Polluted County Courthouse

It appears, from this story at KCRA 3, that every night after the courthouse closes, throngs of homeless set up camp around it and after using it as an outhouse, etc. and the results are becoming toxic to those who have legitimate reasons to be at the courthouse during the day.

An excerpt. (Most of the story is on the video after the jump)

Jurors and other people who visit the Sacramento County courthouse in downtown Sacramento are being warned of the germs and bacteria that linger on the benches and tables from homeless people who set up camp in the area.

Posted in Homelessness

Native American Control of Some National Monuments?

This sounds like a good idea, from the Property & Environment Research Center.

An excerpt.

As part of his review of national monuments, Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke met with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. The coalition’s message was articulated earlier by the Ute Tribe’s business committee: “The monument was designated in response to government-to-government discussions that honored the trust relationship between the federal government and Indian Country. Any proposed changes can only be done through full tribal consultation that respects our sovereignty and the authority of the tribes to manage the monument.”

After an hour-long meeting with Zinke, however, Navajo tribal member Davis Filfred said, “We got the impression he [Zinke] had already made up his mind,” meaning that Zinke will likely recommend rescinding, resizing or modifying the national monument as instructed by Trump’s executive order.

If tribes are going to get more say in protecting sacred sites, they will have to have a greater role than consultation. President Obama promised to consult tribes in the management of Bears Ears, but consultation does not mean authority. As the Utah congressional delegation explained in January, “The Obama administration claims it has elevated tribes to have a guiding role in the management of Bears Ears. In reality, it has created a Native American commission that can be ignored without consequence.”

Because the monument was created under the Antiquities Act specifically passed in 1906 to protect “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of scientific interest,” one would think it is just what the doctor ordered. At the time of passage, Congress was particularly concerned about “pot hunters” who were looting artifacts in places such as Canyon de Chelly, Choco Canyon and Casa Grande Ruins.

The stated purpose of the act notwithstanding, courts have ruled that the Antiquities Act is “constitutionally too vague” to grant federal land management agencies the authority necessary to protect historic sites.

To remedy this deficiency, Congress passed the Archeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) in 1979. That act specifically regulates access to archaeological resources on federal and Indian lands. These resources are defined as “Any material remains of human life or activities which are at least 100 years of age, and which are of archaeological interest.” Therefore, even without national monument designation, the sites now in Bears Ears are protected from excavation and removal of artifacts without a permit from the agency with jurisdiction.

Rather than settling for consultation rights and depending on federal agencies to protect sacred sites, tribes would do better by seeking real authority to control access and manage the resources they care so much about.

Why not follow the model used in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, one of the best known and most visited monuments in the system? Canyon de Chelly’s legal ownership and authority are unique in that the monument lies entirely within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation on land owned by the Navajo Tribal Trust. For this reason, “administration of the park requires the National Park Service and the Navajo Nation to work together to protect and preserve the park resources.” Moreover, the Navajo Nation retains jurisdiction over many activities inside the monument including the right to escort non-Navajos off and even totally ban them from the reservation.

Suppose that the Inter-Tribal Coalition was given authority to manage Grand Gulch, a canyon within the boundaries of Bears Ears, in the same way that the Navajos cooperate with the NPS in the management of Canyon de Chelly. Grand Gulch contains spectacular examples of Anasazi ruins that definitely warrant protection. But making it a national monument is likely to attract more visitors who will love it to death. As Darren Parry, Vice Chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, pointed out, “Inviting the world to visit these pristine areas does not protect them any better, but it will exploit them. Increasing popularity does not increase protection.”

Posted in Government, Parks

Good News from County Parks?

Hopefully this new effort by County Parks, as reported from Sacramento County News, will work better than their past strategy, which did little to stop illegal camping and the vast ruination of the Parkway’s Lower Reach, now more aptly known as the Parkway’s Skid Row.

The news:

In order to tackle the impacts of illegal camping and other crime within County Parks and the American River Parkway, Sacramento County Regional Parks introduced the Park Resource Team in January 2017. The Park Resource Team (PRT), consists of a dedicated crew of five park rangers and four maintenance staff focusing primarily on the impacts of illegal camping, crime, and trash removal.

“Regional Parks deployed the Park Resource Team in January to areas hardest hit by recent flooding and illegal camping trash,” said Jeff Leatherman, Director, Sacramento County Regional Parks. “Through the work of the team, we’ve been able to improve our response and cleaning up areas impacted by illegal camping, making our parks and Parkway a better place for visitors to recreate.

