Everyone Needs Internet Access in Today’s World

Internet for All Now Act has positive implications for regional residents and economy

By Cynthia Murray, President and CEO, North Bay Leadership Council

While many residents of the North Bay take high-speed Internet access for granted, this isn’t the case for those living or working in the region’s small, remote and rural communities. Many residents there eagerly await improved Internet connectivity.

Fortunately, the Assembly members representing the North Bay, including Jim Wood, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and Marc Levine, have introduced the Internet for All Now Act (AB 1665). This bill will deliver $300 million for new broadband infrastructure projects in California, money that will be well spent bringing Internet to unserved households, often in rural communities.

Currently California’s goal, by law, is for 98 percent of the state’s households to have access to the Internet.  Across the state, about 96 percent of households have access to this service, which serves as a gateway to job opportunities, educational courses, government services and health care resources.

While private investment has delivered Internet for the vast majority, policymakers now have a chance to help the remaining unserved areas, often with residents that feel forgotten. As was the case with rural electrification and the State Water Project, there are simply places in California that will only be connected with the help of public funding.

This bill—the Internet for All Now Act—provides an important shot in the arm to an existing state program, the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), in need of increased funds and some practical reforms.

This is an important bill at a critical time as technology now touches every aspect of our regional economy, everything from agriculture to recreation.  As the Internet for All Now Act states, high-speed Internet, “is essential 21st century infrastructure for economic competitiveness and quality of life.”

For area residents to gain the skills they need in our modern economy and for our businesses to compete on a statewide, national and global level, new Internet infrastructure projects must be built in the coming years.

North Bay Leadership Council’s members have seen first-hand the economic impact and benefits of high-speed Internet for business and communities.  It links local businesses to many more customers and opens up new commercial opportunities. It provides more educational choices and access to better healthcare through technologies such as telemedicine, which makes online doctor visits possible.

Internet access is the all-important path to improving regional prosperity, education and economic competitiveness.  It’s fundamental to our region’s future. That’s why the Internet for All Now Act is one of many smart policies needed to bring modern communications networks and deliver new opportunities to the North Bay and all California in 2017.


For more information:

Cynthia Murray

President and CEO

North Bay Leadership Council




North Bay Leadership Council is an employer-led public policy advocacy organization committed to providing leadership in ways to make the North Bay sustainable, prosperous and innovative.  The Council includes 50 leading employers in the region.  Our members represent a wide variety of businesses, non-profits and educational institutions, with a workforce in excess of 25,000.

Sonoma County Office of Education Joins North Bay Leadership Council

North Bay Leadership Council is pleased to announce that the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) is its newest member.  Education is the top public policy priority of NBLC and the addition of SCOE strengthens its public policy work by bringing more focus on and understanding of the K-12 educational system.

NBLC’s board chair, Patty Garbarino, said “There is great alignment between the mission of SCOE and NBLC.  Both organizations want to foster student success so there is a well-educated, career-ready workforce.  We are excited to be able to work more closely with the K-12 educators on this important mission.”

SCOE is a partner to the county’s 40 districts, providing services and oversight that help them serve roughly 71,000 students.  The day-to-day operations of each public school district are overseen by a district superintendent and an elected board of education. Like the other 57 county offices of education in California, the Sonoma County Office of Education’s role is to provide leadership, support, and fiscal oversight to the county’s school districts.

Sonoma County is divided into 40 school districts for kindergarten through twelfth-grade (K-12) educational services. There are 31 elementary, 3 high school, and 6 unified districts. Unified districts operate both elementary and secondary schools for the students residing within their boundaries.

The county’s school districts vary in size, serving both rural and urban areas. The smallest district in the county, Kashia, is located in a rural area and has about 11 students. The largest district, Santa Rosa City High, enrolls over 11,000 students in the county’s most populous city.

The member representative is Steven D. Herrington, Ph.D., who was elected Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools in 2010. He believes that one of the best ways to maximize support for education is through community-linked collaborative projects.  Dr. Herrington said, “Given SCOE’s interest in community engagement and desire to collaborate with employers on improving student success, it is a good fit for us to join NBLC and work together on these goals.”

As County Superintendent, he received on behalf of SCOE a special recognition by the White House for SCOE’s Maker Certificate program for teachers and serves as state officer in the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCESA).

North Bay Leadership Council’s 2017 State of the North Bay Conference

The North Bay is enjoying its best economic times in years, but employers can expect ongoing trouble finding workers as baby boomers retire and millennials leave the region so they can afford to buy homes.

That was the message business leaders gave Wednesday morning to the North Bay Leadership Council, a collection of employers who promote economic development. The event drew about 150 business, civic and elected leaders to the Sheraton Hotel in Petaluma.

