Thursday, March 31, 2011

Creative Cities Interview

The series of books by Professor Richard Florida about the allure of creative cities to creative types is very thought provoking (I own and enjoy all of them) and this interview with him from Fast Company is also.

An excerpt.

“What was the impetus for you to write The Rise of the Creative Class?

“I'd been a professor and been interested in cities all my life. Since I was a little boy growing up in New Jersey, watching Newark decline. I saw the racial riots--they really troubled me. I was interested in why this city where my dad worked in a factory; the factory closed; the neighborhood we lived in went up in flames; there were tanks, armor vehicles on the street and the National Guard. I think that had a big impact on me.

“When I was looking at college I gravitated toward urban planning and cities. And I worked in this field as a pretty conventional urban planner: economic development, understanding why cities grow, looking at investment flows, business location decisions, the use of tax incentives to move companies. About this time I began to see a shift, not only in the landscape of business, but in what people want in their cities.

“I was talking to my students at Carnegie Mellon. And they kept telling me, "It's not just that we're picking a job; we're picking a place to live." It became clear to me that the whole field of economic development and urban planning had tilted away from reality. I was seeing these trends happening and I said, "I have to write this book." What people want from a city and what is driving a city economy is very different than what I had learned. I wrote it because I was trying to talk honestly and candidly about these changes I was seeing in society, that people were telling me about, that I was seeing in the data. It didn't seem like my field was really up to talking about it.

“Why do you think the book was so successful and resonated with the business world?

“I was surprised and what people told me afterward was, "I read the book and it sort of explained me and explained my city." So I think it touched people in a very personal way--that's very odd for me, because I am writing as an academic: looking at the trends, using data, and the book is dense, filled with tables and charts. People also resonated with it because it helped them explain, not only their own personal lives, but the challenges their cities were facing.

“Now the environment is so much better. But back then many cities were much more constipated, they didn't reach out to artists, they were not really welcome to ethnically diverse groups of people or the gay and lesbian population. And those people really felt their cities didn't really recognize their talents and capabilities and they were kind of an invisible Leadership in their cities. They were building business, they were creating companies, they were building nonprofits, and they were trying to making their neighborhoods better. One man said, "As artists and creative people, what you did is give us a seat at the table."

“What does it mean to be part of the creative class today?

“I really believe we have to put the word Class back on the table. I really believe the rise of a class that works with its mind and its creativity provides a lot of power to understand the social changes and social challenges we are going through. I offer this as a lens through which to not only view the potential growth of our economy, but the potential divide. And what really worries me is that the divides I pointed to in Rise of the Creative Class and the divides I pointed to as potentially occurring have become much more significant. And those divides are fundamentally class divides in our society--I wrote about them in subsequent books, such as Flight of the Creative Class.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Public Pensions

In much of the discussion around the shortage of public funds for public service, much of the blame is laid at the feet of public pensions, but this article from The Weekly Standard reveals another case.

An excerpt.

“In March 2010, the notoriously divided Illinois legislature passed a major reform in the state’s pension plan that created a two-tier system offering decidedly less generous benefits to new hires. In response, Republicans and Democrats alike patted themselves on the back. “This bill is not window dressing,” declared senate minority leader Christine Radogno (R) in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. House speaker Michael Madigan (D), long the state’s major power-broker, agreed.

“For all the self-congratulation, the victory proved hollow. Even after the reforms, most analysts predict that Illinois’s pension system will go broke before 2020. In January, the legislature approved a 66 percent hike in the state’s income tax. While it slightly narrowed a yawning budget gap, the state’s overall budget problems remain, and the retirement system itself is hardly on stable ground.

“Illinois’s story offers a lesson to other states looking to rein in employee compensation. Quite simply, pension benefits represent a reasonably small share of overall state spending (3.4 percent in Illinois), not all states have severe long-term funding problems, and state pensions are almost impossible to reform in ways that solve current budget problems. Moreover, there’s a commonsense case that reasonably generous public sector pensions are good public policy. Pensions, in short, aren’t the main cause of state budget problems, and many political leaders trying to bring public sector compensation down ought to focus their attention elsewhere.

“Let’s start with the facts: In all, 84 percent of state and local government employees are eligible for defined benefit pensions, and all the states allow at least some workers to retire before 65. (Only 10 percent of private sector workers, heavily concentrated in a few sectors, still get defined benefit pensions.) Although the long-term nature of pension liabilities makes the numbers sound scary—the Pew Research Center has popularized the idea of a “trillion dollar” pension liability gap, and some sources come up with even higher numbers—their actual costs are a drop in the state spending bucket. A lot of revenues also roll in over the long term. Pension contributions, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, represent 2.9 percent of state expenditures, almost exactly what they were 15 years ago.

“Meaningful short-term reductions in pension-related spending require overcoming almost insurmountable obstacles. Once workers pass a “vesting date” and become eligible for pensions (most frequently after 5 years on the job and rarely more than 10), states usually cannot change promised pension benefits without a constitutional amendment. According to data compiled by the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems, 10 states, including 4 of the 5 largest, specifically protect public employee pensions in their constitutions, and in another 19, courts have ruled that other broadly worded constitutional provisions provide near-total protection for vested employee pensions. Thirteen other states provide more limited constitutional protections. In all, only 6 states—Maryland the largest among them—don’t provide clear constitutional protections for pension benefits, and, in some of them, case-law suggests that major reforms lowering existing pensions might be subject to a constitutional challenge. (One other state, Nebraska, specifically lets the legislature change pension terms.)…

“In the end, many states facing very large current budget gaps—New York, Florida, Texas, and Wisconsin among them—have pension systems that are likely capable of paying their obligations indefinitely with only minimal tweaks. Even in California, where absurdly generous public employee pensions have attracted enormous media attention, both of the major pension funds have shortages of around 10 percent that the state could cover pretty easily with some combination of economic growth, tax hikes, and service cuts, if its other fiscal problems were not so severe.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Environmentalism’s Future

It is evident in Germany—which has embraced “Green” at a level beyond other major industrialized countries—where the results are starting to be questioned, and not looking too good, in fact some are downright bad, very bad, as this article from Der Spiegel reports.

An excerpt.

“Germany is among the world leaders when it comes to taking steps to save the environment. But many of the measures are not delivering the promised results. Biofuels have led to the clear-cutting of rainforests, plastics are being burned rather than recycled and new generation lightbulbs have led to a resurgence of mercury production. A SPIEGEL survey.

“As usual, ordinary Germans were to blame. Everything had been prepared for the green revolution: fresh supplies and new signs at the gas stations, and the refinery depots were full to the brim with the new wonderfuel. But then drivers turned their backs on the new era. They didn't want to buy E10, a blend of ethanol and gasoline, even through it cost almost 10 cents less per liter than conventional gas.

"It's annoying but there's no question of stopping the sale of E10," said Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen. E10, Röttgen said with a hint of threat in his voice, was a milestone of German climate control policy.

