Code Red Housing Emergency

Every day the view from my office window changes. I am watching a 90-unit apartment building be constructed a few hundred feet away, and each new story raises my spirits.  In the aftermath of the fires, which destroyed six to seven per cent of Sonoma’s housing, we should all want to see new workforce housing.  Sonoma County’s housing deficit before the fires was at a critical level.  With the loss of thousand of homes, that crisis is now Code Red.

It is time to treat the need for housing as the emergency it is.  Nothing will work in Sonoma County without more housing.  LOTS more housing. Every city and the county should be pulling out all the stops to create housing, both for the immediate need to replace lost housing and for the ongoing need for more housing for the new workers coming to fill jobs Sonoma County companies are creating. This is the time to break down barriers, do workarounds, be creative and get it done.  And this problem isn’t just for the fire-impacted areas to solve.  All jurisdictions and all residents should be committed to adding housing wherever possible.  Housing is the ultimate solution to a better tomorrow.

Without LOTS of new housing, Sonoma County faces a bleak future.  Housing is the key to making all of the parts that shape the future come together.  If we want a strong economy, we need skilled workers to fill the jobs created by local companies.  Those workers won’t come, or stay, here if they can’t afford to live here.  Without LOTS of new housing, prices will continue to rise, pricing everyone but the top earners out of the market.  The only way to get prices down is to increase the supply.  We need LOTS more housing to do that.

More housing is also necessary to shore up all the other components of what makes a future bright: displaced families are emptying preschools and classrooms, reducing those facilities’ ability to have the critical mass they need to stay fiscally sound.  First responders are not able to live near the people and property they are sworn to protect.  The workers needed to rebuild what was destroyed lack temporary housing to do their jobs.  We need LOTS more housing to have a strong safety net for our community.

Now is the time to raise our expectations of what we want our elected officials to do.  Everyone needs to come off the bench and get in the housing game.  It is job one.  Every city and county should have “What more could we be doing to create housing?” on their weekly agenda.  Every bit of red tape should be cut and staff should be rewarded for expediting housing projects.  If there are barriers, they should be removed.  Each new home is a victory over disaster and a step away from worsening the devastation and lengthening the recovery.

Beyond delays in getting projects approved, factors like high permitting fees, high costs of construction materials and labor, hard to get construction loans and more, make it difficult to make projects pencil.  Now is the time to bring the cities and the county, bankers, foundations, builders and nonprofit housing providers together to see how to clear the way for housing projects to start construction. The City can speed up approvals, waive or defer fees; apply for funds from the Fire Relief efforts to help cover costs; or see if Community Reinvestment Act funds can be provided.

Councilmembers Healy, Miller and Kearny have an agenda request that, if adopted, would further push new housing along.  Let’s support them in looking at strategies to get projects Deemed Complete faster, to loosen restrictions on days and hours allowed for construction, expedite approvals and other ways the City could show that new housing is a top priority.  We are squandering our future by delaying construction.

The City can offer reduced permitting fees, remove hookup fees, and other incentives to spur creating more accessory units, Carving out a rental unit in a home where all the bedrooms aren’t being used, provides rental income to the homeowner and an affordable unit to a renter who likely works in the community.  If just a fraction of Sonoma County homeowners chose to do this, we could quickly add thousands of new rental units.

Many public agencies have land that could be used to build more housing.  Each city, school district and the county should look at what land they own that could be used for housing.  All pubic assets should be considered to help get the housing we need.  Casa Grande looked at housing before, let’s help them look at putting housing on their surplus property now. Let’s also look at temporary housing on the Fairgrounds for the construction workers we need to rebuild.

The lack of housing impacts everyone who lives or works in Sonoma County. And the impacts of failing to build housing will hurt the economic competitiveness, community fabric, quality of life, and resiliency of this county.  To get out of Code Red status, more housing – LOTS of it — is key.

