Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Golden Necklace

Today’s story from the Sacramento Bee reports on another link in the Golden Necklace we envision reaching from downtown Sacramento—Gateway to the Gold Fields—to Coloma where gold was discovered.

We wrote about this in our 2007 report The American River Parkway: Governance, Ecoregionalism, & Heritage, in the ecoregionalism section pages 17-29.

Kudos to the American River Conservancy for their wonderful work—over many years—on this magnificent project.

An excerpt from the Bee story.

“Starting Friday, it will be possible to enjoy the American River's south fork from Folsom Lake to near Coloma and stay dry doing so.

“The scenic stretch of (mostly) untouched nature has long been among the West's premier locations for whitewater rafting and kayaking. But for those on foot, horse or mountain bike, there hasn't been a way to traverse the full length of the winding south fork stretch that many say puts the "gorge" in gorgeous.

“This morning, a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Salmon Falls trailhead will trumpet the opening of the 25-mile South Fork American River Trail, a multiuse path featuring seasonally wildflower-saturated grasslands, oak woodlands, riparian habitats, sage-covered ridges and views of the river below.

“The trail's opening Friday morning for use by hikers, runners, mountain bikers and (for most of its length) equestrians will be the culmination of decades of grant-writing, fundraising, property negotiations, trail cutting and bridge building by the American River Conservancy and the federal Bureau of Land Management.

"When we started the project in 1989, we had no idea if it'd be successful," said Alan Ehrgott, the ARC's executive director. "This (area) is important because it's a true wildlife corridor, and 18 percent of the native plant categories (in the state) are in that space."

“Preserving this lush segment of the Sierra foothills was a major motivation for the organizations. But they also wanted to provide Northern California outdoors enthusiasts a long stretch of trail that connects at the southwest end to existing Folsom Lake State Recreation Area trails.

"That reach of the canyon was only available to boaters, but we sought to broaden the constituency for our efforts by including a recreational trail that would serve equestrians, fishermen, hikers and mountain bikers," Ehrgott said.

“Eventually, ARC executives said, they would like to see the trail curve toward Auburn and connect with the Olmstead Loop in Cool. They also are working on an alternate path near Salmon Falls to accommodate equestrians, who don't have access to the final two miles of the new trail.

“But for now, 20 years of work on 25 miles – nearly 80 percent of it newly cut trail – should be enough to satisfy users.”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Privatizing Gibson Park & Other News

As this story in today’s Sacramento Bee notes, the only proposal submitted to take over Gibson Park would privatize it, and if that works to keep this beloved park open to the public, that is very good news.

The grassroots group formed to examine how to increase taxes—which is very bad news—to fund regional parks is also considering a nonprofit conservancy, which is very good news.

We commented on this group earlier.

An excerpt from today’s Bee story.

“Sacramento County only received one bid from someone looking to take over Gibson Ranch – a proposal from former Rep. Doug Ose, a developer who wants to run the public park as a for-profit venture.

“This revelation, which county parks officials mentioned at a Tuesday hearing on the future of regional parks, leaves the Board of Supervisors with few clear options for the park, which supervisors have already determined they can't afford to keep open. The head of county parks, Janet Baker, said her department doesn't have a backup plan and officials aren't sure what they'll do if Ose's proposal doesn't pass….”.

“A grass-roots working group of parks supporters has started the legwork to get an initiative on the ballot in November 2012, which – if passed – could create a regional park district similar to the East Bay Regional Park District. The working group updated supervisors on its progress at Tuesday's board meeting.

“Thanks to $50,000 in donations, the group has commissioned the Trust for Public Land to study the feasibility of several options for structuring a new district and to essentially poll public opinion to see if a measure might pass.

“Another consultant is preparing a budget estimate and studying a nonprofit conservancy option.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Planet Medication

In this article from American Scholar—though beginning from the possibly incorrect assumption that global warming is human caused and can be human corrected—the information about the various forms of geoengineering that are being discussed is very interesting, and very alarming.

An excerpt.

“In the past four years, planetary climate modification, or geoengineering, has become the subject of intense inquiry. What exactly is geoengineering? First, consider the distinction between weather and climate. Weather is what’s happening more or less right now. Climate is the accumulation of weather over a standard average of 30 years. What geoengineering proposes to do is to modify climate, to deliberately intervene in natural processes, lowering global average temperatures and thus ameliorating the human effects that are warming the climate. There are two broad ways to do this: carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and solar radiation management (SRM). Carbon dioxide removal would use various methods to reduce anthropogenic CO2 levels in the air. Solar radiation management would send more sunlight back into space, reducing the input of what scientists call radiative forcing and what laypeople call heat. The former method works slowly, while the latter method can work within months. The authors of a 2009 Royal Society report said that geoengineering “is very likely to be technically feasible,” although it is not a substitute for reducing emissions in the first place. But the lack of political will to reduce emissions, the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the present and future effects of climate change, and the need to act fast to counter these trends have led a number of scientists and policymakers to give geoengineering serious consideration as a research endeavor and as a potential partial solution to near-term climate change.

“The questions this endeavor raises are foundational, even though the parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide seem so minuscule and the predicted temperature increases don’t seem, in a daily context, to be so daunting. And yet. Just what is the sweet spot for the Earth’s global average temperature—or, rather, the temperature we want the Earth to have? Keep the warming to about a 2°C rise? Should the parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric CO2 be 350? 450? We’re already pushing 400 ppm. At 450 we might avoid warming the planet above the 2°C mark. But that’s a 50-50 proposition if we rely solely on reducing emissions, according to Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and, he says, “any pathway to 450 looks rather optimistic.” The Royal Society says that “it seems increasingly likely that concentrations will exceed 500 ppm by mid-century and may approach 1000 ppm by 2100.” Such levels could lead to civilization-ending global warming.

“What should trigger our use of geoengineering? Five hundred ppm? A series of sudden and strange weather events? Rapid release of ocean methane, which is frozen now but if thawed would dump massive amounts of this greenhouse gas in the air? No one knows and no one yet agrees. Should geoengineering proceed as one in a suite of options while we wrangle with cutting emissions? Or is it a last resort when Iceland no longer lives up to its name? Here, too, disagreement reigns.

“In its largest sense, geoengineering is not just an attempt to cool the planet’s atmosphere or to make our agitated climate happier. It’s an attempt to extend the lifespan of the Holocene, our current geologic epoch—which began about 12,000 years ago—so that humans and other creatures might last a bit longer than otherwise. Of course, some scientists call the current geologic period the Anthropocene—the era of global, human-induced changes to the atmosphere and biosphere. If that’s the case, then geoengineering is the ironic pursuit of vast technological means to return us to the Holocene. It’s a form of technological nostalgia.

“Scientist Paul Crutzen, who invented the term Anthropocene, blew the lid off what had been a fringe science in a 2006 letter published in the journal Climatic Change. Crutzen, a Nobel laureate and a soft-spoken lover of opera records, argued that our collective failure to reduce emissions now required scientists to take geoengineering seriously, especially the most exotic SRM idea of all: injecting sulfur in the stratosphere to reflect sunlight. Conveniently, sulfur injection is relatively cheap—no more than $50 billion a year, Crutzen suggested—and it works quickly. We know this because when volcanoes spew sulfur the planet cools.

