ECA Newsletter 5-9-19
ECA Newsletter 5-2-19
KUDOS to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors!
Have I gotten mellow in my view of elected officials? It is possible. This Soapbox is going to compliment the existing Supervisors in office in Sonoma County. I know-if I wanted to I could find some things to gripe about, but fair is fair-let’s honestly look at some of the accomplishments the existing five have been able to get some credit for.
I want to start with Shirlee Zane’s unabashed support of building 14 tiny homes for veterans on Russell Avenue. Look-we all know the overall homeless problem is too complex and too varied to have some easy solution. However, in Sonoma County there are several hundred homeless veterans and I personally believe this small “slice” of the big problem is solvable. In 2015 the opportunity for this project was presented and the Supervisors appointed the Community Housing Sonoma County to manage the project. Paula Cook worked tirelessly to get this project built on County owned land. Shirlee Zane supported, cajoled, spoke in favor of, and provided the impetus to get 14 tiny homes built on a small parcel of land on Russell Avenue, just north of the County jail and just south of Kaiser Hospital. To see an article on this, click here—
The location is ironic as it is entirely possible, that without these tiny homes providing safe haven for these guys, they could end up either in the jail, or in the hospital. Instead, they have a tiny home with a roof over their head, neighbors with common interest and shared history, and a door to lock that all combine to instill purpose, hope, security and pride in lives that might otherwise have none of that.
Kudos to Shirlee!
We all know what a traumatic series of events Mother Nature has dumped on our County (and others). No budget could have anticipated and had coverage for the massive commitment of resources the County of Sonoma had to put out to overcome the Tubbs and Nuns fires as well as the floods of the Russian River in 2019. The ability of the County Supervisors to get emergency funding to cover much of those costs is unprecedented. It is a tribute to their relationships with Congressmen Thompson and Huffman, as well as State Senator Mike McGuire, and State Assemblymen Jim Woods and Bill Dodd. Those relationships enabled trust and communication which led to getting emergency funding that might not have been available otherwise. It is a tribute to the character and hard work of all five of our County Supervisors that our Sonoma County budget, although stretched and frayed from the emergencies, has held up and continues to fund public safety, transportation infrastructure, and health and human services to a large extent, as it did before the emergencies.
Kudos to Susan, James, David, Shirlee, and Lynda!
Transportation infrastructure has been addressed by this group of Sonoma County Supervisors for the past 6-7 years in a healthy and productive manner. They all get the benefit of regular maintenance of our roads being good practice to safeguard the underlying structural integrity of our 1384 miles of roads in unincorporated Sonoma County. The plan that was put into action several years ago to repair our roads has so far reconstructed or resurfaced over 500 miles of our County roads. Sonoma County has been spending more General Fund dollars on roads than any other County in California for several years now. To go back to 2017 and the repaving of 170 miles in one season, click on this link from the North Bay Business Journal— link
Despite the pressure the emergencies put on the County Budget from the fires and floods, the County still intends to vote on May 21, 2019 on a planned road improvement funding that has not been reduced. The floods of 2019 caused another $23 million in damage to County roads due to washouts from high water that will get funding separate from the May 21, 2019
Supervisor vote. Emergency funding for those roads damaged in the floods is currently being sought by the Supervisors and I have no doubt they will be successful. Thanks for fixing our roads!
Kudos to David, Lynda, James, Susan and Shirlee for fixing our roads!
The 2020 elections will see Lynda Hopkins, Susan Gorin, and Shirlee Zane run as incumbents for re election to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. Slated for ECA Board action on May 21, 2019, will be whether to support and endorse the incumbents or not. This will be a Board decision, not a John decision. If you want to state your opinion on whether we should endorse these incumbents, please let me know and I will share your opinion at that Board meeting.
That’s All Folks!
ECA Newsletter 4-18-19
Let’s Do Our Part
How many times have you been forced to either remove someone from your Facebook friends, or maybe wonder and question a certain person because of what they are posting? The era we are in is one of being judgmental and it seems the entire country has judged and pigeonholed each other into deeply divisive categories.
We see things differently. I think the Mueller report is coming out today or tomorrow, but it won’t end what people think. If you are an anti-Trumper, you believe he colluded and if Mueller did not conclude that, then Mueller is in on the sham as well. If you kind of like some of what Trump does but dislike his style, you probably are quiet on a lot of issues. If you are a supporter of Trump and do not have any tolerance for the seemingly “socialist leaning” Democratic party, you resent the emphasis on Trump’s actions because you want Hillary to be investigated for wiping her servers clean and deleting 33,000 emails.