-Published in the Argus Courier

Community Makes Us Strong

There are so many lessons to learn from the fires but one of the key ones is the importance of community and the relationships that form a community.  It was remarkable to hear how many people didn’t know their neighbors, but thank them now for saving their lives.  People rose to the occasion of helping others – the community wrapped around all in need.  People opened their homes to refugees, opened their wallets to the fire relief funds, and opened their hearts to all who lost loved ones and property.

We need each other.  We depended on each other to get through the disaster and we need each other now to get through the recovery.  We are in this together. We will get to be a better community if we continue to feel connected and responsible for each other.  It is a great lesson that while we lead busy lives and spend more time on our phones and watching TV, when help was needed, it was our neighbors who were there for us.  Facebook may make us feel connected, but nothing beats a person who wakes us up to escape a fire, gives a hug or wipes away a tear.  We are social animals who need proximity to other people.  We rely on knowing that there are people nearby we can count on.  When the fires hit, we came together as a community – nothing is better than that.

Already we can sense that people are starting to lose some of that close knit feeling we felt.  Why is that?  Is there a way we can sustain feeling connected?  That we all belong to something bigger than ourselves?  Yes, there are ways to build community that strengthen the sense of belonging.  But first let’s understand what forces are making that harder to do.

In today’s world, it is not unusual that neighbors don’t know each other.  According to Joshua Foust, in Americans don’t know their neighbors anymore—and that’s bad for the future of democracy (Link) “In 2000, Harvard public policy professor Robert Putnam published Bowling Alone, a study of the decline of trust in American communities. Putnam documented how, since World War II, Americans have slowly become more and more disconnected from the traditional civic institutions of American life—things like local government meetings, church services, voter participation, and union membership. Putnam argued that technology, namely, television and the (still early) World Wide Web, was “individualizing” leisure time, thus cracking the traditional social bonds that held society together.”

Foust says, “Indeed, Pew surveys over the last decade suggest that every year Americans know less and less about their neighbors—a large change from 30 years ago, when most people in most communities at least knew the names of those who lived nearby.”

In Why Won’t You Be My Neighbor? by Linda Poon (CItyLab, Link) the author says “few Americans today say they know their neighbors’ names, and far fewer report interacting with them on a daily basis. Pulling data from the General Social Survey, economist Joe Cortright wrote in a recent City Observatory report that only about 20 percent of Americans spent time regularly with the people living next to them. A third said they’ve never interacted with their neighbors. That’s a significant decline from four decades ago, when a third of Americans hung out with their neighbors at least twice a week, and only a quarter reported no interaction at all.”

Poon says, “In a separate 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center, researchers found that 43 percent of Americans know most or all of their neighbors. But nearly a third said they know none by name. ‘There used to be this necessity to reach out and build bonds with people who lived nearby,’ says Marc Dunkelman, a public policy fellow at Brown University who studied the shift in American communities for his 2014 book The Vanishing Neighbor. That was particularly true in the 1920s through the 1960s, when social tension ran high due to issues like the Great Depression and the Cuban Missile Crisis. ‘There was this sort of cohort effect, in which people … were more inclined in many cases to find security that existed in neighborhoods,’ he says. ‘They depended on one another much more.’”

We know from our experience from the fires, we are dependent on each other.  This is a wakeup call to build relationships with those neighbors, to become more engaged in our neighborhoods and towns.  To become resilient, we must first understand that this is only possible if we do it together.

Marin’s ‘housing crisis on steroids’ focus of San Rafael forum

Former county supervisor Cynthia Murray kicked off a discussion on housing affordability in Marin with one question.

“Spoiler alert,” said Murray, now CEO of the North Bay Leadership Council. “How do people make ends meet in Marin? They don’t.”

Murray, speaking before the Marin Communications Forum on Monday, said the recent North Bay fires will worsen Marin’s longstanding affordable housing crisis. Robert Eyler, the chief economist of the Marin Economic Forum, and Robin Sternberg, the forum’s CEO, also addressed the housing issue and talked about the impact that housing ownership has on racial equity in Marin.

About 150 people turned out for the morning meeting at the Embassy Suites hotel in San Rafael. The Marin Communications Forum is a group of communications staffers from local agencies, organizations and service providers in Marin County.