“Scientists have begun researching CDR and SRM techniques. Congress and the House of Commons have both held hearings. And John Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser, won’t rule out geoengineering “if we get desperate enough.” Later he backpedaled from this sentiment, but the word is out.”

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Mayor and the Homeless

The homeless issue and the ongoing practice of camping illegally in the Lower Reach of the Parkway—from Discovery Park to Cal Expo—continues to play a role in local politics, as evidenced by this quote from a recent article in the Sacramento Bee regarding mayoral strategy:

“For now, that means concentrating on a handful of projects launched by his office over the past 20 months, most notably a push to attract green technology jobs to the region and find more permanent housing options for the homeless.”

In an article published in City Journal in 1997—and tragically, a strategy still relevant in Sacramento—the corrosive aspects of the normative homeless advocacy ideas driving the homeless advocates in 1997 New York (and our local homeless shelter strategy currently) are examined.

An excerpt.

“A sane homeless policy would acknowledge two basic realities. First, many people on the streets need treatment, not housing. For the sickest, legislators need to change rules against involuntary confinement, and states need to recommission mental hospitals emptied by deinstitutionalization. Second, for the rest of the homeless the best medicine is the expectation of responsible behavior—the expectation of work and of civil and lawful conduct in public spaces. (See "Who Says the Homeless Should Work?" Summer 1997.) Accordingly, opinion leaders, from politicians to ministers, should decry all types of no-strings-attached handouts, such as no-demand soup kitchens and indiscriminate alms-giving to beggars, which simply subsidize self-destructive behavior. They should oppose allowing the homeless to turn public spaces into hobo encampments. Effective charity asks for reciprocity from the recipient, building patterns of work and discipline; to exempt the homeless from the rules that everyone else lives by infantilizes them permanently.

“The advocates, clouded by ideology, may see the homeless as martyrs to American injustice or as free spirits marching to a different drummer, but by now most of the rest of us see them as disordered or confused souls who, for more than a decade, thanks to advocate-designed policies, have been marching to disaster.”

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Loving the Suburbs

This article from New Geography provides a wonderful summary of the empowering history of the suburban development movement, which much of the environmentalist movement-inspired planning policy has sought to degrade—with some corrosive success—over the past several decades.

An excerpt.

“When did anyone last hear officials and professionals talking enthusiastically about the social and economic benefits resulting from the subdivision of land to create secure, clean and tradable title?

“Indeed, any planning document is likely to include a long list of potential problems caused by the subdivision, but will mention few, if any, of the benefits. Maybe it’s time to rethink this conventional planning wisdom. In Peru, during the eighties, Hernando De Soto and the Institute for Liberty and Democracy promoted land reforms that led to more than 1.2 million rural families being given titles to the land they worked. One major grant of titles to a whole village was celebrated on television. When the reporter asked a woman “Why is having title important for your family?” she replied “Having secure title means I can now go out to work.” She went on to explain that the family’s past “customary settlement” required continual occupancy and eternal vigilance. Some member of the family had to be on the property at all times, or else someone else could move in.

“During a recent BBC television news bulletin on the floods in Pakistan, reporter Orla Guerin said “Many here are bound to their land and their livestock, and will live or die with them. We spotted one young boy, clinging to the top of an electricity pylon. He climbed down to collect a bag food aid, but refused to be removed from the waters.”

“I suspect he was also concerned with the need to help maintain his family’s right to occupy.

“City officials and urban planners in particular are always claiming that their cities are “running out of land”. Of course they are not running out of land. They are surrounded with it, as any air traveler knows, just from looking out the window.

“However, they are short of land with a certificate of title that allows the landowner to develop the property for housing or anything else. One reason for this shortage lies with the costs and often onerous conditions of compliance are simply too high. The French Revolutionaries learned that when they fixed the price of bread at less than it cost to bake a loaf, the bakers simply stopped baking bread. When it costs more to gain a title than the lot can be sold for, we should not be surprised if people stop creating lots.

“Suburban residential development creates many jobs and the residents who move continue to create new employment opportunities for decades. Every home owner becomes a property developer as they add rooms, sleepouts, new decks and swimming pools and upgrade their kitchens, and so on. I should have emphasized that it’s the land around the dwelling that enables so many of these projects to take place over the decades and to create so many jobs.

“If Smart Growth policies force people to live in apartments, their opportunities to improve their dwellings become seriously limited.

“City governments appear to overlook the economic and employment impact of rejecting large-scale developments, but the cumulative effect of a multitude of prohibitions of smaller proposals is equally serious – especially in a small economy like New Zealand or a relatively unpopulated place like Montana.

“During the nineteenth century the key function of governments in the New World was to churn out titles as quickly as possible.

“Surveyors served as the true frontiersmen, enabling the migrants to arrive, put down their roots, and build. The post-war suburban boom repeated this experience, supported by an equal enthusiasm for creating a property owning democracy.

“Then during the 1990s, The Age of Environmentalism arrived and activists persuaded decision-makers in the developed world that the creation of titles enabled polluting humans to possess the Earth Mother and must be stopped, or be made as difficult as possible. These constraints on land supply created the short-term property boom, and the inevitable bust that led to the greatest financial crisis in recent history.”

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Genetically Engineered Salmon III

Another piece on this new science—though humans have been enhancing their food supply in one way or another for thousands of years—from the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt.

“Right now, the government is deciding whether it's safe for us to eat genetically engineered salmon. The fish, called AquAdvantage, is being developed by a Massachusetts biotech firm and is in every measurable way identical to Atlantic salmon—except it grows to normal size twice as fast. If officials at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) give it the green light, it would be the first time that a genetically engineered animal is approved for food use.

“Genetic engineering usually conjures up images of Frankenstein. But modern day biotech researchers are anything but mad scientists. Their ground-breaking work has the potential to address world hunger and protect the environment. The AquAdvantage salmon in particular could ease pressure on wild fish stocks, reduce the environmental impact of traditional fish farming, and help feed the growing world population.

“Overfishing and pollution are quickly wiping out the native global fish supply. Already 80% of fish stocks world-wide are fully exploited or overexploited, according to a May 2010 U.N. report. If current trends continue, virtually all fisheries risk running out of commercially viable catches by 2050.

“Fish farming has helped address this problem: About half of seafood consumed world-wide is now farm-raised. But it's expensive. Shipping farm-raised salmon to the United States from Chile, where most of our fish originates, costs as much as 75 cents per pound.

“Faster-growing genetically engineered salmon could help restore America's domestic fish farming industry, trimming costs and reducing energy consumption. If the FDA approves the fish it would also spur investment in other food products. This could help meet the world's growing demand for protein-rich food.

“Through biotechnology, scientists at a firm in South Dakota have developed cattle that are resistant to mad cow disease. Canadian researchers have asked the FDA to approve their "Enviropig," a pig genetically engineered to produce manure that is less polluting. Biotech researchers are also exploring ways to fortify food plants with enhanced nutritional content, which could help alleviate malnutrition and certain diseases in the developing world. And researchers are engineering animals that can better utilize nutrients in feed.”

Friday, September 24, 2010

Our Failing Parks

It is tragic what is happening with our local parks, but by always occupying the last spot or so in the endless queue for funding, they are the first to feel the hit when times are tough.

