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Brown to meet with Netanyahu in Silicon Valley

Gov. Jerry Brown will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week in Silicon Valley to sign a trade agreement expanding California’s partnership with Israel on economic development, research and trade.

Brown’s office says the agreement – to be signed Wednesday at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View “will boost economic, cultural and academic cooperation between California and Israel, with an emphasis on water conservation, alternative energy, cybersecurity, health and biotechnology, education and agricultural technology.”

The pact also will let Israeli companies access the state’s Innovation Hubs (iHUB), a network including 16 clusters of research parks, technology incubators, universities and federal laboratories, plus economic development organizations, business groups and venture capital funds.

Brown this past Wednesday met in San Francisco with Portugal’s President Cavaco Silva and with Harold Forsyth, Peru’s ambassador to the United States. In the latter meeting, he signed an agreement with Peru to strengthen cultural, economic and academic ties and tackle shared challenges, including climate change.

Posted on Friday, February 28th, 2014
Under: economy, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Neel Kashkari: Now isn’t the time to cut taxes

GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari’s top priority isn’t cutting taxes, he told the San Jose State University College Republicans on Thursday night.

They’re too high, he agreed, but he called for first getting the state’s money’s worth from the taxes it does collect to foster new jobs and better education. Once the economy is strong again, he said, it’ll be time to reform the tax code to lower the overall taxation level.

“To be candid with you, I don’t think we start there; I think we start by putting people back to work,” he told about 20 students who’d gathered to hear him speak.

Kashkari & SJSU College Republicans, photo by Josh Richman

Because Kashkari’s speech occurred on our print deadline and due to limited space in the paper, here are a few other tidbits that didn’t make it into today’s story:

He’s “not comfortable with legalizing marijuana. … I’ve never smoked pot in my life,” he said. “But I also don’t think it makes sense to lock people up, to ruin their lives, to waste millions of dollars for a small amount of drugs,” he added, noting there must be a better approach than the “war on drugs” that has disproportionately hurt minorities.

Kashkari again called for opening the Monterey Shale to fracking for shale oil, saying it’ll be a key part of the job boom California desperately needs. The nation’s highest rents aren’t in San Francisco or New York, he noted, but actually in a small North Dakota town at the epicenter of that state’s fracking boom.

A true climate-change response must be national or international in order to have any effect, he said, and a robust state economy will bring more tax revenues that can be spent in part on basic research into clean energy sources and other climate-change solutions.

“I love our natural beauty, we have to protect the environment, but I believe we need to find the right balance,” he said.

Kashkari & Barr, photo by Josh RichmanKashkari got into a back-and-forth with Cheryl Barr, 22, an industrial-design student who disagreed with his environmental positions.

Barr after the meeting said Kashkari generally “seems like a decent guy,” and she likes that he has an engineering background – he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and worked briefly as an aerospace engineer, before earning his M.B.A. and entering the financial sector. But his campaign mantra of “‘jobs and education’ is kind of vague,” she said, and she believes his support of fracking is misguided.

“There actually is room to create jobs that can help the environment at the same time,” she said.

Posted on Friday, February 21st, 2014
Under: economy, energy, Environment, marijuana, Neel Kashkari, taxes | No Comments »

Three locals to advise Obama on manufacturing

Several Bay Area people will serve on the new steering committee for President Barack Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, the White House announced Thursday.

The president created the partnership in 2011 to bring industry, academia and government together to revitalize the manufacturing sector and boost the nation’s global competitiveness.

Among those on the new committee are University of California, Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks; Ajit Manocha, CEO of Milpitas-based semiconductor manufacturer GLOBALFOUNDRIES; and Mike Splinter, executive board chairman of Santa Clara-based Applied Materials Inc.

The original steering committee issued a report last year, “Capturing Domestic Competitive Advantage in Advanced Manufacturing,” that called for sustaining U.S. investments in science, technology, and innovation; establishing a National Network of Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, a set of public-private partnerships to build shared high-tech facilities and advance U.S. leadership in emerging technologies; upgrading community-college workforce training programs and deploying the talent of returning veterans to meet critical manufacturing skills needs; and improving the business climate for manufacturing investment through tax, regulatory, energy, and trade reform.

