Friday, January 28, 2011

Seaside to discuss Smart Meters

In my last entry I noted that Monterey will be discussing a possible ban on PG&E's Smart Meters on Tuesday, February 1st. 

I just learned that Seaside will be discussing Smart Meters at its next city council meeting on Thursday, February 3rd.

If this concerns you, write your city councils a letter or show up at the meetings and let your views be known.

Monterey to consider Smart Meter ban

I thought my readers might like to know that the Monterey City Council will consider a ban on PG&E's so-called "Smart Meters" at the February 1 city council meeting. I hope other local jurisdictions will do the same.

Click HERE to see a copy of the city staff report and proposed ordinances.

My concerns about smart meters are as follows:
  1. They record data about your personal habits by recording when you use electricity and gas minute by minute. As I understand it, there are at present no safeguards on how that data may be used.
  2. PG&E is likely to use the information to charge you more for gas and electricity during certain hours of the day.
  3. The data is transmitted wirelessly from your meter to PG&E and can be intercepted by hackers who could use the data to determine when you are home or away. 
  4. The data will also be available on PG&E's website, supposedly only to the customer who resides at a given residence. However, this data could also be hacked. 
  5. Wireless data can also be corrupted by radio interference from other sources, such as cell phones and other wireless devices, possibly resulting in erroneous billing.
  6. Some people have expressed concern about the health effects of adding tens of thousands of wireless devices to every city in the state. Some say RF (radio frequency) radiation can cause anxiety, sleeping problems, and other disorders in sensitive persons. Even if only one person out of a thousand is affected, that would still harm well over 100 Monterey Peninsula residents who would be unable to escape their effects. 
According to the latest information on PG&E's website, Smart Meters are scheduled to be installed on the Peninsula beginning in April. This is two months earlier than reported by PG&E last month. However, local news reports and the Monterey city staff report indicates that installation may begin as early as February. It's all very unclear.

I used to think PG&E was a reputable company, but events over the past year (gas explosion, reports of poor record keeping, diverted safety funds, the self-serving Proposition 16 PG&E had on last June's ballot, and forced introduction of smart meters) have destroyed my trust in the company. Personally, I plan to lock my garden gate, and not allow PG&E access to install a smart meter.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Only a bureaucrat could make this excuse

I took a look tonight at the City of Monterey's latest version of the new Waterfront Master Plan. My primary interest, as an advocate of rail transportation, is to see that the legal railroad right-of-way (which includes the historic passenger depot near Fisherman's Wharf) is properly used in accord with the city's agreement with Caltrans. This agreement requires the city to actively support the reestablishment of rail service between Monterey and San Francisco. To that end, the city must keep the former Southern Pacific railroad right-of-way available for that purpose, or other other transit uses, such as light rail.

I also have a strong interest in historic preservation. Fortunately the city is dedicated to preserving and restoring the passenger depot building. Unfortunately, Monterey has in recent years grown reluctant to fulfill its obligations to support the return of passenger rail service. This has become increasingly evident in Monterey's waterfront planning process.

When I read the last page of the waterfront plan, I was dumbfounded to find this explanation as to why city planners did not want to use the passenger depot as a terminal for TAMC's proposed light rail service. Under the category of Alternatives Considered (and rejected) it said:

"Light Rail Terminal Station at Passenger Depot: 
This location is too close to the gateway, too visually
prominent, and may detract from showcasing the
historic Passenger Depot."

Read that again. How exactly does using a passenger depot as a passenger depot "detract from showcasing the passenger depot"?

Sorry, Monterey Planning Department, but that just doesn't fly, not from a transportation perspective and certainly  not from a historic preservation perspective. Using the depot for its designed purpose would enhance its status as a historic resource. Indeed, any other use would detract from its historic function and remove the building from its historic context.

To be fair, the planners preferred to place the light rail station near the maritime museum. The alleged advantage here is that it would be slightly closer to downtown, but only by two or three hundred feet. As a practical matter, that's not significant.

If the city really wants to showcase the historic passenger depot, don't convert it to a restaurant, or make it into yet another lifeless museum. Use it as what it is, a passenger depot!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Clover is not a weed

"We must look deep into realism instead of accepting only the outward sense of things." -Mary Baker Eddy

One learns interesting things when one does a little research.

Fifty years ago the presence of clover in one's lawn was the sign of a good gardener. In those days, grass seed was actually sold with about 5% clover seed in the mix. Why? because grass needs nitrogen in the soil to grow thick, healthy, and green while clover has the magical property of taking nitrogen out of the air and putting it into the soil. Clover and grass are a perfect match for each other.

But the grass seed makers also made fertilizer. They figured that they could sell more fertilizer if they took the clover out of the grass seed mixes. So when people's lawns started looking bad the neighbors would repeat the new suburban mantra "You need to add nitrogen." So homeowners trotted off to the garden shop and bought bag after bag of nitrogen fertilizer.

Then a new weedkiller came out on the market, one that only killed broadleaf plants including clover, but not grass. The lawn seed/fertilizer/weed killer manufacturers then hit upon a brilliant idea: classify clover as a weed to sell more weedkiller! So homeowners spotting clover in their lawns dutifully obeyed and bought bottle after bottle of broadleaf weedkiller to kill the very thing that would make their lawns grow healthy.

Monocultures, places where only one thing grows, are not self-sustaining. A monoculture lawn requires tons of labor and expense, while a lawn with clover requires far less of either. But when people are made to believe that a good thing is bad, they will toil mightily against their own self-interest.

The clover lawn story I have presented here is not only a fascinating story in itself, it is also representative of how many things in our economic and political culture works. One must ask, in how many other ways are we being deceived by those who will be enriched by our ignorance?