February 17, 2020

Chamber Staff Spends Time Sharpening Saws

The Gilroy Chamber staff spent several days, as Stephen Covey might say, sharpening their saws by attending the Western Association of Chamber Executives’ (W.A.C.E.) Annual Conference in Portland, OR. along with nearly 400 other Chamber professionals.

In Stephen Covery’s book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” he describes the need for individuals to “Sharpen the Saw.” One aspect of that is to continually improve in the area of learning. The annual W.A.C.E. conference allows Chamber professionals the environment to gain greater insight and learning opportunities from others in the industry.

The three-day conference provided workshops pertaining to leadership development, homeless issues, communications, workforce development, mission creep and much more, 25 workshops in all. The annual conference provides ongoing education and training for Chamber executives and their staff members.

Mark Turner, President/CEO of the Gilroy Chamber, was one of four Chamber Executives selected to present a 10-minute “Ted Talk” to the attendees on the final day of the conference.

The theme of the presentations was, “The Future of Chambers.” Mark’s presentation focused on becoming a Purpose Driven Chamber.

Employers Score Another Hit Against AB 51

Employers Score Another Hit Against AB 51 as Preliminary Injunction Extends Prohibition on Enforcement by State of California
By Charles O. Thompson and Yoon-Woo Nam of Greenberg Traurig, LLP

In the span of five weeks, a coalition of plaintiffs representing national and state business organizations and employers, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the California Chamber of Commerce, have gone two for two in challenging AB 51 to restore the previous status quo permitting the use of arbitration agreements with their employees.

The case is Chamber of Commerce of the U.S.A., et al. v. Xavier Becerra, in his official capacity as the Attorney General of the State of California, et al, United States District Court, Eastern District of California, Case No. 2:19-cv-02456-KJM-DB. AB 51, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 10, 2019, prohibits California employers from requiring prospective and current employees to “waive any right, forum, or procedure” for a violation of the state’s equal employment opportunity law – the Fair Employment and Housing Act – and Labor Codes.

On Dec. 30, 2019, just before it was set to take effect, AB 51 was temporarily restrained from enforcement pending a hearing on the plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction. Then, on Jan. 31, 2020, the chief district court judge of the Eastern District of California granted plaintiff’s preliminary injunction.

In her 36-page ruling granting the preliminary injunction, Chief Judge Kimberly Mueller concluded the plaintiffs met their burden of showing AB 51 is likely preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act. The court initially determined it had jurisdiction over the case before moving to the merits of plaintiffs’ argument.

Subsequently, the court acknowledged that with AB 51, the state of California’s primary target is arbitration agreements, which subjects them to unequal footing as compared to other contracts, and places “uncommon barriers on employers” who include mandatory arbitration provisions in their employment agreements. Because AB 51 also imposes civil and criminal penalties, including a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment and/or fine, that interfere with the Federal Arbitration Act, the court found the federal law preempted it.

Finally, the court agreed with plaintiffs that employers would likely be irreparably harmed if AB 51 took effect because they would be forced to choose between risking civil or criminal penalties based on the law’s uncertainties, and not using arbitration agreements to avoid penalties.

The plaintiffs now have substantial momentum in their effort to permanently enjoin the state of California from enforcing AB 51.

Vocational Ed Makes a Comeback

Commentary by Dan Walters, CalMatters

Somewhere along the way, California’s public schools became enamored with the notion that all students will — or at least should — acquire degrees from four-year colleges.

Local school districts often adopted college-prep-for-all policies and in doing so denigrated and often eliminated what was once called vocational education — classes to prepare students for useful and often lucrative jobs in the real world.

It’s self-evident that not every student has the aptitude for and interest in spending four or more years seeking a baccalaureate degree, but educational officialdom treated those not college-inclined as second-class citizens.

One reason: It’s much less stressful for teachers and counselors to tell parents that their children could be lawyers or doctors than to suggest they might be better suited, and happier, to become auto mechanics or construction workers.

Over time, that attitude contributed to what became a very high dropout rate and deprived California of the skilled workers it needs to function.

All of the political noise about solving California’s chronic housing shortage means nothing, for example, if we don’t have enough carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other skilled construction workers.

Belatedly, those in political office began to recognize that college-for-all policies are short-sighted and cruel. Vocational education has been renamed “career and technical education” (CTE) and is beginning to see a renaissance in both high schools and community colleges.

The Public Policy Institute of California, which has tirelessly pointed out the economic peril posed by looming shortages of well-educated and -trained workers, notes in a recent bulletin that “California lawmakers have made large state investments — totaling more than $1 billion over the past five years — to support and expand career education. As the primary provider of career training in the state, California’s community college system was the recipient of much investment in this area, and their creation of the ‘Strong Workforce’ program has established an ongoing source of funding to continue this work.”