Our strategy for the major park in our region, the American River Parkway—embodied in several articles on our news page and further detailed on our strategy page—consists of developing supplemental funding through philanthropy, which will only work because the Parkway is a signature park that will attract substantial philanthropic help.

But it will attract this level of help only if the nonprofit organization leading the effort (and managing the Parkway) is led by an executive director hired from a national search for someone with the level of experience needed to raise substantial sums while managing an almost 5,000 acre park.

Some local parks that are in trouble—Gibson Ranch, McKinley Park and Land Park, for example—resonate strongly enough with their surrounding communities of users that this avenue of supplemental funding, along with utilizing social enterprise principles, can also be fruitful.

This recent editorial from the Sacramento Bee sums up the situation with our local parks that are failing.

An excerpt.

“Larry Hoover ticks off an inventory of neglect: weeds left to grow for weeks, trash strewn in underbrush, fallen-down fences and barren patches, especially where the weekly farmers market sets up.

“Then he points to the signs at Roosevelt Park that proclaim, "The Pride of Sacramento," and laughs ruefully. "Is this the pride of Sacramento? It's a dump, and it doesn't need to be."

“In 2002, Roosevelt won the prize as the best-maintained park in the city. These days, as for too many city parks, its upkeep has declined to a point that many loyal visitors are disgusted.

“Three years of spending cuts are taking their toll. The city has cut its budget for parks maintenance in half since 2007, to $7.3 million, and cut its number of parks employees by a similar percentage, to 77.

“The result: less frequent mowing, weeding and watering. Garbage is picked up less often. Sports fields are no longer routinely reseeded. While the city's largest parks – Land, McKinley and Miller – have their own crews, one- or two-person crews are responsible for between nine and 14 smaller parks each.

“The city just recently launched a software system to track work orders, so it doesn't know exactly how far behind it is on routine maintenance. (It plans about $4.3 million in major repairs and upgrades by 2014.)But with city maintenance crews stretched so thin, the potential is there for vandalism or deterioration to go unaddressed for too long.

“Since the budget constraints and staffing shortages are not going away anytime soon, the city has to be creative and open to different ways of doing business. There are talks under way with the Twin Rivers school district to have city and school crews take turns mowing neighboring school and city fields. The city should sign that agreement, talk with other school districts and also look into more coordination with Sacramento County where city parks are close to county parks. In addition, the City Council needs to be willing to explore further private maintenance contracts, beyond the ones for seven parks in North Natomas and for bike trails.”

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Vultures in the Park

A vulture that may be eating the other birds in the park—geese and ducks—so beloved of neighbors, seems to have gathered in Land Park in force, as reported by the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

“For years, Dan Airola has monitored purple martins, a small, graceful bird that has found unusual nesting spots under local freeways.

“Now he's studying birds people find less attractive: turkey vultures, roosting by the hundreds in William Land Park.

“They eat rotting flesh, vomit the stinky contents of their stomachs when they feel threatened and defecate on their own legs for temperature regulation.

"What's not to like?" Airola asked in jest.

“His study is not about liking, though. It's about collecting information and understanding.

"I'm an ornithologist by training," Airola said.

“This is an unfunded study. He just became curious about the large colony he saw in the park.

"I said, 'I wonder what's going on here,' " he said.

“After a year, he still isn't sure what's going on, but at least he has some data.

“His highest count: 493 turkey vultures last Sunday.

“Vultures roost overnight in tall trees along 13th Avenue east of Land Park Drive and along 11th Avenue west of the drive.

“Evidence litters the ground in the form of white smelly droppings, fur pellets (the indigestible parts of things they eat) and lots of feathers.

“If you don't notice the vultures in the trees, you might think someone's plucking the park pond's ducks and geese.

"I used to think that myself before I paid attention," Airola said.”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Genetically Engineered Salmon II

As we posted on before: as it has been with human enhanced food for thousands of years, the new science of genetically modified salmon are proving good to eat, though environmentalist groups whose strategic goal is restricting development using the protection of threatened wild salmon as one tactic, want to ban or label them inappropriately--though adequate testing is certainly appropriate--as this article from the Wall Street Journal reports.

An excerpt.

“Consumer groups urged the Food and Drug Administration to require labeling of genetically modified salmon Tuesday, while industry representatives called on the FDA to stick to current rules the agency says prevent such labeling.

“The FDA is considering whether to approve a type of salmon from AquaBounty Technologies Inc. that has been given a gene from another fish species designed to make it grow twice as fast as conventional Atlantic salmon.

“If approved, the company's AquAdvantage salmon would be the first genetically modified animal meant to be eaten that received FDA clearance. The agency has already approved several types of genetically altered fruits and vegetables.

“The FDA said it couldn't require a genetically modified product to carry a different label under current food-labeling rules, unless there was something materially different about the product.

“For example, if an engineered salmon had a different level of fatty acids from that found in a conventional salmon, the FDA could require a label specifying the fatty-acid content. But a preliminary review of AquaBounty's salmon hasn't found any major differences between it and conventional Atlantic salmon.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Environmentalism as Religion

Is the title of an excellent article from New Atlantis, and it was also a subject we discussed in our 2006 report, beginning on page 19.

An excerpt from the New Atlantis article.

“Traditional religion is having a tough time in parts of the world. Majorities in most European countries have told Gallup pollsters in the last few years that religion does not “occupy an important place” in their lives. Across Europe, Judeo-Christian church attendance is down, as is adherence to religious prohibitions such as those against out-of-wedlock births. And while Americans remain, on average, much more devout than Europeans, there are demographic and regional pockets in this country that resemble Europe in their religious beliefs and practices.

“The rejection of traditional religion in these quarters has created a vacuum unlikely to go unfilled; human nature seems to demand a search for order and meaning, and nowadays there is no shortage of options on the menu of belief. Some searchers syncretize Judeo-Christian theology with Eastern or New Age spiritualism. Others seek through science the ultimate answers of our origins, or dream of high-tech transcendence by merging with machines — either approach depending not on rationalism alone but on a faith in the goodness of what rationalism can offer.

“For some individuals and societies, the role of religion seems increasingly to be filled by environmentalism. It has become “the religion of choice for urban atheists,” according to Michael Crichton, the late science fiction writer (and climate change skeptic). In a widely quoted 2003 speech, Crichton outlined the ways that environmentalism “remaps” Judeo-Christian beliefs:

“There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe."

“In parts of northern Europe, this new faith is now the mainstream. “Denmark and Sweden float along like small, content, durable dinghies of secular life, where most people are nonreligious and don’t worship Jesus or Vishnu, don’t revere sacred texts, don’t pray, and don’t give much credence to the essential dogmas of the world’s great faiths,” observes Phil Zuckerman in his 2008 book Society without God. Instead, he writes, these places have become “clean and green.” This new faith has very concrete policy implications; the countries where it has the most purchase tend also to have instituted policies that climate activists endorse. To better understand the future of climate policy, we must understand where “ecotheology” has come from and where it is likely to lead.

“From Theology to Ecotheology

“The German zoologist Ernst Haeckel coined the word “ecology” in the nineteenth century to describe the study of “all those complex mutual relationships” in nature that “Darwin has shown are the conditions of the struggle for existence.” Of course, mankind has been closely studying nature since the dawn of time. Stone Age religion aided mankind’s first ecological investigation of natural reality, serving as an essential guide for understanding and ordering the environment; it was through story and myth that prehistoric man interpreted the natural world and made sense of it. Survival required knowing how to relate to food species like bison and fish, dangerous predators like bears, and powerful geological forces like volcanoes — and the rise of agriculture required expertise in the seasonal cycles upon which the sustenance of civilization depends.”

