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Archive for May, 2013

CA17: Honda mingles at Silicon Valley econ forum

I spied with my little eye: Rep. Mike Honda slapping backs, shaking hands and otherwise mingling with Silicon Valley’s business elite at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Regional Economic Forum on Friday morning in Mountain View.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, took part in a panel discussion entitled, “How can Washington, D.C., help Silicon Valley succeed?” with Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm; SendHub.com CEO Garrett Johnson; ChargePoint vice president Dimitrios Papadogonas; and SunPower CEO Tom Werner. The moderator was Working Partnerships Executive Director Cindy Chavez, a former San Jose councilwoman, current Santa Clara County supervisorial candidate and longtime Honda ally.

They were speaking to about 400 local government and business leaders – key constituencies that Honda wants on his side as he faces an electoral challenge from fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, a former Obama administration official. Khanna’s campaign strategy depends in large part on convincing voters he’s more in touch with Silicon Valley’s needs than Honda.

Honda clearly tried to prove otherwise Friday as he talked on topics including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Outside, he insisted this isn’t a new cause for him – he said he started at least six or seven years ago, with bills to consolidate approximately $2 billion in STEM education grants that were spread across almost a dozen federal agencies, and to elevate STEM education to the level of a presidential committee.

He said he also has pushed for additional financial support to college students who want to teach STEM subjects, and for having more personnel with technology and corporate backgrounds working on Capitol Hill either as fully-paid interns or permanent staffers: “Most congresspeople don’t have a background in everything that you need.” And, he said, he wants President Obama’s push for universal preschool to include STEM education that starts in the pre-kindergarten to third-grade years – an earlier start to introduce a future workforce to the wonders of science.

Khanna – a former deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Commerce Department – also has emphasized STEM education as a cornerstone of his campaign, but has suggested that Honda is late to the party on this issue.

My chat with Honda was briefly interrupted by Palo Alto Councilman Marc Berman, who greeted the congressman with a hug and a vow of support. Honda said Berman had been a student volunteer for his first House campaign, back in 2000.

Posted on Friday, May 31st, 2013
Under: 2014 primary, education, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Medical marijuana bill dies, but might rise again

A bill to have the state Bureau of Alcoholic Beverage Control regulate medical marijuana died on the Assembly floor Friday, but its author said he’ll work to resurrect it with help from the state Senate.

“This is not an easy bill, but it is a needed bill that has the necessary support,” Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, insisted in a news release Friday. “Unfortunately, the vote was closed prematurely and in error, preventing all the votes from being registered. I’m going to make sure my legislative colleagues stay focused on getting this to the Governor’s desk for his signature this year.”

Ammiano spokesman Carlos Alcala explained that if a bill doesn’t reach enough votes to pass right away, the author can essentially ask that it be put on hold and then brought back up later in the same day’s session. Ammiano tried that on Thursday, but his AB 473 still failed on a 32-36 vote.

“It turned out that some offices were getting misinformation suggesting that the bill would preempt cities’ right to determine where dispensaries can go, or whether they can go in at all,” Alcala said.

Assembly rules also let authors request reconsideration of a bill after it has failed, and Ammiano brought the bill back up on Friday so he and other supporters could reassure other lawmakers that cities’ rights wouldn’t be infringed. The bill would require ABC to set up a division to monitor production, transportation and sales of medical marijuana.

“I hope cities will allow dispensaries so their residents who need this product can get it safely, instead of illegally,” Ammiano said in his release. “I believe that a Division of Medical Marijuana Regulation and Enforcement will help cities see they can authorize dispensaries. Not only will the division’s oversight ensure there is no increase in crime, more cities will begin to recognize the economic benefits that others have already seen.”

Again, the bill didn’t reach a passing threshold, but rather than asking Ammiano whether he wanted to put the vote on call for the rest of Friday’s session, the presiding officer – Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose – simply closed the vote, “at least temporarily killing the bill,” Alcala said.

