September 30, 2009
Other Hohenstein Shoe About To Drop
The Fair Political Practices Commission will meet on October 8 and decide whether or not to accept an Administrative Law Judge's ruling that former DHS city councilmember Hank Hohenstein will have to pay an $18,000 penalty for voting on the proposed StoneRidge development. Mr. Hohenstein will be at the meeting to request a lower amount.
Big Wheel Art Car
Burning Man Photos
Those LADWP Water Mains
After that brief mention I made yesterday of the breaking water mains in Los Angeles, the L.A. Times has graciously published this summary article. There have been 43 breaks "requiring significant repairs" this month. In September 2008 there were 21, September 2007 only 17 and in September 2006 just 13. The theory put forth to explain this increase is not that LADWP is using the wrong rate of depreciation, but that the pesky water conservation rules (sprinklers on Mondays and Thursdays) are causing stressful surges in pressure when everyone turns off their sprinklers at about the same time. The solution is for LADWP to monitor the internal pressure of their mains very closely. If the pressure appears to be approaching the upper limit, LADWP could use Reverse-911 to call homeowners with a message to get out there and start watering. Community minded apartment-dwellers without any landscaping could jump into the shower to help.
The Solution For Public Urination
Cancun - A crocodile attacked a young American tourist as he tried to urinate in a lagoon near the Mexican tourist resort of Cancun, police said on Tuesday.
Andrew Dales, 20, confessed he had been on a mission to relieve himself when the crocodile suddenly snapped at him, said police spokesperson Alejandro Solorzano.
Dales suffered "multiple bite wounds" to his leg and neck and was also left with a head injury after the reptile knocked him to the ground, Solorzano said.
Lagoons in the area are dotted with crocodile warning signs.
Sky Valley Trails
If you're interested in hiking around Sky Valley, Desert Edge, and Indio Hills you don't want to miss the Sky Valley Chamber's Trails Event this Thursday night [October 1]. There's a whole lot of trails planning going on and we'll talk about the County General Plan Trails Element and the CVAG Non-Motorized Transportation Plan. Then the Friends of the Desert Mountains will present a great proposal for trails in the Indio Hills. Finally, cowgirl Elin, the official artist/photographer/chronicler of the Sky Valley Hiking Club will present a slideshow of her photos of our adventures.
September 29, 2009
Mormon Row in Grand Teton N.P.
A bunch of decaying ranch buildings at the golden hour? I was happy!
This barn, we learned, is one of the standard photo subjects in Grand Teton. Just after the sun went behind the mountains, a gob of DSLR-wielding photographers swarmed around taking shots of the silhouetted buildings. At Pioneer Grill we ran into a couple of women who had just arrived in Grand Teton. They said there was a barn they had to go find. We knew instantly which barn and gave them directions. Told 'em the buffalo would be there too, so win-win.
Mission Springs Water District Special Meeting, September 29
If you want to download or listen to the audio recording of this special board meeting of the Mission Springs Water District, here it is. The special meeting was called for two items: the acceptance of the audited financial statements for the closed fiscal year, which are due to the state comptroller by October 19; and approval of the water supply assessment and water supply verification letter for the city's downtown vortex plan, which are required for the city's EIR for that project, which they want to wrap-up quickly so things can get moving.
Audited Financial Statements
Things are great from an auditor's point of view, which means all the records are there and the staff was entirely cooperative. The report is pages of numbers. Ask me one of them and I'll quote it to you. But easier than all that, there are five bar charts that tell a story. Here they are:
Combined Operating Revenues.
Combined Operating Expenses. Notice that these two graphs are on a different scale. In 1995 both were $3.5 million. Since then, operating revenues have increased by 146% to $8.6 million. Operating expenses have increased by 249% to $12.2 million.
Combined Non-operating Expenses. These graphs of non-operating revenue and expenses are of tremendously different scales. The top line on the revenue chart is $21 million, while on the expense chart it's only $1.2 million.
From the peak of $17.1 million in 2007, it's dropped to its lowest point since 1995, $300,000.
Director John Brown raised a question of whether the depreciation of capital assets is too aggressive. The auditor said the MSWD is doing it the right way, conservatively. He compared it to the situation in the LADWP where (for whatever reason) water supply lines are breaking faster than the ancient brick pipes that still serve New York City, suggesting that LADWP had done it wrong.
Director Brown said that the board had only received the audit report at 9 o'clock this morning, just minutes before they were supposed to vote to accept it. The vote to accept the audit was 3-1 with Director Brown dissenting (Director Duncan had not yet arrived at the meeting).
