Sunday, February 28, 2010

Local Government & Funding

As we watch the slow funding-death spiral of Sacramento County—one among many local governments suffering—the major funding source for the Parkway, it is instructive to examine how local governments in general have wound up in such a precarious position.

This article from the Manhattan Institute did that.

An excerpt.

“Speaking to the Wall Street Journal last week, the comptroller of Harrisburg, Pa., sounded downright glum as he explained his city's diminishing prospects of meeting a big upcoming bond payment. Harrisburg has just $1.2 million cash on hand and faces payroll costs alone of about $3 million a month. Even worse, it has about $17 million in debt payments coming due, a result of a series of "dizzying debt deals" according to a local newspaper. "We can't raise taxes; they're already very high," the comptroller explained. "If we did, people would just leave."

“At least Harrisburg can take comfort in that it is not alone. A decade of exuberant, oftentimes unnecessary and occasionally barely legal borrowing by states and municipalities on top of rising employee costs have prompted increasing talk of a wave of defaults on municipal debt unlike anything since the Great Depression. So heated has the talk become, in fact, that the California legislature is considering a bill that would make it harder for its municipalities to declare bankruptcy because of worries that many will want to do just that (this is the same legislature whose own state government had to issue IOUs last year to pay its bills).

“Increasingly, public officials have blamed their debt woes on the sharp drop in tax revenues from the recession, and so a clamor for bailouts has been growing. But as the debt crisis intensifies we should look more closely at its causes. Although in theory a market where governments can issue tax-free debt to fund long-term projects seems like a good idea, in practice the municipal bond market is increasingly abused by politicians who use the debt to finance ill-advised projects that taxpayers don't want, or employ borrowing to evade tax and spending limitations in state constitutions or local laws, or who simply see debt as the source as another pot of money for political patronage.”

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Suburban Question

It is, why hasn’t more research been done on the suburbs, which are where most Americans live, happily, and this article from New Geography examines that.

An excerpt.

“We have recently assembled a special issue of the journal Cities with the title “The Suburban Question”, and we assume that many readers will assume the answer is “who cares”? The term ‘sub-urbs’ connotes a lesser form of urban life, and for decades it has been used dismissively to denote anything plastic, even hypocritical. Novelist Anthony Powell described one of his unsympathetic characters possessing a ‘‘face like Hampstead Garden Suburb”; the New York Times recently described architect Robert Stern as ‘‘a suede-loafered sultan of suburban retrotecture”. In the old days, record stores had ‘urban’ bins full of gangsta, but nothing marked ‘suburban’, although it is always easy to use the suburbs as a backdrop for duplicity, as in American Beauty, or the first series of Weeds (set in a gated community, a double score!).

“There has been some academic attention—Dick Walker, David Harvey, and of course Kenneth Jackson all wrote lasting pieces about the suburbs. But in these, they always appear as objects of inquiry, rather than subjects in their own right; and if academics live amongst the ‘little boxes of tickytacky’, they rarely write about them. This is more than unfortunate, for many reasons—the most obvious is that by most definitions, most of us are indeed suburbanites. But while there are endless dissertations on public housing, the decline of the inner city, and the much discussed revitalization of the inner city, there is precious little on their further-flung counterparts.

“It’s hardly the case, to answer the unspoken question, that there is nothing interesting to research ‘out there’. What about updating research on the ‘growth machine’? No one has really done any detailed work on the complexities of the home building industry, with its rigid design aspirations and complex financial connections. There is the gated community, which is still portrayed as ‘Fortress America’ even though there are significant proportions of Hispanic households living in gated communities, and many of these are rental properties and not the upscale compounds portrayed in textbooks. And there is the Home Owner Association. Despite the fact that millions of Americans live in them, relatively little research has been done on this important aspect of governance since the term ‘Privatopia’ was coined nearly two decades ago.

“A few authors have tried to push back against this indifference, arguing that suburbs appear to be ‘good places for most people’. Yet the reality that affordable homes-and-gardens are unquestionably popular does not seem to matter. In almost any manner imaginable, the suburban lifestyle has been savaged. Sprawl causes obesity; it destroys downtowns; it causes global warming. In Metroburbia, Paul Knox argues that the suburbs have turned us into monsters of capitalist consumerism, the sagging SUVs necessary to carry the wobbling masses from mall to McMansion.

“It is easy to argue that American suburbs are unsustainable, but to echo Peter Marcuse’s famous rhetorical question—‘sustainable for whom?’ Vibrant cities—New York, San Francisco, Boston—are expensive cities, and while that fabled creature, the Creative Worker (homo Floridian) is willing and, more importantly, able to pay large sums to live in very small spaces, most of us are not. Suburbs have attracted paying customers precisely because housing costs are low and conditions are attractive. Not many cool public spaces, but that’s less important to most people past their college years.

“This is the backdrop to the papers that we have collected in our special issue. Its aim is to present work that asks ‘what is happening in the suburbs, in terms of the built form, the economy and social relations’. They are not necessarily written ‘in defense of suburbs,’ but engage suburbs as if they matter. Nick Phelps leads off by emphasizing the contribution that suburbs make to our local and national economies. He reminds us of the transfers there of jobs and the growing importance of suburbs to the urban region and the economic health of our nations. He closes with an urgent reminder that the "economic centrality of suburbs within the contemporary economy should, perhaps more than anything else, signal the need for a re-balancing of urban studies to be more fully suburban in academic and policy focus."

“A perfect example of this appears in a study of Phoenix by Carol Atkinson Palombo and Pat Gober. Their analysis of new housing construction in the prior two decades indicates trends that span different types of multi-family housing in suburban locations. They note, "densification no longer equates to urban infill but takes many forms and occurs all over the metropolitan region". A complementary article by Roger Keil and Douglas Young focuses on their empirical work in Toronto, and especially what they have termed ‘the in-between city’. These places are "not quite traditional city and not quite traditional suburban", forgotten geographies where many live and where their infrastructure reminds us that the placing of ‘urban versus suburban’ neglects the many shades of in-between urban places that require planning and policy attention.”

Friday, February 26, 2010


As this article from Governing reports, one bright spot in the summing up of this decade just past is the new focus on infrastructure.

An excerpt.

“New York City's High Line is aptly named, because it shoots down the west side of Manhattan at an altitude of about two stories, ignoring the traffic and hubbub below. Previously its rails serviced industry, such as the block-long old Nabisco factory at 15th Street, where millions of Oreos were made and distributed throughout the country.

“Now only people stroll along the High Line, perhaps taking a break from work, enjoying the flowers, grasses and shrubbery that bloom around them.

“This transformation of a derelict old train line, just a decade ago considered an eyesore and a drag on property values, into an elevated park and one of the hottest addresses in New York City is perhaps an apt symbol for another transformation that has occurred over the last decade, which is in our thinking.

