UFCW’s Jim Araby On Why Business And Labor Need To Talk More

The future of work looks nothing like the past. Technology is changing every industry and few people see that more closely than Jim Araby, the executive director of the United Food and Commercial Workers Western State Council.

The members of his union work on farms and in factories and grocery stores. But instead of buying into the established narrative that business is all about the bottom line and unions are all about protecting the workers no matter the economic realities, Araby believes both sides need to transcend this binary division and work together.

“If we can break through and have a real discussion about what the future of work looks like in California you’d have a lot of people on all sides of the issue say, ‘Yeah, let’s come together,’” said Araby during a talk with CALinnovates Chief Evangelist Kish Rajan.

Araby is helping to shape this conversation. He recently helped push through AB1066 which will provide overtime to farm workers. While some in business may grumble at these kind of pay hikes, Araby points out that California has always had the most progressive labor laws in the country and the state was still responsible for 34% of all new jobs in the last jobs report.

That’s because despite what we sometimes read, these issues aren’t black and white. Araby spoke to Rajan about examining those grey areas and how government, unions and business leaders, need to come together to solve the problems that affect them all around housing, the environment and job growth.


A Step Ahead: Jim Araby

Hi everyone. This is Kish Rajan chief evangelist at CALinnovates, and along with our executive director, Mike Montgomery, we welcome you to the new CALinnovates podcast, where we’ll be sitting down with elected officials and policy advocates and other thought leaders to discuss issues of critical innovation, technology and public policy matters that face California and the country. We’ll be talking to guests of all kinds and we’ll be broadcasting this regularly, and we hope that you’ll join us for this important series of discussions about the future of our state and our country.

This time we’re joined by Jim Araby. He’s executive director of the UFCW Western States Council, and as you’ll hear, we had a really great conversation about innovation and technology and the role of labor in helping to usher in a new era that can expand the economy, be consistent with labor’s values, but recognize how do we do all this amidst really difficult change? Jim’s a real leader in this thinking, and I hope you’ll enjoy the conversation we had about this.

Hey, Jim Araby. You’re executive director of the UFCW Western States Council, am I saying that right?

Jim Araby: That’s correct.

Cool. Cool. Tell us what that means. What’s your job, and tell us about UFCW for our listeners who maybe aren’t familiar.

Sure. Well that means I am, it’s a big fancy title that basically means just two things. I am responsible to co-ordinate the work of the United Food and Commercial Workers politics and legislation, primarily here in California. We’re a 160,000 member union, just here in California, all across the state. Most of our members are in, you know, you’re familiar with, grocery store workers, but we also represent workers in retail drugstores, both CVS and Rite Aid.

We have over 2,500 members that work in agriculture, primarily down in Salinas Valley, picking lettuce. Some nurseries down in Oxnard, and then, our other big sector that we represent is food processing. So, Foster Farms Chicken, those are all UFCW members, as well as Hormel Beef Packing here in California, and then, we have affiliates both in Nevada and Arizona. And our union is very similar in demographic. So, that’s pretty much it.

So, these are folks that are working in retail stores, food related retail stores, and then as you mentioned, actually involved in helping to, not produce, but at least process the type of food that we find in those retail stores or restaurants or other places.

Absolutely, yeah. These workers, just to give you a little sense of our demographics too, 38% of our members in California are under 30 years old. A lot of immigrant workers, and first generation American’s work in a lot of the industries we are, and on average, they make anywhere between $25,0000 and $35,000 a year. So, you know, these are the working people of California, and also Arizona and Nevada.

And hard working people.

Hard working people.

So, the jobs you’re describing to me don’t sound particularly leisurely.

Absolutely not. And you know, I’d say the last thing is relative to this discussion that we’re going to have, you know, they’re in the sectors of the economy that are growing.


And so, you know, that puts us sort of in the middle of key critical discussions when it comes to the economy and other things that are happening.

Absolutely, let’s get into that, and as you mentioned, one of your key responsibilities is around politics and legislation. There’s a lot going on in that regard. Looking at the legislative session that just ended as we are recording this conversation, AB 1066 I think was the number. It was drafted by Assemblymember Gonzales and related to overtime for farm workers as I recall. Tell us exactly what that bill did and I trust for you all, you see that as a success, and tell us why?

Absolutely. So, you know, when the National Labor Relations Act was passed and signed way back in 1938 I believe by FDR, there were certain levels of workers in the private sector that were excluded. You know, farm workers being one of them, and historically, here in California a lot of people know about the United Farm Workers and Caesar Chavez, and the struggle of those workers that started back right after the exclusion of the NLRA, but really heated up in the 60’s and 70’s with some great victories here in California.

California’s the only state in the country that actually has a board that is designated to regulate agricultural labor in the whole entire country, because they’re excluded out of the NLRA, states have the right to regulate the work of these workers. So, California’s the only place in the country that actually has the agricultural relations board that gives a certain level of rights to farm workers. But, as a part of the deal in 1939 when this exclusion happened, because it was a way for FDR to get southern Dixiecrats to vote for the National Labor Relations Act. And so, agriculture was very powerful, especially in the South, and these workers were excluded. It was also because a lot of the workers that worked in these fields in the 30’s and 40’s were black, and a lot of the people from the South didn’t believe that black folks had the right to anything. Right? I mean, we all know about the civil rights struggle and everything else that went on for decades after that. And so, this was another part. So, we believe it was very racist, as well as a political decision in the 30’s,

And come full circle in 2016 here in California, we have, through the work and leadership of both assemblymember Gonzales, but also, assembly speaker Anthony Rendon, and pro-tem Kevin DeLeon and then ultimately the governor, who has his own history with this issue, was able to sign a bill, which we believe to be very historic. Essentially, all it does is when farm workers work, after eight hours, they get the same rights as every other worker in California, and they get paid overtime. Millions of people already enjoy that, agricultural workers were excluded. They’re no longer going to be excluded.

Wow, that’s remarkable. And certainly, you look at the agricultural sector, I mean, we could do a whole hour long conversation, or longer about the history of ‘Ag’ in California, both economically, politically, and socially, it’s been a tremendous thing, but certainly, when you look at the size and scale of the agriculture sector in California, it’s massive. I mean, we continue to be one of the world’s, if not the world’s largest producing state of agriculture, I believe.

Absolutely. With a little caveat. I mean, California’s economy’s a two trillion dollar economy. The agricultural sector is 50 billion of that. Actually, the grocery industry’s bigger than the agricultural industry in California.


The grocery industry’s a hundred billion dollar business, the agricultural industry’s 54 billion. Still significant, right? And has an historic relationship with California, who we see ourselves as, but at the same time it is a small piece of California’s two trillion dollar economy. An important piece, but a small piece.

Yeah, interesting. And so, some will say though, I mean, obviously, no bill of any consequence in the state is passed without debate, and you know, many in the business community, I’m putting that in quotes, right? There is no monolithic business community, but many folks, when they look at California as a place that’s competitive, nationally and globally, and looking at the cost of labor, and looking at the rules associated with labor, raise some concerns right? They raise concerns that the types of rules that we have in the aggregate in this state, whether it’s about wages, hours, rules around meals and breaks and things like that are out of step. Are so far beyond what they see in other places that it creates a competitive challenge for California that can result in jobs leaving the state for places that those costs, or those rules are not as stringent. Do you agree with those characterizations, or how do you respond to people that make those criticisms in California?

There’s emotion then there’s facts. And the facts don’t merit that out. I mean California’s economy just this last month, produced…35% of all new jobs produced in the last reporting period were produced in California. Despite the fact we have paid sick days and higher minimum wage, and now farm worker overtime, and all these workman’s comp regulations. I would make the argument actually that it creates a more dynamic economy. I mean, California truly has one of the most dynamic economies out of any of the 50 states. And mind you, we have a tendency to boom and bust. You know, we have very big booms and we have very deep busts.

But I think under the leadership of Governor Brown, I think he’s been very smart about what laws to sign and not, but he also knows, California has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, if not the highest. I just end with you know, it’s funny when Governor Brown… I was at the signing ceremony of the paid sick day bill a couple years ago when Governor Brown started talking to the media, that was really interesting because you know, we’re very lucky to have someone like Governor Brown, who’s served in two different eras of government. And he said, you know, when he was governor back in 1976, the same arguments were used by the chamber that are used today. That’s 40 years later and California’s economy is multitudes the size it was in the 1970’s, and you know, we have a very robust economy, so, I just say the facts don’t prove that out. For every one business that leaves California, ten start, right? You know, we were a place of innovation creativity, and I think we got to apply some of that to some of these other things.

