Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Arnold Schwarzenegger wants California to be like China

China has demonstrated the folly of failing to consider public input. Arnold Schwarzenegger (see story at bottom) now wants to bring this sort of thinking to California by eliminating environmental review.

Some Ships Can't Reach Shanghai's New Terminal
By Louisa Lim
All Things Considered
November 3, 2008

"As China's urban development proceeds at warp speed and with no public consultation, this type of anomaly is not unusual. Many smaller cities have built high-tech development zones that now stand half-empty. And this multimillion-dollar terminal now stands as a monument to a system where narrow, local interests often dominate over common sense."

In the Chinese port city of Shanghai, a glass building shaped like a water drop looks over the Huangpu River. It's a new terminal for cruise ships -- only some are unable to reach it.

"There's a little bit of a challenge, because one of our ships cannot fit under the bridge," says Karen Mann, director of international sales at the luxury cruise line, Crystal Cruises.

She is referring to the Yangpu Bridge, which is so low that many larger cruise ships can't fit under it to reach the terminal.

"If you're too high, you can't get through," Mann says, "so I think that could deter some of the cruise lines from getting to this terminal."

The Yangpu Bridge -- built in 1993 -- is just 165 feet above the water. That means almost one-third of the world's cruise ships can't fit under it, according to one estimate in industry magazine Seatrade Cruise Review. Even for those that can fit under -- those less than 87,000 tons -- it's not easy.

"One of our cruise liners sailed under the bridge -- a 76,000 ton ship," says Michael Goh of Star Cruises. "With that, you have to do a lot of preparation work, study of the tide -- to ensure that it is absolutely 100 percent safe to bring the ships in. With that, you have to spend a lot of resources -- a lot of money to do a lot of studies and things like that."

As the international cruising companies hold their first conference at the new cruise terminal, finished in August at a cost of $260 million, there's praise for the terminal's modernity and its environmental friendliness. But it is clear the bridge is a problem.

Today's trend is towards bigger and bigger super cruisers, so as time goes on, the problems caused by the low bridge will get worse. Two-thirds of cruise ships currently being built will be too big to get under the bridge. So how did this oversight happen?

"They started building this project without thinking it through carefully," says Liu Changshou, a retired engineer who has blogged about the botched decision. He says the city government should have known better, and he accuses the lower-level district government of ulterior motives in lobbying hard for the terminal.

"By building this center, they could attract cruise companies to develop the land," Liu says. "They're using the project to gain all kinds of municipal government support. So what they're doing is developing their own real estate."

At a signing ceremony at the new terminal, presided over by the chairman of Shanghai International Port Group, which oversees all of Shanghai's terminals, the chairman wasn't available for comment. But in an earlier interview with an industry magazine, he said cruise lines were unlikely to send bigger ships to Shanghai anyway, as that market is in its infancy.

But major international companies, like Royal Caribbean, are suffering. Senior Vice President Michael Bayley said that earlier this year one of its ships had to unload passengers at another terminal, farther out from central Shanghai.

"It's quite a problem for us," Bayley says. "We'd like the bridge lifted by about 50 feet if we could. The Chinese are capable of almost anything in construction and engineering. If they built the Three Gorges Dam, I'm sure they could lift a bridge, don't you think?"

But that isn't in the cards at the moment. As China's urban development proceeds at warp speed and with no public consultation, this type of anomaly is not unusual. Many smaller cities have built high-tech development zones that now stand half-empty. And this multimillion-dollar terminal now stands as a monument to a system where narrow, local interests often dominate over common sense.


Stimulus plan: Bypass environmental reviews
Governor proposes shortcuts on reports for public works
By Michael Gardner
November 4, 2008

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's draft economic stimulus package proposes to skip preparing time-consuming environmental impact reports for transportation projects, a move the administration believes would speed up the creation of new jobs...

[Blogger's note: I warmly agree that we need public works projects. Our infrastructure is falling apart and unemployment is high. But let's make sure the projects are good projects.]

Some lawmakers may balk, given the history of disputes over environmental and economic issues during budget negotiations. Schwarzenegger is convinced that immediate investment in public works is necessary to create jobs, and environmental reviews could slow construction by months.

Schwarzenegger tomorrow is expected to order lawmakers, many of whom leave office at the end of the month, to return for a special session to address a staggering budget deficit of up to $10 billion in the current fiscal year...

Schwarzenegger's package will call for the early release of $700 million in state transportation money, including $102 million for projects to improve Interstates 5 and 805 in San Diego County.

Some of the $700 million also would be set aside for smaller local projects, from filling potholes to adding streetlights.

The administration estimates that spending $1 billion on transportation projects creates 22,000 new jobs.

“We have billions of dollars of infrastructure bond money available that has to be appropriated and pushed out so that people can get back to work,” Schwarzenegger said last week.

Some legislative leaders have expressed support for releasing bond money early. Without legislative intervention, for example, the $700 million could not go out until July 1 – and only if the Legislature adopts an on-time budget.

“This is certainly the time to prime the pump in as many ways as possible,” said incoming Senate Majority Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento...

[Blogger's note: It seems to me that Schwarzenegger is prone to showing contempt for people.]

Obama may have 'skinny legs,' but can Schwarzenegger beat him in basketball?
Los Angeles Times
November 2, 2008

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's fitness advice for Barack Obama -- squats for his "skinny legs" and biceps curls "to beef up those scrawny little arms" -- got the Democratic nominee's chief strategist wondering: How are the California governor's basketball skills?

Schwarzenegger might not know it, strategist David Axelrod said, but "Sen. Obama's pretty fit."

The governor poked fun at Obama's lean physique Friday as he campaigned for Republican nominee John McCain in Ohio, where Schwarzenegger's annual bodybuilding contest was being held. In fact, Obama has been adamant about working out 45 minutes a day during the presidential campaign. On Saturday morning in Las Vegas, he hit the fitness center at Caesar's Palace.

Obama also plays basketball, although games have been rare lately. It's an Obama tradition to play on election day...