Bay Area Council Blog

11.4.09

Major Deal Overhauling State’s Water System Reached

By Andrew Michael

Today, after many days and a long night of debate in the Legislature, lawmakers passed a long awaited, comprehensive water package. We expect the Governor will sign off on this five-bill package – which will bring a much needed overhaul to the State’s antiquated water system. The package includes an $11.1 billion bond measure that will be up for voter approval in November 2010.

Our work in this area, with the leadership of Jim Levine, Chair of our Water Policy Committee and many members, in collaboration with over 15 major business associations from around the state, has led the effort to reform California’s water governance system. Thanks to those of you who recently urged the legislature to adopt a strong governance structure in the new water plan. Many of the reforms sought by the Bay Area Council are included in the bills that were passed this morning.

The Bay Area Council has been leading efforts to resolve water issues affecting the state and the Bay-Delta for many years. It was the Council’s leadership at the beginning of the millennium that sought to bring together all parties from the water, environmental, business, and agricultural community in the CalFed process.

In recent years, the Bay Area Council has worked with other business groups, and water agencies in northern and southern California, Delta representatives, and with major environmental groups to explore solutions to a water and ecological system in crisis. Through this new collaboration of leaders from Northern and Southern California, we found more in common than we had expected, and came together on a number of common sense strategies to resolve the difficult issues of water supply reliability and ecosystem recovery.

We are heartened by the water deal but there is much more work ahead. We plan to continue our work – with your help – on this very important issue. There is a case to be made that the package doesn’t go far enough – but given the complexities of the issues and the challenge of passing meaningful legislation – we think this package is a good outcome. We congratulate the Legislature for their work and the Governor for calling the special session.
Highlights of the water package include:

• Oversight: A new seven-member board to oversee the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The board would consist of gubernatorial and legislative appointees, along with the head of an existing delta commission. The board could approve a controversial peripheral canal to channel water around the delta.

• Conservation: A 20-percent conservation mandate for urban areas, with credits for cities that have made significant conservation efforts. Agricultural entities will have to follow best practices for water use.

• Groundwater Monitoring: New regulations to monitor groundwater levels throughout the state.

• Water Rights: Increased penalties for illegal water diversions, although the penalties and enforcement were significantly weakened from an earlier plan.

• Financing: A $11.1 billion bond to pay for the overhaul. Of the total, $3 billion would be set aside for new water storage, which could be reservoirs, and more than $2 billion would go toward restoration of the delta ecosystem. Other money in the bond would pay for water recycling, drought relief, conservation and watershed protection projects.

10.19.09

Important Victory for Education! – SB 19 Signed into Law

By Linda Galliher

California’s cash strapped and underperforming schools need help. Yet, without a comprehensive system to track student data and performance, the state was unlikely to qualify to compete for a large pot of money in the federal Race to the Top education funds. In frustration with his home state, Congressman George Miller, who chairs the House Committee on Education and Labor, ended a recent Bay Area Council meeting saying, “We cannot continue to throw education dollars at a broken system.” It was sobering to hear this given the Bay Area Council’s Education Committee’s continuing fight for a comprehensive education data system. Our hard work finally paid off when Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 19 (Simitian), a bill that removes barriers to federal stimulus dollars – and strengthens the State’s ability to accurately track student performance.

State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) thanked our members for their work. “The signing into law of SB 19 is the culmination of several years’ hard work. Not only does the bill make California eligible to compete for $4.5 billion in federal education funding but it will put in place a data system that will benefit our children and their teachers. I thank the Bay Area Council for their support over those years.”

We, in turn, congratulate Senator Simitian. California lags in the tracking of student performance. We are working diligently to change that – and this bill is a huge step.

SB 19 will allow California to do the following:

* Use student data to evaluate teacher performance and to make teacher assignment decisions.
* Link the collection and flow of data, through a longitudinal system, from Pre-K, through K-12 and into higher education.
* Compete for federal Race to the Top stimulus funds that will be awarded to states that are innovative and reform minded.

