Saturday, October 26, 2013

Small towns near and far

In a situation like this, it is the job of the mayor to defend his town: Mojave chase: gunman led officers across desert.

Ridgecrest is a city of about 27,000 people adjacent to the vast Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, which sprawls over more than 1,700 square miles of desert. U.S. 395 runs through the western Mojave, below the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada.

Ridgecrest Mayor Dan Clark called the incident disturbing, especially because the small city is relatively crime free.

Sadly, it is not true, but I understand that the mayor must say things like that.

And Ridgecrest has hard problems to solve. There are no easy answers for the poverty, the transient population, and the remoteness that arise out there.

Still, I disbelieve the mayor.

Meanwhile, closer to home, my own small city is trying to do some cleanup of its own: Estuary Cleanup in Full Swing

The project is happening just across the street from my office, so I have a front row seat for much of the activity:

The Alameda Police Department (APD) is among 15 agencies involved in the multimillion dollar cleanup of the Oakland Estuary currently underway. Agencies that include the Coast Guard, the State Lands Commission and San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission are using Francis Collins' property at Clement Avenue and Oak Street to stage their operation.

The tug boats Respect and Captain Al, a pair of barges and a large amount of debris lay at the waterway's bottom just off the property that Collins hopes to develop into the Boatworks housing project. A team from the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) will soon raise all these hazards from the estuary's bottom.

Many years ago, Alameda was a center of marine industry, and there are still some smaller boatyards in operation, as well as many marinas for recreational boating.

But most of the old heavy industry has moved on, so it is no surprise that there is cleanup to be done. Although the government funded the work, I think it's only right that they are trying to get those who created the mess to foot the bill:

"Boats left to sink and rot are more than mere nuisances — they jeopardize San Francisco Bay's ecosystem and the recreational and commercial uses of the harbor," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "EPA will work closely with our state and federal partners to pursue those responsible for these environmental violations.

For example, the EPA is looking for the owners of the tug boats Respect and Captain Al to hold them responsible for abandoning their boats in the estuary.

Although it's clear that the impetus for the cleanup was the desire of the real estate developer to move ahead with their housing project, these sorts of civic improvement campaigns benefit us all:

"This is uncharted territory for us," APD Chief Paul Rolleri said. "We will remain in communication with OPD to help enforce laws and ordinances that pertain to the estuary." He said his department will treat illegal behavior on the waterway just as it treats graffiti and broken windows ashore, as a symptom of other trouble or of trouble to come.

We knew Chief Rolleri when he was our next door neighbor, still in police academy, nearly 30 years ago. I'm pleased that he's stayed close to home and is trying to work to improve his small city, not just with words but actions.

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