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Commerce Secretary attends Oakland forum

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker joined Rep. Barbara Lee and other officials Monday for a regional economic development forum at Oakland International Airport, focused on creating more jobs and growing businesses in the East Bay.

Penny Pritzker“The Department of Commerce has tremendous resources in place in this region and around the country that allow us to partner with your businesses and entrepreneurs so they can compete and succeed,” Pritzker said in a news release issued by Lee, D-Oakland, after the event.

“Here in the Bay Area, we are working with companies large and small to sell their goods and services to the 95 percent of global consumers who live outside the U.S., helping to create the conditions for innovators and entrepreneurs to thrive, and supporting minority-and women-owned businesses through our Minority Business Development Agency,” she said, adding her department “is committed to helping your companies grow and thrive so they can create jobs – that is our mission and a core objective for President Obama.”

Lee said small businesses “are fundamental to the East Bay’s economic growth, especially women and minority-owned businesses.

“These businesses create jobs, contribute to our community and create opportunities into the middle class,” she said. “In order to ensure continued economic growth, we need to investment in sharing the available resources with these businesses and businesses owners to help them succeed.”

Other attendees included regional Small Business Administration Administrator Donna Davis; Minority Business Development Agency Director Alejandra Castillo; Overseas Private Investment Corp. Director of Corporate Development Alison Germak; Port of Oakland Aviation Director Deborah Ale Flint; Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson; and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

Earlier Monday, Lee had hosted a roundtable discussion with Pritzker and East Bay business leaders to discuss economic development, supplier diversity and the importance of gender and ethnic diversity in corporate leadership.

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Swalwell bill aims to help cities that lost RDAs

California cities that saw economic development projects sidelined or shelved when the state dissolved their redevelopment authorities would compete more easily for federal grants to fund those projects, under a new bill from Rep. Eric Swalwell.

Swalwell news conference 11-26-2013 (photo by Josh Richman)Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, held a news conference Tuesday morning at a huge empty lot along Post Street in Fremont’s Centerville area. A sprawling mixed-use “Artist Walk” development had been planned for the site, but tanked after state lawmakers and the governor did away with local redevelopment authorities in 2011 and seized their assets to help balance the state’s budget.

“There’s a reason we only see buildings in artists’ renderings and not in reality,” Swalwell said. “Localities can no longer raise adequate funds for redevelopment…. And it is my hope today that the federal government can fix it.”

Swalwell’s H.R. 3518, the “Restarting Local Economies Act of 2013,” doesn’t allocate any new federal funding. Rather, it changes rules for the Economic Development Administration’s Economic Adjustment Assistance program, which provides competitive grants for local redevelopment projects if they meet specific criteria related to challenges to their economy.

Swalwell’s bill would include the closure of a government entity – such as a redevelopment agency – as a specific example of an economic challenge to a region, letting California localities more easily compete for these grants.

“I hope we can do our part to make things a little bit easier,” he said, noting projects like the Artist Walk development would create jobs not only in construction but also in the businesses that could locate there.

But for now, it’s “welcome to Centerville, welcome to an empty lot,” quipped Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison. “We need to get people to work, we need affordable housing.”

Harrison said Fremont in the past used redevelopment authority funding to do grade improvement projects that cleared the way for BART’s extension into Santa Clara County, and to improve the Niles Town Plaza around that district’s historic train station.

Union City Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci said an easier path to federal grants could help her city complete its intermodal station district project in the area around its BART station.

Because this bill would have special meaning for California, it’s unclear how it’ll play with the rest of the Republican-controlled House. Swalwell said he hasn’t yet begun lining up co-sponsors even amid California’s delegation.

“I’ve got my work cut out for me,” he said. “But whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat in California, you represent cities that suffered with the loss of their redevelopment authorities. This is going to be my year-end push, to reach out to colleagues on this issue.”

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Ex Oakland official nominated as U.S. Treasurer

President Barack Obama today nominated Rosa “Rosie” Gumataotao Rios, a former economic development official for Oakland, Fremont, San Leandro and Union City, to serve as U.S. Treasurer.

The Treasurer advises the Secretary of the Treasury on matters relating to coinage, currency and the production of other instruments by the federal government. The Treasurer’s signature, as well as the Treasury Secretary’s, must appear on paper money before it can become legal tender.

The Treasurer also serves as one of the Treasury Department’s principal advisors and spokespeople in the area of financial literacy and education. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Rios will be the third consecutive California Latina to hold the post, following Rosario Marin and Anna Escobedo Cabral.

