Thursday, November 03, 2011

Parkway Blog Moved

It has moved to

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Where Tax Dollars Go

Texas provides an online tool that explains that, a wonderful example of innovative public administration, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.

An excerpt.

“What are you paying for garbage pickup? How about for having a fire department on call to douse your house if it goes up in flames?

“A new tool introduced on the city's website on Wednesday tells you. The "My Tax Dollars at Work" feature attempts to show how the hundreds of millions it takes to run city services for 2.1 million people translates to dollars and cents out of your pocket.

“Plug in the appraised value of your home, specify whether you claim a residential homestead exemption and you get a customized report. The site generates a department-by-department estimate of where your property tax money gets spent.

“Councilwoman Melissa Noriega attached an amendment to this year's $1.8 billion general fund budget mandating the tool.

"People should know where their taxes go," Noriega said. "Taxes aren't really just money, they're an investment in your city. This website is going to allow you to see where that investment goes and what it does."

“The councilwoman said she believes taxpayers will be surprised by what they find. She used her own property taxes as an example. "Thirty-nine dollars a year goes to garbage pickup. I need to tell you, to have somebody come twice a week, including recycling collection, to pick up your trash for $39 a year is a bargain," she said.

“Open-government advocates heaped praise on the initiative.”

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Building By Parkway, More Discussion

Our initial assessment of this project, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, proposed for land next to the Parkway was that the alternatives seemed better for the Parkway, but as more information comes out it is obvious that more discussion is needed.

Some new information:

1. The alternatives may not be large enough to accommodate the flood control agency needs.

2. It will be built on a site not in the Parkway but next to it—which is currently filled with very unsightly piles of dredged mining tailings—and a nicely built office building would be an improvement. (We used to live in Gold River and I drove by this site once or twice a day and it was a mess, piles of round stone tailings with weeds growing from them, (rattlesnakes and scorpians loved it) as I last saw them several years ago.)

3. Good landscaping will mitigate any view of the office building from the Parkway.

4. Having a flood control agency in visual sight of one of the region’s major flood threat rivers might be an excellent idea.

It would seem that much more discussion about this project is needed, and fortunately it is receiving that.

One comment in the comments section is especially informative:

by kericson

“Instead of looking at what everyone sees as being wrong with this project, why not look for something good....This is the best proposed flood control project for this region to date. With the main operations center for flood control being located on the American River, and they control the flows…from this facility, they will never allow excessive flooding that would jeopardize the ops center. That is a big win for the region.

“I was however concerned about the visual impacts that this project [would have] on the parkway, so I actually reviewed the environmental document on the Bureau of Reclamation website.

“The location is a dead zone rock pile from previous dredging operations that is pretty well buffered from view, so the visual impacts should be pretty minimal.

“These days it seems everyone’s natural reactions are to look for what is wrong with anything before they review the facts and the benefits of a project. I really don't have an opinion either way on this project, but I think it deserves a balanced discussion.”

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“A large new government office building, filled with 600 skilled wage earners, would seem to be a blessing for the economically depressed Sacramento region.

“But some are treating a proposal to build one alongside the American River Parkway as a curse.

“State and federal agencies want to build a high-security, 200,000-square-foot nerve center for California flood protection on a 25-acre parcel next to the state-operated Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Rancho Cordova.

“Critics, who range from the area's congressman to nearby homeowners, condemn the project as inappropriate for the American River Parkway, the region's most treasured and scenic recreational asset.

“There are looming questions about whether it makes sense to park a flood-control headquarters next to a flood-prone river downstream of Folsom Dam, the region's largest.

"We look at the entire parkway as the Central Park of the West Coast," said Darryl Schmidt, a nearby resident and chairman of an opposition group, Citizens Against Paving the Parkway. "The question is, why is the federal government, who are here to protect land, building there vs. any one of the available commercial sites in the region?"

“The answer is that the property is already owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that owns and operates many federal dams in the state, including Folsom and Nimbus dams. Its partners are the California Department of Water Resources, which oversees levee safety in the state and owns Oroville Dam, and the National Weather Service.

“The agencies now share space at their existing flood operations center on El Camino Avenue. But the leased building is cramped, outdated and lacks adequate security.

"When there's flooding, the center itself is important to coordinate very closely with the different entities that are pulling switches and moving knobs to release water and keep it under control," said Russ Grimes, regional chief of environmental compliance at the reclamation bureau, which is in charge of project planning.

“The project includes criteria that limit available alternatives. Among them is a requirement to meet "green" building standards, room for a 100-foot security perimeter around any new buildings, a backup electricity source, and remaining within 25 miles of downtown Sacramento.

“The site also must be outside the 200-year floodplain.

“A search several years ago – before the collapse in the real estate market – produced one alternative that remains in the mix: a site on Kilgore Road just off Sunrise Boulevard.

“Another site emerged from public comments on the project: a parcel at Mather Field on Peter A. McCuen Boulevard. It includes an empty 110,000-square-foot office building that happens to meet the necessary "green" building criteria, and there is room for more office space.

“A draft environmental impact study on the project identifies the Mather site as "environmentally preferred" because construction impact has already occurred in developing the existing building.

“Yet the parcel owned by the reclamation bureau along the parkway remains the "proposed site."…

“The disputed site is actually outside the official boundary of the parkway. But Grimes of the reclamation bureau said his agency and its partners have committed to satisfy the county's parkway planning rules, which restrict exterior lighting, paint colors and other design details.”

Monday, October 31, 2011

California Regulations

It is given as one of the major reasons businesses choose not to move here and for those already here, consider leaving.

The regulatory burden on the small farmer, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, makes the point clearly.

An excerpt.

“Farmers must live with plagues of uncertainties – pests, crop prices, labor shortages and, of course, the weather.

“Listen to a family farmer in California like Doug Brower, and there's a whole other reason it can be such a struggle: a tangle of regulations.

“Brower splits his time between Folsom and the Uhrhammer homestead hard by the Merced River south of Turlock, where he grows almonds and walnuts on 40 acres. His wife's family moved there just after World War II. Since he retired from 30 years as a military contract officer, Brower has been spending more time on the farm. Since his father-in-law passed away last October, he has taken over running it.

“The more he's learned about all the government rules he's supposed to follow, the more frustrated he has become. By his count, the farm is subject to at least a half-dozen local, state and federal agencies.

“There's the state Water Resources Control Board, which wants to know how much water he's pumping out of the river to irrigate his orchards. The orchards have rights to about 405 acre-feet of water a year. Since he can't afford fancy monitoring equipment, he mostly guesstimates his monthly diversions, but stays well below the limit.

“There's the state Department of Pesticide Regulation, which requires reports on what he sprays to protect his almonds from the navel orangeworm and walnuts from the husk fly and codling moth. If he didn't do it himself as a state-certified applicator, and had an employee spray instead, there would be many more safety rules to worry about.

“There's the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, which issues the permits he has to get to burn pruned limbs and other agricultural waste.

“There's state and federal Occupational Safety and Health and the state Employment Development Department, which want paperwork for the farm's one full-time worker.

“Until he found out at a seminar that he didn't have enough fuel to qualify, Brower thought he'd have to come up with a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plan for his above-ground petroleum tanks.

“His home office is strewn with bulging files as he tries to keep track of all the requirements and when he's supposed to submit reports.

"I'm trying to do the right thing," he told me as he steered a beat-up golf cart through neat rows of nut trees.

“Brower says farmers like him are expected to know about every regulation issued by any government agency that might somehow apply to them. That's impossible, he says.”

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bad Bridges

It is not good news that our area has some of the worst bridges in the country, as reported by the Sacramento Business Journal.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento has one of the highest percentages of structurally deficient bridges among metro areas of its size, according to a new report from Transportation for America.

“The Fix We’re in For: The State of Our Metro-Area Bridges,” ranks 102 metro areas in three population categories based on the percentage of deficient bridges.

“In Sacramento, an average of 59 drivers cross a deficient bridge every second, according to the study. Sacramento ranked fourth for its percentage of structurally deficient bridges, or those in need of substantial repair or replacement, among 20 metro areas with populations of more than 2 million.”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sacramento Bee on Gibson Ranch, Wrong Again!

The Sacramento Bee—which inexplicably, does not like Gibson Ranch Park being operated as a forprofit, even though it is now open and being highly utilized by area residents, whereas before it was closed—ran an editorial yesterday, entitled “Back at Gibson Ranch, little county oversight”, which is apparently not quite accurate, as the response in the comments section from Doug Ose notes:

His response.

“Dear Pia -

“Once again you nitpick based on ignorance. You really should just pick up the phone and call me if you have questions.

“First and foremost, the County has received a monthly statement detailing all income and expenses including the names and amounts paid for all checks issued. The information forwarded to the County contains a precise breakdown of the monies collected for the Equestrian Trust Fund as well as a detailed listing to the penny of any expenditures made therefrom. This is precisely what was agreed to when the lease was executed. The reporting being provided dwarfs by orders of magnitude any reporting being provided to the County under any other existing County park lease with any of your beloved nonprofit organizations. I request that you cease and desist from impugning my character by suggesting that I am engaged in financial shenanigans.

