WPUSA LeaderNet alums join 500 in watching Obama's inauguration

posted by Working Partnerships USA

Friday, January 23, 2009, at

WPUSA LeaderNet alumni comprised part of a 500 person gathering of elected officials, community leaders and high school students Tuesday to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama. While a continent away from Washington, D.C. the group celebrated the new administration in the Mexican Heritage Plaza Theater.

LeaderNet alumna Teresa Alvarado, executive director of the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley, and Leon Beauchman, board member, Santa Clara County Board of Education, energized the crowd and prepared them for discussions to stimulate local change. The small group discussions allowed people to connect, celebrate a new day for our country and explore how to answer President Obama's call to service.

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Third Time's a Charm!

posted by Deborah Ortiz

Tuesday, November 18, 2008, at

We did it again, and this victory was the sweetest: For the third time in four years the same small group of wealthy, conservative men in Southern California threatened to put teenagers at risk by bank rolling a ballot initiative that would force doctors to inform the parents of frightened teens if they wanted an abortion. The largest turnout of California voters in recent history fired back with a resounding "NO!"

We had some extremely tough challenges this time because the presidential election drew so much more of the electorate - including conservative evangelicals who mostly sat out the last time a parental notification proposition was on the ballot. Also, we worried that our reliable voters who had rejected these measures in the past would be so intent on their presidential vote that they might skip other issues on the ballot.

Didn't happen. They saw through the smokescreen of "mandating" family communication.

Our San Jose-based affiliate led in fundraising and we had a huge boost from labor unions. Planned Parenthood Mar Monte spans 40 counties and for the first time we were able to purchase media buys in the Central Valley and in Spanish language media. Our affiliate also led in the greatest number of phone calls to swing voters and we were joined by our activist friends in labor in our region. We thank you for taking up our fight as your own.

We all understand that parents want their daughter to come to them if she decides to have an abortion. But what if she couldn't or wouldn't? What if a girl doesn't come from a loving, supportive family, and she's desperate enough to do anything to end her pregnancy? This law would put teens in real danger.

The ads urged voters to "think outside their bubble." And that's what they did. We got more peopled to vote no in conservative Fresno County than they did in the last parental-notification initiative.

We'd love to think that we won't have to fight this battle all over again. Unfortunately the wealthy backers have already said they will do this again. The anti-choice zealots have figured out that they don't have to torpedo abortion rights by barring entrances to clinics. All they have to do is force us to spend millions of dollars and staff resources to battle the same losing proposition over and over again. It's not democracy, not the will of the people. It's just taking funding away from providing legally protected and essential medical services for contraception, primary care and prenatal care.

Our opponents know that if a large pro-choice state like California adopts a parental-notification law it will lead to even more onerous laws in other states. Their goal is to make abortion illegal and put Planned Parenthood out of business. We're confident that with your help and other progressive organizations, we can continue to protect California teenagers and reproductive rights.

Deborah Ortiz
Vice President, Planned Parenthood, Mar Monte


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Reflections on Election Day

posted by Wiggsy Sivertsen

Monday, November 10, 2008, at

An election mixed with great joy and deep sadness. Hard not to be confused by these colliding emotions. On the one hand I want to dance in the streets for joy, not only for "President Obama," but also for us as a nation to have the capacity to "do the right thing." However, with all this joy comes much sadness because of the loss of Proposition 8, the anti-Gay Marriage Initiative.

It is exceedingly hard to realize that we spent 80+ million dollars to campaign for the right to deny or protect a significant number of California's citizens equality. What is more difficult is the realization that this campaign was a religious crusade against the lesbian and gay community led by the Vatican, the Mormon Church and the Religious Right. This fact is perhaps the most frightening and dangerous aspect of this battle. The idea that a vast number of Californians willingly participated in this "crusade" opens the door to the erosion of the line between church and state. Preachers using the Sunday pulpit to command their members to vote for or against Prop. 8. The voice of the Vatican leveraging its power against priests and nuns who openly disagreed with the initiative and were summarily dismissed from their parish positions for disobedience to the Pope.

Add to this the inability of the many of the African American and Latino/a communities to see beyond their own biases, instead voting in significant numbers to support the institutionalization of discrimination in the California State Constitution. It is clear that these communities do not acknowledge the vast numbers of gay, lesbian, bi, and transgendered children within their own communities. It is also clear, that we in the GLBT community need to work harder to make room for the many African American and Latino/a members in our community and encourage them to take visible leadership roles.

However, in all of this, there were significant positive gains for the lesbian, gay, bi and trans community. Here in Santa Clara County there was a great demonstration of the friendship and support from our "straight" allies in the Democratic Party, the Labor Movement and regular citizens who campaigned as ardently as we did to defeat this Christian Crusade. It was evident that there were many who truly believe that the GLBT community deserves to be treated as equal citizens and have all the privileges that all citizens in the state of Californians enjoy. It was also clear that the notion of placing discrimination in the California State Constitution is a dangerous precedent that could, in the future, be used against other communities and therefore, needed to be stopped.