Well, I definitely want to turn to that in a minute, but maybe just to drill into this for one other question. And that is that there also is this notion that someone said to me that a practical concern about overtime payment in this segment, is that it could just flat out encourage employers to cut their hours. Right? To sort of divide the hours, spread them amongst workers so that they’re trying to avoid that type of cost, and that ultimately could, as it’s being argued, be harmful to those individual workers because they’ll find their hours being cut for fear of triggering that overtime cost. How would you respond to that kind of suggestion?

I would say if everything was equal, sure, but everything isn’t equal. You have workers that are much better… I mean, you know, farm work is a skilled work, right? I mean, when you have people that are going to pick lettuce, there’s a way to cut the lettuce and wrap it and move it, and the people that are more efficient are going to get more hours. It doesn’t matter if you have overtime rules or not, right? You know, people that can go out and pick the berries… I mean, there are people that are much more efficient at that. Are you going to tell me as a business owner, you’re going to cut your most efficient workers and bring someone on that doesn’t just because you don’t want to pay them a couple more bucks in overtime? I would say that’s a bad business decision on your part.



Yeah. Got it. Well, you mentioned that innovation and technology, and I’d love to sort of turn in this direction and think about, you’re talking about farm workers and picking crops… I mean, again, God bless these folks that are just doing incredibly difficult work, to be sure. But in this era of increased innovation software technology, mechanization of all kinds of things, I sort of wonder about the future of traditional industries like agriculture and think about, in 10 years, or in 20 years, or certainly 50 years, are those jobs going to even exist anymore, or are we going to be able to find ways to create machines that can do the kind of work that we’re talking about and these folks that are doing it today?

Sure, I mean, you know, I will say a lot of my brothers and sisters in the labor movement sometimes can be Luddites when it comes to technology and technological innovation. I think that’s changing. I think we cannot fight the pace of technological innovation. I actually think in some ways, it could be good. In a lot of ways it’s good. It makes our lives easier, it makes our lives more convenient, right? You know, ten years ago, out here, to catch a cab here where we are in Concord, California it’d be pretty hard. All you’ve got to do now is you go to an app and you can get Uber or Flywheel, or whomever come and get you right? So, I would say that is an efficiency that is a good thing. The question becomes, what does it mean in the greater scheme of things, as technological innovation creates efficiencies, what do we do about the other side of that question, which comes to displacement. Right? Because you still need people to be able to work in order to have our economy thrive.

That’s part of the challenge we’ve had in this economy, right? Is that we are a consumer driven economy, right, where you need more people to have access to… It’s not the millionaires and billionaires that drive our economy, as much as it is the people that make our members. 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 thousand dollars a year. They’re spending all that money, right? They’re the ones that are generating the economic activity. They’re not sitting on massive amounts of money. They actually have to spend the money they make. So, I think, because of that, we have to figure out… I think there’s a responsibility for those that believe in a functioning democratic society to figure out how do we collectively adjust to some of these technological innovations so that we don’t have millions of workers displaced looking for work.

And do you think organized labor in general is feeling that way? Is searching for those answers as well about acknowledging…and by the way, I realize that organized labor is not a monolithic thing either, so, forgive the generalization, but, are there folks there that are realizing, look, what we’re experiencing is a fundamental shift in the economy, away from the industrial into this information technology, knowledge-based world and are folks sort of leaning into that problem and trying to figure out how we help usher in a new era that’s …or…you know, because the frame is that labor somehow is fighting that, or resisting that transition, and I think that it seems too often that the battle lines in places like Sacramento get drawn in that way, and so I would… forgive the length of the question, but I guess I would just love sort of your reaction to, do you agree that that’s sort of what’s characterizing the politics in Sacramento, and how do you assess sort of the state of your colleagues in labor as it relates to where we’re going with the economy?

Yeah. I mean, I think it comes down to two things. One, it comes down to trust. Right? I mean, I think there’s a fundamental… If we could actually break through, and actually have a real discussion about what the future of work looks like here in California, you’d have a lot of people on all the sides of the issue saying, “Yeah, let’s come together.” I mean, I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve been in with business leaders and investors and others who are like, “I wish I could talk to you or someone like you so we could sit down and solve these problems.” And my answer to that is that there are. I’m not the only guy out there right? There are a multitude of people out there. The problem is, is that we’re not talking to one another, right?

I think the other issue is, we cannot just be a bottom line driven economy, right? Where, I feel like we’re in our two ends, where you have the one side going, this is all about the bottom line, right? The investor class. I need… my responsibility’s to my shareholders. And then the unions say, my responsibility’s to my members. Well, those aren’t wrong, right? And that’s all true. But the question becomes, how do the shareholders and the members have different interests? We don’t. So, the question becomes, how do we make sure these are shared interests and values? I’m not going to say… it’d be naïve of me to say that everyone’s going to be on that page, but we have to seek out the people that want to get on that same page. I think there’s a real opportunity, especially with the way that technology is impacting our society, where I think labor, government, and these technological companies have a shared interest in figuring out how innovation creates space to think about how we organize society in a very different way.

Yeah. Well, it just seems that that’s just such a key, because I do think that… and it’s probably a superficial analysis, but I just worry about where do the jobs of the future come from? Right? It just seems like innovation at its nature is about producing more with less, right? By using greater efficiencies and creating orders of magnitude of more productivity with fewer inputs, right? It seems like that’s what innovation’s designed to do, and I agree with you that it seems that that is about sort of trying to re-shape a new economy where there’s new functions inside of that economy that emerge that are the…that’s the fodder for new jobs, but, I just sort of wonder, how are we going to get there? How are we going to bring those folks together to explore what an expansive innovation economy can actually look like?

Well, one, I think it takes leadership. It takes real leadership to have these difficult discussions on both sides and people that are respected from both ends right? I mean, I think I’ve been in discussions with some folks in the tech sector, where I can sit down with them, and they thought I was on one thing and I said actually this is where we want to be, and there was a tone deafness on that side. Right? You know, I mean if you look at what happens, and I think here in the Bay area, it’s sort of elevated because this is one of the places in which these innovations are happening right? And then the experiment is used in our cities. And like whether it’s Airbnb, or Uber, or, whatever, right? There’s a tremendous amount of pressure that people feel on the other side right? Where they feel like, I’m getting my job taken off, I’m getting displaced, or my rents are going high.

There’s’ a combination of factors happening, and I think humans operate in a very binary world, and politically, binary is like, that’s how you get things done. Like you create a binary problem. But the reality is, this is not a binary problem. Right? This is a very complex problem. And I think those that really want to solve these problems need to come together, put our binary aside and say, how do we get, how do we create a more equitable and sustainable world. Right?

Yeah. It seems that then the venues where those conversations can happen need to be identified and need to be supported, right? I mean, we have to respect our friends in the legislature, and the governors, I mean these are people that have to exert leadership, but it’s also very difficult, I think, if that’s the only place where these things are being thrashed about, right? It seems that the presence of non-profit organizations and other venues, academic and otherwise, it seems that that’s what we really need in order to try to further the kind of dialogue that you’re suggesting.

Absolutely, and you know look, I mean, it’s not like it hasn’t happened before. I mean, even think about some things that are happening here. I think, you know, there’s issues, but there’s a labor, management partnership with Kaiser. Right? Kaiser has this very unique relationship, sometimes strained, but it has a really unique relationship with most of its unions, right? You have AT&T. Right? AT&T and CWA right, you know they have… you know, I mean again, these are very broad brushstrokes, but it can happen. Right? I think you sort of have to…I mean grocery chains right? And we’ve had a…you know, there’s been contentions, but we’ve had good relationships with some of our major employers over a long term time, with instances of elevated conflict, which is part of the deal, right? I mean, because there are ultimately, we share a lot in common, but there are also very different ends that we have to achieve. But, I do think that we have to create that dialogue. I think there are issues around housing, issues around job training, issues around the environment that unify us, right? Like if we don’t have housing in which people can afford to live, then you’re not going to have the workers that you need in order to get the job done.

No kidding. It’s a crisis in California.

I mean like environment, right? Environment can be like, you know…what was it yesterday in San Francisco? 90 degrees? You know it’s like, and what does that mean in terms of…

I was in LA and it was raining, so, there you go.

Right. You know, so I just think there’s the big, big picture issues that, we’ve got to have a discussion about. And I also think the other place is job training and re-training. I think that’s a real place in which labor and business and tech and all can come together and say, “How do we solve some of these issues?”

