News Center

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.

In reforming the PUC, Brown should replace commissioners

by Mike Montgomery

Gov. Jerry Brown deserves credit for signing into law several pieces of legislation this year aimed at reforming the troubled Public Utilities Commission and advancing regulatory transparency in California. Upon signing this legislative package, Brown said, “These important reforms cannot wait another year” and called upon the PUC “to use its existing authority to take immediate action.”
Even so, wholesale institutional changes remain elusive and necessary. Critics of the commission remain concerned and are right to be asking what comes next. The governor has the opportunity to further right the ship to help meet the goals and objectives his office outlined for CPUC reform.

In addressing a lack of governance, transparency and accountability at the PUC, one element of the equation was overlooked – an examination of the appointed commissioners themselves.

The commission as a whole has demonstrated a lack of accountability and has lost the trust of the public it is sworn to protect. PUC President Michael Picker has been candid about the commission’s challenge to reform itself and “play well” with other state agencies. Picker has a mandate from the governor to reform the commission from the inside and not wait for further legislative action.

Under the commission’s watch, Californians have witnessed or experienced disaster after disaster leading to egregious environmental impacts and climate change implications that cannot be undone. Additionally, we have seen protracted decision-making, the shifting of cost burdens to ratepayers and an overall lack of accountability.

An obvious next step on the path toward solving many of the PUC’s vexing challenges are changes to the commission itself. Some of the current commissioners – particularly the longest-serving – have lost public trust, and basic PUC reform is not enough to gain back that trust. California needs commissioners dedicated to acting within the governor’s reform agenda.

With Commissioners Mike Florio and Catherine Sandoval’s appointment terms coming to an end, the governor has the opportunity to replace, rather than reappoint, and send a clear message to the public that accountability begins now.

The record of this commission demands an infusion of new blood, and the governor should use his power of appointment to make it clear that accountability is the new order of the day across the many industries regulated by the PUC.

The governor is in the perfect position to continue his reforms by replacing these commissioners with new candidates who can restore trust and build a commission dedicated to public safety, governance, transparency and accountability.

The PUC requires a makeover. The process should start now.

Why Clinton And Trump Need To Talk About Technology At The Next Debate

Technology is central to our lives. But you wouldn’t know it by listening to the candidates.

By Kish Rajan

This week’s debate between vice presidential candidates Mike Pence and Tim Kaine was the second time we’ve seen candidates come together on the national stage to discuss the issues. For the second time, technology was basically left out of the conversation.

I guess that shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. This year’s election, more than any other I can remember, has been more about emotion than substance. The most important issues seem to be getting pushed to the sidelines in favor of personal jabs.

But I can’t help feeling disappointed. These debates have been a real missed opportunity. Tech is quickly becoming the driver of our economy. According to the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM jobs are growing at 13% per year, faster than any other sector. Tech jobs pay some of the highest wages, and for every new tech job, 4.3 more jobs are created in other fields thanks to the multiplier effect, according to the Bay Area Council.

At the same time, tech is decimating some industries and forever changing the nature of work. As technology makes everything from buying our groceries to writing news stories easier, traditional jobs are being lost and they’re not coming back. This is something our leaders need to face head on.

In the first debate, Hillary Clinton made a glancing reference to the power of innovation to create new jobs, but it was far from enough.

There’s a lot at stake in this election. In order to help grow the technology industry and protect workers, we need to modernize tax policies, come up with new strategies for education and workforce development, increase access to capital to start new businesses and reform regulations. These issues need to become part of the conversation.

Immigration is top of mind for many tech entrepreneurs but not in the way the candidates talk about it. Silicon Valley doesn’t want to keep immigrants out; it wants to let them in. The leaders in the Bay Area want to make it easier for entrepreneurs and engineers to cross our borders so new companies can be founded and others can hire the best and the brightest, no matter what country they’re from.

Then there is the sharing economy — I call it the Personal Enterprise Economy — which is growing in leaps and bounds. Companies such as Uber, Airbnb and Task Rabbit are remaking the economy in incredibly fundamental ways. A job is no longer for life; that’s just reality. These new companies are opening up new opportunities for people who may be underemployed or who just want more flexibility to control their own work life.

That doesn’t mean we don’t need regulations here to protect both workers and consumers. The choices the government makes about those regulations will have an enormous impact on whether or not this industry and its workers thrive.

And this new, tech-driven, future of work means that we need to rethink things such as tax breaks and benefits. Obamacare was a good start in that it gave everyone the chance to get health care without having to stay beholden to a specific employer. But we need to go further. More benefits need to be portable, sticking to the worker not the employer. We need to talk about things like wage insurance and evolving our tax code to reflect the changing nature of work.

There’s also the digital divide, a serious problem that is rarely publicly discussed among elite politicians. While at the top end of the economic scale people have access to iPhones, lightning-fast broadband and the newest whiz-bang wearables, too often people at the bottom are struggling with dial-up service if they have any access to the internet at all.

