Bay Area Council Blog


Effective data can save money and kids

By Linda Galliher

President Obama has said that his administration will have one simple test for whether he continues to spend money on any government program. That test is “Does it work?” California currently spends $50 Billion a year on public education without good data on what works. In these hard budget times especially, we must spend our precious public dollars efficiently. We need a 21st Century data system to supply the information needed for teachers, administrators, and parents to know which practices are best practices. At no cost to taxpayers, McKinsey & Company, an elite global consulting group, has designed such a data system for California. See the design here. The Bay Area Council and many other individuals and groups have written to encourage the Governor to support the development of this critical tool for education excellence. See the Governor’s reply letter supporting the data system here. To keep the issue active on the public and legislative agenda, Chief Magnus and I recently co-wrote an opinion piece for the Contra Costa Times.


Best Practices in Early Childhood Education

By Matt Regan

There is a growing body of research and evidence that is pointing towards the very clear conclusion that investing in early childhood education and development produces returns not seen in any other arena of government spending.   Studies by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota, Nobel Laureate Economist James Heckman, and a soon to be released economic impact report commissioned by the Bay Area Council, all indicate clearly that quality early childhood programs result in higher educational attainment later in life, lower rates of social problems such as drug dependency or teen pregnancy, lower dependency on welfare and lower rates of criminal behavior. Some research indicates that the return on investment in such quality programs can be as high as 17:1.

So what does a quality early childhood education program look like and where can one be found?  Bay Area Council Director of Government Relations, Matt Regan, travelled to New Jersey this week with a delegation of California lawmakers, business leaders and child advocates on a fact finding mission to observe what is arguably the premier early childhood education system in the nation.  The purpose of the trip was to collect examples of best practices, learn how the State of New Jersey has funded and rolled out this impressive program in such a short period of time, and see what, if anything, could be brought back to California.

The Abbott Preschool Program was developed in response to a 1998 mandate from New Jersey’s Supreme Court, requiring the provision of preschool for all 3 and 4 year olds in the state’s highest poverty districts.  This decision was part of a larger court mandate to provide all the state’s children with a “thorough and efficient education” as required by the New Jersey State Constitution.

New Jersey now requires that all Abbott preschool teachers have a Bachelors Degree and an early learning certificate. Each Abbott classroom has no more than 15 children with a teacher and an aide. Each 20 classes have support from a Master Teacher as well as a team of social workers and professionals in special needs areas.  Abbot schools are designed to strict guidelines with a minimum of 950 sq ft per classroom with two bathrooms, as well as five defined and researched curriculums that schools can choose from.

Abbott preschools have proved incredibly popular with parents are over subscribed. New Jersey  Governor John Corzine, recognizing the success of the program and the long term benefits to his state is seeking court permission to expand Abbott preschools to all of New Jersey’s school districts, not just the most impoverished.
As in everything we look at in these cash strapped economic times, the question must be asked, how much does this Cadillac program cost, and can California afford to emulate it?

California currently spends $3,486 per year per child in our State preschool program, New Jersey spends $11,831 per child enrolled in the Abbott program and a partial local government match is required.  These figures represent a distinct difference of priorities and vision between our two states and time will only tell if New Jersey’s investment pays off but the early signs are good.  According to the first longitudinal effects study of the program carried out by the National Institute for Early Education Research the achievement gap that had previously hampered children from underprivileged communities was closing fast and that Abbott children were out performing their peers in language skills, reading and math.  Continuing studies of Abbott children are ongoing as they progress through the K-12 system, and if The Federal Reserve of Minnesota, James Heckman et al are correct, New Jersey can begin to reap the benefits of Abbott very shortly if they are not doing so already.

So the question we should be asking here in California is not whether we can afford a similar investment in our children, rather can we afford not to?

wind power

GreenBiz Index Released

By Andrew Michael

At the State of Green Business 2009 meeting the GreenBiz Index was released to provide indicators in different fields as to whether we are Swimming (moving forward), Treading (moving in place) or Sinking (declining).

Brights spots show progress on Clean Technology investments, Clean-Energy patents, Green jobs where there was measured growth despite the economic downturn, climbing recycle rates for paper as well as improved water efficiency as the population grows. However, as the short YouTube piece describes e-waste is still getting buried under growing mountains of waste. This is all happening despite E-PEAT, an electronic waste system being implemented in 2004 through ISEEE standards. Valuable minerals embedded in computers are simply be placed back in dumps that are practically un-mineable.

Meanwhile indicators from both fleets and green office space show that those realms are just treading water without outward improvements.


Post from the Inauguration – The Golden Tickets

By Andrew Giacomini, Chair, Bay Area Council Government Relations Committee

January 19, 2009 – MLK Day -Washington DC

Remember that movie “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?” Just like young Charlie, thanks to Senator Feinstein, last Wednesday my wife Susi and I learned that we had been awarded 2 Golden Tickets to the inauguration of Barack Obama. As we loaded the car Sunday morning, my neighbor Carl was in front of his house bouncing his young daughter on top of the leaves in his Green Waste can. Carl was the first neighbor on our block to put up his Obama for President sign, way back before Iowa. “Where you headed?” he asked. I told him we were going to the inauguration. His eyes lit up and he smiled. “Please say hello to President Obama for me,” he said.