Yeah. You and I were both invited and part of the California Work Force Association meeting not long ago, where you have just incredibly well meaning and hard working folks that are trying to figure out how to develop and execute workforce development strategies. And you can tell that it’s a real struggle. In the sense that we’re just in such a period of rapid and profound change, that to try to re-orient those legacy types of programs and approaches to meet these new challenges, it’s not easy is it? It’s very difficult.

But, you know, you think about it, the other big challenge is demographic.

Yeah, right.

You have at the same time massive amounts of technological innovation going on, you know, from ten years ago to today, right? The things that we could do even on our phones from ten years ago, have dramatically changed the way we live, work and communicate. And at the same time you have an aging population. Right? You have a population that… I forget what the numbers are, but, how many people every day are retiring?

Oh, sure.

Right? And what strain does that put? On some of these other things that were from the twentieth century industrial economy, right? And then you have at the same time on the other end, massive amounts of millennials every day graduating high-school and college and, you know, so you have this…

And they see the world completely differently.


You know, one of the venues that you talked about, or that you alluded to, that you and I are connected to is the New Leaders Council, right? A great organization, setting up chapters in all 50 states and both cultivating that new generation of leadership amongst this millennial generation that clearly thinks differently, digital natives, believe in disruption, see the world through a completely different set of eyes than you and I do, and certainly people that are older than us. But New Leaders Council is a place where we have come together. It’s where we met, right? And it’s a place where we’re having these discussions and to their credit…one of the things that’s coming up, again, as we’re recording this, we’re just a few days away from the first Presidential debate, amidst this rather wild and tumultuous presidential campaign. But the goal of the event, and we’re glad that you’re going to be one of our contributors is, to try to bring that millennial voice, which isn’t just a generational voice, but it’s trying to talk about…you bring these issues of the change that you and I are discussing here briefly, into that conversation. I’m wondering your view as we sort of wrap up here of the presidential race and the extent to which you think it’s addressing these topics that you and I’ve been talking about?

I think the presidential race is actually making these topics even more relevant, it’s not addressing it. It’s become a traditional presidential campaign, where you have people going into their corners, but, it’s in some sense traditional, but in another sense, it’s not traditional. You have one candidate who, you know, in Donald Trump, who the other day for instance, lied about a lie about a lie. He basically said Obama was born in America, but Hillary Clinton’s the one who started the rumor.


Right? And it’s like, you know.

And then he solved it.

Right. To me that’s just insanity. And on the other end, you have Hillary Clinton who can’t get out from like, talking about her emails. And it just seems like every day. So, and that’s the media narrative, but then every day, you have people dealing with these issues about like, you know what we just spent the last ten minutes talking about, right, with, afraid about job security, retirement, health care, housing, environment, like these things aren’t being discussed in large media narratives. Instead, we’re talking about building walls and emails. It just doesn’t…

Well, it is this incredible, I don’t know if it’s an irony, or how we want to put it, but, technology seems to have shortened our attention span, or at least the willingness of the mass media to dive into these deeper issues that you and I’ve just spent a few minutes trying to dig into, and there’s a lot more to go, but you’re right, it seems that the presidential campaign itself has been pulled into this very rapid fire, very binary and limited type of discussion, which is unfortunate, given how serious the issues are.

Oh, absolutely. I think it’s up to all of us to…that’s going to happen and it’s really up to those that actually are concerned about the society we live in to participate in that and make the right decision on that, but really come together and say how do we solve these problems despite what’s being talked about, right? because ultimately, that’s what’s going to make the change right? The change is going to come from the top. They’re going to give direction, but they’re really going to be about the innovators, the business leaders, the labor leaders, community leaders going we need to come together and solve this problem. And I actually think California has led on this issue. We are in the midst of solving, or trying to tackle big issues that the rest of the country isn’t. And our economy’s growing, and we’re doing well.

Well, it wouldn’t be the first time, if we did that here from California. Well, listen, you talked about the fact that the only way we’ll get through this is to have quality leadership, I think, from all the different sectors and it’s clear that labor will always be at the table, and will be a major contributor to where we go. And so, the leadership of labor and folks like you helping to drive that conversation from that sector is critically important, so, Jim Araby, thanks a lot for spending time with us, and thanks a lot for your leadership on these key issues. We appreciate it.

Absolutely, any time. Thanks a lot.

Smart Companies Like Disney Show Why the FCC Is Wrong on Set-Top Boxes

by Mike Montgomery

t’s hard to see what’s missing at Disney. The giant entertainment company (one of the biggest companies in the world with a $147 billion market cap) already has Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar, ABC, ESPN, theme parks, hotels and TV channels galore.

But even Disney, as big and powerful as it is, must make deals with distribution partners such as Comcast, Netflix and Apple to get its movies and TV shows delivered to consumers in the manner they desire. So it wasn’t a huge surprise to many media watchers when Disney CEO Bob Iger announced earlier this month that the company was considering buying Netflix or Twitter in order to have its own distribution platform.

“The biggest thing we’re trying to do now is figure out what technology’s role is in distributing the great content that we have,” Iger told the crowd at the Boston College Chief Executives Club. “It’s one thing to be as fortunate as we are to have [our content] but in today’s world, it’s almost not enough … unless you have access to your consumers.”

Now, Disney may never actually buy either Netflix or Twitter, but the point is that when smart people in the media world are thinking about how to get close to the consumer, they are coming up with creative, market-driven solutions – not by asking the government for favors.

Over the past few years the way we consume entertainment has changed in unimaginable ways. People can watch what they want where they want when they want. Children coming of age today have no concept of a linear TV schedule where you have to be in your living room at a certain time to watch your favorite show. To them the world of TV and movies is just an endless giant living library that can be accessed from almost anywhere.

This kind of creative disruption is healthy for an industry and it’s exciting to see creators and innovators rising to the challenge.

And it’s crucial that this movement not be stopped by the FCC.

Read the full article here.

Evan Low Looks At Government Through A Millennial Lens

At 33, Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) is one of the youngest members of the California legislature. A Silicon Valley native, Low sees things slightly differently from his fellow legislators in Sacramento. He views the world as one that is rapidly changing thanks to technology and as a place where government is struggling to keep up.

Before some of his co-workers even knew what Uber was, Low was pushing to get the government to work with the disruptive company instead of fighting back against it. Low sees the possibilities and promise of innovation but he acknowledges there is a tension between how fast technology is moving and how slowly government tends to move.

“We are a capitalist society, we want competition to thrive,” says Low. “But how do we put in place a regulatory framework to make that work?”

These are the kinds of questions Low struggles with in his effort to give back to his community through political service. In a wide-ranging conversation, Low talked with us about the sharing economy, getting more young people involved in politics and whether the state’s balloting system (there are 17 state-wide initiatives up for vote this year) has overwhelmed voters.

Listen to our full interview below:

Like what you hear? Subscribe to A Step Ahead on iTunes.

A Step Ahead: Evan Low

Hi everyone. This is Kish Rajan, Chief Evangelist at CALinnovates, and along with our Executive Director Mike Montgomery, we welcome you to the new CALinnovates podcast where we’ll be sitting down with elected officials, policy advocates, and other thought leaders to discuss issues of critical innovation, technology, and public policy matters that face California and the country. We’ll be talking to guests of all kinds, and we’ll be broadcasting this regularly and we hope that you’ll join us for this important series of discussions about the future of our state and our country.

This time we’re talking with assembly member Evan Low. Evan is the chair of the California innovation and technology caucus in the legislature. He represents the Silicon Valley, and as you’ll hear he’s got a great personal story and a really great appreciation for issues of innovation and technology, the advancement of the economy, and the important balance we have to strike between business and public interest issues. He’s a thoughtful and wonderful guy, and I hope you’ll enjoy the chat that we had.

Assemblymember Evan Low. Hey, thanks a lot for being with us on the CALinnovates podcast, A Step Ahead, that’s our title.

Evan Low: Very good to be here, of course.

Yeah, well we appreciate it. So listen, you’ve had a wonderful career for someone young of age but you’ve achieved a lot in public service. You were a council member and a mayor in your hometown and now in the assembly. What drew you to public service?

Well you know growing up and being born and raised in Silicon Valley it’s important that I had sense of giving back. And my father who’s an eye doctor said, “You should become a doctor too,” but I said, “I think I’m going to choose a different path.” But he said, “Well as long as you give back in some form or fashion, that’s what’s important.” And so I did that as much as possible. Just growing up, I was very active in volunteering with him. He was president of his Lion’s Club, he was president of the Chamber of Commerce in the city of Campbell. And so naturally I met family, friends, and politicians, community leaders alike. So it was a lot of fun. It was just something innate in nature.

