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How can Sonoma County get back to work?

By ROBERT DIGITALE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

With unemployment in Sonoma County stuck at or near double digits for more than two years, local business, labor and government leaders are eagerly awaiting to see what President Obama proposes tonight to create more jobs across the nation.

Few expect a quick turnaround in the local economy, which has shed 21,000 jobs since 2007. More than one in 10 workers in Sonoma County have seen their jobs disappear over the last four years, according to the state Employment Development Department.

And although the local economy has slowly started to create jobs again, even the most optimistic economic forecasts warn it will take years to replace those that were lost.

Several local business leaders expressed support for an increase in federal spending on roads and infrastructure, which would put construction crews back to work. But even many of them said tax credits and other possible stimulus measures seem more like a re-election strategy for President Obama than a long-term approach to boost employment and help the economy.

“No president has gotten re-elected with unemployment levels where they are today,” said Henry Hansel, president of the Hansel Auto Group, the county’s largest car dealer and one of its biggest retail companies.

At one point, Hansel cut a quarter of his workforce as consumers slowed spending. Today he has 460 employees at his seven dealerships in Santa Rosa and Petaluma — and he plans to add 25 new workers over the next four months, anticipating a jump in auto sales late this year.

But a tax credit won’t boost or accelerate that hiring.

“The only reason we’re going to hire more people is we can justify it from a business standpoint,” he said.

Nearly three out of four jobs shed in Sonoma County during the recession have come from just four sectors: construction, government, retail and manufacturing.

About 26,100 Sonoma County residents were looking for work last month, more than double the 11,200 unemployed workers in 2007. Unemployment has improved slightly over the past year, but it will take time to put idled job-seekers back to work.

In June, Moody’s Analytics economist Steve Cochrane forecast the local economy will add 3,000 jobs this year, with similar growth in 2012 and 2013. At that rate, it would take more than six years to replace the jobs lost during the recession.

Labor and some government leaders argue that unemployment has become the greatest threat to the U.S. economy, calling it a crisis that requires a dramatic response.

“We need something really bold,” said Lisa Maldonado, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council. “We need to put Americans back to work for the good of the country.”

County Supervisor Shirlee Zane agreed and said President Obama needs to quit trying to reach compromises with Republicans in Congress and “take a cue from give-‘em-hell Harry” Truman.

“I think the reason why people don’t have confidence right now is that he has made the mistake of being conciliatory over and over again,” Zane said.

But business leaders expressed reservations — some mild, some vehement — about Obama’s ability to make things better with a big jobs program.

“The federal government can’t and shouldn’t create jobs,” said Keith Woods, chief executive officer of the North Coast Builders Exchange.

Woods said he supports spending federal dollars to improve roads and make other improvements to the nation’s infrastructure. But he maintained that government also should spur job growth by reducing the number of rules affecting U.S. businesses.

Overregulation was a common lament from other business leaders.

“It’s driving people away,” said Dick Ghilotti, president and CEO of Santa Rosa-based Ghilotti Construction.

Ghilotti estimates he has cut about 20 percent of his workers since the beginning of the recession. Today, he has about 250 employees and hopes to keep that level stable over the next 12 months.

Some bridges and road sections on Highway 101 are 60 years old, and many other roads here are “crumbling,” he said. Federal spending to fix county roads and highways “will put a lot of people to work,” he said.

Business owners aren’t the only ones who respond skeptically to talk of a multi-billion jobs program.

“It’s very difficult to sell a jobs package like this to economists,” said Robert Eyler, chairman of Sonoma State University’s economics department.

“It’s got to be a long-term investment, not a short-term, ‘I have to get re-elected’” program, Eyler said.

Even infrastructure projects may not have much long-term benefit to the economy, he said. An example of one that does help would be expanding broadband Internet wiring to communities because it allows the businesses there to become more productive.

Some business leaders said that while they don’t want to see money spent on tax credits, they also don’t want the federal government sharply pulling back on spending until the economy grows stronger.

If Congress makes major cuts now in an effort to balance the budget, “we’re going to be deep, deep into a recession,” said Santa Rosa developer Hugh Futrell.

Many leaders suggested they don’t think President Obama can do much to keep the nation from experiencing more economic pain for at least the next few years.

Todd Cowan, president of the builder’s exchange, said residential and commercial builders aren’t going to see much business until the backlog of foreclosures and other distressed properties are taken back by banks and resold at lower prices.

Cowan, owner of Cowan & Associates Designers in Santa Rosa, said he had an office of 12 workers in 2007, but saw hard times coming and cut his staff to three.

“I’ll be very interested to see what the president has to say, but I’m not looking for a lot,” Cowan said.





43 Responses to “How can Sonoma County get back to work?”

  1. Pearl Alquileres says:

    GOVERNMENT is supposed to “govern” NOT “create jobs”. They’re BARELY able to govern! Any jobs created by GOVERNMENT spending can only be temporary. Building roads creates a lot of jobs until the roads are built. Then what?
    We don’t need more temporary jobs for road workers. We need permanent jobs for everyone, diversity of jobs in all sectors. The GOVERNMENT CAN”T DO THAT!

    But what the GOVERNMENT CAN do is get their boot off of the necks of business owners to allow them to breath. Allow them to PLAN for a future that involves increasing profits to enable them to invest in their own companies. Grow their businesses creating long term jobs in the process.