“Mr. Ammiano doesn’t want to put the blame on her (Campos). I think a lot of people were confused about what was going on – there was parliamentary confusion and that led to an early demise, but he sees it more as a stumbling block than a dead end,” Alcala said, adding Ammiano’s staff knows ways to work with the state Senate to revive the bill. “He intends to still get a bill through the Legislature this year and to the governor.”

Posted on Friday, May 31st, 2013
Under: Assembly, marijuana, Tom Ammiano | 4 Comments »

Kaiser CEO named to First 5 Commission

Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO George Halvorson was named today to the First 5 California Children and Families Commission by Gov. Jerry Brown.

george-halvorsenHalvorson, 66, of Sausalito, has been Kaiser’s head honcho since 2002; earlier, he was CEO of Group Health Inc. from 1986 to 1992 and when the company merged with MedCenters Health Plan Inc., he became president and chief executive officer of the newly-formed HealthPartners from 1992 to 2002. Halvorson also is a member of the Bay Area Council, where he has held various leadership positions since 2002.

Halvorson announced in October that he intends to retire from Kaiser at the end of this year.

The California Children and Families Act, approved by voters in 1998, required the formation of a state commission to oversee and support funding of education, health and child care programs for children ages 0 to 5 and their families. Also known as First 5 California, the commission also works with 58 First 5 County Commissions across the state to develop and fund programs for young children that are tailored to local communities’ needs.

This position does not require state Senate confirmation and compensation is $100 per diem. Halvorson is registered to vote without any party preference, but records from the California Secretary of State’s office indicate his few contributions have favored Democrats – including $2,000 to Brown’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign and $4,000 to Brown’s 2006 attorney general campaign.

Posted on Thursday, May 30th, 2013
Under: education, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

3 from Bay Area on budget conference committee

The Bay Area is well-represented on the joint legislative committee tasked with hammering out a state budget deal.

The Joint Conference Committee on the Budget has four assemblymembers and four state senators who’ll reconcile differences over the budget between the two houses of the Legislature.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has named state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, as a co-chair of the committee, and the other senate appointees are Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles; and Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands.

On the Assembly side, Speaker John Perez named Bob Blumenfield, D-San Fernando Valley, who will serve as co-chair; Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, and Holly Mitchell, D-Culver City.

“For the first time in years, we are headed into budget negotiations without the dire need to cut billions from the budget, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to celebrate,” Pérez said in a news release. “It is time to assure our citizens that we are putting the state on a path to avoid future devastating cuts to state-provided services and education. I have confidence that the Conference Committee will craft the best budget possible for the people of California.”

Posted on Thursday, May 30th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, John Perez, Loni Hancock, Mark Leno, Nancy Skinner, state budget | No Comments »

Take the California Carbon Challenge

The same folks who brought you the California Budget Challenge – an online exercise that lets you try to set priorities and balance the state budget yourself – now want you to try your hand at balancing climate change with economic growth.

California Carbon ChallengeThe California Carbon Challenge, by nonpartisan nonprofit Next 10, presents users with more than two-dozen strategies – from developing transit-oriented housing plans, to pay-as-you-drive insurance, to boosting energy efficiency in buildings. The simulator keeps track of the choices being made and their impacts via an interactive meter showing tons of carbon reduced and the costs or savings for those choices.

California has enacted groundbreaking policies that require the state to reduce its carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The policy options included in Next 10’s Carbon Challenge fall into eight categories: vehicle technologies, driving costs, mass transit, alternatives to driving, green buildings, smart growth, government operations, and energy users and producers. Some of the choices – including time-of-day electricity pricing, or the requirement that state and local agencies use only Zero Emission Vehicles or plug-in hybrids – are not among the state policies being implemented at this time. Other options, like implementing a carbon trading market, are already underway in California.

Site users see pro and con arguments about each policy choice, as well as information about who – individuals, businesses, or government – would bear the possible costs or benefits. Users can leave comments about their choices, find out what percentage of other site visitors chose the same options, and share their decisions on social media and with policymakers.