You know it’s interesting, I had a similar background, right? My father came from India, I don’t know, was your father from the United States?

Sure, yep.

Oh, okay.

Fourth generation.

Oh that’s great. My father came here from India. My mother is an American, and so a similar thing. Grew up in the East Bay and just kind of organically being part of the community and understanding how important community institutions and how important people are to keep those communities strong. For some of us, it just became embedded in the way that we think.

Oh sure, absolutely. To continue on that type of tradition is important. We would have fundraisers at our homes. I’d say to myself, “Who are all these strangers? Why do we have to dress up and talk to these strangers. They are in our house.” Fast forward to where we are today, I’m quite aware of the purpose of the events.

What did you like about serving at the local level?

All politics is local, I’m sure that you can appreciate that too given your service on the Walnut Creek City Council. That you are able to make a difference in a very localized way. That you saw neighbors in your grocery store and at the farmer’s markets and you are able to make some significant change. Whereas in a larger setting like the state legislature, it’s very broad. California is very large, not only in geography but in population and interests. That becomes, then, in and of itself.

There is no doubt, and we’ll talk about that in a little bit. But staying at the local level for just a minute, you also were…Well a couple things. The first is you are right, all politics is local, but the decisions that you make, they are so tangible. They are so bread and butter. I trust that you derive some sense of satisfaction from being able to solve problems and being able to point to those solutions, they are so readily apparent when you are at the local level.

That’s right. My city of Campbell, there were five counsel members. We all lived relatively close to each other, but we could count to a magic number. Having a conversation with individuals to make sure that we have three out of five of individuals who supported an initiative or project was important. That’s how you got things done. There is a deep passion, and it’s very community oriented.

Yeah. You also, of course Campbell is there in the peninsula, right in the heart of the Silicon Valley. For our lifetime it’s been on this incredible trajectory in terms of the economy overall and of course the innovation and technology economy. What was that like to grow up there? What were your impressions? Were you aware that you were in this epicenter of the global technology economy where you were growing up?

Sure. These were all household names. Tandem was a name back then where many family friends worked in, and now it’s very different to what you see here today. Apple had a different connotation than it does today. You see these types of advancements which are very exciting. Growing up I just thought we were on our own little island in Santa Clara County in the state of California.

Whereas now when you travel the world, folks know about Cupertino, Campbell, Silicon Valley area, San Jose areas. It is sort of a unique experience to be able to come from a location which was home, and a small town feel, whereas now it’s on the global map. What does that mean in terms of the talent, in terms of the challenges that also exist there?

I definitely want to get into that, but I gather that’s a good transition to your work at the state. What made you want to go to Sacramento?

Well I just wanted to become a teacher. I was studying political science at San Jose State, went to De Anza College in San Jose State, so public education all the way through. Just wanted to teach, but it was the last senior project that I had at San Jose state, which was to analyze the city counsel race in the city of Campbell. As you can appreciate, we sort of looked at how many votes did the winner need to win an election. Who are the key stakeholders? From which community groups do they need support from? What did the newspaper say? Who were the contributors and supports?

Doing analysis there sort of gave me an insight in saying, “Okay, I would like to participate in this process.” Particularly looking at the demographics of the city of Campbell. There was not this type of young representation. The system of governance and politics typically does not support younger people participating in the process, due to a number of factors. Which include that it certainly isn’t full time pay. The networks are so important to be able to participate.

Young people, millennials today, are struggling, even with full time work, sometimes two jobs. They are struggling to make ends meet. Many of these occupations, particularly in elected office, require you to either be independently wealthy or retired.

So a question, it’s a big challenge, isn’t it? You and I were talking before, just before we went on air here, about trying to encourage people to participate as we must, because we want to have a diversity of folks. Different perspectives, ages, genders, walks of life, careers, and inputs. You need that, because you want the government to be representative of the communities that they serve. But it is as a practical matter, it’s very difficult to get young people to be able to have the time and the resources to participate. That’s not always good for government if you don’t have that kind of diversity.

That’s right. In fact when you take a look at the voter turnout, and you look at the voter turnout percentage between ages 18 to 35, it’s significantly lower than that of those who are 60 and up, for a number of different reasons. Younger people, millennials, are struggling to just make ends meet as I mentioned earlier. But also, they don’t feel as invested in the process. How do we ensure that there is a sense of ownership, a sense of duty, a sense of civic duty?

I’ve often times talked about the challenge. You look at some best practices in other countries. Here in the United States and in California, when you turn 18, you are considered a productive member of society. Which is to say that you are free to do whatever you want. Where as in other countries, when you turn 18, individuals are often times enlisted in mandatory service of two years. Whether it be in the army or supporting their country and/or communities. I think it’s important that we continue to have this conversation about sense of duty to each other. When we become 18 years of age, we should talk about how we are interconnected. Particularly in this globalized world, we are more connected than we are different. How do we ensure that we are doing our part to help the society and continue to be part of the community.

I think it’s a great point. At CALinnovates, we’ve been talking to millennials a lot. We’ve been talking to them directly, we’ve been doing surveys, we’ve been trying to have our organization be a vehicle or a platform where millennials can express themselves and talk about politics and talk about issues. Because as we’ve seen as we are recording this, we are just a couple of weeks away from the national election.

It seems that one of the themes from our point of view, inaccurately but nevertheless, the narrative that seems to be settling in nationally is that millennials are disinterested, they are aloof, they think they are too good for the political process. We certainly have found that to be quite the opposite. I’m wondering, in your travels and your experiences, what you are seeing out there?

Sure, as a millennial.

Your peers I should say, that’s right.

I talk to other individuals about this process. But there is a number of different factors, I don’t think there is a silver bullet to this issue. Which is to say that on this November ballot, there are 17 statewide measures in addition to the local measures. If you are here as we are, recording here in San Francisco, there are a number of local measures. Imagine on top of those things the candidates. It’s no wonder that there becomes analysis paralysis and voter fatigue in terms of democracy.

At one point we talk about the importance of grassroots democracy. At what point does democracy become too much? Do we really want the general individual and the voter to go through all these different issues? Or, do we want to empower our elected representatives to make these decisions for us in terms of the trustee notion. Of delegate versus trustee, and empowering individuals in this democracy.

Well that’s a huge issue, it’s been a huge issue in California for some time. We’ve been a trailblazing state in terms of direct democracy. Hiram Johnson, right, going back 100 years ago and the initiative process. Which has a lot of virtues to be able to go directly to the people and give them a voice and authority to make decisions in self governance. But, and now as a legislature, you understand how much we’ve encumbered you all as our elected leaders in Sacramento, through the myriad initiatives, amendments to our state constitution that we’ve made over the years.

I am curious now that you are in the state legislature, what is your view of that, and how far we’ve gone in direct democracy? Which again, it’s a good notion, but what does it really mean in terms of the ability to govern the state in an effective way?

Sure. I think we are continually adapting to try to find a “perfect” sense of democracy in its true form. I think we continue to evolve and adapt. Certainly I think when we think about direct democracy in California, the initiative process, we want to allow average citizens to come together and coalesce around an issue, and that everyone should be able to put something on the ballot in a state like California with over 40 million people. But the reality, in terms of practicality and practice, is one needs to raise significant funds to be able to put something on the ballot, to collect enough signatures.

There are specific special interests who have bypassed the legislature, and are helping to do our jobs. It’s not helpful to see this bypass the legislature in this realm. Let me tell you, I sort of try to figure out, how do I get to the average person and get a sense of what is really going? What do the average Californians think? I don’t need to go that much further than going to a coffee shop, or going to the barber shop where I get my haircut. As I’m sitting and I’m getting my haircut, the hairstylists and different individuals are talking about elections. One person pulls out their ballot, and one person says, “Well I know that you are in the legislature. Why aren’t you doing your job? Why are there 17 measures? I’m so confused. No means yes, yes means no. You are wasting all these trees in my mailbox.”

Yeah, my voter pamphlet is 200 pages long.

They say, “Well this is ridiculous. The average person is not going to be able to come up to understand what this all is. Can you just tell me, what is your position on all these propositions?” I will be very straightforward with them as well too. I don’t even know which proposition numbers are in accordance to what the issue is. I’ll have to look at it and read it, and once I know, and take a look at it, then I’ll have a breadth of understanding. But it would be disingenuous for anybody.