“The decade of 2000 to 2010 has earned many monikers — the aughts, the null decade, the double-Os — and most of them are negative. But good things also happened in the last 10 years, one of which is the increasing recognition of and focus on infrastructure. A decade ago, the word "infrastructure" was hardly known outside the specialized worlds of public works departments. Now editorial writers bandy it about without explanation.

“This was the decade of infrastructure. This was the decade when a bridge collapsed in Minneapolis and focused a nation's attention on the vast litany of rusting and decrepit bridges, among other infrastructure, and the need for funds to repair them. This was the decade when a new bridge was built and opened in just over a year — a compliment to the capacity of professionals to work fast when needed.

“This was the decade when the new President Barack Obama, campaigning on something called an "infrastructure bank," persuaded a relatively compliant Congress into appropriating hundreds of billions of dollars for all types of infrastructure as an investment in the future and a means to jump-start the economy. Not incidentally, this spending included roughly $14 billion for intercity train travel, including high-speed rail — the first significant investment in train travel in at least a generation.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

First American Owner of the Parkway

William Leidesdorff, who the San Francisco Museum provides great information about, and whose 200th year birthday celebration is this year, was the owner of the 35,000 acre Mexican land grant described by Wikipedia, that inspired the naming of the American River and encompassed much of the Parkway on the south shore of the American, as this article from Human Events notes.

An excerpt.

“…. William Alexander Leidesdorff, arguably one of the best kept secrets in the history of the West and the creation of the state of California.

“Mr. Leidesdorff was born in St. Croix in 1810 to a Jewish sugar planter and a black plantation worker. Next year is his 200th birthday, a time to reflect on his role in history and the unique dimensions of American life.

“After working for his father’s cotton business in New Orleans, he moved to Yerba Buena, the Mexican town that would later become San Francisco where the efflorescence of his career emerged.

“In 1844 he became a Mexican citizen and was granted 35,000 acres on the American River. It was on this property that gold was discovered shortly before he died in 1848. That discovery made him the first black millionaire in the United States.

“After becoming a successful merchant, he was appointed Vice Consul of the United States to Mexico, albeit this position was not formally recognized by Washington, D.C. until after his death. Similarly, he did not receive formal acceptance as the first black American diplomat even though he was integrally involved in the establishment of the republic of California.

“As a member of the San Francisco City Council, he donated land and authorized the building of the first public school in San Francisco with an expenditure of $1000. He launched the first steam powered schooner in the bay and held the first horse race in the state.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Parks Blog

One of the most valuable formats for keeping the public—and your organization—up to date on what is happening with your parks management is the regular blog, and the conservancy we posted on yesterday, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, has an excellent blog, and this recent post about some historic photos that showed up, reveal vividly the great value of regular blogging.

An excerpt.

“One of the fun parts about working at the Parks Conservancy is occasionally stumbling across some cool old photos of the parks while looking for something in your office. When we uncover some buried treasure, we pass it among our co-workers and marvel, “I can’t believe it used to look like that!”

“Yesterday we discovered some wonderful old photos of Schenley Park that had been sent to us by Ms. Jean Chess. She was gracious enough to allow us to use them, so we thought we’d share some with you.

“From the looks of it, these photos are from the 1920s/1930s. The telltale clue is the footbridge in the Panther Hollow Lake photos, which was replaced by one of the signature Works Progress Administration stone bridges in 1939.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

The national model of public/private partnerships to manage and fundraise for parks is the Central Park Conservancy, founded in 1980.

This is the model format we hope to see eventually happen with the American River Parkway and you can read about it on our news page on our website, and you can find substantial details in structuring it—using a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) of Parkway adjacent governments and a JPA created nonprofit—on our strategy page.

A relative new comer to the field is the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, which, since its partnership began in 1998, has raised $45 million for the 1,700 acres of parks it manages, and that is amazing.

Here is an excerpt from their website.

“The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy was founded in December 1996 by a group of citizens concerned with the deteriorating conditions of Pittsburgh's parks. In 1998, the Parks Conservancy signed an official public-private partnership agreement with the City of Pittsburgh to work together for the restoration of the city's four regional parks - Frick, Highland, Riverview, and Schenley. Since then, the Parks Conservancy has raised $45 million toward park improvements, and has recently expanded into other city parks as time and resources permit.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Parkway Editorial

The recent editorial about the Parkway in the Sacramento Bee 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 (JPA)—currently being discussed by the adjacent 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.

This strategy is something we have written about in several news releases posted on our website.

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.

An excerpt from the Bee editorial.

“Like every department, Sacramento County parks is taking devastating cuts. The department needs $5 million to minimally operate its facilities, from the American River Parkway to Gibson Ranch to the Effie Yeaw Nature Center.

“Its budget now is less than $2 million.

“Despite a temporary three-month reprieve, the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, a national model for outdoor education and habitat preservation in an urban area, remains threatened with closure. This icon, approaching its 30th anniversary next year, has provided nature tours, Maidu Indian programs, camps, school field trips, wildlife counts, birding classes, art workshops and live animal exhibits to thousands each year.

“The center already has suffered major cuts. Last August, it had 25 staff – five full-time and 20 part-time. With budget cuts, the center this year is down to six staff – four full-time and two part-time.

“Then came the announcement that the center would close April 1. After public outcry, the county Board of Supervisors gave the center a short reprieve, until July 1.

“What happens after July 1?

“The county parks department and the American River Natural History Association are working on a proposal to eliminate the center as a county park unit and transition to a nonprofit-run unit – like Fairytale Town in the city of Sacramento did after 38 years as a city-run organization. The city and Friends of Fairytale Town Inc. signed a partnership agreement on October 1, 1997.”

Sunday, February 21, 2010

China & Green Technology

It appears, from this report by the Breakthrough Institute, as profiled in Fortune magazine, that the Chinese are investing much more in green technology than the Americans, and that is a surprise.

An excerpt from the Fortune article.

“(Fortune Magazine) -- Quick: which nation builds the most wind turbines? If you guessed America, with its blustery Great Plains dotted with whirring GE blades, you'd be wrong. In 2009, China became the planet's largest producer.

“What's going on here? While America was digging itself out of its financial crisis, China quietly positioned itself to become a leader in what promises to be the largest emerging industry of the 21st century: green tech.

“A new report by the Breakthrough Institute, a progressive think tank in Oakland, argues that China, along with Japan and Korea, will dominate the clean-energy race by out-investing America.

“Asia's clean-tech tigers are already launching massive government investment programs to dominate this industry and, according to the report, have surpassed the U.S. in virtually all clean-energy areas, including wind, solar, and electric-car batteries.”

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pearl River Megalopolis

The former city of Canton—where many of Sacramento’s Chinese originated from—is now the center of a developing megalopolis, as this story from New Geography reports.

An excerpt.