    But relinquishing power for the common good is just too much for the majority of Politicians to swallow. Politicians re-elected over & over again by people who believe that GOVERNMENT is the only solution. More GOVERNMENT with MORE power taking more money from people who earn it so they can give it to people who don’t.

    People’s personal insecurity reflected at the polls. “I need that guy to give me hope & change because I am incapable of creating it for myself.”

    Well that worked out real well didn’t it!

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  2. Chris says:

    Eric,

    You try to respond to the numerous “right wing” posters as an intellectual but then resort immediately to name calling. People will not take you seriously when you refer to them as:

    ditto-heads
    dim and unpleasant
    not much content
    not worth the time
    black helicopter cargo cult
    so crazy they’re funny

    These names were all taken from your last comment. In one comment you used all these insults to demean your opposition but in your rant you seem to think you rise above it all. Please get over yourself and try to be a bit more respectful if you expect others to do the same.

    Chris

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  3. Eric Newman says:

    1. “My Parting Gift to WSC: Sociological Analysis of the Site Demographics”
    My two week trial revealed the three primary groups that are still active on WSC. I once described the PD Forums as “twelve vicious wing-nuts battling two angry moon-bats”. In the last year, the WSC has developed two distinct strands of wing-nuts. There are about a dozen Tea Party Treehouse Club ditto-heads who pretty much echo the Limbaugh/Hannity/ Beck line of the day. There are a pretty dim and unpleasant group, as a whole. Not much content, but ladles full of vitriol. They are hard to even read. Not worth the time. Some of them are just downright nasty.
    The new crowd on the scene is the 4-5 “Agenda 21r’s”. I’ll admit that they are more interesting to read, even though it feels like I’ve stepped into the internal dynamics of a black helicopter cargo cult. They are so crazy it’s funny. My advice to them is: tighten it up. Shorter posts are more likely to be read by normal people, if that even matters to them.
    There are a few left-wing posters who episodically climb in the tainted ring. Bear is manfully trying to hold the fort against overwhelming odds. Same advice for him: shorter posts.
    To be fair, there are a few conservative posters who can actually frame an argument, and cite evidence to back them up. I don’t agree with their politics, but Commonsense, GAJ, and John Bly are rational and readable.
    So that’s the story. I don’t want to be one of the two moonbats. Peace…out.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 15

  4. Eric Newman says:

    “Stephen Anthony: I’ll turn off the lights as I follow you out the door”

    My two week trial period is over, and having done a survey of the current state of Watch Sonoma County (WSC), I can now rename the site Watch Serious Craziness. I got dragged back after a six month absence by a friend who asked me to go in and help fight off the unhinged right-wing attack on Norman Solomon. I have now concluded that is a waste of time and personal energy to continue to post on WSC.

    Here’s why: the moderator long ago lost control of the site by not exercising his editorial judgment in screening out the truly nutty and nasty posters. Whether that’s a function of his judgment or his editorial guidelines is not known. However, the net effect is an increasing unreadable site, with ever dwindling numbers, dominated by about 16-18 posters.

    The plan for WSC, when it launched, was that it was going to be a moderated site that would be an alternative to the absolutely vile and utterly unhinged PD Forums. Trust me. You don’t even want to soil your hands by opening that tab. So WSC was supposed to be a place where adults with real name handles could have a civic space for political discussion. That only works if you keep the piranha out of the trout pond. Now, most of the trout are gone, and WSC has become nearly as toxic as the Forums. The only editorial advance has been that the regular death threats that are a standard feature in the Forums are edited out of the WSC. That’s not much of an accomplishment. We can do better.

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  5. Frank says:

    County Supervisor Shirlee Zane agreed and said President Obama needs to quit trying to reach compromises with Republicans
    Shirlee Zane with all due respect I disagree, what? has been the majority in the State Capital and for how long? I can personally hold Wiggens, Evans and Huffman responsible for not allowing me to make a wage, they passed a bill based on flawed /opinionated science.
    Solutions were presented with sound science but ignored and the result is mom and pop shops are closing, a solvent industry straggling with a 60% decrease in manufacturing and if ya disagree with me on SB670 and Ab120
    I would like to ask ya why is Fienstien asking for 3 million dollars in appropriation ( tax payer monies) to dredge the Combie Res. something I have always had to pay a fee to the state.
    I was at the carpenters union hall pancake cheerleading rally 9/5/11. All that walked up to the podium had a lot of wind but said nothing Yuup Woolsey too
    Environmental laws are killing this state, based on bad science. I’m not sayin repub are any better but the majority is horrible. Wanna get this state back to work listen to Steveguy
    Nobama,Huffman,Evans,etc

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  6. John M says:

    I don’t live in Sonoma County but I do stay there while working on a few projects in Northern California. I can say that working there along with the taxes in unreal.

    The new SWPPP requirements implemented July 2010 is and will stop all construction work and new projects over 1 acre due to the cost to implement and the paperwork requirements. I for one know that we’re not going to bid work in California anymore; we will complete the projects and layoff the workforce when projects complete and will never return to your state.

    California is another country all by itself, the regulations and environmental rules along with the cost to even conduct business in your state are anti-business. It is physically impossible to know your direct costs to work where you can enter into a contract since the regulations and rules are ever changing by the day where it drives up the cost verses the revenues received.

