British Airways: Well Worth the Wait

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August 26  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Like most “overnight successes,” this one was four years in the making.

Four years ago, our Silicon Valley Leadership Group hosted a dinner with 20 member company executives and the leadership of British Airways, working to win a direct flight between London and San Jose.

Four years later, we announced Wednesday with British Airways North America Senior Vice President Simon Brooks and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo that direct service between London and San Jose will launch on May 4 of next year.

In a Valley known for taking big risks with the potential for big rewards, we recognize that placing a 787 Dreamliner for new international service is a significant decision. Each flight is an investment of a quarter of a million dollars, on a plane valued at roughly $200 million.

Yet we are confident the flights will be full. With 481 Silicon Valley companies with business operations in London and the UK, and 118 British companies with locations in Silicon Valley, this is a marriage made in heaven on both sides of the Atlantic.

It’s also a sign that San Jose is on the rise – or, in the words of our Mayor Sam Liccardo, that “San Jose is taking off.”

Through our partnership with the Mayor and the airport, the Leadership Group has now helped secure direct international flights to Tokyo in 2013, to Beijing last June, and now London come next May.

One more victory for the citizens of Silicon Valley – well worth the wait.

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Reform and Revenue for California Roads

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August 19  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino
Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino speaks at a news conference about transportation with California Governor Jerry Brown and state Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins on August 19, 2015. Photo Courtesy: (Assembly Democratic Caucus)

Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino speaks at a news conference about transportation with California Governor Jerry Brown and state Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins on August 19, 2015. (Photo: Assembly Democratic Caucus)

Here’s food for thought … It’s hard to drive Silicon Valley’s economy with your employees stalled in Silicon Valley traffic.

I had the pleasure to share the podium with California Governor Jerry Brown and state Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins on Wednesday to underscore the urgency for new transportation funding for California.

With 23 days (and counting) left in this legislative session we need a bi-partisan solution to fix the cracks and potholes that have become emblematic of California’s crumbling highways and our local streets and roads.

We need a combination of reform and revenue. Reform to ensure every current transportation dollar is spent wisely and effectively. Revenue because we know the 10-year gap in transportation priorities and available funding is nearly $300 billion.

For Republican legislators looking for necessary reform, casting a vote for new revenue can be difficult. For Democrats looking for revenue, some of the necessary reforms can be a tough vote. Yet, this is our “Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid” moment. “I will jump if you jump.”

And here is the good news: Butch and Sundance survived the jump. And if legislators jump together, they will not only survive, but the road improvements will help California thrive.

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Pain is Temporary. Effort is Eternal.

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August 5  |  Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

This weekend, my wife Leslee and I will be racing in the Triathlon National Championships, a series of races that brings together the top triathletes from around the United States, all hoping to qualify to represent “Team USA” at the World Championships next summer in Mexico.

For many, months of training – coupled with outstanding performances at qualifying races in their regions – have sharpened their skills for this coming weekend. My wife Leslee is one of those top performers, who qualified for “Team USA” two years ago, representing our country in the World Championships last summer in Canada. In a word, my quiet and humble wife, is a “stud.”

For me, I’m just happy to be there: To compete, even if somewhere near the back of the pack; in essence, to make everyone else look good.

It reminds me that we all set different goals. For some, it is to win. For a lonely few, it is even to win at all costs. For others, it is simply to do our best. To overcome adversity. To set a goal and work to achieve it.

Whether it is a sporting event or any other stretch goal in our lives, what matters most is not just how we do, but what the experience makes us become. The relatively obscure sport of triathlon has made me more humble, more adaptable to unforeseen and often difficult circumstances, and more respectful of those out suffering and succeeding around me.

Of this I am sure. When I near the completion of the race; as I approach the finisher’s shoot; my focus will be not on the crowd, but on two little girls calling out the name I love to hear – That name is not “champion” or “winner.” It is a much richer name, called “daddy.”

Hearts 4 Minds

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July 29  |  Education  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . the ability to learn depends on the ability to read.

Up until 3rd grade, our kids learn to read. After 3rd grade, our kids read to learn.

That’s why reading at grade level by 3rd grade is considered a gateway skill – and why so much is known by 3rd grade as to whether a child will eventually graduate from high school or drop out of high school. Reading is essential.

It is also why my heart breaks that nearly 5 of every 10 3rd graders throughout Silicon Valley are not reading at grade level.

The good news . . . is that there is good news. Enter “1,000 Hearts for 1,000 Minds,” a tutoring initiative initially launched by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, which links caring adults with children – grades K-10 – for one-on-one tutoring in reading, science and math.