The new steering committee will build on that work, functioning as a working group of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and in partnership with the National Economic Council, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Commerce Department. It’s also going to hold regional working sessions and forums designed to find examples of innovative strategies to build manufacturing competitiveness.

Posted on Thursday, September 26th, 2013
Under: economy, Obama presidency | 4 Comments »

CoCo Supe Gioia named to Air Resources Board

Gov. Jerry Brown today named Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia to the California Air Resources Board.

John GioiaGioia, 55, of Richmond, has been a county supervisor since 1999 and served as the board’s chairman in 2002, 2006 and 2010. Earlier, he was in private law practice from 1986 to 1998, and was a legal researcher for another firm from 1984 to 1986.

He’s also a member of Bay Area Air Quality Management District Board of Directors, and was chairman in 2012. A Democrat, Gioia holds a law degree from the UC-Berkeley School of Law.

Brown also today named attorney and Rolling Hills Estates City Councilwoman Judith Mitchell, 71, to the Air Resources Board.

The 12-member board, appointed by the governor but subject to state Senate confirmation, is part of the California Environmental Protection Agency and has a mission to “promote and protect public health, welfare and ecological resources through the effective and efficient reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering the effects on the economy of the state.” The job carries no compensation.

UPDATE @ 4:06 P.M.: Gioia issued a statement saying he’s “greatly honored by being appointed to take on this new, important responsibility. I have deep respect for Governor Brown’s history of innovative and bold leadership on the environment, including on air quality issues.” He praised CARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols as “an amazing lifelong environmentalist who was just named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world,” and said he looks forward to working with her and other board members “in tackling critical upcoming issues, including investing the state’s cap-and-trade revenues, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, advancing clean energy, and improving community health.”

Posted on Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
Under: Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, economy, Environment, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Mark DeSaulnier named ‘Regionalist of the Year’

The Bay Area Council, a public policy group consisting of the region’s 275 largest employers, has named state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier as its inaugural “Regionalist of the Year.”

Mark DeSaulnierThe council called DeSaulnier, D-Concord, a champion of regional cooperation and solutions on issues of transportation, healthcare, economic, housing, land-use planning and environmental protection, among others.

“Sen. DeSaulnier throughout his career of service at the city, county and state levels has exhibited his commitment to the Bay Area as a region and his commitment to serve the needs of the Bay Area and all the people of this region not just those who voted for him,” council president and CEO Jim Wunderman said in a news release. “Mark understands that cities and counties and districts cannot succeed unless the region as a whole is working together to accomplish common and mutually beneficial goals. Sometimes regionalism does not play well at home, but Mark has always exhibited the political courage to do what is right for our region.”

As a Contra Costa County supervisor, DeSaulnier served on the boards of all three of the Bay Area’s regional agencies: the Association of Bay Area Governments, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. He also served on the California Air Resources Board, and the council says he was “an early and ardent proponent of taking an integrated, regional approach to housing, land use and transportation planning – long before the approach was officially codified through the current Sustainable Communities Strategy.”

DeSaulnier played a key role in creating the Joint Policy Committee, a leadership group of the Bay Area’s main regional agencies aimed at improving their efficiency and integration. And he has championed several critical regional transportation projects, including the expansion of Highway 4, BART to eastern Contra Costa County, and the Caldecott Tunnel’s fourth bore.

Posted on Monday, April 29th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, economy, Environment, housing, Mark DeSaulnier, Transportation | 4 Comments »

Study: California can kiss its vineyards goodbye

Awful as some of the climate-change predictions are, this one might hit a lot of Northern California residents where it hurts (assuming their homes aren’t gobbled up by the sea first): Global warming will dramatically impact many of the world’s most famous wine-producing regions, according to a new study.

The first-ever worldwide analysis of climate change’s impact on wine production and conservation, appearing today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests wine production will shift to new areas as climate change makes the existing ones less hospitable.

