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Summer Jobs 2013 Initiative Will Create Unprecedented 6,000 Jobs and Paid Internships for SF Youth

Public & Private Partnership Builds on Success of 2012 Program That Placed More Than 5,300 Youth,

Including Disconnected & At-Risk Youth

Today Mayor Edwin M. Lee and the United Way of the Bay Area along with City Departments and private sector employers announced the launch of Summer Jobs+ 2013, challenging employers this summer to create 6,000 jobs and paid internships for San Francisco youth. Mayor Lee’s Summer Jobs+ 2013 will connect San Francisco employers with low-income and disconnected San Francisco youth.

“Last year, San Francisco worked together to answer President Obama’s call to provide meaningful work experience and a paycheck to San Francisco youth,” said Mayor Lee. “We not only answered that call, but exceeded our own aggressive goals of 5,000 jobs than 5,300 young adults in jobs and paid internships for the summer and beyond,” said Mayor Lee. “We are setting an even more ambitious goal for 2013 to create meaningful employment opportunities for our young people so we set them up for success now and in the future. I am again calling upon employers across San Francisco to join us in supporting the future of our young people.”

Last year, President Barack Obama issued a challenge to businesses, non-profits, and government: Work together to provide pathways to employment for low-income and disconnected youth. Last year through San Francisco Summer Jobs+, 5,200 young people participated in new job opportunities—over 1,700 of them worked in the private sector at 86 companies and organizations throughout the city including Starbucks, Advent and Uniqlo. Thirty nine percent (663 jobs) of these private sector summer jobs turned into permanent positions for San Francisco youth.

United Way of the Bay Area is leading San Francisco’s effort in support of Mayor Lee’s Summer Jobs+ Program along with Department of Children Youth and their Families (DCYF), Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD).

“We’re proud to again be partnering with Mayor Lee and employers throughout San Francisco on Summer Jobs+ 2013,” said United Way Bay Area Chief Executive Officer Anne Wilson. “No Mayor or city in America is doing more to get our young people into good jobs and internships for the summer; a critical steppingstone that will help set them on the path to success.”

Employers that have already committed to hiring Summer Jobs+ participants in 2013 include salesforce.com, Starbucks, Advent, Bank of America, Nektar, Twilio, Jawbone, members of SFMade and many more.

“It hasn’t always been easy for me – I’m independent, fighting to get a good education and make it here in San Francisco, the city of opportunity,” said LaRon Ryan, a 21 year old participant in Summer Jobs+ 2012 who worked at Jawbone, a San Francisco technology company. “Over the years I’ve learned how to advocate for myself and take initiative. You know, that’s how I got my tech internship at Jawbone through the San Francisco Summer Jobs+ program. It pretty much changed my life.”

Employers or youth interested in participating or learning more about San Francisco Summer Jobs+, go to www.matchbridge.org/summer or call 3-1-1 or 2-1-1.

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CPUC President Michael Peevey Caught in The Act: He Ducks California Senate Hearing for Napa Valley Drinks with PG&E Executives

The embattled president of the California Public Utilities Commission recently ignored the call to answer tough questions by state senators in Sacramento and instead decided to attend a conference at an exclusive Napa resort and a reception at an upscale winery in St. Helena, both of which were captured on hidden camera by the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit, headed by reporter Tony Kovaleski. See the shocking story that most likely will cost Peevey his job as head of the CPUC after Governor Jerry Brown sees this news video: http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/LEGALPeeveys-Priority–205838301.html

Michael Peevey was asked to appear before the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review subcommittee on April 25 to justify keeping the job he has held for the past decade. The senate hearing was in response to growing conflict over a confidential report, uncovered by the Investigative Unit, which raises questions about the CPUC’s commitment to safety and its relationship with utility companies the agency regulates.

“The governor needs to replace the president of the Public Utilities Commission,” Sen. Jerry Hill said in an interview with NBC Bay Area last month. “The current president has been there for many years and he has had a very cozy relationship with the utilities, which this report indicates.”

