Bay Area Council Blog: Government Relations Archive

TrafficTranspo

REGIONAL MEASURE 3 TAKES IMPORTANT STEP FORWARD

A bold plan to invest $4.5 billion across the region to ease traffic and improve mass transit for millions of commuters took an important step forward this week (Jan. 10) when the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA)’s Oversight Committee recommended placing Regional Measure 3 (RM3) on the June ballot. The Bay Area Council, partnering with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, SPUR and the California Alliance for Jobs, gave input into the legislation by Sen. Jim Beall that authorizes the vote on RM3 and is preparing to lead the campaign for RM3’s passage. RM3 would make important investments to unclog traffic chokepoints on key major freeways in the East Bay, Silicon Valley and the North Bay, help complete the extension of BART to San Jose and replace its aging fleet, expand regional ferry service and make significant improvements to other key local and regional mass transit systems.

A recent poll by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) showed support for RM3 reaches as high as 60 percent, well above the majority threshold needed for passage. But polls are no guarantee of success and passing RM3 will require a concerted regional campaign to inform voters about the many benefits they will enjoy. To pay for the improvements, RM3 proposes raising tolls on seven state-owned bridges by phasing in three $1 increases over the next six years. BATA’s Oversight Committee recommendation to move forward with RM3 now goes to full MTC-BATA for final approval on Jan. 24. To help support the RM3 campaign, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.

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KEY MILESTONE IN SEA-LEVEL RISE DESIGN COMPETITION

The Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge entered its final phase on Thursday (Jan. 11), with each of the 10 world-class design teams being assigned a specific location on the San Francisco Bay shoreline to prepare for sea level rise. State officials estimate there’s a 67 percent likelihood that sea levels at the Golden Gate will rise by 1.1 feet by 2050. Those troubling figures build off of a 2015 study by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that estimated the Bay Area could suffer more than $10 billion in economic damages due to flooding from a 150-year storm event under present-day sea levels.

The final Resilient by Design sites were the result of months of research and interaction between design teams, community members, and experts in government, industry, and academia. The final designs will be unveiled this spring. The Bay Area was awarded financial support to host Resilient by Design by the Rockefeller Foundation shortly after Bay Area voters approved the Bay Area Council-backed Measure AA campaign for a $12 parcel tax to fund multi-benefit flood protection/wetland restoration projects along the Bay shoreline. To learn more about Resilient by Design, contact Bay Area Council Vice President, and Resilient by Design Executive Board Member, Adrian Covert.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle’s story on Resilient by Design>>

Photo by New York Times

WITH RECORD BUDGET PROPOSAL, GOV. BROWN SEES RAIN IN THE FUTURE

There hasn’t been a lot of rain so far this winter, but Gov. Jerry Brown had the wet stuff on his mind this week (Jan. 11) when he released a $190 billion budget proposal that ups the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” by $5 billion to $13.5 billion. The reserve is designed to protect California against future economic downturns, which Brown believes is coming sooner rather than later. Still, the budget represents a record for California and includes a $7 billion increase over the previous spending plan. The Bay Area Council applauded many of the spending priorities, which include $4.6 billion for commute improvement projects from last year’s SB1 (Beall) legislation that the Council supported.

The plan invests $245 million to expand and protect affordable housing under SB2 (Atkins), another bill the Council supported last year. Brown proposed another $277 million for housing in anticipation of the passage of a statewide housing bond measure expected to appear on the November 2018 ballot. The spending plan also continues the Governor’s efforts to pay down the overall state debt and makes a small dent in the state’s massive pension liability shortfall. The Council is continuing to analyze the plan and will be weighing in directly as it now moves to the legislature, which has a June deadline to approve it.