“Second, the park is open every day, something that was not occurring prior to April 1, 2011. I fail to understand why you continue to object to the park being open.

“Third, the park is clean, the grass is mowed, the bathrooms are clean. I wonder how that compares to the parks you are operating.

“Your comments regarding the open ditches reflect the fact that you still have not visited Gibson Ranch since my team took it over. Prior to April 1, under the supervision of the former Parks Director, the irrigation ditches were dredged by the County, significantly enlarging the ditches and turning them into public hazards. The project being contemplated would eliminate the public hazard while preserving the ability to irrigate the pastures on the property. There are no marshlands within the area being irrigated by the ditches in question.

“The main challenge to local government remains that their obligations exceed their revenues. At Gibson Ranch, the County was budgeting over $200,000 per year to keep the park closed. The lease with me requires the County to pay up to $100,000 per year to correct deferred maintenance that accumulated prior to April 1, 2011. That is a net savings to the County of over $100,000 per year. And, the park is open. And, the accumulated deferred maintenance is being repaired.

“When we had lunch at the Crocker Art Museum prior to the Board's action to approve the proposed lease, I asked you what was the plan you wished to propose as an alternative to the one I was proposing. I appreciated your candor in admitting that you had no plan and that it was not your responsibility to create a solution that opens the park. Six months later, it is clear now that your only plan has been to use the bullhorn of the Sacramento Bee Editorial Page to advocate for new taxes dedicated to parks maintenance and operations on the November 2012 ballot. It must be frustrating for you to see my team PROVING EVERY DAY THAT NO SUCH NEW TAXES ARE NEEDED.

“Have a nice day..”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Taxes & Prices

When you tax business, consumer prices go up, not a good thing, but California has apparently done it anyway, as this article from the California Chamber of Commerce notes.

An excerpt.

“October 21, 2011) Yesterday the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted to adopt the rules for a cap-and-trade program that would set a maximum limit for greenhouse gas emissions while allowing regulated industries to buy or trade emissions credits to meet the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as established by AB 32. Included in what was approved by CARB yesterday is tax, estimated by a CARB member to raise $2 billion from businesses, that will drive up costs for California consumers.

“California Chamber of Commerce Policy Advocate Brenda M. Coleman has urged the Board to eliminate what has been identified as an illegal and arbitrary tax. The CalChamber has also argued for adoption of an operable, cost-effective market designed to meet the goals of AB 32 without creating undue harm to the economy.

“Imposing a tax on business via CARB’s proposal does nothing to maximize environmental benefits required under AB 32 and it is not needed to ensure the stringency of the overall cap,” said Coleman. "In fact, the tax proposed by CARB contradicts the AB 32 requirements of minimizing costs and maximizing benefits for California’s economy in the design of emission reduction measures. The tax will negatively affect all California businesses and increase costs that will be passed down to consumers.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Safety, Access, Water (SAW)

That is the strategic mantra of our organization’s advocacy work once all of it is refined through the policy sieve.

Safety 24/7 enhanced by a much more cultivated and landscaped Parkway to create sight lines helping in the reduction of crime through environmental design by opening up the deep thickets hiding generations of illegal campsites—especially in the Parkway’s Lower Reach, Discovery Park to Cal Expo.

Access to the full Parkway for everyone requires the continuous visible presence of public safety officers and a vastly enhanced trail structure accommodating dedicated trails for pedestrians, bicyclists, and equestrians. And the trail model we use is that developed by Rails to Trails.

Water represents having optimal flows for salmon, rafting and swimming and Parkway erosion control, which can only be assured with the extra water storage above Folsom Dam the Auburn Dam would provide.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Golden Necklace Trail

Information about it and a map have been posted to our website.

An excerpt, with links at the jump.

The Golden Necklace Trail, (as written about in our 2007 research report, on report page) is envisioned as beginning in Coloma, running southwest along the South Fork of the American River over the Salmon Falls Bridge, southwest along Folsom Lake to connect with the American River Parkway, continuing southwest along the Parkway Trail to the confluence with the Sacramento River, turning south along the Sacramento River to the historic Chinese town of Locke, and then turning northeast up the Cosumnes River Preserve, to—either the Folsom South Canal Trail or the Deer Creek Hills Preserve Oak Woodland—both of which would then turn northeast to connect back to the American River Parkway at Lake Natoma.”

Friday, October 21, 2011

Think Local Management

The argument for local management of local parks—such as the Joint Powers Authority & nonprofit management we advocate for the Parkway—is examined in this article from the Property & Environment Research Center.

An excerpt.

“Proponents of free market environmentalism do not usually invoke government as part of the solution to environmental problems. But when they do, free market environmentalists promote governance by the smallest entity possible. PERC, for example, advocates using land trusts or endowment boards to help manage public lands. Arguments for smaller government imply that local control will produce better environmental policy because representatives are closer to their constituents and, therefore, more responsive. It is also argued that competition between multiple smaller governments leads to better policy outcomes. When governments compete, constituents win.

“Is Local Always Better?

“There are typically three arguments given for local representation offering better solutions to environmental problems. First, local governments better represent local interests; and there might be shared values between local interests and the interests of free market environmentalists. Regarding the management of the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, for example, many locals preferred less governmental supervision of the land and free market environmentalists were recommending an administrative trust arrangement. But this alignment of interests ought to be thought of as subject to change, or even accidental. Moreover, this representation of local interests might instead facilitate overexploitation.

“Consider the case of a fishing stock shared by two localities. Each local jurisdiction might, depending on the alignment of interests, have the incentive to overexploit at the expense of the other jurisdiction. Clearly this would be the case if both local governments represented fishers. Each would have the incentive to overfish—to snag the fish before the other locality could do so. Thus, with public good problems that cross political boundaries, the tragedy of the commons brought about by individual decisions can simply be replicated by the decisions of local governments. Consequently, this reasoning should be put aside as a convenient but ultimately unconvincing argument for local control.

“The second, and more compelling, argument for local control is that representation of local interests produces better environmental outcomes. Favorable environmental outcomes might come about because of superior local understanding and knowledge of an environmental situation. This is the reasoning invoked by arguments against “one-size-fits-all” command-and-control solutions to environmental problems. For example, residents might know where the spawning grounds of the fishery are and be able to encourage the local government to limit fishing in those grounds. Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom argues that, for small common pool resources, this localized knowledge plays an important role in designing the appropriate institutions to govern and enforce the rules regarding the resource.

“Given the role of localized knowledge, it seems clear that a more appropriate argument than to simply prefer local over state control and state over national control is to match the size of the government to the size of the environmental problem. If the size of government was infinitely customizable to each issue, it should be no larger than the size of the problem. Governments of various sizes, however, are costly to set up, so choices must often be made from a discrete set of levels. With this consideration in mind, optimal jurisdiction size can actually be larger than the scope of the problem since it might be necessary to choose federal over state management for a regional problem.

“The third argument for local government as preferable to larger governments is that multiple jurisdictions can facilitate competition, even for public goods. As the Tiebout model explains, people can choose which jurisdiction they prefer by voting with their feet. This process encourages local governments to provide quality public goods. This is perhaps easiest to see in the market for houses near high-quality public schools, but it also seems to hold in the environmental arena. Economist and PERC fellow Spencer Banzhaf and his colleague Randall Walsh recently found that areas around large industrial facilities with high levels of pollution experienced population decline, while neighborhoods that cleaned up gained population. This movement of people, and potential voters, gives local governments the incentive to provide public goods.”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Solo Auto Commuters

This is something I noticed recently driving up Highway 50 during the height of the rush hour to a family dinner. My wife and I were in the car pool lane, virtually alone, as we sped past the thousands of cars winging it at about 10 miles an hour, and we never had to slow down until we moved over to our exit lane.

New Geography writes about the surprise results from a recent study.

An excerpt.

“Despite higher prices and huge media hype over shifts to public transit, the big surprise out of the 2010 American Community Survey has been the continued growth over the last decade in driving alone to work. Between 2000 and 2010, driving alone to work increased by 7.8 million out of a total of an 8.7 million increase in total jobs. As a result, this use of this mode reached 76.5% of the nation's workers, up from 75.6% in 2000. This is the largest decadal share of commuting ever achieved for this mode of transport.

“In view of the much higher gasoline prices that prevailed in 2010, it might have been expected that driving alone would lose market share from 2000. But this did not --- despite many media and academic claims that would or was already taking place --- occur.

“The Census Bureau began compiling data on commuting in the 1960 census. In each census through 2000, commuting data was obtained through the census "long form" questionnaire. During the last decade, however, the Census Bureau has begun an annual survey, the American Community Survey, which includes commuting data and a considerable amount of additional data, and the decennial census survey was discontinued.

