Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mass Transit & Work

Mass transit doesn’t work as intended, and this article from New Geography about a new report showing that, in its most fundamental purpose—getting people to work in a reasonable amount of time—it fails, and Sacramento is part of the survey.

An excerpt.

“A new Brookings Institution report provides an unprecedented glimpse into the lack of potential for transit to make a more meaningful contribution to mobility in the nation's metropolitan areas. The report, entitled Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America, provides estimates of the percentage of jobs that can be accessed by transit in 45, 60 or 90 minutes, one-way, by residents of the 100 largest US metropolitan areas. The report is unusual in not evaluating the performance of metropolitan transit systems, but rather, as co-author Alan Berube put it, "what they are capable of." Moreover, the Brookings access indicators go well beyond analyses that presume having a bus or rail stop nearby is enough, missing the point the availability of transit does not mean that it can take you where you need to go in a reasonable period of time.

“Transit: Generally Not Accessible: It may come as a surprise that, according to Brookings, only seven percent of jobs in the nation's largest metropolitan areas can be reached by residents in 45 minutes during the morning peak period (when transit service is the most intense). Among the 29 metropolitan areas with more than 2,000,000 population, the 45 minute job access average was 5.6 percent, ranging from 12.6 percent in Boston to 1.3 percent in Riverside-San Bernardino. The New York's metropolitan area's 45 minute job access figure was 9.8 percent (Figure 1).”

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

Fly the Flag and Remember Freedom's Price!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Worst Cities to Find Jobs

As this survey from U.S.News & World Report notes, Sacramento is number 3.

An excerpt.

“Perhaps the best way to view the current U.S. jobs situation is with guarded optimism. Unemployment has dropped from its peak, but slowly and unevenly. The economy continues to add jobs, but hourly wages have posted recent drops. Health and education are seeing employment growth, but construction and the public-sector are also shedding jobs. For would-be workers in some U.S. cities, however, optimism may be out of the question. Data shows that some metropolitan areas, led by several large cities in California and Florida, are experiencing particularly difficult job market recoveries.

“According to Paul Forster, CEO and founder of job search website Indeed.com, cities whose economies rely heavily on recession-ravaged industries, like manufacturing, construction, and tourism, are having difficulties improving their employment situations. Las Vegas, which relies heavily on the leisure industry, and auto manufacturing center Detroit are two prime examples. Manufacturing lost over 2 million jobs from the start of 2008 through the end of 2009, and employment in the performing arts, as well as at tourist destinations like museums, historical sites, zoos, and parks, has recently shown only anemic growth, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“But improvements are underway in many of these cities. Forster points out that, while the job situation in the hardest-hit cities may appear bleak, the statistics have shown marked improvement over the last 12 months. "Of the 10 cities with the most population per job posting, there are 62 percent more jobs on average than a year ago," says Forster, citing Miami as an example. In that city, the ratio of unemployed people to job postings in January was around 6:1. Now, that figure has dropped to just over 4:1. In addition, some of the most troubled areas of the economy are seeing upswings in job creation. Manufacturing has added nearly 200,000 jobs in the last year, and some areas of the leisure industry, like gambling, recreation, and food services, are also adding jobs.”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Be Careful Out There

The American River is running fast, cold, and deep, as reported in the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

“Just days away from Memorial Day weekend, the American River is "a different river" compared with this time in years past, said Sacramento County Parks Director Janet Baker.

"It's colder and swifter than normal," Baker said. "It's more dangerous."

“Traditionally the unofficial kickoff of summer, this Memorial Day weekend is expected to send boaters, rafters, swimmers and those who want to relax by the shore flocking to area waterways – even with forecasts that are decidedly more springlike.

“But due to an abundant winter snowfall and spring snowmelt in the Sierra, safety officials said, people need to be wary of faster conditions in local rivers, and wear personal flotation devices when they hit the water this weekend.

"The river flow is high and it's cold, so you have to come prepared with life jackets and the proper boating," said Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District spokesman Assistant Chief Scott Cockrum.

"There's still some snags in the river that will deflate inflatable rafts and you'll be stranded out there – or worse," he said.

