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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Free Trade is Vital for America’s Economy

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June 3  |  Federal Issues  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . 95 percent of the consumer base for tech products is outside of the United States.

Without free trade, our companies and workers lack access to the foreign markets on which American workers depend in order to sell American goods and services.

How important is free trade to America and Silicon Valley’s economy? Today, nearly 40 million U.S. jobs depend on trade, meaning more than 1 of every 5 American workers has a job linked to the export and import of goods and services.

American manufacturing employees in the “most trade-intensive industries” earn on average 56 percent more than those in manufacturing companies that were less engaged in trade.

That’s why President Obama has staked as one of his highest priorities the passage of Trade Promotion Authority, to help him complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership involving the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries. Combined, those 12 countries represent 40 percent of the world’s GDP and one-third of global trade.

For more than 20 years, American presidents have been granted “fast-track authority” by Congress. It is critical to the success of Silicon Valley that President Obama be granted this same level of authority.

Without Trade Promotion Authority, manufacturers and American workers risk being locked out and left behind as other countries negotiate dozens of trade agreements that exclude the United States.

That’s why the vote on Trade Promotion Authority passed overwhelmingly in the United States Senate, with a bi-partisan vote of 62-37. If Trade Promotion Authority stalls in the House, it will hurt almost every household in America. Urge your member of Congress to stand with Silicon Valley and America’s innovation economy. Urge them to vote yes for free trade.

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Raise Yourself Up Without Tearing Others Down

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May 27  |  Community, Federal Issues, Government Relations  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought … You can raise yourself up without tearing others down.

On the same day, I recently found in my mailbox two separate letters. One from a prominent Democrat member of Congress and one from a top-tier Republican presidential candidate.

Along with the expected appeal for money, both envelopes contained rather lengthy letters that seemed to spend as much ink tearing down the other political party as it invested in praising their own.

From the Republican presidential candidate, I read such red meat as the following:

“I know what the liberal Democrats are capable of, because I understand how desperately they crave power.”

And “Content with the status quo and willing to accept mediocrity, the Liberal Democrats are running our country into the ground.”

From the congressional Democrat, I read such lines as:

“We face a radical Republican Party with … a willingness to do or say whatever it takes to advance their far right-wing agenda and obstruct any and all of our progress.”

Oh my.

Instead of ripping into the purported evils of the other party, why not focus on the solutions your own party has to offer?

I seem to recall our Founders writing eloquently about the “United” States of America, not the divided and divisive parties that would burn bridges down rather than build them.

A note to leaders of both our major political parties: Give the American people credit. We are smarter than you might think. We crave solutions to our nation’s problems, not personal attacks and political ambition.

Candidates, please – run on your ideals and ideas. Lift us up, without tearing others down.

 

Whine or Win; It’s our Choice

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May 21  |  Education, Housing, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Whine or win; it’s our choice.

Are we here to whine about our problems, or work together for solutions?

On Friday, May 29, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and 24 incredibly diverse community partners will co-host our 4th Annual Regional Economic Forum, bringing together leaders from throughout the region.

The purpose of the forum will be to truly tackle what we call THEE issues.

The “T” is for Transportation & Traffic.

The “H” is for Housing & Homelessness.

The “E” is for Education & Workforce.

The second “E” is for Equity & Economic Opportunity.

Yes, we all know those issues are among the top challenges we face in Silicon Valley. But here’s the catch: No one at our Regional Economic Forum is allowed to whine about the problem, or re-state the challenge. Panelists and participants will only be allowed to discuss solutions – and preferably solutions that they will either personally lead or support.

When it comes to real solutions for transportation, housing, education and economic opportunity, it is past time we stopped whining, and focused on winning solutions to these seemingly intractable problems. We can continue to wring our hands together in discouragement, or join our hands together with encouragement.

If you agree, then come join us. Find out more at svlg.org/regional-economic-forum-2015.

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