“When it comes to the environment these days, all other interests must take a back seat, including possible engine damage from E10. After all, the United Nations has proclaimed that ensuring environmental sustainability is one of its "millennium goals," and greater importance is assigned to climate negotiations among the big industrial nations than to economic summits these days.

“All the serious political parties devote large parts of their policy programs to environmental policy. In the coalition deal between Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the pro-business Free Democrats, protecting the climate comes ahead of education and internal security in the list of policy priorities. The government is as committed to promoting the development of electric cars as it is to expanding renewable energies and protecting fish stocks in German rivers.

“There is no issue that produces such unanimity among the parties. A proposal to increase tax credits for employees led to weeks of political debate, while the 2009 European Union ban on conventional light bulbs was approved without a single debate in parliament. As soon as the word environment is mentioned in any policy initiatives, all discussion becomes redundant.

“Great Crested News and 50 Million Euros

“And no price seems too high. Germany even spends tens of millions of euros on redirecting roads or building tunnels to protect animal species. Last August, for example, a four kilometer long, €50 million tunnel was approved for a highway in the state of Hesse. The reason? A colony of great crested newts had to be protected.

“Germans usually obediently go along with environmental measures, in fact they're a model people when it comes to green living. They carefully sort their rubbish, take their bottles back to the supermarket and put their batteries in special containers. When they were told to have carbon filters fitted to their cars, they did so without complaining. And of course they're at the forefront when it comes to attaching solar panels to their roofs or insulating their homes.

“Germans only rarely question environmental policies. The light bulb ban was one example. Most didn't see the need to scrap conventional bulbs when the simplest way to save electricity was just to turn off the light. And Germans have been unusually stubborn about the biofuel E10 -- the name refers to the 10 percent ethanol admixture. They would prefer to pay a few more cents for a liter of gas than put their car engines at risk.

“Many haven't yet fully realized that E10 is an ecological swindle. People who want to help the environment shouldn't use it. Nine large European environmental associations recently conducted a joint study which concluded that the bottom line impact of the fuel on the environment is negative. Rainforests are being clear-cut in Brazil and Borneo to make room for sugarcane and oil palm cultivation. At the same time there's a shortage of arable land for food production, which is leading to the threat of famine in parts of the world. Last year, the price of grain rose sharply in the global market.

“A single full tank of bio-ethanol uses up as much grain as an adult can eat in a whole year. In order to cover the German requirement for biofuel, an arable area of around one million hectares would be needed. That is four times the size of the south-western German state of Saarland, which would need to be fertilized, treated with pesticides and intensively farmed. Environmental groups say that across Europe, farming for biofuels would create up to 56 million tons of additional greenhouse gases -- an environmental crime they say must be stopped immediately.

“Diminishing Utility

“But it's too late for that. Farming and industry have already made the conversion. Germany has devoted huge tracts of farmland to producing maize (for biogas), rapeseed (for biodiesel) and sugar beet and wheat (for biopetrol).

“Not everything that looks green serves the environment. The ecological principle of proceeding with care doesn't seem to apply to environmental policy. The more, the better, seems to be the principle. No one is calculating whether all the billions being invested in protecting the environment are actually being spent wisely. Ordinary citizens can't judge it and many experts have no interest in shedding any light on this aspect because their livelihoods are at stake.

“A large amount of money flows into studies, risk assessments and providing seals of approval. In many cases, a closer look at environmental measures reveals that they're expensive and don't have much effect. German environmental standards are so high already that it would require an enormous expense to achieve further improvements -- especially in comparison with less developed nations such as China, India or the former Eastern bloc states.

“In economics, it's called the law of diminishing marginal utility. The first glass of water you drink will help a lot to quench your thirst. The second will help a little less and so on. By the 10th glass you will be feeling unpleasantly full or even sick. That's the worst aspect: some major environmental policies aren't just ineffective -- they are counterproductive.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

78% of Water Wasted

Wasted by flowing to the ocean rather than being stored, which is a sad statement on our water policy from this article in the Sacramento Bee, and it is because we do not have the dams to capture the water when we have wet years to help us out when the dry ones come.

An excerpt.

“In its editorial criticizing House Republicans, The Bee recently suggested that current management of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is without controversy or is somehow the result of a collective best practice. However, existing California water policy is neither "nuanced" nor "balanced," nor is it so complicated as to defy the comprehension of mere mortals who live, work and vote in the Golden State. Radical environmentalists and their allies in government prefer to speak using these terms to deflect attention from the truth.

“Today, 78 percent of all water entering the Delta is flushed out to the ocean, depriving California of enormous amounts of fresh water that could help restore the state's economic vitality. Yet despite all of this lost water, a preliminary report by the Delta Stewardship Council suggests some species may not recover and, according to the EPA, more species are in danger, not fewer. This represents overwhelming indictment of the junk science used to justify nearly two decades of water diversions.

“The science used by Delta regulators is so bad that a federal judge recently ruled against the government in a landmark lawsuit. Yet the environmental left continues to wage a merciless attack on water users - particularly San Joaquin Valley farmers. They are shamelessly using debunked science to advocate the forced retirement of 1.3 million acres of farmland - a land mass nearly three times as large as the state of Rhode Island.”

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Parks Confusion

Confusing the future (park innovation) with the past (park stagnation) the Sacramento Bee editorial today misreads the good that occurred this week when Gibson Ranch Park was allowed to reopen after a lease was approved with a forprofit organization led by a long-time public servant strongly supported by the adjacent community of long-time park users.

An excerpt.

“The deal is done.

“County supervisors have turned over a public park to a private developer.

“For a mere $1, Doug Ose will get to run Gibson Ranch for 10 years.

“For weeks, it was clear there was little way of stopping supervisors from pursuing "this laboratory of experimentation." Ose is tight with several of the supervisors, and has helped fund some of their campaigns.

“Ose also had the backing of a group of equestrians who – while they genuinely care for Gibson Ranch and are rightly angered by the county's neglect and mismanagement of this park – have a narrow self-interest in the outcome. They want to maintain a cheap place to board their horses.

“Since Ose was willing to deliver this promise, they are willing to overlook his plans for transforming much of Gibson Ranch into profit-making ventures.

“We had hoped that open space advocates who value the tradition of publicly owned parks, open to all, would press supervisors to consider other options.

“Sadly, not enough did. Many are busy tending to parks in their neighborhoods, which is understandable. But when the lifeguards are missing, the sharks move in, as the cartoon on this page illustrates.

“Although there is no turning back now, there is still a need for parks advocates to pay attention to Ose's ongoing plans.”

Friday, March 25, 2011

California Demographics

They show a changing of the reality than we have been used to over the past several decades, and that is a very good thing in a world where growth defines prosperity, as this article from Forbes Magazine reports.

An except.