“Statewide, about 14 percent of accidents involving pleasure boats each year occur during the three major summer holiday weekends – Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day – said Gloria Sandoval, spokeswoman for the state Department of Boating and Waterways.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mercury & Fish

The oft repeated warnings of mercury in fish are revealed, in this article from the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) to be usually overwrought.

An excerpt.

“The Environmental Protection Agency recently issued 946 pages of new rules requiring that U.S. power plants sharply reduce their (already low) emissions of mercury and other air pollutants. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson claims that while the regulations will cost electricity producers $10.9 billion annually, they will save 17,000 lives and generate up to $140 billion in health benefits.

“There is no factual basis for these assertions. To build its case against mercury, the EPA systematically ignored evidence and clinical studies that contradict its regulatory agenda, which is to punish hydrocarbon use.

“Mercury has always existed naturally in Earth's environment. A 2009 study found mercury deposits in Antarctic ice across 650,000 years. Mercury is found in air, water, rocks, soil and trees, which absorb it from the environment. This is why our bodies evolved with proteins and antioxidants that help protect us from this and other potential contaminants.

“How do America's coal-burning power plants fit into the picture? They emit an estimated 41-48 tons of mercury per year. But U.S. forest fires emit at least 44 tons per year; cremation of human remains discharges 26 tons; Chinese power plants eject 400 tons; and volcanoes, subsea vents, geysers and other sources spew out 9,000-10,000 additional tons per year.

“All these emissions enter the global atmospheric system and become part of the U.S. air mass. Since our power plants account for less than 0.5% of all the mercury in the air we breathe, eliminating every milligram of it will do nothing about the other 99.5% in our atmosphere.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

K Street Drama, Act ???

Well, here we go again, the latest in K Street Dream On’s are reported in the Sacramento Press, and everyone who has followed this issue over the past several years, knows that the inability of the city to provide basic public safety/order in the downtown area, lies at the heart of the continued failure to reawaken K Street.

That being said, we hope that this latest effort is joined with a vigorous public safety/order component, and leads to eventual success.

An excerpt.

“Redevelopment projects for the 700 and 800 blocks of K Street cleared a final hurdle on their way to the Sacramento City Council when the city's Preservation Commission approved both Thursday night.

“The commission called a special meeting to consider the final major design components after both projects were approved by the Planning Commission last week. A City Council vote of approval, which will be set for sometime in June, would mean groundbreaking could finally begin on two key blocks of K Street Mall that have long been eyesores.

“The projects will add 337 mixed-income apartments in the downtown core, rehab the landmark Bel-Vue Apartments and restore all but one of the building façades on the south side of the 700 block of K Street. The projects were both approved unanimously by the five commissioners present.

“Activists in the city's preservation and housing communities have worked long and hard for housing and historic preservation there. The community raised an outcry over a previous project that proposed tearing down the Bel-Vue, recalled Preservation Commission Chair Karen Jacques.

"Finally, we are going to see some really nice development on both the 700 and the 800 blocks of K Street. That's a huge boost for this city," she said. "Those two blocks have been a disaster for so long. With these projects, the historic buildings are getting saved."

“The special meeting was held Thursday, rather than waiting for the commission's next scheduled meeting in June, to get the projects to the council as soon as possible. The projects may qualify for redevelopment funding that is at risk of being lost if Gov. Jerry Brown abolishes redevelopment agencies to help solve the state's budget woes.

“No one is certain when that might happen. Some officials and developers fear it could be as soon as June 30.”

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tax Increase for Regional Parks

There are so many reasons why a tax increase, touted in the Sacramento Bee, is a terrible idea and in our recent article we noted two, but here are a few more questions.

If it is truly a 'regional' parks tax, then the entire region using the parks needs to also vote, which would bring in El Dorado, Placer & Yolo counties.

If it is truly a 'regional' parks tax, then why are virtually all the articles focusing on the American River Parkway? Answer, because it is the only true regional park that attracts visitors from beyond the immediate area still subject to the county parks department mismanagement, Gibson Ranch having been wisely transferred to effective management.

How can we expect any better management from the new entity—which will almost certainly be a staff transfer of the existing entity to the new—to justify an increase of taxes?

How can we guarantee that the new funds raised from a tax increase will not just result in a decrease in support from existing funding sources?

Finally, there are serious questions being raised about the survey results quoted in the Bee article, which said a substantial majority favor the new taxes.