“In Southern China, the Pearl River Delta is giving rise to an urban super-power in the first rank.

“In 2005, the wealthiest metropolises were still led by the thriving urban agglomerations of the leading advanced economies in North America, Western Europe and Japan; that is, Tokyo, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris and London. The scale economies of these metropolises are as significant as those of many national economies. For instance, the estimated GDP of Tokyo and New York City, respectively, was not that different from the total GDP of Canada or Spain, whereas London’s estimated GDP was higher than that of Sweden or Switzerland.

“In contrast with 2005, when most of the top-100 wealthiest cities were in the G-7 economies, by 2020 a third of these wealthy cities will be in the large emerging economies. However, such rankings are based on linear extrapolations, which tend to downplay growth differences and the impact of rapid urbanization. One of such rapid-growth regions is the Pearl River Delta (PRD), or Zhusanjiao – Southern China’s low-lying area where the Pearl River flows into the South China Sea.

“This area includes Metropolitan Guangzhou, a city of 10 million, capital of the Guangdong Province, which has more than 110 million people; Shenzhen, one of the fastest-growing cities in the world; and Hong Kong, one of the most competitive cities worldwide. In this region, urban planners are joining forces to create a massive Pearl River Delta Megapolis – which includes half a dozen cities of more than 4 million people each (Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Dongguan, Foshan, and Jiangmen).”

Friday, February 19, 2010

Warming, Cooling, Melting?

Though it will probably get even worse, the past few weeks have been pretty bad for the climate warming folks and this editorial from the Wall Street Journal captures the decline.

An except.

“It has been a bad—make that dreadful—few weeks for what used to be called the "settled science" of global warming, and especially for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that is supposed to be its gold standard.

“First it turns out that the Himalayan glaciers are not going to melt anytime soon, notwithstanding dire U.N. predictions. Next came news that an IPCC claim that global warming could destroy 40% of the Amazon was based on a report by an environmental pressure group. Other IPCC sources of scholarly note have included a mountaineering magazine and a student paper.

“Since the climategate email story broke in November, the standard defense is that while the scandal may have revealed some all-too-human behavior by a handful of leading climatologists, it made no difference to the underlying science. We think the science is still disputable. But there's no doubt that climategate has spurred at least some reporters to scrutinize the IPCC's headline-grabbing claims in a way they had rarely done previously.”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Parkway Clean Up

The group SafeGround Sacramento, is instituting their first Campaign to Clean Up the Environment by cleaning up around the bike trail at 2 Rivers tomorrow, Friday February 19th .

They are meeting at Delany Center Parking Lot at 1:00 PM

For more information call Tracy at 916-613-1430, Jamie at 916-856-7967 or e-mail Jamie at, or you can call the SafeGround Office at 916-448-2448

Nail in Warming Coffin?

The admission that the medieval period could have been warmer than ours, that there has been no global warming since 1995, and that data used to make previous warming claims may be missing, may well be the proverbial nail, as reported by the Daily Mail.

An excerpt.

“Untold billions of pounds have been spent on turning the world green and also on financing the dubious trade in carbon credits.

“Countless gallons of aviation fuel have been consumed carrying experts, lobbyists and politicians to apocalyptic conferences on global warming.

“Every government on Earth has changed its policy, hundreds of academic institutions, entire school curricula and the priorities of broadcasters and newspapers all over the world have been altered – all to serve the new doctrine that man is overheating the planet and must undertake heroic and costly changes to save the world from drowning as the icecaps melt.

“You might have thought that all this was based upon well-founded, highly competent research and that those involved had good reason for their blazing, hot-eyed certainty and their fierce intolerance of dissent.

“But, thanks to the row over leaked emails from the Climatic Research Unit, we now learn that this body’s director, Phil Jones, works in a disorganised fashion amid chaos and mess.

“Interviewed by the highly sympathetic BBC, which still insists on describing the leaked emails as ‘stolen’, Professor Jones has conceded that he ‘did not do a thorough job’ of keeping track of his own records.

“His colleagues recall that his office was ‘often surrounded by jumbled piles of papers’.

“Even more strikingly, he also sounds much less ebullient about the basic theory, admitting that there is little difference between global warming rates in the Nineties and in two previous periods since 1860 and accepting that from 1995 to now there has been no statistically significant warming.

“He also leaves open the possibility, long resisted by climate change activists, that the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ from 800 to 1300 AD, and thought by many experts to be warmer than the present period, could have encompassed the entire globe.

“This is an amazing retreat, since if it was both global and warmer, the green movement’s argument that our current position is ‘unprecedented’ would collapse.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tree Cutting & Illegal Camping

Unfortunately, this editorial in the Sacramento Bee appears to equate the recent and previous cutting of trees to improve homeowner views, to the destruction caused by illegal camping, which is not even in the same ballpark; as just one event—the trestle burning and resultant devastation, (1) which was probably caused by an illegal camper (2) though the federally indicted suspect was allowed to plea bargain to a lesser offense (3) , and the general prevalence of Parkway fires probably caused by illegal homeless campers, as one homeless camper stated (4)—overshadows all of the tree cutting in scale and habitat loss.

That being said, we heartily agree that those responsible for cutting trees down in front of their houses to improve their view of the river should be fined accordingly.

An excerpt from the editorial.

“The American River Parkway – stretching from the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers to Folsom Lake – is threatened by people acting as if the parkway is their private property and not a public asset.

“While people decry habitat destruction caused by illegal camping by the homeless, the parkway has long suffered from illegal tree and brush cutting by residents who live in multimillion-dollar homes on the bluffs above the river.

“Those trees and other vegetation provide habitat for wildlife, including shade for salmon. They are part of the natural beauty and complex ecology of the parkway – and they screen houses from the view of visitors in the parkway. They help make the parkway a prized natural, scenic, recreational and ecological resource.

“That's why it is important to investigate and prosecute those who vandalize the parkway by slashing trees. At a minimum, they should face fines and the cost of restoring the habitat.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

K Street Update

Some work on K Street—and in the spirit of hope-springs-eternal—we wish them the very best, as reported by the Sacramento Press.

An excerpt.

“K Street Mall is getting some activity after work began again on a mermaid bar and two other nightlife venues.

“San Francisco nightclub owner George Karpaty originally hoped to open Dive Bar, a dance club named District 30 and a gourmet pizza restaurant, Pizza Rock, near 10th and K streets by late 2009. The $6 million-plus project was delayed at least in part by opposition, including a lawsuit to stop it that was thrown out of court last summer.

“Saying he wanted to move forward, Karpaty declined to discuss the reasons the project on the blighted mall was thrown off schedule. But, he said, he now expects to open all three sites by late summer.

"We had some delays. But we're coming," he said.