“The housing that was lost in the North Bay is equal to all of the housing that has been built in the North Bay in the last few years,” Murray said. “We’ve had a housing crisis for decades. So now with the loss of 6 percent to 7 percent of the housing stock there we now have a housing crisis on steroids. This is a wake-up call. We have an emergency.”

She said the lost housing will likely inflate housing prices and rents in Marin further.

Murray said some 7,000 workers were displaced by the fires and there is no guarantee they will remain in the area.

“We’ve seen a big impact on our health care workers, our teachers, people who work as public employees, our child care workers and preschool teachers,” Murray said.

She said a worker shortage could become a serious issue for Marin, since about 60 percent of the county’s employees commute to work from outside the county daily.

“It is already increasingly hard to fill positions in Marin County,” Murray said.

She offered a number of prescriptions for the problem. She said changes in the California Environmental Quality Act need to be made to prevent its use as a “hammer” to squash project proposals. She said the county of Marin should explore ways to provide more funding for housing construction. She said more attention should be given to mixed-use projects and the creation of junior accessory and accessory units.

But, Murray said, perhaps most importantly, Marin needs “to develop the political will to approve more housing.”

“We have to accept that the only way to reduce the cost of housing is to build more housing,” Murray said. “The prices will always go up if the demand is more than the supply. We have been under-building for decades.”

To build political support for housing, Murray said she and others have formed the Housing Crisis Action Group.

“We have a rapid response team to go out and support projects and write letters and show up at hearings,” she said.

In addition to Murray, the organization’s steering committee consists of Diana Conti, president of the College of Marin Board of Trustees; Linda Jackson, a board member of Sustainable San Rafael and a former Transportation Authority of Marin planner; Robert Pendoley, a member of the Marin Interfaith Council and former Corte Madera planning director; and Kris Organ, former executive director of Service Employees International Union Local 949 that represents most Marin County Civic Center employees.

Sternberg, who became CEO of the Marin Economic Forum in August, said a report released last month showing that Marin is the most racially unequal county in California “set off alarms” for her.

The report produced by Advancement Project California, a Los Angeles-based civil rights organization, rated counties across seven categories. Marin’s poorest performance came in the housing category, where it also ranked first in racial inequity.

For example, 62.6 percent of whites in Marin own their own home, compared with 59.8 percent of Asians, 27.7 percent of African-Americans, 26.4 percent of Latinos and 8.5 percent of Native Americans.

“I feel this is posing the question to all of us: Are we going to continue to accept the status quo? I hope not,” Sternberg said.

Eyler, however, said the aims of housing everyone and increasing equity may be at cross purposes to some degree.

For example, both Eyler and Murray agreed that probably the biggest immediate impact on the housing crisis could be the proliferation of junior accessory and accessory units.

“They are probably the best play in the short term,” Eyler said.

But Eyler cautioned that these units, usually created by turning a spare bedroom into an autonomous living space, would be strictly rentals.

“There are generally benefits to home ownership,” Eyler said. “One of them is that you are building wealth.”

As a result, he said providing more rental housing in Marin would do little to close the gap in racial economic equity.

Eyler said raising education levels is a good way to increase incomes so people can afford more expensive housing and build equity. He cautioned, however, that in today’s world education needs to emphasize the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, if it is be expected to pay economic dividends.

Link to article: Here

Video of the conference: Here

North Bay Crisis Raises Need for Workforce Housing

Our hearts go out to the residents and business owners who have suffered in the counties to north of Marin from the horrific fires.

As leaders of the San Rafael Chamber and North Bay Leadership Council, we are proud that our members are actively working to help the North Bay recovery. And while those efforts to provide funding, resources and personnel are important, they won’t mitigate the bigger problem facing Marin County.

We got a big dose of reality of what happens when key parts of our workforce who are unable to live where they work, then become unable to live anywhere near where they work.

Over 5,200 structures have been destroyed in Sonoma County, displacing thousands of families. And who makes up those families? Marin’s teachers, first-responders, hospitals’ staffs, in-home health care workers and other essential employees.