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THE YEAR OF HOUSING, ROUND II

Many folks in Sacramento called 2017 the Year of Housing for the 15 bills (many of which the Bay Area Council supported) that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law that in various ways responded to the state’s awful housing crisis. Despite the volume of new laws designed to ease barriers and provide new funding for housing, the gains were modest compared to the immense scale of a problem that has been decades in the making. Many acknowledged that much more needed to be done, and now it’s starting to look like 2018 may be the main course compared to the appetizer served last year. That’s great news. Senator Scott Wiener was first out of the gate with a package of reform bills that aim to open a floodgate of new housing near transit and put more pressure on cities to meet their commitments for housing. The Council met with Sen. Wiener in December as he was developing his legislation, and many of the changes he is looking to make reflect long-standing reforms to the Regional Housing Needs Allocation process for which we have advocated. We have it on good authority that more reform ideas are soon to come from other members of the Bay Area Caucus.

The Council is also working with state Sen. Bob Wieckowski on a new bill, SB 831, that would build on legislation (SB 1069) we sponsored in 2016 that has unleashed a statewide surge in applications for accessory dwelling units, aka granny or in-law units. And, we are working on legislation to make the construction of student housing near college campuses easier to achieve. At a local level, the Council this week testified at the Alameda City Council in support of a project by member company Carmel Partners that will convert almost 150 units of vacant former military housing into three- and four-bedroom townhomes near the Alameda ferry terminal. The project won approval. Not a bad start to 2018. To engage in the Council’s housing policy, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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11TH ANNUAL ECONOMIC FORECAST CONFERENCE ON JAN. 19

What is the economic outlook for the Bay Area in 2018 and beyond? How will national and international trends affect our region? Join the Bay Area Council Economic Institute for the 11th Annual Economic Forecast Conference on Friday, January 19 from 8:00am-11:00am at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Each year this conference convenes the region’s top private and public sector leaders to share their economic outlook for the Bay Area, California and the nation. In addition to remarks by SF Fed President Williams, there will be a panel of  thought-leaders from three different sectors: tech, commercial real estate, and finance. Also, visually compelling presentations by the leaders in the field of VR/AR will bring to life the economic forecast by showing what our cities will look like as this development occurs. From new urban homes and offices spaces being created in downtown Oakland to massive developments happening at the San Francisco Shipyards and around San Jose’s Diridon Station, we can now see the future before it is built. Speakers include:

Forecasting the Future
John Williams, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
Ranjana Clark, Bay Area President, Union Bank
Kausik Rajgopal, West Coast Regional Manager, McKinsey & Company
Colin Yasikochi, Director of Research and Analysis, CBRE
Igor Popov, Economist, Airbnb

Visualizing the Future
O’Bien Chalmers, President, Steelblue
Radha Mistry, Futurist, Autodesk
Aaron Selvertson, CEO and Founder, Owlized

Special Announcement
Mayor Libby Schaaf, City of Oakland; Vice Chair, Bay Area Council Economic Institute

A continental breakfast will be served. Council members will receive a 50% discount using the code BACEI2018. Click here to register.

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2018 POLICY AGENDA TARGETS HOUSING, TRANSPORTATION, WORKFORCE

Behind the Bay Area Council’s continuing advocacy, the California legislature this year took its first (albeit modest) actions to address the state’s historic housing crisis. Much, much more needs to be done, and the Council’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors, under the leadership of Chair and Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard J. Tyson, this week approved a 2018 policy agenda that calls for escalating our work to achieve deeper, stronger and more effective reforms for spurring the tsunami of new housing the state so badly needs. Already, the Council is identifying new legislation for 2018 that can speed the approval and bring down the cost of new housing.

The 2018 agenda also prioritizes ridding the scourge of traffic fom the Bay Area’s roads and highways and getting more commuters out of their vehicles and into ferries, carpools, shuttles and other forms of transit. The Council is gearing up now for a campaign to win passage of Regional Measure 3, a $4.4 billion transportation investment plan that is expected to hit the June 2018 ballot. Rounding out the Council’s top policy priorities for 2018 is building a stronger workforce pipeline to meet the future needs of the region’s employers. The Council’s Workforce of the Future Committee is making immense strides to better align educators and employers to close the region’s yawning middle skills and talent gap, as well as creating new career opportunities for underserved youth.

Along with the top three policy priority areas, the 2018 agenda includes gender equity and workforce diversity, healthcare, advanced communication infrastructure, China and global innovation, carbon reduction and renewables, and water and climate resiliency.

