Transportation

Timing is Everything

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June 11  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Timing is everything; especially in elections.

Let’s face it; Silicon Valley traffic is terrible, and the conditions of our roads in most of our cities are even worse.

We need to fix our road and transit networks, and we need to do it now.

Yet we live in a democracy, and a democracy that requires a two-thirds vote for local tax increases.

As private citizens, the members of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group have led four successful transportation sales tax campaigns in the past 30 years, generating more than $12 billion dollars in vital transportation improvements.

We are willing to help lead such an effort again – but this is where timing comes in. Based on the dismal voter turnout in the June 3 primary election, bringing out a record low number of voters, we now expect a very low turnout this November. Low turnouts do not bode well for transportation funding measures, so the Leadership Group Board has made the painful decision to wait – made more painful by the fact that our employees and families are waiting in traffic jams that need to be addressed. Our original goal was a potential measure in November of 2016, the next presidential election. That is once again our goal.

If you are as frustrated with traffic as we are – join us. Contact me at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Together, we have led measures that built Highway 85, improved Highways 237 and 101, are building the BART extension and funded key improvements for Caltrain Commuter Rail. We have a record of collective success, but much more work to do. Together, in 2016, we can do it.

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Traffic Relief

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April 25  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . If you don’t ask, you don’t know.

Annually, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group commissions a professional survey of 600 likely Silicon Valley voters. As a policy organization consisting of nearly 400 CEOs and senior officers, it is important for us to understand if the concerns expressed in board rooms are similar to the concerns conveyed in our employee’s living rooms.

Our most recent survey was completed on April 13. We asked voters for their views on housing and homelessness, traffic and transportation, education and the economy, taxes and fees. The responses underscored, in this visionary Valley, that voters still want to invest in making our communities better. This was clearly conveyed in the questions about transportation.

  • When voters were asked if they would once again tax themselves for specific transportation improvements:
  • More than 2/3 said YES for Phase II of the BART extension, from Berryessa to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara.
  • More than 2/3 said YES for Caltrain commuter rail improvements from Gilroy to Palo Alto.
  • More than 2/3 said YES for street maintenance and pothole repairs in all 15 cities and towns.
  • More than 2/3 said YES to improve all eight county expressways: Almaden, Capitol, Central, Foothill, Lawrence, Montague, Oregon, San Tomas.
  • More than 2/3 said YES to bike and pedestrian improvements, especially near schools.
  • And more than 2/3 said YES to transit services for seniors and the disabled.

Our question – which will have to be thoughtfully considered by all stakeholders – is simple: Is the timing right to invest again?

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Supervisors Chiu and Wiener Show Courage and Conviction

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April 17  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Effective leaders combine courage and conviction with the pragmatic need to build coalitions and common ground.

Recently, in the City and County of San Francisco, such skills were readily apparent in the strong leadership of Board of Supervisors’ President David Chiu and Supervisor Scott Weiner.

Their leadership is especially appreciated as it was around the politically contentious issue of shuttle buses.

Those opposing shuttle buses, with tactics ranging from blocking buses and making speeches, to destructive and divisive tactics like throwing rocks and shouting insults, would make many politicians cower or conform. Not so with Supervisors Chiu and Weiner. Why? Because the facts about the benefits of shuttles still far outweigh the drawbacks – and companies who care enough about their employees and our communities to provide these services should be lauded, not lambasted.

Consider the facts:

  • Shuttle buses remove 20 million vehicle miles traveled annually.
  • 28 percent of shuttle bus riders forgo even owning a car.
  • Shuttles take 9,000 tons of greenhouse gases annually out of our atmosphere.
  • These shuttles eliminate 327,000 annual single passenger trips.

Courage. Conviction. Words we do not always hear associated with elected officials. Kudos to Chiu and Wiener for reminding us that leaders still exist, and are still effective.

An Attack is an Opportunity to Correct

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March 12  |  Housing, Tax Policy, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Attacks are often opportunities to correct, rather than cower.

A wonderful opportunity recently occurred from a somewhat surprising source: A column in the well-respected San Francisco Chronicle that referenced our 11th Annual CEO Survey. The columnist opined: “… that Silicon Valley somehow operates in a self-contained world of greatness, where it takes no responsibility for the very problems it complains about.”

What a head-scratcher.

Here’s what our nearly 400 member companies have done to address broad community issues.