In order for this lower-income group to thrive, they need to be able to have steady broadband access, not just to be able to keep in touch with loved ones and take advantage of growing entertainment opportunities. This is much-needed technology that will allow them to apply for jobs, get online training and access benefits that are increasingly going digital.

Closing this divide needs to be a priority for our government. It would be great if our next president acknowledged this and talked about ways to fix the problem.

Technology can help create new jobs and move the economy forward but it can also leave people behind in its wake. We need to be dealing with both sides of the issue.

There are two more debates on the schedule. I’ll be watching next Sunday’s town hall closely to see if the candidates talk more about technology. I hope they will. Personal insults and clever one-liners are great for reality TV. But they don’t help much when it comes to leadership.

CALinnovates Statement Regarding the FCC’s Revamped Privacy Proposal

October 7, 2016

“This version, like the first, falls woefully short in its noble goal to safeguard consumer data and increase transparency for the public. Subjecting the exact same data to different and arbitrary rules depending upon a company’s primary offering in today’s era of vertical integration does not increase consumer privacy. It is also blind to the realities of the marketplace. We need 21st Century privacy rules to govern a 21st Century data market.” said Tim Sparapani, CALinnovates’ senior policy counsel.

“Chairman Wheeler has indicated that some favored companies will be allowed to practice permissionless innovation outside the FCC’s jurisdiction while other disfavored entities must operate under the microscope despite the fact that the data is one in the same. Businesses of all types today are data companies first and foremost, whether they make software or deliver internet access – or both. And innovation can and should spring from all types of companies, ISPs included.”

“Today, Verizon owns Yahoo, AOL and Huffington Post, and the line between ISPs and edge providers has been increasingly blurred. Consumers will be no better off under this scheme than the previous one, but they may be worse off than they are today.”

“This is a referendum on innovation and an affront to consumers who expect more and demand better. No matter how Chairman Wheeler tries to spin it, his latest iteration of the FCC’s privacy proposal is nothing more than lipstick on a pig,” said Mike Montgomery, executive director of CALinnovates.

“CALinnovates encourages Chairman Wheeler to return to the drawing board to rewrite the rules one more time. Better yet, the FCC should seek further public input as well as guidance from Congress and the FTC, which has the longstanding privacy expertise the FCC lacks.”

CALinnovates is a non-partisan coalition of tech companies, founders, funders and non-profits determined to make the new economy a reality.

Missed Opportunity: Clinton And Trump Need To Talk About Technology At The Next Debate

By Kish Rajan

Monday night’s debate was full of barbs and zingers from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And while the candidates’ personalities were on full display, they spent very little time discussing actual policy.

I guess that shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. This year’s election, more than any other I can remember, has been more about emotion than substance. But I can’t help feeling disappointed that they didn’t talk about the opportunities and challenges in the tech industry.

As the night started, I had some hope. The first part of Monday night’s presidential debate was dedicated to “achieving prosperity.” Moderator Lester Holt explained that meant creating more jobs, something we desperately need.

Clinton made a small reference to tech when she mentioned jobs in innovation and technology, but that was it for the rest of the night. Job talk shifted to trade issues, and the only other time technology came up was in a discussion about cybersecurity.

This was a real missed opportunity. Tech is quickly becoming the driver of our ecomony. According to the government’s Bureau for Labor Statistics, STEM jobs are growing at 13% per year, faster than any other sector. Tech jobs pay some of the highest wages, and for every new tech job, 4.3 more jobs are created in other fields thanks to the multiplier effect, according to the Bay Area Council.

Tech deserved more than a glancing reference when talking about job growth. There are serious policy concerns that can either hurt or harm the tech industry. Modernizing tax policies, new strategies for education and workforce development, access to capital to start new businesses and regulatory reform — all of these issues are critical to tech entrepreneurs, and we need to see them talked about more on the national stage.

Then there is the sharing economy, which is growing in leaps and bounds. Companies such as Uber, Airbnb and Task Rabbit are remaking the economy in incredibly fundamental ways. A job is no longer for life; that’s just reality. These new companies are opening up new opportunities for people who may be underemployed or who just want more flexibility to control their own work life.

From my point of view, the new economy is doing a lot of good, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be regulated, and the choices the government makes about those regulations will have an enormous impact on whether this industry thrives or whether it struggles to find its footing.

At the most basic level, the new realities of work mean that we need to rethink things like tax breaks and benefits. Obamacare was a good start in that it gave everyone the chance to get health care without having to stay beholden to a specific employer. But we need to go further. More benefits need to be portable, sticking to the worker not the employer. We need to talk about things like wage insurance and evolving our tax code to reflect the changing nature of work.