“Developers David Taylor and Los Angeles-based CIM Group have begun work on the shell and core of the building they now own at 1016, 1020 and 1022 K St. Crews are working to make the building structurally sound and to repair the roof, said Ellen Warner, a partner at David Taylor Interests.

"K Street still really needs a lot of revitalization," she said. "We think that's important for our community."

"Late last year, the city's Redevelopment Agency transferred ownership of the building, which is divided into three suites, and one next door at 1012 K St. — and the land under both — to Taylor and CIM.

“Fabricators in various studios are now building the giant aquarium that will hold "mermaids" of both genders, as well as other big pieces for Karpaty's new businesses.

"It's going to be far more over-the-top than people think," Karpaty said. "It's going to be insane."

Monday, February 15, 2010

EPA Pesticide Restrictions

The large-scale agriculture that predominates in the valleys of California requires a corresponding ability to apply pesticides on a large scale, and a recent article from Western Farm Press details the new restrictions coming from the Environmental Protection Agency.

An excerpt.

“Two very important issues that impact agriculture and are guaranteed to attract a lot of media coverage this year involve hot-button controversies centered on federal environmental laws: the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.

“Addressing the Endangered Species Act, five months after EPA promised to adopt restrictions of applications for three organophosphate pesticides near the habitats of endangered salmon and steelhead species in California and three neighboring states, pesticide and grower groups are complaining that they have received very little word from the EPA about details regarding implementing the new restrictions.

“As reported in this space last year, in the first of many forthcoming biological opinions concerning 37 pesticides, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) found the registration of chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion threaten endangered salmon and steelhead and directed EPA to implement a number of restrictions on use of the three pesticides in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

“In September, EPA announced it was moving ahead with implementing the restrictions. This despite the fact that manufacturers of the three products have filed suit against the NMFS opinion — claiming it was not grounded in sound science. A decision from the court is expected later this year. In mid-January, the three companies intensified their efforts by filing a petition with the U.S. EPA asking the agency to adopt transparent procedures allowing public notice and comment on decisions regarding the Endangered Species Act. The petition asks EPA to notify the public and solicit stakeholders’ input instead of seeking to amend pesticide labels unilaterally.

“Meanwhile, the EPA elected not to require the 20-foot vegetative buffers sought by NMFS in its latest round of recommendations. The service was seeking 500-foot buffers for ground applications and 1,000-foot buffers for aerial applications. EPA plans to call for variable buffers depending on the adjacent body of water, with a minimum of 100 feet.

“Industry and grower groups charge that EPA isn’t communicating with farmers about the restrictions — a change in attitude that began last January. Whether this is a result of a new presidential administration taking over is anybody’s guess. New, enforceable labels could be available as early as this spring’s growing season.

“Additionally, growers and others are concerned the restrictions will effectively ban the three pesticides in some areas and believe the restrictions need modification.

“It appears the buffers will be applied “essentially to every ditch, drain, canal and irrigation furrow that could potentially drain from the agricultural field into salmon habitat,” and because these small waterways are omnipresent, and Western specialty crop fields are relatively small, EPA’s implementation plan “looks like a virtual prohibition of use in large agricultural areas of California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho,” says Renee Pinel, CEO and president of the Western Plant Health Association (WPHA).

“With 34 more pesticides to be re-evaluated in the upcoming biological opinions pursuant to a court settlement, “the actions now being taken are setting precedents for all these decisions on restrictions of these additional pesticides yet to come,” Pinel says. The evaluation is taking place “without consultation with agriculture or any assessment of its economic impact.”

“Pinel notes that EPA has given little rationale “for planning to impose these inflexible restrictions on a hasty, litigation-driven schedule that does not allow growers to adapt.”

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Roseville’s Maidu Museum & Effie Yeaw Nature Center

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about the closing of the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, which has as one of its central exhibits, a replica of a Maidu Indian summer village, this story in the Sacramento Bee about the opening of the new Maidu Museum and Historic Site in Roseville is a contrast in the visionary development and support of cultural resources.

An excerpt.

“To say today's opening of Roseville's new Maidu Museum and Historic Site celebrating native California culture has been a long time coming is an understatement measured by centuries.

“The nine years the museum spent in temporary quarters (a 4,800-square-foot modular building) was a short duration compared with the thousands of years the native peoples waited for the kind of recognition they will get with the grand opening of a 10,000-square-foot brick roundhouse museum and art gallery.

“The $4 million museum may get most of the attention today, but the 5,000- to 10,000-year-old petroglyphs in nearby sandstone are the true superstars. The native carvings are the reason the museum is there is the first place, said Kris Stevens, the museum supervisor.

"This was a significant town site. It was a sacred area inhabited for thousands of years," Stevens said earlier this week during a break in the helter-skelter rush to move into the new museum, vacate the old building and prepare for the grand opening. "Roseville has always been a great place to live."

“The new museum, built a few feet from the temporary building on Johnson Ranch Drive, attempts to expand upon what the old facility did well, while adding some contemporary displays, meeting space and modern art.

“The museum was funded through a combination of state bond money, matching local funds and a smattering of federal dollars.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Effie Yeaw Nature Center Closing?

In this era of reduced government funding—which will be with us for many years—a new paradigm for funding many of the beyond-the-basics benefits the public enjoys, such as the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, needs to be found, so that the tragic results, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, can be reduced.

One hopes the good folks involved with providing leadership to the Center--a group I was once part of--may find a way to save a service enjoyed by many in the community.

An excerpt.

“The Effie Yeaw Nature Center, an icon of the American River Parkway that has served generations of families, may be shut down April 1 because of budget cuts.

“The center in Ancil Hoffman Park in Carmichael, which provides classes, wild animal exhibits and other programs attended by thousands of people each year, has been recommended for closure by Sacramento County parks officials desperate to trim expenses.

"I don't want to shut it down," said Jill Ritzman, the county's deputy parks director. "I've been here for 20 years and this is heartbreaking for all of us."

“The proposed closure will be debated next week before the county Board of Supervisors, which is considering how to carry out a new round of budget cuts.

“Effie Yeaw employees and supporters learned the center was in peril at a meeting Wednesday night, and were told they would be notified by March 1 if the center is to close.”

Friday, February 12, 2010

Parkway Tree Cutting

The illegal tree and brush cutting occurring in the Parkway is truly tragic, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, but may be as much connected to the inadequacy of the maintenance and regular cutting-back of overgrowth that the County has been unable to afford for many years, as it is to Parkway adjacent residents wanting a better view of the river.

An excerpt.

“The American River Parkway is the jewel of the region, a vast swath of forest, grassland and river that slices through the area, offering solitude and recreation to countless thousands each year.

“It also is the scene of frustrating criminal activity as people hack at trees and vegetation with chain saws and machetes. In some cases, the damage has been traced back to homeowners looking for a better view of the river.