“We created the California Carbon Challenge to show what the challenges and opportunities for reducing emissions are, and to also engage and inform people who are trying to better understand what these policies do,” Next 10 founder F. Noel Perry said in a news release. “However, we hope this resource can be a learning tool for people in other states and countries who are considering policies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.”

Posted on Thursday, May 30th, 2013
Under: Global warming | 3 Comments »

House members blast Brown’s Delta water plan

Five members of Congress held a news conference in Sacramento this morning to renew their staunch opposition to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova; and Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, all believe the plan would devastate the Delta and ignores concerns repeatedly raised by local stakeholders. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, concurs but wasn’t at today’s news conference.

The state has released a 20,000-page Administrative Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement for the BDCP. Chapters 1-7 were released in the last few months and Chapters 8-12, including the financing mechanism, were released yesterday.

The lawmakers released statements after their news conference. From McNerney:

Jerry McNerney“The Governor recently released additional information on his deeply-flawed plan for the Delta region, which further proves he is intent on forcing this plan forward without any regard for the farmers, families and small business owners who rely upon a healthy Delta for their livelihoods, or for the incredible environmental damage that will result. As it stands, the plan will cost billions of dollars, devastate the most valuable water resource we have in California, and ultimately create no new water. There is a better way forward, and it must include the input of the people who stand to lose the most if the Delta is destroyed.”

From Thompson:

Mike Thompson“The proposed BDCP is not a workable solution. It puts the interests of South-of-Delta water contractors ahead of the Delta’s and North-of-Delta’s farmers, fishers and small business owners. Livelihoods are at stake. Until we have a plan that is transparent, based on sound science and developed with all stake-holders at the table, then any process that moves us closer to building these tunnels will recklessly risk billions of California tax dollars and thousands of jobs. Let’s take the time to get this right.”

From Miller:

George Miller“Governor Brown and his administration officials have failed to demonstrate that they are taking into account the real physical and financial harm that can come to Bay-Delta communities if a BDCP plan is pushed through without the proper cost benefit analysis of alternatives, an adequate finance plan, or without acknowledging the best available science — science that has pointed to the real possibility that this plan could overtax our water resources and devastate the Bay-Delta region. Without doing so the BDCP is further than ever from a sustainable policy. It is time to seriously reevaluate this plan to ensure it fulfills the co-equal goals that it is mandated to adhere to, and takes into consideration the concerns of the businesses, families and communities that rely on a viable, healthy Bay-Delta region for their livelihoods.”

Posted on Thursday, May 30th, 2013
Under: Ami Bera, George Miller, Jerry Brown, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Mike Thompson, U.S. House, water | 3 Comments »

Activists plan anti-fracking day of action

Opponents of using hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” – to access hard-to-reach oil and natural gas are planning actions Thursday at assemblymembers’ offices around California.

Activists organized by MoveOn.org will deliver petitions in 13 Assembly districts, marking the launch of Californians Against Fracking, a coalition of 70 organizations advocating for a ban.

“The gutting of Holly Mitchell’s fracking moratorium bill [AB 1323] and the blocking of Richard Bloom’s bill [AB 1301] by Assembly leadership ignores the will of the voters of California who have made their voices heard with thousands of phone calls and petition signatures. What we demand is a ban on fracking to protect our health,” said Aura Walker, a Culver City mother, whose petition on MoveOn.org’s petition platform has been signed by more than 35,000 people. “California is already earthquake prone. Additionally, poisonous gases will permanently pollute many precious aquifers, irreversibly poisoning our drinking water.”

In the South Bay, activist Ann Benson of Portola Valley will lead the delivery of a local petition at noon to the Los Altos office of Assemblyman Richard Gordon, urging him to support a fracking ban. At the same time, Dorothy Hann of San Ramon will lead the delivery of a similar petition to Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan in San Ramon.