For more information on California’s quest for federal grant monies, and suggested reform legislation from the Governor click here.

10.7.09

BAC Trip Initiates Sustainable Development Dialogue with D.C.

By Matt Regan

A delegation of California’s leading infill developers, architects and land use lawyers participated in a Bay Area Council sponsored trip to Washington D.C. last week to talk to the administration and members of Congress about the many roadblocks that currently impede the progress of sustainable dense, transit oriented development in our cities.

Led by Michael Covarrubais, Chair of the Land Use and Transportation Committee, Andrew Giacomini, Chair of Government Relations and Jeff Heller Co-Chair of our Climate Change Committee, and Jim Wunderman President & CEO of the Bay Area Council, seventeen delegates and five Bay Area Council staff made the trip back to lobby for smart growth policies and practices.

A recent directive from President Obama instructed the Department of Transportation, HUD, and the Environmental Protection Agency to work in a coordinated manner in order to make sustainable urban development and healthy livable communities the norm rather than the exception. We met with senior officials from all three agencies as well as Fannie Mae and told them in some frank and open discussions we told them what gaps needed to be bridged and roadblocks removed in order for the President’s vision to become a reality.

We also took our case to the Capitol where we met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressman George Miller, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Congressman Richard Neal and senior staff from Congressman Barney Frank’s Financial Oversight Committee.

If one common thread connected all our meetings it was that we were visiting at the right time and that our message and our leadership on this important issue was noted and valued. The follow up work is ongoing and we hope to report some tangible results in the very near future.

Special thanks to Brendan Dunnigan and HKS Architects our dinner sponsors, Andy Ball (Webcor) and Jeff Heller (Heller Manus Architects) or cocktail reception sponsors, and our full team of delegates;

Andy Ball, President & CEO, Webcor Builders
William E. Berry, President & CEO, University Associates
Margo Bradish, Partner, Cox, Castle & Nicholson LLP
Michael Covarrubais, Chairman & CEO TMG partners
Shelley Doran, Vice President, Webcor Builders
Brendan Dunnigan, HKS Architects Inc.
Jim Ghielmetti, CEO, Signature Properties Inc.
Andrew Giacomini, Managing Partner, Hanson Bridgett LLP
Jeffrey Heller, President, Heller Manus Architects
George Marcus, Co-Founder & Chairman, Marcus & Millichap
Chris Marlin, Vice President, Lennar Homes
Stephen Richardson, Senior Vice President, Alexandria REIT
John Stewart, Founder & Chairman, the John Stewart Company
Tom Sullivan, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Wilson Meany Sullivan
Nicholas Targ, Partner Holland & Knight
J.T. Wick, Principal Berg Holdings

And thanks to the Bay Area Council team, Jim Wunderman, Pearl Mazzini, George Broder, Scott Zengel and Matt Regan for their work on this very successful venture .

1

2009 Bay Area Council Scholars Announced

Congratulations to the 2009 Bay Area Council Scholars! The Bay Area Council Scholarship Program has had the benefit of receiving incredible and diverse applicants from every county of the Bay Area. We would like to thank our dedicated Scholarship Committee for their help in selecting the 10 most qualified students from an outstanding pool of applicants.

We are proud to present the 2009 class of Bay Area Council Scholars, another amazing group of students who have demonstrated strong potential to succeed despite the odds, and a passion for giving back to their communities. Click on their names or photos below to learn more about them.