These results, considering the history of recent local tax increase voting (which failed widely) is highly questionable.

Since the survey results are being proposed as a reason for public leaders to make a decision, the details about the survey should be made available (routine in public surveys) which to this point they have not been.

This is a lack of transparency which should, in itself, always raise questions.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Paradise Beach

This story in the Sacramento News & Review is a beautifully sad tale of a great beach along the river that—along with many of the wonderful riverside spots—has not been well taken care of for too long, and our organization is very concerned about that.

An excerpt from the story.

“Paradise Beach, a bank of sand no wider than 200 feet along the American River in Sacramento, is a misnomer. Or so it seems at first glance.

“That’s because the shore is littered with used condoms and abandoned tighty-whities. Twice I have had the misfortune to stumble across a man pleasuring himself in the bushes. An old baby sitter swears she found a human hand once in the water there. And yet my friends and I return year after year in the summertime, to bask in the sun and count the number of children that lack a supervising adult.

“This is primarily due to limited options. Sacramento, unlike the stereotypical California town, has no picturesque expanse of white sand sprawled along the dazzling Pacific Ocean. So, on sleepy August afternoons, we river rats grab a raft and a six-pack and head to the only beach available. Once you’re on the water, the sounds of domestic dispute are carried away by the wind. All you hear is the lapping of water. And in those moments it can feel like paradise.

“I remember one such evening several years back. My best friend Lilly and I lay bobbing in our raft, watching the sun dive into the waves. Cool streams of sweat slithered down our backs, and Lilly wondered aloud, “What happens now?” It was the last summer of childhood. How could we let it go?

“Soon our bedrooms would be packed into boxes, shoved into trunks of minivans and awkwardly reassembled in strange dorm rooms. Hundreds of miles apart, we wouldn’t be able to sneak over to each other’s houses in the middle of the night or conspire ways to ditch cross-country practice. There would be no more late-night talks over coffee. No more practical jokes on mutual friends. No more Saturday mornings spent tanning on her deck.

“This calculated transition to adulthood birthed childish anxieties within me. Would she miss me as much as I’d miss her? What would time change? Who would we be by next summer?

“For many years I had anticipated my escape with eager restlessness. Now that it was on the horizon, I found myself treading in nostalgia. Once I left, I could never really return home. Like an old friend, Sacramento would always be familiar, but as time went on, I would not fully recognize it. The city would change, as new developments rose, friends scattered and old haunts disappeared. What would Paradise Beach mean to me in five years? Would it still offer solace?”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tax Increase Marketing

There is a new name for the Governor’s marketing of his proposed plan to increase taxes, which is commented on by Fox & Hounds.

An excerpt.

“Governor Brown unveiled a new theme on Monday to sell his budget solution: the Wall of Debt.

“This approach targets Republicans and other voters skeptical of the need for tax extensions.

"• The Governor specifically calls out the nearly $35 billion in borrowing and gimmicks devised by previous Administrations and Legislatures to paper over earlier deficits. The subliminal message: “Never again.”

"• The debt retirement theme provides a landing zone for Republican legislators who might agree to tax extensions in return for a spending cap, where any revenues above the cap could be used to retire budgetary borrowing. The Governor expressed his support yesterday for an undefined spending cap.

"• Raising the debt issue also provides a platform from which the Governor could insist on aggressive reforms in state and local pension obligations. Actuaries peg the unfunded liabilities of the two big state pension systems north of $150 billion. This off-budget debt was recently noted by Standard and Poor’s as a further threat to California’s anemic credit rating."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Parks Funding

This is a very difficult time for government funding for parks, but it is also a time of opportunity to remove the burden of funding from very limited government sources and move to the much more stable funding from philanthropy, especially for those signature parks best suited to be supported philanthropically.

Government is still to be involved of course, as signature parks, like the American River Parkway, are owned by the public, and a certain minimum-base level of funding should remain in place, but the major funding can come from a philanthropic community that realizes the value of the parks they use and will support them, as they already do elsewhere.

The model we always refer to is New York's Central Park, where the Central Park Conservancy raises 85% of needed funding under contact with the city of New York.

This model is being replicated in other parks around the country, including Pittsburgh.