Researchers found the area suitable for wine production will shrink by as much as 73 percent by 2050 in certain parts of the globe – about 70 percent in Californa – with high potential for stress on rivers and other freshwater ecosystems as vineyards use water to cool grapes or irrigate to compensate for rising temperatures and declining rainfall.

“Climate change is going to move potential wine-producing regions all over the map,” Lee Hannah, the study’s lead author and senior scientist for climate change biology at Conservation International’s new Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Ecosystem Science and Economics, said in a news release.

“These global changes put the squeeze on wildlife and nature’s capacity to sustain human life in some surprising places,” Hannah said. “Consumer awareness, industry and conservation actions are all needed to help keep high quality wine flowing without unintended consequences for nature and the flows of goods and services it provides people. This is just the tip of the iceberg – the same will be true for many other crops.”

The researchers looked at nine major wine producing areas: California, Western North America, Chile, Mediterranean Europe, Northern Europe, Cape Floristic region of South Africa, parts of Australia with Mediterranean climate, parts of Australia with non-Mediterranean climate and New Zealand.

“Chile and California are areas with traditions of irrigation and high Freshwater Impact Index values, indicating that their freshwater habitats may be most at risk as a result of climate change impacts on vineyard water use,” the study found. “Adaptation strategies involving viticulture, vinification, marketing, land use planning, and water management can all help avoid conflicts with conservation objectives in areas of declining as well as expanding suitability.”

Another key finding from the study is that new areas will become more productive, including parts of Western North America and Northern Europe. These places at higher latitudes and higher elevations will become increasingly suitable for wine making and sought after by vineyards as they search for the climatic conditions that are ideal for wine grape growing.

According to the study, the greatest area of increasing wine production suitability is in the Rocky Mountains near the Canadian-U.S. border, putting at risk species such as the grizzly bear, gray wolf and pronghorn.

“Climate change will set up competition for land between agricultural and wildlife – wine grapes are but one example,” said Rebecca Shaw, the study’s co-author and associate vice president for the Environmental Defense Fund’s Land, Water and Wildlife program. “This could have disastrous results for wildlife. Fortunately, there are pro-active solutions. We are creating incentive-based programs with private landowners to provide wildlife habitat as we expand our capacity to feed a growing planet in the future under a changing climate.”

Posted on Monday, April 8th, 2013
Under: economy, Global warming, water | 10 Comments »

Brown names Bay Area people to workforce board

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday appointed 14 people to the , including four from the Bay Area, to help him set policies to develop the state’s workforce.

The California Workforce Investment Board helps the governor perform the duties and responsibilities required by the federal Workforce Investment Act of 1998. All of its members are appointed by the governor from the business, labor, public education, higher education, economic development, youth activity, employment and training sectors, as well as the Legislature.

Josh Becker, 43, of Menlo Park, is a founding general partner at New Cycle Capital and has been CEO at Lex Machina since 2011. He was founder and CEO at L7L MP Corporation from 2005 to 2007 and director of corporate development at Agile Software from 2001 to 2005. Becker was a founding team member at Redpoint Ventures from 1999 to 2001 and an associate at Brentwood Venture Capital in 1999. He holds a law degree and an MBA from Stanford University, and is a Democrat.

Karl Mehta, 42, of Fremont, has been a venture partner at Menlo Ventures since 2013 and was founder and CEO at Playspan from 2007 to 2012. He has been an advisory board member at the Ralph W. Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics at Chapman University, and Simpa Networks board of directors member since 2012. Mehta has been a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow for the 20 Percent Initiative since 2012 and has been an Intel Capital advisory board member since 2011. Mehta is a Democrat.

Floyd Trammell, 42, of Oakland, has been executive director of the West Bay Local Development Corporation since 2003 and senior pastor at the First Friendship Institutional Baptist Church since 2002. He was a business instructor at the City College of San Francisco from 2001 to 2005 and operations manager at the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco from 1996 to 2002. Trammell has been an Ella Hill Hutch Community Center board member since 2009 and was president of the Fillmore Community Jazz District from 2010 to 2012. He’s a Democrat.

