

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Good Water Year

It is a time when one wishes that the Auburn Dam (which future leadership may revive) had been built to store the extra water that is flowing out to the sea instead of watering the crops in the great food producing valleys of California.

The Western Farm Press reports on the snow pack storage.

An excerpt.

“The latest round of spring storms have increased the water content in California’s statewide mountain snowpack to 143 percent of normal, according to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). “This is good news after three years of drought, but we still face water shortages in many parts of the state,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “State Water Project storage is well below average and Delta pumping restrictions to protect native fish species will continue to hamper our ability to deliver water to millions of California homes, businesses and farms. If we are to ensure an adequate water supply for the future, it is critical that we conserve water and develop smarter, more sustainable ways to manage our water resources.”

“Lake Oroville in Butte County, the State Water Project’s principal storage reservoir, is still only 59 percent full or 71 percent of normal for the date. And fishery agency mandates to protect Delta smelt, longfin smelt, salmon and other species affect the amount of water that can be pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. DWR currently estimates it will be able to deliver only 30 percent of requested State Water Project water to cities and farms in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, Central Coast and Southern California.”

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Trees on the Levees

Though both arguments—tree roots help maintain the integrity of the levee, and tree roots help degrade the integrity—have merit, having nothing but grass on the levees does ensure that future levee improvements will be stronger, as the natural dying-off of trees can cause the decaying roots to weaken the levee regardless of the possible levee strengthening healthy trees provide.

And in this case, we would have to agree with the engineers regarding flood safety, better safe than sorry.

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee article.

“The federal government is pressing forward with a policy that could require trees to be stripped from California levees, eliminating what shade and wildlife habitat remain along the state's rivers.

“An interim agreement appears likely to shield the state's levee habitat until 2012. But after that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could impose the new rules, which would allow nothing but short grass on most Central Valley levees.

“Levee maintenance agencies can seek an exemption – called a variance – but even then, many trees would not be spared.”

Monday, May 03, 2010

Public Leadership is Hard

In between the lines of this editorial from the Sacramento Bee supporting one candidate for the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, the extremely difficult work of that body, and the various city councils in our regions, is revealed.

Leadership in any venue is difficult, and in the public sector—given the requirements of relative transparency and regular elections—the stress levels can become very high; and in that context we can often forget the personal price people sometimes pay to lead and shape public policy, and remember their sacrifice and hard work as we struggle with our own difficult economic times.

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee Editorial.

“The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors badly needs a reboot.

“Failing at one of their core duties, supervisors allowed the budget crisis to fester, and now they face no-win choices of what services to cut. But their challenges go much deeper, and require them to be open to new strategies and to more assertively chart the county's path.

“On June 8, three of the five board seats are on the ballot. Because the election will likely produce only one new supervisor, that choice becomes even more crucial.”

Sunday, May 02, 2010


It is a term loved by those of us with a professional or academic background in public administration, but the way it has been often used to determine legislation and regulation can cause problems of its own—its own externality if you will—and this article from PERC Reports, examines that.

An excerpt.

“For several years, I have been on a campaign to expunge the term “externality” from the vocabulary of economists, policy makers, and environmentalists. My campaign is not motivated by a belief that markets perfectly account for all costs and benefits. Rather it is driven by the lessons learned from entrepreneurs—people with a passion for solving problems by finding win-win solutions. Indeed, entrepreneurs thrive in the space where there are impacts not accounted for in market transactions. It is in that space that they create gains from trade.

“Consider the example of irrigation water withdrawals reducing stream flows for fish habitat. Viewed through the externality lens, trout fishers might argue that farmers are imposing costs on them and that the government should regulate water use. An environmental entrepreneur, however, sees an opportunity to convince trout lovers to contribute to the cause and to contract with farmers to increase instream flows.

“Or consider the desire for open space. Through the externality lens, demanders of open space might say developers are imposing costs on them by building houses and that land use regulations are necessary. Land trust enviropreneurs, on the other hand, accept the landowner’s right to develop and obtain conservation easements to determine future land use.

“There is a big difference between the externality approach and the entrepreneurial approach to improving environmental quality. Asserting the existence of an externality pits one user of a resource against another in a zero-sum game where property rights are not clear. California’s Mono Lake is a quintessential example. In the early 1980s, environmentalists filed suit to stop Los Angeles from diverting water out of the Owens Valley even though the city had purchased the water by buying farmland and its accompanying water rights. The environmentalists “won” the suit, but it was not until the late 1990s when the legal wrangling ended and some water started flowing back into Mono Lake.

“In contrast, entrepreneurship encourages conflict resolution and results in positive outcomes for all parties involved. Chris Corbin, a PERC enviropreneur fellow, epitomizes entrepreneurship. His firm, Lotic, increases cash flows by encouraging efficient water use, by protecting and maximizing the value of water rights, and by developing water projects with ecological benefits (see Rather than promoting conflict like that in the Mono Lake case, Corbin utilizes cooperation to keep more water in streams.”

Saturday, May 01, 2010

California’s Population

According to this story from the San Francisco Chronicle, it grew by almost 400,000 people in 2009.

An excerpt.

“A report out Thursday from the state Department of Finance says California added 393,000 residents in 2009, pushing the total population on Jan. 1 to an estimated 38,648,000.

“Los Angeles, already the most populous city in the state, added 44,000 residents, expanding its population to 4,094,764.

“The second most populous city, San Diego, added more than 17,000 people, growing to 1,376,173.”