Water Supply Assessment - Downtown Vortex
If you want to be totally up to speed on the nitty gritty of this subject, go download the agenda packet for this meeting. It's one page of agenda and 40 pages of packet, all of it on the subject of the water supply assessment for the downtown vortex plan. Basically, as I understood the discussion, any project that includes 500 units or more must come to the water district for a "water supply assessment." The water district determines if it has the capacity to supply the water, and, if it does, can issue a "water supply verification letter." The district then considers that water obligated, even if the project is slow to build (like the Snellenberger project) or never gets fully built out. However, if a project goes absolutely terminal, deader than a doornail, like Palmwood, the water obligation is undone.
The city projects the vortex area to include 320 residential units (520 gallons/day), 184 mixed use residential units (216 gallons/day), 100 hotel rooms (230 gallons/day), 26 acres of general commercial (2,500 gallons/acre/day), 28.5 acres of open space (it says "1.78 feet per acre per year," which sounds like 1.78 acre-feet/acre/year to me), 20 acres of civic center campus (225 gallons/day/1,000 square feet (buildings?) plus the same 1.78 acre-feet/acre/year for open space). The net change is from 347 acre-feet/year to 546 acre-feet/year. The district's urban water management plan says that the district can produce 40,000 acre-feet/year, and that even by 2030 we are projected to be using only 75% of that potential capacity.
That utlimate capacity is not to be confused with "overdraft" which means the district is pumping out of the aquifer more than what goes in. We are in overdraft.
Somebody from the city staff should have been present for this meeting, if only to report back to city hall. But also because board members wanted some questions answered. The discussion of this item begins about 15 minutes into the audio recording and goes on for more than an hour. While it seemed that all members of the board wished that this item had been given to them in advance so that it could be studied, it was Director Brown who really pushed on that point. He said he wished this material could have been presented at the joint meeting with the city council. He resented that the city waited so long to bring this to the district and then pressured them to hurry to rubber stamp it. He (and other members of the board) said the city had historically treated the water district as if it were subservient. The board discussed possibly delaying this vote until the regular board meeting later in October, calculating that it would delay city council action on the EIR only until early November and wondered if that would trip up any crucial city plans (here's where a city staffer could have provided an answer).
Director John Furbee's position was that the request is for only a small amount of water that the district could easily supply, and so the district is obligated to approve it. He said that when the day comes when the district needs more water, then they would go out and find it. Later Director Brown said those days are gone when we can just go find more water. Director Brown said that due diligence at this point is to consider wise water use and conservation. He cited Las Vegas as the way NOT to do it, where all water uses were approved, but now their water authority is having to go back to individual property owners and negotiate water use reductions. Mr. Brown said that this would be the proper time to make some input into the landscaping design.
Director Brown did not like it that other Directors seemed to be characterizing his position as standing in opposition to the city or the downtown plan. He said he wants the city to improve, but he also wants the water district to meet its due diligence.
The board impressed on General Director Arden Wallum that they did not want important items like this water supply assessment and the audit presented at the last minute and Mr. Wallum assured them that it would never happen again.
Director Brown recalled a meeting with RDA Director Rudy Acosta at which Director Brown suggested that the proposed LED lighting in the downtown vortex that is meant to represent flowing water be replaced with an actual, real water feature (using recirculating water). Mr. Acosta told him there wasnt enough water for that. Mr. Brown did not appreciate his suggestion, as water district director, being so dismissed.
The discussion even wandered onto the subject of the $80 check (for 80 years rent) presented by Mayor Parks to President Wright on Saturday at the rededication of Mission Springs Park. Was it somehow patronizing or insulting? Was it a good check? Had the city council approved it? I know the city manager has spending authority up to some limit that is considerably higher than $80, so if you get a check from the city for $80 you don't have to ask if the city council voted on it. It will show up in the register of demands in the consent agenda at the next city council meeting and I can guarantee you that the city council will approve it. Someone at the city (and I can't even remember it was a staffer or an elected official) many months ago said that the required $1 per year rent for Mission Springs Park generated a little concern as to what might happen if some future city administration overlooked that small payment. In any case, I think the check was probably intended to be a humorous way for the city to show its long-term dedication to maintain the park for the kids. Rather than fretting over the intended meaning, I think the water district should frame that check and mount it in some secure, permanent display at the park.