Carol Zabin, 57, of Berkeley, is research director at the University of California, Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, where she has served in various positions since 1998, including chair. She was visiting professor at UCLA from 1994 to 1998 and assistant professor of economics at Tulane University from 1992 to 1994. She earned a doctorate in economics from Cal. Zabin is a Democrat.

These appointments don’t require Senate confirmation, and the compensation is $100 per diem.

Posted on Friday, March 29th, 2013
Under: economy, education, Jerry Brown | 1 Comment »

Tauscher to chair new Governor’s Military Council

Gov. Jerry Brown probably believes it’s fine for the nation to speak softly, but he’s enlisting a former East Bay Congresswoman to ensure California remains part of its big stick.

Ellen TauscherBrown today appointed former East Bay Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher to chair a new Governor’s Military Council, tasked with protecting California’s military installations against the deep budget cuts being made by the Pentagon under the sequestration approved by Congress and President Obama.

“California plays a crucial role in our nation’s defense, and military bases and activities are vital to our state’s economy,” Brown said in a news release. “As federal priorities shift to cyber security and new military technology, this Council will work to expand defense-industry jobs and investment in California.”

California is home to 29 federal military installations, and the Defense Department directly employs more than 236,000 people in California. This new council will work to protect those installations and operations amid ongoing Defense Department budget cuts, and to push for changes in federal military strategy that will keep California at the front of defense innovation.

“California’s military infrastructure is critically important to national security,” Tauscher said. “The Council will send a unified message to Washington, D.C., that highlights the value of our military bases.”

Tauscher, 61, represented her East Bay congressional district from 1997 until 2009, when she resigned to take a post as U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs; she left that post in February 2012. More recently, she served as the State Department’s Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense and Vice Chair-Designate of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. She is now a strategic advisor to the Baker Donelson law firm in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., noted defense is key sector of the state’s economy.

“With federal budgets continuing to be cut — including many defense programs — it is my hope that the Governor’s Military Council will help protect jobs and investments and attract new missions associated with California’s military presence,” she said. “I also believe that Ellen Tauscher is an excellent choice to chair this council, as she brings a wealth of experience at the State Department and as a member of the House of Representatives.”

The council will convene for one year and draft specific recommendations to the governor and Legislature. It includes retired admirals and generals from all military branches, the Adjutant General of the California National Guard and lawmakers selected by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez. The appointments don’t require Senate confirmation and there is no compensation.

See the full roster of council members as described by the governor’s office, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, March 28th, 2013
Under: economy, Ellen Tauscher, Jerry Brown, national security | 5 Comments »

Activists urge tax hike amid ‘fiscal cliff’ talks

Congress and the White House might be at loggerheads over how to address the “fiscal cliff,” but activists in California and across the nation aren’t letting any grass grow under their feet.

The Action – a broad coalition of labor and progressive groups demanding that the Bush tax cuts be allowed to expire for those making more than $250,000 per year – organized phone banks this past Saturday at 38 sites across California, including Burlingame, Daly City, El Sobrante, Los Altos, Martinez, Morgan Hill, Oakland, Palo Alto, San Francisco, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Santa Rose, Sebastopol and Walnut Creek.

The phone bank targeted California voters, who were urged in turn to call their representatives in Congress.

“For months, Republicans in Congress have held the middle-class hostage to tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans,” said a Friday e-mail announcing the phone banks. “The Senate has already passed legislation to keep middle-class taxes from rising, and it’s time for the House of Representatives to act. It’s time to set our priorities straight: Tax cuts for the wealthy means fewer Pell Grants, fewer Head Starts and more kids shoved into crowded classrooms.”

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now UC-Berkeley professor, is helping to define the debate for Democrats (via MoveOn.org):

On Tuesday evening, members of the Sacramento Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment will be out singing some special, re-purposed Christmas carols “to urge Congress to vote for middle class tax cuts without holding them hostage for tax cuts for the wealthy.” They’ll be at 16th and J streets at 6 p.m., performing for shoppers, commuters and people waiting in line to see former President Bill Clinton speak at the Sacramento Speakers Series – a friendly crowd, one would think.