For as little as 45 minutes a week, for as short of a time duration of 10 weeks, each of us can change the life of a student.

School starts in just a few weeks. Will you join us in answering the bell? For more details, go to Hearts4Minds.org.

If our kids can read, then they can succeed. The best part – YOU can help.

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There’s No Place Like Home

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July 15  |  Housing  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought: Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz, said it best: There’s no place like home . . . Assuming you can afford one.

Silicon Valley housing costs are back to a tipping point – with 3 of every 4 workers unable to afford the average price of a home. Such is a recent finding from our “Silicon Valley Competitiveness & Innovation Project,” full data released here.

Our region’s unaffordable housing costs are not limited to lower-wage workers. Employees with a STEM-based degree, those in Computer and Mathematical occupations, earn a median salary of $121,000 a year. That makes a rental home possible, but still places more than half of the Silicon Valley’s workforce outside of the range to afford a for-sale home.

Do our high housing costs truly impact our economy? On Tuesday, I met with a Leadership Group member company CEO and he mentioned a recent difficult decision to add jobs in another state rather than here in Silicon Valley, and the biggest factor was the high cost of housing for his workers. On the same day, another top company executive shared a similar story – that due to the high cost of homes, it is less expensive for his company to have many of his employees live in another state. Two different companies, in two different sectors of our economy, with the same suboptimal solution to our high housing costs . . . are deciding to locate employees and jobs in other states.

Long-term, this is not good for the future of Silicon Valley. We need thoughtful solutions for workers to live in the same communities in which they work. Future blog posts will focus on specific ways in which we can ensure that Silicon Valley isn’t just the home of cutting-edge technology; but that it also remains the home of our workers and their families driving that technology.

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Past Time to Fix our Roads

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July 8  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Depressed. Distressed. Determined.

When it comes to fixing California’s crumbling state highways and local streets and roads, it is easy to feel discouraged.

Care to be depressed? Consider the numbers:

  • California has a $59 billion hole just in deferred maintenance on our state highway system alone.

Want to be distressed?

  • The gas tax, California’s traditional funding source since 1923, now has the lowest purchasing power, when adjusted for inflation, in history.
  • Ironically, with more Californian’s driving fuel-efficient cars – a good thing – there are even fewer gas tax funds to fix our roads.

So how can we be determined? Opportunities to move forward now abound. Thanks to Governor Brown, a special session of the Legislature has been called to fund the gap to fix potholes throughout the state.

  • Solutions include restoring the truck-weight fee – nearly $1 billion annually – to its intended use in fixing our highways.
  • Extending the ability of Caltrans to enter into public-private partnerships, saving time and treasure on transportation improvements.
  • Ensuring that new revenues for transportation fund both our state highways and local roads over the next decade.

Weigh in today. Contact the Leadership Group for more details, including how you can contact your own state legislator to fix our roads and fill those potholes. Let’s get California moving again.

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Unlock the Gridlock

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July 1  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . taxpayers are ready for traffic relief.

In our recent Silicon Valley Leadership Group annual poll, our fellow voters and taxpayers made one point clear: We are tired of traffic gridlock, and are willing to take steps to fix it.

When we asked voters if they would once again invest local dollars for local transportation improvements with local accountability, the results were resounding. A specific list of improvements, which could be funded by a half-cent sales tax increase, garnered support from 68 percent, with only 27 percent against and 5 percent undecided.

The specific improvements polled are as follows:

  • Finish the BART extension to Downtown San Jose and Santa Clara – 86 percent support
  • Repair streets, fix potholes in all 15 cities and towns – 88 percent support
  • Electrify, modernize Caltrain Commuter Rail Service from Gilroy to Palo Alto – 73 percent support
  • Relieve traffic on all eight county expressways – 80 percent support
  • Bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, especially near schools – 84 percent support
  • Improve transit service for seniors, the poor and disabled – 85 percent support

Befitting the visionary spirit of Silicon Valley, our voters and taxpayers are once again willing to place their money where their mouths are – for specific transportation improvements that will strengthen our economy, keep and create jobs and improve our quality of life.

When it comes to traffic, we may have the keys to unlock the gridlock.

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Ridesharing: Facts Over Fear

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June 24  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Facts over fear.

The innovation economy took a tumble before the San Jose City Council on June 23, because an unworkable “pilot program” was set up for rideshare companies that want to be able to pick up passengers at the Mineta San Jose International Airport. The problem? Innovative economy companies such as Lyft, Uber and Sidecar made it clear that the rules are unworkable and respectfully signaled in advance that if adopted, they wouldn’t be able to participate. Those pleas were ignored.

