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12 posts from February 2009

02/27/2009

Mayor Calls for Bringing High Speed Rail SF

While Touring French High Speed Rail System, Mayor Newsom Calls for Bringing High Speed Rail to Transbay Terminal

Mayor Newsom urges leadership of Transbay Terminal Development Project to Include High Speed Rail as a requirement of Phase One of the project

1/27/09 - Mayor Gavin Newsom used his tour of the French high speed rail system (TGV) to make a public commitment to ensuring that California's future high speed rail system and Caltrain come to downtown San Francisco. California’s high speed rail system, approved by voters this past November, will link the State by rail from Los Angeles to San Francisco. However, the plan for the system is currently uncertain as to whether or not the high speed trains would actually terminate in the new Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco. Today Mayor Newsom forcefully stated that the first phase of the Transbay Terminal redevelopment must include a 'train box' underneath the terminal to host the northern terminus of high speed rail, as well as an extension of Caltrain.

"Since the onset of this project, I have been committed to the grand vision of Transbay, including high speed rail, a downtown extension for Caltrain and the visionary multi-use terminal itself," Mayor Newsom explained. "Including the rail box as part of the terminal construction is necessary for this grand vision to be realized."

To date, discussions at the Transbay Joint Powers Board, which oversees development of the Transbay Terminal, have considered building the first phase of the new Transbay Terminal without the train box, and coming back later to excavate under the terminal and build for high speed rail only if subsequent funding materializes. Yesterday Mayor Newsom took a strong position against that idea, suggesting that the Transbay Joint Powers Board must move forward with construction of the new transit center in the coming months in a manner that fully includes necessary infrastructure to host high speed rail.

"We should not spend $2 billion to build a glorified bus station," said Mayor Newsom.

Under this plan, the Transbay Terminal would be a multi-modal transit hub and northern terminus of California high speed rail, and would connect high speed rail to Caltrain, BART, Muni and several regional bus lines. Mayor Newsom explained the importance of this linkage: "High speed rail is a game changer in California, but only if it connects the downtown transit hubs of the two largest metro areas in the State. Building a high speed rail route that stops short of downtown San Francisco equates to building a major highway that ends before it reaches a city."

The Mayor identified the Transbay Terminal as a textbook example of the type of infrastructure project that Federal stimulus and recovery funding should be funding.

"The Transbay Terminal is the first rail facility built from the ground up in 70 years and it will revolutionize our transportation system by increasing environmentally friendly transportation options. It will also create over 2,600 good paying construction jobs in the first phase of construction. It's just the kind of infrastructure project we need to get the country back on track."

At today’s event in Paris, TGV officials provided Mayor Newsom with an in-depth briefing on the history, construction, and operation of the TGV System, and a "first-hand" opportunity to ride the TGV and see its operations up close.

02/26/2009

WE Connect Campaign

The WE Connect campaign is a pioneering public/private partnership designed to help California’s working families become more financially secure by connecting them to important programs and resources.

WE Connect Campaign

WE Connect you to Money, opportunity and dreams. Click to get connected. Programs for your family and Opportunities to serve

Maria Shriver’s WE Connect campaign is a pioneering public/private partnership designed to help California’s working families become more financially secure by connecting them to important programs and resources. Several of these programs, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), are available and accessible to working families but many are not taking full advantage of them. This leaves over a billion dollars on the table each year that could have been used by working families right here in California. This statewide effort will connect families with the information and tools they need to take full advantage of these valuable resources, empowering them to live their dreams.

Visit Website (outside of SFGov navigation): http://www.WEconnect.net

02/24/2009

Mayor Newsom Releases Rainy Day Funds to Save Teachers' Jobs

02/24/09 - Mayor Gavin Newsom, joined by city supervisors, School Superintendent Carlos Garcia and other city leaders, today announced that layoffs and program cuts to public schools will be prevented by providing $11 million from the city's rainy day fund. Newsom’s action will save 130 teachers’ jobs.

Yesterday, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) announced that they would need to send out pink slips to teachers, principals and paraprofessionals and would suffer a $51 million shortfall in mid-year and 09-10 school year cuts.

"By releasing rainy day funds, we will save teachers’ jobs," said Mayor Newsom. "We are lucky in San Francisco to have saved our extra revenue for when times get tough. Those tough times are here and we are committed to reducing as many layoffs as possible by using our rainy day fund to aid the school district."

The rainy day fund was created in 2003, when voters passed Proposition G, authored by then Supervisor Tom Ammiano. It requires the city to save revenue above 5% growth year over year, during good economic times. The account's balance now stands at about $92 million, and can change again if the city withdraws additional funding this year. The school district is eligible for up to 25 percent of the total if two conditions are met: The school district must be getting less money per pupil from the state when adjusted for inflation, and must be facing significant teacher layoffs. In FY 2008-2009, the City budgeted $19.2 million in rainy day funding for SFUSD. In addition, the City has already liquidated $6 million from the rainy day fund to solve the City’s mid-year shortfall. Next year would be the first full budget year that the city and school district may qualify for a rainy day draw. The city qualifies for up to 50% of the fund.

Newsom estimates that if the City were to trigger 50% of the funding, the rainy day balance would reduce by half, to $46 million. 25% of this figure is approximately $11 million. He cautioned that these numbers are fluid.