“The newly released Census reports reveal that California faces a profound gap between the cities where people are moving to and the cities that hold all the political power. It is a tale that divides the state between its coastal metropolitan regions that dominate the state’s politics — particularly the San Francisco Bay Area, but also Los Angeles — and its still-growing, largely powerless interior regions.

“Indeed, the “progressives” of the coast are fundamentally anti-growth, less concerned with promoting broad-based economic growth — despite 12.5% statewide unemployment — than in preserving the privileges of their sponsors among public sector unions and generally affluent environmentalists. This could breed a big conflict between the coastal idealists and the working class and increasingly Latino residents in the more hardscrabble interior, whose economic realities are largely ignored by the state’s government.

“The Census shows that the Bay Area and Los Angeles are growing at their slowest rate in over 160 years under American rule. Between 2000 and 2010 Los Angeles gained less population than in any decade since the 1890s. Its growth rate was slower than metropolitan Chicago, St. Louis and virtually every region that has reported to date, with the exception of New Orleans.

“This reflects not only the poor economy of the past few years, but also a widely cited drop-off in foreign immigration and continued massive outmigration of residents to other states. One reason for this mass exodus may be soaring house prices — largely the product of strong regulatory restraints — which appear to have contributed to slowing population growth after 2003.

“Yet not all of California is stagnating demographically. The state’s interior region — what I call “The Third California” — is growing steadily. While Orange County, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and the Silicon Valley increased their population by only 6% or less over the last decade, inland areas such as Riverside-San Bernardino, Sacramento and the Central Valley saw growth of 20% or more. Overall, the interior counties together gained 2 million residents, roughly twice as many as the combined coastal metropolitan areas.”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gibson Ranch to Open!

A great outcome in this innovative way to provide for Gibson Ranch Park and perhaps a way forward for the other parks in our region suffering from lack of funding and dedicated management.

Congratulations to all involved: Doug Ose for a great proposal, the Dry Creek Parkway Advisory Committee, the County Parks Commission and the County Parks Department, for seeing the potential and supporting the plan, for the County Board of Supervisors who helped create a great final product which they approved unanimously, and most of all, for the many residents of the communities adjacent to Gibson Ranch who came out in force to advocate for their beloved park.

Here is an excerpt from the Sacramento Bee article.

“Sacramento County supervisors approved an agreement Wednesday that will give developer and former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose control of Gibson Ranch.

“Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of the 10-year lease. Ose will lease the park for $1 a year and be able to charge the public for a variety of services. Any profit will eventually be split with the county. The county will pay $100,000 a year on deferred maintenance for five years.

“Ose plans to reopen Gibson Ranch on April 1. The park was closed last year due to budget cuts.

“Before supervisors voted, Ose told the board that he had booked a long list of events for this year at the 350-acre park near Elverta. A Civil War re-enactment, birthdays, weddings, running events, fireworks, an Easter egg hunt and more are planned, he said.

"I could go on and on with all kinds of things people are ready for at Gibson Ranch, and I can deliver," Ose said.

“The park will be open for horse riding, hiking, picnics and other uses.

“The board directed county officials to negotiate with Ose in December. There were some disagreements about whether he would have to get additional approval for some new projects.

“But Ose and county officials eventually agreed that proposals that potentially would conflict with the county's long-term plan for the park would have to get future approval from two advisory boards and supervisors.

“With once-controversial ideas such as an RV park and a pet motel not immediately under consideration, Ose's plan received a warmer welcome than it did last year, when both advisory boards and county staff opposed it.

“Supervisors did learn that there was some opposition to one part of his plan: a tree farm. An advisory board considered a motion to reject that idea, but the vote failed.

“Ose said he is considering a farm for Christmas trees and trees for new development, among other things.

"If you strip down to the basics of the problems at Gibson Ranch, we don't have enough revenues," he said.

“Supervisor Phil Serna, who was the only board member to oppose the plan in December, switched his vote Wednesday. He said it was the right decision then to call for the county to open up the process for other parties interested in running the park.

“Now that the county had decided to negotiate only with Ose, Serna said he was willing to support the project. He was able to get the board to include some provisions, including that Ose will bring the tree farm idea back for informal review when he's ready to start it.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gibson Ranch Needs to Open

Though the vote was delayed until today, as reported by this article in the Sacramento Bee, the most important thing to remember about this whole process is that the communities adjacent to Gibson Ranch want their park back and Doug Ose has presented the only plan to accomplish that.

His plan is supported by our organization, American River Parkway Preservation Society, as noted in our January 5, 2011 Press Release on our website’s news page.

The opposition meanwhile, comes from other communities not adjacent to Gibson Ranch, and seems to be based on an organized attempt to raise taxes to pay for regional parks, which will suffer if Gibson Ranch is no longer part of their tax increase scheme.

Support the Ose proposal, and open Gibson Ranch.

An excerpt from the Bee article

“For the second time, Sacramento County supervisors have delayed a vote on a proposal that would give developer and former congressman Doug Ose control of Gibson Ranch.

“On Tuesday, supervisors decided they would vote on the plan today at 2 p.m. They held off because details of the proposed lease weren't made public until late Sunday, Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan said.

“The decision was put off earlier this month because the county and Ose couldn't reach a tentative agreement to bring to supervisors.

“About 25 supporters of Ose's project showed up Tuesday, wearing bright-yellow buttons exhorting supervisors to "Get'r Done." Many of the supporters are horse riders, and they're eager to have the park reopened for riding.

“A budget shortfall led the county to close Gibson Ranch last year, with supervisors voting in December to start negotiations with Ose to reopen the park as a for-profit business.

“County officials said they initially couldn't get Ose to agree that he would need additional approval from two county advisory boards and supervisors should he want to add major projects to the ranch.

“Ose eventually relented, and the two advisory boards, which were previously opposed to his plan, have given it their blessing.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Population Growth & Utilities

This Harvard Business School conference looked at the needs a few decades down the road, and the option of public/private partnerships was central.

An excerpt.

“By 2050, the Earth's population will likely exceed 9 billion people, up 30 percent from 6.9 billion today, according to projections from both the US Census Bureau and the United Nations. What's more, the population in the world's cities is expected to increase by 3 billion.

“With those sobering numbers in mind, several of the planet's top city planning and environmental business experts gathered at Harvard Business School earlier this month to discuss how to support the inevitable population growth. The conference—titled "Investing in Cities of the 21st Century: Urbanization, Infrastructure, and Resources"—tackled three giant subjects: water, energy, and transportation. The conference was sponsored by Harvard Business School's Business and Environment Initiative and co-chaired by professors Rebecca M. Henderson, John D. Macomber, and Forest L. Reinhardt.

“Water planning gets short shrift

“In terms of urban planning, "water is often planned last and gets short shrift," said John Briscoe, a professor at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, who participated in a panel a session dedicated to water. "Water is absolutely the poor cousin of the utilities."

“For starters, panelists talked about how the majority of the world's controlled water resources are dedicated to agriculture, leaving precious little for drinking, cooking, and bathing. (It's a subject complicated by climate change; wonky weather patterns have made it that much harder to predict rain and droughts.)