Nine months of negotiations between the airport and Transportation Network Companies (TNC) produced an agreement to ensure ridesharing drivers picking up passengers at the airport would be in full compliance with California law and that TNC would pay their fair share in fees to the airport. California law requires that all TNC drivers receive professionally administered background checks. The agreement was a win for consumers and our cash strapped airport.

That agreement was undone and renegotiated by the City Council less than 48 hours before the vote was held. Simply put, the City Council changed the rules at the last minute.

A “pilot program” in which no one participates is not a pilot program.

Who loses? You and I. People who want ride choices will not have them because San Jose demanded more regulations than any other airport in the country, all in the guise of public safety. A key demand that background checks be conducted in a narrowly specific way – by fingerprints, valued bureaucracy over innovation. Everyone agrees that background checks are a necessity and that is settled law. But many experts and policy makers disagree that a background check can only be conducted in one specific way, as now required by the city.

Let’s consider facts over fear:

  • Fingerprinting has been evaluated and rejected by the Greenlining Institute and other respected civil rights organizations.
  • It has been evaluated and rejected as the only appropriate method for background checks after numerous public hearings at the state Public Utilities Commission.
  • It has been evaluated and rejected after numerous public hearings in the state Legislature as the only appropriate method for background checks.
  • Across the country, dozens of states and cities have evaluated and rejected fingerprint background checks as the only appropriate method for background checks.

There are other ways to ensure background checks that are accurate, efficient and effective. Yet even the consideration of such options was ignored in San Jose.

Hundreds of thousands of rides have been lawfully and safely provided by San Jose neighbors who drive for Lyft, Sidecar and Uber for other San Jose neighbors. Tens of millions of safe rides have been provided around the country.

But when you fly into San Jose International Airport, don’t expect a ride home by a rideshare company. The City Council just left you at the curb.

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There’s No Place Like Home, Unless You’re Homeless

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June 16  |  Housing  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for Thought . . . There’s no place like home.

Unless you’re homeless – living, more likely subsisting, along a creek, under an overpass, or on a rare night, in a shelter.

Yet that’s how roughly 7,600 people spend their days – and nights – on any given day in Santa Clara County alone.  Add another 2,500 in San Mateo County.

Thanks to the ground-breaking work of Destination: Home, we now know “the cost” of homelessness, from a dollars and cents perspective: $520 million in taxpayer dollars each year – just in Santa Clara County:

  • 53 percent is for health care – think emergency room visits, ambulance rides, et cetera.
  • 13 percent is for social services – like mental health services and drug and alcohol rehabilitation
  • 34 percent is for the criminal justice system (mostly jail costs)

Instead of the expense involved in treating the symptoms, Destination: Home challenges us to consider a cure – permanent housing with specific services for those needing long-term care.

Would such an approach work?  One thing is clear, in spite of our best intentions and big investments, our current efforts to “treat the symptoms” are incredibly expensive and sadly less effective.

Because the “true cost of homelessness” isn’t just the $520 million spent each year.  It is the broken lives, and hearts, in 7,600 human beings living in the streets, in the shadows, all alone.

 

Reducing Water Use One Household at a Time

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June 10  |  Environment  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Stanislaw Lec once said, “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”

When it comes to coming to terms with year-four of an intense drought plaguing the Golden State, it is easy to feel overwhelmed as one individual or organization.

After all, in a state of nearly 39 million people, will what you or I do as individuals matter? The answer is yes, as our individual action or inaction adds up to the collective response we need.

Governor Brown has called for an average statewide water-use reduction of 30 percent. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has pushed for 30 percent within his city, even though their official requirement based on past performance is only 20 percent. They are both leading by example.

I was recently asked by 1590 KLIV whether I am leading by personal example. What is going on in the Guardino household that will make a difference?

It’s a fair question that deserves a thoughtful response:

  • First, since about one-third of home water use is for our lawns, we are down to watering our slightly brown lawn twice a week, 10 minutes per time, in the middle of the night when water-loss through evaporation is less.
  • Second, whether it’s dishes or laundry, only full loads are run.
  • Third, baths are almost non-existent, with short showers now the norm.
  • Fourth, our cars run just as well without looking clean and cared for on the outside.
  • Fifth, our toilets are no longer flushed with every use. “Nuf said.”

While there is undoubtedly more that we can be doing, the key is we have taken several steps that lead up to measurable reductions in water use.

Alone, the mountain in front of us seems insurmountable. Collectively, the efforts of each snowflake add up to an avalanche of answers to this latest challenge Californians face.

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