    Probably something most of you don’t realize is that when trees are removed from your right of way, this is public lands, the public agency pays $30,000.00 an acre for removing oak trees to a conversation group. I know of a project, $990,000.00 paid to remove 31 oak trees and you people accept these types of abuses with taxpayer funds.

    Another mind boggling is your agenda when dealing with the Environmental Impact Studies and other Environmental regulations, the public bodies and courts enable your Eccoterrorist to stop construction until enough money is paid to these people where construction can start. I see California as one of the most corrupt political systems around, your leaders caters to each specific group and as long as the businesses or taxpayers payout enough money to them to allow such to occur, otherwise, nothing gets done.

    The unions in your state claim to have qualified members, most that we’ve dealt with are not qualified. We have bodies that show up that whine and complain for having to produce quality work, our cost here is twice as much verses other states where we do work as well.

    I will say after we started and we asked our estimating manager why we’re doing work here, we needed work and it looked like a good fit and it generated revenue. Needless to say, the manager is no longer employed along with all others who helped put us in the situation.

    I am looking forward to my nightmare ending and forever leaving your state and never to return for work. There isn’t enough money in the world that could be paid to conduct business in your state unless my line work was somehow involved with lawyers or environmental groups, then it would be like winning the lottery.

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  7. Money Grubber says:

    The country of Greece is predicted to default on its debt this weekend or next week.

    They had a payment due of some kind and attempted to offer only 90%.

    The USA has approximately 14 BILLION at risk in Greek bonds, etc, as today’s online news reports.

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  8. Money Grubber says:

    ———————-
    “Now people aren’t talking about a recession here in the U.S.,” said Anthony Conroy, head equity trader at BNY ConvergEx Group in New York. “Now we’re talking about a global recession.”
    ———————-

    Government that governs LEAST is government that governs best.
    U.S. Constitution

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  9. bear says:

    OK there are a lot of misconceptions out there.

    What’s wrong with planning? How do you think that roads, schools, sewage treatment plants and water supplies (and more) are there for economic development? The County General Plan IS 4 inches thick, but it addresses all these issues and more – NOT just land use. And it attempts to project the need for all these services over the long term. Should we not do this?

    Hard to start or expand a business without any expansion of services, isn’t it?

    Local government does not generally sue developers. They might sue somebody who’s blatantly violating health and saftey. They DO NOT want to spend tax money on legal fees unless absolutely necessary. The people who sue are advocacy groups and neighbors, so a lot depends on the common sense of developers. Does the use fit the site and the neighborhood? As I said, these lawsuits are generally filed against projects that local government has APPROVED.

    Non-conforming uses ARE older uses that hang around even though the whole character of a neighborhood may have changed. Think old junk yard in the middle of a new residential subdivision. Do you deny the subdivision and all those construction jobs to save the junkyard? Even so, nonconforming uses are NOT removed, they are allowed to stay in continuous operation forever. If they close down, there is some variable amount of time, depending on the city or county involved, after which they must be discontinued. What would be your idea for transitioning neighborhoods?

    Somebody’s going to have to explain the UN angle for me. In 35 years I’ve never seen a permit denied because the UN didn’t like it. But if you’re talking environmental health, what is wrong with that? I hear that Petaluma asphalt plant is going ahead, with some environmental improvements that evidently did not scare off the developer. Must we poison the environment for job growth? Trust me, developers want the cheapest deal they can get, and don’t usually care who is hurt if it profits them.

    In the big picture, you have to consider why corporations offshore jobs. Can we compete with dollar-a-day wages, no benefits, no vacations, no sick leave and no environmental regulations?

    No. So we better find the areas in which we CAN conpete.

    Seems we are now subsidizing corporations who offshore jobs and seek offshore profits in places that depend on our military to protect them without paying for it. Why do this? Why not at least condition tax breaks on providing American jobs? Otherwise, we should tax them at normal rates. Not reward them for killing American jobs – that’s what is meant by corporate welfare.

    And are you really going to tell me that oil and gas companies need tax breaks in order to make record profits? Do you really support tax breaks for private jets and luxury yachts? Do you really support farm subsidies to corporate farms – shouldn’t the “free market” prevail?

    @Pearl, we’re agreeing again, not that I like the circumstances any more than you do.

    There seems to be obsessive support for corporate greed here. Please just think about the salaries provided by corporate America and who they go to.

    FYI, I could have earned double or more what government paid me. My wife could have earned triple. But we both had this “public service” delusion.

    No more.

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  10. Commonsense says:

    Now that the President has communicated his plan for jobs, what are those locally going to be doing? Waiting for the trickle down of money from Washington?
    After reading comments hear and listening to the speech, I don’t think anything is about to change for the better and in fact I’m planning for the worst.
    For those that want a return of 1960 tax rates, that’s not logical either socially or economically. The make up our society, the population (in numbers), the level of education and thus the types of “jobs” and income levels are all very different now then they were then. The tax rate for taxable income over $400,000 in 1960 was 91%, but the number of people making that kind of money was relatively small compared to total population, per the IRS stats. I don’t make that much, but that seems way to high to me and frankly a little punitive. Ironcially, Kennedy proposed a tax cut that was eventually passed in February of 1964, which resulted in an increase of federal reveune, from 91 billion to 150 billions, GNP rose by 10% and disposible income rose by 15%. Of course all that must be thought of in the time frame in which it occured. Likewise there is no concensus by economists that the New Deal programs (1933-1938) is actually what “cured” the depression. Many believe it was our entry in World War II. They often point to the initial recovery between 1934 and 1936 being very slow, with unemployment staying around 15%, and then what many thought was the beginning of a new recession from 1937 forward, which turned around after we entered World War II. Which again must be thought of in the context of that time frame. However, given all the surronding history and knowledge, I can’t see that continuing to spend billions of tax dollars to create short term construction projects is an economic cure in this day and age. We really need to find a balance between government and the capitism our economy is based upon in order to continue to grow our economy. I also agree with others who indicate a need to making more products here, instead of importing them, but that also requires a balance between government intervention/regulation and private industry, which apparently now for many is somehow submission to the evil empires of business/corporations (which btw all are made of people, and aren’t abstract as some seem to argue). So, I agree with others that while private business may go unchecked, the reason so much of it has left our shores, is because our government has gotten to big and too involved to make operation here sustainable or workable.

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  11. Social Dis-Ease says:

    @ Stephen Anthony: sure are a lot of ‘crazies’ out there, volumes of documentation, all kinds of credible
    groups, web sites, very prolific on Youtube. You can search ICLEI on your city’s site.
    You can search:
    Democrats Against UN Agenda 21 or
    Freedom Advocates or
    American Policy Center or
    Morph City or
    Spokane Patriots(they kicked ICLEI out)
    Lots of books,
    so much UN ‘training’ material.
    The Post Sustainability Institute or
    The Activist Post or
    Anti Communitarian League or
    Bill Wink, J. Edward Griffin or
    Santa Rosa Neighborhood Coalition whose
    president Rosa Koire just wrote a new
    book: Behind The Green Mask UN Agenda 21
    already sold out after its release a week ago. Lots of people seem concerned
    including you.
    The denial days are over.

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  12. Jason Valez says:

    Valerie Brown could try to defend ICLEI on this site. She’s on their national board of directors for ICLEI USA. Is that a fairy tale? Anyone working for ICLEI could comment here and say what they’re trying to do in our country, but they don’t.

    The ICLEI people are quietly lobbying our elected officials getting our General Plans changed to implement UN Agenda 21. George Bush SR. signed our country onto it in 1992. The next year president Bill Clinton created the President’s Council on Sustainability. Then the American Planning Association were given millions of tax dollars to create ‘Growing Smart, a Legislative Guidebook’. The concept of smartgrowth pushed by the UN is outlined in this book and is taught in every university, planning department and school in the country.

    UN Agenda 21 has been creeping into our country for almost 20 years. The Senate rejected the United Nations plan but our executive branch decided to implement it through regulations anyway.

    ICLEI gets grants from the EPA. It’s documented. They also receive dues from member cities and counties. They have some very large donors and are worth more than $1Billion. Sonoma County is the belly of the beast in this area and have already achieved ICLEI’s fifth milestone. That’s the last one. They have fully implemented the ICLEI plan through regulations yet most people still don’t know anything about it. Unless we KICK ICLEI OUT and get all of their policies out of our General Plans and regulations we will not recover from the downward spiral we’re in.

    Sonoma County is pulverizing our paved roads! What a crime. This should be waking people up to the sad fact of what is going on. Anyone living in a rural area should be up in arms that their roads will no longer be maintained. Sonoma County has spent so much money following the ICLEI/United Nations Agenda 21 plan that they don’t have the money to fix the roads. These people are UN American.

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  13. Stephen Anthony says:

    Again with the ICLEI ravings. Why does the PD allow crazies to post their paranoid fantasies on this website as if their were ANY truth at all in this fantasy of UN Takeover and “agenda 21″ ? No wonder the comments have fallen to record lows and people are leaving the site in droves. Who wants to try to carry on a rational discussion with people who are completely out of their minds. This is my last post, please Ted do something about these boards before they are completely finished due to this crazy talk.

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  14. Canthisbe says:

    John: The “liquidity trap” was not caused by a lack of regulations related to mortgages. The mortgage fiasco was caused by over-regulation and political regulations that were contrary to the laws of economics. If the mortgage industry was left to the “invisible hand”, lenders would never have made the bad loans they did and, if they did, they would have suffered the consequences of their poor decisions, not the taxpayers and all of the homeowners.

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  15. john bly says:

    Sonoma County can (partially) get back to work as follows:

    1. Get funding for Highway 101 projects that will widen all the way to Novato and let those jobs go ASAP.
    2. Speed up the process for expanding the Sonoma County Airport runway to get bigger air carriers in here. Get the project shovel ready in 6 months rather than two years.
    3. Reduce the number of school districts to “one” over the next 5 years and use the savings to hire more vocational teachers in permanent classrooms built with the savings from consolidation of administrative operations.
    4. Lower the cost of permitting and fees by 50% for a period of three years.
    5. Go out and offer some firms some real incentives to move into our vacant office and commercial space by subsidizing their utility bills, allowing them to not pay taxes for two years, and providing them low cost loans for their employee housing needs.
    6. Have realtors and auto dealers group together and offer great raffle prize opportunities for those that buy a house or a car locally.

    That should stir it up a bit!

