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.”

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Take Me to the River

It is very nice to see our neighboring city reaching out to embrace the river connecting us, as reported in this article from the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

“The old freeway that once cut West Sacramento in half has been ripped out and trucked off. A rail line that blocked river access has been scraped away and replaced by a recreation trail. Manufacturing businesses have been sent packing and warehouses torn down, replaced by new roads and park sites.

“After several years of frenetic, landscape-altering work, West Sacramento officials this summer finally have an uncluttered view of their waterfront vision:

“The once-dusty little west-bank city is on the cusp of creating the downtown it's never had.

“Even the riverfront area's name has changed. For years it was known as the Triangle area, but now the 188-acre wedge at the foot of the Tower Bridge is officially called the Bridge District.

“The city and a core group of landowners envision thousands of people living and working here in mid-rise town houses and office buildings with views through cottonwood trees of the Sacramento River and Sacramento city skyline.

“A streetcar on rails would run through the area, delivering fans to Raley Field baseball games and concerts, and ferrying residents across Tower Bridge to the downtown train depot, light rail and state offices.

“So far, the city has spent tens of millions of redevelopment dollars for prep work in the district, and district property owners have kicked in millions more in self-imposed fees. City development officials say they hope, fingers crossed, some residences and offices could be built next spring. The very thought has generated a giddiness.

"I almost see this as a utopian project," said developer Mark Friedman, who owns nearly 40 acres in the 188-acre site. "This is one of those rare places where we can reclaim the river."

“The path hasn't been easy, though. And recent events suggest it might soon get tougher.

“Even as crews put the finishing touches on new roads and intersections around Raley Field, the area's future remains uncertain. The weak economy, state budget woes and a dramatic fight over redevelopment funds have sent some of the district's would-be developers to the bench, where they fidget and wait for a better moment to break ground.”

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Nonprofits & Parks

The move by the state to more easily allow nonprofits, as reported by Southern California Public Radio, to manage state parks is a welcome one.

An excerpt.

“Legislation intended to keep more California state parks open is one step closer to becoming law. The State Senate approved AB 42 Wednesday, a bill that would allow nonprofit organizations to keep parks running.

“California already has this year due to budget cuts.

“Democratic Assemblyman Jared Huffman wrote the bill and says it would alleviate the ailing park system. It passed the Senate vote by a margin of 32-2.

“This may save a dozen, potentially more parks from closure where there’s a nonprofit group that could step up and enter into an operating agreement to keep things going," Huffman said.

“The state is already authorized to partner with local governments and private concession companies within the parks system. Huffman's bill would make the process easier.”

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Studying Tax Increase for Parks

The direction the County Supervisors took, to further study the issue of how to take care of our parks rather than immediately sign on to the tax increase strategy offered by the Grassroots Working Group—which our organization opposes—is appropriate.

The recent article in the Sacramento Bee opposing further study and encouraging the County Supervisors to immediately accede to the Grassroots Working Groups plan contains its own negation, in that generally, whenever a group stresses immediacy over further study, it’s because they suspect their plan won't stand up to that study, which it won't.

Taxpayers love their parks but realize that increasing taxes so essentially the same strategies can continue, is not just a bad idea, it’s a horrible idea.

The best solutions for the regional parks we’ve seen proposed are those offered by Doug Ose, and for the Parkway in particular we suggest our strategy.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“Sacramento County's Board of Supervisors and county executive dealt another crushing blow to the operating budget of their Regional Parks system in June. What is the future of parks, trails and open space in this region? Is there a path to stable, secure funding and governance of Regional Parks?

“While city and county park agencies have faced extreme challenges during the four-plus years of the economic downturn, the only governance structure faring well is the special district. Because they receive a set percentage of property taxes, their operating budget fluctuates very little compared with the more than 50 percent cuts facing city and county park agencies. Could special district governance with a secure and stable funding source rescue Sacramento County Regional Parks?

“The groundwork for this shift has already been accomplished. For more than a year, the Grassroots Working Group, an organization of community leaders and park advocates have worked tirelessly and raised private funds to have the Trust for Public Land study options for funding and governance for Sacramento County's regional park system. Polling was also done as a companion to their study. All of this clearly pointed to the recommendation for a ballot measure to create a regional special district for parks and fund the district with a 0.1 of 1 percent sales tax increase….

“Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors and the county executive want to spend another six months studying various options with community stakeholders, most of whom have been involved in the Grassroots Working Group effort over the past year. New options or "business models" do not exist if this community wants free, accessible, safe, protected, well-managed and commercial-free parks, trails and open space.”

Friday, September 02, 2011

Rails to Trails

A great national effort, as reported by the New York Times, and our local Rails to Trails organization is also involved with some important projects.

An excerpt from the New York Times article.

“The High Line park, built on an elevated railway trestle in Manhattan, has become both a symbol and a catalyst for an explosion of growth in the meatpacking district and the Chelsea neighborhood.

“Now cities around the country, including Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis, are working up plans to renovate their aging railroad trestles, tracks and railways for parkland. Cities with little public space are realizing they badly need more parks, and the High Line has taught that renovating an old railway can be the spark that helps improve a neighborhood and attract development.

“The High Line’s first and second sections cost $153 million, but have generated an estimated $2 billion in new developments. In the five years since construction started on the High Line, 29 new projects have been built or are under way in the neighborhood, according to the New York City Department of City Planning. More than 2,500 new residential units, 1,000 hotel rooms and over 500,000 square feet of office and art gallery space have gone up.

“Cities recognize parks are good for their economies. They’re no longer a nice thing to have, but a must,” said Will Rogers, president and chief executive of the Trust for Public Land, a national conservation group in San Francisco.

“The area around the park, sprinkled with small offices under 200,000 square feet, has become a draw for start-ups and creative companies.

“I think the High Line is a big attraction. It’s created a lot more buzz to the area,” said Matthew Bergey, first vice president at the commercial brokerage firm CB Richard Ellis in New York. “Like with any destination, people will come if it’s cool and has buzz.”

“Though plans in many cities have a long way to go before becoming reality, a point in favor of reuse is that it can be cheaper to renovate old rail structures than to tear them down. The Reading Viaduct, an old elevated railway line in Philadelphia, would cost $50 million to demolish versus $36 million to retrofit, according to the Center City District, a business improvement group.

“In Chicago, where a 2.65-mile elevated rail line slices through four residential areas, tearing down the line would be prohibitively costly. With 37 bridges and large earthen embankments, the Bloomingdale Trail, as it is now called, snakes east to west across Chicago and is simply too big to go.

“If you’ve driven around Chicago, you’ll have seen it,” said Beth White, director of the Chicago office of the Trust for Public Land, which is helping to build the trail.

“As with other, similar rail lines around the country, passenger and freight trains have not operated on the Chicago line in at least 10 years. The only traffic most of these lines see is an occasional runner or bike rider, even though trespassing is usually forbidden.”

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Levee & Trees, Report & Guidance Letter

What the editorial from the Sacramento Bee fails to point out clearly, is that while the study finds that trees along the base of the levee can sometimes be helpful, the major problems are trees up the sides and tops of the levees and the access thus given to high or flood waters when dying or diseased.

The original policy is here.

The Army Corps published a Policy Guidance Letter February 9, 2010: Variance From Vegetation Standards for Levees and Floodwalls.

Levee denuding is a policy that makes sense, as we posted on before and the article quoted notes, “Worldwide, in countries such as the Netherlands and China, serious levee systems are cleared of trees”—though it does render some harm to the view field, the trade-off in increasing public safety trumps that.

An excerpt from the Bee editorial.

“When it comes to trees and levees, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs to revise its one-chainsaw-fits-all policy.

“A new study by the Corps reveals why.

“The study, conducted by an Army Corps research unit in Mississippi, examined how trees affect flood-control levees in California, the Pacific Northwest, New Mexico and Mississippi.

“It found that trees actually strengthen levees in some situations. It also urged that engineers conduct site-specific evaluations to determine if trees on levees are harmful or beneficial, according to a report Saturday by The Bee's Matt Weiser.

“The Corps didn't need to commission a study to inject some common sense into this debate. But we are glad it did.

“Ever since Hurricane Katrina, the Corps has been rigidly enforcing a policy of no trees on levees, regardless of circumstance. If that policy were to stand, local flood agencies would have to spend millions removing trees in California. And people who have grown accustomed to see gorgeous old cottonwoods and other trees along waterways would have to encounter riverbanks denuded of shade and wildlife habitat.”