Thursday, November 03, 2011

Parkway Blog Moved

It has moved to

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Where Tax Dollars Go

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

An excerpt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Building By Parkway, More Discussion

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

Some new information:

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

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

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

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

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

One comment in the comments section is especially informative:

by kericson

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

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

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

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

An excerpt from the Bee article.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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