Community colleges became involved, responding to demands from both employers and job-seeking high school graduates, because CTE was being downgraded and/or eliminated in many high schools.

Some high schools are jumping back into the game, but it’s a tough slog because CTE is expensive to provide, often requiring specialized buildings and equipment, and because instructors must be both skilled and able to obtain state teaching certificates.

The potential of CTE to transform lives is illustrated in a recent article about what’s happening in Fresno and other San Joaquin Valley communities that have high unemployment and poverty levels and a high school that teaches mechanics.

“On a recent school day in Fresno, Fernando Valero repaired a 32,000-pound diesel truck with failed sensors,” Fresno Bee reporter Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado wrote in an article for the California Divide media collaboration. “Then he crawled under another truck before lifting it with a floor jack. The morning school work left his hands black from grease.

“And his day was just getting started.

“After lunch, Valero left Duncan Polytechnical High School and headed to a job where he’s paid as a regular employee. Much like his classroom labor, he works with technicians fixing trucks for local customers.”

Rodriguez-Delgado noted that 45% of Fresno Unified School District’s high school students are enrolled in CTE classes “including medical, manufacturing and heavy-duty trucking. The pathways expose students to real-world industry work, and some, like Valero, are finding jobs while in school.”

Students who have the desire and aptitude to obtain four-year degrees should be prepared for it. But those with other interests and aptitudes should be equally supported and encouraged, for their sake and ours.

A Blip or a Warning?

By CalMatters

In an expanding economy and unemployment at a low of 3.9% in California, the announcement of the closure of one meat-packing plant in San Jose could be a blip. Or it could be a warning.

The company, Smithfield Foods, intends to lay off 22 salaried and 117 hourly workers by this time next month, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The San Jose plant, a union shop, had been operating for decades. The Chinese company, WH Group, the largest pork producer in the world, bought Smithfield in 2013.

By law, Smithfield had to make a public disclosure announcing the layoffs by issuing a so-called WARN Act notice and giving workers 60 days notice:

  • “We regret the circumstances that made this layoff necessary.”

James Araby of Local 5 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents the packing house workers, told me the Bay Area has been losing such plants to the Los Angeles County industrial city of Vernon, the Central Valley, and other parts of the country:

  • “These are high-skilled, blue-collar jobs. Because of a desire to make more profits, they’re getting cut.”

Wages ranged up to $28 an hour. Araby hopes to help the workers look for jobs with retailers, perhaps in supermarkets. The pay likely will be lower.

Has Governor Newsom Settled Water Wars?

By Dan Walters, CalMatters

The beating heart of California’s massive system of capturing, storing and distributing water is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Water flows into the West’s largest estuary from the Sacramento, San Joaquin and several lesser rivers that drain the state’s mountain chains on its northern and eastern edges.

While most of the water continues into the Pacific Ocean, giant pumps on the southern edge of the Delta suck much of it into canals supplying San Joaquin Valley farms and Southern California cities as far south as San Diego.

Accordingly, the Delta is also the center of more than a half-century of often bitter political, legal and financial conflict, generally pitting environmental groups who want to curb Delta diversions against farmers who use most of the Delta’s water, with municipal water interests more or less caught in the middle.

During his first governorship four-plus decades ago, Jerry Brown tried to build a “peripheral canal” that would have carried Sacramento River water around the Delta. He got it through the Legislature, only to see it defeated in a referendum.

In the 1990s, Bruce Babbitt, the former Democratic governor of Arizona who had become interior secretary in the Clinton administration, attempted to mediate the conflicts with Republican Gov. Pete Wilson’s blessing, and seemed to succeed. “Peace has broken out amid the water wars,” Wilson said at the time.

It was a premature declaration of victory and Wilson’s successor, a notoriously risk-averse Democrat, Gray Davis, stood aside as the conflict continued to simmer, mostly in federal courts.

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to revive the peripheral canal as twin tunnels beneath the Delta, which Brown, in his second governorship, enthusiastically embraced.

Brown also brought back Babbitt as a mediator and bequeathed to successor Gavin Newsom the beginnings of a peace process through “voluntary agreements.” Newsom continued to pursue it, even vetoing a bill, Senate Bill 1, that would have locked Obama administration environmental rules into state law after water interests and Sen. Dianne Feinstein warned that it would torpedo the negotiations.

Last week, Newsom unveiled a compromise framework that would enhance flows through the Delta by up to 900,000 acre-feet a year and restore 60,000 acres of habitat for wildlife, particularly salmon, facing decline or even extinction due to the diversions.

“Today, my administration is proposing a path forward, one that will move past the old water binaries and set us up for a secure and prosperous water future,” Newsom wrote in CalMatters.

The framework is just that. Many details remain to be nailed down, and it also would need the approval of various state and federal agencies. But it’s progress.