“Cars Dominate: There have been substantial changes in how the nation travels since the first survey in 1960. In 1960, 64% of the nation's workers traveled by car. Separate data was not obtained for driving alone and carpools until 1980. The 2010 data indicates that 86.2% of employees used cars for the work trip in 2010. This was a slight reduction from 87.9% in 2000. But the anti-automobile crowd should not celebrate; all of the loss was due to a substantial decline in carpooling. In 2000, 12.2% of workers traveled by car pool. This figure dropped to 9.7% in 2010. With the higher gas prices, it might have been expected that carpooling would have become more popular, because of the lower costs from sharing experiences with other workers. This simply did not occur.

“Working at Home: The big winner among the nation's commuting modes was working at home, a large share of which is telecommuting. Working at home increased from 3.3% of the workforce in 2000 to 4.3% of the workforce in 2010, for a market share increase of 33%, Overall 1.7 million more people work at home in 2010 than in 2000. It seems likely that the high gas prices encouraged a more working at home as did the move by companies to offload work to freelancers to reduce their costs or boost efficiency. Over the decade, gas prices increased 46%, adjusted for inflation, while the work at home market share increased 33%.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Compassion & Principles

I watched the City Council meeting on tv last night about the Occupy Sacramento folks who want permission to camp out 24/7 at Cesar Chavez Park.

This is an important issue for the Parkway because if that permission was given it would also have to be granted to the homeless folks who want the same permission to camp 24/7, which would result in even more camping in the Parkway than is now happening.

Mayor Johnson chaired the meeting and he exhibited one of the best examples of compassion while sticking to principle that I have seen from a politician.

This article from the Sacramento Bee reports on the meeting.

An excerpt.

“Two weeks have passed since Occupy Sacramento protesters first took hold of downtown's Cesar Chavez Plaza. They have set up small shelters and a first-aid station, created a bank of laptop computers linked to the Internet and conducted several rallies.

“What they still don't have is a common call for grand social change.

“As the Occupy Wall Street movement persists around the nation and spreads to other countries, demonstrations have morphed into a canvas of disparate protests with distinctly local flavors. In Phoenix, the issue is immigration; in Atlanta, small business.

“And in Boston, a hub of higher learning, it's the lack of jobs for college graduates.

“There is no single global or economic cause unifying the Sacramento movement. However, by demanding to remain in the park at all hours, protesters have waded into a local political issue that predates their demonstration by years: the fight by homeless activists against the city's anti-camping ordinances.

"Our issue? We want to be able to stay here overnight," said Sean Thompson, 27, who recently dropped out of Sacramento City College to help coordinate Occupy Sacramento's presence in the park. "After that's resolved, then we'll start to talk."

“That demand appears unlikely to be granted anytime soon. Despite the calls of protesters who waved signs inside City Hall and set up vigil outside the building, the Sacramento City Council decided Tuesday night to continue enforcing the city's anti-camping rules and to not grant a permit allowing protesters to remain in a city park past closure hours.

“City police will keep clearing out the park across the street from City Hall at 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on the weekends.

“Councilman Steve Cohn had proposed to allow the protesters to keep their gear in the park overnight, but that plan was not moved forward by the council.

“Mayor Kevin Johnson said he would meet with protest organizers over the next few days and listen to their "thoughts and concerns."

"No one here disagrees with your right to protest and have your voices heard in a real way," the mayor said.

“City officials worry that if they allow the Occupy Sacramento people to camp at the park, they would have to make a similar exception for Safe Ground Sacramento, the group of homeless people and their advocates that has been pushing for a sanctioned spot where the homeless can camp at night.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Our Rivers

A humorous look, from the Sacramento Bee, at an all too serious area of neglect in our fair city.

An excerpt.

“I love the Sacramento, and always have. Sometimes, in the evenings, I'll bicycle over to the promenade that runs atop its levee south from Old Sac. Once there, I look over at the Tower Bridge and see beauty. I gaze across at the lights of Raley Field and sense excitement. I peer down at water's edge and behold …

“… concrete.

Lots of concrete. And that's about it. (I'm lying. There are also rocks. Oh, and garbage. Lots of garbage.)

“Why is that? Why is it that Portland can have a river walk that's the talk of river walkdom, and all we have lining the Sacramento are cement blocks, rocks and old socks?...

“Of course, if we couldn't swallow the whole project straight off (if?), we could always start with baby steps. Connecting the bike trails along the American and Sacramento rivers might be a logical beginning. Imagine my shock when I pedaled via Discovery Park into Old Sacramento for the first time only to discover: no more bike trail! Have you ever tried wending your way through Old Sac on a bike while dodging drunks, cars, pedestrians, drunks, horses, trains, drunks, strollers, cobblestones and, oh yeah, drunks?”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Public Safety in the American River Parkway

The article yesterday in the Sacramento Bee is an excellent overview of the public safety issues in the Parkway, though the issues predate any shortage of rangers or lack of county parks funding, as two articles from 2004, Trail of Fears and 2008, Hell's Half Acre in the Sacramento News & Review note.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“Three years ago, before the economic meltdown, Sacramento County had 20 rangers assigned to patrol the sprawling American River Parkway and the 23-mile bicycle path that lures 5 million visitors to the area annually.

“Last week, there were eight rangers, and here is what one of them, Will Safford, encountered in just a short span Tuesday morning:

• A man in the woods near the Northgate area snapping a bullwhip at some brush.

• A paroled sex offender living in an illegal campsite near a Boy Scout camp.

• A man with a hunting bow – but no string – protruding from his backpack.

• A pregnant woman sleeping in a shopping cart being pushed down the bike trail by two men.

"This used to be a two-man unit, and you can see why," Safford said of the ranger patrol in the lower portion of the parkway. "There's a lot of characters out here. I'll leave it at that."

“The county's economic crisis and the cutbacks that have devastated its parks department have left many users of the parkway concerned about whether it is safe to fish, walk or cycle areas that are now patrolled by a skeleton staff of rangers.

"Most of the stuff we deal with is quality of life stuff," said Chief Ranger Stan Lumsden, who took over the job last month just as an arsonist was setting 15 fires in two separate sprees near River Bend Park.

“Car break-ins, vandalism or dogs running off leash are the norm, he said, "unless you get down to the last six miles of the parkway."

“There, in the area starting near Discovery Park, a growing homeless population continues to pose challenges for the rangers and the army of bicycle commuters who pass through that stretch each weekday.

"We're starting to see a lot more violent crime down there, assaults, anything you can imagine that the transient population does," Lumsden said.

“Most of the problems involve disputes among the homeless in the various illegal camps that sprout up constantly, rangers say, but there is growing unease among other trail users about the safety of the parkway as a whole.

“One cyclist was assaulted over the Labor Day weekend by someone who threw a bicycle at him. Another reported being jumped by a group of teens on the Guy West Bridge near Sacramento State in July and having his bike taken.

“Jan Cotter's husband had been riding to work regularly on the trail since 1977 until last November, when he was riding home near the Northgate area and encountered two young men on the trail who pushed him off his bike and attacked him in an apparent robbery attempt.

"He was beaten severely," Cotter said. "They pushed up his bike helmet and put a gun to his head, pistol-whipped him, kicked him in the upper torso and the head. Another cyclist came along and the guys left."

“Cotter said her 59-year-old husband, who did not want his name printed, was left with broken ribs and serious injuries and did not touch his bike for months. Even now, he will not ride the trail in the winter months, when it becomes dark early, she said.

"We initially thought this was just a family tragedy, but then as time went on, I found out about more incidents," she said. "In July of this year, someone one of our kids knew as a child was assaulted at mile 0.4 and we just decided this is not OK."

“Since then, she and other trail users have been meeting with city and county officials and sending letters to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson urging increased patrols and greater communication about incidents along the parkway.

“Sacramento police, as well as law enforcement agencies from surrounding areas, already lend a hand in responding to calls and patrolling areas along the parkway, and the county Board of Supervisors agreed last month to continue looking for ways to come up with improved funding for the parkway.

“Despite the cutbacks in staffing, rangers say there is no evidence of a widespread jump in crime overall. Last year, they recorded 24 violent crimes and 53 car burglaries, compared with seven violent crimes and 10 car burglaries so far this year, they said.

“Staffing will rise to 10 patrol rangers overall when Lumsden hires replacements for two who left for other jobs this month.

“But rangers acknowledge that some trail users report feeling intimidated by what appears to be a growing number of transients populating the lower segment of the parkway, where they have access to food from Loaves & Fishes or from church and other groups that bring food donations down to the area to dole out.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

Funding Parks

With the current funding problems with California state parks and locally with county and city parks, this report from the Property and Environment Research Center about using private management—as is successfully being done locally with Gibson Ranch Park—is timely.

The summary enclosed and, full pdf report here.