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 9

  16. Will says:

    Our local governments have been failing us for 30 years because of lousy planning and lack of vision. There are no jobs because it is too expensive to do business here plain and simple. No one asks the question “why would anyone come to Santa Rosa or Sonoma County and start a business?” Our leaders need to find out what it would take to attract a business like Google, Apple, or Yahoo; and keep companies like Agilent or Medtronic from laying off workers and moving to business friendly states like Texas.

    The answer has always been “NO” in Sonoma County to progressive ideas that benefit jobs and business. We’ve shot ourselves in the foot and now I worry that if my children decide to live in Sonoma County they will have to settle for a $9/hr job at your local coffee house, drive a taco truck, or work a dead end retail job. I am against unchecked development; however, create a plan that involves compromise, planned communities that allow for growth but preserve open space, tax breaks for businesses so that they can create jobs and stimulate the economy.

    Coffee shops, taco trucks, and restaurants are nice but they don’t hire many people and don’t generate enough tax revenue. Big box retail stores are nice but who as a child dreamed about a career at Walmart?

    Lets be proactive instead of reactive, tax breaks and re-zoning are nothing without a strategic plan. Our leaders need to ask themselves, “How can we use such an approach to attract businesses and create jobs?”

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  17. Social Dis-Ease says:

    1).Drop ICLEI like a bad habit.
    2).Drop ICLEI like a bad habit.
    3).Go back to providing the basic public services that we used to expect from government in an honest, transparent manner with pay scales, benefits and appropriate skill sets commensurate
    with the private sector.
    (and nothing else)
    4).Facilitate, foster, incentivize, promote business without favors or bias.
    No ‘Stakeholders’, ‘Public/Private Partnerships’ no more talk of ‘Carbon Credits’ or ‘Benefit Corp’ crap.(all A21)
    While keeping the playing field level for everyone (any preferential treatment
    benefiting indigenous small company’s that endured this era of abuse).
    5).Drop the lie that our activities should morph based on the myth that is man induced global warming.
    6).Consider a basic temporary public service kind of employment much in the same spirit of FDR’s efforts with the Corp of Engineers after WW II. However more community based than the FDR program. People unwilling to participate could be ineligable for unemployment which should be scaled back.
    (Agenda 21 is our WW).
    7).Create various dollar for dollar micro-grants at low interest for small business expansion, creation, improvement.
    8).Create a city program that connects new small business’ with old commercial
    listings. Providing initial rental abatement,(90 days?)with an escalating market correct lease to follow.
    All three involved parties would have an opportunity; the property owner, the new small business owner, and the market will demonstrate its reception to the new product or service.
    9)).An overhaul of our tax structure.
    Example; small business reinvestment should always be deductible. What’s up with paying tax on equipment purchases-
    then paying again year after year.
    9).No inequitable union, ‘Free Trade’, WTO trade crap allowed in our County.
    10).Every farmer’s market could serve as a job fair as well.
    Local, local.(repeal One Bay Area) A community accountable to each other
    with much less federal involvement.
    The oppressive, ridiculous highly regulated, tax ridden anti small business, anti private property, anti agriculture landscape we are
    currently suffering from is Agenda 21.
    Any politician or public servant in a position of power during this dark age
    should be unemployable as such for being complicit in this evil Agenda.
    Polling and public feed back should be part of our weekly civic responsibility.
    A healthy free market and an ICLEI membership can not coincide.

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 5

  18. GAJ says:

    A few years back we sold our business of several hundred employees, and numerous brick and mortar buildings.

    The California Chamber of Commerce has an outstanding resource for any article; an annually revised Labor Law guide for employers.

    It is about as thick as the San Francisco phone book!

    Every page contains a potential “gotcha” for an employer and the more employees the more “gotchas” to be sued under. The definition of what entails sexual harassment alone would make your head spin. It is not black and white but filled with gray to trip up the naive employer.

    Having numerous facilities opened us up to the wonderful world of ADA Drive By lawsuits.

    Tort Reform is way overdue, but with the halls of State Legislatures and the Congress full of Lawyers…don’t hold your breath.

    The more rules, regulations and minutiae laid out to trip up the naive employer, the more money to be made with frivolous lawsuits.

    You’ve be crazy to have a labor intensive business today, especially in California and especially with numerous retail locations.

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  19. Kay Tokerud says:

    Stimulus/Debt is not the answer. We are losing to China. Land use regulations are the problem. Have you seen the Land Use Element of Sonoma County? It’s 4 inches thick with mostly new land use regulations. Santa Rosa has made a 2035 General Plan that re-zones the heck out of most of the city making most properties non-conforming to the new plan.

    What does non-conforming mean? It means that the city wants to see something else there, not what is there now. How do they get the something else? One way is to use eminent domain in redevelopment areas. Another is to not allow that property to increase or alter their existing building. Another is to enforce new costly rules and red tape to discourage your use. Another is to change the streets or sidewalks in such a manner as to have to demolish homes like what happened on Stony Point Road. Did you know about the six month rule that says if a non-conforming use is discontinued for six months, that that use can not go back in there? In a down market, six month vacancies are common. This destroys a property’s viability and value.

    All recent updated General Plans in this area have incorporated the idea of ‘social justice’ that comes from the United Nations Agenda 21 plan. According to them, the United States is too well off and it’s unfair to the people living in poorer nations. So, naturally they say we must be restricted and reduced down to the level of average in the world. Makes sense to you?