By Sunday night, we were in Chicago, waiting for a connecting flight to DC. I picked up a coffee. The young woman behind the counter looked worn out (it was near midnight). She asked where I was headed. When I told her, she beamed. “I was there when he gave his acceptance speech in Chicago – it was the most amazing night of my life – I will never forget it,” she proudly told me. I had watched those momentous remarks over the internet with my family, my wife and I had tears running down our faces and our three children were mesmerized by the moment.

We managed to find a hotel room by DuPont Circle. We walked to the Metro this morning, rode the train to Union Station and headed to the Capitol Mall to pick up our Golden Tickets from Senator Feinstein’s office, Room 331 in the Hart Senate Building. The streets are packed with people wearing Obama Gear of various sorts all taking in the scene and sharing the experience with one and other. As we walked along, we noticed that many families were there with several generations of family members, from grandparents with walkers and canes to grandchildren in strollers and backpacks. And people are noticeably happy and hopeful, waiting for tomorrow’s great day.

The lines to get tickets are around the block in all directions, but nobody minds because we know what we are waiting for. We are all strangers and yet we have so much in common that conversation is easy; our hearts are full and our eyes are gleaming with anticipation and hope. When I open the envelope and look at the tickets, tears again come to my eyes – I can’t help it. I am so proud of our country – it feels like all things are possible.

Although most of the people here are focused on moving forward, in DuPont Circle we find a collection of groups more focused on Bush Bashing. There is a 30 foot inflatable effigy of W bearing the sign “Give Bush the Boot” surrounded by piles of shoes. The barker is organizing passing citizens to hurl “boots” at the blow up doll. It gave me a smile but I decided not to throw a shoe – time to move on. Around the corner, there is a giant canvas sheet propped in the air bearing the first words of the US Constitution – people are signing it with sharpies – it begins, of course, with “We the People”, which is just how it feels here in Washington today.

Tomorrow morning, while holding his hand on the same bible on which President Lincoln placed his hand in 1861, Barack Obama will speak the same words as the 43 Presidents before him as he takes the oath of office to serve as the President of the United States of America. Of course, today is a special day too because on it we recognize the birth of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. So today we remember his Dream and tomorrow, in the same place, we the people swear in as our 44th President the embodiment of that Dream.


BASIC Board of Director Steven Chu Selected as U.S. Secretary of Energy


The scientific community has expressed impressive and enthusiastic support for the appointment of a highly-qualified and dedicated scientist from the Bay Area to lead the country’s response to the energy and climate change challenges. President-Elect Obama selected Steve Chu, Nobel prize winning physicist, Director of the region’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Board Director of the Bay Area Science and Innovation Consortium (BASIC) for the key position of U.S. Secretary of Energy.

President-Elect Obama has targeted alternative energy and climate change as priority areas for his administration – areas in which Dr. Chu is recognized as a global leader.

Under Dr. Chu’s guidance, the Berkeley Lab and the Bay Area became notable as the center of research into biofuels and solar energy. Dr. Chu was a major contributor to the 2007 BASIC science futures report, “Innovative Energy Solutions from the San Francisco Bay Area: Fueling a Clean Energy Future.” In his letter within the report, Dr. Chu stated, “…among America’s most serious concerns are national security (intimately tied to our energy security), long-term economic competitiveness and the dangers of global warming. I believe that energy is at the center of all these concerns, and thus is the single most important problem that science and technology must solve in the coming decades…”

BASIC, an action-oriented collaboration of the region’s major research universities, national research laboratories, independent research institutions and research and development-driven businesses, is dedicated to advancing the Bay Area’s science, technology and innovation leadership.

BASIC is a program of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute within the Bay Area Council’s Foundation.


Bank of America Deepens Partnership with the Bay Area Council

Helping to drive the Bay Area economy and quality of life have been priorities of both the Council and Bank of America for decades. Recently, the Bank of America Foundation awarded $50,000 to the Bay Area Council Foundation to support the Council’s Global Competitiveness Strategy, inclusive of work on energy and the environment, education, housing, transportation, and the research and projects of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

“Bank of America’s approach to philanthropy reaches beyond grant-making to build deep and lasting partnerships with the most effective organizations in our communities, and our relationship with the Bay Area Council has been extremely productive for both organizations,” said Janet Lamkin, President of Bank of America California and a member of the Executive Committee of the Bay Area Council. “The Council’s regional championship of innovation, global competitiveness, economic and environmental sustainability and good government has been and continues to be a key factor in sustaining and improving the economy and quality of life in the Bay Area.”

To learn more about the Council’s one- and three-year strategies, check out our Global Competitiveness Strategy.