Hill’s call for change at the CPUC was recently echoed by two lawmakers.

“I think the question is, who should be leading this organization so the people of California are safe,” San Jose assemblywoman Nora Campos said at a recent legislative hearing.

At that same hearing Los Altos assemblyman Richard Gordon added, “I have come to the point where we need serious change in the leadership of the PUC to bring change.”

After calling for his job two weeks ago, Hill wrote Peevey a letter formally requesting his presence at the subcommittee hearing. The letter states, “For all the shortcomings under your leadership at the CPUC over the last ten years as documented by independent reports… it’s critical that you testify…to justify your continued appointment as the president of the California Public Utilities Commission.”

Instead of addressing the conflict, Peevey kept a prior engagement at the Silverado Resort and Spa in the heart of Napa. According to the agenda, the conference was about clean energy, and Peevey was scheduled to give a short five to seven minute presentation for the non-profit organization, California Foundation for the Environment and the Economy (CFEE).

Before the conference started, at around 11 a.m.—the same time he was expected in Sacramento—NBC Bay Area’s hidden cameras spotted Peevey mingling with guests in the resort conference center.  The day officially started at noon, with a catered lunch after invited guests such as a representative from Pacific Gas & Electric and, somewhat ironically, more than two dozen Sacramento lawmakers, checked in at the event. Peevey gave his presentation at 1:30 p.m.—two and a half hours after he was scheduled to speak in Sacramento.

After four hours of conference sessions Peevey boarded a luxury bus and drove through the Napa Valley to the next event on the agenda—a reception and dinner at St. Helena’s exclusive Merryvalewinery. For more than three hours, Peevey ended his day inside the facility along with more than 100 guests.

Following the reception, NBC Bay Area’s Chief Investigative Reporter Tony Kovaleski met Peevey outside the winery to ask questions about his priorities, and the confidential report. Below is a transcript of a part of the conversation:

Tony Kovaleski: You were asked to speak to senators today about the safety of your PUC. Instead you spent your day here in Napa.

Michael Peevey: No, that’s not true.

Kovaleski: What is the message you sent by coming here to Napa instead of going to speak to the senate?

Peevey: You are very antagonistic you know. You are reading a script.

Kovaleski: Sir, I am not reading a script. I want to give you an opportunity to respond.

Peevey: But your questions are the wrong questions.

Kovaleski: You spent time here with the utilities you are paid to regulate.

Peevey: There’s no utilities here that I know of.

Kovaleski: PG&E was here. We saw them on the list.

Peevey: Oh, there may have been one person, I don’t know.

Kovaleski: That report said your agency is too cozy with utilities. Is that true?

Peevey: No. Stop. That’s one person who said that. That’s not what the report said. There was no conclusion in the report. It was an interview with various individual employees of the Public Utilities Commission.

Kovaleski: Sir, you have been asked by lawmakers to step down. Lawmakers have said you should be fired. Should you be fired, sir?

Man with Peevey: No, he shouldn’t be fired. They don’t have the authority.

(Peevey starts to walk away).

Peevey: You poor son of a b****. You have a job to do. It’s pathetic what you are doing. It’s pathetic.

(Peevey gets into a car).

Kovaleski: Sir, should you answer to lawmakers when they ask to speak with you? What’s the message you sent tonight by coming here?

(Car drives away).

NBC Bay Area asked to speak with Peevey about the confidential report prior to the conference in Napa, but did not receive a response to that request from the CPUC. The CPUC did provide a written statement about the report:

The CPUC has made safety an underlying principle in all its actions. As we work to instill a corporate culture in our regulated utilities that embraces safety as a tool and an enhancement to their mission, we must ensure we do the same at the CPUC. We have hired consultants to help us in our process of culture change across all the industries we regulate. As part of these efforts, our consultants conducted an informal survey of internal employees to see what they think safety means, how they see their role in safety, and how they think we can do better as an agency. The report is the result of the informal survey; it is not an analysis of our safety culture or conclusions by our consultants, but a reporting-back of what some employees said in informal focus groups. As the report says, “This report is not an evaluation of the objective truth of those views and perceptions.”  We will use the results of the report to help us define what we need to change, develop strategies and actions to implement the changes, and ensure accountability as the process continues.