Keynote speaker Micah Weinberg, president of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, a regional think tank, said the North Bay is enjoying “the top of the market” in terms of the current economic cycle. The region is basically at full employment, because those who remain without jobs generally lack the skills needed for the positions businesses are seeking to fill.

But the region’s tech sector didn’t get a boost from the robust growth that came to San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Instead, tech jobs in Sonoma County have declined 22 percent since 2000, a drop others have attributed to the dot-com bust and the exodus of tech jobs overseas.

Also, he said, the high cost of housing has made it difficult for many residents around the state to make ends meet.

“California has the highest rate of poverty in the nation” when adjusted for cost of living, Weinberg said. Housing costs are so high in Marin County that a family of four with an annual income of $105,350 qualifies as low income under federal criteria.

Over the next seven years, the state predicts the North Bay sectors with the most employment growth will be office and administrative support and food preparation and serving-related occupations.

Weinberg said those sectors generally offer lower-paying positions and he suggested business leaders may want to spur job growth in tech and other higher-paying sectors.

He also noted a survey released this spring by the Bay Area Council, a business development group that supports his institute, which found nearly half of Bay Area millennials are thinking of leaving the region. Those younger adults, ages 18-39, still want a house of their own, Weinberg said, and too often they find “there are no single-family homes to move into in the Bay Area.”

In a subsequent panel of business leaders, Jim Geist, a regional vice president for the staffing firm Nelson & Associates, said finding workers today is “brutal” for employers.

Those seeking skilled workers “have to take them from another employer,” he said. For example, businesses seeking an accountant now making $60,000 a year may have to offer $70,000.

Another speaker, Hamish Gray, a senior vice president for Santa Rosa’s Keysight Technologies, said the test and measurement company will have hundreds of workers retiring here in the coming years.

Keysight will find new engineers to replace those that retire, he said. But replacing technicians will be difficult, because they will become increasingly in demand as more electronic products require someone skilled to install, maintain or repair them.

“We will all be competing for the same people,” Gray said.

Three in five kids not prepared for kindergarten in Sonoma County

Despite growing efforts to improve access to early childhood education and boost school readiness in Sonoma County, 60 percent of children enter kindergarten unprepared.

Three in five kids overall weren’t ready for kindergarten last fall, according to a study released last week that looked at how children did academically, emotionally and socially in school. Three-quarters of kids from Spanish-speakng households were behind.

Commissioned by First 5 Sonoma County, which funds programs and services promoting early childhood development, the study included more than 2,000 kindergartners in 35 schools across 11 school districts, about a third of all kindergartners in the county.

Roughly 1,400 of their parents also were surveyed about the kids’ early learning experiences. The $200,000 study found the majority of students could write their names and play cooperatively but struggled to focus on tasks, control their impulses, and recognize shapes and colors. Access to preschool, parents’ education and the language spoken at home played key roles in school readiness.

The results, early learning advocates say, underscore the importance of providing affordable high-quality preschools that meet the needs of working and low-income families. For the study, kindergarten teachers spent the first month of school screening children, as was done the previous year, when the analysis determined 64 percent of kids were unprepared. While there was a slight improvement last fall, North Bay Leadership Council CEO and President Cynthia Murray hoped for greater gains.

“The biggest surprise is that we haven’t made more progress,” said Murray, who sits on the First 5 Sonoma County Commission.

Since 2009, the commission has invested more than $25 million in programs and services, such as Pasitos, an educational play group for Spanish-speaking parents and their 3- to 4-year-olds not yet in preschool. Murray said more work is needed reaching Latino families and informing them about programs that could remove barriers to preschools.

A third of the kids surveyed were in the Santa Rosa school district, which works with Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County to provide several kindergarten readiness programs, such as Pasitos and Avance.

It also has two state-funded preschools and Head Start.

“Kindergarten standards are more rigorous than they were years ago,” assistant superintendent Anna-Maria Guzman said. “Students must leave kindergarten able to read and write.

Students must be met where they are and receive the support to make the progress necessary to be ready for first grade.”

Cost and lack of transportation are among the biggest barriers for families accessing preschools, said Leah Benz, early care and education specialist for First 5 Sonoma County. Preschool costs an average of $10,000 a year, she said.

Families often find they don’t qualify for free or low-cost state-funded preschools because they make slightly more than the maximum income allowed, which hasn’t been changed in a decade, Benz said.

A family of four would have to earn $46,896 or less to qualify.

Then, there is the challenge of finding a preschool that fits with the family’s work schedules.