    As power is shifted from localities to Regional, State, Federal and International control, those at the very top are calling the shots. Unless they are all incompetent they are deliberately damaging our economy by imposing these new UN mandates that are crippling us as a nation.

    ICLEI, responsible for implementing UN Agenda 21 locally, has cities and counties all over the US and in other countries as paid members. What does ICLEI do? They measure greenhouse gases and set policy goals to substantially lower man-made greenhouse gas emissions. They also lobby to change General Plans in their member cities to reflect and implement Agenda 21′s objectives.

    Reducing energy use equates to reducing the economy. It takes energy to produce anything. AB32 will be the biggest job killing legislation yet, sealing our fate in becoming a second rate State. Unless we KICK ICLEI OUT and stop following UN Agenda 21 goals we will not recover from the economic recession we are in. ICLEI member cities and counties like all of them in this area should get off the job killing greenhouse reduction nonsense that is being foisted on us by interests outside of the United States. Membership in ICLEI is in violation of the US Constitution Article Ten.

    Cancel all recent land use regulations in the current General Plans and maybe we will have some hope of getting our economy back up. Hand- picking winners and losers is not the solution here.

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  20. John T says:

    Obama’s stimulus saved Bank of America. In return BofA refused to finance our house remodel even though we have top notch credit ratings.

    No remodel = no work for contractors = more unemployment.

    Now BofA announces they will lay off 40,000 employees.

    HP/Agilent takes thousands of jobs to Malaysia. And we want to reward them with lower corporate taxes?

    Seems like we’re doing everything we can for the big corporations, and they’re doing everything they can to undermine the American economy.

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  21. Originalist says:

    How is that Germany with a population of approx. 80 million exports more than the United States? And we export grains, cattle, and other agricultural products Germany doesnt produce

    How is it that in every news clip of foreign countries one can see Toyotas, Mercedes etc but no Fords, Chevys etc?

    Taxing the corporations or business owners (rich) more to give freebies to the masses wont make America competitive, it will do just the opposite!

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  22. Steveguy says:

    Can’t even open a burger place here with delays, conditions, etc ad nauseum.

    Jobs ? Think at least 2 years. We don’t have 2 years.

    What part of broke do the politicians not understand ?

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  23. Pearl Alquileres says:

    Pearl’s 3 step plan to bring down unemployment…

    1. Nationalize ANY business that refuses to expand their work force by 10% in the next year.
    2. Raise taxes on the rich to pay for it.
    3. Re-elect Barack Obama.

    You may not like doing it this way but “we have to eat our peas”.

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  24. Reality Check says:

    “First off, lawsuits are not part of any “regulatory” process.”

    They are the result of the regulatory process, which offers endless opportunities to litigate as anyone involved in it knows. It’s the calculation every applicant and opponent makes: what and where are the opportunities to litigate this or that.

    From Smart Train to Elnoka to Lowes and Wal-Mart, no matter that the application conforms to the zoning specs, enough ambiguities in the regs exist, by design, to litigate.

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  25. Skippy says:

    All of bear’s measures are taxing, spending and regulating.
    Justifying them will not make them work any better this time than they did last time.
    How many businessmen have to say “get out of our way”, before doctrinaire liberals actually believe them?
    More cowbell.

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  26. Eric Newman says:

    Bear,
    Thank you for reminding me about the CETA program. I and many of my friends took CETA jobs out of college, because the private sector was in a deep recession at the time. CETA is probably a better model than the WPA or CCC for our current circumstances.

    Here’s the social contract that the progressives are proposing: “Anyone who wants to work can get a job. If the private sector is not hiring, then we the people, through our state governments, will provide socially useful employment for any citizen”. That’s the deal.

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  27. homegrown says:

    How many roads can you build? How many people Over 50 are going to be trained to operate heavy equipment?
    What needs to happen is tax incentives so big company’s like Agilent, Sola Optical and metronics to bring back jobs from off shore. Why is Amazon questioned about not paying taxes on goods not produced in California but it is ok for large company’s to lay off American workers. shift manufacturing overseas paying pennies on the dollars and sell products here in the USA?

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  28. bear says:

    First off, lawsuits are not part of any “regulatory” process. They are not generally initiate by government, which after all can (and probably already has) approved the project in question. The exception would be blatant violations of health, saftey and land use laws.

    Land use laws are not generally the problem, unless you think anyone should be able to do anything anywhere – including next door to your house or your kids’ schools. I can’t imagine any local government discouraging development on any land that is zoned for that development. Changing zoning (from say agricultural to industrial) will always be a controversy, but the County has done it for the 500-acre Airport Industrial Park, and will do it for airport expansion, if it hasn’t already. Changes in zoning are almost always a windfall for the developer.

    Fees may seem onerous, but not when compared to profits from development. Unlike in the past, most fees directly pay for the services needed to review and approve development. Other fees, such as development impact fees, pay directly for the capital costs of providing water, sewer, schools, parks, police and fire services which would not be needed except for the new development. By law, they can’t be used to staff new services, or for essential maintenance of public facilities. So you can build a new school with impact fees, you just can’t staff it or buy books or maintain it.

    People guilty of mortgage fraud or appraisal fraud or real estate fraud need to go to jail. This might begin to restore the confidence of homeowners who have seen the value of their principal asset decline so quickly. Once jailed, there might be some new job opportunities in the real estate and financial sectors.