The rainy day fund is one of the many factors that contribute to San Francisco’s high bond rating. In California, San Mateo is the only county rated higher than San Francisco. Rating agencies cite strong management practices, high reserves, a diverse revenue base, moderate debt burden, and the city's ability to act quickly to address a budget shortfall as reasons for our rating.

"Even in the most difficult time we have the obligation to preserve public education and put San Francisco’s children first," said Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who is authoring a Board resolution supporting this action.

02/20/2009

Pfizer to Provide Drugs for Healthy SF

Pfizer to Provide Free Prescription Drugs for Healthy San Francisco

02/20/09 - Today San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that Pfizer will provide free medicines through Pfizer’s Sharing the Care program for San Francisco’s first-of-its-kind universal health care program, Healthy San Francisco. Healthy San Francisco provides accessible and affordable healthcare services to uninsured San Francisco residents. This extension of Pfizer’s prescription drug program will apply to all Sharing the Care registered community health clinics providing access for Healthy San Francisco patients.

"Due to rising health insurance premiums and an increasing number of employers dropping health benefits, more people are turning to community health services for care," said Mayor Newsom. "Pfizer has proven to be a committed ally in our efforts to ensure that residents get the care they need, when they need it."

This program will allow patients who participate in Healthy San Francisco at Sharing the Care registered clinics to have access to free Pfizer medicine as long as they meet standard program eligibility criteria: Patients must be registered members of the health care center, have an income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level and not have prescription drug coverage.

In his letter to Mayor Newsom, Pfizer CEO and Chairman Jeffrey B. Kindler congratulated the mayor on the success of the Healthy San Francisco program. He wrote, "Your program is an innovative model to address universal healthcare access." Kindler also said that, per the mayor’s suggestion, he visited the North East Medical Services clinic in Chinatown. "It provided a vibrant and impressive illustration of your reform efforts," Kindler wrote.

About Pfizer Sharing the Care

Pfizer Sharing the Care (TM) is part of Pfizer Helpful Answers (R), a family of programs that helps people without prescription coverage save on many Pfizer medicines, no matter their age or income. People with limited income may even qualify to get their Pfizer medicine for free. Consumers without prescription drug coverage who need a Pfizer medicine can call the Pfizer Helpful Answers toll-free number, 1-866-706-2400, or visit the Web site, www.PfizerHelpfulAnswers.com. Pfizer Helpful Answers is a joint program of Pfizer Inc and the Pfizer Patient Assistance Foundation (TM).

02/18/2009

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Unveiled

Mayor Newsom Unveils Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Stations for San Francisco

Announces partnership with car sharing organizations to make plug-in cars available to the public

02/18/09 - Today, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced the installation of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in front of San Francisco City Hall as a next step in making the Bay Area the "EV Capital of the U.S." The charging stations will be used by car sharing organizations Zipcar and City CarShare, and by plug-in cars in the city of San Francisco’s municipal fleet. The chargers are part of a "Green Vehicle Showcase" that has been installed outside City Hall to highlight green transportation options, including natural gas vehicles, car-sharing systems, and electric cars.

"Electric vehicles are the future of transportation and the Bay Area is the testing ground for the technology," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. "We began using plug-in hybrids in the city’s fleet last year. Now, for the first time the public can plug-in to the next generation of cars through car sharing organizations and take them for a drive in San Francisco."

The three EV charging stations at City Hall are being provided by Coulomb Technologies for a two-year public demonstration of "smart" EV charging technology.

"Today’s announcement further demonstrates that the Bay Area is the epicenter of the electric vehicle movement," said Richard Lowenthal, CEO of Coulomb Technologies. "A smart, networked infrastructure is an essential enabler of this movement and the City of San Francisco is leading by example."

For the first time, San Franciscans will have the opportunity to drive the newest fuel-efficient cars through the City’s partnership with City CarShare and Zipcar.

"With the introduction of Zipcar’s first-ever plug-in hybrid, members of the public now have a cost effective and convenient way to experience the newest, cleanest car on the road," said Scott Griffith, Chairman and CEO of Zipcar.

The increasingly popular car-sharing programs present a unique opportunity to test drive plug-in cars before they are mass produced.

"The combination of responsible car sharing and low emission vehicles such as this one will improve the environment as well as the quality of life for all San Franciscans," said Rick Hutchison, CEO of City CarShare.

Last November, Mayor Newsom was joined by Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed to announce a nine-step policy plan for transforming the Bay Area into the "EV Capital of the U.S." The ambitious regional commitment has been recognized by Coulomb Technologies, Better Place, General Motors (GM), and other companies who have made the Bay Area a high priority in their EV investment programs. In November, Better Place said it would invest $1 billion for networked electric mobility systems in the Bay Area. Last month GM announced it will roll out its plug-in Chevy Volt in San Francisco, and Nissan named the Bay Area a prime location for launching its battery powered car.

Following the unveiling of the Green Vehicle Showcase and the EV chargers, Mayor Newsom’s office convened a Bay Area Regional Stakeholders Meeting with local governments, business leaders and policy advocates to coordinate efforts in preparing the region for electric transportation.

For information about membership in the car-share organizations and using their plug-in vehicles – visit www.zipcar.com or www.citycarshare.org. For more information about Coulomb Technologies – visit www.coulombtech.com.