I consider myself someone who is up to knowledge on some of these issues …

You are above average in terms of your connection to these…

Well at least understanding some of these issues.

I understand.

But to say, 17, statewide measures, and to really have a deep dive into these issues, it’s very complex. So yes, direct democracy is important, but in practicality and in practice, how is it really being used?

Well I agree, and you are right. I feel the same way. I feel like in our system of elected representatives, elected leaders, that’s what the citizens want. They want to elect good people like you, and then they want to hold you accountable for whether you are doing a good job or not. If you are not, then they vote you out. But in the meantime, they want you to make decisions, not farm out all the decisions to them. They are saying, “What did we elect you for if I’ve got to make all these choices?”

Exactly, that’s right, and if that was the case, why even have the legislature? Because you could just put everything on the ballot and have everyone decide. But these are very complicated issues. I oftentimes even give a story of when I went to a classroom. I oftentimes go to teach about civics and talk to different classrooms.

I ask a class of individuals, “Show me by raise of hands, how many of you like vanilla ice cream?” Half of the class raises there hands, then I say, “How many like chocolate.” Half of the class raises there hands. I say, “Okay, this is a clear illustration that you have two different competing sides with generally the same amount of individuals on different sides, how do you come to an agreement? Imagine a much more complicated, complex issue, and coming together in a democratic way, how does that occur?”

The swirl of course.

Well then other people say, “What about strawberry?” I say, “Well that wasn’t a choice, and to your point … ” What choices are available and which is not available?

Well listen, talking about getting people engaged, when we’ve talked to millennials, and now that you are in the legislature and you’ve been there for a bit and you’ve established yourself as a leader in a couple of ways, one of the things that we see is that the language of government, the tools of government, the culture of government, in many ways is so outdated and it feels very antiquated. There is a real cultural disconnect between what we see in government and what younger folks, digital natives, people that don’t know anything different than using mobile phones and other types of innovative tools as part of their everyday life. There is a really significant gap there.

One of the things that you have spearheaded in the legislature is a new caucus of your members, the innovation and technology caucus. Let’s talk about sort of broadly what you want to accomplish, and how that maybe could be a mechanism whereby we get younger people to recognize where government is going because it’s becoming more modern.

Sure. Well let’s make this clear recognition that Silicon Valley is not an island on itself, and we need to make sure that California maintains it’s economic competitiveness in terms of innovation, and then the United States can continue to be a leader in this realm too. But this is a globalized world, and we do not have a monopoly on the truth. We continue to compete in many different ways. How do we recognize that we want to create an environment where we have competition flourish, and provide an environment where innovation thrives?

Often times we see the recognition of government in terms of the regulatory environment, we look at the protections for the consumer protection side of things. Looking for the public safety and the public interest. At the same time, how do we foster that type of innovation? By default though, innovation is disruptive in this way, and so government tends to be slower by default. Therein lies the natural clash. Therein lies the natural conflict. Which is to say that the innovation where the consumer and the technology has gone, has left the regulatory environment.

How do we ensure that we have subject matter experts within the role of government to identify ways that we can have the framework of the regulatory environment while also protecting the public interests? That is a very difficult challenge at hand, because I’ll tell you, as I introduce a bill related to the transportation network companies and the shared economy, I was lobbying a senator urging their support. I was explaining the bill, the senator stopped me and said, “I’m sorry, what is Uber?” They did not know what the application was.

I had to pause and say, “Okay, well in 2015, we may still have to explain some of these things to.” We have additional conversations that are required on many of these different areas. How do we engage in this thoughtful conversation where government is seen as a partner, rather than an adversary on the tech community, on the defense, and not working in partnership?

Yeah, well I think it’s critically important. Of course that’s the name of the game for us here at CALinnovates is to try and help be an organization that can be a bridge between these innovations. You’re right, three years ago, I didn’t know what Uber was either, or four years ago. These things are happening incredibly quickly, and the spread of ride share as one example, but there is countless examples of brand new technologies, brand new innovations, that have incredibly rapid adoption.

Government, to your point, by design, is not intended to move, it shouldn’t move that fast. There are fundamental things that government has to do. We have to look out for public safety, for consumer protections, for just doing right by the communities that government serves in all kinds of ways. There is a real tension there. But to your point, trying to find mechanisms or venues where those gaps can get bridged really is the name of the game, isn’t it?

That’s right, and so when you have job displacements or different challenges that exist, the innovation economy can often times fill that void. Having engaged in conversations also with other stakeholders, let’s be very real. We are a capitalist society. We want competition to thrive. When different innovations come to market, often times there will be different stakeholders fighting over the share and where the consumer is. In terms of the regulatory environment, how do we make sure that we can provide the framework where there is ample competition that exists, but then also protects the consumer?

A perfect example of this is with, for example, the shared economy, or whether you say the drone industry. The drone industry innovates so quickly, but then we don’t have the regulations in place that regulates commercial versus personal use. To how many feet away from a residential area, to which price point does a drone need to be registered so in case there is an accident, that we can trace back that drone in case there is a problem with this too? The innovators, the founders, don’t necessarily think in terms of the regulatory environment, because they’ve often times said, “We are so busy focused, looking for our next round of funding, marketing, sales, engineering, we don’t really have time to focus on the regulatory environment.”

The challenge that exists then is that they innovate so quickly that they will eventually come up against government in terms of the regulatory environment, because the innovation does not fit in a nice little box. The industry then finds itself on the defense, rather than, “Hey, let’s partner in this.”

Well we see that every day too. We see that with our members, and we talk to businesses all the time about, “Listen, if you are going to do something that’s disruptive… ” To them, their eyes get big because they see it as a big business opportunity. It may well be, and that’s very exciting, and we want to see those positive opportunities unfold, for businesses to grow. Growing this economy is critically important, but we do advise them, “Look, you are going to have to understand, if you are disrupting things, there is very likely to be at some point a regulatory response.” And hoping that you can avoid that all together. It’s not practical in the long run.

I think again, it works both ways. It’s not only up to government to find ways to be more responsive, but certainly around here we preach to businesses that you are going to have to find ways to constructively engage in the communities where you are operating and understand that government does have a role that matters.

That’s absolutely right. The other aspect to it is, for example in the area of automated driverless vehicles …

Yeah, no kidding.

What happens if you, let’s say a few years ago, if you were in this space? Who do you have a conversation with at the DMV? Because I will tell you, when many of the different companies approach the DMV, which is a state agency, the DMV does not have the authority to have a conversation in this way, to have the framework, because it’s not in statute. So unless it’s the legislature or the governor giving direction, it should not be the bureaucracy or the state agency that helps to push in this way. Which is why it’s important for the industry to be involved and engaged in our democracy.

So that the representatives, the governor and the elected side, can say, “Okay, we believe that this is important for the vision and the future of California. And, oh by the way, other states have said, here is the red carpet. We will not only role out the red carpet and have the framework for automated driverless vehicles, we will also provide you with tax incentives as well.'” Let’s be real that we must also do the important job amongst ourselves within state government to provide the framework to allow this type of atmosphere to occur, and be proactive rather than reactive.

Well you are bringing up a great point and we’ve just got a few more minutes. I want to turn to what you are sort of touching on, which is California, we are a great place where these technologies and companies are invented, but there is a real question about the extent to which those economic benefits and opportunities are being presented broadly to our people. When I worked in the governor’s office, I talked very openly about this sort of bifurcation of the California economy.

That is to say that those who are participating in the technology economy by and large are doing pretty well. Those who aren’t connected to the technology economy too often are in periods of real struggle. California as you know is in this really amazing place where we’ve just become, I think again, the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world, but we are also leading the nation in real poverty. It’s an extraordinary challenge at the state level to think about how do we create broader opportunities and prosperity that’s consistent with the technology capacity that we have. It’s an enormous challenge.

Right, absolutely. Again, how to be proactive in allowing for the framework and environment for us to continue to support these different areas too. I will tell you, I’ve had conversations with a number of executives who have headquarters in other places outside of our state. They say that California is a very expensive place to do business. High in taxes. But let’s be very clear, California is open for business.

There is a reason why we have more venture capital than any other region in the United States, in Silicon Valley, which is in the state of California. How do we continue to foster this environment? That requires then that we have the adequate skill sets for these companies for the future in the long term. Are we pumping into the pipeline educated Californians who have the skill sets for the workforce for the future that matches up with what we see in the digital space, in the shared economy, in manufacturing technologies and all these different areas?