And the nascent Californians Against Fracking group plans a noon rally outside the state office building at 455 Golden Gate Ave. in San Francisco, as well as one at the same time in Los Angeles. Both will be delivering petitions to Gov. Jerry Brown’s offices.

Environmentalists have taken Brown to task after the governor in March said California should examine fracking to capitalize on the Monterey shale deposit, which the U.S. Energy Department has estimated could hold up to 15 billion barrels of oil — about 64 percent of the nation’s shale oil resources. As some legislative Democrats sought bans, Brown had said the technology shouldn’t be rejected out of hand.

“We want to get the greenhouse gas emissions down, but we also want to keep our economy going. That’s the balance that’s required,” he said at the time. “The fossil fuel deposits in California are incredible; the potential is extraordinary. But between now and development lies a lot of questions that need to be answered.”

UPDATE @ 5:07 P.M.: The California State Senate voted 27-11 this afternoon to pass SB 4 by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabasas, which would require public noticing before fracking can take place, permits, disclosure of chemicals and an independent scientific study of fracking and its risks to California, among other provisions. “I am pleased my colleagues want to hold oil well operators accountable and answer critical questions about groundwater quality, water supply, earthquakes and air quality,” Pavley said in a news release. “We must protect California from risks to our economy, public health and safety and environment.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, energy, Environment, Jerry Brown, Joan Buchanan, Rich Gordon | 5 Comments »

White House honors local immigrant innovators

Four Bay Area residents are among 11 Americans being honored by the White House today as Immigrant Innovator “Champions of Change,” described as “the best and brightest from around the world who are helping create American jobs, grow our economy, and make our nation more competitive.”

“Immigrants have long made America more prosperous and innovative, and the Champions we are celebrating today represent the very best in leadership, entrepreneurship, and public service,” U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park said in a news release. “We are proud to recognize these leaders who work every day to grow our economy, advance science and technology, and support their home communities.”

The Champions of Change program is the White House’s effort to feature groups of Americans – individuals, businesses and organizations – who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.

Here are the four Bay Area honorees, as described in the White House’s news releases today:

Victoria Ransom, Menlo Park
Victoria RansomVictoria Ransom has been an entrepreneur since her early twenties and has developed three companies, the most recent of which, Wildfire, was acquired by Google in 2012. As founder and CEO of Wildfire, Victoria led the company to profitability in just one year and built the company to tens of thousands of customers, over 400 employees, and eight offices worldwide. Victoria is #19 on Fortune Magazine’s 40 under 40 list and she was named one of Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs in 2012. She has been featured in several publications including The New York Times’ Corner Office, Bloomberg TV, Entrepreneur Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal. In her spare time she is an avid snowboarder and surfer and a passionate adventure traveler who once spent six weeks living with a remote Amazonian tribe and five months living in a favela in Brazil.

Anna Mongayt, Palo Alto
Anna MongaytAnna Mongayt is a Co-Founder at Upstart — a crowdfunding platform that lets people raise money in exchange for a portion of their future income. Upstart is enabling young people to alleviate financial burdens such as student loans or living expenses by monetizing their future potential. It helps recent graduates pursue their dreams—to start a business, learn to code, or begin a career in a field they’re passionate about—by matching them with backers who believe in their aspirations. Investors can opt-in to become mentors and earn a return based on a regression model that predicts an individual’s income over ten years.

Jonas Korlach, Newark
Jonas KorlachJonas Korlach is Chief Scientific Officer at Pacific Biosciences. He co-invented the company’s SMRT technology with Stephen Turner, Ph.D., Pacific Biosciences Founder and Chief Technology Officer, when the two were graduate students at Cornell University. SMRT technology dramatically improves the accuracy and speed of DNA sequencing. Dr. Korlach joined Pacific Biosciences as the company’s eighth employee in 2004. Dr. Korlach is the recipient of multiple grants, an inventor on 33 issued U.S. patents, and an author of numerous scientific studies on the principles and applications of SMRT technology, including publications in Nature, Science, and PNAS. He received both his Ph.D. and his M.S. degrees in Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology from Cornell, and received M.S. and B.A. degrees in Biological Sciences from Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany.