Monday, September 20, 2010

DDT & Silent Spring

The conflict between its use and the book by Rachel Carson began the modern environmental movement, and as this article from National Review notes, a new movie about the impact of banning DDT has been produced.

An excerpt.

“A remarkable new documentary tells the story of how political and ideological forces combined to ban a widely and safely used chemical, DDT, leading to a surge of malaria deaths in developing countries like Kenya, Indonesia, and India.

3 Billion and Counting, which premieres this Friday in Manhattan, was produced by Dr. Rutledge Taylor, a California physician who specializes in preventive medicine.

"His film will both shock and anger you.

“DDT was first synthesized in 1877, but it was not until 1940 that a Swiss chemist demonstrated that it could kill insects without any harm to humans. It was introduced into widespread use during World War II and became the single most important pesticide in maintaining human health for the next two decades. The scientist who discovered the insecticidal properties of DDT, Dr. Paul Müller, was awarded the 1948 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on DDT. (In the 1940s and 1950s the chemical was the “secret” ingredient in a popular new cocktail, the Mickey Slim: gin, with a pinch of DDT.)

“In 1962, Rachel Carson’s lyrical but scientifically flawed book, Silent Spring, argued eloquently, but erroneously, that pesticides, especially DDT, were poisoning both wildlife and the environment – and also endangering human health. The National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, and the U.S. surgeon general were among those who dismissed these charges and came out in support of continuing to use DDT to fight disease and protect crops. A federal hearing was held on the safety of DDT, and in April 1972 Judge Edmund Sweeney concluded that not only was DDT safe, but it was an essential chemical. Two months later, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, William Ruckelshaus – who had never attended a single day’s session of the EPA’s hearings and admitted that he had not read the transcripts — overturned the judge’s decision, declaring, without evidence, that DDT was “a potential human carcinogen” and banned it for virtually all uses. The ban on DDT was considered to be the first major victory for the environmentalist movement in the United States, and countries around the world followed America’s lead.

“In Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), DDT spraying had reduced malaria cases from 2.8 million in 1948 to 17 in 1963. After spraying stopped, malaria cases rose sharply, reaching 2.5 million over the next decade.

“Scientists have never found an effective substitute for DDT — and so the malaria death rate has kept on soaring.”

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weak Levees Need Strong Dams

While the levees in our area are the secondary protection from flooding, the first level of protection are the dams that can hold back the water during those periods when too much rain or too much snow thaw overwhelm the existing dams.

Our current system gives Sacramento a 200 year level of protection, but the eventual construction of the Auburn Dam and the raising of Shasta Dam—hope springs eternal, info posted here and here—would bring us to a 500 year level; and for one family that lives in the flood plain, we would be very happy to see that happen.

In the meantime, we need our levees to be strong, and this article from the Sacramento Bee indicates they may not be.

An excerpt.

“Most levees in the city of Sacramento have technically failed a maintenance inspection by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because they are bristling with trees and other structural intrusions. But the city won't be penalized – for now – while long-term solutions are being developed.

“Other areas fared even worse: Levee sections in Marysville, Stockton and Lathrop were deemed "unacceptable."

“As a result, those levee systems were placed on an "inactive" list that makes them ineligible for federal repair dollars in the event of flood damage.

“In Sacramento's case, the decision amounts to a provisional pass.

“The inspections focused on maintenance practices and not the strength of the levees.

"Our goal here is really to encourage the local maintaining agencies to fix these deficiencies as quickly as possible," said Meegan Nagy, levee safety program manager at the Corps of Engineers Sacramento District. "It is important for communities to understand: If they live behind a levee, there is always a risk."

“Tuesday's news marks another chapter in a policy arena that has become far more confusing in recent years.

“In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, the Corps of Engineers began imposing maintenance criteria uniformly across the nation. This meant, in California's case, that previous agreements allowing trees and other intrusions on levees are now called into question

“For instance, homeowners along the south bank of the American River were previously allowed by the corps to plant landscaping and build stairs on levees to access the river, said Timothy Kerr, general manager of the American River Flood Control District. Now those levees have been marked down for those changes.

“Such levees would have been declared "unacceptable" according to corps' criteria if not for an agreement reached in 2009 with state and local agencies. The agreement, known as the Central Valley Flood System Improvement Framework, also allowed Natomas levees and those on the east bank of the Sacramento River to pass earlier inspections.”

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Parkway Funding

A new group working to develop options for funding county parks has been meeting—replacing the old group who met for several years without success—and one of the options they are considering is a nonprofit conservancy, which is a very good thing.

We were invited to become part of this group in its beginning stages a couple of years ago, but the precondition for inclusion was acceptance of a tax increase strategy, which we could not agree to do, knowing that there is a better way to help the Parkway.

Once you enter into a tax-increase strategy, it becomes normative, and future increases are certain, but our approach, utilizing philanthropy and social enterprise, is much more resilient.

The group's first progress report has been posted.

An excerpt.

“Progress Report No. 1

September 7, 2010

“Clearly, this is a time of both crisis and opportunity. The continuing County budget crisis threatens our Regional Parks and Open Space System. Either we rise to the challenge of funding our Regional Parks and Open Space System or bear witness to the loss of our magnificent public Parkways and Open Space throughout the Sacramento region. The Grassroots Working Group is a response to this crisis.

“Mandated Time Line: County Regional Parks Department staff has advised that any proposal needing voter approval must be submitted to the voters at the November 2012 general election.

“Grassroots Working Group: Membership of the Grassroots Working Group is listed in the report. Persons serving on the Grassroots Working Group serve as individuals.

“Trust for Public Land: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) has been engaged to provide (a) feasibility research for options selected by the Working Group, (b) conduct professionally administered, statistically valid public opinion survey through telephone interviews of randomly selected voters in Sacramento County, and (c) provide recommendations for a finance strategy, ballot language, including legal parameters, examples of successful ballot questions and assist in presentation of results. Major milestones for the TPL work and associated Grassroots Working Group activities are as follows:

● Conduct Feasibility Study and submit Draft Report to the Grassroots Working Group November 1, 2010
● Complete Public Opinion Survey December 10, 2010
● TPL provides recommendations to Grassroots Working Group December 21, 2010
● Grassroots Working Group provides recommendations to public and Board of Supervisors January 28, 2011
● Summit Meeting for public consideration of Grassroots Working Group recommendations February 5, 2011"

Friday, September 17, 2010

Restoring Urban Waterways

It is wonderful work and this article from National Geographic examines several projects.

An excerpt.

“This past week, I worked with a large number of volunteers who were planting native shrubs and trees along Guichon Creek, a beautiful little urban waterway that winds its way through the City of Burnaby, British Columbia (adjacent to Vancouver). The stretch of stream we were working on ran through a largely undeveloped corner of the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), one of Canada's largest post-secondary institutions.