When we try to have a discussion with someone who thinks differently, we usually wind up frustrating each other and decide to stop the “debate” without really challenging our own beliefs. I know it has happened to me several times, and I am sure you all have experienced it as well.
So what do we do? We need to understand what the issues are. We seemingly cannot rely on newspapers or any media to provide accurate and unbiased factual news anymore. Are we simply going to swear at each other and dig in deeper into our own positions?
I hope not.
I am providing a link to a Northbay Business Journal interview with Brian Sobel, a very experienced political analyst and expert in which he talks about the need for being more civil with each other. To read the interview, click here–
It is my opinion that some college campuses have had their “freedom of speech” attitudes compromised by this deep division in how we view our issues in the good old USA. I can understand why some conservatives are concerned about changing the “Freedom of Speech” we have in this country, to “You are Free to Speak If Your Views Fit Mine” speech attitude. That is not ok. From Antifa to AOC to Pelosi to Trump to Fox News, don’t you think we have taken it to a point where it is going to be hard to get back to a place where we can debate the issues instead of calling each other names and walking away?
Let’s do our part and try-ok?
That’s All Folks
ECA Newsletter 4-11-19
Taxation or Fee? I Don’t Care! Oxygen is What I Call It!
When the ECA came out and supported the passage of RM3 in June of 2018, we basically were supporting charging ourselves to build infrastructure that will relieve current transportation problems and build long lasting projects that future generations will benefit from. You all know that I am not usually a “tax and spend” guy but I also recognize that transportation infrastructure has been woefully underfunded for decades and just in the last 5-6 years is getting the funding needed to fix our roads and bridges.
RM3 is a fee that raises bridge tolls (all Bay Area bridges except the Golden Gate Bridge) and tolls started being collected a few months ago. The Howard Jarvis folks filed a lawsuit challenging the bridge toll hike as a tax rather than a fee and their lawsuit made many of us nervous as to whether the RM3 dollars would actually be collected and allocated to our North Bay region ($800 to $900 million worth!!).
Last week, Judge Ethan Schulman dismissed the lawsuit which effectively frees up the RM3 toll increases to fund (to the tune of $4.5 billion) much needed projects around the Bay Area. Judge Schulman agreed with the drafters of RM3 that the toll increase is a fee, not a tax. I cannot believe I am applauding a local Judge’s ruling around here, but I am!
This is great news for all of us that need to travel, and at least partially, make our living from road and bridge construction projects. Between this good news and the defeat of the Gas tax repeal in June, this solidifies our income stream needed to fix our roads and bridges. link
What does this all mean to our local firms whether you bid on those projects or not? It means that local Agencies will now be able to count on tax help from fuel tax and toll help from the bridge toll increases to get some of their City and County roads fixed. Also, we have a tremendous list of bridges that are in need of repair in Sonoma and the Contiguous Counties and those tax and toll funds will enable local Public Works folks to prioritize and start getting some of them repaired or replaced. By funding transportation projects, the Cities and Counties can focus on much needed housing projects. None of us want to see our beautiful area changed by “sprawl” of housing developments, but we all recognize the need to build 30,000 plus homes so our young workers have a place to live rather than drive from Lake and Mendo and Solano Counties.
Highway 37 is one of the main roadways that has had its share of problems recently. Between high rains, the lack of a comprehensive levee program, and the increased commuter loads, this road between Novato and Vallejo is a problem searching for short term and long-term solutions. With the “smackdown” of the Howard Jarvis lawsuit, both short term and long-term solutions should get designed and out to bid very shortly. At the recent meeting of Solano, Marin, Napa and Sonoma County Transportation Authorities, the group made several important decisions but none more important than assigning responsibility and authority for the three main segments of Highway 37.
A new memorandum of understanding assigns responsibility for overall project management coordination to the Bay Area Toll Authority (which is the group that collects the bridge tolls) with local transportation authorities having a role for the road portion in each county.
- • Segment A: (Highway 101 to SR 121) assigned to Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA), Caltrans, Sonoma County Transportation Authority (SCTA) and Transportation Authority of Marin.