Since January, the PRT has:

  • Made 65 arrests
  • Issued 150 citations

While the rangers continue their law enforcement efforts, County Parks maintenance staff work to remove debris accumulated from illegal dumping and flooding. This year, the maintenance team received the addition of a lightweight tractor and the support of a debris transfer vehicle—both courtesy of the County’s Department of Waste Management and Recycling.

With the addition of the tractor, maintenance staff can remove more debris than was previously removed with hand crews. The equipment also ensures maintenance staff safety by minimizing the amount of trash staff have to hand load into trucks for transport to the dumpsters or landfill. The machinery also assists staff in collecting heavy debris such as mattresses, couches, and large containers, in hard-to-reach places along the Parkway.

Additionally, trash dumpsters are emptied daily, minimizing the re-depositing of trash back into the park system from the dumpsters.

Between January-May, the maintenance team has removed 165.5 tons of garbage from the Regional Park system.

For more information about Sacramento County Regional Parks, visit the Parks website, as well as its Facebook and Twitter accounts. – See more at: http://www.saccounty.net/news/latest-news/Pages/Regional-Parks-Deploys-Park-Resource-Team.aspx#sthash.ydDb1R4v.dpuf

Posted in Parks

Housing the Mentally Ill

Years ago the mentally ill who could not take care of themselves were housed in government facilities, and, as this story from the Wall Street Journal notes, that perhaps provided more good than bad.

An excerpt.

To say I didn’t know my great-uncle, Wolfe Levine, would understate things. Though my grandfather and I were close, for years I didn’t know he had a brother. In retrospect, it’s clear Wolfe was simply unmentionable. We’d write it off today as the stigma of mental illness.

Wolfe’s story is tragic, dating from an era of large public asylums that America has sought to forget. His journey to the Lima State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Lima, Ohio, began in 1910 with a criminal conviction: one to five years in a reformatory for pickpocketing. Six years before, Wolfe had immigrated to America at age 14. Theft was not a shocking charge for a young man in Cleveland, living on a block of ramshackle frame houses with his widowed mother and her three other children. Once convicted Wolfe would never again be a free man

After less than two years in the reformatory—later made famous as the setting for “The Shawshank Redemption”—he exhibited “persecutory delusions” and “auditory hallucinations.” That’s how he wound up in Lima, where the conditions were so bad that by 1974 a federal judge chastised Ohio for failing to ensure “dignity, privacy and humane care.”

My great-uncle was still there. He died in custody in 1982, at 92, and was buried near Toledo, the costs covered by a fund for indigents supported by a local Jewish federation. Wolfe had spent 72 years in institutions. In the language of reformers, he had been “warehoused” for his entire adult life. His aspiration to be a playwright, the occupation he listed when admitted to the reformatory, would prove a dark irony for someone formally diagnosed with dementia praecox—schizophrenia, as it later came to be called.

Yet the story is not so straightforwardly bleak as it seems, and it casts light on how far America has come—and not come. Are we treating the severely mentally ill better today than we did a century ago?

Wolfe did not do well at the reformatory. In a year’s time, more than 300 days were added to his sentence for misbehavior. This almost certainly reflected an onset and worsening of his mental illness. The family may have been involved in the decision to transfer him to the hospital. My great-aunt, now nearly 100, recalls my grandparents discussing what to do with Wolfe. “Dave and Ethel were just starting their own family,” she says. “They just couldn’t take care of him.” Nor was his extended family well-off. My grandmother’s immigrant father was still making deliveries on Cleveland’s East Side with a horse-drawn wagon well into the 1920s.

Thus did Wolfe arrive at Lima in 1915. Little information exists on daily life there, but census records portray an institutionalized American melting pot. My great-uncle was listed as a “Russian Jew”; his neighbors—all of whose occupations were listed as “patient”—included natives of Alabama, Indiana, Germany, Bohemia, Hungary, England and Italy. The hospital was enormous, with 17 wings for 1,400 patients. It was considered the largest poured-concrete structure in the world until the Pentagon.

The nationwide hospital system was the product of a 19th-century reform movement, led by Dorothea Dix and Horace Mann, outraged by the imprisonment of so many of the mentally ill. By 1940, America had institutionalized 450,000 patients. Though the care given was far from perfect, it aspired to be therapeutic.