Director Brown said when city's "dog and pony show" at the joint meeting indicated certain areas of the city where repaving was not done because the water district had indicated they would be sewering those areas, that was the first he had heard of it. General Manager Wallum agreed that no one at the district had told the city that those areas would be sewered. Director Randy Duncan has been present at most of the city council meetings and I'm sure he had heard those assertions made by city staff. At least once Director Duncan rose to speak on the subject at a city council meeting, but I don't recall him contradicting the city's view that the district had said those areas would be sewered. It would be very interesting if it were possible to trace this misunderstanding back to its source and find out how the city got the impression that the water district would be tearing up those roads.
Ultimately, the water supply assessment and water supply verification letter was approved 5-0.
Republican Women Working To Create Second-Class Citizenship
A Desert Sun article about how the Republican Women Federation of Palm Springs is circulating a petition to put the "California Taxpayer Protection Act 2010" on the ballot. I haven't been able to find the text of the proposition yet, but here is a summary from the Attorney General's office:
DENIAL OF PUBLIC BENEFITS FOR PERSONS WHO CANNOT VERIFY LAWFUL PRESENCE. DENIAL OF BIRTH CERTIFICATES TO CHILDREN OF UNDOCUMENTED PARENTS WHO FAIL TO VERIFY STATUS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Requires applicants for state, local, and state-administered federal aid to verify lawful presence in United States. Requires applications for public benefits submitted by undocumented parents on behalf of their lawful-resident children to be given to federal authorities. Denies birth certificates to children born to undocumented parents unless mother provides fingerprint and other information to be given to federal authorities. Limits benefits for children in child-only CalWORKS cases to federal minimum. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: If upheld in the courts, unknown potential one-time and ongoing costs to state and local governments due to changes in the application process for public benefits as well as changes in the way birth certificates are issued. These costs would be partly offset by additional new fees for certain birth certificates. Unknown, but probably minor, state and local law enforcement costs due to provisions in the measure creating new crimes, such as for the filing of false affidavits to obtain public benefits. If upheld in the courts, state savings of over $1 billion annually from prohibiting child-only CalWORKs cases, partially offset by state and county costs for children who shifted to Foster Care or county general assistance programs. Further unknown savings from the provisions changing the application processes for public benefits. (09-0004.)
The Desert Sun article brings says the initiative "would require that birth certificates be stamped 'foreign' for U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants." The article is a bit confusing because it refers to "U.S.-born" which would suggest this is some sort of national initiative. That's impossible, of course. It's a California initiative, so it would apply only to American citizens born in California. American citizenship is, of course, an entirely federal matter and the states are required to respect that. Here it is defined in the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
Additional requirements would be imposed for EVERYone who requests a copy of their California birth certificate. If your parents were not American citizens your parent "would be required to submit an affidavit declaring her lawful presence in the country. She would also have to declare her country of origin, means of financial support, and provide a photo and fingerprint, along with $75."
This is where I really need the text of the proposition because the Desert Sun doesn't say how it works if only one parent is not an American, or if the parents are deceased, at what point in the child-citizen's life does this provision no longer apply? Will it follow that citizen through his entire life, long after his non-citizen parents have passed on?
Further, the Desert Sun article says "U.S. citizens, too, would be required to submit an affidavit declaring their citizenship." So, even though the birth certificate is one of the key documents used in establishing your citizenship for, say, a passport or some federal benefits or eligibility for public office, you would have to submit some sort of affidavit first attesting to your citizenship before you get the birth certificate. Either that affidavit requirement has to be uselessly weak (merely a notarized statement from the citizen, perhaps) or it will lock the citizens of California who need the birth certificate in order to prove citizenship into a Catch-22.
If somebody can point me to the full text of the proposition I would appreciate it. It's hard to tell if it's as ridiculous as it sounds, or if it's just more bad writing from the Desert Sun.
September 28, 2009
Catching Up With YouTube
If you're one to avoid YouTube, take four minutes out of your life and catch up.
Based on 130 photographs with "visiting foreign dignitaries" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The video is based on this set of State Department photos on Flickr. I think the Flickr slideshow is much more interesting than the video above:
Every year at Burning Man something surprising happens, and by "surprising" I mean something even outside the range of the predictable unpredictability of Burning Man. It could be a suicide, arson, or this year a helicopter towing a banner advertising "Advanced Nutrients."