But beyond the oblivious political issues in this campaign there were many personal stories. The most heartwarming of these stories was the genuine sadness and disappointment in the hearts of our "straight" allies. The past several years of working together on a variety of issues resulted in the most personal and valuable of all gains. That is the blending of our many communities together as one, fighting side by side to create a better world for everyone.

On June 23, 1994, at a press conference for the introduction of ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) Coretta Scott King said the following: "The great promise of American democracy is that no group of people will be forced to suffer discrimination and injustice." We will continue this fight.

One way or another we will win the right to marry the person we love.


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How Measure A happened...

posted by Chris Wilder

Wednesday, November 5, 2008, at

To the voters of Santa Clara County: THANK YOU for saving Valley Medical Center!

Measure A passed by a whopping 78% - way beyond our wildest expectations. Now, we get to work building a new hospital, letting the public know how it's going every step of the way.

Here's a bit about how it was done: The Measure A campaign really began before there was any Measure A…with a little public opinion polling. The results, obtained in early May, told us that we couldn't expect to win unless we educated voters about Valley Medical Center. Specifically, they had to know about our trauma services, burn center, and that no matter where you go for health care, you or someone you love might need VMC at any time. So, we turned these messages that resonated so well in the polling into the ballot statement, and ultimately, into the "argument in favor of Measure A."

Obviously, getting the message out takes money and endorsements. We had a great team, led by Elizabeth Nielsen and Public Affairs Associates, to line up the support as quickly as we could. Every hospital in the region, pretty much every elected official in the valley, business and labor...everyone got on board quickly to support Measure A.

A little over a million dollars was raised, and we are so grateful for everyone who gave. Medical centers, trades, doctors and nurses…all opened their hearts and their wallets to ensure we could keep our TV commercials on the air and our mailings reaching voters' mailboxes. The stories we told of lives saved by Valley Medical Center, and the big picture about seismic safety and disaster preparedness, really hit home. The final message was key: If you are worried about the economy, Measure A is a great economic stimulator. Thousands of jobs created, vs. thousands of hospital jobs lost if VMC had to shut down half of its patient beds.

Put it all together, add a top-notch field campaign by the South Bay Labor Council, remembering that we faced NO opposition, and perhaps it shouldn't have shocked us that we won by a mile. Still, conventional wisdom is that bond measures are tough to pass county-wide, especially when everyone is freaked out about the economy. It's now clear that, to the voters of Santa Clara County, preserving a strong public hospital is more important than any worries about Wall Street. Doesn't that sound like a healthy attitude?

With deep gratitude,
Chris Wilder


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The Significance of November 4th

Last night America, true to tradition, jolted itself from the destructive path of the last eight years onto a new course. An African-American candidate with a simple message of unity and change won even the state of Virginia, seat of the Confederacy. It was a remarkable and resounding statement for diversity, innovation and a new direction for our country.

The evening held significance for Californians and residents of the South Bay on other levels as well. California was divided in fascinating ways, supporting the ethical treatment of animals while approving a Constitutional amendment that codifies bigotry. We rejected an attempt to scale back the right to choose, while approving a change in how Senate and Assembly district lines are drawn. In Santa Clara County, voters overwhelmingly approved critical funding for Valley Medical Center, while rejecting additional funding to bring BART to our area.

Each of these decisions, to some segment of our community, is as important as the election of Barack Obama was to our country. The passage of Prop 8 is a heavy blow to same-sex couples and advocates. The passage of Measure A is a sigh of relief to doctors and patients at Valley Medical Center. In every election, every contest, a few have a major stake in its outcome - but many, or most, have at least some. The success of Barack Obama is that principle writ large: Obama succeeded, in large part, because he made millions of Americans, many who'd never voted before, understand the major stakes of his candidacy.

Over the course of the next few days, the Working Partnerships blog will host a number of community leaders and experts who will share what stakes they and their communities held in the various items on last night's ballot. We'll look at what the results mean, and how winners and losers will move forward toward the goals they seek.

In any election, not everyone emerges happy with the result. But that our nation and our communities are able to reasonably discuss and decide on issues around which there is so much passion is a testament to the uniqueness of our nation, and our general willingness to put the common interest first.


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Silicon Valley Jobs Report: Job growth down, foreclosures up

posted by Louise Auerhahn

Friday, July 18, 2008, at

Just a quick note on recent data releases. Despite the recent spate of glowing stories about how Silicon Valley titans are still living large, we're not out of the woods yet.

For the San Jose metro area, job growth in June plunged to an anemic 0.1% annual rate, with only 900 jobs added over the year. Today's employment report from the state reveals that Silicon Valley added jobs at its lowest rate since September 2004.

Unemployment in Silicon Valley broke the 6 percent mark, climbing to 6.1% in June.

And regarding the housing market, memo to Business Week: no, Silicon Valley is not a "foreclosure-free zone". If only.

