Texas Wonder

A wonderful report from New Geography, on the great state of Texas which far out shadows California—except for weather and physical beauty—but important to read for economic, urban, and political instruction on how to be user friendly.

An excerpt.

This essay is part of a new report from the Center for Opportunity Urbanism titled “The Texas Way of Urbanism“. Download the entire report here.

The future of American cities can be summed up in five letters: Texas. The metropolitan areas of the Lone Star state are developing rapidly. These cities are offering residents a broad array of choices — from high density communities to those where the population is spread out — and a wealth of opportunities.

Historically, Texas was heavily dependent on commodities such as oil, cotton, and cattle, with its cities largely disdained by observers. John Gunther, writing in 1946, described Houston as having “…a residential section mostly ugly and barren, without a single good restaurant and hotels with cockroaches.” The only reasons to live in Houston, he claimed, were economic ones; it was a city “…where few people think about anything but money.” He also predicted that the area would have a million people by now. Actually, the metropolitan area today is well on the way to seven million.

It would no doubt shock Gunther to learn that Texas now boasts some of the most dynamic urban areas in the high income world. Approximately 80 percent of all population growth since 2000 in the Lone Star state has been in the four largest metropolitan areas. People may wear cowboy boots, drive pickups and attend the big rodeo in Houston, but they are first and foremost part of a great urban experiment.

The notion of Texas as an urban model still rankles many of those who think of themselves as urbanists. Most urbanists, when thinking of cities of the future, keep an eye on the past, identifying with the already great cities that follow the traditional transit dependent and dense urban form: New York, London, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo. And yet, within these five urban areas, there are large, evolving, dynamic sections that are automobile oriented and have lower density.

Posted in demographics, Economy

Water & Drought

Explained well in this article from the Modesto Bee.

An excerpt.

If you go to your doctor and ask for prescription pain relievers even after you’re no longer in pain, that probably makes you an addict. Instead of killing pain, you need those pills to feed an addiction. And you will say anything to get those pain pills!

To an uninvolved bystander – or to an expert like your doctor – your need is just a craving.

One of California’s leading environmental agencies, the State Water Resource Control Board, is an addict and its drug of choice is our water.

Since Gov. Jerry Brown granted the board the highest emergency authority over the state’s water with his declaration of the drought emergency in January 2014, the board has thrived on the pain of crisis to demand more water.

Like any drug addict, the board has lots of excuses for wanting more. It says there isn’t enough water to keep protected species, rivers and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta healthy – even as cities go dry, thousands of acres of farmland are fallowed, and millions of Californians are paying more to use less water.

Since February 2014, through the deepest pain of our Mega-Drought, the state water board ordered 66 percent of all water entering the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to flow unimpaired to the sea. Just under 23 percent was allowed to flow to the two-thirds of the people of California – some 22 million in cities and on farms – who depend on it.

Farmers, deprived of water, suffered $9.6 billion in losses in 2015. Suburban citizens saw their lawns go brown, state and urban water districts paid out landscape-replacement rebates totaling more than a half-billion dollars, and those same water districts – saddled with fixed costs and lower deliveries – required ratepayers to pay higher bills. All was a result of so little water being available, and that was due to the state water board’s addiction.

Entering 2017, the board’s “water high” is wearing off. The board needs a hit. But how can it ask for more water when it already has taken 66 percent of flows over the past 33 months?

Maybe a second opinion would help.

Enter Jonathan Rosenfield of the Bay Institute – with funding from the San Francisco Estuary Partnership, a coalition of non-profits and public agencies, including a regional water quality board directly controlled by the SWRCB – who produced a new, yet familiar prescription.

Rosenfield provided a report insisting the state water board should take more water due to the devastating effects of withholding less than a quarter of the Delta’s freshwater from the Pacific Ocean. He said the water board must cut off water deliveries to families and farms in Southern California, Silicon Valley and much of the Central Valley. He and another Bay Institute staffer even filed a complaint with the water board based on inadequate flows on the San Joaquin River at a checkpoint near Vernalis in early 2016, when it was still unclear whether our drought was subsiding.

Like an addict reaching for a fix, the water board proposed a new rule that demands 40 percent more water – water protected by century-old rights for use by the people of California – to flow unimpaired and untouched to the sea. This water would have to come from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, Merced and San Joaquin Rivers. The water board even started discussing plans for a rule to require similar diversions from the Sacramento River (which, according to Rosenfield and another Bay Institute scientist, became too warm for salmon earlier this year).

This is science made to order. So long as our state is still in water pain, and Brown’s emergency drought declaration stands, the state water board can imperiously demand its drug of choice – more water – to cure any craving.

Yes, the state’s water system is sick. Even with 66 percent of the state’s rivers flowing through the Delta, the endangered Delta Smelt and winter-run Chinook salmon and several other native species are on the brink. But if the state couldn’t make them healthier with 70 percent flows in the last 13 months, or 66 percent in the last three years, and as much as 50 percent in the 12 years prior to that, then going beyond 70 percent isn’t likely to help the fish. Nor will it satisfy the SWRCB’s cravings.