“A lot of preschools run part-day, part-year, but a lot of parents work swing shifts and weekends,” Benz said.

Overall, three-quarters of children screened went to preschool or transitional kindergarten the year prior to entering elementary school, but the number significantly differed between English- and Spanish-speaking households — 80 percent and 64 percent, respectively.

The time spent in preschool also varied. English-speaking households enrolled their kids in the programs for an average of 19 months, compared with 161/2 months for Spanish speakers.

Those early childhood years are key for children’s development, Murray said, with 90 percent of their brains developing before age 5.

The frequency of parents reading to their kids — particularly children living in Spanish-speaking homes — is critical. Spanish-speaking children were three times more likely to be ready for kindergarten when parents read or shared picture books with them at least five times a week.

Parents with a bachelor’s degree or higher were three times more likely to read to their kids at least five times a week than households where neither parent graduated from high school.

According to the First 5 Sonoma County study, 42 percent of English-language households had at least one parent with a bachelor’s degree or higher — four times more than Spanish-language households.

When children aren’t ready for kindergarten, it can have long-term consequences: They’re less likely to read at proficiency once in the third grade, and that makes them four times more likely to drop out of high school and ultimately run the risk of being unemployed, dependent on public assistance and falling into the criminal justice system.

The nonprofit Community Child Care Council of Sonoma County, known as 4Cs, along with the Sonoma County Office of Education, River to Coast Children’s Services and First 5 Sonoma, has rolled out a rating system in the county to create uniform standards at preschools and other early childcare facilities while providing educators with one-on-one coaching.

The council provides 1,300 vouchers to help working families cover some of the cost of early education childcare and preschool, said Melanie Dodson, the 4Cs’ executive director.

The council also runs 12 state-funded preschools in the county, serving 500 kids from low-income families. Dodson said they have room for up to 75 additional kids, but families struggle to qualify because of income eligibility rules.

The nonprofit’s preschools were a guiding light for Luz Acosta and her two kids, whom she adopted after their mother — Acosta’s sister — died from cancer three years ago.

Her son, Emilio, attends a 4Cs preschool.

Her daughter, Brisa, previously attended one for two years before going to elementary school, where she’s now in first grade.

Acosta said the girl became quiet and timid after losing her mom, but preschool teachers worked hard to prepare her for kindergarten, academically and emotionally.

“It took time, but she’s now social. She’s more confident in herself,” Acosta said, adding she’s seeing similar growth in her son, who will be entering kindergarten in August.

“He knows how to write his name, count and sing,” she said.

“The preschool has been a big support for our family.”

You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 707-521-5458 or eloisa.gonzalez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @eloisanews.

Nearly Half of Millennials Consider Leaving Bay Area Over Housing Costs

For decades the San Francisco Bay Area has drawn young people from around the world to its mix of industry, culture and environment. Now almost half of the region’s millennials, the generation aged 18-39, are considering leaving because of the high cost of living and traffic, according to a new poll.

Forty percent of all Bay Area adults — and 46 percent of millennials ­— are considering relocating to more affordable regions in the next few years, according to a survey by the Bay Area Council, a business-sponsored advocacy organization.

Uncertainty about the future has eroded economic confidence. The Bay Area Council study found that only 42 percent of people think the economy is “headed in the right direction” today, as opposed to 57 percent in 2014.

This sentiment rings true for 27-year-old Dan Norton, who earns around $50,000 a year ferrying passengers from Sebastopol and Santa Rosa for Sonoma County Transit’s route 22 bus line. Norton, a Rohnert Park resident, likes his job but finds housing costs in the county prohibitively expensive for his family.

He’s considering taking his two young children, fiancee and mother with him to Oregon, where he believes rents and property values are more in line with what people earn.

“Things are just a little wacky here right now,” said Norton, who pays $1,725 a month for a “not so nice” two-bedroom apartment.

While some are contemplating leaving an area that saw average rent prices increase by 7.6 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to Novato-based analytics firm Real Answers, others have already left.

In the summer of 2016, Kristy Lindley and her husband moved to southern Oregon after spending the better part of a decade in Sonoma County. They left because neither could see themselves being able to purchase a house in the area.

“I miss Sonoma County, and would move back in a heartbeat if the real estate market was such that we had increased access, or even just more affordable rent,” Lindley wrote in an email.

For Ben Stone, executive director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, the sentiment expressed by people in surveys and their later actions don’t always match.

Stone points out that people are still coming to Sonoma County. In 2015, there was a net migration of 1,121 people into the county, but that is down significantly from 3,594 in 2014, according to an economic report issued by the board this winter.