“Sacramento County rangers say they are investigating two incidents near River Bend Park, where crime reports from December and January outline the destruction of native willow plants and alder trees.

"It's not real common, but this location has been a little bit of a problem in the past," Chief Ranger Steve Flannery said Tuesday as he inspected the damage downstream from the bicycle bridge that links River Bend and the William Pond Recreation Area.

“The first incident was logged in December, when authorities investigated a report of vegetation damage and found numerous willow plants that had been cut back on the River Bend side of the river.

"The area of the cutting is approximately 150 yards long and 30 yards wide," the crime report states.

“A few weeks later, in January, a fisherman called authorities about 12 alder tree trunks or branches that had been cut with a saw on an island in the river near the previous site.

“Flannery said such cutting typically takes place at night in midwinter, when fewer people are out along the parkway. From the growth patterns on the willows, he said, it appears the cutting has occurred repeatedly over a number of years.”

Thursday, February 11, 2010

World Ag

A great reminder that California is a major center of world agriculture is the World Ag Expo in Tulare, as reported by the Western Farm Press.

An excerpt.

“A long series of late January Pacific storms that dumped 4 to 6 inches of rain on the San Joaquin Valley should keep the all-important World Ag Expo water trucks parked Feb. 9-11 for the annual Tulare, Calif., farm show.

“Dust will not likely be a problem at the 43rd annual farm show at the International Agri Center.

“Water is the engine powering California agriculture that is coming off its third consecutive drought year. The train of wet, cold storms may not end the natural or judicial drought, but it sure is spawning optimism for the businesses of farming, dairying and ranching.

“On a clear day, the Sierra Nevada are visible from the show grounds. This year they will be spectacular and well snow-covered, a reminder to visitors that 2010 will surely be a better year for agriculture.

“This year’s Expo chairman, Bernie Cargle, said the storms have caused minimal problems with the show set-up. Some of the smaller tents recently erected blew over.

“Wind has been the problem early on. The rain has not yet,” said Cargle, adding, however, that continued wet weather will make setting up for exhibitors challenging.

“Overall, the show is shaping up as another exhibitor sellout. “We were at about 5 percent fewer spaces sold in late January this year compared to where we were at the same time last year. If we do not sell out, we will be pretty darn close by the time the gates open.

“There will be plenty for our visitors to see,” said the longtime farm show volunteer. Before he retired, Cargle spent many years as an exhibitor with his company, Case IH.

“Everyone has a positive outlook about the 2010 Expo,” said Cargle. “The rain we have had is creating optimism. We just hope we have three nice days for the show.”

“With three, bright sunny days for what is billed as the largest annual agricultural exhibition of its kind, more than 100,000 people will keep the 1,600 exhibitors busy as they prowl the 2.6 million square feet of show grounds looking for the latest in equipment, supplies and services.

“Powering Global Agriculture” is the theme for this year’s farm equipment show.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Salmon in the San Joaquin?

In very good news, someday soon, as the water begins flowing again, reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the salmon will return.

An excerpt.

“Water has begun flowing down 64 barren miles of the San Joaquin River in what is being touted as California's most ambitious effort to bring back long-lost native salmon.

“The floodgates of the colossal Friant Dam outside Fresno were opened last week so researchers can study how the water flows down California's second longest river.

“The releases, which will continue until Dec. 1, will accelerate this spring until enough water is flowing down the parched riverbed to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool in less than a minute.

“It is all part of a historic agreement reached after two decades of legal wrangling over efforts to bring back the salmon that were wiped out a half-century ago when the 319-foot dam was built.

"The resumption of restoration flow releases down the San Joaquin River, even at a fraction of its once mighty flows, is a monumental event," blogged Monty Schmitt, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is a party to the agreement along with the Friant Water Users Authority and the federal government.

"These flows and the restoration effort are an example of how farmers, fishermen, environmentalists, and state and federal agencies can work together to implement real solutions to California's conflicts over water resources," Schmitt wrote.

“The Friant Dam was built in the 1940s so that 1 million acres of farmland could be irrigated. It plugged the river gorge and held back nearly the entire flow of water, causing 64 miles of the river to completely dry up. The native chinook - once so plentiful that farmers used to scoop them out of the river to use as hog feed - disappeared by the early 1950s.”

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Water, Conservation & Dams

This is an argument that is recent, as since ancient times, humans have always used dam technology to store water, and from our perspective, it is still the best way to do so.

While conservation is something that should primarily be left up to individual jurisdictions or individuals themselves, depending on their specific circumstances; building large dams to store millions of acre feet of water is something only the largest jurisdictions can adequately pursue and it is crucial California again consider bringing large new dams online for water storage and flood protection.

This article from the Hanford Sentinel examines the issues.

An excerpt.

“If there's one issue that virtually everybody agrees on in Sacramento, it's that California has water problems. Three years of drought, endangered species restrictions on pumping, a growing population, huge areas of the state without natural water supplies, an outdated delivery system -- the list of liquid challenges for the Golden State goes on and on.

“The problem was felt last year by urban residents in Southern California who faced mandatory rationing. But the issue also had a big impact on agriculture, the largest water user in the state. In Kings County, supervisors declared a state of emergency all year. Farmers, particularly those who count on water pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta, grew increasingly worried about whether there would be enough.

“In many cases, fields were left fallow and millions of dollars were lost in production along with thousands of agricultural jobs. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, estimated that water shortages cost the San Joaquin Valley 21,000 jobs in 2009. In Avenal and Kettleman City, unemployment soared past 30 percent.

“It's impossible to deny that water is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. But when it comes to solutions, agreement tends to evaporate. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the argument between environmentally-minded conservationists and advocates for new dams.

“Case in point: Recent testimony by the Pacific Institute, an Oakland-based think tank specializing in water issues.

“Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick testified at a congressional hearing recently that California could save 1 million acre-feet quickly and cost effectively by adopting comprehensive conservation measures in cities and fields.

“Urban residents, Gleick said, would need to replace $2 billion worth of inefficient toilets, shower heads, restaurant spray rinse nozzles and washing machines. Farmers would need to convert more of their orchards, vegetable fields and vineyards to drip lines and micro-sprinklers. They would also need to apply just the right amount of water at just the right time, with no extra water soaking into the ground.

“All these conservation measures promise to save enough water to supply approximately one million households for a year.

"A gallon of water conserved is equivalent to a gallon of new storage," said Heather Cooley, a senior research associate at the Pacific Institute.

“Actually, however, the Institute seems to tip the argument in favor of conservation. Gleick, Cooley and others argue that conservation is far more effective and cheaper at providing additional water than building dams.

“But many, particularly those in agriculture, say that claim is overstated. They maintain that a new dam would provide far more benefits than the Institute lets on.

“Locally, many are still pushing for Temperance Flat, a proposed second dam on the San Joaquin River above the existing one at Millerton Lake in Fresno County.

