Pro-Someone vs. Anti-Anyone-Else

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June 18  |  Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

(This blog post reflects only the opinions of the author, Carl Guardino)

Here’s food for thought . . . In an election, it is actually possible to be “pro-someone” rather than “anti-anyone-else.”

In the June 3 primary election, I did something quite unusual for me. I became publicly engaged in a candidate campaign – something I have rarely done due to my fairly public role as CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

However, with the support of my executive board, I exercised my First Amendment right to personally campaign – on my own time as a private citizen – in support of San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo’s race for mayor of San Jose.

I have often been asked, after 18 years in my role as CEO, why? For me, it came down to issues, energy and ethics:

On issues, Sam Liccardo is a great choice for mayor of San Jose.

  • Concerned about traffic? Sam was a pivotal leader in our two successful campaigns to bring BART to San Jose, both in 2000 and 2008. The 10-mile BART extension to Berryessa is running $100 million under budget and a full year ahead of calendar.
  • Concerned about homes that working families can afford? Sam has championed numerous affordable home and market-rate developments that don’t just provide homes, but build better communities and neighborhoods, from high-rises in downtown San Jose to infill developments in appropriate pockets throughout the city.
  • Concerned about innovation and entrepreneurship? Sam partnered shoulder-to-shoulder with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and the Leadership Group to help secure the regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in San Jose, which will open in April of 2015.
  • Concerned about public schools? Sam stands for kids and parents, along with great teachers, in supporting public schools; both traditional and charter public schools, to make sure every child has access to a quality education.

On energy, I have met few leaders as dedicated, determined and disciplined in working tirelessly for the residents of San Jose. I first met Sam in the year 2000, when he walked in – literally off the street – to volunteer on our BART campaign. Four months of 90-hour weeks, setting his own successful law career aside, simply because he had a vision of what San Jose could be by connecting our city with BART.

On ethics, Sam is outstanding. A former deputy district attorney who prosecuted crimes against kids and our most vulnerable citizens, he and his wife Jessica Garcia Kohl have committed their lives to public service.

It is so refreshing to participate in an election in which we can enthusiastically support a candidate. All too often we hear of contests where people believe they are picking from “the lesser of two evils.” With Sam Liccardo, I can proudly say I am “pro-Sam,” not “anti-anyone-else.”

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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Role Models Matter

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June 4  |  Education  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Role models matter

Over the past four years, we have held 13 Women & Girls Summits at 13 underserved middle schools from San Jose to San Francisco, directly connecting with more than 3,000 girls and young women between the ages of 11 and 14.

Women tech leaders and elected officials have contributed time and treasure to these Summits to further ensure that middle school girls learn, first-hand, that women – often with similar life experiences growing up – have become successful both in their lives and livelihoods.

This fall, the Leadership Group will host our first “Young Men’s Leadership Summit” at an underserved middle school in the Franklin-McKinley School District in East San Jose.

The point is simple yet stunning – it is hard to overcome adversity. Too many low-income kids go to school hungry, have language barriers, are raised by single parents, are confronted by crime and may have inadequate or over-crowded housing.

Kids need – and deserve – to meet successful adults with shared experiences that they can emulate. They need you, and me, as role models and mentors.

Whether a one-day school-based Summit with young women and men, or tutoring opportunities with caring adults, our wealthy Valley can produce more healthy kids – often simply with the gift of time.

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Housing Trust 2014 Investor Briefing

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May 9  |  Housing  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Life is a choice: We can “forge a path,” or “take a pass.”

Fourteen years ago, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group came together to co-create “Housing Trust Silicon Valley,” a housing trust fund that was fueled not by new taxes or fees, but by voluntary contributions.

The five Santa Clara County Supervisors voted to put up $1 million in matching funds. Five Silicon Valley Leadership Group member companies each pledged $200,000 to match the County’s commitment.

From that humble beginning, the Housing Trust was born. We took a risk. We forged a path.

Our goal: Raise $20 million in voluntary contributions, to leverage as much as $200 million in private development, to initially assist 4,800 families secure housing in our high-cost Valley.

Well, we missed our mark. Rather than raising $20 million, we have now raised $69 million. Rather than leveraging $200 million in private development, we have leveraged $1.9 billion. Rather than helping 4,800 families, we have now helped 10,760 families secure homes.

The Housing Trust Silicon Valley has done an amazing job. Yet, it started with a risk . . . and a path . . . which led to success for thousands of families to live in Silicon Valley.

Join us as we look to tackle today’s challenges . . . around housing, around homelessness, around traffic. It is time for us to be bold, once again, to solve our Valley’s challenges.

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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.