"The next big revolution is going to have to happen in food production," said Anand Shah, CEO of Piramal Water Private Limited, a for-profit start-up that provides clean drinking water to more than 64,000 rural villagers in India. The company uses a franchise model in which local entrepreneurs filter and sell water to members of their community. "In India, 87 percent of water is used for agriculture, and another 6 percent is for industry."

“The panelists also discussed the idea that relative to other utilities, water is very cheap in most cities, suggesting that charging more to city residents would make them realize that it is a valuable—and not infinite—resource. The possibility of profit would also encourage more participation from the private sector.

“This raised the question of how to persuade urban residents that price increases might be necessary to support the burgeoning population—and how to make them understand that public-private partnerships might make sense to expedite allocation.

"There has to be someone at the top who says, ‘This will be good for the city‘—and who will make sure it isn't corrupt," said Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala (HBS MBA 1987), chairman and CEO of Ayala Corporation, one of the largest business conglomerates in the Philippines, a nation that recently started relying on public-private partnerships for water filtration and distribution.”

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tent City

Our organization does not have an organizational opinion on the tent city concept in general, except for the obvious one, that society should not reward choices individuals make which lead to public behavior it deems problematic, as that will encourage that behavior; and at a certain level, most of the behaviors that lead to homelessness--excepting perhaps mental illness and external economic conditions--are a result of individual choices.

However, we strongly advocate that any tent city that Sacramento might approve, as this article in the Sacramento Bee today notes, not be placed near or in the American River Parkway, as we’ve posted on previously, here, here, and here, and as is now the case where an unapproved tent city has been in the Parkway, moving when compelled to another area of the Parkway, for several weeks.

An excerpt.

“SEATTLE – This winter, 68 homeless men and women settled into an organized camp in a leafy hillside neighborhood of this city. The flaps of their colorful tents were mere feet from five-bedroom homes worth more than $700,000.

“Not far away, another camp set up in and around an old city firehouse, was two blocks from the rush-hour buzz of an avenue packed with restaurants and yoga studios. A third took shape across the street from City Hall in Kirkland, a lakeside enclave east of Seattle that is one of Washington's more affluent communities.

“It took years to get here, but tent cities for the homeless are now enmeshed in the fabric of the greater Seattle community. Nearly 300 men and women are living in the region's three tent cities under the gray winter skies of the Pacific Northwest. The camps, which rely on food donated by churches, relocate every three months or so. And with each rotation, the protests to their existence fade.

“Could this be Sacramento's future?

“After years of debate, Sacramento homeless advocates and City Hall are closing in on a proposal for a sanctioned tent city.

“Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said last week that he is frustrated that a plan has not materialized. He said a tent city could provide a place for the homeless to transition into permanent housing and "integrate back into mainstream society."

“The biggest hurdle so far has been concerns over where the camp would be located. Critics also warn that creating a sanctioned camp would attract and enable the homeless.

“The tent city movement in Seattle was launched amid similar division. And while resistance has dimmed, it wasn't always easy.

“The first tent city sprouted in Seattle in 1990, but faced with opposition, it morphed into a church-run shelter. Another camp followed but was flattened by bulldozers in 1998.

“Eventually, advocates cut deals with local officials that allowed two camps to operate on a rotating basis – but that was more than a decade into the debate.

“Now, two decades into the effort, city officials – and many residents – see the camps as a sign of progress rather than a source of problems.

"We are a more compassionate city because of this," said Kirkland Mayor Joan McBride, "and we have a better idea of what the downturn in our economy has meant because it's right in front of us."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sacramento’s Flood Prevention Strategy

Writing as someone who lives in the flood zone, I hope the efforts of those who manage Sacramento’s flood protection tools are successful through this very wet period, as reported in today’s Sacramento Bee; but the over-all strategy has been flawed for some time, as the Sacramento solution has long been raising Shasta and building the Auburn Dam, as we have posted on before.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“The relentless wet weather has pushed flood concerns to their highest level yet in Northern California this winter, with two dozen major river segments now at "monitor" stage.

“The city of Sacramento early Friday closed a floodgate on Del Paso Boulevard to keep the rising American River from flooding the road. It was the first time any city floodgates have been closed since the wet winter of 2006.

“Spokeswoman Linda Tucker said the city did not expect to close more floodgates, which are designed to keep the American River from backing up into the city when it swells. The gates close gaps in levees that are normally open to traffic.

“The river also flooded Discovery Park and portions of the American River Parkway bike path.

“Increased water releases from a number of area reservoirs also pushed up the Sacramento River. It spilled into the Yolo Bypass and is expected to continue doing so well into next week. Portions of county Road 22 were closed for flooding.

“The Sacramento River also began to flood the backyards of riverfront homes on Garden Highway in Sacramento's Natomas region. Some of those homes, which are built on the water side of the levee, have ground-level structures that flooded.

"There are dozens and dozens of houses that have their garages flooded right now," said Doug Cummings, a Garden Highway resident. "I would say most people are being flooded by about 1-foot depth of water."

“Flood-control officials say they do not expect serious problems with continued rainfall this weekend. But they are keeping a close eye on the weather because most area reservoirs are full after a wet winter, and the ground is deeply saturated.

“Shasta and Oroville reservoirs on Friday boosted their water releases to 35,000 cubic feet per second – the highest levels so far this winter.

“The Feather and Yuba rivers are both projected to reach monitor stage this weekend.

“The Sacramento River will be at monitor stage at a number of locations, and is expected to exceed flood stage slightly at Tehama Bridge near Red Bluff – a low-lying area without levees that is often the first to flood.

“In Sacramento, the Sacramento River at I Street Bridge is projected to reach monitor stage about 2 p.m. Sunday – the highest water at that location since 2006.

“The river also is projected to reach monitor stage at Rio Vista on Sunday. With high winds also expected, this raises concern about erosion danger to levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

"The weekend looks pretty wet, and the reservoirs are basically all flirting with encroachment into their flood-control space," said Jon Ericson, chief of the hydrology branch at the California Department of Water Resources. "Everyone's very concerned about inflows and maintaining that flood-control space."

“Flooding on local and urban streams is a bigger concern over the weekend.”

Friday, March 18, 2011


For Immediate Release March 18, 2011 Sacramento, California


Supervisor Phil Serna

The award was presented to Phil during the North Sacramento Chamber of Commerce luncheon March 17, 2011 at Enotria by ARPPS President Michael Rushford & Bob Slobe.

Phil is the Sacramento County Supervisor for District 1, elected with over 70% of the vote in his first elected office.

District 1 is the site of the most impacted area of the Parkway from illegal camping by the homeless, which for the past 25 years has caused great environmental destruction, a drastic lowering of public safety, and the virtual holding hostage of the residents of the adjacent neighborhoods to safely use their part of the Parkway.