Since 60 percent of Marin’s workforce commutes in from other counties, most employers will feel the effects of the dwindling pool of workers.

As will their customers.

The housing crisis in Marin was already making it increasingly hard to fill vacant positions. The disaster in the North Bay will now make filling those openings even more difficult as affordable and workforce housing shrinks in supply.

The displaced workers will not be able to live within range of their current jobs and will be forced to relocate to where housing is available.

Now is the time for Marin to build more housing in order to offer employees the ability to live in the county in which they work, otherwise it will have steep repercussions.

Businesses can’t thrive if they don’t have the workforce they need. Many will pack up and leave just as their employees are being forced to do.

We must recognize why so many live outside of Marin — the housing costs are simply out of reach for the average worker. It’s even out of reach for two-income families.

And we can now see, every day since the fires, the price we all pay for this. We cannot operate without all of these essential workers here, to keep our economy healthy, to keep our schools running, to keep our streets, parks and other facilities operating.

This is a wake-up call for a different kind of emergency — the need for more workforce housing in Marin. It is time to say “yes” to more housing in Marin.

Please join us by becoming a member of the Housing Crisis Action Group. Let’s encourage more accessory and junior accessory units in our neighborhoods.

Let’s support new housing development that meets community standards. Let’s welcome our workforce home.

Sonoma County EDB Fire Recovery Business Resources

FIRE RECOVERY BUSINESS RESOURCES

AFFECTED BUSINESSES – RESOURCES

• Insurance California Department of Insurance – Assistance with filing claims

• Property Taxes Sonoma County Assessor – Property tax reassessment due to misfortune or calamity

• Tax Credits Franchise Tax Board – Info on deducting disaster losses.
Board of Equalization – Manufacturing and R&D sales and use tax exemptions for equipment

• Financing California IBank – Low interest and state-guaranteed business loans.
CalCap – Small business and state-guaranteed loans.
Working Solutions Small business micro-loans

• Relocation/Rebuilding GoBiz Business Investment Services – Site consultation and business incentives for relocation

• Workforce Resources Sonoma County Job Link – Job matching for dislocated workers, workshops, and more.

• Financial Assistance for self-employed and jobless workers – Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA)

See here – our most updated fire recovery business information

EMPLOYEES – RESOURCES

Sonoma County Job Link’s Business Services Team is assembling resources to help employees of businesses affected by the fires who need to:

• Apply for unemployment benefits and COBRA coverage
• Looking for new job opportunities with other local employers

Anyone interested in accessing these critical services should call the Business Services Team at (707) 565-8079, or access their website at https://sonomawib.org/.

EMPLOYERS – JOB POSTING

The Sonoma County Workforce Investment Board provides a form to post a job order on the Statewide Job Board, located at CalJOBS.ca.gov.

The link for this is here: https://sonomawib.org/post-a-job/

HELPFUL INFORMATION

Sonoma County Tourism has great information covering:
• Road Conditions
• Evacuation Information
• Cal Fire Updates
• Donations
• Hotel availability
• Accommodation Booking Sites
• Available lodging for Fire Evacuees and Work Crews in Sonoma County
• Airbnb – free housing for evacuees and home owners
• HomeAway- housing for evacuees
• Mighway – RV’s for displaced residents in Northern California
• Businesses currently open in Sonoma County
• Businesses currently closed in Sonoma County
• Updates from Sonoma COunty Airport

Air Quality – see here

Map Box : Recent aerial images of fire damage in the City of Santa Rosa – see here

County Information – see here

North Bay Fire Recovery Checklist

For everyone who lost their home.  This is so helpful!

Please share!!

A friend who lost their home in a fire has provided this action plan for those who have recently lost their homes…

Start with the small list:

1. Get a PO Box

2. Longer term rental search – include insurance on it so they pay directly for rental. Find a nice place that you like, don’t settle.  You should be able to get a “Like Property” so insurance should cover a nice place for you to live while you work through all this.  You might be living here for 2 years, so choose wisely.