A little-known book provides a remarkable window into the era. In 1931, a 52-year-old journalist named Marle Woodson checked himself into Eastern Oklahoma Hospital in an attempt to kick his alcohol problem. As he dried out, he wrote “Behind the Door of Delusion,” which did not describe a quiet warehouse: “About me the daytime activities of the hospital hummed. All the work was done by the patients. There was little detailed supervision by the attendants, although they were here, there, and everywhere all the time.” A “floor gang” polished and shined, and a crew for making up beds did its work “with a neatness which would shame many of the maids in good hotels.” Patients worked in the “art department, bakery, the store, or other departments of the institution.”

There was darkness, too. “I was to learn,” Woodson wrote, “that a patient who apparently is in sound mind most of the time can suddenly suffer a paroxysm of wild hallucinations and become thoroughly and irresponsibly insane or even dangerously violent, then, after a period, return to an apparently normal state.” Straitjackets were used, as were opiates or barbiturate sedatives.

My great-uncle may have been restrained or sedated. Such were the limited tools then available. They did not change Wolfe for the better. For decades he was seemingly a shell of a human. Yet he also may have found satisfaction in helping with the chores, perhaps while mentally composing plays that would never be produced. He may have been comforted by visits from a Toledo rabbi. He was, without doubt, kept safe and warm through the cold Ohio winters

Instead of investing in such facilities when the level of care deteriorated, the movement toward “deinstitutionalization” shut them down. Today people like my great-uncle end up in prisons and jails. The Bureau of Justice Statistics once estimated that 365,000 adults with serious mental illnesses are behind bars. They are often kept isolated because of the risk of disruption or suicide.

Posted in History, Homelessness

Salmon Scare

Environmentalists are claiming, in this Sacramento Bee article, the imminent extinction of salmon due to dams and other important water policies allowing deserts to bloom, cities to grow and suburbs to prosper; while conveniently forgetting that hatcheries can produce all the salmon we need.

Responding to the claim that hatchery fish are inferior to wild fish, the memorable comment by Congressman Tom McClintock at a conference rings true, (paraphrasing): “The only difference between wild salmon and hatchery salmon is the same difference between a human baby born in a hospital or born at home.”

An excerpt from the Bee article.

Researchers have issued a dire warning for California’s native trout and salmon: Three-quarters of them will be extinct in the next 100 years unless urgent action is taken.

This bleak assessment came Tuesday from biologists at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences and from California Trout, a nonprofit advocacy group. In a new report, the groups said nearly 75 percent of California’s 31 salmon, trout and steelhead will be extinct by 2117 unless critical habitat is protected and restored.

The report follows up on the groups’ 2008 assessment that established a baseline level of health for each type of native fish. The researchers said that almost all of the fish are worse off than they were a decade ago. California’s record-breaking drought that officially ended this winter wreaked havoc on many of the already-struggling fish, which depend on cold water.

The researchers warned that warming waters from climate change only will exacerbate problems that already exist. Dams, for example, often block fish migrating to cold-water spawning grounds. Humans have transformed many of California’s river channels and estuaries into what are basically large, engineered drainage ditches – used for shipping, water supply and flood control. These waterways bear little resemblance to natural river systems that shrink and swell with the seasons, creating flood-plain habitat rich in food and sheltered areas critical to young fish.

To save the species, the report stated, regulators need to focus on the protection of rivers least altered by humans, such as the Smith and Eel rivers on the North Coast. Researchers said other needed efforts include protecting rivers’ cold headwaters, creating better groundwater management, removing problem dams or building fish passageways around them, and using altered landscapes such as flooded rice fields to mimic natural floodplains.

The good news is that many of those changes already are happening, said Curtis Knight, Cal Trout’s executive director.

He pointed to ongoing efforts to get fish around a dam blocking Battle Creek, a key cold-water tributary of the Sacramento River, and the pending removal of four huge hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. There also are promising partnerships among Sacramento Valley rice farmers, state water managers and biologists to create habitat in and around the engineered Yolo Bypass floodplain west of Sacramento.

Posted in ARPPS, Environmentalism, Hatcheries, Shasta Auburn Dam

Desalination Support Strong

A good article from the Association of California Water Agencies, about a recent survey one hopes soon begins to guide public leadership to grapple with desalination in California; maybe we can drink our way out of rising oceans.

An excerpt.

Nine out of ten voters polled in California favor desalination efforts and 78% of surveyed voters say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate for elected office who supports seawater desalination, a new statewide poll released today by Tulchin Research revealed.