“Millerton Lake, with 500,000 acre-feet of capacity, is inadequate to capture the runoff from the San Joaquin in wet years, argues Don Mills, general manager of the Kings County Water District. Mills points out that Pine Flat Reservoir on the Kings River has double the capacity of Millerton, yet both rivers produce nearly the same amount of snowmelt runoff.

“That argument extends into the issue of flood control benefits. Mills noted that in the last really wet year -- 2005-2006 -- one million-acre feet of water from Pine Flat and Millerton flowed out to sea because there was no way to capture it. High flows in the San Joaquin River channel, some if it Kings River water, threatened to flood some Fresno County communities like Firebaugh. Mills and other local water leaders would dearly love to keep that excess Kings River water in Kings County, either by banking it underground or by catching it in above-ground storage.

"The majority of these projects, most of the benefits are flood control," Mills said.

“When it comes to agricultural water conservation measure recommended by the Institute, Mills said he doesn't believe that they can be fully implemented without sacrificing production. If, as suggested, pistachio and almond farmers practiced a technique called "deficit irrigation" -- meaning they deliberately stress the plant by applying less water at certain times -- yields would drop, he said.

“The California Farm Water Coalition doesn't completely disagree with the Institute on the potential for agricultural conservation. The coalition just disagrees on the amount of water Institute analysts think farmers can save. The coalition says actual on-the-ground potential savings that won't sacrifice production are far less than Institute estimates.

“But farming interests and other San Joaquin Valley water advocates have bigger arguments on the table. They are convinced that in order for California agriculture to keep enough water and still leave enough for growing cities, more water storage is needed.”

Monday, February 08, 2010

Dog Parks

It is good news that Rancho Cordova is building a dog park, and it is a reminder that many dog owners still want one somewhere on the Parkway, which is appropriate, if well-designed to protect wildlife and other Parkway users.

The fifth guiding principle of the American River Parkway Preservation Society is:

5. Regarding new Parkway usage, inclusion should be the operating principle rather than exclusion.

Dog owners should not be excluded from consideration of a future where they are able to access a Parkway dog park where they can enjoy the Parkway and their dogs can enjoy running around without a leash.

An excerpt from the Rancho Cordova Post story on the new dog park.

“Three weeks from now, Rancho Cordova could be the proud owner of a brand-new dog park located in Hagan Park.

“Construction crews have broken ground this week to start the process of converting an area of Hagan Park into a dog paradise, and despite the rainy weather, Gone to the Dogs Committee Member Brian Fansler said in an email that the construction manager for the project is estimating work will be completed in three weeks. The dog park will be approximately two acres when completed and will include areas for both large and small dogs.

“A Rancho Cordova dog park has been years in the making, and in October the Cordova Recreation and Park District approved a plan to include one at Hagan Park. Gone to the Dogs has championed the cause of bringing a dog park to the area and has even participated in holding dog-related events in the city, such as Wet ‘n Woofy in 2007 and Winter Woof Fest in December.”

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Executive Leadership

All entities—public and private—operate better when executive leadership is vested in one person, when all can see that at some point, someone is responsible.

The opening paragraph of one of the most important books on executive leadership, The Effective Executive, by Peter Drucker, says it all:

“To be effective is the job of the executive. “To effect” and “to execute” are, after all, near–synonyms. Whether he works in a business or in a hospital, in a government agency or in a labor union, in a university or in the army, the executive is, first of all, expected to get the right things done. And this is simply that he is expected to be effective.” (p. 1)

In the continuing search for creating publically elected executive leadership within Sacramento's city government, this column from Marcos Breton in the Sacramento Bee reports on the current status.

An excerpt.

“Danny DeVito was once Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie twin. Mayor Kevin Johnson is becoming Schwarzenegger's political twin.

“They were celebrities elected to political office on a wave of optimism that was soon undermined by inexperience and a gantlet of opponents, unions and lawsuits.

“Right now, it appears that Johnson's big plans for shaking up Sacramento's power structure are dead.

“He tried placing a ballot initiative before voters that would have greatly enhanced his powers as mayor. A local union leader sued to stop him and won.

“Even though some aspects of Johnson's plan were troubling – such as having the city attorney and city manager report to him instead of the full council – there is a flip side here:

“The city of Sacramento is stagnant. And a single leader is prevented from taking bold steps to shake up the status quo.

“The city charter is written so that power is spread thinly between bureaucrats and elected officials. California's Constitution states that major changes to a charter can be placed on a public ballot only by a City Council vote or by an elected charter commission. That was the ruling of a Superior Court judge who tossed "strong mayor" off the June ballot.”

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Homeless Service & Treatment

In a scenario being played out in Atlanta, as reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, where the city wants homeless services to provide treatment to rise out of homelessness, but the homeless service provider doesn’t see their providing service as being dependent upon homeless clients also receiving treatment—a situation relevant in our area, where the largest homeless service providers have also not connected treatment to service.

This creates a situation in which all suffer; the homeless by being enabled to continue their present downward trajectory, the surrounding area with the corrosive magnet impact of service with no upward trajectory, and the homeless providers with the drift into an anti-business and anti-community stance often resulting.

An excerpt.

“A new lender has foreclosed on the massive homeless shelter run by the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, which operates at the corner of Peachtree and Pine streets in Midtown…

“The task force has been fighting with the city of Atlanta about its controversial shelter, which at time houses more than 700 homeless men.

“Debi Starnes, the homeless czar for Atlanta, contends the shelter's philosophy of sheltering men without requiring them to take steps such as entering a drug-treatment program prolongs their life on the street.”

Friday, February 05, 2010

LA Water

The stories surrounding the delivery of water to the former desert that is now one of the largest cities in the world are legendary and made even more so by L.A.’s most famous product, the movies—with Chinatown being one most remember—and to now see the possibility of solar power being produced from the Owens Valley, site of one of the more devastating draw downs of mountain water to the city, is extraordinary.

This story from the Los Angeles Times examines that possibility.

An excerpt.

“First it was silver ore that streamed to Los Angeles from the rim of the Owens Valley, then the water from the valley floor.

“Now, L.A. has come back for the sunshine.

“The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the agency responsible for turning Owens Lake into a dusty salt flat and snatching up nearly every acre from Lone Pine to Bishop, has its sights on transforming the Owens Valley into one of largest sources of solar power in America.

“Interim DWP Chief S. David Freeman says the valley on the dry side of the Sierra Nevada is blessed with the "best sun in the country." He envisions a gigantic solar array that could cover 80 square miles of dry lake bed and nearby flatlands, a sea of photovoltaic cells roughly the size of Cleveland that would generate up to 10% of all the power produced in California while simultaneously calming the region's fierce dust storms.

