Bay Area Council Blog: Community Engagement Archive


Council Members Take Priority Issues Straight to the Governor’s Office

Delegates on the Bay Area Council’s annual Sacramento Advocacy Day trip on Wednesday got the ear of the Governor and top Legislative leaders during an afternoon of substantive, face-to-face meetings focused on the Council’s highest priority issues. This annual trip is extremely important to advancing the Council’s policy priorities, nurturing relationships among Council members and with our state’s top decision makers and gaining valuable insight into California’s complex political process.

Gathered in the Horseshoe at the Capitol, Council members shared their issues directly with Governor Brown and Legislative leaders. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, introduced by Andrew Giacomini, Co-Chair of the Council’s Government Relations Committee and Managing Partner of Hanson Bridgett, led off the afternoon with discussions about high speed rail and the California Environmental Quality Act, both among the Council’s top priorities this year. Michael Covarrubias, Chair of the Council’s CEQA Committee and Chairman and CEO of TMG Partners, talked about the importance of CEQA reform in improving California’s business climate. Michael Rossi, the Governor’s senior jobs advisor and a member of the California High Speed Rail Authority, also focused on high speed rail (see related item below) and foreign trade. The Council has been working closely with Mr. Rossi in recent months to provide support for the Governor’s plans to open a California trade office in China, where the Council operates an office in Shanghai.

The Governor joined the discussion on high speed rail, whose fate will be decided by the state Legislature in the coming weeks, and expressed his enthusiasm for growing California’s foreign trade. Gov. Brown also spoke about his 12-point pension reform plan and discussed the tax measure he is working to get on the November ballot. After a lively discussion with the Governor, Council Chair Janet Lamkin introduced Nancy McFadden, Executive Secretary to the Governor, who outlined the Governor’s priorities for the coming year. Again, two of the issues — CEQA reform and pension reform – are aligned with the Council’s priorities. Tom Torlakson, Superintendent of Public Instruction, talked about his optimism for improving education quality in California. Anne Stausboll, CEO of CalPERS, was less optimistic in her briefing on the fiscal challenges currently facing the nation’s largest public pension fund. Jim Bourgart from Council member Parson Brinckerhoff introduced Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, who commented generally on the state’s often-maligned business climate and its negative impact on economic growth. Caroline Rodman of Council member T.Y. Lin introduced Sen. Mark Leno, chair of the powerful Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, who shared his ideas on addressing the state’s fiscal problems.

Council delegates closed out the day with a reception and dinner at Ella Dining Room & Bar with many members of the Bay Area Legislative Caucus. The group was also treated to a surprise dinner guest when Governor Brown stopped by, taking time to sit and talk with members at almost every table. The Council extends its heartiest thanks to sponsors T.Y. Lin, Parsons Brinckerhoff and Blue Shield of California for making this important visit happen. For information on how to get involved in the Bay Area Council Government Relations Committee, please contact Matt Regan at or at 415-946-8710.

View photos from the trip.


Council Welcomes New Foundation Director

The Council is pleased to announce the appointment of Erin Hafkenschiel as Director of the Bay Area Council Foundation, the charitable organization founded in 2004 to fund, manage and implement initiatives that impact the entire Bay Area. A Fulbright Scholar and graduate of UC Berkeley and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Erin brings to the Council extensive experience and knowledge in the areas of community and economic development, urban planning and public and private infrastructure development. Learn more about Erin.


Improving Business Climate Tops Council’s 2012 Priorities

Revving up the Bay Area and state economies will lead the Bay Area Council’s top priorities for 2012, with specific focus on reforming the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), creating a healthcare system that places a premium on controlling costs, and winning substantive reforms to our unsustainable public pension system. Those priorities are among five in which the Council will invest considerable time, energy and resources during the coming year. The Council will also focus on modernizing Caltrain, the outdated commuter rail service in the heart of the region’s biggest economic and jobs engine. In addition, the Council will expand its successful initiative to grow trade with China.

The priorities were finalized last week by the Council’s Executive Committee under the leadership of new Council Chair Janet Lamkin, who oversaw a comprehensive review of the Council’s priorities over the past several months. In establishing the priorities, the Executive Committee relied on staff research and analysis of various issues, member surveys, and a series of individual and group meetings.