3. Find a place to buy some sturdy boots and gloves.  Get some shovels.

4. Start working on the personal property list (this is not fun at all, be prepared to cry we sure did).  Write down the moment you remember – keep list on phone or pad of paper with you at all times.

5.  Save receipts.  Loss of use insurance will cover incidentals too – hairbrush, phone chargers, etc.

6.  As you buy things, tell the store owner your situation.  Most stores will give you some level of discount as their way of helping you.

7.  Let people do things for you.  Do you have a friend that you can send to the store to buy you some basic clothes or comfort foods?  Let them do it – they want to help and you don’t need to spend time doing these errands.   (The ‘fun’ of shopping is gone…it quickly becomes a chore because you don’t want a new shirt, you want the one that you always liked to wear but now it’s gone and you are sad/mad.)

The Big List:

1.    Register at the shelters, with Red Cross and any other agency there, california FEMA, etc.
a.    Most of the aid coming in will use these lists as a point of contact and will help to ensure that you don’t get left out of anything.
b.    This will be especially important should FEMA be activated, which in my opinion is very likely with the amount of devastation experienced.
2.    Call Homeowners/Rental insurance to trigger “Loss of Use”
.      This typically will allow you to be in a “Like” property for x number of years and sometimes has a dollar limit attached and sometimes not, this is dependent on your policy.
a.    This coverage should also give you some immediate access to funds for essentials, clothes, toothbrushes, food, etc.
b.    This will also get the ball rolling for the insurance claim on your home and rebuilding/personal property Dollars.
3.    Get a PO Box and forward all mail to the Box.
.      Use this PO Box as the mailing address on all forms you begin to fill out.
4.    Start Searching for a Long term rental.
.      Coordinate with your insurance company so that payments can be made directly from them using your “Loss of Use” money.
a.    Plan on renting 1-2 years, but do not necessarily sign a lease for a full two years as circumstances can change.
5.    Itemized List of belongings – (This is very hard but very necessary for your claim)
.      I would organize by room and list everything that was there with a replacement cost. (you will cry a lot doing this and that is ok)
a.    Replacement Cost should be what it would cost to replace not on sale from pottery barn, it should not be the price you paid for it with that 50% off coupon.
b.    Make sure you list everything, even if it is above and beyond your policy limit.  This is very important because everything above and beyond the policy limit is considered a Loss and can be claimed as such on your taxes – See #9
6.    Call all of your utilities and either freeze or cancel service.
.      Electric, Gas, TV, Land Line phone
a.    Newspaper delivery, either cancel or update to PO Box.
7.    Call the rest of your insurance points as needed.
.      Car insurance
a.    Any specialty insurance for unique items
8.    Permits – An unfortunate necessity.
.      Debris Removal – as things wind down it will be necessary to remove the debris, this requires a permit usually. (This should be covered by your insurance, we had to force the issue but ask repeatedly.)
a.    Erosion Control – If you are on any kind of hill or have sloped property you will need to put some sort of erosion control measures in place, again this will need some sort of permit.
b.    Temporary Power Pole/Trailer on site Permit – Getting this earlier on can prove helpful in both the rebuilding process.
9.    Taxes
.      You will be able to claim the monetary loss of the value of all your items minus what you receive from your insurance company.  I’m unfamiliar with the exact laws, but I believe that we were able to carry our losses back 2-5 years and received most of the money that we had paid in taxes back in a nice large check.
10.  Network with others.  You will learn so much from others as you go through the rebuilding process.  We all have our strengths so share yours and use others.  The amount of time that you will spend on the rebuild, insurance, recovery process is staggering so you need to use all your resources.Please share!!

North Bay Fire: Where to Get Help and Where to Give Help

NBLC grieves the devastation of our region.  The fires have touched all of us.  We mourn the lives lost, the homes destroyed, the businesses ruined, and the impact on the North Bay’s flora and fauna.  We want to help those who have lost their homes, jobs and/or businesses recover as quickly as possible.  NBLC looks forward to partnering with other leaders on the recovery and finding ways to heal the damage wreaked by this catastrophe.