- • Segment B: (Sears Pt. to Mare Island Bridge) assigned to BATA, Caltrans, SCTA, Solano Transportation Authority and Napa Valley Transportation Authority.
- • Segment C: (Mare Island Bridge to I-80) assigned to BATA, Caltrans and SCTA.
Segment B is the most critical section by all accounts. As I have reported to you earlier, an interim solution being considered would employ a movable barrier system and one additional lane to be utilized heading West in the morning hours and heading East in the afternoon. It is estimated this could relieve up to 75% of the waiting time for commuters. This work should come out in 2019 and be completed in 2022.
Relief is on its way!
To read more about this, click on the link –
To me, the “oxygen” is actual projects that will enhance safety and relieve congestion. The defeat of the Howard Jarvis lawsuit provides that oxygen. That is why I do not care if you call the bridge toll increase a toll, or a tax-it is oxygen to me!
That’s All Folks!
ECA Newsletter 3-21-19
Some Really Big Developments Happening in the NorthBay
Of the nine cities in Sonoma County, two of them have big news for new developments. Rohnert Park is moving forward with their Station Avenue project and the City of Healdsburg is moving forward on the old lumber site in downtown Healdsburg to develop several hundred housing units.
The project in Rohnert Park is at the site of the old State Farm offices at the corner of Rohnert Park Expressway and the SMART Rail line. Laulima Development is the same developer that did Santana Row in San Jose is in charge of this project and demolition has already cleared most of the site for construction. Construction should be underway right now with opening in 2020.
Soon to be built are 460 on – site apartments, 140,000 sf of retail store space and 130,000 sf of brand-new office space with a pedestrian and community-based town center that the City of Rohnert Park desperately wants for an “identity”. Close proximity to the SMART Rail station will enable folks to conveniently travel to and from Windsor, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Novato and San Rafael with shuttle/ferry assistance into and from San Francisco.
The days of neglecting going out to dinner in Rohnert Park will soon be a thing of the past. Some great restaurants are going in to this development and Plow Brewery will be a local hotspot for sure. With all of the open space and parklike features included, this will really enhance the NorthBay for many decades to come.
Congratulations Rohnert Park! And thank you for adding much needed modern yet “Sonoma County-friendly” development to our area! Take a moment and enjoy the slide show depicting the plans for this development by clicking the link.
Further north of Rohnert Park, the little town of Healdsburg has some news of its own. The Mill District project in downtown Healdsburg was approved last week and Vancouver based developer Replay will be able to move forward on its plans to build 206 housing units and other amenities in the old lumber yard site just to the East and South of the Roundabout. Construction of utilities and infrastructure work should begin in the Fall of 2019. The first housing units could be completed as early as 2021 if planning and permits go smoothly.
Check out the artists rendition and the Plans on this link thanks to North Bay Business Journal.
Rohnert Park and Healdsburg are not the only Cities with big news. More to come in future newsletters!
That’s All Folks!
ECA Newsletter 3-14-19
We are all used to having to use every tool available to us to outwit and outbid our competitors for a chance to sign a contract with an owner. As I ponder the outcome of the 2020 Election, I consider what could happen to our industry if Bernie wins, or if the Dems win and adopt a very far left agenda that would mimic the Democratic Socialists that are so much in the news lately. I keep reading the news that young people believe Socialism is better than Capitalism for the USA. It makes me wonder, if all the young people vote for a socialist agenda and candidate, and non-citizens are given the right to vote, and the non-citizens believe a redistribution of wealth (socialist concept) benefits them more than capitalism, could a socialist United States be far behind? And if that happens, how does that affect our industry?
As I ponder those questions with you, let’s make sure we are communicating properly!
A little background high school remedial lesson for my own benefit and maybe some of you too—
What is the difference between Capitalism and Socialism and Communism?
- Capitalism: Although some of you may doubt it, our current system (political and economic) is based on capitalism. The key to capitalism is being able to own land, own businesses, be able to make a profit and be able to keep that profit to better yourself and your family. In a capitalist system, when one makes more profit than another, there is nothing in place that would take his/her “extra” profit and redistribute it to someone who has less resources (we of course do have taxes that do that but not to the extent that socialism takes that wealth and redistributes it). Capitalism is a system where greed and the chasing of the almighty dollar dominate the incentive and the work ethic of those trying to get ahead. The idea is that great ideas and innovation and increased efficiencies are derived from the “chasing of that dollar”. Critics of capitalism point out (correctly) that workers often are taken advantage of in the pursuit of profit and while a corporation can make “ungodly” profits, there is nothing in place that says those projects must be distributed to the workers who did the tasks to make that profit.