Is that something that you guys are going to take up as part of the innovation and technology caucus? Talking about workforce development, skill set development, preparedness for participation in the economy?

Absolutely. One of the things that we see in terms of the statistics, it takes longer to graduate within our institutions of higher education. Recognizing that piece, how do we ensure that we are adequately funded? But not only that, making sure that they are adequately equipped for the subject matter, expertise that is required for the workforce in California in the short term and the long term.

Well that’s certainly a great endeavor. We’ve got to find new pathways for prosperity for people, because I don’t think at the end of the day there is any stopping this technology economy, so we have to help figure out ways to help folks participate. Another thing that you were very active in in the last session, I think along these lines was legislation you were advancing to try to help promote the modernization of telecommunications networks in the state. Which really is the backbone of the innovation economy. Tell us about that, what you were trying to accomplish, and maybe what yet is to come in that area.

Well imagine over the past decade, or even five years the insatiable appetite for the consumer to use their mobile devices for streaming, for videos and what not too. The infrastructure does not adequately support that. What we want to do is provide the framework, the areas of opportunity for the digital economy. Ensuring that we have that type of infrastructure in place. The bill that you referred to as a utility modernization bill, which would allow many of our companies to invest to where their consumer is, to making sure that we have that type of technology that exists.

I’m fortunate in Silicon Valley where many cities who have fiber, have gigapower and our able to look at the framework for that as well. But we want to make sure that we have that, not only in Silicon Valley but in other places in the Central Valley and in places throughout the state of California where individuals can have the opportunity that exists for tapping into that type of technology.

There is just no question, this notion of a new digital divide. We talk about a digital divide 2.0 that’s happened. While there is lots more accessibility to broadband than there was 10, 20, or 30 years ago, and we’ve made progress, but again, the rapid pace of change is so dramatic that your point is so spot on. We have to be vigilant, ever vigilant, in ensuring that all of our Californians have access to the latest and greatest networking, because that’s really their connection to the modern economy.

That’s right, and again, when you look at best practices in other countries, and in some other areas, their governments have invested in this area. We need to partner with individuals like yourself and CALinnovates to ensure that we have public private partnerships all the way through, that we are holding each other accountable, and have high expectations for each other.

It’s indispensable, right? You think about the biggest public systems that we have, whether it’s water, whether it’s energy, whether it’s transportation, healthcare, on down the line. All of these things are fundamentally being renewed as we speak, and being disrupted and we’re seeing great new technologies, but if we don’t have the infrastructure to support and sustain those transitions, and reach all of our people, that would be a terrific shame, wouldn’t it?

That’s right, definitely.

Let me close by asking you, kind of where we started, I mean you as someone who for whatever reason, it was born into you or you had this realization, that serving mattered. It mattered in your local community, and then because of obviously your ability and your hunger to do more you went from the local level up to Sacramento, and who knows where you’ll be in 10 or 20 years, we’ll be following. But talk about why it’s important to serve, and why it’s important to get other people, what examples you are seeing of others who are sort of gravitating to this notion of service, and why that’s so important to you.

Oh sure. Well you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to turn on the TV or radio or watch your newsfeed about what’s going on in the political narrative. If we deeply care about the future for ourselves, that we are interconnected, it’s important that we are engaged and involved in some fashion. Not everybody needs to run for office, but in some way, how do you continue to be engaged in your community? By fostering conversation, and being part and invested in some way. That’s what is so important for us to be able to do and I just hope to be one part of that.

Yeah, you clearly are. And we are seeing you inspiring others, we are seeing people in technology companies, people that are connected to those things, they are bringing that subject matter expertise. They are engaging which is encouraging to see.

Absolutely, I am so fortunate to see that a lot of our tech executives in Silicon Valley and throughout the state of California are engaging, saying, “We have a wider responsibility, to just simply our profits, but that we have a community responsibility, and that we must be engaged in social change.” They have a responsibility not only for the public interest, but for public education because we care about the workforce and the development for our future longevity, but we must be engaged.

Well assemblymember Evan Low, you are clearly an inspiration I think to your colleagues and to people in business and other walks of life that understand that we have to be involved, that we have to engage. Thanks a lot for your leadership and for inspiring others to follow suit. We appreciate it, and thanks for joining us on our program.

Thanks for having me.

Thanks a lot, great to see you.

Much appreciated.

Thank you.

The Future Of Health Care Is In Data Analytics

by Mike Montgomery

Every minute of the day, eCare21, a remote patient-monitoring system, collects thousands of pieces of health data about more than 1,000 senior citizens. The telehealth system uses smartphones, Fitbits, Bluetooth and sensors to collect information about things like blood pressure, physical activity, glucose levels, medication intake and weight. The information is then compiled on a dashboard so that the patients’ doctors, loved ones and caregivers can keep an eye on them and provide proactive care, even from hundreds of miles away.

This is proving to be a valuable service for individuals managing complicated health situations. But Vadim Cherdak, CEO and president of eCare21, says we are only scratching the surface. Once his company partners with a big data analytics service, it will be able to glean even more useful insights from the intense amount of data flowing in.

Cherdak expects to be able to deeply analyze the data to provide better alerts and tailored recommendations for patients and caregivers. Cherdak has been looking at big data systems such as IBM WatsonCloudvara and Hortonworks, but the industry is still in the pioneering stages. No one yet knows the best way to make sense of the vast troves of data.

This kind of telehealth — which eliminates geographical constraints by using technology to help people receive timely medical care no matter where they are — is on the upswing. In fact, according to the National Business Group on Health, nine in 10 large employers will provide telehealth services to their employees in 2017. By 2019, NBG predicts, this number will leap to 97%.

Telemedicine may alleviate some of the struggles currently facing the health-care industry. We have an aging population, a shortage of physicians and an increasing need to manage chronic diseases. We also need to keep burgeoning health-care costs in check. Thanks to “constant technological innovation, increasing remote patient monitoring and rising use of treatments that require long follow-ups,” Mordor Intelligence predicts that the global telemedicine market will reach more than $34 billion by 2020.

Read the full post here.

Ep. 2: Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom

A Step Ahead: Gavin Newsom

Hi, everyone. This is Kish Rajan, Chief Evangelist at CALinnovates, and along with our Executive Director, Mike Montgomery, we welcome you to the new CALinnovates podcast where we’ll be sitting down with elected officials and policy advocates and other thought leaders to discuss issues of critical innovation, technology, and public policy matters that face California and the country. We’ll be talking to guests of all kinds and we’ll be broadcasting this regularly and we hope that you’ll join us for this important series of discussions about the future of our state and our country.

This time around, we’re fortunate to be joined by the 49th Lieutenant Governor of the State of California, Gavin Newsom. Before his time as Lieutenant Governor, Gavin served as the two-term mayor of San Francisco, and before that on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Throughout his career, Gavin has been a passionate advocate and leader in areas of innovation and technology. Look no further than the San Francisco city government where you see a tremendous commitment to open data, open government, and utilization of technologies of all kinds to improve the quality of services that come from the city. We had a chance to sit down with Lieutenant Governor Newsom to talk about issues of innovation and technology to California and to the world.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, we are so grateful that you’re joining us. Thanks for joining us.

Happy to be here. Good to be here.

Yeah, that’s really great. We’re doing this podcast via CALinnovates and we’re talking about the importance of the innovation economy in general. You, throughout your career, going back to your time on the Board of Supervisors and Mayor in San Francisco, certainly your time as Lieutenant Governor, both in California and nationally you’ve talked a lot about the importance of the innovation economy.


Let’s talk about why has that been so important to you, and how are we doing?

Innovation, obviously historically, has always mattered and innovation comes in many shapes and forms, but obviously now we’re dealing with some of the most disruptive innovation and technology. Things really came to the fore for me when I was sitting with the head of the San Francisco Chronicle, who was run at the time by the Hearst Group, and he was asked about the future of the newspaper business, and he said, “We got this,” basically. This was in the early part of 2000. He says, “We’re not concerned about technology. We’re going to be okay.” A guy in the audience said, “Well, hold on. What about that guy named Craig.” And the gentleman who was asked said, “Craig, who?” And someone screamed out, “That guy with the list.” And so I said, “Oh, Craigslist. Craig Newmark.” And, you know what? What an eye-opening moment to punctuate the change.