To begin the recovery, we are offering two types of information.  The first is where people can go for help for housing.  Given the housing crisis before the fire, NBLC expects housing to be one of our biggest challenges in this recovery.  The second is a list of ways YOU can help.  The North Bay is a caring community – working together, we will take care of our own.

Be safe!  At this writing there are 670 missing people.  With communications spotty, many are anxious to hear from loved ones and colleagues.  Please Register Yourself as “Safe and Well”, or search for loved ones at safeandwell.org.  NBLC sends its deepest appreciation to all of the first responders who are saving lives under terrible duress.

Need Housing Help?

Sonoma Raceway Opens 50 Acres Campground to Evacuees

SONOMA, Calif. (Oct. 10, 2017) – Sonoma Raceway opened its 50 Acres campground to evacuees seeking temporary refuge from the Northern California fires.

The raceway, which is equipped to handle up to 2,000 campers during its major event weekends,  opened its largest campground to evacuees in RVs Tuesday afternoon. The 50 Acres campground is located directly across from the raceway on Highway 121 and has not been affected by the fires.

Those in need of RV camping at Sonoma Raceway should enter the campground at Gate 6 on Highway 121, a quarter-mile north of Hwy 37. The raceway will team up with United Site Services to offer basic RV services, including water/sewage service, to campers during their stay. The campground is dry with no hookups.

For on-site assistance or directions, visit the Sonoma Raceway main office or front gate at 29355 Arnold Dr. in Sonoma. For more information, contact Sonoma Raceway at 800-870-7223 or email sonomaraceway@sonomaraceway.com.

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Airbnb has launched its Open Homes program for those seeking shelter free-of-charge at a residence outside of but near the affected area. The company is also looking for those willing to volunteer space at their local home for evacuees.

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Persons willing to host an evacuated individual or family in your home for a few days, few weeks or few months may contact the Petaluma People’s Services Center SHARE Sonoma County at SHAREfire@petalumapeople.org. An information sheet and application will be sent to you.

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The Permit Sonoma Planning Division and the Sonoma County Community Development Commission have joined together to offer housing resource assistance for people who have been displaced by the wildfires in unincorporated Sonoma County. We will be providing information about disaster-related housing opportunities and upcoming ordinance changes. Link

Want to Help?

We hear from local relief agencies that cash donations are their primary need.  Most have sufficient supplies right now for the people they are helping.  Exceptions are noted below.

DONATE:

Sunny Hills Services:

The incredible devastation due to the fires that hit Sonoma and Napa counties has affected tens of thousands in our community. The evacuations and loss of homes and businesses are crushing tragedies for anyone to deal with.  Sadly, among those who lost their homes were some of Sunny Hills clients. The young people that we serve already face difficult challenges in their day-to-day lives and the uncertainties and loss from the fires are additional hurdles that they didn’t need.

Could you also lend a helping hand?  A donation to Sunny Hills today will enable us to provide additional counseling services, as well as help fund any immediate needs our clients and staff might have. It’s times like these when standing together is so important.Our Sonoma County staff will be helping to link our clients to the resources that they need to start putting their lives back together. And we’ll also be there to provide extra counseling as they confront the destructive impact of the fires.

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United Way:

All gifts made through our website will be directed to area fire relief and recovery efforts until further notice. https://uwwc.upicsolutions.org/ecommunity/comm/SinglePageRegPledge.jsp

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Sonoma County Resilience Fund at the Community Foundation of Sonoma County:

After the frenzy and chaos of a devastating disaster like this one passes, the long road to recovery and rebuilding begins—and it is here that philanthropy can play a distinct and critical role. With our deep relationships with local nonprofits, government officials, and community leaders, community foundations are often in the best position to hold funds, make grants, and support our communities.