For details on how we envision it working with the Parkway, visit our strategy page on our website, which provides details.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ARPPS Article

It is on Sacramento Press and addressed the local idea to raise taxes to provide more funding for parks .

An excerpt.

“According to a May 4th Sacramento Bee story, Sacramento County Supervisors are considering asking voters to raise the sales tax to pay for a regional park district.

“This is a terrible idea, especially during such trying economic times.

“A better idea would be to drop the proposal for the regional parks sales tax increase and consider bringing the largest regional park, the American River Parkway, under new management, with supplemental funding to be raised philanthropically.

“The American River Parkway is a signature park, the most important recreational area in our region, the most valuable natural resource in our community, and potentially one of the nicest urban/suburban parks in the nation.

“The Board of Supervisors could spearhead the formation of a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) comprised of representatives from Parkway adjacent governments and a representative of local nonprofit organizations with Parkway concerns.

“The JPA then creates a nonprofit organization to provide daily management and supplemental fundraising for the Parkway.

“The most successful model of a JPA governed river park is the San Dieguito River Valley Regional Open Space Park JPA created in 1989 by San Diego County and five cities.”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Biking in Sacramento, With Style

With a relatively flat terrain surrounded by gently rolling hills, Sacramento is a premier biking town and as this delightful article from the Sacramento Bee notes, it is also becoming rather stylish.

An excerpt.

“Every great movement needs a manifesto, a creed to follow, words to live by. So, too, does it need a charismatic leader, someone for the masses to emulate and admire, a cult of personality around which to orbit.

“In the case of Sacramento Cycle Chic, a loose affiliation of mostly midtown denizens who are dedicated followers of fashion and proponents of two-wheeled transport, the leader came slightly before the manifesto.

“She is Lorena Beightler, an elegant, 40-something midtown habitue originally from Venezuela. She's a landscape designer by profession, bicyclist by choice, fashion maven by predilection and blogger almost by accident.

“Beightler has combined all her loves to produce not just a blog featuring candid shots of fabulously dressed and coiffed bike commuters, but also to host a monthly Sunday ride in which participants are judged by fashion sense, not speed, and the purpose is to slowly take in the wonders of the area.

“She and her adherents view the wearing of clingy Lycra cycling "outfits" - the kind Tour of California riders will don in town Monday - the same way PETA members see the wearing of fur. C'est horrible!

“Like most movements, Sac Cycle Chic started small in early 2008, just Beightler and her camera, until her boyfriend suggested a blog (www.saccyclechic.com). The blog begat the rides, which have grown in attendance to several dozen monthly participants - folks donning everything from lederhosen to tuxedos, frilly sundresses to leather and chaps.

“Her influence extends to fashion - she recently hosted a Velo & Vintage fashion show at Hot Italian restaurant - and bicycle advocacy through the unusual means of trying to make biking voguish for fashionistas and hipsters.”

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pollution Destroying Buildings

Wow! That is all you can say about the continued ability of technology to produce solutions to our problems, as this article from Fast Company notes.

An excerpt.

“Struggling to breathe because of the layer of smog hovering in the atmosphere above you? Alcoa has come up with a potential solution for that most unpleasant of man-made environmental issues: the smog-eating building.

“Alcoa's Reynobond with Ecoclean cleans both itself and the air around it, by decomposing smog, dirt, diesel fumes, and all the other nasty pollutants that hover around building surfaces. Alcoa claims that 10,000 square feet of the panels have the equivalent air-cleansing power of 80 trees. No need for trees when you have buildings that eat smog!

“The panel features a titanium dioxide coating (that's the EcoClean part) on top of a pre-painted aluminum surface (that's the Reynobond). Sunlight acts as a catalyst to break down the pollutants on the aluminum panel into harmless particles that can be washed away by rain. Since the Reynobond surface is super hydrophilic, water particles don't bead on top of it--they collapse and run down the side of the building. Just a small amount of rain or humidity can clean the surface.

“Alcoa explains how the technology can help smog-laden cities:

“As the primary component of smog, NOx not only makes buildings dirty, but it also threatens the quality of the air we breathe. But when NOx molecules float near the surface of Reynobond with EcoClean, they are attacked by free radicals generated from the titanium dioxide reacting with water and oxygen in the air. The free radicals oxidize the NOx molecules, converting them to a harmless nitrate. In this way, Reynobond with EcoClean constantly works to remove pollutants by using sunlight and the water vapor and oxygen in the air to clean the air itself.