“Some state park systems rely on tax dollars provided through state general funds. When state budgets are tight, park funding is a lower priority than projects such as schools and hospitals. Hence park budgets are quick to hit the chopping block, leading to threats of park closures or reduced services.

“Rather than ride the roller coaster of state budgets, some parks have leased their operational activities to private managers. These private entities have proven they can operate the parks more efficiently, and sites that were once a drain on agency funds are now generating revenue.

“Private management can provide consistent, quality stewardship as well as more customer service.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Alleys with Names

As reported by the Sacramento Bee, a very good—though long overdue—move by the city council; gives a little more flavor and character to our fair city’s downtown/midtown neighborhoods.

An excerpt, with a map at the jump.

“From now on, the best way to navigate through midtown Sacramento might be to hop onto Kayak. And someday soon, there might be people living on Eggplant or dining at a hip cafe on Jazz.

“After years of dead ends, the City Council voted Tuesday night to name the alleys of the central city grid. The new names will be a nod to Sacramento's history and character.

“As a result, alleys in most of midtown and downtown will begin with the letter of the street to its north. For example, Blues Alley will run between B and C streets and Victorian Alley will run parallel to V and W.

“City officials are beginning to develop the grid's alleys and hope to one day have cafes, housing and shops lining some of the corridors. In order to develop the passages, the city had to give them names.

"Sacramento's alleyways now have names that reflect their distinctive and fanciful character, helping to further brand the central city," said Councilman Rob Fong, who represents the midtown and downtown areas.

“In addition to aiding in the development of the central city, naming the alleys will help police officers and firefighters respond quickly to emergencies in corridors that until now didn't have names, city officials said.

“Some of the names include:
• Solons Alley, a reference to the minor league baseball team that once called Sacramento home.
• Tomato Alley, named for the city's most recognized agricultural product.
• Democracy and Government alleys. The city is, after all, the capital of California.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nonprofits Struggle

As with any business organization, and nonprofit corporations are still essentially that, adapting to the business—philanthropic—environment is crucial for survival, and those noted in this article from the Sacramento Bee have done a good bit of marketing getting their work and financial needs front page coverage.

As far as their work goes, one I know of, the American River Conservancy, has done some good with its trail building program, but the money for that should come exclusively from private philanthropy rather than the tax payers.

An excerpt.

“Nonprofit conservation groups have preserved tens of thousands of acres of land in California – wild places where both hikers and animals roam. Now, some of them say the economic slump could force them to scale back.

“Others say lean budgets make it harder for them to scrutinize land use proposals for environmental effects – a key role such groups play in the state's push-pull development process.

“Most groups don't like to talk about their financial difficulties, but one, the American River Conservancy, recently took the unusual step of going public. In an email to members and supporters, the group confessed that "times are hard" and it needs to raise $250,000 by year-end or it will be forced to cut programs in 2012.

"What is happening to our organization is happening to a lot of organizations. We're just being honest about it," said Alan Ehrgott, the conservancy's executive director.

“A major factor is the squeeze on government programs that provide money for land acquisition and education. In addition, private foundations that give grants to environmental groups have seen their endowments shrink substantially as the stock market has struggled.

"Every group really has got to focus on what they do well, what their core priorities are," said Tim Little, executive director of the Oakland-based Rose Foundation, which donates to environmental groups and is also helping coach them through tough times.

“Like a number of other land groups operating in the Sacramento region, the American River Conservancy has worked on setting aside land for both recreation and wildlife habitat.

“The conservancy has helped preserve 12,000 acres in the American River watershed, particularly along the south fork in the Coloma area. Among these projects was the acquisition last year of Gold Hill Ranch, site of the Wakamatsu Colony, the first Japanese settlement in North America.

“It also has built more than 27 miles of public recreation trails, including the new South Fork American River Trail, which opened last year between Salmon Falls Road and Highway 49.”

Monday, October 10, 2011

California Should Follow Florida’s Lead

Repealing the smart growth laws is a smart move, as reported by New Geography.

An excerpt.

“The state of Florida has repealed its 30-year old growth management law (also called "smart growth," "compact development" and "livability"). Under the law, local jurisdictions were required to adopt comprehensive land use plans stipulating where development could and could not occur. These plans were subject to approval by the state Department of Community Affairs, an agency now abolished by the legislation. The state approval process had been similar to that of Oregon. Governor Rick Scott had urged repeal as a part of his program to create 700,000 new jobs in seven years in Florida. Economic research in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States has associated slower economic growth with growth management programs.

“Local governments will still be permitted to implement growth management programs, but largely without state mandates. Some local jurisdictions will continue their growth management programs, while others will welcome development.

“The Need for A Competitive Land Supply: Growth management has been cited extensively in economic research because of its association with higher housing costs. The basic problem is that, by delineating and limiting the land that can the used for development, planners create guides to investment, which shows developers where they must buy and tells the now more scarce sellers that the buyers have little choice but to negotiate with them. This can violate the "principle of competitive land supply," cited by Brookings Institution economist Anthony Downs. Downs said:

“If a locality limits to certain sites the land that can be developed within a given period, it confers a preferred market position on those sites. ... If the limitation is stringent enough, it may also confirm a monopolistic powers on the owners of those sites, permitting them to raising land prices substantially.

“This necessity of retaining a competitive land supply is conceded by proponents of growth management. The Brookings Institution published research by leading advocates of growth management, Arthur C Nelson, Rolf Pendall, Casey J. Dawkins and Gerrit J. Knapp that makes the connection, despite often incorrect citations by advocates to the contrary. In particular they cite higher house prices in California as having resulted from growth management restrictions that were too strong.

“...even well-intentioned growth management programs ... can accommodate too little growth and result in higher housing prices. This is arguably what happened in parts of California where growth boundaries were drawn so tightly without accommodating other housing needs

“Nelson, et al. also concluded that “... the housing price effects of growth management policies depend heavily on how they are designed and implemented. If the policies tend to restrict land supplies, then housing price increases are expected” (emphasis in original).”

Thursday, October 06, 2011

ARPPS Annual Organizational Report

It has been posted to our website and here is the Executive Summary

Executive Summary

This has been one of the better years for the issues our organization cares about.

Concerning nonprofit management of the Parkway, the county recently entered into an innovative agreement with Doug Ose to manage Gibson Ranch Park as a forprofit organization, exactly the precedent setting model that could eventually lead to our goal of seeing the Parkway under nonprofit management.

Concerning the illegal camping by the homeless in the Parkway, especially in the highly impacted area between Discovery Park and Cal Expo, with a particular and troubling concentration close to the Woodlake residential community; the new county supervisor for that district, Phi Serna, has taken a strong position.

In a February 23, 2011 article in the Sacramento Bee about the Parkway and the illegal camping he wrote:

“Parkway users deserve a safe, clean environment free from harassment or other personal threat. They should not feel compelled to avoid the parkway for fear of their own safety, which is what a number of constituents have conveyed to my office in recent weeks. They deserve better; we all deserve better.

“The American River Parkway offers one of the best recreational opportunities anywhere in the country, but it will be enjoyed only if it is safe. To that end, local law enforcement, including Sacramento County park rangers, have established added presence along the lower reach of the parkway to enhance public safety and to encourage parkway users to return.

“Let's also remember that the parkway itself is a "constituent" here. Illegal camping has produced tons of trash and debris, some of which is hazardous biological waste. Illegal campgrounds, large and small, "self-governed" or not, contribute to this problem. Along the American River Parkway, refuse has collected in makeshift dumps, and what doesn't remain in these derelict collection sites oftentimes is spread by the wind, is scavenged by animals or ends up pooled along the riverbanks.”

This is exactly the type of advocacy for the Parkway we deeply appreciate and our organization awarded him the Slobe Parkway Advocate Award in 2011, named after long time Parkway advocate, Bob Slobe, noted in the enclosed Press Release, (pp. 13-14).

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

New Terminal A Beauty

While I haven’t been there yet, the photos and comments about it reveal a truly magnificent building that we should all be proud of, but as this editorial from the Sacramento Bee notes, the bottom line is important.

An excerpt.

“The new Central Terminal B is one impressive building, bringing a "wow" factor to Sacramento International Airport.

“It is also the most expensive public works project in local history, adding $950 million to the airport's credit card.

“Officials better hope that the thousands who traipsed through the terminal for a look-see over the weekend will return as paying customers once it opens for business on Thursday.

“Travelers are supposed to repay one-third of the debt through the existing $4.50 surcharge on every plane ticket; those who park at the airport will pay more. Airlines will fork over rent and landing fees, which more than doubled. Restaurants, concessionaires and car rental companies will also help pay the freight.

“Whether all those fees will be enough depends on how many people use the airport and on the broader state of the economy.

“Boardings dipped every year during the recession and the airport has lost flights. It would certainly help if more residents fly in and out of Sacramento instead of San Francisco and Oakland.