Betty Kwan
College: U.C. Davis
Hometown: El Sobrante
High School: De Anza High School
Career Goal: Undecided
Jordan Potts
College: Stanford University
Hometown: Vallejo
High School: Mare Island Technology Academy
Career Goal: Forensic Psychology
Gayathri Ramanathan
College: U.C. Davis
Hometown: Fremont
High School: Irvington High School
Career Goal: Pediatrician
Norma Karina Rubio
College: U.C. Berkeley
Hometown: San Leandro
High School: Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy
Career Goal: Academic Counselor
Elisa Sunga
College: U.C. Berkeley
Hometown: Antioch
High School: Pittsburg High School
Career Goal: International Business/Foreign Exchange Specialist
Ka Yan (Michelle) Tam
College: U.C. Davis
Hometown: San Francisco
High School: Abraham Lincoln High School
Career Goal: Dentist, Orthodontist
Norman Yau
College: U.C. Berkeley
Hometown: Alameda
High School: Encinal High School
Career Goal: Business Administration, Entrepreneur, Financial Analyst
Alejandro Zepeda
College: University of San Francisco
Hometown: Oakland
High School: Lighthouse Community Charter High School
Career Goal: Financial Analyst, Strategic Consultant
Ina Zheng
College: U.C. Berkeley
Hometown:Berkeley
High School: Berkeley High School
Career Goal: Medical Physician
Christopher Zhou
College: Santa Clara University
Hometown: San Jose
High School:
Career Goal: Public Administrator, Non-profit Management
8.10.09

Who will represent the East Bay in Congress?

By Matt Regan

The ballroom of the Concord Crowne Plaza was filled to over flowing on Friday morning with members of the East Bay business community eager to hear from their next member of Congress. Who that person might be is still to be decided, thus the 10th Congressional District candidates’ forum that the Bay Area Council co-hosted with the Contra Costa Council.

As you may know, Ellen Tauscher the sitting Representative was recently confirmed as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security and she will be sorely missed by her district and the whole Bay Area. The race to replace Congresswoman Tauscher is proving to be very hot indeed with, at the last count, 14 candidates in the running. This election cycle is an unusually short one with a special election on September 1, followed by the top vote getter from each party advancing to the general on November 3.

Going into the debate, if all you knew about the respective candidates was what their campaigns are putting out, you’d know that John Garamendi went to Harvard and rides a horse, Mark Desaulnier has been endorsed by just about everyone and likes photos of Mount Diablo, Joan Buchanan is not one of the boys and doesn’t play poker, and David Harmer really dislikes bailouts. (voters in the 10th district will understand) The purpose of the forum therefore was to ask the tough questions and put the candidates on the spot on the key policy issues of the day ranging from healthcare, water, education, foreign affairs, transportation and the economy.

We were treated to a lively and educational forum and came away with a much fuller understanding of where each candidate stands and what priorities they will take to Washington D.C. Senator Mark Desaulnier, Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, David Harmer, Lt. Governor John Garamendi, Anthony Woods, Christopher Bunch, Gary Clift, John Toth, Adriel Hampton, Jeremy Cloward, David Peterson, Mark Loos and John Toth all participated.

Thanks to Chevron, AAA (Northern California & Nevada), Safeway, Tesoro and Mechanics Bank for their generous sponsorship of this event and special thanks to Lisa Vorderbruggen of the Contra Costa Times for refereeing the panel and keeping everyone on time and on topic – for the most part.

7.28.09

There is Hope in Education Reform

By Linda Galliher

The Bay Area Council Education Committee recently met at the Commonwealth Club to discuss priorities in education reform – a major challenge for both California and the country as a whole, and a challenge the Bay Area Council has stepped up to lead on behalf of the business community. Attendees were eager to engage with Matt Miller of McKinsey & Co and education guru Stanford Professor Linda Darling-Hammond.

Both speakers emphasized the striking achievement gaps that exist between high and low income students, white and minority students, between California and other states, and between the United States and other developed countries. In the U.S., a child’s low socioeconomic status has become a predictor of poor academic achievement. Internationally the achievement gap between students from high and low income brackets is much less than in the U.S., indicating that family income need not be destiny.

There is hope, Linda Darling-Hammond assured one hundred Bay Area Council members, educators and thought leaders, that there are education reforms that can turn around the downward slide of California public education, now 49th in the nation. She pointed to a wealth of federal stimulus dollars that can help economically strapped California make significant progress toward supporting effective teachers in every classroom. Many of the most lucrative funding opportunities come from grants in U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s, well publicized $5 billion Race to the Top Fund, which will be allocated on a competitive basis. In addition to Race to the Top funds there is a list of alternative funding opportunities, as well as notes from Linda Darling-Hammond’s presentation: Moving California’s Schools from Worst to First: What will it really take to Leave No Child Behind?