In the second quarter of 2008, 3,679 Santa Clara County homeowners received notices of default, the first step in the foreclosure process (source: foreclosureS.com). This was the highest foreclosure activity on record and a 513% increase over Q2 of 2006.

Not surprisingly, home prices and sales continue to fall, with heavy impacts on jobs in construction as well as in finance and real estate.

Coming in August: Life in the Valley Economy 2008: Silicon Valley Progress Report, with sections on jobs, income, cost of living, health care, housing, education and more. Contact WPUSA to reserve a copy, or download last year's reports, LIVE 2007 (pdf) and the LIVE Labor Day Update (pdf).

Highlights of the local jobs report:

  • Compared to the previous month, the San Jose metro area added 2,300 non-farm jobs in June. These included 1,000 jobs in manufacturing, 900 jobs in leisure and hospitality; 500 jobs in trade, transportation and utilities, which includes retail; 500 jobs in the information sector; and 400 jobs in "other services", all in personal and laundry services. 600 jobs were lost in professional and business services due to reduced employment of accountants and bookkeepers, along with 400 jobs lost in educational and health services as the school year ended. Remaining sectors showed little or no change.

  • Over the year, the San Jose metro area added just 900 non-farm jobs, a 0.1% increase from June 2007.

    • Sectors registering year-over-year job gains included manufacturing (+1,800 jobs), private educational & health services (+1,200 jobs), professional and business services (+500 jobs), information (+1,000 jobs), trade, transportation & utilities, which includes retail (+700 jobs), other services (+600 jobs) and government (+800 jobs).

    • The construction sector remained weak, as housing markets showed few signs of stopping their downward plunge. The construction industry saw a decrease of 2,700 jobs over the year. Also tied to the housing crash and related credit crunch, the financial activities sector lost 1,100 jobs over the year.

    • The region also lost 1,900 jobs over the year in leisure & hospitality, including losses for restaurants and for arts, entertainment and recreation.

  • For June 2008, the unemployment rate stood at 6.1%, up half a percentage point from May and up 1.3 points over the year. That translates to 12,200 more unemployed residents (by official measures) than in June 2007.

  • Eight years after the tech crash, Silicon Valley holds 135,600 fewer jobs than it did in June 2000.

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Silicon Valley Jobs Report: No recession in the Valley, but job growth falls to lowest point in three years

posted by Louise Auerhahn

Wednesday, June 25, 2008, at

Quote of the week from the City of San Jose's chief development officer Paul Krutko: "So far, we [San Jose] don't seem to be impacted by the recession."

It's true that the capital of Silicon Valley has yet to experience the severe job losses plaguing some regions of the country. But "not impacted by the recession"? Try telling that to the 5,000+ households facing foreclosure, or the construction workers who've watched 1,300 jobs slip away in the last year, or pretty much everyone who's seeing their real wages eaten up by inflation in gas and food prices. Earlier this month, Mercury News columnist Mike Cassidy talked to a few of these folks and got an earful about the impacts of the "Big Squeeze of '08." (Continued...)

Friday's employment report for the San Jose area underscored this squeeze, with annual job growth for May dropping to just 0.7% -- the lowest level since June of 2005. Unemployment took a leap from 5.2% last month to 5.6% this month, well above the May 2007 rate of 4.4%.

The good news (so to speak) is that we're not doing as badly as much of the rest of the state. While the San Jose region has higher unemployment that neighboring areas San Mateo and San Francisco, our unemployment is considerably less than the statewide rate, which in May reached 6.5%. And even though the state as a whole lost jobs last month, the San Jose region added 4,200 nonfarm positions in May. (Some of this, though, may be an adjustment from last month's data, which showed the region losing 100 jobs in April.)

Part of the reason why the Valley is not losing jobs may be that we've already lost them. Most of the jobs that vanished in the wake of the 2001 crash have yet to return.

Highlights of the local jobs report:
  • Compared to the previous month, the San Jose metro area added 4,200 non-farm jobs in May. These included 1,400 jobs in leisure and hospitality, predominantly at restaurants; 900 jobs in professional and business services; 700 jobs in educational and health services; and 500 jobs in construction. Remaining sectors showed little or no change.

  • Over the year, the San Jose metro area added 6,700 non-farm jobs, a 0.7% increase from May 2007.

    • The biggest year-over-year gains were in manufacturing (+2,700 jobs), private educational & health services (+2,200 jobs), professional and business services (+1,600 jobs), information (+1,300 jobs), trade, transportation & utilities, which includes retail (+1,100 jobs), and government (+300 jobs).

    • The construction and financial activities sectors continued to lose jobs due to the housing market crash and credit crunch. The construction industry saw a decrease of 1,300 jobs over the year, and financial activities lost 1,100 jobs. The region also lost 600 jobs over the year in leisure & hospitality.

  • For May 2008, the unemployment rate stood at 5.6%, up 0.4 percentage points from April and up 1.2 points over the year. That translates to 11,800 more unemployed residents (by official measures) than in May 2007.

  • Seven years after the tech crash, Silicon Valley holds 124,400 fewer jobs than it did in May 2001.

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