Thursday, March 31, 2011
Posted: 03/31/2011 01:05:54 AM PDT
Looks like the end of redevelopment agencies may be near -- and local communities will be the ones to suffer.
"Where we go from here is a rough ride," emphasized Jim Wunderman, CEO of the Bay Area Council and keynote speaker at Wednesday's meeting of the Solano Economic Development Corporation in Fairfield.
In January, Gov. Jerry Brown announced plans to eliminate the 400 redevelopment agencies in California and redistribute the money to help close the multibillion-dollar budget deficit. The $2.5 billion in funding -- an estimated $84.2 million in Solano County -- supposedly would support education and public safety, with a portion returned to affected cities through their General Fund accounts to be spent at each city's discretion.
In quick order, Solano leaders and those throughout the state rose up in protest. They encumbered redevelopment funds and assets, transferring ownership of many redevelopment properties into the hands of their respective cities. Unfortunately, the governor later enacted legislation that could repeal such acts.
If Brown's objective is carried out, redevelopment agencies will cease to exist as of July 1.
All is not yet lost, advised Fairfield City Attorney Greg Stepanicich on Wednesday, explaining that the California Redevelopment Association has penned a viable compromise that provides additional funding for schools. An estimated $2.7 billion, he said, could be raised over 10 years.
Suzanne Bragdon, city manager of Suisun City, said the impact from losing redevelopment funding would be disastrous for her community. It's come a long way from being voted the Bay Area's worst place to live in 1987, she said, with $65 million invested to fix blight and become a dining and entertainment destination.
"We're about building places that are healthy and safe for you to live," Bragdon said, pointing out that more than 300 affordable housing units have since been built, businesses have flocked to the city and its waterfront, and crime rates have fallen 60 percent since the late 1980s.
"We had the worst economic meltdown anywhere and look at all the development that's happened," she said, indicating images of the city's revamped Crescent neighborhood, new neighborhoods created with redevelopment funding and more.
"Am I scared if redevelopment goes away? Absolutely," Bragdon added. "I don't want Suisun City to end up like it was in the 1980s. And I am truly afraid of that."
Decisions, Wunderman pointed out, are being made in a "climate of desperation." He described redevelopment as an amazing economic development tool that should be preserved. Perhaps, he suggested, the state could instead enforce tighter restrictions on redevelopment agencies or tie in funding to support California's laws regarding greenhouses gas emissions.
"Maybe we need to rethink the way we provide services to the community. That's where we're headed," he said. "...We all have to give. It's not just the state government -- The federal government isn't coming to our rescue here."
Last flights from Japan land at Travis Air Force Base
More than 5,000 voluntarily evacuees left Japan for the United States after a 9.0 earthquake rocked the country. The massive earthquake was followed by a devastating tsunami that rattled nuclear energy plants, putting residents in jeopardy of radiation exposure.
Travis Air Force Base alone received 2,500 evacuees with pets and belongings in tow, who were greeted by 400 volunteers from the base, according to 2nd Lt. Joel Banjo-Johnson, deputy chief of public affairs.
The voluntary evacuees left Japan to assist in expediting recovery efforts in Japan by reducing the demand for food, water, fuel and electricity during the national emergency, according to a press release.
Solano County Supervisor Mike Reagan said it was an awesome sight to see the reception the evacuated guests received after the chartered commercial jets landed at the base.
"I'm very impressed and I'm really proud of them," he said of the military troops. "It's the finest example of the (Department of Defense) taking care of its extended family and the community."
Reagan said base personnel voluntarily worked 15 to 16 hours days and continued to maintain smiles on their faces.
Translators, veterinarians, radiation screening, travel assistance and school enrollment were all on hand while the base continued doing its normal business.
"I'm still stoked about what I saw," he said. "It was awesome."
North Bay counties among healthiest in state – North Bay Business Journal - North San Francisco Bay Area, Sonoma, Marin, Napa counties - Archive
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Small and Medium Sized Bay Area Businesses Expect to Increase their Workforce over the Next Six Months
Monday, March 21, 2011
Published By Times Herald
Posted: 03/20/2011 01:01:40 AM PDT
Hey, Newsweek, we've got news for you: Vallejo isn't dying!
The magazine recently put Vallejo on its list of 10 dying U.S. cities. With that, the publication could put a hamper on the effort to restore the city to its glory prior to the closing of Mare Island Naval Shipyard.
Ever since Mare Island was closed the soothsayers have predicted Vallejo's death. It's been a rough 15-plus years, but Vallejo continues to overcome the obstacles confronting it.