“As The Bee's Tony Bizjak reported a week ago Sunday, the new terminal's first five years will be crucial. By 2014, the airport's projected revenue, once operating costs are deducted, will be only 14 percent more than the required debt payment. That's a far thinner margin than the 33 percent typical for airports of Sacramento's size.”

Monday, October 03, 2011

California’s Debt

It’s a lot, as this article from the Sacramento Bee notes.

An excerpt.

“California will devote nearly 8 percent of its general fund budget to paying off debt this fiscal year, more than twice the share of eight years ago, according to a new report from Treasurer Bill Lockyer.

“The state has long borrowed for massive public works projects intended to last across generations.

“But state leaders and voters went on a notable binge during flush economic times in the past decade.

“They approved bonds for parks, flood protection, classrooms, children's hospitals, stem cell research and high-speed rail. They borrowed in 2004 to bridge a budget deficit from the last recession.

“As new bills stacked up, the state entered a historic economic downturn and revenues fell sharply over the past three years.

“The combination of higher bond payments and declining tax revenues has driven the debt burden to 7.8 percent of the general fund budget. Lockyer also blames a drop in tax rates this summer, after the expiration of 2009 temporary tax hikes.

“The rate is more than double the 3.4 percent California devoted to debt in 2003-04.

“California also faces a higher debt burden compared with other states. It owes $2,542 per person, compared with the national median of $1,066.”

Friday, September 30, 2011

Suburbs Dying? Not!

On a regular basis someone or other tries to make that case and the latest, in an article in The Atlantic magazine, is ably checkmated by New Geography.

Our organization has always loved the suburbs—which surround the American River Parkway, and the region's suburbs being where almost all of our members (including my family) live—finally enshrining that in a guiding principle announced in a Press Release from August 8, 2011.

An excerpt from the New Geography article with links at the jump.

The Atlantic's Alex Madrigal announces "The Beginning of the End for Suburban America," a wish and hope long dressed-up as reality by a well-placed few who believe that the "be - all and end - all" is living anywhere but the suburbs. This is not to suggest that there is anything wrong with living in the core urban core if that is what one wants to do. I certainly have enjoyed living part-time in the inner core of the ville de Paris for some years. At the same time, however, the behavior of people has revealed an overwhelming preference for more space. From New York to Paris and Tokyo, some people choose to live in dense urban cores and a lot more choose to live in suburbs (and exurbs).

“What data does Madrigal cite to show "the beginning of the end for suburban America"? Driving is down from a peak in 2007, also the year that employment peaked. These are not disconnected events. With the total unemployed now about equal to the number of employed workers in the New York and Chicago metropolitan areas, work trips that are not made nearly equal the decline in driving. The higher gas prices appear to have induced people (in the suburbs and in the dense cores) to make modest reductions in discretionary trips or to more efficiently organize their shopping trips.

“Madrigal also points out that in 2010 new houses were smaller than their peak (also 2007). The median house size was still larger than any year before 2005 and 100 square feet larger than 2000. Madrigal cites declining rates of demand increase for electricity.

"The connection between these trends and the suburbs is unclear. Madrigal does not separate the trends by residential geography, the more dense cores of metropolitan areas, the suburbs and exurbs of metropolitan areas and the balance of the nation. Granted, the data is not immediately available for such analysis.

“Fortunately, there is more precise data that differentiates between dense core and suburban trends. It is the United States Census, conducted every 10 years and most recently in 2010. Between 2000 and 2010, the core municipalities of the 51 metropolitan areas with more than 1 million population captured 9% of the population growth, while the suburbs and exurbs captured 91%. The suburbs actually did better in the 2000s than in the 1990s, when they accounted for only 85 percent of the growth.

“True, the relative decline of the denser cores did not resemble the disastrous decade of the 1970s. Further, the gains made by very small areas of the core over the past 10 years have been an important advance. But to suggest that the 2000s represent "the beginning of the end for suburban America" is profoundly at odds with reality.”

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sacramento River Trail

As part of a regional trail system expanding upon that already existing along the American River, we envision in our 2007 report, The American River Parkway, Governance, Ecoregionalism, & Heritage, A Vision & Policy Primer (pp.17-29), the trail extending north up along the Sacramento River from Locke to the confluence with the American River, then east up the American, eventually to Coloma (where gold was discovered in 1848) and west down through the Cosumnes River Preserve back to Locke as the Golden Necklace.

This story in the Sacramento Press reports on the Sacramento River Parkway, which could be part of the Golden Necklace.

An excerpt.

“The Sacramento River Parkway is a 13-mile stretch of trail measured from Discovery Park to the south end of the Pocket, though the last six miles that run through the Pocket area are currently closed to the public.

“The Parkway currently is open to the public from Discovery Park, where a connection can be made to the American River Trail, travels south along the Sacramento River, and is cut off once the levee reaches the Pocket area.

“The trail then leads out to a network of trails throughout the southern end of the Pocket where the trail can be accessed again at Garcia Bend Park and taken to the end of the Freeport Water Intake Facility.

“If access is acquired to all parts of the levee, including those behind riverfront properties in the Pocket, the 13-mile stretch of trail would serve as a commuting corridor for those traveling from one end of the city to the other.

“It’s something we have worked toward for a long time,” said Anne Rudin, former mayor of Sacramento and founder of the Friends of Sacramento River Greenway.

“Friends of the Sacramento River Greenway is a volunteer, community-based organization that has been working with city officials to ensure continuous public access to the river and its levee’s since 1991.

“The plan was made decades ago to turn the American River trail at Old Sacramento and follow the Sacramento river to the south,” Rudin described. The organization has been working in collaboration with city officials since bike trails were adopted by the city.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

ARPPS Letter Published in Bee Today

Donors can rescue parks

Re "Private donors' role in parks rises" (Capitol & California, Sept. 27): The nationwide trend of nonprofits helping parks is one that needs application in Sacramento, especially with our signature park, the American River Parkway.

We advocate forming a Joint Powers Authority of parkway- adjacent communities. The JPA would create a nonprofit organization for daily management and supplemental fundraising for the parkway.

It is a model with increasing resonance, especially in a time of severe public funding difficulty.

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Parkway Vicinity Murder Announcement

Sacramento Bee, September 19, 2011

“Victim shot near bike trail now a homicide

“A man who was shot near the American River bike trail on Saturday [September 17th] died a day later, according to the Sacramento County coroner's office.

“Ahmed Ishaque, 37, was shot early Saturday near State Route 160 and Northgate Boulevard, according to Sacramento police. Officers were called to the area about 6:05 a.m. where they found the wounded Ishaque.

“The victim, reported in critical condition when taken to the hospital, was described as homeless. He died Sunday at 4:46 p.m.

“It was not known what led to the incident. No suspects have been identified.”

Monday, September 26, 2011

Don’t Build on Parkway

We agree with this assessment of plans to build a major new office building near the Parkway in this Sacramento Bee editorial, as the suggested alternatives do not impact the Parkway viewshed and traffic as the Parkway location would.

The agency leading the project—Joint Operations Center Relocation Project—is the Bureau of Reclamation and the link to the project’s environmental documents is here.

An excerpt from the Bee editorial.

“Federal-state cooperation in the Sacramento region on flood and water issues has been a model for more than a decade. A joint operations center on El Camino Avenue brings together three agencies involved in predicting severe weather, managing dams and coordinating daily operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project.

“For 15 years, the center has been in a leased building shared by the California Department of Water Resources, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and National Weather Service. That 20-year lease ends in June 2015.

“Rather than renew the lease, the agencies want to build a new $140 million to $165 million campus.

“To begin, the agencies need to do a better job of explaining to the public why this important center with all of its sophisticated equipment needs to be moved.

“In a Wednesday interview, agency officials explained that they have simply outgrown the site. Some staff are downtown, others in the surrounding shopping mall, some in storage closets. Since 9/11, they have been able to do some security retrofits – building a barrier gate, for example, to prevent truck bombs and other vehicle threats – but these measures, they say, are not sufficient. They seek a 70- to 100-foot safety perimeter.

“Assuming the overcrowding and security threats are real and a new center is needed, where should it go?

“One proposed site is in the American River channel, adjacent to the American River Parkway and the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, eight miles downstream from Folsom Dam. That's a nonstarter…

“The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution this week opposing the site as "adverse" to the "policies and purposes embodied in the American River Parkway Plan." The supervisors support other proposed sites…

“There are good alternatives. The draft environmental impact statement indicates a site at Mather Field would accommodate the desired expansion and safety perimeter. It has a 100,000-square-foot building shell that could be built out, plus extra space where all environmental review requirements have been met. The site is next to the California Emergency Management Agency operations center, a big plus.”

Friday, September 23, 2011

Court Reprimands Government Scientists

In an extraordinary rebuke, a judge in the smelt vs water trial takes scientists from the Department of Interior to task, reported in this article from the New York Times, a must read in the slow unraveling of the environmentalist movement.