Then there’s the digital divide. While at the top end of the economic scale people have access to iPhones, lightning-fast broadband and the newest whiz-bang wearables, too often people at the bottom are struggling with dial-up service if they have any access to the internet at all.

In order for this group to thrive, they need to be able to have steady broadband access, not just to be able to keep in touch with loved ones and take advantage of growing entertainment opportunities but to apply for jobs, get online training and access benefits that are increasingly going digital.

Closing this divide needs to be a priority for our government. It would be great if our next president acknowledged this and talked about ways to fix the problem.

The reality is that our economy is quickly moving into a new world of work that won’t be like anything we’ve seen before. But our leaders are still stuck in the same old paradigm. They talk about job security and “making America great again” in a way that recalls an era long gone, one that, for better or worse, isn’t coming back.

At the next presidential debate, I hope to see more from the candidates. Personal insults and clever one-liners are great for reality TV. But they don’t help much when it comes to leadership.

Statement Re: FCC’s Decision to Pull STB Plan From Meeting Agenda

“Today consumers, content creators and the larger innovation community were given a reprieve from government dictating how innovation should take place when the FCC pulled the set-top box item from the agenda. Innovative companies are already shaking up the set-top box market and don’t want or need the FCC’s help.

When more than 200 Members of Congress, Roku, Amazon and others oppose the Wheeler plan, the writing was already on the wall and it was wise of Chairman Wheeler to hit the eject button. CALinnovates stands with Congressman Tony Cardenas in requesting that the FCC release the order as it currently stands. Doing so will allow the public to comment. Keeping sunshine rules in place on this item is inappropriate and against the spirit of the APA.

The ecosystem is already headed toward an app-based solution and by potentially creating a compulsory licensing scheme, Chairman Wheeler stands in the way of progress, innovation and the promise of this new Golden Age of television.”

Why Pot Is The New Frontier For Tech Entrepreneurs

By Mike Montgomery

The cannabis industry is growing like, well, a weed. And the fact that recreational marijuana is on the California ballot in November means that we are about to see an extraordinary number of tech entrepreneurs enter this arena. According to cannabis research firm The Arcview Group, if the measure passes, the California cannabis market will grow from $2.7 billion to $6.6 billion by 2020.

Currently, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington are the only states where recreational marijuana use is legal. It’s a $5.7 billion industry (“the fastest growing industry in America,” according to Cashinbis) that is poised to take off once California hits the market.

There are plenty of hot areas for fledgling cannabis entrepreneurs. Edibles, vapors, extraction processes and growing systems, to name just a few. “If you are looking at product development, there is no standard—no one will tell you how to do it,” says Michael Devlin, co-founder and president of Db3, which makes Zoots edibles. “As the industry grows, they will ask for innovation. The winners will be those who respond to that.”

I checked in with activist Brian Caldwell, owner of Triple-C: The Original Cannabis Club, to see what areas might be ripe for budding tech entrepreneurs interested in the cannabis industry:

Mature consumer-facing software: Right now, Weedmaps and Leafly are the top two sites where cannabis consumers can look up dispensaries, find cannabis strains and read reviews. But neither is perfect and both need to mature a lot in order to be truly user friendly.

Weedmaps suffered from a lot of growing pains and has had a number of software issues. Leafly, while packed with information on specific strains and great technologically, seems to be struggling to gain traction.

Read the full article here.

Millennials Need To Be Front And Center At The Presidential Debates

by Kish Rajan

Presidential debates don’t tend to have a tremendous effect on the outcome of elections. They might move the needle a little one way or the other, but people tend to have mentally cast their votes before debate season even begins.

What debates really do is put our nation’s agenda on display. Moderators, chosen from the mainstream media, pose questions about topics they believe are important to the audience (which can be huge). What are we as a nation talking about? What do we care about?

Traditionally, those questions come from the establishment (typically white, middle-aged, male) point of view. Expect to hear lots of questions about foreign policy, immigration, guns and whether the candidates are fit for office.

I’m not saying that those topics aren’t important. They absolutely are. But they aren’t the issues that matter most to one of the biggest voting blocks out there: Millennials.

According to the Pew Research Center there are now about as many Millennial voters (69.2 million) as there are Baby Boomer voters (69.7 million). But the closest a presidential candidate has come to addressing Millennials is Bernie Sanders, who was willing to talk about things like the increasing unaffordability of college education.

For the most part, the press and the candidates seem to see Millennials as their worst stereotype — privileged, spoiled and uninterested. They don’t ask for their take on the issues and they don’t seem to care what they think.

This is a huge mistake. According to polling done by my tech advocacy coalition, CALinnovates, 70% of Millennials plan to vote in the upcoming election and 72% of them say that the next president will have a large impact on their lives.

They believe they have almost as much influence over policy as Generation X, but they don’t see the candidates speaking to their concerns.

Read the full article here.

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