Supervisor Serna has taken a clear stand to protect the Parkway from the corrosive impact of illegal camping while retaining a compassionate stand to help the homeless.

His voluntary charitable experience, as a member of the board of directors of Cottage Housing, which provides a clean and sober environment—enforced through drug testing—in the residential housing complexes it operates, amplifies his commitment.

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

“Much has been reported in recent days regarding the situation along the lower reach of the American River Parkway. Unfortunately, there's been a predictable attempt by some to hijack public attention to narrowly advocate their cause instead of acknowledging the complexities of the situation.

“Dealing with those complexities and seeking solutions is the responsibility of your local elected officials. As one of them, I've made every effort during the past three weeks to thoughtfully and compassionately address the issue of illegal camping, public safety, environmental impact and homelessness. Admittedly, it is not an easy thing to do 50 days into the job.

“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.”

We are very happy to award this level of commitment by Supervisor Phil Serna to one of the finest urban recreational areas in the country.

Organizational Leadership
American River Parkway Preservation Society
Sacramento, California
March 17, 2011

Contact Information

David H. Lukenbill, Senior Policy Director
American River Parkway Preservation Society
2267 University Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95825
P: 916-486-3856 E:
W: B:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Environmentalism as a Religion

Because the roots of the modern environmental movement, which has caused so much economic destruction, are in California, so well written about by Alston Chase in his seminal books Playing God in Yellowstone and In a Dark Wood—it is helpful to re-examine those roots occasionally.

The essential cosmology undergirding and driving environmentalists developed and grew in California.

Though of ancient Gnostic roots—the primal Christian heresy—which concluded in the expression of its organized faithful, that everything is sacred save modern humanity and most particularly modern humanity shaping and controlling the environment by building dams, skyscrapers, roads and housing.

The ideal for the California Cosmologists—immortalized by Chase who reveals their relentless drive to dominate human activity under the rubric of organic unity—is that nature is allowed freedom and humanity keeps out of the way.

Heaven is that future world where all the rivers run free, flooding being a natural occurrence humans allow and stay away from; all gardens become jungles and the very rocks have their voice.

A perusal of the platform of the Foundation for Deep Ecology, a foundational think tank of the modern environmental movement headquartered in Sausalito, California, reveals the philosophical/theological base.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Didion and Water

Sacramento native Joan Didion loves water and the technology surrounding it.

In the essay Holy Water, from her marvelous 1979 book I just re-purchased, having given away or lost my original copy years ago, The White Album, she writes about moving water around California.

An excerpt.

“In practice this requires prodigious coordination, precision, and the best efforts of several human minds and that of a Univac 418. In practice it might be necessary to hold large flows of water for power production, or to flush out encroaching salinity in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the most ecologically sensitive point on the system. In practice a sudden rain might obviate the need for a delivery when that delivery is already on its way...It takes perhaps another six days to move this same water down the California Aqueduct from the Delta to the Tehachapi and put it over the hill to Southern California. “Putting some over the hill” is what they say around the Project Operations Control Center when they want to indicate that they are pumping Aqueduct water from the floor of the San Joaquin Valley up and over the Tehachapi Mountains. “Pulling it down” is what they say when they want to indicate that they are lowering a water level somewhere in the system...”LET’S START DRAINING QUAIL AT 12:00” was the 10:51 A. M. entry on the electronically recorded communications log the day I visited the Operations Control Center. “Quail” is a reservoir in Los Angeles County with a gross capacity of 1,636,018,000 gallons. “OK” was the response recorded in the log. I knew at that moment that I had missed the only vocation for which I had any instinctive affinity: I wanted to drain Quail myself. (pp. 61-62)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nuclear Power & Earthquakes

With the concern around the issue of the Japanese nuclear reactors as a result of the massive earthquake, it is helpful to be reminded of the actual danger, as this article from the Wall Street Journal does.

An excerpt.

“Even while thousands of people are reported dead or missing, whole neighborhoods lie in ruins, and gas and oil fires rage out of control, press coverage of the Japanese earthquake has quickly settled on the troubles at two nuclear reactors as the center of the catastrophe.

“Rep. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), a longtime opponent of nuclear power, has warned of "another Chernobyl" and predicted "the same thing could happen here." In response, he has called for an immediate suspension of licensing procedures for the Westinghouse AP1000, a "Generation III" reactor that has been laboring through design review at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for seven years.

“Before we respond with such panic, though, it would be useful to review exactly what is happening in Japan and what we have to fear from it.

“The core of a nuclear reactor operates at about 550 degrees Fahrenheit, well below the temperature of a coal furnace and only slightly hotter than a kitchen oven. If anything unusual occurs, the control rods immediately drop, shutting off the nuclear reaction. You can't have a "runaway reactor," nor can a reactor explode like a nuclear bomb. A commercial reactor is to a bomb what Vaseline is to napalm. Although both are made from petroleum jelly, only one of them has potentially explosive material.

“Once the reactor has shut down, there remains "decay heat" from traces of other radioactive isotopes. This can take more than a week to cool down, and the rods must be continually bathed in cooling waters to keep them from overheating.

“On all Generation II reactors—the ones currently in operation—the cooling water is circulated by electric pumps. The new Generation III reactors such as the AP1000 have a simplified "passive" cooling system where the water circulates by natural convection with no pumping required.

“If the pumps are knocked out in a Generation II reactor—as they were at Fukushima Daiichi by the tsunami—the water in the cooling system can overheat and evaporate. The resulting steam increases internal pressure that must be vented. There was a small release of radioactive steam at Three Mile Island in 1979, and there have also been a few releases at Fukushima Daiichi. These produce radiation at about the level of one dental X-ray in the immediate vicinity and quickly dissipate.

“If the coolant continues to evaporate, the water level can fall below the level of the fuel rods, exposing them. This will cause a meltdown, meaning the fuel rods melt to the bottom of the steel pressure vessel.

“Early speculation was that in a case like this the fuel might continue melting right through the steel and perhaps even through the concrete containment structure—the so-called China syndrome, where the fuel would melt all the way to China. But Three Mile Island proved this doesn't happen. The melted fuel rods simply aren't hot enough to melt steel or concrete.”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gibson Ranch

Hopefully the ongoing negotiations, reported in yesterday's Sacramento Bee, will not disturb the plans former Congressman Ose has for the Ranch—nor lead to the process called for in today’s Sacramento Bee editorial—either of which would ruin what is an excellent plan.

The Ose group’s work will rejuvenate funding and maintenance, enhance the recreational base, and restore the historical Gibson Ranch Park to the community status the adjacent neighborhoods deserve.

The Open Gibson Ranch petition has, as of 9:00 AM today, 1,122 signatures, and a perusal of the comments reveals the very positive mood of the adjacent neighborhoods to the Ose Proposal.

An excerpt from yesterday's article in the Sacramento Bee.

“Sacramento County officials and developer Doug Ose are struggling to come to an agreement to turn over historic Gibson Ranch to the former congressman as a for-profit enterprise.