Reforming CEQA. Despite some sector-specific dynamism, new research by the Council’s Economic Institute shows that the Bay Area economy essentially has been stuck in neutral for the past two decades.  Business leaders overwhelmingly point to burdensome regulations, including CEQA, workers’ compensation laws, and other red tape, as a main source of the problem.  The Council will produce empirical research to support what we know anecdotally.  We will build and lead a coalition of business groups and others in a major five-year effort to reduce the business regulations that have been stifling the Bay Area and California.  A key focus will be on stopping the continuing expansion of the California Environmental Quality Act and returning CEQA to its original scope and intent. To join us in reforming CEQA, please contact Policy Vice President Matt Regan at (415) 946-8710 or

Controlling Healthcare Costs. The healthcare cost-escalation crisis continues, harming businesses and consumers alike and jeopardizing our global competitiveness.  The Affordable Care Act created a framework that can be used to ratchet down rising health care spending, via state-based implementation. The Bay Area Council will continue to lead the business community and other allies behind a strategic vision of an affordable, high-quality health care system for California.  We will implement that vision through legislation to be enacted in 2012 and 2013 that will prioritize market-based solutions and technological innovations for reducing healthcare costs and improving patient health outcomes. To join us in controlling healthcare costs, please contact Senior Policy Advisor Micah Weinberg at

Reforming the Pension System. California’s unfunded pension and liabilities are estimated at $265 – $737 billion.  Add to that unfunded healthcare and pension liabilities at the county, city and special district level, and the numbers soar past the imagination.  In the short term and, especially in the long term, these liabilities mean much less money for services, education and infrastructure.  The Council will work with Governor Jerry Brown and proponents of a potential 2012 ballot measure to ensure that California reforms and manages public pensions in a fiscally stable manner. To join us in reforming pensions, please contact Policy Vice President Matt Regan at (415) 946-8710 or

Modernizing Caltrain. Surveys of business leaders and residents alike consistently cite traffic as the Bay Area’s top problem.  Congestion on Highway 101 between San Jose and San Francisco – our country’s most economically productive corridor – has particularly escalated.  Modernizing Caltrain would substantially increase its ridership and take thousands of cars a day off of Highway 101. Unfortunately, the modernization project has partial but incomplete funding.  The Council will lead an effort to build public and political support  to secure final funding and clear other hurdles, allowing the project to be completed, thereby reducing some of our region’s worst traffic. To join us in modernizing Caltrain, please contact Policy Vice President Michael Cunningham at (415) 946-8706 or

Expanding China Trade. Global trade is among the biggest drivers of Bay Area economic activity. Through our existing relationship with the Shanghai Yangpu District and a new large-scale “Technology Park” opportunity in Shanghai, we will continue to expand the presence and clout of Bay Area businesses in China with a physical landing pad, and attract more Chinese companies and investments to our region. To join us in increasing trade with China, please contact Director of Global Initiatives Bing Wei at (415) 946-8270 or

In addition to these strategic priorities, the Council will continue to collaborate with other partners in supporting a range of key issues, including cybersecurity legislation, high speed rail, science and technology education, water and energy efficiency, and protecting the Hetch Hetchy water system, among others.


Finalists in Bay Area Council Holiday Art Competition

Thank you to all the 4th graders from the Oakland Achieve Academy who participated in our 3rd Annual Holiday Art Competition. The top three finalists had their artwork printed on the Bay Area Council’s holiday cards and the winners will receive their own cards to send to friends and family.


By Alexander Huynh

By Fabian Vasquez

By Michelle Ignacio


By Ariel

By Axell Osorio

By Christopher Quiej

By Diego Baltazar

By Elizabeth Magallon

By Erick Ramos

By Franda Cevantes

By Ivan Villagra

By Jorge Hernandez

By Kelisia Bailey

By Kennya Ayala

By Lazaro Rolando Lorenzo Mendoza

By Michelle Del Rio

By Paulina Chavez Chacy

By Porta

By Susana Caimo Mendoza

By Ximena Flores

By Amy Hu

By Alejandra Villafan Gonzalez


Council Mounts Effort to Protect Vital Regional Water Supply

A campaign to dismantle the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir — the source of clean, reliable and affordable drinking water for 2.5 million residents and businesses of San Francisco, Silicon Valley and the East Bay – picked up steam this week with a request by Rep. Dan Lungren to investigate whether San Francisco has been a good steward of the resource. The Bay Area Council has been a strong supporter of keeping the Hetch Hetchy system in place and believes that San Francisco and our region’s strong conservation and water recycling efforts demonstrate well that we do not take this valuable asset for granted. The Council also believes that spending $10 billion to remove a vital piece of infrastructure that benefits so many Californians makes little financial or economic sense at a time when we should be investing public resources to meet our many unmet infrastructure needs. To learn more about the Council’s efforts to protect Hetch Hetchy water, contact Matt Regan at