So why might Newsom succeed where others have failed?

One factor is that farmers have seen their political clout wane in an increasingly blue state. They also face threats by the State Water Resources Control Board to order permanent cuts in agricultural water and the newly enacted regulation of groundwater that lessens their ability to tap underground aquifers during droughts.

Newsom’s shrinkage of the twin Delta tunnels to a single tunnel also plays a role, along with progress on a large new reservoir, called Sites, on the west side of the Sacramento Valley. It’s intended to capture more runoff on the assumption that climate change will lessen the mountain snowpacks that feed water into the Delta.

“Inaction, recalcitrance, and adherence to the status-quo puts our water future at risk,” Newsom wrote. “The alternative to the voluntary agreements is a contentious regulatory process that will take many years and require adjudicating a thicket of litigation in every direction before restoring river flows.”

February 10, 2020

AB 5’s Legal Challenges Update

Article by James Ward, Employment Law Subject Matter Expert

AB 5, one of the most widely publicized and controversial bills from last year, has been (mostly) officially in effect for slightly over a month. As expected, the new worker classification law is facing several legal challenges from various industry groups, one of which has resulted in an injunction. Below are updates on the legal challenges from writers, truck drivers and a couple “gig” companies.

Writers/Journalists

On December 17, 2019, freelance writers and journalists filed suit in federal court challenging AB 5. The American Society of Journalists and Authors Inc. and the National Press Photographers Association argue that AB 5 violates the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by singling out freelance journalists for “unique and significant burdens.”

AB 5 creates an exception to its ABC test for freelance writers who write 35 or fewer articles a year for the same publication, but 36 or more articles subjects the same writers to the ABC test and effectively makes them employees. The associations argue that this is arbitrary and unfair since several other similarly situated professionals (marketers, graphic designers, grant writers, etc.) who are excepted under AB 5 do not have the same type of numerical content restriction.

The associations are seeking an injunction prohibiting enforcement of the 35-submissions limit. The State has filed a motion to dismiss. A hearing is set for March 9.

Truck Drivers

Next, the California Trucking Association (CTA) filed suit in federal court on behalf of owner-operator truck drivers, arguing that the law is preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FVAAA). The FVAAA broadly preempts state laws “related to a price, route or service of any motor carrier…with respect to the transportation of property.” One of the FVAAA goals is to make interstate commerce easier by preventing a patchwork of different state laws affecting motor carriers and maintaining consistent regulations across the country.

The court agreed with the CTA that AB 5 effectively prevents motor carriers from using independent contractors because owner-operator truck drivers could never be considered independent contractors under AB 5’s stringent ABC test and that restriction would impact motor carriers’ prices, routes and services. Therefore, the court granted the CTA’s request for a preliminary injunction on January 16, 2020, preventing enforcement of AB 5 to motor carriers, pending final judgment in the case.

‘Gig’ Companies

Finally, Uber and Postmates filed their suit on December 30, 2019, and are also seeking a preliminary injunction prohibiting AB 5 enforcement. They assert that AB 5 is an “irrational and unconstitutional statute” that specifically targets them and similar companies and interferes with people’s right to choose their occupation in violation of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. and California Constitutions. They also argue that the law violates the Contracts Clauses of both Constitutions because enforcement would impair existing contracts the companies have with their workers. The next hearing in the case is in early February.

Other Changes

In addition to these legal challenges, other changes to the law may be coming. CalChamber expects the Legislature to introduce numerous bills this year addressing various provisions of AB 5. Additionally, several rideshare and delivery companies have filed a ballot initiative, which may end up on the November 2020 ballot, that would make app-based drivers and couriers independent contractors. Stay tuned to HRWatchdog for updates on AB 5’s legal developments.

See What's Brewing at Visit Gilroy...

Article by Jane Howard, Director of Visit Gilroy

We have so many things brewing here at Visit Gilroy including the start of spring event meetings and wedding season is right around the corner (make sure to mark your calendar for our Ever After Wedding Expo on March 29th! There might be some truth to a rumor going around about a Taco Trail, and a little fun fact that Gilroy was selected as #2 on Instagram page @VacationIdea’s list of “24 Best Bay Area Day Trips”. Yes, that’s right, we’re ahead of Napa, Mendocino and Carmel, thank you very much! We hope you enjoyed your Valentine’s weekend at Solis Winery Gourmet Wine and Chocolate event or at Fortino Winery Sweetheart Sunday. Just to give you a taste of what’s coming up, here’s a summary of the playful, tasty & healthy events we have listed for the next couple months. Reserve your spot, buy your ticket, and save the dates!

February 2020

Paint Night at Clos LaChance Winery (Thursday, 2/20) – The cost of your ticket includes a two-hour instructed paint class and a stemless glass to take home!