“There are monetary benefits, too. The Reynobond with Ecoclean panels cost 4% to 5% more than their non-smog-eating counterparts, but they can cut a building's maintenance costs by up to half since the panels are self-cleaning.”

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Galt's Caviar

The city of Galt in southern Sacramento County is emerging as the center of caviar production in the United States.

What a wonderful story of local entrepreneurism, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt.

“On a breezy April afternoon in the grassy delta flatlands of Galt, Calif., fins and tails were churning the waters inside raised tanks the size of above-ground swimming pools.

“The bellies of the 100-pound, six-foot-long sturgeon of the Fishery aquaculture farm were white, their vacuum cleaner-nozzle mouths toothless and slightly be-whiskered. The fish have shark-like skin. Down their wide flanks run reptilian spikes, called "scutes," ancient prototypes of fish scales. They are brutal in appearance, ugly even, living fossils from a prehistoric evolutionary crossroads.

“Sturgeon—Acipenseridae—have outlived whatever killed the dinosaurs. They've survived everything in the past 250 million years, only now to fall prey to man's desire for their clusters of glistening roe. Their eggs sell for as much as $270 per ounce in gourmet shops world-wide, and garnish the $50 entrees of white-tablecloth plates everywhere.

“Caviar—the other black gold—sublimely salty, sweet, earthy, an acquired taste, to be sure, and pleasant to the eye, has been a delicacy of khans, tsars, monarchs and aristocracy for millennia. But in the past decade the market for wild sturgeon caviar—the crème de la crème of the delicacy—has been wracked by poachers, smugglers, polluted waters and the threat of extinction for the most prized of the world's 27 sturgeon species, those producing wild beluga caviar.

“Besides protecting endangered sturgeon, import bans on Caspian Sea caviar have another upside. They created an opportunity for a group of entrepreneurial biologists and fish farmers in California's Central Valley region, where cattle ranches have given way to sturgeon farms. Now domestic roe farmers have birthed a sustainable caviar industry, winning over, however reticently, the collective palate of the haute-cuisine stratosphere. And greenmarket grocery chains such as Whole Foods Market have dropped Caspian Sea caviar mainstays for the sustainable domestic brands.

"Caviar plays an extremely important role in my cuisine," said Timothy Hollingsworth, the chef de cuisine at Napa Valley's three-Michelin-star French Laundry. "Russian caviar is, unfortunately, pretty much obsolete. So having an alternative that is local, and sustainable, is simply…great."

“Corey Lee, the James Beard Award-winning chef at San Francisco's Benu restaurant, has mixed feelings about the California product. "I've tried most of them, and there's some good ones out there, but they can't be compared to the wild caviar," he said. "I realized years ago that I have to view farmed caviar as a new ingredient, with its own measures of quality, and not as a substitute for the wild."

“Mr. Lee conceded, however, that farmed caviar will only continue to get better as the industry becomes more competitive and knowledgeable. "I do think that the farmed caviar is the future," he said.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Parkway Parking

While agreeing that paying for automobile parking along the Parkway makes sense to the County in terms of their shortage of funding—for reasons as much connected with lack of creative management as with self-inflicted revenue shortages over the years—suggesting that those who walk or bike to the Parkway should be paying to use the Parkway, as this article in the Sacramento Bee does, is not something we agree with.

Paying for parking to get closer to where you want to go is time honored in our country, but merely visiting without using parking spaces is not (think charging pedestrians to enter downtown) and residents already pay taxes to support the parks.

An excerpt.

“Parking enforcement has been spotty lately along the American River Parkway – but that's about to change at two popular lots.

“Faced with a depleted budget, county parks officials have hired the Sacramento city code enforcement department to install pay parking machines this month in the Howe and Watt avenue parking lots.

“City code enforcement officers will patrol those lots to make sure parkway users pay the day-use parking fees. The city and county will divide ticket revenues.

“County officials say turning parking enforcement over to the city will allow the county's dwindling group of park rangers to spend more time patrolling, and possibly bring in more money for both local governments.

“The program at the Howe and Watt lots is expected to start on a test basis in two weeks, and be fully operational by June 1. The pay machines take cash and credit cards.