The strong preference for a candidate who supports funding water desalination plants holds across both partisan and regional lines.

“Very few issues show such overwhelming support as does desalination in California,” said Ben Tulchin, President of Tulchin Research. “Elected officials and candidates for elected office should certainly take note that their constituents clearly want seawater desalination as a source of drinking water in the state.”

The poll, commissioned by the William C. Velasquez Institute, found that support for water desalination in California is apparent across every key demographic group in the state. The poll surveyed 500 likely voters during the four-day period, April 20-24

Specifically, the poll found:

  • 94% of men and 87% of women in favor desalination;
  • Democrats (90%), Republicans (92%), and independents (89%) all in favor of desalination efforts;
  • A solid majority of voters in every region of the state favors water desalination, including voters in Sacramento/North State and the Central Valley (93% favor in both regions) followed by voters in the Bay Area (91%), the L.A. area (90%), L.A. County (89%) and San Diego (85%);
  • There is also strong support for desalination efforts among every ethnic group in the state, including Caucasian and Asian voters (91%), Latinos (90%), and African Americans (81%);
  • Voters under age 50 (92%) and over age 50 (89%) favor desalination at nearly equally high levels.

“The results of this survey add to the mounting evidence that the majority of the state is in favor of desalination as a way to provide a secure source of drinking water for our communities,” said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute.

Posted in Environmentalism, Water

Sacramento Bee Gets it Wrong, Again

This editorial from the Sacramento Bee understands that laws need to be enforced on the Parkway regarding dogs on leash, but in continuing to refer to illegal campers as campers without illegal preceding, they encourage the normalizing of illegal camping.

An excerpt.

For every cyclist and runner who avoids the American River Parkway west of Sacramento State, what happened to Gabriel Frazee is a powerful reason to keep it up.

His story of “bleeding like a stuck pig” could’ve been anyone’s story. But it was Frazee who was riding his bike on the parkway last month when two pit bulls ambushed him.

The first dog, Wally, shot out from a homeless encampment, first sinking his teeth into Frazee’s ankle and then his leg, hitting bone. Wally wasn’t on a leash. Then, a second dog, aptly named Felony, chomped on Frazee’s arm when the owner let go of the dog’s leash trying to stop the first attack.

Understandably shaken and incensed, Frazee posted pictures of his mangled leg to the Facebook page of Sacramento County Regional Parks.

“Since your chief won’t do his job and enforce the no camping laws,” he wrote of Chief Ranger Michael Doane, “I was just attacked by a pack of pit bulls belonging to a long-standing homeless camp.”

Frazee has every right to be outraged, as does every resident of Sacramento who would use the parkway if not for the squatters’ camps and their sometimes vicious pets. No one who walks, jogs or bikes on the parkway should have to worry about being attacked by dogs.

But it happens far too often. In the last three years, there have been 17 reports of dog bites along the city’s section of the parkway, Sacramento Chief Animal Control Officer Jace Huggins told The Bee’s Brad Branan. Most were the result of unleashed dogs.

Homeless people own dogs, particularly pit bulls, for protection and companionship, teaching them to attack anyone who gets near their owner’s meager possessions. Sometimes the dogs are on leashes. But a lot of times, they aren’t, which can become a problem for runners or cyclists who encounter a pit bull while the owner is passed out in a tent.

Ideally, no homeless people would be living on the parkway. Frazee, for one, blames park rangers for not issuing enough tickets for illegal camping. Doane thinks the tickets aren’t much of a deterrent, and he’s got a point.

Homeless people camp on the parkway because there aren’t enough shelters, particularly for those who refuse to part with their pets. The machinery of government is starting to work, with the city and county dedicating more resources to homelessness than they have in years. But it’s going to take time.

In the meantime, homeless people must sleep somewhere, and with the parkway’s proximity to Loaves & Fishes, they’ll probably keep doing it on the parkway.

Where park rangers can have an impact is with compelling campers to keep their dogs on leashes.

Currently, they cite about a half-dozen people every month for not having dogs on leashes in county parks; most are let off with a warning. It’s time to give more tickets and fewer warnings. Plus, rangers should be given more discretion than what’s currently allowed under county ordinances to insist that animal control officers impound potentially dangerous dogs, particularly if they are seen off a leash and snarling at strangers.

Getting a ticket is one thing. Having authorities seize one’s beloved pit bull is another.


Posted in Homelessness, Public Safety