Bay Area Council Blog


The Council’s Whirlwind Trip to Washington, D.C.

By Melanie de La Grange

The Bay Area Council Delegation got a true taste of Washington D.C. last week – from high powered meetings on Capitol Hill to being caught in a colossal traffic jam thanks to the dueling motorcades of three heads of state. The Delegation heard inside the beltway commentary from Washington Post columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winner David Broder and CNN pundit Donna Brazile. They went to Capitol Hill for a meeting with Speaker Pelosi and members of the Bay Area delegation, plus a meeting with Senator Boxer. They squeezed in meetings at the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and the State Department. They met with President Obama Cabinet member Ron Kirk, who, as the U.S. Trade Representative, is responsible for all current and future free trade deals. They had dinner with Senator Dianne Feinstein. They went to the White House Executive Office Building and met with: Larry Summers, Director of the White House’s National Economic Council; Christina Romer, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors; Carol Browner, President Obama’s global warming czar; Van Jones, President Obama’s Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Vivek Kundra, Federal Chief Information Officer; and Matt Rogers who is in charge of the stimulus funds for the Department of Energy. And they attended a Washington Nationals ball game – all of this in under 48 hours!

We look forward to returning to DC over the coming months to continue to push our federal agenda.


Hewlett Foundation Awards $900,000 Grant for Education Reform

By Chandra Alexandre

Last Week, the Education Reform team at the Bay Area Council was notified by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation that they had been awarded a $900,000 three-year grant to lead a statewide education reform movement. The grant will allow the Bay Area Council to build capacity and support efforts toward statewide education reform in partnership with relevant stakeholders.

With California in crisis, we believe there is an opportunity for reform that hasn’t been seen in generations. With this grant from the Hewlett Foundation, we will continue to help drive the education reform consensus forward—particularly through our work engaging business leaders, both among our membership and in companies throughout other regions across the state. As the voice of business, the Council recognizes that it is critical for California to meet the challenges of education reform through sound and timely information, a strategic alignment of voices among business, K-12 educators, policy makers and higher education, and the ability to work together across communities, jurisdictions and industries.

The needs of our children and sustenance of our state’s economic future require that business takes a stand to help ameliorate the dramatic challenges inherent in our current public education system. The Council’s history of leading on public policy, its statewide approach, and partnerships with a variety of stakeholders make it a strong driver of successful public policy in education, and we will leverage our strengths to ensure the success of our endeavors for education reform.

With this grant, the Council will be able to focus on initiating action toward goals supported by Getting Down to Facts, a major body of research overseen by Stanford University that delves into the finance and governance of public education in California. The objective of our efforts will be to determine how best to create reform opportunities that are not only true to the underlying research and recommendations, but also that allow for input and ownership by all major stakeholders, in turn building trust and momentum statewide.

Recognizing that changes in education cannot be successful in a state whose government is broken, the grant also includes funds to utilize the forum of the Council-led California Constitutional Convention to help build the path for education reform. The idea is to start with reforming the structure of government, then quickly draft on the momentum to secure bold and systematic change in education. Our method of harnessing a “people’s movement” and building an unlikely coalition for the Constitutional Convention could also crack open the door for a new alliance on education reform. Together, the two synergistic education and government reform movements can help California get back on its feet again.

For more information on the work the Council is doing in education and to become engaged in our effort, please contact Linda Galliher, Vice President of Education and Healthcare. For an opportunity to contribute as a supporting partner, please contact Chandra Alexandre, Director of Development and click here to see the Bay Area Council Foundation’s initiatives.


BAC Economic Institute Prepares Economic Recovery Workplan

By Sean Randolph

The California Business Housing and Transportation Agency, through Secretary Dale Bonner, has asked the Bay Area Council Economic Institute to prepare a Bay Area Economic Recovery Work Plan. The purpose of the plan is to guide the allocation of federal stimulus funds (and other funds and programs available to the state) to support economic development in California. We have been asked to do this in partnership with the region’s leading business and economic development organizations—with the goal of presenting the Bay Area’s top line priorities. Those priorities will be strategically focused and aligned with both near-term needs and long-term goals. We have been given a fast time frame in which to do this: an initial product is due by April 1 and a final product by June 1.

Click here for the latest information on the Economic Recovery Workplan.

Click here for our press release: At State Request, Bay Area Council Economic Institute Coordinating Quick, Massive Regional Response to $30-50 Billion In Stimulus Opportunities

Donate now to help create a better Bay Area through support of our Economic Recovery Work Plan efforts.


Scaling Up: From Green Buildings to Green Cities in the US and China | May 1, 2009

By Kristen Durham

Amidst a worldwide recession, efficient use of resources becomes even more critical to the bottom line of business. For the Bay Area in particular, such an environment provides opportunities for companies both looking to reduce their energy demand and technology firms that can supply the tools necessary to achieve resource savings.

As a follow up to the US|China Green Tech Summit in Shanghai last November and ongoing activities in the technology and environment space, the Bay Area Council is excited to convene another high-level conference at the intersection of green business and policy. Working in partnership with the Asia Society of Northern California, the Council will be hosting “Scaling Up: From Green Buildings to Green Cities in the US and China” on Friday, May 1, 2009, at the PG&E Auditorium in San Francisco.

Buildings consume well over 30 percent of all primary energy in the world—more than either transportation or industry. By building green, we can increase overall operating efficiency in our buildings and reduce energy consumption in the built environment by 30-50 percent. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in a recent work report at the ongoing annual National People’s Congress that China’s energy consumption per 1,000 yuan (147 USD) of GDP has dropped by 10.8 percent in the past three years—still leaving the country far short of its 20 percent reduction goal for 2010. The Bay Area is uniquely positioned to help China achieve these goals through knowledge and tech transfer, and the Bay Area Council is working to enable such a flow.

This one-day conference looks at the challenges and opportunities of reducing the carbon footprint of our cities while increasing global prosperity. Today, the greatest challenge for green design is to scale up — to move beyond pilot projects and piecemeal solutions to building and retrofitting on a massive scale in order to have a meaningful impact on global warming. Green materials must be mass produced, construction techniques must be standardized, and the principles of green design must inform urban planning, not simply the design of individual buildings. These are the critical issues this conference will address.

Invited speakers include (partial list): Vincent Lo, Chairman & CEO, Shui On Group; Jiang Yi, Professor of Building Science, Tsinghua University; Peter Darbee, Chairman, CEO, and President, PG&E; Jeff Heller, President, Heller-Manus; Simon Tay, Chairman, Singapore Institute of International Affairs; Dian Grueneich, Commissioner, California Public Utilities Commission; Mark Levine, Group Leader, China Energy Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; John Kriken, Consulting Partner, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP; Stanley Yip, Director of Planning & Development, Arup China; Sabeer Bhatia, Founder, Hotmail; planner and developer, Nanocity (India).

Click here to register.


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.