“While both sides say they're optimistic they will reach an agreement, the Tuesday due date to bring a proposal to supervisors has been moved to March 22.

“Ose said some county officials need to adopt new thinking about the 350-acre park near Elverta.

“The county's master plan for the park lays out a vision of an early-California working ranch. But critics say Ose has proposed additions, such as a skateboard park (now discarded) and a pet motel, that clash with the county plan.

"Preserving the character of the park, consistent with what was offered prior to (the park's closing) Aug. 1, doesn't work financially," Ose said.

“Sacramento County Regional Parks Director Janet Baker said Ose originally wanted to be able to make additions to the park without approval from supervisors and two other county boards. She said any proposals not included in the park's long-term plan would have to receive such approvals.

“Recently, Ose agreed that any new building at the ranch would have to receive additional approvals, Baker said.

“The need for such approvals was part of an agreement made when the county and Ose started negotiations, said Interim County Administrator Steve Szalay. He said he's not willing to change the requirement.”

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Helping Reduce Poverty Wisely

In the ongoing discussions around how to remove the large-scale illegal camping in the Parkway, and how to help the homeless in general, a crucial element is how to help people help themselves.

The Philanthropy Roundtable published a book in 2005 addressing this, “Helping People to Help Themselves: A Guide for Donors”, (free print or download) which helps donors determine what programs they can support who will have success helping others.

An excerpt from the introduction.

“From the wealth generated by Americans, tens of billions of dollars a year are donated through the private sector to relieve suffering. But the very size and complexity of these efforts can be daunting to donors. Thos who want to ensure their aid is as effective as possible want to find and support the best poverty-fighting programs, knowing that much well-intentioned giving has little to show for its benevolence. But finding the best can be difficult.

“While this book does not claim to be exhaustive in detailing all that is being done to assist the poor, it does sketch out several critical, overarching principles that funders should bear in mind…

"First, respect the dignity of the poor by recognizing the role that personal responsibility must play in their lives. The ideal is to help people to help themselves, and to avoid a situation in which the poor end up dependent on public or private programs. Challenging the poor to take responsibility for their lives is also a challenge to donors, who can be tempted to focus on their own good intentions rather than the long-term prospects of those they seek to help. (pp. 6-7)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Slobe Interview

Capital Public Radio interviewed Bob Slobe about his recent article in the Sacramento News & Review about the illegal cmaping in the American River Parkway.

It is an excellent interview which starts at about 14 minutes in, running for about 10 minutes.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Suburbs Still Rule III

The new census demographics continue to demonstrate the love Americans have for suburban living, which they continue to gravitate to, as this article from New Geography reports.

An excerpt.

“The ongoing Census reveals the continuing evolution of America’s cities from small urban cores to dispersed, multi-polar regions that includes the city’s surrounding areas and suburbs. This is not exactly what most urban pundits, and journalists covering cities, would like to see, but the reality is there for anyone who reads the numbers.

“To date the Census shows that growth in America’s large core cities has slowed, and in some cases even reversed. This has happened both in great urban centers such as Chicago and in the long-distressed inner cities of St. Louis, Baltimore, Wilmington, Del., and Birmingham, Ala.

“This would surely come as a surprise to many reporters infatuated with growth in downtown districts, notably in Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver and elsewhere. For them, good restaurants, bars and clubs trump everything. A recent Newsweek article, for example, recently acknowledged Chicago’s demographic and fiscal decline but then lavishly praised the city, and its inner city for becoming “finally hip.”

“Sure, being cool is nice, but the obsession with hipness often means missing a bigger story: the gradual diminution of the urban core as engines for job creation. For example, while Chicago’s Loop has doubled its population to 20,000, it has also experienced a large drop in private-sector employment, which now constitutes a considerably smaller share of regional employment than a decade ago. The same goes for the new urbanist mecca of Portland as well as the heavily hyped Los Angeles downtown area.

“None of this suggests, however, that the American urban core is in a state of permanent decline. The urban option will continue to appeal to small but growing segment of the population, and certain highly paid professionals, notably in finance, will continue to cluster there.

“But the bigger story — all but ignored by the mainstream media — is the continued evolution of urban regions toward a more dispersed, multi-centered form. Brookings’ Robert Lang has gone even further, using the term “edgeless cities” to describe what he calls an increasingly “elusive metropolis” with highly dispersed employment.

“Rather than a cause for alarm, this form of development simply reflects the protean vitality of American urban forms. Two regions, whose results were released last week, reveal these changing patterns. One is the Raleigh region, which has experienced a growth rate of 42%, likely the highest of the nation’s regions with a population over 1 million. This metropolitan area, anchored by universities and technology-oriented industries, is among the lowest-density regions in the country, with under 1,700 persons per square mile, slightly less than Charlotte, Nashville and Atlanta.”

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Property & Environment Research Center

I have been reading their articles, and posting them on our blog, for several years now, and this article is a look back over their many years working with enviropreneurs—great word, great concept—and this article notes some history.

An excerpt.

“Ten years ago, PERC embarked on a journey that would indelibly impact the lives of many environmentalists, as well as the face and direction of our organization. The idea was borne out of PERC’s passion to bring management principles, economics, property rights, and markets to the environmental movement. PERC’s Enviropreneur™ Institute, formerly known as the Kinship Conservation Institute, is the embodiment of that vision and is now entering its eleventh year. The breadth of interests and organizations represented in the ten incantations of the Institute show a dedication and purpose to environmental conservation and liberty not likely equaled anywhere else in the world. Indeed, the sun never sets on the Enviropreneur Empire!

“As the retiring director of the Institute, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the past and future of this highenergy, hands-on, and often life-changing program. But first thing's first: What exactly is an enviropreneur? It is an entrepreneur who makes environmental assets out of environmental problems. An enviropreneur sees an opportunity where others see waste. An enviropreneur sees a chance to do well while doing good. But how does this all come about?


“So you have spent the past 15 years working a somewhat, but not completely, satisfying job for an environmental organization, when suddenly, you find yourself in Bozeman, Montana, with some group called PERC. Here you greet your fellow enviropreneurs, and before you know it, you’re in a van heading toward the Gallatin Mountains. You are stunned by the simple beauty of the green landscape and the stark contrast of snow-capped peaks in all directions. “Is this real?” you ask yourself, as if the 5,000 foot elevation has you seeing things.

“You head into a canyon that looks like a movie set from A River Runs Through It. You cross the Gallatin River and veer off onto a dirt road—your second thoughts turning to thirds and fourths. You crest a hill to find hundreds of bison roaming on a field of green that runs for miles until it hits the sky. You are now on Ted Turner’s 114,000-acre Flying D Ranch.