An excerpt.

“…this week, two Interior fish biologists were excoriated as deceitful zealots in an unusual diatribe by a federal judge, Oliver W. Wanger.

“The two scientists’ testimony has been a crucial element in a lawsuit over who gets how much of California’s fresh water.

“The scientists, Frederick V. Feyrer of the Bureau of Reclamation and Jennifer M. Norris of the Fish and Wildlife Service, have testified about what habitat must be protected to save the endangered delta smelt, a small minnow-like fish. The smelt’s populations have been decimated in the decades since the delta where the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers meet was re-engineered to send water to farms and cities in southern California.

“The scientists testified that by flushing more fresh water from the Sacramento River to the briny eastern marshes that open out to San Francisco Bay, the smelt, which prefers lower salinity, will have access to more habitat, which it needs to survive and reproduce.

“The area of ideal salinity for the smelt shifts back and forth, eastward and westward, depending on the time of year, the amount of rain and the decisions of federal and state water managers. (A fuller explanation with diagrams can be found at the Bay Delta Blog.)

“This zone of ideal salinity for young smelt to feed is known as the X2; the Interior Department had decided that in wet years like this one, it should be no farther than 46 miles east of the Golden Gate Bridge. The decision was challenged in the lawsuit by the state and agricultural water interests, which prefer that less go out to the bay.

“In a decision two weeks ago, Judge Wanger sent an Interior Department plan for water distribution that is intended to help protect the endangered delta smelt back for reworking.

“And on Monday, he detailed some of his thinking in open court in Fresno. His dissection of the scientists’ testimony is worth quoting at length.

“The court finds that Dr. Norris’s testimony, as it has been presented in this courtroom and now in her subsequent declarations, she may be a very reasonable person and she may be a good scientist, she may be honest, but she has not been honest with this court. I find her incredible as a witness. I find her testimony to be that of a zealot. I’m not overstating the case, I’m not being histrionic, I’m not being dramatic. I’ve never seen anything like it. And I’ve seen a few witnesses testify.”

“Judge Wanger had plenty more to say on Monday.

“The suggestion by Dr. Norris that the failure to implement X2 at 74 kilometers, that that’s going to end the delta smelt existence on the face of our planet is false. It is outrageous. It is contradicted by her own testimony, it is contradicted by Mr. Feyrer’s testimony, it’s contradicted by the most recent adaptive management plan review, it’s contradicted by the prior studies, it is — candidly, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Natural World is Complicated

And though many of our efforts to improve it have been successful, the environmental movement’s efforts—since they accomplished cleaning up our water and air—have slowly become much more of a problem than a solution, as this article from the Sacramento Bee reveals.

An excerpt.

“It's a warm sunny day in early August and wildlife biologist Eric Forsman heads up to the Willamette National Forest in Oregon's Cascades mountains to climb trees. In this land of 200-foot Douglas firs, Forsman will hoist himself up in a harness to check the nests of red tree-voles, a staple of the northern spotted owl's diet.

“From the large tree cavities where spotted owls nest to the decaying logs where they hunt for prey, these birds depend on the lush, old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. They are among dozens of species in these ancient forests threatened with extinction, mostly as a result of habitat loss.

“But Forsman and his crew of wildlife researchers are reckoning with another threat to the spotted owl: A rival bird getting a critical claw-hold in nesting areas. The barred owl, a larger, brasher, faster-breeding transplant from the East Coast, has invaded the spotted owl's territory, which ranges from Northern California to Washington.

"If you asked me 30 or 40 years ago, I'd tell you that if we just did a good job of protecting old-growth forests, spotted owls would do just fine," Forsman says.

“Neglected for years, the northern spotted owl was listed as a threatened species in 1990, after decades of clear-cut logging reduced 90 percent of its old-growth habitat. A landmark 1991 federal ruling forced cutbacks of timber harvests, and the charismatic spotted owl became an icon in a bitter fight between the logging industry and environmentalists.

“Lumber mills closed, and thousands of loggers lost jobs in the timber wars, as the Northwest Forest Plan cut harvests on federal lands by 80 percent.

“Just as the northern spotted owl seemed spared, it has faced competition from the barred owl, its closely-related cousin. As spotted owl populations have plummeted – by up to 50 percent in Washington in the last 15 years – the number of barred owls has boomed. In some places, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, barred owls may have doubled and tripled within 30 years or less.

"The barred owl is throwing a huge monkey wrench into everything – our research and our management of the forests," Forsman says.

“To tackle this threat, Robin Bown, a federal biologist with the Oregon office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is creating a plan to "remove" barred owls as part of the just-released "revised recovery plan for the northern spotted owl."

“The agency is proposing an experiment to selectively take out barred owls, by lethal and nonlethal means, to determine if this would give the spotted owl any advantage. But that's sticking in the craw of some conservationists, birding groups and animal-rights advocates because the experiment alone could mean killing hundreds, if not thousands, of these birds.

“Wildlife officials hold out the possibility of capturing and putting the birds in captivity, but admit there aren't enough zoos and refuges for them.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Equity, Economy, Efficiency

They are the three pillars of good public administration—also described as fairness, thrift, and competency—which are necessary for it to be good in practice, and this article from the Miami Herald reports on one community’s attempt to ensure it does.

An excerpt.

“In this school of sorts, the coursework features walking tours of inner-city neighborhoods, exercises on how to balance a mock municipal budget — and a guest speaker who has pleaded guilty to charges of extortion, perjury and public-meetings violations.

“Welcome to the Good Government Initiative, an effort to improve the quality of leadership in corruption-plagued South Florida.

“At the heart of that lofty goal is this question: Can public officials be taught to avoid the mistakes of their ethics-challenged forbears — and to better serve their constituents in an often-toxic political climate?

“There’s an old saying that when the student is ready, the teacher appears,” said Katy Sorenson, the former Miami-Dade County commissioner who retired last year and founded the program. “And I think that people that are eager to learn seek that out and can learn lessons.”

“The program’s inaugural class began meeting last week. The group comprises 18 state lawmakers, county commissioners, city council and school board members in their first term or first four years in elected office in Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach counties. In eight sessions between August and November, they will cover a syllabus ranging from land use regulations to dealing with the media.

“Driving the program is the idea that elected officials — particularly rookies — can learn to ask more pointed questions, propose effective policies and work together at a regional level to tackle big problems.

“Politicians have sought the same sort of training for years through national organizations, such as the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. And local agencies, including the Miami-Dade ethics commission, teach officials about the law.

“But Sorenson’s program is the first broad effort geared at reaching out to, and fostering relationships among, local officials.

“When you run for office, you have a certain mindset,” said Juan Carlos Zapata, a former Republican state representative from Miami who spoke to the program’s students over the weekend. “And then you get elected and you realize how things really operate. Nobody really prepares you for this.”

“Sorenson, in collaboration with the University of Miami and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, created the program to fill a leadership void she saw in local politics. She met with scores of public officials to brainstorm a curriculum and reminisced about her early years in office — such as when the late Commission Chairman Arthur Teele deferred an agenda item so Sorenson could get a crash course in municipal bond financing.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Suburban Dreams

Sacramento is a suburban region, whether from the older suburbs like the Fab Forties, Woodlake, & Oak Park to the newer like Sierra Oaks, Fair Oaks, Carmichael, Rancho Cordova, Gold River, & Citrus Heights, we are a suburban region, a large part of our desirability for families and retirees.

Living in the suburbs is at the heart of the American Dream, well documented in many books, such as Sprawl: A Compact History, by Robert Bruegmann, Don’t Call it Sprawl: Metropolitan Structures in the Twenty-First Century, by William T. Bogart, and War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life, by Wendell Cox, and, from a global perspective, The City: A Global History, by Joel Kotkin, and explored regularly on the New Geography blog.

Advocating for suburban living—suburbs surround the American River Parkway—is one of our guiding principles, noted in an August 8, 2011 Press Release.

That history essentially nullifies—by long-standing public choice on where and how to live—the position of this Sacramento Bee editorial.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento County supervisors will be at a crossroads today.

“Will they stand up for their constituents and move forward with growth guidelines that will lessen traffic and air pollution and protect taxpayers?

“Or will they kowtow to their developer benefactors and put the county on a path for more costly suburban sprawl?

“After seven years of intense debate, it's decision time on the growth management strategy that will be incorporated into the county's 2030 general plan.

“The staff recommendation is the least that supervisors should do:
• The county's urban growth boundaries would stay as is, except for adding a small area known as West of Watt.

“An early draft had called for extending the urban growth area to include 12,000 acres along Jackson Highway in the south and 8,000 acres along Grant Line Road near Rancho Cordova. Opening up that much land to development was plainly ridiculous with the housing crash, and it's to their credit that most involved recognized that.
• Developers could apply to expand the growth boundaries, but to win approval, their projects would have to follow "smart growth" criteria.