“Owens Valley residents crowded into a Methodist church recently to hear Freeman's pitch. Though intrigued by the idea of turning the scarred earth at Owens Lake into a source of clean energy and local jobs, many still chafed at L.A.'s near feudal reign over the valley.

"Given our history with them, there's skepticism," said Mark Bagley of the Owens Valley Committee and Sierra Club, which took successful legal action to force the DWP to restore the Lower Owens River. "But it's promising if it's done right, the right way."

“The fast-moving project has become essential to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's promise to end the city's use of coal-fired power by 2020, a course he vowed would be "irreversible" by the time he leaves office in three years.

“Villaraigosa also wants to use the lucrative contracts for the solar array as leverage to bring renewable-energy companies and new manufacturing jobs to Los Angeles.

“The grand scale of the project has raised concerns, Bagley said, in part because Freeman has acknowledged that only a portion of the electricity generated by an Owens Valley array would be transmitted to Los Angeles. The rest would be sold to other utilities around the West, with an ample share of the profits heading to the sprawling metropolis 180 miles southwest.

“DWP limits the amount of power it takes from any one source to avoid the danger of becoming over-reliant on a single project. The utility is already negotiating with Edison Co., Pacific Gas & Electric and independent power producers to divvy up the rest.

“With his folksy, homespun manner and trademark white cowboy hat, Freeman has traveled to Inyo County twice since November to sell the idea to ranchers, environmentalists, local politicians and other residents -- and salve any lingering animosity.

"We've had about 80 years of history up here where DWP did stuff and then told people after it's done," Freeman said during a two-hour town hall Jan. 11. "I'm trying real hard to start a new era where we bring the people . . . who live here into our thinking process before we decide to do something."

“But, first the DWP must show that a solar array can eliminate the wind-blown dust storms born on Owens Lake.

“When L.A. diverted the water feeding Owens Lake and sent it rushing into the Los Angeles Aqueduct in the early 1900s, the 100-square-mile lake bed became one of the largest sources of hazardous dust in the nation. To comply with federal clean air standards, the DWP already has spent $500 million on control measures, covering close to 40 square miles of the lake bed with shallow water or fields of vegetation. Still, the airborne pollution exceeds federal limits by 10 times.”

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Rain Gardens

This is a very cool idea, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, and for those of us who have a slope somewhere in the yard—as we do—a real boon.

An excerpt.

“When you plant a rain garden, the harvest isn't so obvious. But it's everywhere.

“By creating berms and swales in your yard, you can imitate how nature itself captures rain. Instead of letting rainwater run off to the street, rain gardens encourage it to soak into the ground under your regular garden, building a reserve to help trees and bushes thrive.

“After a three-year drought, this age-old concept is catching on again. Right now, while the rainy season is at its peak, is a good time to get started.

“And soon, Sacramento County homeowners may be able to tap into rain garden rebates, too.

"A rain garden is a way to utilize the rainwater without it actually going to waste down the storm drain," says Rob Lenney of Rain Harvesting Systems in Rocklin.

“It doesn't have to look like a round pond or a gravel pit, he says: "In creative ways, a landscaped garden can have channels dug in the dirt, meandering throughout the garden, where the rainwater can go where needed, as directed by the homeowner or landscape designer," Lenney says.

“While looking for ways to help customers save water, engineers at Sacramento County's Water Resources Agency became intrigued by rain gardens.

"We've been studying this since 2005," says Summer Christensen, one of the agency's experts. "We thought it would be a great idea for Sacramento. It's something homeowners could do without much money."

“The agency created a demonstration rain garden at the new Sacramento County Animal Care Facility on Bradshaw Road. The first county building to be LEED-certified for environmental responsibility, the state-of-the-art, $23 million complex features recycled building materials and drought- tolerant plants.

“Situated near the main entrance, the 200-square-foot rain garden blends into the shelter's landscaping. Water that falls on the roof is redirected to the garden, which is a few inches lower than the surrounding sidewalk.

"We just used normal downspouts," says Christensen, explaining the collection system. "The water runs off the roof to a pipe that goes under the sidewalk to the garden. Rocks disguise the inlet and outlet. A homeowner could do this, too, or you could let the water run over land (to the garden)."

“During recent deluges, the shelter's rain garden worked as designed, filtering thousands of gallons of water into the soil instead of to the street.”

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Climategate Being Ignored

For many of us, the series of emails that came out awhile ago detailing the rather dubious methods being used by scientists whose work was involved in setting policy around how to deal with global warming, pretty much closed the case many had already thought indicated much ado about nothing; and we have been somewhat perplexed that it hasn’t helped change the minds of supporters.

This article from Commentary examines that.

An excerpt.

“Since Climategate broke, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admitted that its much-cited 2007 claim that the Himalayan glaciers would have melted by 2035 was unsubstantiated by scientific evidence. Further media reports revealed Michael Mann, one of the key scientists implicated in Climategate, is still receiving millions of dollars in grant money from the 2009 stimulus package. Yet policymakers in Washington and around the world press on, even as the climate-change evidence becomes more and more dubious.

“In late November 2009, an anonymous hacker with the pseudonym “FOIA” posted confidential data onto a Russian server. The leaked information included a messy hodgepodge of e-mail exchanges, raw scientific data, comments from analysts, and programming, all of which were used by scientists informing the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an organization that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. The hacked data appears to show that leading scientists have hidden or manipulated information that does not fit their climate-change thesis, blacklisted dissenting researchers, and circumvented freedom-of-information requests, possibly by destroying documents.

“The leak, which has come to be known as Climategate, has undermined two of the most substantial assumptions underwriting the climate-change argument: that the science is accurate and that a consensus exists among scientists. Despite this, leaders in Washington and around the globe continued to pursue climate-change policy without pause.

“Climategate challenges the credibility of a group of the most influential climate-change scientists on the planet. At the core of the controversy is Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, and Michael Mann, director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center, along with many other members of the so-called Hockey Team. The team’s name refers to Mann’s famous hockey-stick diagram, which purports to show there has been no warming in the past 1,500 years similar to that in the last 50 years. The e-mails implicate scientists and groups closely affiliated with the UN climate-change panel.

“These institutions and individuals constitute the bastion of official climate-change thought, the wards of commonly accepted ideas about what industrial society is doing to the planet. The Climatic Research Unit at the previously obscure University of East Anglia is one of the few in existence that stores temperature data. The UN climate-change panel—an eminent international organization that reviews and assesses research and advises governments—relies heavily on the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit data for its projections. That is significant because the Climategate revelations suggest that East Anglia’s data may have been manipulated to fit the global-warming community’s thesis.

“And the UN panel not only advises the world body and leaders across the globe; it is also a key reference for academic climate researchers. The extent to which the now-questionable Climatic Research Unit / IPCC data may have contaminated other research has not yet been determined. But the hacked data calls into question the claim that temperatures have recently and significantly risen because of human activity. Today’s climate-change policy agenda rests on this thesis.

