George Miller part of new early-childhood panel

Former Rep. George Miller is among the high-profile members of a new “Right Start Commission” aimed at helping modernize California’s early-childhood services.

The commission, rolled out Thursday by Common Sense Kids Action, will develop a plan for providing universal, high-quality access to early learning and support systems from birth to age 5. The panel will examine both government’s role in providing such services, and the private sector’s responsibility to ensure a good start for employees’ children; its recommendations will become a legislative blueprint.

“Every child deserves a fair start in life and the only way we can ensure that happens is to provide all kids with the care, support and quality learning experiences they need to be successful from day one,” Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer, who’ll also serve on the commission, said in a news release. “We know that improving early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make. Yet, across the nation millions of American kids are denied this critical opportunity year after year. With the Right Start Commission, Common Sense Kids Action will kick off an effort to reimagine early childhood services in California and create a model for the nation to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

The commission’s launch is in conjunction with the Invest In US coalition President Obama unveiled in 2014 to improve the quality of and access to early childhood education for children throughout the country. It will hold a series of statewide and national events over the remainder of the year to collect input from early education and care practitioners, parents, educators and respected researchers.

Besides Steyer and Miller, who just retired after 40 years in the House as a leader on education issues, the commission’s members include Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff; PolicyLink Founder and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell; Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond; Institute for InterGroup Understanding Chair and CEO George Halvorson; Center for Youth Wellness Founder and CEO Nadine Burke Harris; Apple Vice President of Environmental Initiatives Lisa Jackson; Heising-Simons Foundation President Elizabeth Simons; and former state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

“Early investment in our youngest children is essential to their long-term success as individuals and a bright future for California,” Steinberg said in the news release. “Now, more than ever, we must move kids to the top of our agenda and provide them with the resources they need to compete and succeed in a global economy. The Right Start Commission is a critical first step toward achieving that vision.”


Skinner: Going green means economic recovery

Assembly Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Nancy Skinner held a committee hearing today in Oakland on implementing California’s climate-change policies as a path to the state’s economic recovery, in advance of her trip at the end of this week to the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Skinner, D-Berkeley, isn’t using any taxpayer money for the trip to Copenhagen, her staff said, but she will be part of a Golden State contingent including California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols; California Secretary for Environmental Protection Linda Adams; state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, author of the state’s main greenhouse-gas reduction laws; and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“We are moving forward, and we have some great messages to communicate in Copenhagen,” Skinner told reporters at a pre-hearing news conference, noting Californians “should continue to be extremely proud” of the state’s green-economy leadership.

Flanking Skinner at the news conference were Cal professor Dan Kammen, also headed for Copenhagen as a coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; Electric Vehicles International President and CEO Ricky Hanna; and Recurve President Matt Golden. Hanna and Golden, she said, are proof positive that California’s movement toward embracing greenhouse gas reduction, energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and other green initiatives “are driving our economy, they are making us more competitive.”

Hanna agreed California’s green legislation, including the AB32 greenhouse-gas reduction legislation, played a key role in EVI’s decision to move from Mexico to Stockton, where it’s producing “an all-American solution that is creating green jobs here in California today.”

And Golden said his company – a San Francisco-based home energy-auditing and remodeling firm formerly known as Sustainable Spaces – believes California’s policies put it the crossroads of the nation’s climate-change goals and job goals, ready to take advantage of an ever-widening river of venture capital flowing toward the green sector.

Skinner cited a new report being released tomorrow by the nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy group Next 10 which says California’s green business sector saw jobs grow three times as fast as total jobs from 1995 to 2008. She also said that of $3.3 billion of venture capital invested nationwide in green businesses last year, about 57 percent of that was in California.

Kammen said California’s policies and new moves across the nation – including yesterday’s long-expected U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruling that greenhouse gases threaten public health, giving the Obama administration power to regulate smokestack and tailpipe emissions that feed global warming whether or not Congress acts – indicate it’s time to “flip the equation” so the nation invests first in renewable energies and uses fossil fuels “only to fill in around the edges.”

Skinner’s staff said she’ll be addressing several breakout sessions at the Copenhagen conference, based on her experience in local green initiatives. From her Web site:

A nationally renowned leader in the fight against global warming, she founded ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, an organization dedicated to helping local governments around the world become environmental leaders. As Executive Director of ICLEI’s U.S. office, she launched the Cities for Climate Protection Program, the national movement of Mayors and cities working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that now involves over 500 cities and counties.

As the U.S. Director of The Climate Group, Assemblymember Skinner worked with Fortune 500 companies, clean tech industries and state and national leaders to pass groundbreaking legislation such as California’s global warming bill, AB 32. With a team of writers at Earthworks Press, she also wrote and published the best selling book series 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save the Earth.

Meanwhile, President Obama – in preparation for his own trip to the Copenhagen conference – will meet privately at the White House with a group of business and environmental leaders from across the nation. Among them will be Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of the Oakland-based economic and social equity nonprofit PolicyLink, and Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope of San Francisco.


A few upcoming political events

Thursday, Feb. 19 – Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland, and Oakland City Council President Jane Brunner will host a “Progressive Economic Roundtable Discussion” from 7 to 9 p.m. tonight in the City Council Chambers at Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza. Among those scheduled to talk about the economic crisis’ effects on Oakland residents as well as local job-creation and economic-growth strategies are Victor Rubin of PolicyLink; Professor Steven Raphael of the University of California, Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy; Shirley Burnell of ACORN; and Alameda County Central Labor Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Sharon Cornu.

Sunday, Feb. 22 – Fresh from a fracas at his speaking engagement last month at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, education professor ’60s radical Bill Ayers – joined this time by his wife, fellow former radical Bernardine Dohrn – will speak on “Building a Movement for Peace in Our Time” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22 in the King Middle School auditorium, 1781 Rose St. in Berkeley. They’re also plugging their new book, “Race Course: Against White Supremacy” and the re-issue of Ayers’ memoir “Fugitive Days: Memoirs of an Anti-War Activist.” The event is a benefit for the Berkeley-based Middle East Children’s Alliance; tickets cost $15 for general admission, $10 for students, and are available online.

Tuesday, Feb. 24 – Conservative activist and author Phyllis Schlafly will speak about “radical feminism’s effect on America” and other issues at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24 in 110 Barrows Hall at the University of California, Berkeley, sponsored by the Berkeley College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation. The Berkeley College Republicans’ news release say her visit “is particularly relevant given the scrutiny and support that both Governor Sarah Palin and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton received during last year’s presidential election, the current state of American culture, particularly in regards to women, women’s values, and family values, and the urgent nature of the problems affecting our country today.”

Wednesday, Feb. 25David Sanger, the New York Times’ chief Washington correspondent and author of the recent book, “The Inheritance,” will speak on the complex and perhaps unprecedented national security challenges faced by President Barack Obama at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25, in the Commonwealth Club of California’s offices on the second floor of 595 Market St. in San Francisco. A wine-and-cheese reception begins at 5:30 p.m. Tickets cost $12 for members, $18 for non-members and $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online.