- Socialism-Specifically Democratic Socialism: The socialist believes that person and/or the corporation, should be taxed and regulated such that his/her wealth is redistributed to those that have less resources. The concept is to allow private ownership of land and businesses, but redistribute the wealth through government run social programs in such a way that all society members get what they need. Essentially, the socialist system is a “classless” system where the resources produced by the private sector are distributed throughout the society so that, in theory, the society is stronger because there are no “weaker” society members. The Democratic Socialist Party of America (from their website) believes working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few.
- Communism: This is where socialism “morphs” into a political system where the government owns and controls the means of production and the property. There is no more privately owned companies or land in communism.
What countries are socialist today? Bangladesh, India, North Korea, Portugal, Sri Lanka and Tanzania. Yep. That’s it. Although some Democrats are touting Sweden and Norway and Finland as being socialist, they are not.
Now that we are back to a high school freshman level in our political civics knowledge, let’s look at how things seem to be leaning in our country and how they might affect our industry.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) recently proclaimed America should shift from a Capitalist system to a Socialist system. Some would dismiss AOC’s views, but if they did, they would be making a mistake. It is her views that are primarily moving the Democratic party far to the left and wide out in the open and unapologetic about those socialist positions. Although AOC is certainly getting the most news, she is not alone in touting the benefits of Socialism vs Capitalism. Bernie Sanders is a Democratic Socialist (as is AOC), and many of the Democratic candidates for President in 2020 are taking positions that demonstrate they are leaning towards a socialist system rather than a capitalist system.
So back to my original pondering-could this country elect a socialist and adopt a socialist economic program? YES. And if that happens, how might that affect our industry? The rest of this “Soapbox” ponders that last question—
Here are some of the programs and taxes socialist candidates are considering as their “platform”:
- Higher tax rates on wealthy individuals-70% to 90% (highest rate is currently around 37%-was 43% in 2017)
- Higher tax rates on corporations-50% to 70% (highest rate is currently around 21%-was 35% in 2017)
- Use the higher tax income to fund lots of programs that have been discussed, including-free college tuition, Medicare for all, housing for all, jobs for all, and money for those that cannot or do not work, pensions for all.
So in the “Green new world”, it won’t matter if you are smarter, harder working, more innovative, and if you have the best clients and the best workers-all Contractors will essentially make the same after tax dollars because if you are better than everyone else, you will simply be taxed at a higher rate to redistribute your wealth. You will not have a choice.
In our world today, if you are better at signing good clients, better at motivating and training your workforce, and better at cost control of your work, you as an owner make more money. You then can choose to give some of that money out to your best workers to reward them or give to community relation projects or organizations that give to those projects to help them out (again-if YOU CHOOSE TO!). If Socialism is in place, you may not be able to give that money out to your best workers or give that money out to Associations or projects that benefit the community because the Government will have programs set up that do the compensation and community benefits without your choosing.
What happens to our company core values? If you pride yourselves in training and being better than the other firms in your area of work, will you still have that as a core value? I do not know the answer to that but would guess the socialist program that is chosen for your workers will not have your opinion considered.
The other thing to consider is that in socialism, the idea is to redistribute the wealth to those that need it most. So if you have the wealth, you can be assured that the government will be trying to get it to hand out to others that you may not want to benefit.
So what options do you have?
If you have wealth, and if you are a hard worker, and if you reward your best producers with the highest pay, and if you do not take advantage of your workforce, you might want to vote for capitalism (even with all of its “warts”). But if you can see your vote is not going to be on the winning side, you may want to choose what many other successful and wealthy folks are doing-move away from the high taxation and protect your assets.
The wealthy are jumping to safety!
Have your parachute packed!
That’s All Folks!
With the recent history of emergencies that Sonoma, Marin, Lake, Mendo, Napa, and Solano Counties have experienced, further strain has been put on our already “stretched” capacity for available men, women, and equipment. Obviously, the fire cleanup was the most memorable applied use of our workforces, but flooding and cleanup is now becoming the “main course”.