“What made this outing especially unique was that the site we were planting had been part of a parking lot until just a month ago. But in light of the Institute's commitment to sustainability (it has been ranked as one of Canada's greenest campuses) along with the availability of some alternative parking elsewhere, BCIT agreed to rezone this land as part of a natural stream-side buffer to better protect the integrity of the stream. This was just the latest in a number of positive developments that has enabled Guichon Creek to become one of Canada's leading examples of urban stream restoration….

“Restoration initiatives like this are exciting and serve as a source of hope and inspiration while also adding greatly to the quality of life we enjoy in our communities. It has also been encouraging to see a growing number of similar restoration projects unfolding in other cities, both in North America and elsewhere in the world.

“In southern California as an example, plans are afoot to revamp the Los Angeles River, which has been seriously damaged and is now little more than a concrete-lined flood channel. But thanks to the efforts of groups like Friends of the Los Angeles River, two billion dollars will be spent over the next 50 years to remove concrete where feasible, establish riverside parks and enhance or restore ecological values.”

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cutting Public Safety

As this article from the Los Angeles Times notes, reducing public safety resources may play a role in reducing the capability to save lives, the essential role of government—protecting and saving lives—and, unfortunately, it mirrors the continuing cuts in the Parkway Rangers who do so much to make the Parkway safe.

An excerpt.

“Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies are getting to the scenes of 911 emergencies significantly later than they were before budget cuts last March, according to a recent analysis of Sheriff's Department records.

“Last month, response times were a full minute longer compared with their 2009 average.

“Department officials say they can't definitively link the lag to budget cuts, but whatever the cause, they say delays in emergency situations can have a major effect on law enforcement outcomes.

"Seconds count," said Capt. Mike Parker. "When people call for help, they want us to be there right away. There have been lots of calls where I was really glad I was there when I was, and not five seconds later."

“Since the department moved to cut its budget by $128 million six months ago, response times have consistently been longer than they were last year. The delays affect a massive jurisdiction that includes three-fourths of Los Angeles County and approximately 4 million residents.

“In a recent report to the county Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Lee Baca listed the lag as a possible effect of cuts to overtime — but in an interview, he said other factors, such as a surge in 911 calls, might be at play.

"It's not something to shrug off," Baca said. "We have to watch it and if our response to emergencies continues extending, we could come to a tipping point. I think we're still at the front end … but we're inching up to it."

“Baca said deputies are often the first on the scene in shootings, stabbings and other situations in which timeliness can save lives.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fish Farming

Following up on yesterday’s post, here is another story of an attempt to farm fish in California, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

An excerpt.

“Greenhouses once ruled the Pajaro Valley on the Central California coast, where the local cut-flower business found success worldwide.

“Empty nurseries now dot the area, a sign of the industry's decline. But with the help of plenty of water, Chris Newman, 58, hopes to restore the glory of greenhouses.

“His tactic is called aquaponics, a combination of aquaculture — fish farming — and hydroponics — growing plants in water. With the help of neighbors and his brother Tom, Newman has converted 14,000 square feet in a former rose-growing facility into a system of stream channels, gravel beds and water pipes where he hopes to soon raise fish and grow vegetables commercially.

"I'm pushing the envelope here, but I think this is something that's bound to take off," said Newman, who grew up in the Pajaro Valley, leaving only to launch a brief but successful career writing mystery novels in New York.

“In recent decades, aquaponics has become an increasingly popular backyard pursuit, though its commercial application has been limited.

“Just a few aquaponics businesses currently operate in the country, said Rebecca Nelson, editor of Wisconsin-based Aquaponics Journal. But the number is on track to grow.

"Farmed fish is really where we're going as far as what we'll have access to," she said.

“Aquaponics evolved from the desire to harvest fish rather than put stress on dwindling wild fisheries and grew to use the extra water for crops, Nelson said. The method's toll on the environment, compared with other ways of farming fish and vegetables, is minimal.

"People here care about food ingredients and where they're sourced," Newman said. "Every 27-year-old kid in San Francisco now has a food blog."

“Newman, who has hired a marketing manager to develop his sales strategy, already has a name for his venture: Santa Cruz Aquaponics.

“In his rented greenhouse, he's dug 40-foot channels for fish such as catfish. Above those are two stories of gravel beds where vegetables will grow — initially watercress but perhaps others in the future.”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Genetically Engineered Salmon

Continuing human efforts to enhance our food supply that began thousands of years ago, these human enhanced salmon appear ready to eat—which is very good news—as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

An excerpt.

“The effort to win federal approval of genetically engineered salmon received a major boost Friday when the Food and Drug Administration released an analysis that deemed the fish safe to eat and unlikely to harm the environment.

AquaBounty Technologies Inc. of Waltham, Mass., has invested more than 14 years and nearly $60 million developing and seeking approval of its AquAdvantage salmon. The company says its fish look and taste like non-engineered North Atlantic salmon, consume up to 25% less food, and reach market weight in half the time.

“If approved, the fish would be the nation's first genetically modified animals produced commercially for food.

"This is the culmination of a very long, very deliberate process," said AquaBounty Chief Executive Ronald Stotish. "We're pleased that the process is moving forward."

“The FDA's Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee will hold public meetings Sept. 19-20 to review the analysis.

“One point of controversy has been the potential for cross-breeding with wild salmon, an issue that has been of great concern to some environmental and food safety advocates, but the scenario was deemed "unlikely" in the FDA analysis.

“The company has said that it intends to sell the genetically altered eggs — which would be engineered to produce sterile female fish — to producers who would be required to raise them inland to help protect wild fish populations.

“At the egg-production and farming facilities, the risk that fish might escape is "extremely small due to the presence of multiple, independent forms of physical (mechanical) containment at both facilities," the FDA analysis said.

“But Wenonah Hauter, executive director at Food and Water Watch, a consumer-advocacy organization, disputed that conclusion.

"The FDA also says that [AquaBounty's] promises are potentially misleading because up to 5% of eggs sold for grow out could be fertile," Hauter said. "It seems very likely that there could be fertile salmon that are going to be put into commercial production."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Homelessness & County Government

It is sad to see—as reported by the Sacramento Bee—the dissolving of a once prosperous local government and its chaotic attempts to spin-off public responsibilities to unprepared nonprofit organizations

Even though public/private partnerships are an excellent strategy—one we call for to help the Parkway—the process currently being implemented is more suitable to guaranteeing failure than success (though we join other Sacramentans in hoping for the best) as we do for the Parkway related spin-off of the nature center, done just as chaotically.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento County no longer wants to coordinate the area's homeless programs and plans to turn over that task to a new organization to be made up of government and private stakeholders.

“The county will be out of money for homeless services by the end of February, officials said, and is scrambling to come up with funds to operate programs through 2011.

“In the meantime, it is pushing forward with a plan to form a nonprofit group or joint powers authority that would pursue government grants, raise money in the private sector and distribute millions of dollars to agencies that serve the homeless.

“The approach could save money and deliver services more efficiently, said some of those involved in the planning process.

“But "it's a little scary," said Tim Brown, director of Sacramento Steps Forward, which focuses on finding permanent housing for homeless families. "It's a huge change, and it's happening very fast. We're not aware of anybody who has made this radical a transition this quickly."

“Officials from the county Department of Human Assistance will present their plan to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, and they want to embark on the project immediately. The new organization could be running by next June, they said.

“Until now, the county has been in charge of securing and distributing $19 million to $29 million annually for homeless programs, including shelter beds, permanent housing units and the homeless census. Most of the money comes from the federal government.