Their banner brazenly displays marijuana buds, but their website shows pictures of roses and talks about improving your garden. While I enjoyed the sight of this banner as a bit of revolutionary capitalism invading our strictly non-commercial Black Rock City (many Burners cover up the advertising on the exterior of their rented vehicles), I've just learned that other Burners were offended by this rule-breaking. Worse than that, though, the helicopter violated the flight rules of Black Rock City. There's hardly a daylight moment when there isn't at least one aircraft circling Black Rock City, and the flight rules require them to travel clockwise. Those money-making pigs in the helicopter flew counter-clockwise.
SEEKING VIDEO OR PHOTOS OF THAT HELICOPTER
If you were witness to the low-flying helicopter pulling an advertising banner over BRC on Saturday of the event, two things for you:
Firstly, no, no, and hell no, Burning Man didn't and wouldn't approve an advertising banner's flight pattern over BRC. In fact, the copter's flight was unannounced, unpermitted, and by all accounts and observation, flew below the legally controlled "ceiling" of BRI airport, and against the flight pattern used by small craft above BRC.
Even if Black Rock City's residents WERE the type to respond well to marketing ploys, (which, ha)...well, loose maneuver, dude, quoth the Rabbits.
Here's where you all come in: if you got video or photos of this helicopter flight that clearly show its elevation in perspective from the ground, PLEASE let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org
The best solace of the whole shebang is, knowing Burners, it's highly doubtful this stunt earned Unnamed Company X any customers or supporters.... in fact it probably generated them nothing short of massive amounts of resentment toward their brand and since we know a few people who have written their CEO to tell him as much, we're sort of guessing that he wishes they'd never heard of Burning Man right about now. My, but you Burners are protective of our fair city and its values. Smooch!
One Bike Video, Two Versions
In this handlebar-camera bike video from Burning Man, the sun has just gone behind the mountains and I ride along Esplanade from the wilds of 2 O'Clock to Center Camp. The streets start fairly empty, but pick up in traffic as I move along. By chance, I encountered the lamplighters on their way out to light the kerosene lanterns on the central avenues. I did two versions of the 9m 23s video. In the first one I tried the "stabilize" option in iMovie. That takes hours to do, but I think the result is a tad less wacky than the unstabilized version. The second version is unstabilized, but I applied the "dream" lighting choice. Seemed appropriate. There is no sound in either video.
Fly Ranch for Burning Man?
Photo by Prime Pixellographer. Our Black Rock City neighbor Jorge has posted his photos from the trip that he and 99 others of the Burning Man elite (they keep saying it's egalitarian) took to the nearby Fly Ranch. Burning Man is considering purchasing the ranch which includes a natural hot water geyser (gotta be a vortex there!) that feeds the 101° mineral water pool you see in the photo above.
Here's a link to the complete set of photos.
DHS Street Paving Rehab Report
I got a copy of that pavement rehab presentation that Jonathan Hoy, Public Works Director, showed at the September 15 City Council meeting. Just follow that link to get the whole 22-page report. Here are some excerpts.
Pavement conditions of all streets before the project began. Pavement is ranked from 0 to 100 with 0 being the very worst and 100 the best.
This map shows (in red) the areas that the MSWD said (suggested? implied? hoped?) sewer construction would soon be underway. The city did not include those areas in the repaving project.
Before and After. Upper left chart is residential pavement "before" (same as the chart above). Lower right is the "after chart." Looks good, right? But wait, it's better than it looks. The two charts have different scales. The "before" chart tops out at 4 million square feet, while the bottom one is twice as high at 8 million.
Below is the chart that puts them on the same scale, so you can see just how much the 90-100 bar has increased.
In this chart the paler, lefthand bars represent "before" and the richer, righthand bars are "after."
September 27, 2009
The Temple at Burning Man is the place Burners can unload themselves of whatever they are ready to unload, to put behind them, to let go of, to release, to forget, to free up. They can unload it in any way they want, but it's usually writings, photos, mementos, tokens, artwork. Then on Sunday night whatever they have unloaded goes up in flames along with the rest of The Temple.
A Gigapan in use in The Temple. I videoed it for the duration of 2 or 3 snaps. There were a couple of Gigapans at The Temple when I visited, but I haven't found those particular Gigapan panoramas on the web yet.
A Sensible California Proposition
Here's the full text of the proposition: "All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be determined by a majority vote." Here's the website of the organization supporting it. The budget, spending and taxes are all routine matters that have to be handled every year. Let the legislature do its job. If you don't like the way your representative(s) have voted, recall them, or vote them out when they run for re-election.