Recently, there was an article in the Press Democrat about a house builder buying a concrete company because “he was tired of the delays” in getting concrete to his projects. Within that article, he referenced that he was using surveyors from Grass Valley to do his surveying on his projects. I got to thinking that maybe folks are not aware that we have capacity available here locally to do some of this work that has recently been “farmed out” to outside the area contractors, engineers, and workers. Do we have capacity? I am talking to folks and I hear that yes we do if the projects are scheduled properly.
What goes into the nuts and bolts of “scheduling properly”? Some of the bigger firms may be able to draw additional workers from the union halls, and redeploy equipment from other areas, but many of the mid sized to smaller contractors need to be able to identify their markets, focus on their clients, and get the work done “bookend to bookend” to be extremely efficient.
Sometimes, it is easy to have your business plans “overwhelmed” by the urgency and 24/7 nature of the emergency work. Eventually, this emergency work will go away. Sooner rather than later. I am thinking it is a good time to review your business and marketing schemes and where your work is going to be coming from as well as “fitting” the available crews and equipment you may have at your disposal to do said work.
You all know what your bidding success rate is for private and public work. You are also very capable of fostering the relationships you have now that will lead to some future projects. How good are you at identifying new customers? How efficient is your company methodology for cultivating those new customers? And how good is your firm at retaining existing workers and keeping your equipment fleet available to serve new customers?
These are some of the thoughts rattling around in my head, and I have reached out to two of our ECA Members (Tom Boylan and Don Mills of Boylan Point Agency and Sound Ideas respectively) to assist in putting together a workshop to address this dynamic issue. We plan on presenting both Affiliates and Contractors and Engineers some ideas to focus in on potential clients they want to retain or attract to suit their business plan. Boylan Point is adept at Website design and marketing strategies, and Sound Ideas is an expert on video creation that can attract the attention of clients and make the company morale improve. I am sure there is something for most everyone at this workshop.
We understand how busy everyone is, but we are planning a workshop from 7:30-9am on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. We will have coffee, fruit, pastries, and juice from 7:30-8 and the Workshop will start promptly at 8am. We will do everything we can to get you out of there by 9am.
If you are interested, please contact Mary at your earliest convenience. I think this one might fill up quickly.
That’s All Folks
County Supervisor and Planning Commission Meetings:
Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Meeting:
2-27-19 Meeting was Closed
March 4 was cancelled
March 7 is a Special Meeting to deal with the Emergency Declaration from flooding
Sonoma County Planning Commission Meeting:
Next scheduled meeting is in April
Marin County Board of Supervisor and Planning Commission Meeting:
Nothing of major interest in February
Solano County Board of Supervisors Meeting:
Nothing of interest in the Feb 26 Supervisor Meeting
Solano County Planning Commission Meeting:
Two Items of Importance to ECA Members-
- Item 1 on Regular Consent Calendar for PC-19-013-Timbers Silveyville Tree and Pumpkin Farm improvements on 6229 Silveyville Road NW of Dixon.
- Item 2 on Regular Consent Calendar for PC-19-012 Hubert and Aurelia Goudie and William and Sylvia Marshalones to rezone 15.69 acres to higher density rural residential.
To see both reports, click on the link below-
Napa County Board of Supervisors Meeting:
2-26-19 Meeting, Item 6m discusses emergency slide repair contract with ADKO Engineering and also lists the Budget and the various slide repairs that need to be worked on. To see the item, click on the link below-
Item 6N from same meeting shows storm drain budget and detail. You can review by same link as above.
Item 10b is about the Award to Ghilotti Construction for Devlin Road work and some American Canyon utility work for $4,159,319 (Congrats!). Same link as above.
Napa County Planning Commission Meeting:
Item 7A is about the Kenefick Winery project and that was continued to the regular PC meeting on 3-6-19. To see the info, click on the following link-
Item 7B is the Kenefick Winery Project-click on the link here to see the info-
Item 7C is about the Darms Lane Winery Project and they are approving the negative declaration-to see this item, click on the link following-
Lake County Board of Supervisor Meeting:
Item 5.12 is about the Engineering and Inspection contract for replace/repair Bartlett Creek Bridge and Cache Creek Bridge. To see the item, click on the following link-
Lake County Planning Commission Meeting:
Brelje and Race Engineers are on the agenda to move forward with major water treatment works-to see the item in more detail, click the link below-