California Early Learning Scores Major Federal Grant

Youngsters and families throughout the Bay Area and California got welcome news this week with the announcement by the White House that the Golden State is among nine to receive a combined $500 million in Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant funding. Under Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO George Halvorson’s leadership and with tremendous support from the Packard Foundation and Wells Fargo Foundation, the Council worked with the Preschool Business Advisory Council and many others to advocate for the grant funding, which will help increase access to high-quality programs for children from low-income families and provide more children from birth to age 5 with a strong foundation they need for success in school and beyond.


Mayor Ed Lee Updates the Council Board on SF Economy

Fresh from his election victory, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee spoke enthusiastically at the Council’s Board of Directors meeting on Thursday about his economic agenda for San Francisco. Lee said he is focused on creating a more favorable climate for businesses in San Francisco and attracting more employers to the City by the Bay. He said the recent deal to bring Twitter to the City’s mid-Market area has spawned renewed interest and investment in the long-dormant area, with inquiries from dozens of companies. Easing the burden of the City’s payroll tax is among the issues Lee said he expects to make progress on in the coming months, along with seeking changes to other tax-related policies that he said currently create a financial disincentive for locating in the City. Lee also talked about the need for greater cooperation among cities regionally to draw new companies and investment to the Bay Area. Many thanks to the California Academy of Sciences for hosting our meeting.


Council Helps Secure $5 Million Regional Planning Grant

In a big win for the Bay Area, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday awarded a $5 million grant to a group of public agencies and private organizations that includes the Council to coordinate regional planning on economic development, job creation and affordable housing. The Council played a prominent role in working with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Association of Bay Area Governments and a number of prominent social equity, environmental justice and community and economic development groups to prepare the grant application and advocate for bringing the funding here. The grant was among the issues on which the Council focused heavily during its recent advocacy visit to Washington, D.C.


Annual Dinner a Resounding Success

Under the artful direction of Master of Ceremonies the Honorable Willie L. Brown Jr., the Bay Area Council treated almost 750 guests to an evening of elegant celebration at the 66th Annual Dinner and Business Hall of Fame Awards last night at the Marriott Marquis Hotel. State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and his wife, Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer, were among the many luminaries to attend, including State Senators, Assembly members and mayors and other local elected officials from around the region. The ceremony included the passing of the Chair’s gavel from Lloyd Dean, CEO and Chairman of Catholic Healthcare West, to Janet Lamkin, President of Bank of America California. Lamkin becomes the first woman to chair the Council. In her remarks, Lamkin emphasized the need for “cooperation and commitment to a common cause” in “partnering with government and community leaders to drive economic growth, revitalize our communities, create jobs and improve people’s lives.” She challenged the audience to “put an end to the polarization that dominates our political dialogue and gives rise to the idea that business interests are somehow opposed to the larger public interest.” Council CEO and President Jim Wunderman reminded the audience that despite anger and frustration directed at the business community across the country that the business community has been and will continue to be a force for creating jobs, growing our economy and improving our quality of life.

The Council, under the leadership of Business Hall of Fame Chairman Gary Rogers, was honored to induct Dr. Regis Kelly, Director of the Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, and Doug Shorenstein, Chairman and CEO of Shorenstein Properties LLC, into its Business Hall of Fame. Kelly has been instrumental in leading the transformation of Mission Bay in San Francisco from an old industrial area to the Silicon Valley of biotech. Through his leadership, science and research are being converted to new startup companies, hundreds of jobs and innovative products that promise to address some our most challenging health and medical issues. Shorenstein was honored for taking a regional and highly successful real estate development company established by his father, Walter Shorenstein, and building it into an even more successful national company that has created some of the nation’s most distinctive commercial properties and whose management and business strategy are emulated throughout the industry. And for his considerable charitable and philanthropic contributions throughout the region and nationally. Walter Shorenstein was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.