    The wonderful mortgage lending companies who remain responsible for this fraud should be required to renegotiate mortgages for folks who are “under water.” Based on current values and at NO cost to the homeowner. Another confidence building measure.

    Eliminate all tax loopholes except for kids, a mortgage interest deduction on ONE house and charitable contributions.

    Cut the Defense budget by 50%. After all, our 10-13 (?) carrier battle groups didn’t do a thing on 9/11. Do this by bringing our troops home from Germany, Japan, Iraq, Afghanistan and maybe Korea. Depending on how you feel about Hyundais.

    Restore Clinton-era tax rates for the rich and corporations. Refuse to repatriate corporate profits at ridiculously low tax rates. Haven’t we learned that tax cuts don’t result in more jobs? Management and investors say “thanks a bunch” and pocket the cash.

    The 1930s were NOT the only time that the feds ran job programs. I graduated into a Nixon-led recession and they had a program called CETA – temp jobs funded by the feds, half the salary of regular jobs, no benefits, one-year limit. The good thing was that they were spread across all job skills, not just roads and bridges.

    But roads and bridges are good, too. You can’t build ANYTHING without having to maintain it.

    And what’s wrong with Americorps as an alternative to the military? Give them the same benfits and people will come, minus the long-term obligation to care for our dead and wounded vets and their families.

    Point is you need to boost confidence among all consumers and increase consumption.

    Go the other way – tax cuts, no rules and prayer – and I guarentee you a 10-year worldwide depression.

    Please try to be specific in your condemnation.

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  29. Jim M says:

    The stimulus did help to stabilize the financial system and get businesses out of the crisis situation we were in in 2009. The expectation was that once things were restabilized businesses would start hiring again, and that did not happen. Businesses can do more with less now, if you can fill your orders with the staff you have now it doesn’t matter how much you give in the way of tax incentives.

    We need to provide stimulus that directly puts people to work, such as infrastructure or helping businesses to expand into new areas.

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  30. Reality Check says:

    The question of whether government red tape is killing our economy has been answered twice in California in recent days.

    Yesterday the Assembly passed a bill to “fast track” a football stadium in L.A. (the Senate will approve it). It requires the courts to quickly rule on any challenges that routinely drag other projects through multi-year delays, and cause others to simply go elsewhere.

    It pays to have friends in the legislature.

    The last stage of a decadent society is the need to seek favors from the political class before anything can get done.

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  31. Steve Humphrey says:

    We could begin by reducing the fees and red tape process of starting or expanding a business here in Sonoma County. While other areas of the country are welcoming businesses and expansion with open arms, our county and city officials discourage enterprises with ridiculously high fees coupled with an application processes that are not competitive with the alternatives offered elswhere.
    From a national perspective, large Corporations are flush with cash. They would love to invest and grow their business but lack confidence in where we as a country are headed. Like it or not, the policies and ideology of the current Administration is not conducive to the business world. Until their confidence is restored with the direction of our nation, we are at a standstill.
    The best thing President Obama could say tonight is “we’re going to just get out of the way”.

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  32. Eric Newman says:

    “Rebuild the American Dream: National Jobs Initiative Now”

    President Obama has the opportunity to save his presidency and regain the trust of the American people by proposing a bold new Federal jobs initiative that will put millions of Americans back to work. We have done that in this country under FDR, and it worked. We can do this. The same tired arguments, repeated in our day by the local dispensers of conventional wisdom like Keith Woods and Robert Eyler, were employed by Roosevelt’s enemies back in the Depression. He proved them wrong, and the country experienced a surge of confidence as we built up our infra-structure, put people to work teaching, caring for youth, reclaiming the natural environment, and the countless other socially valuable tasks that create a health, caring society.

    We can see where trying to be conciliatory with the Tea Party Republican fanatics, and kowtowing to the hopelessly compromised Blue Dog Democrats has gotten him. They have internalized the neo-liberal mantra that the path to growth is deregulation and lowering taxes. If that were true, then the eight years of the Bush Administration would have led to an era of prosperity, not collapsed in a pile of rubble. We should no longer even listen to the proponents of this intellectually bankrupt and morally defective economic theory. They have lost all credibility.

    We need to finally create a fair system of taxation to fund the necessary functions of a civilized society. Here are the features: a financial transaction tax to dampen specualtion, raise income tax rates on millionaires and billionaires to 1960′s levels, make capital gains rates equal to income tax rates, eliminate the innumerable tax loopholes that let corporations get away with paying near zero actual tax rates. That’s on the revenue side.

    On the investment side, use this money to restore lost jobs in local, state, and federal government, hire back teachers, increase the number of childcare workers, fund higher education so that students are not graduating with high debt levels, set up a national infra-structure bank.

    On the policy side, strenghten the bargaining power of workers through unions, fund vocational training and job placement services for both public and private sector, change corporate governance rules to prevent concentration of profits from productivity gains from going to the CEO’s and top management, prosecute off-shore tax havens with the full force of the U.S. Treasury.

    That’s the solution, in outline, and if President Obama comes up with a plan anywhere in that vicinity, you will see a huge burst of energy from the base that will propel him to another term. Give ‘em hell, Barack!