These scientists are involved in a “pay-to-play” scheme that requires the environment to decline, species to go extinct, and our environment to become unhealthy in order for it to work. Without those conditions, the state cannot demand more water. Buying fake scientific opinions isn’t an honest or ethical way to solve our real environmental and water problems.

Meanwhile, other studies, by well-credentialed scientist, are showing the extinction issue is far more complex than has been shown by the state’s preferred studies. Their work shows that non-native predation plays a significant role, as does the loss of wetlands and the channelization of 95 percent of the Delta and offshore changes in the Pacific Ocean.

Posted in Environmentalism, Water

Our Greatest President

Most would agree that to be Abraham Lincoln and this short speech—addressing a country divided—from 1861 is one of the very many reasons why.

Address in Independence Hall

On Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural journey to Washington as president-elect, he stopped in Philadelphia at the site where the Declaration of Independence had been signed. One of the most famous statements in the speech was, “I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence.” This hall also was the place where Lincoln’s body lay in state after his assassination in 1865, one of many stops his funeral train made before he was laid to rest in Springfield, Illinois.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania February 22, 1861

Mr. Cuyler:

I am filled with deep emotion at finding myself standing here, in this place, where were collected together the wisdom, the patriotism, the devotion to principle, from which sprang the institutions under which we live. You have kindly suggested to me that in my hands is the task of restoring peace to the present distracted condition of the country. I can say in return, Sir, that all the political sentiments I entertain have been drawn, so far as I have been able to draw them, from the sentiments which originated and were given to the world from this hall. I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here, and framed and adopted that Declaration of Independence. I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army who achieved that Independence. I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the motherland; but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men. This is a sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence. Now, my friends, can this country be saved upon that basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world, if I can help to save it. If it cannot be saved upon that principle, it will be truly awful. But if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.

Now, in my view of the present aspect of affairs, there need be no bloodshed and war. There is no necessity for it. I am not in favor of such a course, and I may say, in advance, that there will be no bloodshed unless it be forced upon the Government, and then it will be compelled to act in self-defence.

My friends, this is wholly an unexpected speech, and I did not expect to be called upon to say a word when I came here. I supposed it was merely to do something toward raising the flag. I may, therefore, have said something indiscreet. (Cries of “No, no”) I have said nothing but what I am willing to live by and, if it be the pleasure of Almighty God, die by.

Retrieved November 11, 2016 from http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/philadel.htm

Posted in History

Olmstead, the Genius of Central Park

Frederick Law Olmstead is the original landscape architect in America and his work combining severe cultivation while ensuring a natural feel to his landscapes is the model our organization believes is appropriate for the American River Parkway as it would open up the jungle and deep thickets parts to allow safe walking throughout; rather than, as currently, providing hiding places for illegal camping by the homeless, many of whom are criminal sex offenders and abundant fuel for the many related fires.

This book review from First Things is excellent.

An ecerpt.

The achievement of Frederick Law Olmsted is so stupendous that one cannot stand far enough back to take it all in. First there are the parks—Manhattan’s Central Park, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, Boston’s “Emerald Necklace,” Chicago’s Jackson Park, Montreal’s Mount Royal, to name only the most prominent. These have indelibly shaped our notion of what a city park is—an ensemble of meadows, trees, and water arranged for the purposes of recreation, aesthetic pleasure, and public health.  

But Olmsted also gave us Riverside, Illinois, the prototype for that other familiar object of the American landscape, the planned community. As the writer of the study that created Yosemite National Park, he can be regarded as the spiritual founder for the national park system. In the end, Olmsted defies criticism. How can one evaluate a landscape architect whose greatest achievement was to create the profession of landscape architecture itself?  

The material for a comprehensive evaluation is now at hand. Beginning in 1977, the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers Project has published eleven volumes of his copious writings; the final two volumes are to present the visual material. The first of these has now appeared, Frederick Law Olmsted: Plans and Views of Public Parks, which reproduces the plans, sketches, and photographs of thirty-one of his most important projects. Here is as attractive a graphic record of his achievement as we are likely to get.

Olmsted was thirty-six when his plan for Central Park was accepted, and he had no formal training in landscape architecture. Nor had anyone else, for at that time, parks were laid out by architects, gardeners, or surveyors. Up to that point, he had led a highly erratic life, filled with false starts and brave experiments that make for fascinating biography. Fortunately, there are two very good ones, one by Laura Wood Roper (1973) and another by Witold Rybczynski (1999), and they demonstrate that one cannot make sense of the second half of Olmsted’s life without understanding the first.


Posted in ARPPS, Parks

Cubs Do It!

Wow, what a great world series, and here’s a story from the Chicago Tribune about the historic night.

An excerpt.


The most epic drought in sports history is over, and the Cubs are world champions.