“We’re still gaining people because we are so affordable relative to the rest of the Bay Area in our housing,” Stone said. “But some of what millennials are saying is true. Many are moving to places like Salt Lake City.”

High housing costs and the desire of many millennials to move to cheaper regions has others concerned.

“I do take the survey seriously and there is some evidence that this is a trend,” said Cynthia Murray, president and CEO of the North Bay Leadership Council.

“There has been a push to go where pastures are greener.”

Millennials and older generations are at odds over what to do about steadily increasing rents — up 50 percent in Sonoma County since 2011 — and property values. The Bay Area Council survey of 1,000 registered voters from nine Bay Area counties found 70 percent of the younger generation support housing projects in their neighborhoods, while roughly 57 percent of those 40 and older support housing projects near their residences.

“We failed for decades to keep building enough to match the jobs,” Murray said. “If the workforce leaves, then the companies leave too.”

Thanks To State Legislators For Passing SB 1

NBLC thanks all who contributed to the passing the Road Repair and Accountability Act- SB1 with a historic vote of 54 to 26 in the Assembly and 27 to 11 in the Senate. This bill has been a decade in the making and it is a victory for our state, especially for our commuters.  NBLC is pleased that the legislators passed a bill that is fiscally sound, does not rely on borrowing, provides $52.4 billion to repair our crumbling transportation infrastructure.

NBLC is especially appreciative of Senator Jim Beall, D-San Jose and Assembly member Jim Frazier, D-Oakley for their efforts in crafting the bills and leading the efforts to pass them in their respective houses.  We also praise the North Bay delegation for their determination to get this long overdue bill passed, including Sen. McGuire (a co-sponsor of the bill), Sen. Dodd, and Assembly members Aguiar-Curry, Levine and Wood.  Kudos to Governor Brown, Senate pro Tem De Leon and Assembly Speaker Rendon for all their leadership in passing the bill.

And finally, to our colleagues who fought so hard to ensure that our elected representatives knew that passing SB1 was a top priority in the North Bay and kept the pressure on – we are delighted that our teamwork achieved our goal and we look forward to working together in the future.

North Bay Leadership Council Supports State Transportation Improvement Package

PETALUMA, CA — North Bay Leadership Council (NBLC) President and CEO Cynthia Murray announced NBLC’s strong support for the $5.2 billion transportation and road repair investment package agreed by the Governor and legislative leaders:

“One of the state’s most important assets is its transportation infrastructure.  The state’s economic competitiveness will be enhanced by passing this bill which funds long deferred road maintenance and improves the mobility of people and goods.   North Bay Leadership Council (NBLC) recognizes the need for new revenue sources to fund making roadways safer, reducing commutes, increasing transit use and lessening pollution.  The heavy traffic in the North Bay impairs companies’ ability to attract and retain talent, increases costs of doing business and decreases productivity.”

“NBLC strongly urges our elected state representatives to support this bill.  It is not easy to raise taxes, but in this case, not doing so, will be a failure of leadership. We can’t afford the growing costs of repairs of the crumbling infrastructure and need to keep people and goods moving for a healthier economy and environment.  NBLC stands ready to partner with the Governor and the Legislature to get this much needed, and long overdue, bill passed.”

North Bay Leadership Council Announces Comerica Bank as New Member

Petaluma, CA   North Bay Leadership Council (NBLC) announces the addition of Comerica Bank as a new member.  As one of the 25th largest banking companies in the U.S., Comerica Bank has been serving businesses for more than 165 years. Patty Garbarino, Chair of NBLC, said, “Comerica is a good fit for NBLC as it serves businesses throughout the North Bay, especially those in the wine business.  Comerica’s high standing on corporate social responsibility makes them very aligned with NBLC’s members values.”

Comerica’s San Francisco and North Bay Regional President Mike Silva is the member representative serving on NBLC.  Silva has more than 30 years of experience in banking and currently oversees Comerica’s Northern California Middle Market teams in San Francisco, San Jose, Walnut Creek, Sacramento and Fresno. Silva’s responsibilities include supporting the bank’s customer initiatives and overall business and community development efforts across all three business segments.

Silva’s team provides growth financing to mid-size businesses including working capital, equipment, real estate and recapitalizations.  The group also provides clients with leasing services, comprehensive treasury management as well as personal wealth management. Silva works with variety of companies that include wine and wine related businesses, natural and organic foods, consumer products and manufacturing and distribution.  Comerica’s Northern California regional offices have been an important source of lending and financial service solutions for premium wineries since 1987 and Silva currently oversees the Wine Industry Specialty Group.

Silva said, “Comerica likes to work closely with the communities we serve and joining NBLC is a great way to make connections with all aspects of the region so we can help improve living and working in the North Bay.”