“It is here, at a place called Cow Camp, where you spend the next four days with 15 other enviropreneurs, many of whom you develop relationships with that will last your entire career. You rise early to scope for elk, participate in one-on-one discussions with other environmental entrepreneurs, listen to lectures from an array of environmental scholars and business leaders, and take part in honest discussion with your peers on how to make environmental entrepreneurship a reality. As night falls, you crash in your bed as the coyotes howl nearby.”

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Abundant Water as a Goal

It seems strange to have to actually say it, but much of the water policy in the United States for a very long time has not focused on having abundant water, but restricting its use; and it is very heartening to have a local congressional representative begin to change the dialogue and having the legislative position to lead that change.

An excerpt from Congressman Tom McClintock’s opening statement to the Water & Power Sub-Committee he chairs.

Oversight Hearing on “Examining the Spending, Priorities and the Missions of the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Water Resources Program

“With today’s hearing, the Water and Power Sub-Committee will begin the process of restoring abundance as the principal objective of America’s Federal water and power policy. We meet today to receive testimony from the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Service on their plans for the coming year. We do so in conjunction with our responsibility under the Federal Budget Act to provide guidance to the House Budget Committee as it prepares the 2012 budget and with our responsibility under House Resolution 72 to identify regulations and practices of the government that are impeding job creation and burdening economic growth.

“In my opinion, all of these hearings and all of the actions stemming from them must be focused on developing the vast water and hydro-electric resources in our nation. The failure of the last generation to keep pace with our water and power needs has caused chronic water shortages and skyrocketing electricity prices that are causing serious economic harm.

“In addition, willful policies that have deliberately misallocated our resources must be reversed.

“California’s Central Valley, where 200 billion gallons of water were deliberately diverted away from vital agriculture for the enjoyment and amusement of the 2-inch Delta Smelt is a case in point. These water diversions have destroyed a quarter million acres of the most fertile farmland in America, thrown tens of thousands of farm families into unemployment and impacted fruit, vegetable and nut prices in grocery stores across America.

“In Northern Arizona, 1,000 megawatts of hydroelectricity – enough to power a million homes – has been lost due to environmental mandates for the humpback chub.

“In the Klamath, the federal government is seeking to destroy four perfectly good hydroelectric dams at the cost of more than a half billion dollars at a time when we can’t guarantee enough electricity to keep refrigerators running this summer. The rationale is to save the salmon, but the same proposal would close the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery that produces 5 million salmon smolt each year.”

Monday, March 07, 2011

Cleaning Up the Parkway

While it is admirable that volunteers are willing to go into the Parkway and clean up abandoned camps of the homeless illegal campers—as reported by the Sacramento Bee, it is tragic that there is such large-scale illegal camping that volunteers have to be called in to clean up.

As with many social problems, the solution is to work on the front end, rather than the back end.

In this case that would be enforcing the laws against illegal camping in the Parkway—and strong advocacy from Parkway advocacy organizations, other than ARPPS, to do so has not been forthcoming over the past 25 years—rather than cleaning up after illegal campers.

An excerpt.

“Dozens of volunteers organized by the American River Parkway Foundation are out working to clean up abandoned homeless encampments along the river this morning.

“The foundation, dedicated to fostering stewardship of the river, is conducting the cleanup from mile 1 to mile 3 on the parkway, in the Northgate area, "to make sure that families and neighbors can come to this area," according to Dianna Poggetto, executive director of the group.

“More than 30 volunteers were conducting the cleanup from 9 a.m. to noon.

“In many cases, the repeated shifting of camps has resulted in debris left behind that may get into the water supply, Poggetto said.

“In addition, some people have been cutting vegetation for fires.”

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Illegal Camping in the Parkway

The contrast between this article in today’s Sacramento Bee and the one by Bob Slobe in this week’s Sacramento News & Review, which we posted yesterday, is remarkable.

What is also remarkable is how little public leadership—excepting County Supervisor Phil Serna—and Parkway advocacy groups, other than us, are making a public stand protecting the Parkway, rather than, by their silence, the illegal campers.

No one is against the truly homeless (Sacramentans care for and pray for their suffering to cease, offering significant help to ensure that) but all of us have a stake in ensuring public safety and environmental protection in the Parkway, and that leadership is in all too short of a supply these past many years.

An excerpt from today’s Bee article.

“Past a Boy Scout camp off busy Highway 160, veering away from the American River into forests of wild fennel, primary-color tents stood propped beneath willow trees kissed by spring.

“Two Sacramento County park rangers made their way along dirt trails attaching a flier to each tent with blue painter's tape.

"Oh, just give it to me," said JoAnne Bush when they came upon her spot beneath a tree split by lightning. Then she tossed aside the notice that gave her 48 hours to move on.

“It was another day in the transitory life of Safe Ground Sacramento, people for whom the most important information is what the weather will bring and how long they might stay in one place.

“The loosely organized group of homeless people who camp together for safety, and increasingly for homeless advocacy, has been under pressure in recent weeks to move off the north-of-downtown stretch of the American River Parkway because of complaints from area residents and bicycle trail users.

"We've moved three times in the last two weeks," a tearful Peggysue Peterson said to no one in particular. "Do we not have a right to live?"

“Dusk settled over the camp on this recent night as those who had received the notices discussed what to do. A dog chased a jack rabbit through camp and out again. A man ate a frozen pizza from the package.

“Peterson, 47, came to Sacramento from Spokane, Wash. She said she spent three months with family, then ended up in a sleeping bag in front of the Union Gospel Mission.

"My sisters and I are like oil and water," she explained.

“Rickey Edwards, 42, is an Air Force veteran who carried gold panning equipment and said he suffers from bipolar disorder.

“Dale Jones, 56, grew up in Detroit and ran away from institutions deeming him incorrigible.

“They all see Safe Ground – which bans drugs, alcohol and violence – as a respite from the loneliness of homelessness. But, as an organized group, they have been targeted, along with other illegal campers, by those who want homeless people off the parkway.”

Friday, March 04, 2011

Homeless Advocates & the Parkway

In an excellent article in the Sacramento News & Review, Bob Slobe, for whom our Parkway Advocate Award is named and who has more standing to discuss this issue perhaps than anyone else in the region, as the Parkway land in question once belonged to his family and he has been advocating for public safety and taking care of the Parkway for some 25 years now, writes about the current situation.

An excerpt.

"The very first thing a poor North Sacramentan thinks when considering a walk or hike or boat-fishing outing in our section of the American River Parkway is, “Will I be safe?” The second thought is, “No, I won’t.” Here, it is never, “Should I bring a jacket?” It is, “I hope I’ll make it out alive.”

"This is our reality, because a group of homeless advocates, none of whom live near our struggling community—none who eat here, shop here or even drive through this part of town regularly—want the poorest of the poor to give over to the “homeless” their closest park and nature area, the Woodlake Reach of the American River Parkway.

"Well, to date, they have succeeded; they have turned the Woodlake Reach into “Unsafe Ground.”