Matt Miller from McKinsey & Company presented their report, The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap, which makes a convincing case that we all have a stake in fixing education. The national economy is already showing signs of the negative impacts of a failing education system. By failing to provide the best education for all of our youth, we short change immense human potential. We diminish productivity and lifelong earnings with the cumulative effect imposing the economic equivalent of a national recession that is substantially deeper than the one we are currently experiencing.

7.27.09

Constitutional Convention Town Halls Coming to the Bay Area

By Melanie de La Grange

For the past year, the Bay Area Council has led the charge to systematically reform our State through a Constitutional Convention. Repair California, the coalition formed to officially campaign for the cause, is holding town hall meetings across the State to provide education on the proposal for a limited Constitutional Convention, as well as to get input from participants.

There are three town hall events headed to the Bay Area, brought to you by Repair California, and local partners:

Silicon Valley Constitutional Convention Town Hall
Friday, July 31, 2009
9:00 a.m. Registration | 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Program
AMD Commons Building
991 Stewart Drive
Sunnyvale, CA 94085
Cost: Free, RSVP Required
Click here for more information

San Francisco: Repairing California: Time for a Constitutional Convention
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
PG&E Auditorium
77 Beale Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Cost: Free, RSVP Required
Click here for more information

Save the Date for the East Bay Constitutional Convention Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, September 17, 2009.

6.18.09

Bay Area Council Strengthens National ECE Effort

By Matt Regan

The Bay Area Council is pleased to share our strengthening of ties across the country on the issue of early childhood education (ECE). In particular, we are delighted that Jim Wunderman, President & CEO of the Bay Area Council, has recently accepted an invitation to join the Advisory Council to the Partnership for America’s Economic Success, a project of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Jim’s champion status as an ECE supporter and his wise strategic council to Pew have already made him a valuable resource to the Partnership, and we are excited about the potentials for learning and advancement of ECE afforded by this new national alliance.

Our strong relationship with the Pew Charitable Trusts has developed over time, beginning with an early childhood education event at the Milken Institute (sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts) in February 2008 at which our Chairman, Lenny Mendonca, spoke. Then, in September 2008, Jim Wunderman and Linda Galliher, Vice President of Education and Healthcare, attended the Pew-sponsored Economic Summit on Early Childhood Investment in Telluride, Colorado. Jim was an active and vocal participant in that conference of business leaders, discussing the challenges and future of ECE in each state. Jim was also able to spend time talking through salient issues with James Heckman, economist, Nobel Laureate, and supporter of ECE given both the economic realities and return on social investment afforded by early care and education.

Since last year, Pew has reached out to the Bay Area Council for advice and counsel during a reformulation of its ECE strategy for 2009. We look forward to our continued and growing partnership!

To learn more about how the Bay Area Council is advancing ECE in California and around the nation, please contact Matt Regan, Director of Government Relations and Early Childhood Education, at mregan@bayareacouncil.org.

Please also see the Council’s recently released report—Key to Economic Success in the 21st Century: Investment in Early Childhood Programs —on the state of early childhood education in the nine-county Bay Area.

6.12.09

Senate Leader Dean Florez visits the Bay Area Council

By Matt Regan

Senate Leader Dean Florez (D) Shafter, visited the Bay Area Council this week to give us the inside scoop on the state budget woes and what we should expect to see coming our way in the next month in terms of cuts and taxes. He was surprisingly upbeat and optimistic given the current fiscal situation in Sacramento and stated unequivocally that a bipartisan budget deal would be sent to the Governor by the end of the month that would not involve any new taxes.