Through a range of market conditions, Comerica has been consistently raising expectations of what a bank can be.  Comerica, with 97 banking centers in the key California markets, is a subsidiary of Comerica Incorporated and headquartered in Dallas, Texas. Comerica is strategically aligned into three major business segments: Business Bank, Retail Bank, and Wealth Management. The bank reported total assets of $73 billion at December 31, 2016.

Comerica has earned a third consecutive perfect rating of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) 2017 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a national benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality, administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.  Comerica joins the ranks of 517 major U.S. businesses which also earned top marks this year.

Comerica Bank’s call centers ranked #1 for the second half of 2016, according to the latest benchmarking survey of O’Connor & Associates, a New Jersey-based research firm.  Comerica has now placed first in the twice-annual survey for eight consecutive years. The survey measures several call center attributes among 10 national and regional banks.

Comerica was recognized as one of the most community-minded companies in the nation as part of The Civic 50, an initiative of Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. The Civic 50 honors the 50 most community-minded companies in the nation each year.

North Bay Leadership Council is an employer-led public policy advocacy organization committed to providing leadership in ways to make the North Bay sustainable, prosperous and innovative.  The Council includes 50 leading employers in the region.  Our members represent a wide variety of businesses, non-profits and educational institutions, with a workforce in excess of 25,000. For more information please contact Cynthia Murray at 707.283.0028 or visit us at www.northbayleadership.org

North Bay Leadership Council Welcomes The Dutra Group

Petaluma, CA   North Bay Leadership Council (NBLC) welcomes The Dutra Group as its newest member.  Board Chair, Patty Garbarino, said “NBLC is pleased to have The Dutra Group join because they represent an important sector of the North Bay economy, create much needed new jobs and improve the economic vitality of the region.”   In its over 100 year history, The Dutra Group has been a leader in dredging, marine construction and aggregates on the West Coast.  It has provided essential construction materials to the North Bay and beyond, as well as emergency response in times of disasters such as the levee failures in Novato, hillside slides in Fairfax, and flooding in San Anselmo.

The company representative is Aimi Dutra Krause, Community Relations and Government Affiars Director.  “The Dutra Group joined NBLC to help with improving education, economic competitiveness and transportation,” said Krause.  “We want to play a part in shaping sound public policy so the North Bay will thrive for the next 100 years.”  Bill Dutra, President and CEO, will be the alternate.

Aimi Dutra Krause is the Community Relations and Government Affairs Director for The Dutra Group, overseeing all corporate communications, government relations and community outreach programs for the Dutra Materials Division. As a result of her vision, The Dutra Group has become a leading contributor toward important local causes and non-profits throughout the North Bay. She serves as President of the Marin Builders Association.  She is a graduate of the University of the Pacific with a degree in Psychology.

Bill Dutra received the prestigious Management Award from the Beavers at its Annual Awards ceremony.  This award recognized Dutra’s leadership in building The Dutra Group into the West Coast leader in aggregates, dredging and marine construction services.  A graduate of Oregon Institute of Technology, Dutra started his own construction business with 3 employees which he grew into a company that now employs 175 people.

Headquartered in San Rafael, The Dutra Group consists of four integrated companies:  Dredging, Construction, Materials and Equipment.  The company has strategic locations that allow for transportation options by either land or sea.  The Dutra Group also is recognized for its emergency response capabilities which are critical in the event of flooding or earthquakes.

North Bay Leadership Council is an employer-led public policy advocacy organization committed to providing leadership in ways to make the North Bay sustainable, prosperous and innovative.  The Council includes 50 leading employers in the region.  Our members represent a wide variety of businesses, non-profits and educational institutions, with a workforce in excess of 25,000. For more information please contact Cynthia Murray at 707.283.0028 or visit us at www.northbayleadership.org.

California Rising

California Rising

We live on coasts and forests, deserts and mountains. In cities and suburbs.
We are farmers and teachers. Scientists and schoolkids.
We come from Germany, Mexico, Vietnam, Kenya and beyond.
We are Californians.

We believe in the potential of every child in our state. Every single one.
We know that immigrants make us stronger, not weaker.
We believe in the power of art to inspire.
And the power of nature to awe.
We believe free speech connects us, not divides us.

We have become what we are by welcoming new people and new ideas.
This will never change.

We are Californians. Wir sind Kalifornier. Somos Californianos.
Chúng tôi là cư dân California.
Sisi ni Californians.

And never prouder to say so.
California Rising

“California Rising”, created by San Francisco artist Eric Rewitzer,
is available at 3 Fish Studios in San Francisco, and at 3fishstudios.com