San Francisco Eastern Neighborhoods Plan passes – finally

By Matt Regan

There is an old military adage, “the first casualty of any battle is the plan”.  This would appear to be true in the battle to rezone San Francisco’s Eastern Neighborhoods, a vast swathe of the city stretching from the South of Market to Potrero Hill and the Mission.  In the 10 years of fighting over what should be allowed to be built in this part of San Francisco, any semblance of the original plan has long since disappeared and what remains is a patchwork quilt put together by every single issue pressure group who expressed an opinion.

On December 9, 2008 after over 10 years of meetings, hearings, disputes, threats and counter threats the San Francisco Board of Supervisors finally approved a plan that will allow developers to begin entitling dozens of bottled up projects that may bring as many as 7500 new housing units to the area, provided of course the developers haven’t either died of old age, completely lost interest, or more likely lost financing for their projects in the interim.
The approval of the plan is a phyrric victory; yes we will see a lot of new housing construction and yes we will see new neighborhoods grow out of what are currently vacant lots or obsolete industrial buildings, but at what cost?

One of the most vocal interest groups in this process were those seeking to protect the remaining vestiges of San Francisco’s 19th century industrial blue collar character.  They successfully pushed for large chunks of the Eastern Neighborhoods to be zoned “PDR” or Production, Distribution and Repair and strictly off limits to housing.  While we agree that there is a need for such industrial activities we are not convinced that they got the mix right and that too much land was zoned for industries that have left the city never to return.  As one observer noted, “zoning so much land for PDR is like zoning for gold mines, its nothing more than naïve wishful thinking.”

Perhaps the biggest flaw in the whole plan is the complete lack of consideration given to transit oriented development opportunities.  San Francisco proudly declares itself to be a “transit first” city yet  through this whole planning process height limits along Mission Street, arguably San Francisco’s most integrated transit corridor with MUNI, SamTrans,  and BART, were cut to the point where they are currently lower than height limits adjacent to suburban BART stations.  This however pales in comparison the missed opportunities along the 3rd Street Light Rail line.

The $800 million 3rd Street Light Rail was opened two years ago with much fanfare.  It was designed to connect the Bayview neighborhood to the rest of the city and service the new Mission Bay life sciences hub and eventually connect to a central subway running all the way to Union Square and Chinatown.  For over two miles this jewel in MUNI’s crown traverses the eastern neighborhoods, and for the forseeable future it will traverse a part of the city where nobody lives.  Bowing to pressure from the PDR lobby, planners zoned almost all of the 3rd street light rail line off limits to new housing construction.

While we are happy to see this bureaucratic bottleneck finally break, and that development will finally be allowed to proceed, we are concerned that when reality finally dawns on San Francisco and the city comes to the understanding that this region still faces a chronic housing shortage and a huge housing/jobs imbalance, it might be too late to do anything to recapture missed Eastern Neighborhoods opportunities and help solve some of these problems.


Economic Institute Seeks Data and Support for Globalization Index

Signs of the Bay Area’s globalized economy appear every day, indeed our global connections have propped our economy up, when so many others across the U.S. are suffering.  Residents get it.  In a Council poll last year, a super majority of 88 percent of Bay Area residents felt that “all in all” greater business, personal and cultural connections between the Bay Area and other countries are a good thing, and 74 percent want elected officials to expand global business ties.  If ever there was an issue that needs local, regional and state support, it’s expanding trade and Bay Area global links.  Unfortunately, we have an economic analysis problem.  Global flows of goods, services, money, people and communications are primarily measured nation to nation, not on a regional basis.

The Council’s Economic Institute will issue a groundbreaking report in the next few months detailing the Bay Area’s global role.  This report can help shift critical public policy on a local, state and even federal level, but it needs financial support to cross the finish line.

If you are interested in hearing more or sponsoring this important report, contact me at 415-946-8722.


Mark Your Calendar for DC in ’09

By George Broder

Mark your calendar and set your schedule to participate in the Council’s annual trip to Washington, D.C. on May 4-6, 2009. Timed for optimum impact at the conclusion of the new Administration’s First 100 Days, meetings will be held on Capitol Hill, at the White House/Executive Office Building and key agencies.

We will press our agenda on issues including H1-B visa reform, timely passage of Free Trade Agreements, federal investment in our infrastructure, healthcare and full funding for the America Competes Act. We will urge the adoption of “green” policies that embrace cap and trade strategies and stimulate the private sector by rewarding innovation and investment. Please give us your priorities as we formulate our plans. More details forthcoming soon. Registrations will be limited due to premium access restraints.

For more information or to offer ideas, please contact me at 415.946.8728.


Request for Proposal: 50K Fellowship Program

Bay Area Science and Innovation Consortium (BASIC) has created its first Fellowship Program to benefit region’s future leaders in science and technology and to highlight the Bay Area’s innovation and global competitiveness. We areissuing a Request for Proposals for the design of a Global Innovation Networks Project. The RFP deadline is December 1, 2008.

Download RFP Document

BASIC is a program of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute within the Bay Area Council Foundation.