The Senate appears to have put together the framework for a $21 billion program of cuts to state programs and services that would close the deficit, with just some minor details yet to be worked out. The only potential roadblock to a resolution appears to lie with the Governor who would like to see an additional $4.5 billion in cuts to establish a rainy day fund to offset future deficits and avoid unnecessary harmful cuts. Senator Florez and his caucus is making the argument that, while they agree in principle to the rainy day fund, the rainy day is actually here today, and that any additional cuts would cause irreparable harm to too many Californians.

Having made almost $15 billion in cuts already this year and witnessing the voters reject any new revenue streams, our legislators are faced with the very painful task of making deeper and more impactful cuts to vital programs and services, particularly to our already underfunded education system. Senator Florez was hopeful that the education cuts would not reach into the classroom that that the savings could be made by eliminating many of the burdensome state mandates that generate tons of paperwork and eat up thousands of man hours per year.

On a somewhat brighter note, the Senator left us with the good news that he fully expects a water bond to pass this year with bipartisan support. The bond would include provisions for two surface storage projects as well as conveyance and conservation. If there is a silver lining to our current fiscal crisis it appears that it just might be forcing the warring parties in Sacramento to sit down and work together to accomplish something important for the greater good.

Thanks to Chevron for hosting this enlightening policy discussion and to Caroline Rodman for making it happen.

6.8.09

BART needs to get contract talks done by July 1

By Jim Wunderman

With a June 30 contract deadline approaching, now is the time for BART and its labor unions to avoid the battles of the past and negotiate a solution that will reduce a substantial deficit without hurting riders already contending with a tough economy. Riders are doing their part. On July 1, they will begin paying more when a previously scheduled fare increase is moved up six months. If riders have to act more quickly than planned, the unions and management should respond in kind and hammer out a contract agreement with a deadline of the same date. In years past, BART contract battles have extended for months, inconveniencing customers and creating acrimony that in some cases led to a strike. It doesn’t have to be that way, and in these economic times, it can’t happen this year.

What’s at stake is nothing less than the Bay Area’s public transit core. More than 360,000 people use BART every day – connecting to their destinations or other public transit systems – and riders travel more than 1.3 billion miles on the system annually.

Unfortunately, BART is now facing the same economic pressures and conditions that have forced fare increases and cuts in service at other transit agencies. The rail system must contend with an estimated $250 million deficit over the next four years. A decrease in state funding and high labor costs, which make up more than 73 percent of BART’s operational budget are key factors in this fiscal crisis. Balancing BART’s budget will come only after true sacrifice and some painful choices. The central question in this financial emergency is will BART make the changes needed to keep it a mass transit success for the years to come without penalizing its riders?

While the economic situation further deteriorates, BART management and labor unions representing some 2,800 BART workers are engaged in ongoing negotiations. One of BART’s unions has proposed extending the current contract, along with benefits and other provisions, for one year. While that might sound plausible, in reality a one-year rollover does nothing to reduce BART’s deficit. BART unions need to get serious about negotiations when they have the opportunity to choose how they can help bridge the system’s deficit.

BART management is committing to millions of dollars in savings and reductions that can be implemented now. These proposed reductions are part of the effort to avoid fare increases and cuts in service that would only erode the goodwill and customer loyalty the system has earned over the years. When it comes to mass transit, making it harder and more expensive for your riders to use your system isn’t exactly a winning formula for success.

Recent media reports have outlined wasteful contract provisions for union workers that haven’t changed in decades and aren’t needed or useful in today’s tightrope economy. To survive, BART – like many organizations – will have to adapt to the times and run leaner and more productively.

The unions representing BART employees need to come to the negotiating table with the understanding that the average BART rider cannot afford drastic fare hikes and will not suffer through another BART strike. The good times as we all knew them are over for now. Preserving what matters most is essential. Now, more than ever, we need BART – an affordable, environmentally sensitive and efficient transit option – to keep running for the common good. BART management and the unions need to find a solution in the coming weeks and mark a new, constructive chapter in labor relations. Let’s get this done by July 1.

This Editorial was printed in the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday, June 8, 2009