“If the machine system proves profitable, city and county officials say they may expand the system to parking lots in 16 county parks next year.

“The pay kiosks are sturdier versions of the green pay stations on downtown city streets. The city already has had success increasing parking revenue after installing the machines at Miller and Garcia Bend parks along the Sacramento River.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hatchery Salmon into American

Thank goodness for the work of the hatchery, which released millions of salmon into the river, as reported by the Sacramento Press.

We need the dams for water and flood protection and since building them, the salmon need us to help them spawn, and as this story notes, we’re doing a pretty good job.

An excerpt.

“The first of about 3 million young salmon were released into the American River Thursday, and California Department of Fish and Game officials said they will finish the job Friday. They hope those fish will return to spawn within two to five years.

“They were spawned, hatched and partially raised at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery in Rancho Cordova,” said Dana Michaels, information officer for the Department of Fish and Game.

“About 25 percent of them have coded wire tags in their noses so Fish and Game staff will be able to track how many of them are returning to their native grounds to spawn.

“The goal, Michaels said, is to return the number of fish to their natural levels – levels that have dropped severely since the Gold Rush.

“There used to be millions and millions of salmon before we developed and affected their habitat,” she said. “Our real goal is to improve the return rate. We’d love to get it back to historic numbers.”

“Releasing the fish under the Jibboom Street bridge in the River District has previously been successful and shown the strongest rates of return, but fish are also released in other areas, she added. One of the other areas is the San Francisco Bay, and there are other river locations as well.

“The biggest effects Californians have had on the fish population stem from the building of dams – which blocked their waterways – and mining, which increased silt levels in the rivers and caused them to become shallower.

“Releasing fish into the river is not a new program for the area, said Laura Drath, fish and wildlife interpreter at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery.

“The hatchery was built in 1955, at the same time as the Folsom and Nimbus dams,” she said. “Our mandate is to produce 4 million salmon and 430,000 steelhead trout every year.”

“The hatchery was built by the federal Bureau of Reclamation as a result of about 100 miles of spawning ground being eliminated by the dams’ construction.”

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Open Letter Sent to Supervisors

May 6, 2011


In relation to the May 4, 2011 story in the Sacramento Bee about your possibly considering asking voters to raise the sales tax to pay for a regional park district, we would offer—not a proposal for all of the regional parks—but a proposal for the largest, the American River Parkway.

We propose that you spearhead the formation of a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) comprised of the adjacent governments, and the JPA creates a new nonprofit organization to provide daily management and supplemental fundraising for the Parkway.

We have offered details on this strategy—including sample agreement language and JPA membership composition—on our website.

The Parkway is a signature park, with a national reputation, and, by conducting a nationwide search for the appropriate executive director of the nonprofit, you will be able to discover someone with the experience and talent to take the American River Parkway into the future with secure and dedicated funding.

This, of course, will eventually provide more available funding for the other parks in the regional parks department.


Michael Rushford,President
Kristine Lea, Board Officer
David H. Lukenbill,Board Officer
Rebecca Garrison, Board Member

Friday, May 06, 2011

Houston, We Have Liftoff!

Lifted high above other cities by being rated as the Best City of the Year by Fast Company Magazine.

It’s a great testament to the innovative government and creative capitalism Texas is known for and why it is attracting individuals and businesses relocating from every state, including many from California.

An excerpt.

“IT'S PAST 11 P.M., AND I'M walking with my husband in downtown Houston. We've just seen a play at the Alley Theatre, and the stroll to our car, which I'd left at my office, gives us time to dissect the show and enjoy the city at night.

“Enjoy the city at night: I never would have thought of doing that in 1980, when I first came to Houston. Back then, downtown was not a place I'd wanted to walk after dark. That I can do it now is one sign of how Houston, America's fourth-largest city and a place I've lived in and around for most of my life, continues to reinvent itself.

“We're a diverse city of 2.1 million residents, with A-list universities, top museums, and the world's largest and arguably best medical center. We have a vibrant business community and more Fortune 500 company HQs than any other city except New York, including food giant Sysco, Waste Management, and the expected oil-and-gas titans. Annise Parker became our mayor last year, making Houston the largest U.S. city ever to be run by an openly gay person. Yet we are often misperceived.