National activism is afoot too: Several organizations are planning a Congressional Call-In Day this Wednesday, with a toll-free number, 800-998-0180, that will connect callers directly to their Congressional leaders. As the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare puts it, the goal “is to flood members of Congress with calls reminding them that Americans of all ages and political parties oppose cutting middle-class benefits to pay for deficit reduction. Our message to Congress is simple: ‘NO CUTS to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They should not be a part of this deficit debate.’ ”

And there’ll be a demonstration at noon Friday outside House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco office – at 7th and Mission streets – urging her to vote against any “grand bargain” solution. California Alliance for Retired Americans, Jobs with Justice, Gray Panthers of San Francisco and other groups are expected to take part.

“We’re not broke,” said Hene Kelly the California Alliance for Retired Americans’ legislative director. “We’ve been robbed. If Congress wants to get our economy back on track we need to focus on additional investments in jobs and services that rebuild our economy. That means Congress must raise more revenue by making the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share of taxes. Anything less would be a grand swindle of working people, not a grand bargain.”

Posted on Monday, December 3rd, 2012
Under: economy, taxes | 12 Comments »

State Senate panel to probe refineries, gas prices

With gas prices soaring and news that the Chevron Richmond refinery’s crude oil unit won’t reopen until 2013, a state Senate committee will hold a hearing next month on the safety and reliability of California’s gasoline production system and its impacts on gas prices and the economy.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, announced today he’ll convene the Senate Select Committee on Bay Area Transportation to explore the issue.

Mark Leno“The volatile spikes in gas prices and gas shortages in our state in recent weeks indicate serious problems with California refineries,” Leno said in a news release. “I am concerned that refineries have no incentive for keeping their operations safe and fully functional because their profits increase greatly following any type of disruption, whether it is the consequence of a potentially deadly explosion or failed piping. Meanwhile, consumers are paying the price for these refinery errors, not only at the pumps, but also in the risks posed to public health and safety.”

Leno said the hearing will focus on two main topics: system reliability for California’s refineries and its effect on the economy; and the state’s oversight process and role related to refinery worker safety. Topics may include monitoring health and safety at the state’s 15 oil refineries, state compliance and enforcement at refineries, West Coast gasoline prices and how they may be manipulated, refinery capacity and its relationship to gas prices and the economy, and the Chevron Richmond fire investigation.

“Chevron’s announcement late yesterday that its Richmond (crude oil) facility will be closed for the remainder of the year could further complicate matters for California,” he said. “Economists have estimated that a lengthy shutdown of that facility could slow the growth rate of the state’s economy by half a percentage point.”

This past weekend, Gov. Jerry Brown urged the California Air Resources Board to make an early switch to the state’s winter blend of gasoline to improve supply, and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., renewed her call for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the soaring prices.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., got into the act Monday, sending a letter urging the Department of Justice’s Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group to investigate the recent spike.

“Californians have too often been victimized as unscrupulous traders have created or taken advantage of supply disruptions to drive up energy prices,” Boxer wrote. “We cannot allow market manipulation by those who would seek to profit off the pain of our families at the pump.”

In the letter, Boxer pointed to published reports that cited energy traders saying the sudden rise in gas prices had “many of the hallmarks of a classic short squeeze.”

She acknowledged the maintenance issues facing California refineries beginning with the shutdown of Chevron’s Richmond crude oil unit in August due to a fire, the power outage at Exxon Mobil’s Torrance refinery, and the September shutdown of a Chevron pipeline that supplies crude from the Central Valley to the Bay Area. But noting a pattern of similar maintenance issues at West Coast refineries that led to price spikes earlier this year, Boxer wrote, “it is critical that we ensure that these shutdowns are not part of any broader effort to deliberately keep gasoline supplies tight—and prices high—at the expense of consumers.”

Posted on Wednesday, October 10th, 2012
Under: Barbara Boxer, California State Senate, economy, energy, Mark Leno, U.S. Senate | 6 Comments »