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  33. Billy C says:

    If we want more employment we need to create or produce more. Yes Sonoma county
    is a nice place but we have to look at what we offer the rest of the Country and the World. Manny great company’s that have started here seem to leave when it is time for them to grow. The hard question we have to ask is WHY ?.

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  34. Commonsense says:

    “With unemployment in Sonoma County stuck at or near double digits for more than two years, local business, labor and government leaders are eagerly awaiting to see what President Obama proposes tonight to create more jobs across the nation.”

    Why are they waiting for someone thousands of miles away to fix local employment (lack thereof) issues? Why not start by working locally at fixing those issues? Why not be a little more independent and not so dependent on Washington? We may be amazed at the improvements we can make ourselves to the local economy and education.

    And why do we continue to listen to and elect all the same people both locally and nationally that got us into this mess, regardless of party?

    I haven’t yet heard a detailed spending or jobs plan on any level, local or nationally. Instead, all I keep hearing is the same old generalizations and campaign rheortic.

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  35. Frank says:

    Ok labor union reps, or more like deleted
    I once was proud of the union as a union member
    let me posey a question to ya
    where do building materials come from?
    u support dems but what do they do, pass more enviornmetal laws
    kinda like shootin the foot with ten miles of hikin left to go

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  36. Dan Delgado says:

    “We need something really bold,” said Lisa Maldonado, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council. “We need to put Americans back to work for the good of the country.”

    “County Supervisor Shirlee Zane agreed and said President Obama needs to quit trying to reach compromises with Republicans in Congress and “take a cue from give-‘em-hell Harry” Truman.”

    Sadly, this is the kind soundbite seeking drivel that substitutes for meaningful dialog these days.

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  37. John Hudson says:

    The economy is stuck i a liquidity trap. A liquidity trap exists when fear governs economic behavior causing business and individuals to hoard cash as a form of self-insurance against economic collapse. The surest sign is that monetary policy loses its effectiveness. The Bank of New York Mellon has recently instituted a fee for the service of accepting large deposits from corporate customers. Today we have corporations sitting on mountains of cash with interest rates at zero. In a normal economy low interest rates “evict” money from bank accounts into higher paying (and riskier) forms of investment.

    A liquidity trap is a rare occurrence last seen in our country during the Great Depression. As FDR said at the time, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”. He then started direct employment programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps to do infrastructure work. There will be no CCC in the near future because the federal government has already squandered its ability to directly stimulate the economy with TARP. Political opposition will prevent attempts top spend ourselves to prosperity.

    One thing is for certain, however. the liquidity trap was not caused by environmental regulations. It was ultimately caused by a lack of regulation that enabled the underwriting of mortgages with no reasonable prospect of repayment; credit default swaps the final consequences of which are still unknown; and myriad other financial practices a deregulation environment emboldened quick buck artists to cook up.

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  38. Julia says:

    The key here is to build upon what is great in Sonoma County and take the long view.

    There are many great things about Sonoma County (beautiful environment being just one) that will keep people moving here.

    That in mind, consider that we need a vision for the future. What do we want in our county? There are lots of opportunities to build for the future. A few hints”

    For one: the town of Rohnert Park could use a downtown area. There’s land for sale in the center of town…next to the rail line. Gigantic opportunity.

    And another: spurring biotech innovation. Partnerships will do that, but nothing beats a medical school for innovation and research spinoffs. Sonoma State has the room for an addition to the campus. AND there isn’t a medical school in all of the north bay.

    Sure, all of these things cost money…but in the long term, high-paying, sustainable jobs are created, the quality of life is improved…real estate values go up. These are some of the real things you pay for when you take the long view…and have vision.

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  39. Western Cluebird says:

    The new progressive buzzword talking point for the month is….”Bold”.

    It did not sound very original the first few times I heard it parroted, and it’s not getting any fresher with repeating.

    “Brash” might be more fitting.

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  40. Money Grubber says:

    The author stated in the article that, “… the local economy has slowly started to create jobs again…”

    TELL US: WHAT JOBS & WHERE ??????????

    Its a lie unless you are counting minimum wage jobs.

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  41. Something Gots to be Done says:

    Job one: Defeat Obama. This guy has no clue about the economy or jobs. The job of the Republicans is to defeat Obama, not work with him on his socialist schemes. Compromise is not in the cards. Obama wouldn’t compromise and his policies need to be defeated so the country can begin to recover from this deep, deep recession.

    The more he proposes trillion dollar schemes to give tax money to the public unions and employees the deeper his hole gets.

    People are frighten by the debt and they should be.

    Zany is great at spouting the party line, but has no idea how to create a job since she has never created one.
    She is a good example of the local liberal political class.

    Maldonado’s agenda is waiting for the revolution to begin.

    For Ghilotti Construction, they had their chance at road and bridge construction with federal money. The bureaucrats directed the funds to local government wages and unions to spend. As Obama said himself, in the final analysis, shovel ready jobs were never really there. This will happen again if Congress ever gives him another stimilus pot of gold.

    The remedy for welfare is a job. Obama and democrats do not understand this simple principle. They want a welfare class beholden to them for votes and favors. Its all about power.

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  42. Steveguy says:

    For starters, there is a quarry and an asphalt plant stuck in the courts. Real jobs

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  43. Levi says:

    Liberal dont believe in work , they believe in “working”, leaching off the government.

    See Smart, the post office, Sonoma Country government

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