"Disappointingly to some, cowboys don't roam the streets (except during the rodeo and livestock show each March). When Giuseppe Bausilio, a title star in the national tour of Billy Elliot the Musical, came to town and I asked him what he wanted to do, the 13-year-old Swiss dancer replied, "I want to shoot a gun for the first time." Sigh.

“But another of the Billys, Daniel Russell, who hails from Australia, told me he wanted to visit NASA. For decades, that has been one of our symbols of research, teamwork, and the modern frontier spirit. That's the Houston I know and love.

“HOUSTON WAS BUILT ON THE determination to overcome life's little adversities ... like yellow fever. In the 1830s, when the New York -- born Allen brothers arrived on Buffalo Bayou's banks and began urging people to settle here, they failed to mention the mosquitoes or the swamps. Like the Houstonians who have come after them -- from oil prospectors to waves of immigrants from Latin America and Asia -- the brothers preferred to focus on the possibilities. "Entrepreneurship is in our DNA," says Walter Ulrich, president and CEO of the Houston Technology Center, an incubator with ties to Rice University.

"Houston is a mix of the wild, wild West and the most sophisticated global community in the world," says Leisa Holland-Nelson, a native Houstonian who spent 25 years working in the fashion industry in Manhattan before coming home to cofound an online communications firm called ContentActive. "Between those two elements, you just have incredible freedom."

“This sense of opportunity, coupled with Houston's affordability, might explain why, according to a Brookings study, Houston is one of the nation's prime magnets for people ages 25 to 34. Case in point: the Texas Medical Center, a collection of 49 world-class institutions with nearly 100,000 staffers that, in the words of president and CEO Dr. Richard Wainerdi, is practically "a private city" focused on healing. The collaboration, innovation, and specialization happening at TMC -- from the rehab of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords to "pediatric heart surgeons that work with children's hearts the size of strawberries," Wainerdi says -- is a huge draw for young professionals in health care.”

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Sector Shifting

Nonprofit to private, private to nonprofit, government partnering with nonprofits and forprofits—for example the recent partnership between Sacramento County and Gibson Ranch Park LLC—and combinations of all; what matters is the mission (in Gibson Ranch’s case, keeping the park open and vibrant, which they are accomplishing superbly) and the best way to get it done.

In this case, its all about farming and gardening education, as reported by the Tacoma News Tribune from Bellingham, Washington.

An excerpt.

“EVERSON - Cloud Mountain Farm is going through big changes, but they're not yet visible to passers-by.

“Owners Tom and Cheryl Thornton plan to sell their popular business to a yet-to-be-determined entity that will convert their 20-acre farm into a nonprofit center to provide education and hands-on training to new and experienced farmers and gardeners.

“The couple, who started Cloud Mountain as a commercial orchard in 1978, will continue to work and live at the farm, and Cheryl Thornton will sit on the center's new board of directors.

“They're already well-known for offering workshops and other educational programs, and for experimenting with crops and growing techniques, all while diversifying their farm nestled against the western flank of Sumas Mountain.

"It's a continuation and expansion of what we're already doing," Cheryl Thornton said. "The center brings it full circle."

“The transaction is being handled by Whatcom Community Foundation, which manages numerous funds, including at least two geared to helping local agriculture - the Sustainable Whatcom Fund and the Whatcom Farm Incubator Fund.”

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

New Taxes for Parks?

There are so many reasons why this is a bad idea, increasing taxes to support parks, but just a couple should be mentioned.

Taxpayers are already paying for parks, have been for years; and Doug Ose is correct, as quoted in the story, “Ose said. "I don't believe there's a shortage of revenue. I believe there's a shortage of management creativity."

That really says it all, but for a whole lot of other reasons this is a horrible idea, read the comments section of the Bee article.

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee story.

“Struggling to preserve its parks amid deep budget cuts, Sacramento County will consider a proposal asking voters to boost sales taxes for a new regional park district that would take control of county parkland.

“The annual budget for parks has been slashed in half, to $2.9 million, compared with a decade ago, and more cuts are planned in the new fiscal year. In response, the county already has leased one park property to a nonprofit and another to a for-profit venture.

“Along the American River Parkway, the jewel of the regional park system, services from basic trash pickup to law enforcement patrols are under strain.