Zack Rinat, Redwood Shores
Zack RinatZack Rinat is Model N’s Founder and has served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors and as Chief Executive Officer since its inception in December 1999. Previously, Mr. Rinat co-founded and ultimately served as President and Chief Executive Officer of NetDynamics, Inc., an application server software company, before its acquisition by Sun Microsystems in 1998, where he served as the Vice President and General Manager of the NetDynamics business unit. From 1998 to 1999, Mr. Rinat served as a founding member of the Board of Directors of TradingDynamics, and from 2005 to 2012 he served on the Board of Directors of Conduit Ltd., serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors from 2005 to 2011. Previously, Mr. Rinat held senior management positions in operations, marketing, and engineering at Silicon Graphics, Inc., and at Advanced Technology Israel. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA in computer science from the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology).

Posted on Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
Under: Obama presidency | 5 Comments »

CA17: Khanna, Honda roll out more endorsements

Ro Khanna, the former Obama Administration official who’s challenging fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, has opened a campaign office in Fremont and rolled out a list of endorsements from local elected officials.

Ro KhannaThe local elected officials endorsing Khanna, 36, of Fremont, include Cupertino Mayor Orrin Mahoney, Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves, former Newark Mayor Emeritus David Smith, Cupertino City Councilman Rod Sinks, Fremont Vice Mayor Anu Natarajan, Fremont City Councilmember Raj Salwan and Milpitas City Councilmembers Carmen Montano, Debbie Giordano and Althea Polansky.

“As Mayor of Cupertino, a homeowner in Cupertino for the past 30 years, and a Cupertino based Hewlett-Packard employee for 20 of those years, I am proud to support Ro Khanna because of his understanding of high tech issues and vision for creating jobs locally in a world of dynamic change,” Mahoney said in Khanna’s news release. “Ro understands Cupertino’s unique values of excellent education, parks and recreation, and responsive local government. I know he will partner with local leaders to help Cupertino remain a beacon for innovation and economic growth in the 21st century.”

honda.jpgHonda, 71, of San Jose, last week announced some endorsements of his own, from notable Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders including former White House Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu; retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Tony Taguba; Maya Soetoro-Ng, an educator and President Barack Obama’s half-sister; actor George Takei; actor Kal Penn, former associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; and TV host Yul Kwon, former deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.

“Over the past four years, I have worked closely with Mike Honda, and I have seen his commitment to providing greater economic opportunities for all Americans through investments in education and innovation,” Lu said in Honda’s news release. “I also have witnessed first-hand Mike’s commitment to the issues that matter to Asian American community – issues such as health care, immigration reform, and civil rights. Our nation needs more leaders like Mike Honda, and I am proud to endorse him for re-election.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

Tough House hearing for high-speed rail project

It looks like supporters of the California High Speed Rail project took a verbal beating Tuesday as the U.S. House Transportation Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials held a field hearing in Madera.

“Since Prop 1A was approved by California voters in 2008, the project has more than doubled in cost, and, after more than $3 billion from the federal tax payer, not one shovel has hit the ground,” subcommittee chairman Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, said afterward. “Until I see a viable business plan for high speed rail in California that is fiscally sound and supported by private dollars, I will continue to hold the rail authority accountable to the voters and ensure their taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.”

Here’s some of the questioning:

The panel, also including Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, and Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, grilled witnesses including California High Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard; Preserve Our Heritage Chairman Kole Upton; Kings County Board of Supervisors Chairman Doug Verboon; Madera County Farm Bureau Executive Director Anja Raudabaugh; Lou Thompson, chairman of the Peer Review Group for the California High-Speed Rail Project; and Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Al Smith.

The witnesses’ prepared testimony, and Denham’s opening statement, are available on Denham’s website.

Posted on Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
Under: Jeff Denham, Transportation, U.S. House | 7 Comments »