Comcast Op-Ed Headline on Forbes.com Misleading

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April 17  |  Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

The headline on an op-ed I authored that appeared on Forbes.com on Tuesday was misleading because the views expressed were my personal opinion. The headline implied I was writing on behalf of the point of view of Silicon Valley CEOs. That was not the case

“The op-ed did not make any reference to a decision on the merger by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group or a reference to Silicon Valley CEO’s opinion on the subject,” Guardino said. “It was strictly my opinion and a request has been made to have the headline corrected.”

CEOs in D.C.

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April 2  |  Federal Issues, Government Relations  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. – Separated by three time zones? Or the Twilight Zone?

Last week, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group took 50 CEOs and senior executives, along with several local elected leaders, to Washington, D.C. for three days.

It is never a small request to ask executives, running global companies, to set aside the demands of their businesses to travel to D.C.

In a Valley where product life cycles can last as little as six months, CEOs often scratch their heads as Congress takes years, sometimes decades, to tackle issues of great importance to America’s economy:

  • Immigration Reform: More than three decades have passed since major reforms were last enacted.
  • Tax Reform: Four decades.
  • Patent Reform: Before a partial overhaul in 2011, the last meaningful action was nearly 70 years ago.

So why do executives and local elected leaders still slog back to D.C.?

First, through patience and persistence, successes do happen: Consider our victory in securing the Regional Patent Office in San Jose, and $900 million in matching funds for our BART extension.

Second, relationships are strengthened. Silicon Valley is the earth’s epicenter of innovation. D.C. is the capitol of our democracy. Differences will remain, but we must focus on the bridges that must be built. Citizen engagement is good for America, good for our democracy, and good for the innovation that drives our country’s economy.

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We Are What We Eat

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March 26  |  Community  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s Food for Thought . . . We are what we eat.

Healthy bodies are fueled by healthy food; but there’s more – healthy food also produces healthier students with healthier minds, fueled to learn.

That’s why the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation has teamed up with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and Lam Research CEO Martin Anstice to support our “Salad Bars for Schools” initiative, funded through our Lam Research “Heart & Soles 5K” run.

Our three-year goal is to provide salad bars in 105 Silicon Valley schools; with our year-one “stretch goal” to fund 30 salad bars.

Well, with the help of our 5K community sponsors – the San Jose Silicon Valley Changer of Commerce, South Bay Labor Council and the Santa Clara County Office of Education, we blew that goal away, funding all 60 schools that applied for salad bars.

Does it matter? Consider the facts:

  • Currently, 3 of every 4 kids don’t eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables.
  • Salad bars significantly increase the percent of low-income kids that eat fruits and veggies.
  • Salad bars improve the diets of kids by consuming fewer calories, less fat and less cholesterol.

All kids deserve healthy school meals. Our Foundation’s goal is to place a salad bar in every interested school in Silicon Valley. If you have the appetite to help, watch for news soon about next year’s “Heart & Soles 5K” and join us.

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Downtown San Jose, Spur to Action

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March 19  |  Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . When it comes to strengthening downtown San Jose, it is time we are spurred to action.

And thanks to a recent report by the civic group appropriately named SPUR, we have renewed reasons to focus on the future of downtown San Jose.

As the report shows, the key is to get more people into downtown San Jose to fill it with vibrancy and life. Downtown streets are packed episodically – for the Jazz Festival, our Silicon Valley Turkey Trot or Sharks games, for example – but on a day-to-day basis it still lacks the density of other downtowns, including regional neighbors like Oakland and San Francisco:

  • With roughly 36,000 jobs, downtown San Jose has less than half the employment of downtown Oakland – with more than 80,000 jobs – and less than one-eighth that of downtown San Francisco – with more than 300,000 jobs.
  • Downtown San Jose is home to less than 14,000 residents, just over half the number in downtown Oakland – with 23,000 residents – and about one-fourth of the residents in downtown San Francisco – with nearly 56,000 residents.

So what should we do about it?

  • First, focus on high-quality urban design and dense development of all kinds in downtown. This will not only result in a more connected, attractive place, it also encourages walking, biking and transit.
  • Second, maximize regional transit investments by holding sites adjacent to BART and Caltrain stations for job-generating uses. This is the best way to ensure high transit ridership and allow for the vibrancy and density downtown San Jose needs without causing gridlock.
  • Third, downtown San Jose is already the cultural, entertainment and creative urban center of the South Bay. Build on this strength by making it easier to start creative businesses and activate the streets and other public spaces.

Reports are great. Eliciting action is even better. Let’s use this report to spur action. Let’s build a downtown worthy of Silicon Valley.

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