On housing, the Leadership Group:

  • Created the nation’s most innovative Housing Trust Fund, which has raised nearly $70 million in voluntary contributions, leveraging $2 billion in private development, already assisting more than 10,000 families.
  • Was one of two Co-Chairs of the 2002 $2.1 billion statewide Housing Bond and the 2006 $2.85 billion statewide Housing Bond, which provided housing opportunities for more than 200,000 low income Californians.
  • Is currently convening major Silicon Valley stakeholders to determine what meaningful and measurable role we can play to help eradicate homelessness in Silicon Valley. Homelessness is not a “bottom-line business issue,” per se, but a moral imperative to help the most vulnerable in our Valley.

On traffic, the Leadership Group:

  • Has led, not just supported, four successive sales tax measures collectively contributing $10 billion for regional transportation improvements, including:
    • A 1984 measure to fund Highways 85, 101 and 237.
    • A 1996 measure to fund 19 key road and transit improvements, all delivered on-time and on-budget.
    • Measures in 2000 and 2008 to fund the Silicon Valley BART extension and major Caltrain improvements.
  • Currently, we are convening stakeholder meetings for a new traffic relief measure slated for the 2016 ballot.

When one considers that businesses in Silicon Valley pay more than 40 cents of every dollar in sales taxes collected, this investment in our communities are costs we cannot pass on as we compete globally.

On taxes, the Leadership Group has:

  • Supported more tax increase proposals than it has ever opposed, including measures we have championed for education parcel taxes and school bonds, housing, homelessness, transportation, open space, parks, flood protection, clean water and even general fund revenue for local governments.

Yes, attacks can be opportunities. My goal is not to attack back, but to dialogue rather than to give in to divisiveness. The Chronicle columnist would have known better had he picked up the phone before picking up his pen.

CEO Survey: Seeking Solutions

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March 5  |  Education, Federal Issues, Housing, Tax Policy, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . If we want to increase employment, then let’s learn from employers.

Annually, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group conducts a “CEO Business Climate Survey,” seeking direct input from the innovators and entrepreneurs who drive our region’s economy.

This year, 222 executives responded. The results are enlightening:

  • Last year, 2013, 62 percent added jobs in Silicon Valley, with only 9 percent subtracting jobs.
  • This year, 2014, 59 percent expect to add jobs here in Silicon Valley, with only 4 percent anticipating job losses.

Indeed, Silicon Valley continues to lead California and our country when it comes to job growth and economic recovery.

So what do employers, and our employees, need from policy makers to stay successful in innovation and job creation?

  • Locally, CEOs call for improvements on our local streets, roads and transit systems so that employees and their families can get around. We need quality schools for our children, and homes that working families can afford.
  • At the state level, we need meaningful investments in infrastructure to repair aging roads and ease traffic congestion. We need sensible solutions to the high cost of housing and investments in K-12 and higher education.
  • From Congress, we need immigration reform that ensures the best and the brightest can compete for our companies rather than against us, and tax reform that is fair to workers and keep our companies competitive.

This year’s CEO Business Climate Survey underscores that executives are willing to speak out, to search for solutions, to invest in answers. Silicon Valley’s innovation does not end within the walls of our companies, it extends through the neighborhoods in our communities.

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100 Percent

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February 19  |  Community, Housing, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Whether you are part of the “1 percent,” or the “99 percent,” why don’t we all focus on the “100 percent?”

For the past 17 years, it has been my pleasure to serve as CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group – a group of 385 progressive, proactive, problem-solving CEOs who focus on solutions to some of our region, state and nation’s most pressing problems. Perhaps it is simply the culture of our remarkable region, but we focus on issues that impact all of us – 100 percent:

  • Do homeless issues in San Jose and San Francisco, and every city in between, impact tech companies’ bottom-line? Not really. But from our vantage point, turning a blind eye to people in need is morally wrong; which is why working to help abate homelessness is a key goal in our work plan.
  • Does traffic congestion and a lack of transportation options effect our employers’ ability to recruit and retain top talent? Only tangentially, as other resilient regions like New York, Chicago, London and Tokyo have equally challenging traffic conditions. Yet we have led numerous successful efforts to provide traffic solutions; to bring BART to Silicon Valley, improve and electrify Caltrain, build Highways 85 and 237, and numerous other specific solutions. Yet, traffic is back, and so are our efforts for a new iteration of traffic solutions – to serve all of us – which will be our focus for the next three years.

Here’s a thought. If through hard-work, risk and an element of luck, you are part of the “1 percent,” never forget those who aren’t. We have an opportunity and a responsibility to help others.

If you are part of the hard-working “99 percent” of American citizens fighting each day to hold a job, pay for housing and feed your family, let’s count the blessings we do have, and continue to serve others with the time and treasure we can afford.