The policy agenda was approved Thursday (Dec. 7) during a meeting hosted by new member Santa Clara University. The Board also welcomed state Sen. Jim Beall Jr. and applauded him for his incredible leadership as the author this year of SB 1, which invests $52 billion in statewide transportation improvements, and SB 595, which authorized the vote on Regional Measure 3. Beall talked about both measures and outlined his plans for new legislation for delivering transportation projects faster and at lower cost. The Council will be working closely with Sen. Beall on that project delivery legislation.

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BREAKING THE SILENCE ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT

The issue of sexual harassment has burst into the open in recent months as a growing number of women across the country have shared graphic and painful stories of abuse, assault and other inappropriate workplace behavior by male leaders, colleagues and others. The stories have exposed an insidious and systemic culture of abuse that women—across all industries and representing all socio-economic groups—have felt powerless to confront because of shame, embarrassment, fear of retribution, and legitimate concerns that their careers would be jeopardized, among many other reasons.

Time Magazine this week honored a handful of women as its “Person of the Year” for their courage in making their stories public, shining a light on the issue and empowering other women to come forward. Dubbed “The Silence Breakers,” this group of five women included Adama Iwu, a top government relations executive for Bay Area Council member Visa.

Iwu in October co-founded We Said Enough, a group that is working to expose a culture of abuse and harassment in California government and hold accountable perpertrators and enablers. More than 140 women, including legislators, penned an oped in the Los Angeles Times that announced “we’re done with this” and calling on both women and men to join in finding solutions. The Council applauds the courage and actions of leaders like Iwu in breaking the silence on sexual harassment. Through our Gender Equity Committee, we have been working with member companies to get more women into higher positions of leadership, address issues of gender bias and develop policies and practices for creating workplace cultures that take a zero tolerance stance against all forms of sexual abuse and harassment. To learn more about the Council’s gender equity work, please contact Policy Director Emily Loper.

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FOCUS TURNS TO 2018 FOR ESCALATING RESPONSE TO CA HOUSING CRISIS

California’s housing crisis was the hot topic of a discussion the Bay Area Council Housing Committee hosted this week with special guest Eleni Kounalakis, 2018 candidate for Lieutenant Governor and former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary. Kounalakis, former president of AKT Development, one of California’s largest housing development firms, said housing is a major plank in her campaign. She described a number of concrete strategies to increase housing production, many of which are consistent with solutions the Council is pursuing, including utilizing public land for development, adding teeth to the housing element law, making some public funds dependent on housing production, supporting bonds to subsidize housing, and creating CEQA exemptions for housing for teachers, first responders, nurses and other employees that are vital to supporting our “social infrastructure.” Kounalakis cited Bay Area first responders who live in Sacramento because of a lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area and the public safety risk that poses here. The Housing Committee will be advocating and potentially sponsoring state legislation next year to support many of these policies. To engage in the Council’s housing policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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Tax Reform Proposal Misses the Mark

The Bay Area Council is a nonprofit nonpartisan public policy organization that represents many of the largest employers in the Silicon Valley/Bay Area region and advocates for a strong, growing and sustainable economy. Our member companies come from a wide range of industries, including technology, healthcare, transportation, energy and business services, among many others. The Bay Area is one of the most innovative and economically productive regions in the country, if not the world, and has been one of the nation’s leading job creators (both in our region and across the United States) over the past decade and a major contributor to the United States’ federal budget.

We are encouraged that Congress is taking on the much needed and long overdue work of reforming the U.S. tax code in an effort to spur economic growth and increase our competitiveness globally. Many aspects of current U.S. tax code put our employers at a disadvantage against competitors abroad and discourage greater investment domestically.  While there is still much uncertainty about what changes will ultimately be included in any final tax reform package, our initial analysis finds that there are elements that potentially will have positive effects on our region and also extremely negative impacts.

The current proposal to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent could have important upsides for many of our employers that compete in a world economy where the trade-weighted average stands at 27.9 percent. Plans to lower the tax rate on repatriated corporate profits could also help bring a significant infusion of investment to the U.S. to expand manufacturing, increase capital equipment purchasing, and support important job training programs. However, we strongly recommend adding provisions on repatriation that will ensure these funds are directed to just those kinds of productive investments.