Yoga in the Vines at Guglielmo Winery (Sunday, 2/23) – Yoga will start at 10:45am, all levels are welcome, just bring your yoga mat! If you’re a wine club member, cost is $25 or $35 for nonmembers which includes wine tasting and yoga.

March 2020

Gilroy’s 150th Family Fun Day at Wheeler Center (Saturday, 3/14) – Come down and enjoy the day with your family and friends, there will be games, food, fun and history! 11:00am-2:00pm

St. Patrick’s Celebration at Verde Vineyards (Sunday, 3/15) – Enjoy a St. Patrick’s Day celebration with corned beef sandwiches served with bottle purchase(s). 12:00pm-5:00pm

Tigers Be Still at Limelight Actors Theater (March dates: 3/20, 3/21, 3/27, 3/28, 3/29) – Come out and enjoy Limelight Actors Theater’s first show of the year!

Gilroy Gardens Season Opening (Friday, 3/27) – The 20th birthday festivities will kickoff on March 27th – you are invited to the best birthday party ever!

Ever After Gilroy Dream Wedding Expo at the Gilroy Lodge on the Hill (Sunday, 3/29) – Gilroy is a great place to say, “I Do”! At the expo you’ll find plenty of inspiration from local vendors whether it’s for a venue, your dress, a photographer, lodging, catering, honeymoon destinations and more. 12:00pm-4:00pm

For additional ideas on what to do in the area check out Visitgilroy.com/calendar.

PG&E Seizure: Real Threat or a Bluff?

Article by Dan Walters, CalMatters

Scott Wiener must be a glutton for punishment.

Just last week, the Democratic state senator from San Francisco failed, after repeated attempts and many revisions, to win Senate approval of his ambitious bill to force local communities to accept more multi-family housing.

Four days later, Wiener took on another, equally daunting issue by introducing legislation for a state takeover of bankrupt Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and its transformation into the “Northern California Energy Utility District.”

Wiener unveiled his bill five days after Gov. Gavin Newsom again threatened to seize the nation’s largest investor-owned utility if its plan to emerge from bankruptcy doesn’t meet his criteria.

Newsom, speaking to a Public Policy Institute of California forum, said he wanted “a completely transformed company” that’s more consumer- and safety-oriented.

“There’s going to be a new company, or the state of California takes it over,” Newsom warned, adding, “If PG&E can’t do it, we’ll do it for them.”

Two days later, PG&E filed a revised plan to emerge from the bankruptcy it declared a year ago in response to billions of dollars in potential claims from wildfire victims, saying it “has taken to heart the governor’s concerns” and “is open to further discussions with the governor’s office and other stakeholders.”

“Under our plan, the company will emerge from Chapter 11 as a reimagined utility with an enhanced safety structure, improved operations, and a board and management team focused on providing the safe, reliable, and clean energy our customers expect and deserve,” PG&E CEO Bill Johnson said in a statement.

Previously, PG&E had announced that it reached agreement with wildfire victims on a $13.5 billion settlement, and competing factions of bondholders and major stockholders were also supporting its restructuring plan — but Newsom continued to criticize PG&E’s management and demand more changes.

Technically, the governor’s approval may not be needed for the federal bankruptcy court to approve the company’s plan, but PG&E’s access to a $21 billion special insurance pool to cover wildfire claims, is dependent on a satisfactory emergence from bankruptcy, thus giving Newsom and the state Public Utilities Commission leverage.

The revised plan submitted last Friday only partially addresses Newsom’s demands, leaving the threat of a state takeover, which Wiener’s bill would authorize, still on the table.

It’s a political, legal and financial poker game that hinges on whether state seizure is a viable alternative or just a bluff.

“PG&E operates a monopoly as a privilege granted by the state of California, and that privilege can be revoked. I support public ownership of PG&E,” Wiener told Bloomberg, a financial news service.

At the very least, it would be costly. PG&E’s stock surged after Friday’s revised bankruptcy filing. Last year, it dropped to $3.55 a share but has since climbed to more than $17, giving it a market capitalization of about $9 billion, but an enterprise value, calculated by Yahoo Finance, of more than $32 billion, which is probably closer to what the state would have to pay.

Would the Legislature sanction a seizure? And could a state-owned utility assemble tens of billions of dollars to pay off stockholders and wildfire victims, service PG&E’s $25 billion in debts, invest additional billions in fire safety and still avoid jacking up its consumer power rates, which are already among the nation’s highest?

Perhaps, but the more likely outcome is a deal under which PG&E makes a few more concessions to Newsom — particularly ones that are cosmetic, such as shaking up the corporate board — and he claims a victory.

Flying Domestically?

Flying Domestically? Real ID’s Will Be Required by October 1

Executives and employees who frequent the skies for work are being encouraged by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to be REAL ID ready by October 1, if they wish to continue using their California driver license to board domestic flights in the U.S.