“But in the midst of a budget crisis, the county no longer has the staffing and resources for such coordination, said human assistance director Paul Lake. Without a new plan, the Sacramento area could lose millions of federal dollars and critical programs, he said.

"The situation has changed, and we need to find another solution," said Lake.

“The new concept grew out of discussions with service providers, faith leaders, private business people and city and county government officials as the county's yawning budget deficit forced cuts across the board, including to homeless programs.
Last year, for example, the county ended its winter shelter program at Cal Expo, forcing social services groups to find alternative places for homeless people to spend cold and rainy nights.

"The current system is not sustainable. We need a public and private partnership with as many stakeholders as we can get," said Anne Moore, Mayor Kevin Johnson's homeless liaison. Johnson has declared the homeless issue one of his priorities.”

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Continuing Parks Coverage

It is good to see the continuing coverage of parks by the Sacramento Bee, here and here, but sad to see the one-eye focus on increasing taxes as the only way to help parks, which many areas of the country, and locally, have shown to be a fallacy.

Privatization, public/private partnerships, nonprofit management, all have something to offer that does not call for increasing taxes and may even be providing better management and funding than that done by government, where parks and open space fall at the end of the funding queue; a situation magnified—as we are seeing in Sacramento—when government funding is shrinking.

One hopes Sacramento's public leadership will soon open both eyes to the wide possibilities available to them to provide for our parks—and not in the chaotic catastrophy-driven process used recently in turning over the nature center to a nonprofit—but through well-thought out planning and examining the success others have had, here and here for two examples.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Public Employee Unions II

Following up on yesterday's post, here is an article from City Journal about the public pension obligations in California.

An excerpt.

“With California facing a structural $19 billion budget hole, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has argued that the state will need to tap its general fund for billions to prop up faltering public-employee pension funds. The funds face massive losses because of a down economy, increased pension obligations, and some badly leveraged investments. Some critics charge that the governor is merely trying to generate pressure for pension reform, but in any case it’s clear that generous pension plans for public employees have drained the budgets of government services—especially the kinds dear to the hearts of Democrats. Yet most Democratic leaders refuse to acknowledge this reality, preferring instead to rail against the horrors of budget-slashing Republican proposals.

“A recent Stanford University report pegs the state’s unfunded pension liability—or debt—at a scary $500 billion. The situation has become particularly dire at the local level. As the Los Angeles Times reported in August: “The cost of retirement benefits for Los Angeles city employees will grow by $800 million over the next five years, dramatically eroding the amount of money available for public services to taxpayers. . . . By 2015, nearly 20% of the city’s general fund budget is expected to go toward the retirement costs of police officers and firefighters, who now have an average retirement age of 51. The figure was 8% last year. Once civilian employees are factored in, nearly a third of the city’s general fund could be consumed by retirement costs by 2015.”

“Cities and counties throughout California are wrestling with the pension problem. In a case that could have statewide implications, the Republican-dominated Orange County Board of Supervisors is pursuing a lawsuit that challenges the retroactive portion of a previous board’s 50-percent pension hike for deputy sheriffs. The board has required an increased contribution from county retirees for their health care—a non-vested benefit, which allowed the changes to pass court muster. Shasta County has also approved some viable pension reforms. But these are conservative counties. In California’s biggest cities—which will be hit with the first waves of the pension tsunami—reformers will need to come, at least in part, from the ranks of the Left.

“Fortunately, at least a few self-styled “progressive” urban Democrats are breaking with the party leadership’s union-controlled ranks to offer serious pension-reform proposals. Given California’s political dynamics, the emergence of left-leaning pension reformers is remarkable. Not surprisingly, they’re being treated as traitors by the state’s traditional liberals and subjected to the kind of union bullying usually reserved for conservatives and Republicans.

“Governor Schwarzenegger’s chief pension adviser, David Crane, is a prominent progressive who is making the pension-reform case on a statewide level. Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility and creator of the CalPERS $100,000 pension club database—which reveals the names of over 9,000 retired state workers receiving six-figure pensions—is a Democrat. But the center of the newest pension-reform debate is San Francisco, where Public Defender Jeff Adachi—a Democrat with impeccable progressive credentials—recently sponsored a ballot initiative, the Sustainable City Employee Benefits Reform Act, which would force city employees to pay a larger share of their retirement costs. As Randy Shaw wrote in July for the alternative online daily, Beyond Chron: “We are about to embark on a campaign that could bitterly divide progressives, while empowering San Francisco’s moderate and conservative forces.” In late August, Judge Harold Kahn approved the initiative, Proposition B, for the November ballot despite the efforts of the city’s muscular public-employee unions to kill it.”

Friday, September 10, 2010

Public Employee Unions

Much of the cost of supporting government is supporting government employee's salaries and pensions most feel are much too generous, while services traditionally the first responsibility of government, such as public safety—including in the American River Parkway—are being reduced.

An article in the Wall Street Journal gives a good basic history of the development of public employee unions who have driven the salary and benefits increase.

An excerpt.

“This weekend we celebrate Labor Day in a country divided between two kinds of workers. The first is the private-sector worker, the vulnerable one who rides the business cycle without shock absorbers. The second worker, who works for the government, lives a cushioned existence in which terminations take years, pension amounts are often guaranteed, and recessions are only thunder in the distance. Yet worse than this division is the knowledge that the private-sector worker will pay for public-sector comfort with ever higher taxes.

“How did we get here? Over the course of the past century, officials and politicians of both parties have sought to shut unions out of government or, when that failed, constrain their power within government. Early 20th-century strikes by police and other public employees were effective but proved politically damaging. Over time, the unions opted for a more quiet form of coercion—what might be called compensation coercion. Their success in this area brought them to the privileged ground they hold today.

“The origins of our current predicament began back in 1912. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft placed gag orders on postal employees to prevent them from communicating with Congress on any matter, including wages. The gag offended many members of Congress, who then supported a bill sponsored by the progressive Robert La Follette that aimed to curtail presidential authority by making it harder to fire public employees.

“The Lloyd-LaFollette Act of 1912 gave federal workers the formal right to organize. What that might portend did enter the minds of the bill supporters. But many thought wholesale unionization too remote for possibility. Others saw Lloyd-Lafollette as a relatively tame statute, a lesser evil that might stall the progressive movement. Unions took Lloyd-LaFollette as the base for a movement.

“Many people assumed that public unionism was emasculated for good by the city of Boston's refusal to rehire striking police officers after the Boston Police Strike of 1919. The circumstances of the strike were such that it was nearly impossible not to side with the patrolmen. Police wages were not keeping up with inflation. Their working conditions were appalling. When the police went on strike, the city and state delayed before calling in outside help and the city descended into riots and chaos.

“Calvin Coolidge, then Massachusetts governor, saw the strike as inexcusable and rejected the idea that any blame be assigned to authorities. Any failure to adequately respond, he said, "cannot justify the wrong of leaving the city unguarded," which furnished the opportunity for riots. He then made it clear the policemen would not get their jobs back. "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time," he said.”

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Home Ownership

It is the centerpiece—for most Americans—of the American Dream, but to many environmentalists inspired by deep ecology type thinking (that nature is more important than humans, even that humans are not part of nature) homeownership is part of the problem, an issue examined by this article at New Geography.