“In addition to raising questions about the actual scientific method and analysis, Climategate undermines the “scientific consensus” that so many world leaders and bureaucrats have involved when pushing for a more severe policy to combat climate change. The UN panel essentially sets the tone for the official discussion on climate change. But if peer review has been rigged to give voice only to those scientists who believe in climate change, then that “consensus” is weak at best—and nonexistent at worst. Viewed in this light, Climategate makes it more difficult, if not impossible, for the public to place its trust in a “consensus” established by scientists who do not provide or honestly defend the scientific evidence for their assertions….

“…At first glance, Climategate’s leaked correspondence is the Dangerous Liaisons of the scientific world. Despite the drumbeat informing the public that science strongly supports the climate-change thesis, the hacked data paint a picture of a community of experts afraid of scrutiny, willing to use underhanded methods to silence doubters, and content to eliminate evidence that might undermine both their theories and their funding.

“Yet the scandal has not led to serious policy reconsiderations or even significant stigmatization for many of the scientists and organizations implicated. Instead, even as fundamental suppositions about climate change were being challenged, the Environmental Protection Agency took initial steps to implement the most extensive carbon-emissions regulations the United States has ever seen. And only a few weeks afterward, the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, with 192 countries in attendance, began without meaningfully addressing the Climategate e-mails.”

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Humans Moving

This is a wonderful article, from New Geography, providing a brief refresher course on the movement of people through space and time, seeking the best way to live—and yes, it is still found in the suburbs.

An excerpt.

‘How shall we live?’ is a question that naturally concerns architects, planners, community representatives and all of us. It is a question that turns on the density of human settlements, the use of resources and the growing division of labour.

“Where Europeans lived mostly in the countryside in the eighteenth century, by the middle of the nineteenth century they had gathered in burgeoning towns and cities. The divide between town and country became a worldwide template in the twentieth century, as nations measured their economic growth by the pace of urbanisation.

"Today, more and more of the world’s population live in cities. In 1970, 35 per cent of the world’s population lived in urban environments; today that number has passed fifty per cent.

“The passage of people from the countryside to the city, though, was not the end of the great movement of peoples in the developed world. The developing world continues to urbanise, but North America and Europe started to move in the opposite direction in the 1920s, away from city centres outwards into new suburbs. Humanity, it seemed was on the move again, and by the 1970s more Americans lived in suburbs than in cities or in the country.

“European cities, too, saw the growth of suburbs, as first wealthy people, and then later working people moved away from city centres, taking advantage of new railway and tramlines, and then later motorways, to commute to work, and return to homes beyond the urban boundary line. All these have been in one way or the other supported by governments.

“Roosevelt’s government Homeowners Loan Corporation, the Federal Housing Administration and then later the Veterans Administration provided cheap mortgages with fixed term repayments and a low interest rate. After World War II, the rise continued and by 1972 the FHA had helped nearly eleven million families to own homes. In those same years between 1934 and 1972, the percentage of American families living in owner-occupied dwellings rose from 44 per cent to 63 per cent.

“Between 1920 and 1930, when automobile registrations rose by more than 150 per cent, the suburbs of the nation’s largest cities grew twice as fast as the core communities. Henry Ford said at the time 'The City is doomed' and that 'we shall solve the city problem by leaving the city' In 1956, the Interstate Highway Act created the largest freeway system in the world.

“In Britain, the postwar government planned and built garden suburbs and new towns, ringing London, on schemes first outlined by Ebenezer Howard at the end of the nineteenth century. Similar ‘garden cities’ were built in places like Hellerau, outside Dresden (1909) and Kapuskasing and Walkerville in Ontario, Canada.

“The reflux of people in the more developed world, away from the city centres, strains our distinctions between ‘city’ and ‘suburb’. The suburbs of the previous generation are the urban centres of the present. The dense settlements of Notting Hill, New Jersey and Sarcelles are the suburbs of twenty, fifty or a hundred years ago. As suburbanisation carries on, people are moving away from the suburbs their parents moved into, with much the same motives of seeking greener pastures or fleeing urban problems. New words are coined to describe the change: exurbs, edge cities, edgelands.

“This pace of suburbanisation has provoked its own anxieties. The great historian of ‘sprawl’, Robert Bruegmann, identifies three distinctive ‘anti-sprawl’ movements. In the 1920s Britain, intellectuals and Tory shire-dwellers raised a great protest against ‘ribbon development’ and what they condemned as ‘bungaloid growth’. In the late 1950s William H. Whyte, a journalist at Fortune magazine warned that ‘huge patches of once green countryside have been turned into vast, smog-filled deserts – at a rate of some 3000 acres a day’.

“Today suburbs are no longer just gauche or racist; they are killers of the planet. Herbert Girardet’s idea of the ‘human footprint’ was that each head of population would need a given area of land from which to raise his or her subsistence. As the mass of consumer goods each person used increased, he would need more land – the footprint would get larger. Indeed, says Girardet, if all the world lived at London rates of consumption, they would need three planets to sustain them, around 40 billion hectares, rather than the 14 billion hectares of landmass on our earth.”

Monday, February 01, 2010

Water & Endangered Species Act

The harm that has been done in the name of the ESA is considerable and an excellent book examining that is, Green Gone Wild: Elevating Nature Above Human Rights, by David Stirling, former General Counsel for the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, and former Chief Deputy Attorney General.

This article from the Sacramento Bee, does a good job laying out the various points involved in the current water issues impacting the agricultural valleys of California.

An excerpt.

“On Sept. 17, the famously hypertensive Fox News commentator Sean Hannity rolled into the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, satellite truck in tow. Months earlier, the federal government had announced that it was slashing water deliveries to local farmers, after it became clear that a 2-year-old drought would grind on for another year.

“Central Valley farms are muscular emblems of American-style production agriculture, growing everything from tomatoes for Heinz ketchup to organic spinach for Amy's-brand pizzas and vegetable pot pies. The farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley are confederated as the Westlands Water District, the largest irrigation district in the United States, which has a reputation for bare-knuckle combativeness. But Westlands has fared badly in the face of both the drought and water-pumping restrictions to protect a threatened fish called the Delta smelt. Last year, farmers in the Westlands district received only 10 percent of the water they hold federal contracts for, forcing them to leave roughly 156,000 acres – about a quarter of the district – unplanted.

“Hannity and many others quickly blamed the crisis on the Endangered Species Act. His retinue set up camp on a fallowed field, clipped microphones to the area's congressional delegation and began beaming the farmers' plight to the world. As a boom cam floated over the sign-toting, flag-waving throng, Hannity said, "The government has put the interests of a 2-inch minnow before all of the great people that you see out here tonight." He brandished a blown-up photo of a smelt and said: "This is what this comes down to: No water for farmers, because of this fish."