In recognition of our critical role, Community Foundation Sonoma County has launched the Sonoma County Resilience Fund to address the mid to long-term needs of our community. Learn more about the purpose of the Resilience Fund.

http://www.sonomacf.org/sonoma-county-resilience-fund/

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North Bay Fire Relief Fund:

The Press Democrat has again partnered with Redwood Credit Union, Senator Mike McGuire and numerous business leaders to raise funds to directly help fire victims. We have lost hundreds of homes, dozens of businesses along with thousands of jobs. Every donated dollar will go directly to fire victims – all costs will be covered. To donate, https://www.redwoodcu.org/northbayfirerelief

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PPSC SHARE needs your help. We are processing background checks on all our Shares and we are outspending our budget. Each background check is $10.00 so even a little bit helps. You can donate online www.petalumapeople.org and identify the donation as Share Fire.

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Donate to local animal shelters, which are helping people keep their pets safe. Humane Society of Sonoma County: sonomahumane.org, Humane Society of Napa County: napahumane.org, and Yuba-Sutter SPCA: yubasutterspca.org.

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Make a a cash donation by texting “Red Cross” to 90999 or visiting www.redcross.org.

VOLUNTEER

The Red Cross is in immediate need of volunteers to assist evacuees. To volunteer, sign up at www.redcross.org.

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Interested volunteers may also contact the County Office of Emergency Services at 565-3856.

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The Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership has also been called in to help. If you wish to donate or volunteer, you can register on their website at https://cvnl.org.

FOOD DONATIONS

Food donations need to be packaged. No homemade food can be accepted.

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Food pantries of Sonoma County, various locations, sonoma.networkofcare.org

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Food pantries of Napa County, various locations, foodpantries.org

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The Salvation Army at 721 South McDowell Blvd. in Petaluma is welcoming ready-to-eat, non-perishable food donations. They are also in need of volunteers. Call them between 9 am and 5 pm at 769-0716.

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The Redwood Empire Food Bank in Santa Rosa is accepting packaged, ready-to-eat, non-perishable food donations at 3990 Brickway Blvd., Santa Rosa. Cash donations are also welcome. 100 percent of your gift will be used in support of the relief efforts. Their website: www.refb.org.

NBLC Endorses Denise Athas for Novato City Council

NBLC is proud to endorse Denise Athas for the Novato City Council.  Athas has served ably for two terms and earned a third term in office.  She has proven that she is balanced, not afraid to tackle the tough issues and a champion for good government.  We appreciate Athas’ commitment to bringing jobs and workforce housing to Novato and look forward to seeing her build on her accomplishments in her next term.

Please remember to vote on November 7th!

Link to Website: http://deniseathasnovato.com/

Exchange Bank Joins NBLC

North Bay Leadership Council (NBLC) announces that Exchange Bank is its newest member.  Headquartered in Sonoma County, and founded in 1890 with assets of $2.2 billion, Exchange Bank is a premier community bank providing a wide range of personal, commercial and trust and investment services with 18 branches in Sonoma County and a commercial and SBA lending office in Roseville and San Rafael.  They have 386 employees. NBLC’s chair, Patty Garbarino, said “This community bank epitomizes the values of supporting and strengthening the community in a perfect alignment with NBLC’s mission and goals.  We are delighted to have Exchange Bank add their commitment to the North Bay’s people and economy to our work.”

For 127 years, Exchange Bank has been serving the local community, not only through trusted banking and financial services, but by focusing 100% of its charitable giving on the communities it serves. In total, Exchange Bank contributes to more than 300 charitable organizations and nonprofits each year.  In 2016, Exchange Bank and its employees contributed more than $665,000 to the community.

In addition, 50.44% of the Bank’s cash dividends go to the Doyle Trust that funds the Doyle Scholarship at Santa Rosa Junior College. Since 1948, the Doyle Scholarship Fund has provided $83 million to over 127,000 students.  Exchange Bank made the first Lead Challenge gift to kick-off the SRJC 100th Anniversary Campaign in 2016.  For the past three years, Exchange Bank has funded The Reinking Scholarship Program at Montgomery High School, providing two scholarships a year.

Exchange Bank’s Alan Aranha, Vice President and Business Development Officer, Marin County office, will be the member representative. Howard Daulton, Senior Vice President, Manager of Corporate and Business Development will be the alternate.  Daulton said “We appreciate NBLC’s shared commitment to education, community resiliency and economic competitiveness.  We look forward to joining with the other members to make the North Bay an even greater place to live and work.”