Craig comes along with a list and guts the newspaper industry overnight by taking out it’s cash flow by reducing the classified sections to a few paragraphs, not throngs of paper. I’ll never forget being Mayor. It was great to be Mayor of San Francisco and I’m there and, “Ladies and gentleman, Steve Jobs,” and he comes up and he says, “I got this thing called iTunes.” And none of us even knew what hit us. I walked outside and literally around the corner was that beautiful Virgin mega store. I was there with Richard Branson when it opened up. I waited in line to get a picture with him. I was so excited. One of my business heroes. Well, that thing went out of business in a couple years.


There were a thousand other versions of stores that literally didn’t know what hit them. So, you go through this and you start to appreciate the disruptive nature of technology and innovation today. I’ll just end with this, one final example, I got my political… I literally made my name in politics, not intentionally, just unintentionally, on taxi cab issues. I was desperate to reform the taxi cab industry in San Francisco and I failed miserably. Then all of a sudden, a guy comes along with an app and literally guts the entire taxi cab industry, Travis and Uber, overnight. So, the whole point is paralysis contrasted by rebirth. Something big is happening here. Innovation, particularly technological innovation, is the thrust of that change.

There’s no question about it. You think about, and that taxi example is such a brilliant example, you’ve served in government, so have I. We try to be reformers inside of government. We try to use the tools and the power of government to create change and create new trajectories, right? And there’s some examples of success, but nothing that can mirror how innovation and private industry with that ingenuity is creating change, be it in transportation, be it in energy, be it in communications, and hopefully other ways, right? Education and other things where we clearly need to make changes if we’re going to be able to extend the benefits of this new era to all people.

You’ve got it. Government is just, I was saying earlier in our conversation we were having, it’s on a collision course with the future. Government in California is on the leading cutting edge of 1973. And I say that quite literally. The DMV’s plumbing, the architecture of the entire Department of Motor Vehicles, was conceived around 1973, 1974, and there’s been efforts to upgrade it, but the reality is we’ve just patched on top of all these old legacy systems. The fact is, it’s not just technology. Innovation is also about culture. It’s also about business processes and what happens with technology, you’ve looked at it historically, even with the innovation that was electricity, electricity didn’t change the world overnight. But, 10, 20 years later, what changed along with electricity were the way people did business using this technology and that’s when the real disruption came. It doesn’t surprise me that the personal computer as we know it today was the Time Man of the Year or Thing of the Year in 1980. And about two decades later, we started to see some real disruption, 2000, and now we’re starting to see disruption at a whole new level as all these new technologies are being built off the internet.

I just think you’ve got to tighten your seatbelt, because we ain’t seen nothing yet, and something big is happening. There’s a lot of whitewater change.

You’re one of the more clear-thinking and articulate spokespersons for the change that is happening and the change that we’re really still at the beginning of. There’s no question.


But we are seeing already in the fundamentals of California, what’s so troubling about this change, the downside of it, is that it’s creating tremendous economic dislocation, right? So at the exact same time, you know this better than anybody, that California is the sixth largest economy in the world, incredible vibrancy, amazing wealth that’s being created, nearly one in four Californians lives in poverty today. Children, when you talk about populations of color, those numbers are higher.


How do you feel and how do we deal with the fact that this economy is moving so rapidly away from so many of our fellow Californians?

I’m profoundly worried about California, but I’ll tell you, I think you need to look at it more globally as well. I’m more worried about developing nations. Their competitive strength was all the off-shoring. Competitive strength was low labor costs. You’re seeing dramatic impacts on manufacturing in places like China now where they can’t afford that labor and they’re starting to bring labor-saving automation, which could have a huge impact on wages and huge impact on their work force. In so many respects, we are better prepared to be resilient in this environment than a lot of other parts of the planet. So, from a global perspective, and the fact is, you talk about a $2.44 trillion economy now bigger than France, the sixth largest in the world, you can’t talk about California’s economy without looking at it in the context of the backdrop of the global economy. In this low growth or slow growth environment, it’s going to dramatically impact California. Again, this notion of interdependence is profoundly important. There’s something big going on globally, not just here locally, despite the fact that so much of the innovation is emanating out of California.

That said, unless we radically retool our thinking around workforce development and up-skilling, we are going to see these stats get worse and worse, and it’s not 30-year trends. I fear five, six, seven, eight years. These things are pronounced. It’s a punctuation point as the world goes mobile, local, social, cloud, crowd, in real time and we talk about exponential nature of technology, the convergence of technology, when machine learning meets big data, etc. That’s when the real disruption will start to take shape and it’s going to impact a lot of folks, particularly middle skill folks disproportionately. Anything that gets repeated, gets replaced in this economy.

Well, there’s no question. Final question, and we appreciate your time, is as the change happens… And you’re right, that middle skill, middle tier, so much of California’s economy still has been dependent. It is still organized around those legacy industrial sectors.


How do we summon the political will and capacity to make the kinds of changes, be it in education, transportation, infrastructure, all the big things that you’ve talked so beautifully about, around what has made California great to date, how do we create the political change that’s necessary to ensure that we modernize our approach to create the opportunities that we want in our era?

There’s the old adage, “If you don’t like the answer, ask a better question.” We’ve got to start asking better questions. The question again that I think every single one of us have the obligation to wake up and ask and then answer is what world are we living in? What are the trend lines that define this world? How can we take advantage of those trend lines? That’s fundamental. That means we have to change the conversation we’re having in Sacramento, change the conversation we’re having at home. Because at the end of the day, the guy or gal on the white horse is not going to come along and “save the day” for you. If you’re looking for someone else to solve this, you’re in real trouble. More and more is on you now than ever. It’s the power of one, right?

We have remarkable… It’s just amplified individual, the ability for someone not to just think globally, but act globally for good or for evil, obviously. So you have the duality of that. But the reality is, all of us now have to recognize we live in a world where average is over and that means you’re like a carton of milk with a sell-by date. It may be great that you got that degree in 1996, but it’s not particularly relevant in 2026. So, it’s about life-long learning. It’s about on-demand education. It’s about completely re-imagining the 21st Century education system that, frankly, as important as preschool is, as important as prenatal care is and front-loading education, we now have to start having a conversation about back-loading education, not just K-14, not just a Bachelor’s degree, but truly constantly never-ending updating of skills in your 40s and your 50s and your 60s, and particularly in a world where we’re aging and graying, living longer, and needing to work longer and longer.

Well, California’s future, I’m sure you agree, it’s still bright.

Yes. Despite everything we said. Unbelievably bright.

Well, listen, it’s nothing but opportunity, but it’s going to take leadership. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, we appreciate your leadership and we absolutely appreciate your time. Thanks for sharing.

Good to be here. Thanks so much.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Ep. 1: 2016 Libertarian Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson

A Step Ahead: Gary Johnson

Hi everyone, this is Kish Rajan, Chief Evangelist at CALinnovates. Along with our Executive Director, Mike Montgomery, we welcome you to the new CALinnovates podcast, where we’ll be sitting down with elected officials and policy advocates, and other thought leaders, to discuss issues of critical innovation, technology and public policy matters that face California and the country. We’ll be talking to guests of all kinds and we’ll be broadcasting this regularly. We hope that you’ll join us for this important series of discussions about the future of our state and our country.

We’re so pleased this time to be joined by Libertarian party candidate for President, former New Mexico Governor, Gary Johnson.

Governor Johnson, thanks for being here, really appreciate it.

Gary Johnson: Oh thank you. Yeah.

It’s nice to see you.

Great opportunity.

Yeah. Welcome to California.


You’re one of millions that’ll visit here this year, for business or leisure travel, and many of those folks avail themselves of sharing economy services. Uber, for ride share, Airbnb, home share, and the like. Are you a user and what do you think about the tremendous growth of that new space in our economy these days?

I have said repeatedly, I think that this is the model of the future. Uber everything. Eliminating the middle man. Allowing for you as the provider of goods and services, to directly give that to the end user, eliminating the middle man, so the end user saves money and you make more money as the provider. Airbnb, in Santa Fe right now, they have restricted the use of Airbnb. My partner and I Kate, I think we have this great opportunity to rent our place out. I built my dream home north of Taos, but we have this great opportunity to rent out our place, and they’re restricting Airbnb from existing.

That’s not unusual.

It’s not unusual.

In the sharing economy generally, there’s a lot of reaction on the parts of state and local governments that have tried to hinder these models, or try to find ways to force them into their regulatory box.

Can they not see the fact, that me, that I get a little bit of extra income that I’m going to be spending in my community or paying in tax? It’s just so short sighted.