At the same time, a number of the proposed changes will have severely detrimental impacts on the employees of our member companies in our region and across California, which is arguably one of the nation’s most important economic and job engines.  Elimination of the property tax deduction and lowering of the mortgage interest deduction cap would dramatically exacerbate our region’s crisis-level housing affordability problem.  High housing costs already make it difficult for employers here and in many regions in California to attract and retain the top talent they need to compete and grow (especially middle-class workers).  The elimination of the state and local tax deduction would have a similarly negative effect.  And the proposed elimination of tax-exempt public activity bonds would hurt our ability to make critical investments in housing, transportation and other vital infrastructure. We also are very concerned about the last-minute proposal to include the elimination of the individual health insurance mandate, which we believe will result in increased premiums for employers.

As the debate over the tax reform package continues, the Bay Area Council asks you to change the package to eliminate the changes that will negatively impact California employees and our state’s ability to compete globally.  Any tax reform should strive to be fair to all Americans, and as currently constructed, this package misses the mark.

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California Businesses Launch Major New Climate Resilience Initiative

The Bay Area Council today launched the “California Climate Challenge,” a major new initiative to strengthen California’s resilience to climate change. The statewide challenge will attract resources from across the business community to support research, planning, and implementation of community-level resilience projects and policies focused on California’s water, energy and telecommunications infrastructure, as well as its natural ecosystems and the wildland-urban interface.

The effort is being jumpstarted with a $1 million contribution from PG&E Corporation to the Bay Area Council Foundation. The total amount raised through the challenge – and final details on its scope – will be announced in concert with the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in September 2018. PG&E’s contribution will come from its shareholders, not its customers.

“California’s business climate is inseparable from its actual climate,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Much of California’s infrastructure was built under a colder, wetter, more predictable climate than we have today. Protecting our homes and employment centers from extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods and wildfires, requires a top-to-bottom assessment of our existing resilience, and fresh thinking on how to best adapt.”

“We are already experiencing the reality of climate change in California,” said Geisha Williams, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation. “PG&E is incorporating this ‘new normal’ into how we manage risks, plan, and invest our resources. But our collective response to extreme events such as the tragic North Bay firestorms must go beyond the immediate work of rebuilding what was lost. A focus on resilience will strengthen our communities for the future.”

“We applaud this initiative to fund a public-private partnership for climate resilience in California,” said Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres, a leading sustainability non-profit organization. “Businesses are concerned about climate risks, which have the potential to cause wide-ranging disruptions to their operations and supply chains. Corporate support for tackling climate change is only growing stronger, and companies clearly see the benefit of staying ahead of the game and doing their part.”

Need for Action

Climate change will push California’s already volatile weather system to further extremes, increasing the frequency and severity of droughts, heat waves, flooding, and wildfires, and drive longer-term changes such as rising sea levels. California’s recent drought included the driest three-year period in the state in 1,200 years, including the hottest year ever recorded. Conversely, Northern California just experienced the wettest “water year” in its recorded history, resulting in severe infrastructure damage at California’s largest reservoir. According to the U.S. Forest Service, more than 100 million trees have died in California since 2010 and Cal Fire’s budget has increased by 45 percent since 2014 to address successive record wildfire seasons.

The California Department of Water Resources predicts the Sierra snowpack, which accounts for over a third of California’s total water supply, will decline by up to 65 percent by the end of this century, straining California’s farms, cities and ecosystems. On our coastlines, sea levels at the Golden Gate are projected to rise 6-13 inches by 2050, on top of the eight-inch rise measured in the 20th century. According to a study from the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the Bay Area alone could suffer over $10 billion in damages (about the same as Loma Prieta earthquake) during an extreme storm under current sea levels.

These and other changes have the potential to negatively impact the health and safety of communities throughout the state, and undermine California’s economic prosperity. California companies are integral to the sustainability of the communities they serve — and have a unique responsibility to help them prepare for, withstand and recover from extreme events caused by climate change.