The federal REAL ID Act places new rules on which forms of identification may be used to board flights within the U.S. and enter secure federal facilities, such as military bases and federal courthouses, starting October 1. A California-issued REAL ID driver license or identification card meets these new requirements and is marked with a gold bear and star.

Documents Needed

Applying for a REAL ID requires the following:

  • Proof of identity (birth certificate or U.S. passport) [Original or Certified copy of U.S birth certificate (issued by a city, county, or state vital statistics office). “Abbreviated” or “Abstract” certificates are NOT accepted];
  • Proof of Social Security number; and
  • Two documents to prove California residency (such as a cable or cell phone bill, bank statement or lease agreement).

If you have changed your name, a legal name change document, such a marriage certificate or divorce decree, may also be required.

How to Apply

To apply for the REAL ID, customers should fill out the REAL ID online application, gather all necessary documentation and head to their local DMV office.

There is no need for an appointment to get a REAL ID. Customers should check business hours and wait times of their local office on the DMV website to help plan their visit. More than 60 DMV offices across the state are also open on Saturdays.

In an effort to make obtaining a REAL ID easier, the DMV offers a business-direct service called DMV2U available to some of California’s largest employers.

After setting up a mini-office on site, DMV staff process applications and employees receive their new REAL IDs in the mail within a few weeks.

To date, DMV has held eight pop-up events with more than 5,600 REAL ID applications processed – with more scheduled as the federal enforcement date approaches in October.

For more information about REAL ID, go to realid.dmv.ca.gov.

Guest Article:Jeff Orth, Integrated Financial Benefits

The Big Ten of Financial Planning Mistakes

By Jeffrey M Orth, ChFC, CASL, Investment Advisor Representative of HTK

Most people don’t take the time to make themselves accountable to their master plan. Why? Usually it is because they don’t have a system in place for gauging progress or perhaps they need a coach….a Wealth Coach. Having someone to help you develop your master plan and keep you on track is important if you want to get where you are going while avoiding mistakes.

 

A coach’s job is to get you to do what you
need to do so that you can accomplish your goals.

 

There can be many missteps on the way to realizing your financial goals.

Here are the Top Ten Financial Pitfalls you will want to avoid:

  1. Failure to plan – People fail to establish clear financial objectives and a workable plan to get there. “People don’t plan to fail they just fail to plan”. There is not a magic point in time to start planning… as Nike says, “just do it!”
  2. Ignorance of the time value of money – Most people do not understand the true potential of investments compounded over time. As I’ve stated in previous articles, time is your friend if you start early enough and your worst enemy if you start too late. If you do as well saving over the next ten years as you did over the last ten years would you be excited?
  3. Spending too much now- Lack of discipline or out of control spending will lay waste to the best of plans. What is the process you use to budget your purchases?
  4. Failure to recognize the impact of inflation and longevity on a portfolio – With people living longer in their retirement years, and inflation eating away at their purchasing power, outliving your retirement savings can be a real possibility. And as you get older, you shift from buying ‘things’ to using services, which have a much higher inflation rate. Are you saving enough to last through your retirement years?
  5. Unrealistic Expectations – As stated earlier, it takes time to build an estate. Sometimes people expect dramatic gains too quickly. Short cuts rarely work and ‘get rich quick’ schemes often turn out to be just that, schemes. Do your goals have realistic time lines?
  6. Lack of understanding of the tax laws – Income, capital gain, gift and estate taxes can be reduced and at times eliminated with effective tax planning. Are you working with an advisor or team that understands the tax laws well enough to help you avoid unnecessary taxes?
  7. Taking unnecessary risk with an un-diversified portfolio – It is important to determine how much risk you can tolerate to develop a balanced and diversified portfolio, while understanding that diversification does not assure a profit or protect against a loss in a down market. How are you diversifying your investments to help reduce the risk of unpredictable market fluctuation?
  8. Inadequate protection against losses – We are talking about insurance here…life, disability, long term care, health, home liability … you get the idea. Can a single event destroy your financial plans for the future?
  9. Procrastination – This is the most common of the money mistakes. Are you putting off until tomorrow what you should have done today?
  10. Failure to seek out and use professional help – You can either spend the time and money to turn yourself into a professional in all the areas of planning or you can surround yourself with a team dedicated to excellence in the various disciplines necessary design, implement and maintain an effective plan. Is it in your best interest to go it alone or does it make more sense to seek out the appropriate professionals to help you get where you want to go?

The best coaches I have had always focused on the fundamentals first and got me to work harder and smarter than I would have on my own. These coaches produced results at an individual and at a team level. Is there a chance that you would benefit from a good “wealth coach” rather than going it alone?