An excerpt.

“Robert Samuelson in the Washington Post takes on the role of homeownership in our society. I'm generally a fan of Samuelson's writing, a normally sober, cold-eyed analysis of issues without favor to one ideology over another, so imagine my disappointment when reading him say, "The relentless promotion of homeownership as the embodiment of the American dream has outlived its usefulness."

“Of course, there's more to his column. He goes on to say: “Unfortunately, we let a sensible goal become a foolish fetish. Not everyone can become a homeowner. Some are too young and footloose; some are too old and dependent; some are too poor or irresponsible. Some don't want a home.”

“This is different that saying homeownership is not a worthy goal for our nation and is quite distinct from the ideas of Richard Florida, who has previously written that homeownership is overrated and who’s recent "Roadmap" to recovery focuses on de-emphasizing homeownership. Where Florida is right is in acknowledging that this would "blow up" the fundamentals of our economy.

“He's also engaging in what I call strategic diminishment – that is, consciously pursuing a future that is less than our current state. Many elite progressives think we have it too good and that our lifestyle choices are harmful to ourselves and our planet. It's not enough that they want to be scolds; they want to use the power of government to change America into a place where our quality of life is diminished.

“And progressives also glorify this reduction with a "less is more" attitude. The Washington Post recently presented the case against air conditioning, and USA Today reported on the banning of drive-throughs in the city that pioneered them sixty years ago. I've addressed strategic diminishment as it relates to the mobility and the Obama administration’s “Livable Communities Act,” but this is also true for homeowners and covers not just the percentage of homeowners but even the size of homes. Ron Utt of the Heritage Foundation warns how even the President has adopted a worrisome narrative on homeownership.

“Before we go off the deep end, let's clear up two points. First, the crisis we've gotten ourselves into is not because people own homes. It's because of the flawed policies promoting homeownership. We know about the role of the Community Reinvestment Act and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but also contributing were various land-use planning schemes collectively known as Smart Growth.

“Second, homeownership has many benefits. Homeownership is more than a lifestyle choice; it's a source of wealth and stability. And when homeowners take out a second mortgage on their homes, it's often as a source for financing their own small businesses – another ideal we associate with the American Dream.”

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Saturday Parkway Brewfest

This looks like a great event, as reported by the Sacramento Press, scheduled for Discovery Park this Saturday.

An excerpt.

“Brewers from Maine, Vermont, Ireland and, of course, California will fill Discovery Park Saturday for the 16th annual California Brewers Festival.

“Around 60 brewpub, distributors and home brewers will be pouring ales, lagers and craft beers for what festival organizers anticipate will be more than 3,000 attendees.

“Although the festival attracts brewers from across the nation and overseas, the Sacramento region is heavily represented. Rubicon Brewing Company, Hoppy Brewing Company and Brew It Up! are a few locals participating.

“You can view the full list of brewers here.

“The festival is organized by Sacramento's Rotary Club of Point West to benefit the Assistance League of Sacramento. All festival proceeds will be donated to the league’s Operation School Bell — a program providing underprivileged youth with adequate clothing for school.

"It's a good cause," Rotary Club board member Toney Sebra said. "We put in a lot of time and hard work, but we always have a lot of fun doing it."

“Club member Don Levin has been working with the festival’s brewers since 2002. He said in the recent past the club and the brewers have seen themselves as partners for a good cause.”

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

River District Plan Draft

I reviewed the plan draft and it is a wonderful strategy, which will finally link the downtown to the beauty of our two rivers, bringing housing, new business, parks and open space, and transportation, to the area.

An excerpt.

“The River District Specific Plan establishes planning and development standards for the redevelopment of approximately 740 acres of land located at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers, north of the downtown core of the City of Sacramento. The area is generally defined on the north by the American River, on the west by the Sacramento River, on the south by the recently adopted Sacramento Railyards Specific Plan area and on the east by parcels contiguous to North 16th Street (Figure 1.1). The land is mostly developed and divided into approximately 400 separate parcels held by over 200 property owners.

“For decades the River District, formerly known as the Richards Boulevard area, has been known for its light industrial, warehousing and distribution businesses. Access into the District was constrained by the rivers, the levee system, the old Southern Pacific Railyards and railroad tracks. The relative isolation of the River District with its limited number of streets into the River District has hindered private investment and redevelopment, and that isolation has contributed to the presence of a large homeless population. The opening of North 7th Street in 2004, connecting Downtown with the River District, has helped to reduce this isolation and recently changed the dynamic of the District by opening up opportunities for development.

“The River District Specific Plan supersedes the Richards Boulevard Area Plan, adopted in 1994. The Specific Plan and accompanying River District Design Guidelines will serve to guide future decisions regarding land use, intensity of development, circulation, public spaces, historic resources, urban design and the necessary infrastructure improvements to support future development. The Plan will provide a mechanism for ensuring that future development and infrastructure will be feasible, coordinated, and efficient.

“The River District envisioned in the Specific Plan will be a vibrant, mixed-use community connected to the surrounding neighborhoods by a network of local streets, light rail transit, and bicycle and pedestrian pathways. It will be bordered by a ribbon of parks at the rivers’ edge and have a wide range of employment, entertainment and housing options for families and individuals.


“With the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, the Sacramento area became inundated with gold seekers, followed closely by land speculators. In 1849, a “paper city” called Boston-by-the-River was laid out in the western portion of the River District now occupied by the water filtration plant. The new city of Boston was described as being “situated upon a broad and well-watered plain covered with many groves of magnificent oaks, and the largest class of steamers and all vessels navigating the Sacramento River can lie and discharge directly at its banks.” The new city was platted in squares consisting of eight buildable lots, 80 feet by 120 feet. It included a large public square, schoolhouses, churches and public buildings. Despite the promising plan prepared for Boston by-the-River, the community was never developed.

“Due to its location at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers, the River District was subject to flooding and drainage problems through the early 1900s. Over time, the American River was realigned to its current configuration, which is significantly north of its natural course.” (pp. 1-2)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day

Have a wonderful holiday, the weather looks to be perfect for a day on the river; and the world is, as usual, somewhat chaotic with overtones of peace and joy, (and a great golf tournament on tv), so enjoy the day!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Sacramento Parks

An excellent series on parks is in the Bee today, which includes an editorial focusing on funding, with a leaning towards more taxes, which we do not support; a lovely reflection on McKinley Park; and responses from readers and letters to editor, where our letter was published,

Here it is.

Collective strategy needed

Having enough resources to properly develop and maintain parks is an issue directly related to the mission of our organization: "Preserve, protect and strengthen the American River Parkway, our community's natural heart."

Parks are vital to a region's well-being, and it is crucial that local leadership collectively develop a strategy to ensure parks are developed as needed and funded as appropriate.

– David H. Lukenbill
Senior Policy Director,
American River Parkway Preservation Society

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Parks Conversation

The Sacramento Bee has a good conversation going online about what to do about funding parks, including the Parkway.

Many of the responses are quite good and this one (on the first page of the conversation), from a pubic safety perspective by the president of a law enforcement association, is especially important.

An excerpt.

“Our public lands, including the American River Parkway are in tremendous need of additional funding, if we are to save these priceless natural resources from criminals and neglect.