Even in the midst of this region's most disastrous economic downturn, the city has battled its way through the past three years. And, don't forget, the soothsayers were calling Vallejo's death even during the good economic times of the first years of this century.
Say what you will -- Vallejo is still alive!
The closing of Mare Island was a hard blow. The city economy had revolved around the naval base. Many residents made their living at the base. Some were in their second or third generation as a family, going to the Mare Island every day.
Stability, good pay, good benefits, camaraderie, neighbors, friends and families all revolved around Mare Island.
When the closure came, it virtually devastated Vallejo.
There just weren't any jobs to replace the thousands who were highly skilled in nuclear submarine maintenance. Some moved to other naval bases in the east, but most of these workers were young. And again the loss of this youth working force hurt Vallejo.
Many took early retirement, and still live in Vallejo, enjoying a town they love.
Today, as Vallejo struggles with the same challenges that face every other California city, the last thing it needed to read in a national magazine was that it is dying.
If one just looks at the progress the community has made through these past few years it is apparent there are many good things happening.
Mare Island is staging a comeback. Long overdue, today it has promising new businesses and educational and research facilities.
Some of the city's major corporations, like Meyer Corporation, have maintained their presence in the city. While retail sales are hurting throughout Northern California, Vallejo continues to roll along and now it is looking forward to increased sales revenue through a rejuvenated auto industry and new major retail outlets like Lowe's.
At the same time the city has worked hard to continue services for the poor, housing for the elderly and good police and fire protection. All of these have been accomplished because of the dedicated efforts of management and elected officials, and the sacrifices of the city's government employees.
Vallejo still is the "home" for Northern California's blue collar workers, and several unions have remained and even expanded their efforts.
And, the schools still open, the Little Leagues still play ball in the spring, and many families enjoy the pleasures of being on the San Francisco Bay.
Not exactly a rosy picture -- but not a dying rose either.
Call Vallejo and its residents resilient. Call them tough. Call them long-timers who won't give up on their community.
Councilman Michael Wilson said Vallejo is "reinventing" itself. And, that's one of the best ways to characterize the community.
There is just too much good about Vallejo and its location to believe its days are numbered.
Let's hope Newsweek hasn't carved a tombstone for Vallejo. Vallejo doesn't need it. The magazine might keep it for themselves and consider reinventing news magazines -- based on the reports regarding weekly news magazines and their losses in revenues.
Solano Economic Development Corporation
Monday, March 14, 2011
Solano County, Vallejo begin public input on growth plan
The Initial Vision Scenario for the Sustainable Communities Strategy, mandated by state law, requires the Bay Area and other state metro areas to develop plans on ways to grow without adding to pollution and traffic.
Solano County and downtown Vallejo are two Bay Area priority growth areas in the document.
The county is slated to take on a fair portion of the Bay Area's growth over the next 20 years, Association of Bay Area Government Planning Director Ken Kirkey said.
Vallejo, Benicia and other Solano cities are also shown as growth hot spots -- areas that can accommodate growth without adding to sprawl.
"These are areas that are served by transit and where people can walk and bike and get around and drive less," Kirkey said.
Finding areas to promote development in and around cities is a key component of the plan, Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman Steve Goodwin said.
Some 97 percent of the Bay Area's growth over the next 25 years is projected for areas that are already urbanized, Goodwin said.
Between 2010 and 2035, agencies project Solano County to gain 39,600 more households -- a nearly one-third increase over present numbers, Goodwin said.
The Bay Area overall is expected to add nearly 2 million more residents, bringing its population to 9.4
Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at firstname.lastname@example.org or (707) 553-6832.
Unemployed in area finding road blocks at many turns
Wishom said she worked at Washington Mutual in the residential home mortgages lending department for 14 years before she was laid off in 2008.
"I was embarrassed to tell people at first," Wishom recalled about losing her job.
She is not alone. Just like nearly 10,000 other Vallejoans, Wishom is still without a job despite all her efforts.
"It's a much different world now," said Robert Bloom, president of the Workforce Investment Board of Solano County.
Bloom oversees two centers of the federally funded Solano Employment Center -- in Fairfield and Vallejo -- and has noticed a significant increase in the number of clients the centers serve.
"We are inundated with people, and the workshops are overflowing," Bloom said.
That's largely due to the fact that unemployment rates have more than doubled in the past four years. Government figures show that in Solano County, the jobless numbers have climbed to 12.4 percent of the work force. The hardest hit has been Vallejo, with 15.1 percent unemployment, but the number of jobless in all seven cities has more than doubled in all cities.. .