Jeffrey M. Orth is a Chartered Financial Consultant, a Certified Advisor in Senior Living, and an Investment Advisor Representative of Hornor, Townsend and Kent, LLC, with over 20 years’ experience as a business and personal planning, insurance, and wealth management specialist. Jeff is available for group lectures and private consultations. Visit his website at www.ifitfinancial.com or call 408.842.2716.

This is not an offer recommendation to purchase any product or service; recommendations will only be provided on a personalized basis. HTK does not offer tax or legal advice. Please consult a qualified advisor regarding your individual circumstances. 2895891RB_Jan22

Jeffrey Orth is a Registered Representative of, and Securities and Investment Advisory services offered through Hornor, Townsend & Kent, LLC (HTK). Registered Investment Adviser Member FINRA/SIPC, 16845 Von Karman Ave, Ste. 225 Irvine, CA 92606 (949)754-1700. Integrated Financial Benefits Network is unaffiliated with HTK. CA Insurance License #OC49291

February 3, 2020

Mayor Velasco Won’t Seek Re-election

Article by Erik Chalhoub, Gilroy Dispatch

Mayor Roland Velasco announced Jan. 27 that he will not seek a second term in the November election.

“With much reflection, I had an opportunity over the last couple of months to talk with my wife about the time and energy it takes to be the mayor of Gilroy,” he said during a Gilroy City Council meeting. “Based on my conversations with her and others, I have decided I will not run for a second term as mayor.”

Gilroy native Velasco, 53, previously served on the city council from 1997 to 2007. He returned to the council in 2014, and won a bid for the mayor’s seat in 2016 after longtime mayor Don Gage resigned.

In 2018, Velasco, who holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of San Francisco, left his job as an aide to Santa County Supervisor Mike Wasserman, saying he wanted to devote full-time to his role at City Hall.

As mayor, Velasco is paid $15,284 a year.

“I’ve decided that it’s really more important for me to spend time with family than doing another four years as mayor,” he said.

Velasco was swept into office on the wave of support for Measure H, which established an Urban Growth Boundary for the city, and has been an advocate of slower residential growth. During his time in office, new neighborhoods continued to fill the foothills on Gilroy’s west side. The mayor was in the international spotlight during the media storm following the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on July 28, when he performed first aid on shooting victims before standing in front of cameras and reporters.

“The reason why I’m bringing this up now is I want the community to start thinking about how they might want to get involved,” Velasco added. “Whether it’s running for council or running for mayor, I want them to really be able to sit back and think about what’s involved with it and start talking to their friends and family and come up with a decision.”

The nomination period for candidates running for office in the November election opens July 13 and closes on Aug. 7. For information, visit tinyurl.com/u83vdru.

What's New with Business?

Gilroy Chamber of Commerce Business Relationship Manager, Eric Howard

Gilroy’s newest and hippest Rotary Club, Gilroy After Hours Rotary, meets monthly on the fourth Tuesday of every month. It meets at CMAP, located at 7500 Monterey Street at 5:30 pm. Rotary is a service club of men and women who look to better their community and world in many different ways. Gilroy After Hours Rotary has done creek clean up, assisted the YMCA with their community toy drive and volunteers monthly at The Lord’s Table. All are invited to see what all the talk is about. For more information call Mark Vivian at 408-799-4323.

Solis Winery wins double gold and more at the 2020 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Awards. Vintners are lifting a glass as they celebrate Solis Winery’s incredible showing at this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Solis Winery took a stage-setting Double Gold medal for the 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by two Silver medals for its 2016 Estate Merlot and 2017 Estate Sangiovese, and a Bronze medal for the 2016 Estate Zinfandel. All Solis Winery wines are grown and produced in Gilroy, CA in the Santa Clara Valley—one of the oldest wine-producing regions in California. Vic Vanni, co-owner of Solis Winery, said, “We’re incredibly honored to represent the Santa Clara Valley region with these awards. We are one of the best-kept secrets in Central California, and we look forward to welcoming guests to our tasting room to share our latest award-winning wines.” The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition was originally founded in 1983 and has now become the largest competition of American wines in the world. To learn more about Solis Winery and its winemakers, visit soliswinery.com or taste some wines at 3920 Hecker Pass Hwy.

CMAP (Community Access Media Partnership), and their coworking space, The Greenhouse Coworking, are having a new year’s promotion for private office spaces. All new coworking members will receive 50% off of their second month of coworking after registering for their first month. If you don’t need a full-time office, you can also use their space on a part time basis. If your needs call for something larger than a basic office, they have a spacious conference room that accommodates 10-15 people comfortably. A unique aspect to their coworking space is that all members receive a CMAP membership for a year at no additional cost. CMAP members can attend audio/visual classes and rent studio space, all at extremely affordable rates. If you would like to schedule a tour of their beautiful downtown Gilroy facilities, please call 408-337-0299.