“The criteria are supposed to make sure that subdivisions and other projects can be efficiently served with infrastructure and municipal services, would balance jobs and housing and would help the county comply with state laws to lower carbon emissions (AB 32) and to encourage mass transit (SB 375).

“While it would be better to stick with the original staff recommendation that listed more detailed "smart growth" measures, county planners say the current proposed framework is a "reasonable compromise" – a "flexible but credible" approach that balances competing interests and that addresses most concerns raised by the public, environmentalists and developers.”

Monday, September 19, 2011

Building a Park

This is a wonderful story from the Sacramento Bee of how a neighborhood, building upon a fortuitous infusion of tax payer supported grant funding, has been able to help create a new park.

Hopefully, given the dire situation with funds available for park maintenance, the community will be able to sustain the effort into the future, which the County currently cannot.

An excerpt.

“Not long ago, a stretch of land in the middle of a Carmichael neighborhood was largely inaccessible with its expanse of trees and brush and, of course, weeds.

“At 10 a.m. Saturday, the property between Jan and Salmaan drives will open as Carmichael's newest neighborhood park – Jan Park.

“The park, built for under $500,000, was financed in large measure by a $410,000 grant from Proposition 84, approved by state voters in 2006.

“But the park is larger than originally proposed – 13.6 acres instead of about 9 – thanks to an effort involving neighborhood residents and local donors who joined forces with the Carmichael Recreation and Park District.

"We were able to build the park and to keep it natural," said Tracy Kerth, recreation services manager for the district. "It's lovely."

“Resident Joyce Carroll, who lives less than a block from the site, said neighbors were disappointed that the district would have to sell 4.5 acres of the land to finance park creation. About 28 months ago, she said, she decided to rally neighbors to save the whole site.

“Carroll printed about 700 fliers with a proposal to "meet on my lawn." She walked the neighborhood to distribute them, she said.

“About 65 people showed up and voted to form a neighborhood association with the focus of saving the entire site for Jan Park.

“Carroll's description of the effort sounds easy. It wasn't.

"It was truly grass-roots," she said.

“A civil engineer volunteered a large share of his time to rework the original park master plan.

“The community held rummage sales.

“There were cash donations from groups such as the Active 20/30 Club of Sacramento, from individuals and from area businesses.

“The new Barrett Hills Neighborhood Association raised more than $30,000 in contributions, Carroll said, and the civil engineer invested perhaps that much more in in-kind work.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

Arizona’s State Parks & Nonprofits

Arizona nonprofits and local governments are working together to save their parks during the budget difficulties all states are facing, as reported in this article from the Arizona Republic.

An excerpt.

“In the depths of the recession, state budget cuts made it seem almost certain that the gates to many Arizona parks would remain padlocked.

“But local communities and non-profit organizations have banded together to keep 14 of the state's most financially vulnerable parks open by providing more than $820,000 to the cash-strapped Arizona State Parks agency.

“For example, the Friends of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and the towns of Payson and Star Valley are helping provide $35,000 in funding to the namesake park in Gila County.

“Through a contract with Santa Cruz County, the Tubac Historical Society is helping keep Tubac Presidio State Historic Park's doors open by providing both funding and operational support.

“Red Rock State Park in Sedona is being aided by Yavapai County and the Benefactors of Red Rock State Park.

“All but one of the state's other 13 parks remain open, albeit seasonally in some cases, because they take in enough revenue to stay in the black and fund their own operations.

“Local authorities and non-profits say they decided to cast a financial lifeline to the more vulnerable parks because they recognize their value - their rich history, intense beauty and, perhaps most importantly, their economic impact.

“Today, less than two years after major closures seemed certain, 26 of Arizona's 27 parks are open, although many have abbreviated schedules.”

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sacramento Zoo

As reported by the Sacramento Bee, it is one public facility that is enhancing its efforts rather than cutting back, and that is because it is managed by a nonprofit corporation under contract to the city, the arrangement similar to the one we are advocating for the American River Parkway.

An excerpt.

“The big animals take up a lot of space in our imaginations when we think about going to the zoo.

“But sometimes, it's the smaller animals that keep zoo visitors captivated.

“Saturday marked the grand opening of the new "Splash!" exhibit at the Sacramento Zoo, showcasing an enlarged and improved North American river otter habitat.

“As one of the zoo's oldest exhibits, the river otter den was in need of improvement, said the zoo's educational specialist, Chris Llewellyn.

"The only thing that comes from the original exhibit is the pool," Llewellyn said. "Everything else is new."

“Renovations to the river otter habitat took about three months to complete, starting in June, according to Llewellyn.

“Costing about $160,000, the project at the nonprofit zoo received significant donations from fundraisers, private donors and the companies working on the construction.

"There are so many people who have helped to make this project a reality," said Zoo Director Mary Healy, "and we are grateful to every one of them."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Global Warming Bubble Continues Deflating

As this story from the American Spectator reports.

An excerpt.

“The theory that human activity is causing potentially catastrophic global warming is not science. It is politics, driven by special interests with ideological, political and economic stakes in the theory.

“For environmentalists, global warming corresponds with the authoritarian goal at the core of their movement: repeal of the industrial revolution (which President Obama's EPA has begun to implement). For governments, it presents an opportunity to vastly expand their power and control through taxes, regulation and bureaucracy.

“The theory also presents an opportunity for the United Nations to vastly expand its power and control. As an organization of world governments who would also gain enormously from acceptance of the theory, the UN is doubly corrupted as an honest broker on the issue. Yet, perversely, governments across the globe have delegated authoritative inquiry on the issue to the UN through its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“Wily environmentalists have also successfully weaved economic stakes in the theory for some in the business community, starting with tens of billions -- growing into hundreds of billions -- of government subsidies for businesses that will pose as potential producers of the "green energy of tomorrow." This enables wily politicians to attempt to snooker voters with promises of "green jobs." Of course, those jobs would only become available if self-supporting producers of abundant low cost energy are replaced with an entire "green" industry that can survive on corporate welfare while producing unreliable high cost energy for the economy (resulting in job loss and a decline in America's standard of living).

“What is so shocking is the way formerly objective, reliable Western science has been seduced by all these interests into intellectual corruption in service of the global warming fraud (less shocking when you consider the tens of billions in "research" funding provided by the above special interests). But don't forget that scientists live and breathe in the far left environment of the academic world. Thus, many of them have social and ideological interests in advancing the global warming charade.

“The confluence of all these special interests and their money has now corrupted the broader scientific community. Formerly venerable, objective, respected scientific bodies such as the National Academy of Sciences have been taken over by politicians in scientific drag. Formerly independent scientific journals and publications have gone the same route rather than suffer the social and financial opprobrium that service to the truth will entail.

“This growing intellectual corruption is greatly magnified by our thoroughly politicized Old Media, which operates today only in service of politically correct causes. Consequently, so much of the public discussion on global warming that we see is actually "play acting," with supposed scientists, journalists, media commentators, politicians and others posing as if objective science actually demonstrates the danger of human caused global warming. One day Al Gore will receive an Oscar for his role in posing as savior of the planet, which actually reflects delusional mental illness in the man who almost became our president.

“But the politicization of Western science means the decline of Western science as well. That in turn augurs the decline of Western civilization, as objective science was a foundation of the rise of the West for centuries.

“Climate Change Reconsidered

“But real, objective science continues to flourish at little noticed work stations, offices, and independent institutes and foundations across the globe. The budding international headquarters of this worldwide counterrevolution has now flowered at the Chicago based Heartland Institute, which bravely soldiered on in devotion to real climate science when even compatriots told them objectivity on this issue was a lost cause.

“In 2009, Heartland published the 858-page Climate Change Reconsidered, a comprehensive, dispassionate, thoroughly scientific refutation of the theory that human activity is causing global warming. That served as the first answer to the quadrennial Assessment Reports of the UN's IPCC. No one is knowledgeable about the true scientific debate over global warming until they have read and analyzed this thorough publication. Play acting commentators should be challenged for their response to this report, and publicly dismissed if they have none.

“On August 29, Heartland released a 400-page follow up report titled Climate Change Reconsidered, reflecting the same thorough, objective, dispassionate analysis of the theory of global warming, and updating the science and developments. Heartland will continue the pattern of presenting full scientific alternatives to the UN's IPCC Assessment Reports (AR), planning to produce another full report in 2013 when the next IPCC AR is expected. Heartland has also sponsored annual international scientific conferences on climate change, several of which I have attended.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Saving Our Parks

As we struggle to save our parks from the ruin caused by a lack of effective management and limited public funding, the examples of other cities that have taken a new tact might be of some help, as reported by this article from City Journal.

An excerpt focusing on Central Park, a model ARPPS promotes for use by the Parkway.