This is not the first time Peevey has snubbed lawmakers for an all-expense paid event. He was asked to speak at an assembly committee meeting in 2011, but reports indicate he accepted a free trip to Sweden that was funded by the Swedish government and the California nonprofit, The Energy Coalition.

When asked by reporters in April about his confidence in the leadership of the CPUC, Gov. Jerry Brown said Peevey is “well-experienced.”

“He’s flawed like everyone else in this building,” Brown said, “but he has a lot of knowledge and he has great commitment.”

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Chuck Pacioni is New GM at San Francisco Marriott Marquis

San Francisco’s iconic Marriott Marquis has named Chuck Pacioni as its new general manager.

Mr. Pacioni, who has worked in some of California’s top hotels in a career spanning 24 years, takes the helm at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis this month, with a plan to expand on its success in the corporate and leisure markets. Mr. Pacioni takes over for long-time general manager, Dan Kelleher, who after serving the Marriott Marquis for seven years was promoted to area vice president for the region covering Northern California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Utah.

The 1,499-room hotel located steps from the Moscone Center, Union Square and other top attractions, is in the final phase of its $90 million, 10-year makeover.

The hotel has been completely transformed with a new lobby and great room concept, meeting spaces, guest rooms, fitness center and restaurants. It has also completely remodeled its second-floor Atrium to add 10 breakout rooms and raised the ceiling on its Golden Gate Ballroom.

Rising 39 stories high in the San Francisco skyline, the transformed San Francisco Marriott Marquis exudes an essence of modern luxury with a convenient and extraordinary downtown location. Just south of Market Street, the hotel’s renovation embodies the transformation of the neighborhood it calls home.  It is next to the Moscone Convention Center and steps away from Yerba Buena Gardens, renowned museums and cultural attractions, world-class shopping on Union Square, and AT&T Park — home of the San Francisco Giants.

Mr. Pacioni is no stranger to the hotel as he previously served as the director of marketing from 2000 to 2002.  He rejoins the four star San Francisco property from the Santa Clara Marriott, where he spent the past seven years as general manager and oversaw a $30 million renovation

Having previously gained experience in all sectors of the hospitality industry at a number of prestigious four and five star hotels around California, Mr. Pacioni’s extensive résumé includes stints at the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Emeryville Courtyard Hotel.

In addition to expanding its corporate and leisure trade, Mr. Pacioni will be looking to further strengthen San Francisco Marriott Marquis’ links to the local business community and develop its existing, strong relationship with neighbors.  Mr. Pacioni will also be exploring ways to maximize use of its leisure and conference facilities, build on the promise of offering something truly unique and exciting to guests and to maintain its position as a leading city center venue.

The San Francisco Marriott Marquis features 1,362 rooms and 137 suites featuring Marriott’s signature bedding with plush crisp linens, 32-inch LCD high definition TVs with a plug-in panel, high-speed Internet, and work desk.  Hotel amenities include the Fitness Center & Spa, an indoor pool, whirlpool, and onsite restaurants and bars including Mission Grille, The View, Bin 55 Restaurant and Wine Bar, and Starbucks.  The property features 117,000 square feet of meeting space and 59 meeting rooms, the largest of which is the Yerba Ballroom with a total meeting space of 39,621 square feet and a seating capacity of 5,500. For additional information, visit www.SFMarriottMarquis.com or call 415-896-1600.

 

 

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Chevron Wins Another Round in Ecuador Fraud Case: Case Against Oil Company in $19B Pollution Case Collapsing

Chevron continues to battle charges against the oil company in Ecuador and win victory after courtroom victory against Steven Donziger and the plaintiffs in the fraudulent case of pollution in the Amazon region of Ecuador.

Just yesterday, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice stayed an action initiated by the Ecuadorian plaintiffs seeking to have a judgment of an Ecuadorian court against Chevron Corp. [NYSE: CVX] recognized and enforced in Ontario.