The California Rodeo Salinas believes in supporting youth education along with preserving and promoting the traditions of the west. The organization offers five to ten scholarships to local students each year. Students who attend Salinas Valley High Schools and are going to attend Hartnell Junior College or are transferring from Hartnell to a University are eligible to apply for funds. Students must be 17 years of age or older and special consideration is given to Rodeo Committee Members as well as children and grandchildren of Rodeo Committee Members in good standing. The scholarship is run through the Hartnell College Foundation; a link to the Hartnell web page as well as more information about the program can be found at: carodeo.com/p/about-us/community/scholarships. Applications are available online now and due by March 2, 2020.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, take your family to a fun tea event at Bobaloca on Saturday, February 8 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. Bobaloca is located at 767 1st Street. Enjoy your choice of tea or Beverage with some delicious snacks and a FREE Valentines Gift. Bobaloca serves beverages such as teas, coffee, smoothies, frappuccinos, slushies and juices. In addition, any flavor can be added to these if someone likes a particular flavor.

They Gotta Be High - Bill Would Help Market Cannabis

Article by CalMatters

Legislation set for a hearing today would allow cannabis companies to provide free samples to educate retailers about the products.

The problem: Proposition 64, the 2016 initiative that legalized commercial marijuana sales, supposedly barred free samples, stating:

  • “No licensee shall give away any amount of marijuana or marijuana products, or any marijuana accessories, as part of a business promotion or other commercial activity.”

The Legislature’s staff analysis quotes the bill’s author, Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, as saying “it is unclear if the proposition intended to prohibit trade samples—a commonly used, noncontroversial business tool.”

Large distributors, a force in Capitol lobbying and in campaigns, are backing Skinner’s legislation.

The Humboldt County Growers Alliance made up of smaller producers is seeking amendments so its members also could provide samples.

  • “Our members are incredibly proud of the quality of the products they make, and we firmly believe they are the best salespeople of their story and craft.”

County Moves to Expand Parking for Homeless

Article by Barry Holtzclaw, Gilroy Dispatch

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors gave unanimous support to a proposal to expand efforts to make “safe parking” programs more feasible and effective for people without housing.

In the past five years, the number of Santa Clara County residents living in cars and recreational vehicles has increased significantly, according to the county. In the latest Santa Clara County Homeless Census, 18 percent of unhoused residents were found to be living in their vehicles, up from 8 percent in 2015 and 2017.

While not a long-term solution, safe parking allows residents to have stability in where they sleep each night while they seek permanent housing. Ideally, safe parking programs in the county would allow these “vehicle residents” a safe and designated place to work while pairing them with case management with a county social worker.

“Obviously,” said Supervisor Joe Simitian in a statement, “identifying a sufficient number of sites and spaces is the necessary first step, and that’s been a struggle. My office and I are hoping to spearhead a coordinated effort to identify more sites this spring in Mountain View and Palo Alto, two cities who have been working to address this challenge.”

Morgan Hill allows some overnight parking by individuals in RVs. Gilroy does not. The county said it has already committed over $750,000 in funding for safe parking programs, helping to support case management to help households obtain services and stable housing, program administration and the identification of new lots.

“It’s become increasingly clear that some of these programs would benefit from additional county support and engagement,” said Simitian. “Cities have faced a number of barriers to opening safe parking programs, including finding appropriate sites, the lack of insurance for non-profit partners and challenges in establishing 24-hour lots. We need to identify more sites, find a way to keep them open 24/7 and connect local non-profits with the insurance coverage they need to get the job done.”

Simitian’s proposal directs the county to work with local municipalities, non-profits and community members to support successful safe parking programs in the following ways:

  • Explore leasing 24-hour parking lots at a very low or no cost
  • Offer assistance in a multi-pronged effort to find appropriate sites
  • Report on funding needs to adequately scale and revise the programs to meet the need

Reimbursement for Power Shut-Offs?

Article by Taryn Luna, Los Angeles Times

California utilities could be banned from charging for electricity during power shut-offs and required to reimburse their customers for spoiled food or other financial losses under legislation that cleared the state Senate on Monday.

Senate Bill 378, opposed by Pacific Gas & Electric and the state’s two other largest utilities, is a response to the power shut-offs that left millions in the dark last year, a tool the companies began using to reduce the risk of their electrical equipment starting wildfires. Supporters say the bill seeks to carefully balance the need to prevent blazes that have killed scores of Californians with the unintended consequences of power outages for residents and businesses.

“I’m not objecting to using surgical, well-planned blackouts to prevent wildfires,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who introduced the bill. “Right now the fundamental problem is that utilities have no incentive or obligation to take into account the harm to people that is caused by these blackouts.”

Widespread outages in October inspired concern throughout the state for elderly and medically fragile customers, who might not be able to survive without power. In Northern California, Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials criticized Pacific Gas & Electric for applying the blackouts too broadly and longer than necessary.