“Central Park in spring may be the most glorious public space on Earth. Flowering dogwoods and lilacs scent the air as children, sprung from being cooped up all winter, pack the playgrounds. Bicyclists and runners swirl around the six-mile grand loop, battling through the steep hills of Harlem to take in the skyline views farther south. High-end food carts sell waffles and organic fare. It’s hard to believe that 30 years ago, tourists would stand on 59th Street staring north, afraid to venture into the park. New York City’s green spaces are “certainly at a modern high point,” says Adrian Benepe, commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation (who started his career in 1979 as a park ranger and thus “worked in the parks system at its low point,” too).

“But perhaps the most amazing thing about Central Park is how little tax money goes into maintaining it. Though it is still ultimately the city’s responsibility, the park has been managed since the 1980s by the nonprofit Central Park Conservancy, and it relies on private donations for most of its budget. The marriage between the city and the Conservancy has been a fruitful one. Can this model, known as a public-private partnership, restore and invigorate all of New York’s green spaces, including neighborhood parks in less affluent areas? It’s an important question, not only as the city faces tough fiscal times but as urban planners increasingly view parks as tools of economic development and public health.

“New York has always been innovative with its green spaces. Looking north from a high floor in midtown, a visitor might think that city planners carved Central Park out of the skyscrapers. But the park was there first, opening in the 1850s. As architect and urbanist Witold Rybczynski once put it, Central Park was “out of scale with the needs of the time,” but Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed it and other city parks as well, was “looking ahead and seeing that the city’s going to grow around them and they’re really going to be necessary.” The same went for playgrounds. Seeing that children needed safe spaces for exercise and imagination in an era when child labor was still widespread, New York City opened the country’s first municipally built playground in Seward Park in 1903. The city now maintains more than 1,000 playgrounds.

“These parks and playgrounds were once generously staffed. Steven Cohen, now executive director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, grew up in Brooklyn in the 1950s and 1960s and remembers that “every park of any size had a building with a ‘parkie’ in it to give out equipment” and function as “the eyes and ears of the place.” That changed during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, as the city went broke and cut its payroll. What happened next was a textbook case of the Broken Windows theory of crime: fewer “eyes and ears” and reduced park maintenance sent vandals, other criminals, and the homeless the message that no one would care if they populated the parks. At the same time, of course, New York was suffering a massive crime epidemic.

“People who lived in New York in the 1970s and early 1980s still remember how forbidding the parks were in those dark days. Douglas Blonsky, now head of the Central Park Conservancy and thus Central Park’s administrator, recalls that when he started working there in 1985, most of the benches were broken and most surfaces sported layers of graffiti. “The Great Lawn was a dust bowl,” he says, at least when the weather was dry; when it rained, seas of mud meant that “you could barely walk through the park for days.” Benepe recalls landmarks like Belvedere Castle as “burned-out shells.”

“Of course, Central Park wasn’t the total nightmare of popular imagination, with muggers around every corner. On sunny days, sunbathers used the meadows. David Beld, a competitive runner who moved to New York City in 1981 and now leads tours of Central Park, would jog around the loops. But he knew people whose bicycles had been stolen—and not in the usual way; rather, a thief would “knock a person off his bike and then steal the bike.” And this in a park that stretched through some of the country’s richest zip codes. Other parks, like those in Harlem and parts of Brooklyn and the Bronx, fared even worse, becoming so crime-ridden and overgrown that sensible parents figured that their children were better off inside watching TV.

“But where “government had given up,” Benepe says, citizens stepped in. In 1980, landscape designer Elizabeth Barlow Rogers and others founded the Central Park Conservancy, whose original purpose was to raise money, stop the park’s decline, and restore several of its major landmarks. The city eventually gave the Conservancy the lion’s share of day-to-day control of the park. Because its workers weren’t organized into public-sector unions, the Conservancy had a great deal of freedom to institute private management practices—above all, emphasizing accountability. The park is now divided into 49 sections, with a master gardener responsible for the condition of each. About 85 percent of the Conservancy’s annual budget comes from private donations, mostly from people who live within a ten-minute walk of the park. “Obviously, it’s an incredible backyard, and look what it does to your real-estate values,” says Blonsky.”

Monday, September 12, 2011

Crumbling California

What is happening to our beloved state is sad, as written about in New Geography.

An excerpt.

“The recent announcement that California's unemployment again nudged up to 12 percent—second worst in the nation behind its evil twin, Nevada—should have come as a surprise but frankly did not. From the beginning of the recession, the Golden State has been stuck bringing up a humbled nation's rear and seems mired in that less-than-illustrious position.

“What has happened to my adopted home state of over last decade is a tragedy, both for Californians and for America. For most of the past century, California has been "golden" not only in name but in every kind of superlative—a global leader in agriculture, energy, entertainment, technology, and most important of all, human aspiration.

“In its modern origins California was paean to progress in the best sense of the word. In 1872, the second president of the University of California, Daniel Coit Gilman, said science was "the mother of California." Today, California may worship at the altar of science, but increasingly in the most regressive, hysterical, and reactionary way.

“California's dominant ruling class—consisting of public-employee unions, green jihadis, and Democratic machine politicians—has no real use for science as Gilman saw it: as a way to create prosperity for its citizens. Instead, the prevailing credo of the state has been how to do everything possible to return to its pre-settlement condition, with little regard for what that means to the average Californian.

“Nowhere was California's old technological ethos more pronounced than in agriculture, where great Californians such as William Mulholland, creator of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and Pat Brown, who forged the state water project, created the greatest water-delivery system since the Roman Empire. Their effort brought water from the ice-bound Sierra Nevada mountains down to the state's dry but fertile valleys and to the great desert metropolis of Southern California. Now, largely at the behest of greens, California agriculture is being systematically cut down by regulation. In an attempt to protect a small fish called the Delta smelt, upward of 200,000 acres of prime farmland have been idled, according to the state's Department of Conservation. Even in the current "wet" cycle, California's agricultural industry, which exports roughly $14 billion annually, is slowly being decimated. Unemployment in some Central Valley towns tops 30 percent, and in cases even 40 percent.

“And now, notes my friend, Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue, green regulators are imposing new groundwater regulations that may force the shutdown of production even in areas like his that have their own ample water supplies.

“Salinas was the home town of John Steinbeck, author of The Grapes of Wrath and great chronicler of Depression-era California. Today for many in hardscrabble, majority-Latino Salinas, home to 150,000 people, The Grapes of Wrath is less lyrical than real. "California," notes Donohue, a lifelong Democrat, "remains intent on job destruction and continued hyper-regulation."

“California's pain is not restricted to farming towns. The state's regulatory vigilantes have erected a labyrinth of rules that increasingly makes doing almost anything that might contribute to increased carbon emissions—manufacturing, conventional energy, home construction—extraordinarily onerous. Not surprisingly, the state has not gained middle-skilled jobs (those requiring two years of college or more) for a decade, while the nation boosted them by 5 percent and archrival Texas by a stunning 16 percent over the same time period.”

Friday, September 09, 2011

Public Private Partnerships

These are generally very good arrangements, allowing the public sector to maintain ownership—and ultimate control—over the commons, while having the private sector, either a forprofit or nonprofit, manage it.

However, some see problems with this, but those expressed in this article from My South End in Boston, are not problems to most people, but solutions that increase public safety, which most park visitors probably applaud.

An excerpt.

“It’s lunchtime on a beautiful spring day in Boston. You sit on a bench in a park right in the middle of the city. You check out the buildings around you and marvel at how much they are worth thanks to the protected green space where you are sitting. Everyone loves this space.

“While you sit happily, enjoying the sun, it might bother you to learn that the land on which you bask is publicly owned -- but privately controlled. The City handed it to a private development group to build an underground garage topped with this park. The renowned private Friends group that keeps the park beautiful and decides who can use it is actually this for-profit development group, and their enormously profitable 1400-car garage is exempt from City property taxes, enjoying a tax break about ten times the amount of the park’s maintenance costs.

“While you ponder those troubling facts, don’t plan a protest: free speech and free assembly are prohibited in the park. Private surveillance cameras surround the park, and parents playing ball with a child, casual musicians, citizens collecting political signatures or distributing political information, groups of visitors, people wielding cameras and persons lying on benches or appearing to be asleep - don’t sit with your eyes closed sunning your face! -- may be asked to leave.

“Sound like something from George Orwell’s 1984? Or maybe you misunderstood and it’s a private garden?

“Nope. Welcome to the "public" Post Office Square Park, operated privately for the enjoyment of, well, desirable people, mainly the employees and clients of the nearby office-tower owners , and customers of the park’s up-scale cafe.

“Boston’s famed Post Office Square Park is a poster-child of public-realm philanthropy. It is a privately managed open space that has vastly enhanced the property values of its founding abutters, who otherwise faced the competition of a new tower on that site. The Park’s creators have won the trust and good will of public officials and city residents, who laud its manicured upkeep. But the City agreement anticipated $300,000 a year in profit-sharing to benefit other parks; none of that has materialized, because Park costs but not garage profits are attributed to the Friends.”