After 108 years of waiting, the Cubs won the 2016 World Series with a wild 8-7, 10-inning Game 7 victory over the Indians on Wednesday night at Progressive Field. The triumph completed their climb back from a 3-1 Series deficit to claim their first championship since 1908.

A roller-coaster of emotions spilled out in a game that lasted almost five hours, featuring some wacky plays, a blown four-run lead, a 17-minute rain delay and some 10th inning heroics that sealed the deal.

It was a perfect ending for a franchise that had waited forever for just one championship, and your stomach never will be the same.

This is not a dream. The Cubs did it.

It was real, and it was spectacular. After blowing an eighth-inning lead in stunning fashion, the Cubs bounced back in the 10th with run-scoring hits from Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero.

Over? Not quite.

The Indians came to within a run with two outs, until Mike Montgomery entered to induce the game-ending grounder to third base that saved the city. The Cubs rushed the field, waved “W’ flags and held a group hugathon.

Tears flowed across Cubs Nation after the final out, and fans responded with the world’s biggest group hug, remembering all the loved ones who could only imagine what it would be like to experience this moment of pure bliss.


Posted in History

World Series Starts Today

So I will be sidelining blog posts for the duration; and however it turns out, it will be historic.

I’m all in for the Cubs as their fans, ballpark, history and current team’s record call me to their side.

Here’s a good story from the Chicago Tribune about one roster addition, a very important addition.

An excerpt.

One swing of the bat.

That’s all it takes to change a game – and perhaps a series. Sometimes it doesn’t even require a swing, such as when Ben Zobrist laid down a bunt against the Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series to start a Cubs rally that ended two games later with a celebration.

Cubs fans never will forget that. And Cubs executives still remember, which is what brought Kyle Schwarber to town Tuesday for Game 1 of the World Series. Schwarber’s presence in the lineup as the designated hitter can change any game and potentially this series. He can alter history. He represents a risk worth taking.

Schwarber will be limited. Nobody doubts that. Barely seven months ago he underwent surgery to repair torn ligaments in his knee. His recovery falls under the category of remarkable in a day and age professional athletes err on the side of caution when rehabilitating injuries and returning to play. But if doctors cleared him medically, it becomes a baseball issue. And if Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer believe Schwarber can make an impact as the 25th man on the World Series roster, they have earned the benefit of the doubt. They understand how even the specter of a guy who hit five home runs in 27 postseason at-bats can affect the thinking of opposing Indians manager Terry Francona. They get it.

Schwarber made his major-league debut against the Indians on June 16, 2015. What better team for the Middletown, Ohio, native to dramatically return against than the American League champs?

Activating Schwarber qualifies as a bold move, but the Cubs didn’t win their first pennant in 71 years tiptoeing gingerly to the top. This would not be a regime anybody can call risk-averse. Whether trading for controversial closer Aroldis Chapman or reinstating AWOL infielder Tommy La Stella, the Cubs have been consistent letting baseball reasons rule their thinking. Schwarber is just the latest example. Cublike now means creative aggressiveness. This fits the description. You don’t have to agree with every decision to respect that the Cubs have been consistent in the rationale.

Posted in ARPPS

Rock Festival in Parkway

This festival, as reported by KCRA News, is an excellent legitimate—and profitable—use of the Parkway in an area too often degraded by the illegitimate use by illegal homeless camping and the destruction through fires and pollution resulting from that; plus, the Festival folks pretty much clean up after themselves.

An excerpt.

Thousands of rock fans packed into Discovery Park for day one of the Aftershock Festival Saturday.


Aftershock Festival hosts 23,000 per day in sold-out weekend show

Festival rents Discovery Park for $70,000, spends $2 million in community, organizers said.

Festival back at Discovery Park because of traffic woes at Gibson Ranch in 2015

“It’s awesome. Discovery Park is beautiful, and you know, who wouldn’t want to play here. Downtown Sacramento is where it’s at,” said Brandon Mendenhall, member of the band The Mendenhall Experiment, who performed Saturday night.

This is the fifth year for the rock festival, and the first year back at Discovery Park after hosting it at Gibson Ranch last year.

“We couldn’t overcome the traffic problems. It’s a beautiful park, it had a bigger capacity there, and it was a great neighborhood, but we have a saying that your experience starts and stops with parking,” said Danny Hayes, CEO of Danny Wimmer Presents and organizer of the music festival.

With parking plus shuttles from Sleep Train this year, fans say getting to aftershock was a breeze.

“I like this location a lot better. It’s really accessible (and) it’s right off the freeway,” attendee Shawn Samboceti said.

One resident we met at the park, who didn’t want to be on camera, raised concerns about a private event using a public space for a concert of this scale.

Event organizers lease the park every year from the county for $70,000 per weekend.

“We pay for the park, we pay the park rangers, we hire the police, we hire the bartenders (and) we spend over $2 million in the community supporting this festival,” Hayes said.

Posted in Economy