In Silicon Valley, let’s never allow sharp elbows to replace joined hands. Together – 100 percent – we can make positive change.

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Priorities for 2014: BART Extension – Phase II

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January 22  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Let’s never forget BART’s great start.

For the past 15 years, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group has championed bringing BART to Silicon Valley, including successful ballot measures in 2000 and 2008, along with advocacy to secure $2 billion in state and federal matching funds.

These efforts have led to the construction of the first 10 miles of the 16-mile BART extension, which is running nearly $100 million under-budget and a full year ahead of schedule. Service will begin in the summer of 2017.

While we monitor the progress on the first 10 miles, we cannot lose sight of the final six miles. Here’s why:

  • The first 10 miles takes BART from Warm Springs in Fremont to Milpitas and Berryessa in North San Jose, linking with Light Rail.
  • The final six miles adds four more stations: In Alum Rock, Downtown San Jose, Diridon Station/SAP Center and Santa Clara.
  • All 16 miles will serve roughly 90,000 daily passenger trips, removing 16,000 tons of greenhouse gasses from our atmosphere each year.
  • All 16 miles leads to 108,000 new jobs and 27,000 new homes within a half-mile of the six new BART stations, easing congestion on our roads and highways.

Yes, BART is off to a great start – but let’s never forget to finish what we start. That’s why phase II of the BART extension, the final six miles, remains a top priority of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

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The Leadership Group’s Top Five Priorities for 2014

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December 18  |  Education, Federal Issues, Government Relations, Tax Policy, Transportation, Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Make your goals transparent and accountable.

Each year, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group creates a three-year rolling business plan. Designed by our 392 members, it sets priorities in 10 distinct areas in which we can add value to the Valley, state and nation: education, energy, environment, federal issues, local government, health care, housing, tax policy, transportation and the community. All told, we have 62 distinct deliverables in our rolling business plan.

Each initiative is selected, and each effort must be measurable.

For 2014, our top five priorities were set last week at our Annual Shareholders Meeting.

  • Number 1: Work for comprehensive U.S. tax reform that is fair to taxpayers at home and keeps us competitive abroad.
  • Number 2: Strengthen California’s higher education systems
  • Number 3: Advance the BART extension from Berryessa to Downtown San Jose and Santa Clara
  • Number 4: Fight for meaningful immigration reform
  • Number 5: Enhance California’s economic competitiveness through our 14-member Silicon Valley Caucus serving in our state Legislature.

By making our goals public – both to our members and to the broader community of citizens and stakeholders – we make ourselves accountable to everyone in our community.

To view our complete set of priorities in each of our ten priority areas, please visit the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s website. We would welcome the opportunity to engage you and your company in our work.

We face tremendous challenges in 2014, with plenty of opportunities to work together to forge our future success. We do this by setting clear goals that make us both transparent and accountable.

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Time for a Helicopter

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October 9  |  Tax Policy, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought … We need a helicopter.

In 1992, I was a young staff member to a Central Valley legislator. George Deukmejian, a conservative Republican from Los Angeles, was our Governor.

I will never forget the Governor’s leadership in personally championing a nickel-a-gallon gas tax to fund our crumbling and congested transportation system. He even took to the skies, in a helicopter, to give “traffic reports” to underscore the need for additional transportation funds.

Regrettably, the gas tax was not indexed for inflation, so two decades later, it has lost almost all of its buying power. As a result of our under-investment in transportation, the most recent national study shows that the three cities in America with p the worst road conditions are Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose. In San Jose, 56 percent of the roads are rated poor – or worse.

It’s past time to re-invest in our roads. If we don’t do so soon, it might be time to buy your own helicopter.

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BART Extension On-Track: New State Funds

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August 16  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

A million here, a million there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money.

These famous words by a former member of Congress underscore the importance of the funding needed for transportation improvements throughout our region.

This was driven home to me again last week in San Diego, when my colleagues and I who serve on the California Transportation Commission approved an additional $40 million in state funds to build our BART extension to Silicon Valley. Over the past five years, we have allocated nearly $760 million in state funds for this vital link between Fremont and San Jose. The final allocation of $39 million is scheduled for delivery in August 2014.

Equally important, construction is under way, with the BART extension running nearly $100 million under budget and 18 months ahead of schedule. Kudos to the VTA for its stewardship of our tax dollars. Indeed, our BART extension is on-track.

The important partnership between local voters who have taxed themselves and state and federal funds, is making the dream of BART to Silicon Valley a reality.

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