I think it’s a great point in terms of the owners of those properties to be able to continue to derive some additional income, or you know, monetizing those. But it’s also the users. I think particularly, it’s not exclusively this, but certainly younger consumers. Their perception of getting a ride or staying some place has fundamentally changed. One wonders, now in your candidacy, one wonders whether politics and policy is catching up with where the generational attitudes and cultures are headed.

Well, if I’m elected President, just count on me to use that bully pulpit to point out how good these things are and stop with the restriction. Stop with the restriction. If there are, and I am sure that there are initiatives that are going to be launched to restrict them federally.

There’s no doubt. You can count on it. At CALinnovates, we actually have a poll in the field right talking directly to millennials and to voters, and asking them about attitudes, and trying to match up where the gaps may be, and sort of where the policy conversation is headed. We’ll talk more about that for sure.

It’s exciting.

A big topic of security versus privacy. Of course, sadly, we’ve seen so many tragic events that have happened, criminal events, shootings, terrible things that have happened, and sadly, it seems that the scale of these is growing. Given how lethal these attacks are, and the opportunity to be able to potentially interdict those things to prevent them, shouldn’t the government be able to take greater action in that regard?

There is a process, and it’s due process. It’s presenting evidence to a judge and actually getting warrants to be able accomplish exactly what you’re talking about. When the NSA has the ability to collect metadata, and I am saying something here that I really have no appreciation for whatsoever, because what does metadata of 110 million Verizon users really amount to? To me, that is wrong. There has not been one shred of evidence to come forward that anything has been prevented, thwarted, or discovered as a result of this massive collection of all of our personal information.

Let me switch gears. Something that’s happened that’s been so stunning globally has been the Brexit vote, that decision by the voters. There’s a lot of dimensions to that and a lot of reasons I suppose about why that happened. One element that’s been talked a lot about is immigration and anxiety, in Britain, around greater immigration. Some would say that that’s a present conversation, certainly in the Presidential campaign here in the United States as well. Of course in California, in the Bay Area, in this thriving innovation economy, it seems that a big asset, one of the great contributors to the success here, has been that we’re a melting pot of immigrants that are contributing their talents. I’m curious as to your feelings about immigration, and the implications to the innovation economy.

Running for President of the United States, we should embrace immigration. We’re a country of immigrants. All innovation has stemmed from innovation. We should make this as easy as possible for anybody that wants to come into this country and work to be able to get a work visa. Get government out of the quota, out of establishing quotas. There’ll either be jobs or there won’t be jobs. A work visa should entail a background check. We don’t want criminals in this country, and it should include a social security card, so that applicable taxes get paid, but come on. We’re a country of immigrants, a hard working people that are coming here to this country to achieve what any American hopes to achieve.

It certainly seems again that this cuts a lot on age lines. I mentioned that we’re in the field with the poll, looking at attitudes. A lot of data in the Brexit vote, the analysis of that vote, showed very big divides between younger voters and older voters, about their feelings on immigration, multiculturalism, and technology. I wonder if you see those similar divides emerging here and what we can do to try to bridge those.

Well, yes I do, this is protectionist. We are at a crossroads in my opinion, and I don’t think we should go down the road of being protectionists. I think we’re going to find ourselves in a recession. The Brexit vote for me was a vote against the crooning capitalism of Europe, that’s the way I looked at it. It really puts in doubt any Euro based investment, for years to come, and it makes the United States really a safe haven for dollars, I think, for years to come. I’m talking now about worldwide investment and what should be viewed as the safe haven. Unless of course we screw it up by becoming isolationists ourselves.

Final question. Technology is permeating all aspects of our lives. It certainly is changing the way the political campaigns take place. It’s been some time since the first time you ran for office in New Mexico. I’m wondering if you, what have you noticed in your observations about how much campaigning has changed, how much politics has changed, because of the innovations and the advent of new technologies?

What’s exciting for me is I might get elected President. If I do, I will have spent less money than any political candidate in modern history made possible by social media.

I have to tell you, I’ve seen the latest web ad that you have that’s out on social media right now. You and your running mate, Governor Weld. I must say, it’s very creative. It’s clearly catching on because I know it’s been viewed by millions of people, so that’s certainly an indication of how quickly you can have an impact with the right kind of content online.

Right. Doesn’t cost anything other than the production and the relative production costs are very low. Anyway, it’s exciting.

Well, Libertarian candidate for President, Governor Gary Johnson. Thanks so much for being with us on INNOVATE2016 and good luck the rest of the way.

Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you very much.

Goodbye Payphones, Hello Progress

by Kish Rajan

If Clark Kent wanted to turn into Superman in California today, he’d struggle to find a phone booth. Across the entire state there are only 27,000 payphones left, down 70% from 2007.

It’s no big surprise that the payphone is going the way of the dodo bird. According to the Pew Research Center 92% of American adults own cellphones. If you’re desperate to make a call and find yourself with a dead battery, chances are good you’re going to ask a friendly stranger to borrow their cell phone before you’re going to search out a payphone.

Late last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that acknowledges the demise of the payphone. SB 1055 puts an end to the Payphone Services Committee and the Payphone Service Providers Committee Fund which was being used to, among other things, “fund programs to … educate consumers on matters related to payphones.”

Let that sink in for a second. As a state, until a few weeks ago, we were still spending money to educate people about payphones — something the vast majority of citizens don’t want or need.

That’s pretty emblematic of how the legislature works when it comes to telecom. There are lots of outdated laws and committees and funds on the books but change comes incredibly slowly.

That’s why the death of the payphone committee is a small but symbolic step.

California should turn its attention to fixing other policies that keep outdated technology tethered to our streets and our homes even when we as a population have moved on.

Read the full post on Fox and Hounds here.

Palm Springs Airport Faces Growing Pains: Modernize or Marginalize

by Mike Montgomery

Tonight, the Palm Springs City Council will make a decision about the future of the region’s airport that will move the Coachella Valley into the modern era, or leave it behind in the dusty past.

At issue is a vote to allow city staffers to consider regulations to let rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft pick up passengers at the airport. This matter should have been settled last month but instead of making a decision, the five members of the City Council kicked the can down the road, without even laying the groundwork for their staffers to begin the process of ushering in modern policies for Palm Springs International Airport (PSP).

It’s never an easy road for rideshare companies. The taxi lobby is deeply entrenched, moneyed and willing to fight for its dwindling market share rather than modernize and upgrade its offering. That fight is in conflict with consumer demand, which is clearly and quickly moving to rideshare companies.  Other major airports across the state, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose already allow Uber to pick up passengers. By keeping rideshare companies away from the airport, the City Council is turning the Palm Springs International Airport into a second-class transportation hub and marginalizing the area’s residents and tourists in the process.

Unfortunately, a cursory reading of the tealeaves indicates a disappointing outcome for rideshare companies. Currently, the City Council would likely vote against advancing this conversation. Never mind that this means rideshares can drop people off at the airport but not pick them up, a scheme that makes no sense to average people who are just looking for a ride. But such is the strength of the taxi lobby.  Common sense would lead one to believe that there is in fact no difference between allowing platform companies like Uber to drop off passengers (which is currently allowed) and pick them up, but the taxi lobby has done a phenomenal job of warding off competition and will continue doing so until the threat passes.

Taxi officials have raised the false specter of alcohol and drug testing as an excuse to keep rideshare companies away from the airport. But if you think drug and alcohol testing do anything to make rides safer, think again. Study after study has shown that these tests are wildly inaccurate, easy to manipulate, and provide no additional safety.

Similarly, the taxi industry is trying to force ridesharing to use their antiquated system of fingerprint-based background checks. Again, rideshare companies have already found more effective methods for making sure their drivers are being safe. They do comprehensive background checks, monitor rides in real-time and encourage riders to rate drivers and file complaints (again in real-time) if necessary. The taxi companies cannot offer this level of service to their customers.

But my voice doesn’t count in this vote and neither do the voices of elected officials and residents of Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, Indio, La Quinta, Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage. The only people who matter are those five members of the City Council.

Uber recently circulated a petition in Palm Springs asking residents to voice their support for the continuation of the airport discussion — 3,000 people signed in one week. A taxi-led petition to stop the furtherance of Uber pickups at the airport garnered a mere 300 signatures. It’s clear that the people of Palm Springs, and its 1.5 million airport passengers, deserve to move into the future when it comes to their transportation choices.

The City Council should reconsider its stance in favor of pro-consumer policies rather than pro-incumbent protectionism and give the people what they want: an airport offering modern services for the modern era.

Page 10 of 31« First...89101112...2030...Last »