"I grew up near the Reach, in the once-separate city of North Sacramento. We had everything a family could want: good schools, nearby shopping, a main street, safe streets and parks that were an embarrassment to our neighbor, the city of Sacramento. Our schools were top rate, too; Grant Union High School was a gem. All of that changed after 1964 when we were subsumed by the city of Sacramento in a merger. We all watched as our brand-new police and fire trucks were taken over the river the day after the merger and replaced by the city of Sacramento’s aging ones. Our per-capita median income went from a point above that of the city of Sacramento’s to less than a third in a flash.

"Today, North Sacramento has become the ultimate repository for a growing city’s ills: huge concentrations of low-income housing and painfully unsuccessful social programs. It’s no surprise that our schools and public facilities are in relative ruins. Sacramento has managed to dump every possible challenge to health and prosperity on our community, taking the Archie Bunker approach to social programming: “Edith, put ’em all on an island.” And apparently Sacramento is not yet done. The Parkway’s Woodlake Reach may be the last victory … or failure, depending on your point of view.

"I’m passionate about this issue, because my family gave over what is now 10 percent of the Parkway, back in 1986. At the time, we envisioned our entire community—including North Sacramento—taking full advantage of the out of doors and our rivers, in perpetuity. We knew the potential, because at my grandmother’s invitation, there were summer camps and other nature activities organized along the river near Woodlake.

"To our dismay, we watched as the area became a haven for camping, crime and drugs. Bums burned the oldest native walnut grove west of the Mississippi to the ground, and looted centuries-old Maidu sacred sites. Our Parkway recreation became a game of dodge-the-discarded-needles and steer clear the pile of feces. Our attention was diverted away from the native kite or hawk and towards the litter of porn and the garbage pile. It is impossible not to conclude that the county has been a failed steward of the Woodlake Reach, turning its back on this wretched stretch, akin to the county’s own deformed thalidomide babies. I know some will shrink at this comparison. But experience has shown that it’s only through uncivil discourse that we can draw attention to the problem.

"What North Sacramento needs is recreational experiences equal to those of tony neighborhoods elsewhere, not bum camping that denies it. Given the challenges facing the working poor population in North Sacramento, a respite from the tough jobs and neighborhoods they face every day should be a given. We should not be burdened with solving problems of illegal camping and the homeless. We should just be able to enjoy a walk, or lie down in the grass in our part of the Parkway and pick animals out of cloud formations—without worrying about getting stuck by a dirty needle, or raped, or even murdered. But that’s North Sacramento’s Parkway today. Ever in fear."

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Suburbs Still Rule II

Following up on Friday’s post, this article from New Geography examines the data underlying the obvious, people prefer the suburbs and are moving there and away from the cities.

An excerpt.

“With the release of results for over 20 states, the 2010 Census has provided some strong indicators as to the real evolution of the country’s demography. In short, they reveal that Americans are continuing to disperse, becoming more ethnically diverse and leaning toward to what might be called “opportunity” regions.

“Below is a summary of the most significant findings to date, followed by an assessment of what this all might mean for the coming decade.

“Point One: America is becoming more suburban.

“For much of the past decade, there has been a constant media drumbeat about the “return to the cities.” Urban real estate interests, environmentalists and planners have widely promoted this idea, and it has been central to the ideology of the Obama administration, the most big-city dominated in at least a half century. “We’ve reached the limits of suburban development,” Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan opined last February, “People are beginning to vote with their feet and come back to the central cities.”

“Donavan and others cite such things as the energy price spike in the mid-aughts as well as the mortgage crisis as contributing to the “back to the city” trend. Yet in reality the actual numbers suggest that Donavan and his cronies may need a serious reality check. The Census reveals that, contrary to the “back to the city” rhetoric, suburban growth continues to dominate in most regions of the country, constituting between 80% and 100% of all growth in all but three of the 16 metropolitan areas reporting.

“This includes sprawling regions like Houston, “smart growth“ areas like Seattle and Portland (where suburbs accounted for more than 80% of all growth over the decade) and Midwestern regions like St. Louis, which like Chicago saw a sharp decline in the urban population. The only exceptions have been Oklahoma City, Austin or San Antonio, with vast expanses still allowing for much of new development to take place within the city limits.

“To be sure, no one should pretend that urban fortunes have sunk to their 1970s nadir. Yet overall, central cities, which accounted for a 11% of metropolitan growth in the 1990s, constituted barely 4% of the growth in the last decade. Some core cities, notably Chicago, have shrunk after making gains in the ’90s. Indeed Chicago — the president’s adopted hometown and the poster child of the urban “comeback” — took what analyst Aaron Renn humorously dubbed “a Census shellacking,” losing some 200,000 people, while the outer suburban ring continued to grow and diversify their populations. The Windy City’s population is now down to the lowest level since the 1910 Census.”

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Parkway Camping Update

Bob Slobe reported on Saturday February 26th that a large (50-60) group of tents had been set up near Camp Pollack, and he also saw a large continent of cars pulled into the space underneath the 12th street freeway overpass handing out food to campers.

This was posted about on Monday the 28th.

Yesterday, Bob called and said he saw police and rangers, with dump trucks for trash hauling, at the site cleaning up.

One assumes we have Supervisor Phil Serna to thank for continuing to provide this leadership and helping bring the Parkway back to a safe place for families in the Woodlake Reach to visit, as well as invigorating the discussion on how to help the homeless who want to be helped, and how to respond to those who do not.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

LA’s Homeless

As much as we struggle with the homeless camping in the Parkway, there is also a huge problem on the beach communities in Los Angeles, as this article in The Nation notes.

An excerpt.

“Last year, some 254,000 men, women and children were homeless in Los Angeles County (population 10 million) at some point, and 82,000 were on the streets on any given night. Not surprisingly, almost half of them were African-American, though blacks constitute just 9 percent of the county’s population; Latinos make up 47 percent of the county and 33 percent of its homeless. As many as 75 percent of people on the streets are not receiving the public benefits to which they are entitled. Some 20 percent are physically disabled, 25 percent mentally so….

“I am used to seeing a few homeless men and women in the main branch of New York’s public library, where I have spent many hours over the years. LA’s Central Library is more like a dedicated shelter, where dozens of the city’s down-and-out souls daily seek refuge, slouching at the tables and staring with glazed eyes at books and magazines, sleeping in the carrels, hanging out in the bathrooms or forcing their conversation on the patient librarians. “Many of them haven’t bathed in days, they reek,” one told me, looking at once irritated by the invaders and embarrassed by his judgment.

“The problem reaches into every corner of the county. Driving to Santa Monica one morning, I encountered six ragged men at freeway off-ramps and at street intersections, all bearing signs reading “Homeless” or “Veteran” and pleading for food or money. In the seaside community itself, which has its own government but is part of Greater Los Angeles, scores of homeless have occupied the beachfront park for years. Joggers, cyclists, dog walkers and strollers weave around them as if they were merely palm trees, seeming to regard the strip’s denizens as permanent as the upscale shops along the Third Street mall three blocks away.”