Exchange Bank is an 11-time winner of the North Bay Business Journal’s North Bay Best Places to Work survey and received the 2016 Healthiest Companies in the North Bay award. NorthBay biz magazine named Exchange Bank 2016 Best Business Bank. Exchange Bank can also be found in the North Bay Business Journal’s listing of leading SBA 7(a) Lenders, Wealth Management Advisors and Wine Industry Lenders.

Since 1994, the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County has named Exchange Bank the corporate champion in its division for raising the most money for the Human Race. The Bank provides employees paid time-off to participate in bank-sponsored fundraising events, and time to serve on boards of local nonprofits and share leadership talents. In 2016, it was the first financial institution in Sonoma County to become a “HeartSafe” business, installing Automated External Defibrillators AEDs) at most Exchange Bank locations and training employees in CPR.

Business Interest is in the Public Interest: DisruptDC’s Case for Better Government

In these remarkable times with our federal government, I found Lenny Mendonca’s column announcing a new initiative to be exciting and perfectly timed to fill a leadership void in Washington, D.C.  Let’s make DisruptDC a big movement in the North Bay!

Business Interest in the Public Interest: DisruptDC’s Case for Better Government  (Link)

By Lenny Mendonca, Co-Chair, CA Fwd Leadership Council

Most people — especially those who read this blog — are already aware of the political gridlock and dysfunction in Washington, D.C. Watching Democrats and Republican spend their time arguing with each other and posturing for the camera is frustrating for most of us—-and is no substitute for what most of us want—meaningful progress on the issues that matter to this country.

What is not always so obvious is the negative effect this dysfunction is having on the economy and the business sector. Last year, a Harvard Business School report from Michael Porter concluded that our broken political system is the #1 drag on US economic competitiveness. This paralysis is at the root of countless other issues — and these times require the courage to take meaningful action.

CA Fwd, which I co-chair, has been a key player in helping identify and implement reforms that have transformed California from dysfunctional to a leader in trans-partisan governance reform. From citizens’ redistricting to open primaries, California has transformed the way it’s governed itself in the last decade. (The job is not finished, by the way.) What California and other states are learning and implementing can help reform advocates across the country and help fix the mess in D.C.

That’s why I’m excited to be part of a new organization called DisruptDC, the country’s only business coalition focused exclusively on improving our government and elections.

Right now, our country needs to bridge our political divides and deliver real results no matter who is in charge. DisruptDC stands for upgrading our political system from end to end: more competitive elections, a more results-focused policymaking process, and a more efficient and responsive government to implement our laws. This is not about bigger or smaller government, it’s about government that works for the people it’s designed to serve.

It’s not that we lack for solutions (see this CAFWD report for example)— it’s that we need the political will. Bringing business to the table as public advocates, not business lobbyists, will help generate the sustained pressure we need to get results across the country. In fact, needed reform won’t occur if the voice of business is not heard.

Fixing American government is not a linear process, but rather a portfolio of priorities that we will advance wherever we find the opportunity. Open primaries, nonpartisan redistricting, better technology, increased transparency, and anti-corruption reform may sound modest individually, but collectively they will be transformative.  DisruptDC will push these and other reforms and work to hold our representatives accountable for operating in the public interest, not any narrow interest. This means bringing integrity, accountability, and effectiveness to everything government does.

I’m looking forward to collaborating with the DisruptDC team to attack this issue. The founders are entrepreneurs based in the Bay Area, while their CEO, Charlie Kolb, is located in Washington, D.C. I’ve known him for 20 years when he led the Committee for Economic Development (the group that helped develop and lead the Marshall Plan’s passage after WWII), a business-led think tank, and now part of the Conference Board.

The credentials of this group are unassailable. The need for this group is undeniable.

Washington, D.C. needs the same kind of positive disruption and innovation that is happening across the country including here in California. This is an important new citizen-driven initiative and I’m proud to be part of it. Please join me in helping DisruptDC. http://disruptdc.org/