“A committee organized by Save the American River Association aims to stabilize the parks with a 2012 ballot measure raising sales taxes by one-tenth of 1 percent, or 10 cents on a $100 purchase.

“The money would bring in $8.5 million annually to fund a new regional park district. A seven-member elected board would oversee the district, which would take over the 32 parks now managed by Sacramento County.

“The proposal followed a year of study and is modeled after the East Bay Regional Park District, a highly regarded Bay Area agency that manages 56 parks in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

“Bill Davis, who chaired the committee, said the proposal initially arose out of concern for the American River Parkway. But he said the group soon decided a broader approach was needed.

“To take pressure off the parkway, which receives about 8 million visitors annually, the group concluded the county needs to open up more parkland throughout the region. Out of 15,000 acres of county-owned parkland, about 6,000 acres are undeveloped and essentially not available to the public.

"We recognized that unless the rest of (the) system thrives, we're going to be hard-pressed to protect the parkway from overuse," said Davis, a board member of Save the American River Association.

“The committee's members include representatives from Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, the Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Council of Sacramento, neighborhood associations and other park groups….

"I think this is the wrong time to be proposing new taxes of any sort whatsoever," Ose said.. "I don't believe there's a shortage of revenue. I believe there's a shortage of management creativity."

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Central Valley Rails to Trails Foundation

This wonderful nonprofit organization is doing some great trail related work, which you can read about on their website.

An excerpt.

“Local residents living in the vicinity of the Central California Traction Company (CCTC) Rail Corridor founded the Central Valley Rails to Trails Foundation (CVRTF) in the year 2000. CVRTF is a non-profit public charity that leads a coalition of recreation and community organizations, businesses and local residents who are committed to the goal of utilizing the CCTC corridor for non-motorized recreation and alternative commuting. The Foundation has a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and benefits from the services of its all-volunteer Board of Directors.

“The proposed trail will provide a safe location for hiking, biking, and equestrian travel, and will provide access to numerous planned and existing trails and parks in both Sacramento and San Joaquin Counties. Visit the Map Page to view the planned route and proposed trail design.”

Monday, May 02, 2011

Funding County Parks

The troubling aspects of this editorial from the Sacramento Bee are the assumptions it appears to be based upon.

The problem is largely defined as: “The "system" also has become increasingly fragmented, with myriad nonprofit groups running isolated park units (and, now, even a for-profit business running Gibson Ranch), with few resources devoted to connecting the pieces in an integrated, coherent whole.”

The solution is largely defined as: “There is some reason for hope…. Presented with a hypothetical ballot measure for a 10-year 1/8 cent sales tax to fund regional parks, 73 percent said they would vote "yes." The idea got support from more than 60 percent of voters in each of the five supervisor districts.”

So, if I have this right, the problem is that public/private partnerships of nonprofits working with government and forprofits working with government are running some of the parks and the solution is to raise taxes?!

This is a disjointed line of thought from a major media outlet in a country built upon a creative private sector and an innovative public sector, more often working in harmony than not, especially during a period of such great economic stress.

The fact that these public/private partnerships will quite possibly result in saving and enhancing some of our parks is a fact that should be celebrated rather than criticized.

An excerpt from the Bee editorial.

“The funding decline for parks has been precipitous. In 2001, the regional parks system received a general fund allocation of $6.4 million. A decade later, that has fallen to $2.9 million.

“The park "system" has been reduced to a skeleton staff of rangers and maintenance workers….

“The "system" also has become increasingly fragmented, with myriad nonprofit groups running isolated park units (and, now, even a for-profit business running Gibson Ranch), with few resources devoted to connecting the pieces in an integrated, coherent whole….

“There is some reason for hope. A Feb. 7-13 telephone survey of likely Sacramento County voters, conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates, found deep support for the county's parks and parkways.

“Asked to rate "How important would you say the county's regional parks are to the quality of life in Sacramento County?", 62 percent responded "extremely" or "very" important. Half say they visit regional parks several times each month, and 79 percent say they visit several times a year.

“Presented with a hypothetical ballot measure for a 10-year 1/8 cent sales tax to fund regional parks, 73 percent said they would vote "yes." The idea got support from more than 60 percent of voters in each of the five supervisor districts.”