Rios most recently has been Managing Director of Investments for MacFarlane Partners, a real estate investment management firm with more than $11 billion in assets under management. After working to mobilize the Latino vote in Virginia during last year’s presidential campaign, Rios took a leave of absence from MacFarlane Partners to serve as a member of the incoming Obama Administration’s Treasury/Federal Reserve Transition Team.

Before joining MacFarlane Partners, she was a principal with Red River Associates, a consulting firm specializing in providing development, project management and executive management services for municipalities.

And before that, Rios from 2001 through 2003 was Oakland’s Economic Development & Redevelopment director, managing a staff of nearly 100 tasked with facilitating business opportunities in the city and revitalizing its downtown and neighborhood corridors. She’d been hired by then City Manager Robert Bobb, and was fired by Mayor Jerry Brown after Bobb’s ouster.

Rios also has served as Director of Economic Development for Fremont; Development Specialist for San Leandro; manager of the Union City’s Redevelopment Agency. She still serves as a trustee of the Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Association and is a board member of the California Association of Local Economic Development and of Oakland’s Unity Council. Rios holds a Bachelor’s degree in sociology and romance languages and literature from Harvard University.

UPDATE @ 2:18 P.M.: “I’m so very pleased that my constituent Rosie Gumataotao Rios, who I enthusiastically supported, has been chosen to serve as our new U.S. Treasurer,” says Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, adding Rios “brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to this position. …She will be a wonderful addition to the Department of Treasury.”

President Obama also Friday nominated Daniel M. Tangherlini as Assistant Treasury Secretary for Management and Chief Financial Officer; Tangherlini will also serve as the Chief Performance Officer of the Treasury.

“I am grateful to have these two distinguished individuals joining my administration at this critical time for our nation,” Obama said in a news release. “Under the leadership of Secretary Geithner, I am confident that they will serve the American people well as we work to right our economy and put our nation on a path to prosperity.”

UPDATE @ 3:13 P.M.: Former Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb said Friday he served as one of Rios’ references and they “had several conversations as she was going through the vetting process.”

“I’m really happy for Rosie, this is phenomenal … a well-deserved appointment,” he said, adding that in her Oakland post she “stood her ground in the midst of some pretty controversial issues, but nobody could question her work ethic or her ethics.”

Unity Council CEO Gilda Gonzales said Friday she’s “ecstatic” about Rios’ nomination: “The president made an excellent choice, and I believe she will serve the president and the country in an honorable manner.”

Rios is finely attuned to “the challenges all of us face, from unemployment to foreclosure,” Gonzales said, carrying work experience that ties her to Wall Street as well as life experience that ties her to Main Street. “She’s one of us, that’s what’s very great about it.”

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Uhuru Movement praises cop killer

From the Web site of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, a notice of a gathering from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight (Wednesday, March 25) at the Uhuru House at 7911 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland:

“Uphold the Resistance of the African Community as Represented by Brother Lovelle Mixon

“Gather at 6pm at the Uhuru House
7911 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland
6:30 March to Eastmont Town Center
Rally & Return to the Uhuru House

“Just like the resistance of Nat Turner and Gabriel Prosser, enslaved Africans once vilified and today considered heroes, African people in Oakland have a right to struggle against this government-imposed terror. Like the missiles launched from Gaza and the Iraqi resistance forces, African people will rightfully fight to free themselves against oppression in every form.

“We call on the citizens of Oakland to unite with the demands raised by the Uhuru Movement for genuine economic development to the African working class community, for reparations for the families of victims of police violence, for a community controlled police review board with subpoena powers and for an immediate end to these failed public policies of police containment which have brought so much suffering to the African community for so long.

“We call on Oakland citizens to join us in rejecting the knee-jerk criminalization of the oppressed African community by the city and state governments, and in recognizing that in order to go forward as a city we must unite in the quest for economic and social justice for the African community.”

I don’t think many Oaklanders have a problem with calls for economic development and tight citizen oversight of police, but I’d think most Oaklanders do have a big problem with trying to justify and show solidarity with the murder of police officers.

UPDATE @ 4:50 P.M.: Right after posting this item at about 9:30 a.m. today, I e-mailed spokespeople for Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda; and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums to see if they would comment on this. As of now, only Lee’s office has responded: “The focus of the office is on the four officers and their grieving families and members of the OPD. We know nothing about this group at all.”