Businesses complained about being forced to close and losing revenue. Local governments struggled to keep traffic lights running, respond to 911 calls and maintain regular functions.

Wiener said he hopes his legislation will force utilities to consider the financial cost to their customers and to only use blackouts as a measure of last resort as originally intended. He described the existing framework of state laws and regulations as the”Wild, Wild West,” which allows utilities to shut off power to avoid billions in potential wildfire liabilities without weighing the public safety risks.

But critics contend that the bill could swing the pendulum too far in the other direction, resulting in fewer intentional blackouts and more wildfires.

“My concern is that we’re trying to save lives and these penalties may possibly lead companies to hesitate, to blink, when it come to the lives of individuals,” said state Sen. Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), who voted for the bill but expressed reservations about its potential effects.

Under the proposal, state regulators would be required by June 1, 2021, to establish a mechanism for customers, local governments and others to seek reimbursement from utilities for losses from power outages and craft rules to determine if the utilities can increase rates to offset those payments. The bill would ban utilities from billing customers for electricity if they are out of power.

SB 378 also opens utilities up to civil liability if the California Public Utilities Commission determines the company failed to reasonably and prudently implement the outage. Wiener’s proposal allows for civil penalties of at least $250,000 for every 50,000 customers affected, which could be multiplied by each hour that an outage takes place.

The California Chamber of Commerce argues that the bill penalizes use of a safety measure already approved by the state. The Legislature originally supported shut-offs as a method of last resort to save lives, and voted in 2018 to require the state’s three investor-owned utilities to annually submit outage protocols to the state.

“While we recognize that [outages] cause significant financial impacts to all involved and that conversations around proper balance must continue, penalizing the use of [outages] is contrary to the state’s desire to prevent the catastrophic harm from wildfire-related events,” the chamber wrote in a letter opposing the bill to state legislators.

SB 378, opposed by PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, now moves to the Assembly as state regulators work simultaneously to develop new rules around power shut-offs in response to the sweeping outages last year. The CPUC is expected to release guidelines in May regarding identification and communication with at-risk communities prior to an outage.

Ready or Not Here It Comes – State Groundwater Regulation

Article by Valerie Nera, CalChamber

January 31, 2020 marks the first time in California’s history that groundwater will be regulated. Twenty-one critically over-drafted groundwater basins must submit detailed plans showing how they will reach sustainability by 2040. The plans must include ways to monitor groundwater on a day-to-day basis, short-term, seasonal, and year long. Sustainability generally means eliminating the overdraft in the basin and then not drawing out more water than is being taken in. Basins are replenished from winter flood water, water from recharge basins, rivers and streams, and rain.

While many Groundwater Planning Agencies have submitted or are ready to submit their plans, several will have to scramble to make the deadline. The more complicated basins, those with many sub basins, have multiple agencies that must plan together and submit a comprehensive plan. Closely watching the process are the high and medium priority basins who must submit plans in 2022.

Unlike other states, California did not have a system for regulating groundwater pumping until 2014 when the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) was signed into law. Prior to SGMA, management generally had been in the form of plans developed by local agencies that focused primarily on information gathering. Overlying landowners, including agricultural users, domestic well owners, and other groundwater users, pumped without having to obtain government approvals.

SGMA lays out how the state will achieve sustainable groundwater basins. It requires local public agencies with water supply, management, and land use obligations to form planning agencies and then develop sustainability plans for submission to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) who can accept them or ask for changes. The plans can also be referred to the State Water Resources Control Board for intervention if the plans are unlikely to succeed and need major revisions. Worst case scenario, the state may have to step in to settle disputes over local rights.

In dry years, groundwater has been used to supplement diminishing surface water supplies to sustain farms and provide water for urban uses. However, over time, more water has been pumped out than can be replaced naturally. Severe over drafting can cause underground aquifers to collapse which cannot be reversed foreclosing any groundwater storage opportunities in the future.

SGMA comes with costs. While it does not mandate groundwater pumping restrictions or require the imposition of fees, it allows for both. It’s hard to imagine the basins or sub-basins coming into sustainability without imposing some sort of pumping restrictions or limitations and the imposition of a fee structure to support the continuing management and long-range planning. SGMA does not change water rights, but curtailing pumping will affect those rights.

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) predicts that 750,000 acres of agricultural lands will be fallowed in the San Joaquin Valley. As the price of water rises over the next 20 years, only the most profitable crops will be grown. PPIC estimates that 50,000 acres go solar, converting some of the world’s most productive tomato farms, pistachio orchards and dairies into vast fields of tea-colored photovoltaic panels. Other landowners are working with environmental groups to develop conservation easements to turn some of their land into wildlife habitat. Urban areas will also have to plan for a different future. The State Water Resources Control Board says 30 million state residents rely on groundwater for at least some portion of their drinking water supply.