“As the President of the association representing the Sacramento County Park Rangers, I have requested the county look at consolidating the police functions of the Rangers and the Sheriff's Department. I believe a consolidation is the best way for the county to provide adequate security to the public, and protection for the flora and fauna along the Parkway.

“Currently, the twenty-three mile Parkway is patrolled solely by one Ranger for five to six hours per shift. There is a second Ranger assigned to the Parkway during this same period, however the second Ranger is on contract to patrol other parks in the county, and unavailable to provide back-up in the event of an emergency. This second Ranger averages only two to three hours per shift actually on the Parkway. …

“The Parkway has many homeless camps nestled in the brush that have been known to provide hiding places for many local and transient criminals. These camps gone unchecked pose a serious threat to the public and the Ranger.

“The American River Parkway is heavily used year round by cyclist, boaters, swimmers, rafters, runners, walkers, bird watchers, people fishing, and families picnicking. Most of the people who use the Parkway, come to enjoy these activities and respect the natural environment.

“However, it is not unusual for the Ranger to be called to a domestic dispute, large fight, or party where several people have consumed too much alcohol and/or drugs. Rangers oftentimes find themselves out numbered.

“The Parkway is home to many birds, fish, deer, coyotes, and other animals. In addition to being police officers, Rangers are educated and trained to deal with the needs of these various species, and responsible for providing them with a safe environment. Currently there isn't adequate staffing to provide these vital functions. Over fifty per cent of the Park Rangers have been laid off in the last year.

“My suggestion for saving our Parkway and other public lands is for the county to move the Park Rangers to the Sheriff's Department where they have access to more resources; consolidate and downsize management at the Parks Department, and shift any savings to the Sheriff's Department for use on the Parkway.”

Friday, September 03, 2010

Housing First Study

The concept of Housing First (which we support and had a May 18, 2008 article published examining Sacramento’s efforts, posted to our website) begun in New York by Pathways to Housing, is built on the concept that for the chronic homeless—those who have been homeless for years—until they are situated in actual housing, trying to provide services to them won’t work.

A major study in Canada will evaluate the concept, as reported by National Union.

An excerpt.

“The aim is provide housing and food as a first priority before trying to address mental illness issues.

“Vancouver (25 Aug. 2010) - An old hotel in downtown Vancouver opened its doors to the homeless this week as part of a five-city federal research project to study the relationship between homelessness, mental illness and addiction.

“The renamed Bosman Hotel Community is a four-story inn at 1060 Howe St. It will become home for 100 of Vancouver's hardest to house citizens. The rooms are small but furnished with the basics of a bed, lamp and bathroom. Residents will also be provided food. Similar facilities have been opened in Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Moncton.

“The Mental Health Commission of Canada is using the experiment to study the effect of a 'Housing First' approach to treating the mental health problems of chronically homeless people. The aim is to ensure that they have housing and food as a first priority before attempts are made to address mental illness issues.

“Jeff West, the Bosman's project manager, says 500 homeless citizens with addictions and mental health problems were selected as potential candidates for the hotel. One hundred of them were selected and will be permitted to stay for a maximum stay of three years.

“After that, the national study ends and the owners of the Bosman, Prima Properties Ltd., will convert the building into condominiums.

“The other 400 study participants in Vancouver, while not moving into the hotel, will also be receiving some help. Half of the group will receive assistance "without housing" and the remaining half will be placed in "scatter housing" around the city while being connected with case managers and mental health support workers.

“Nationwide, a total of 2,285 people are participating in the three-year 'At Home' study.”

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Parkway Editorial

The editorial from the Sacramento Bee today was a good recapping of the problems facing the Parkway, but unfortunately, the only solution presented is to increase taxes, when there are much better ways to help parks.

Nonprofit management, like Central Park in New York and Pittsburgh Parks; and parks privatization—which while a relatively new movement is growing, as attested by the private company Recreation Resource Management.

Nonprofit management—which we suggest as a strategy for the Parkway—and parks privatization in general, are both good solutions for over-strapped governments that are much more equitable than increasing taxes on an already over-taxed public.

An excerpt from the editorial.

“If you are a cyclist, runner, dog walker, bird watcher, picnicker or kayaker who lives within proximity of the American River, there is an easy answer to the question: What is the best thing about living in Sacramento County?

“For many outdoor enthusiasts, the American River Parkway is their pride and joy and a big reason they were attracted to Sacramento in the first place. Where else can you find a river parkway that stretches 23 miles through multiple growing communities and offers such an expanse of recreation and natural beauty?

“Yet the American River Parkway has a problem. Although its fans are spread far and wide, many of them are so dedicated to their individual leisure that they've overlooked what is happening to the parkway and the rest of the regional parks system.

“How else could you explain the fact that county supervisors, over the years, have steadily decreased support for the parkway and other parks? Why have supervisors been allowed to permit new houses and mansions that loom over scenic parts of the parkway?

“Why have they approved reductions in ranger staffing that only add to concerns about safety along the parkway? Why haven't supervisors advocated for a dedicated funding stream for the parkway and other county parks, such as that which voters approved for the East Bay Regional Parks District?...

“The American River Parkway is the product of an era when people put a high value on regional parks free and open to all. Increasingly, this notion of open access is being lost. As it spirals into a fiscal abyss, the county is considering proposals to transfer Gibson Ranch to an outside operator, including possibly a for-profit company. In any discussion of parks, county supervisors talk about ways to make "users" pay, as if park visitors were the only beneficiaries of places such as the American River Parkway.

“As of 2009, the American River Parkway was attracting an estimated 8 million visitors yearly. A 2006 study concluded it generated more than $300 million yearly for the local economy. Given the multiple benefits to Sacramento and its way of life, is it too much to ask that this parkway be properly managed and maintained?”

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Parks & Parks Funding

This Sacramento Bee editorial notes the difficulty that local government is having developing new parks and funding existing parks.

Having enough resources to properly develop and maintain parks is an issue related to our mission of: “Preserve, Protect, and Strengthen the American River Parkway, Our Community’s Natural Heart”.

Parks are vital to a region’s well-being, and it is crucial that local leadership—who individually understand this, surely—collectively develop a strategy to ensure parks are developed and funded.

An excerpt from the editorial.

“Sacramento has a stated goal of providing a park within a half-mile radius of every city resident. Another goal calls for at least 2.5 acres of neighborhood parkland and at least 2.5 acres of community parkland for every 1,000 residents in each city planning area.

“Yet for residents in certain neighborhoods, those goals seem like a mirage.

“Based on its population, the Fruitridge/Broadway area should have about 302 acres of neighborhood and community parks. Only 153 acres exist….

“Plotted on a map, Sacramento city's parkland reveals a geography of disparity. North Natomas, with the most parks acreage per person, is the only one of the 10 community planning areas without a shortage. The central city, Fruitridge/Broadway, east Sacramento and south Sacramento areas have some of the biggest unmet needs.

“The age of each neighborhood, rather than relative affluence, appears to be the driving factor in explaining the "haves" and "have nots." Since 1981, the city has required developers to dedicate parkland in new subdivisions, or pay fees to the city. Yet under state law, those fees must be used for nearby parks and cannot be shifted to needy areas.

“Overall, Sacramento added 36 new parks, playgrounds or community gardens between July 2006 and June 2009. Only a handful were in the neighborhoods that now show a deficiency.”