This latest success for Chevron comes right after a series of blockbuster announcements by former members of Donziger’s plaintiffs’ team who have now switched sides and joined Chevron, announcing the work they did for Donziger and the Ecuadorian was fabricated or faulty because they, too, were misled by Donziger.

Add to these recent announcements that a former Ecuadorian judge revealed that he accepted bribes from the plaintiffs’ team along with another Ecuadorian judge to draft rulings in favor of the plaintiffs and you have a lawsuit that is a better read than anything John Grisham has ever written.

The Canadian court ruled yesterday in the case and wrote:

“The plaintiffs (Steven Donziger, Ecuadorians) have no hope of success in their assertion that the corporate veil of Chevron Canada should be pierced and ignored so that its assets become exigible to satisfy a judgment against its ultimate parent.  There is no basis in law or fact for such a claim.… Ontario courts should be reluctant to dedicate their resources to disputes where, in dollar and cents terms, there is nothing to fight over.  In my view, the parties should take their fight elsewhere to some jurisdiction where any ultimate recognition of the Ecuadorean judgment will have a practical effect.”

In response, Chevron Corporation issued the following statement:

“We are pleased with today’s decision from Justice Brown. The Ontario Superior Court ruled that it ought not to entertain the plaintiffs’ claims on the evidence before the court. This is a significant setback to the Ecuadorian plaintiffs’ worldwide enforcement strategy given that it is premised on seeking to enforce the judgment against assets of Chevron Corporation subsidiaries that were not even parties to the Ecuadorian litigation.”

“The plaintiffs should be seeking enforcement in the United States – where Chevron Corporation resides.  In the U.S., however, they would be confronted by the fact that eight federal courts have already found the Ecuador trial tainted by fraud.”

Meanwhile, Chevron Corp. has made additional notable progress in the legal proceedings in the United States exposing the fraudulent nature of the plaintiffs’ judgment.  This evidence further demonstrates that the judgment is illegitimate and should be unenforceable in any court that respects the rule of law.  Evidence of the plaintiffs’ fraud includes:

  • A former Ecuadorian judge has admitted his role in orchestrating the fraudulent judgment against Chevron and a half-million-dollar bribery scheme.
  • Stratus Consulting, the lead environmental consultants to the Ecuadorian plaintiffs’ lawyers, provided sworn declarations (here and here), highlighting the lack of scientific merit to the plaintiffs’ damage claims.
  • Another of the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ environmental consultants, Dr. Charles Calmbacher, has testified that plaintiffs’ evidence was being falsified from the very outset of the trial.
  • Litigation hedge fund Burford Capital has provided a sworn declaration outlining the firm’s knowledge of the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ misconduct, testifying that the proceeding is irredeemably tainted by fraud.

Chevron Corp. remains committed to holding the plaintiffs’ lawyers accountable for their misconduct and demonstrating the judgment is the product of a corrupted judiciary.

Chevron Corp. is defending itself against false allegations that it is responsible for alleged environmental and social harms in the Oriente region of Ecuador.  Chevron never conducted oil production operations in Ecuador, and its subsidiary Texaco Petroleum Co. (“TexPet”) fully remediated its share of environmental impacts arising from oil production operations, before leaving Ecuador in 1992.  After the remediation was certified by all agencies of the Ecuadorian government responsible for oversight, TexPet received a complete release from Ecuador’s national, provincial, and municipal governments that extinguished all claims before Chevron acquired TexPet in 2001.  All legitimate scientific evidence exonerates Chevron and proves that the remediated sites pose no significant risks to human health or the environment.

More information on the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ fraud can be found here.  Additional background on the Ecuador litigation can be accessed here and here.

 

Chevron is one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies, with subsidiaries that conduct business worldwide. The company is involved in virtually every facet of the energy industry.  Chevron explores for, produces and transports crude oil and natural gas; refines, markets and distributes transportation fuels and lubricants; manufactures and sells petrochemical products; generates power and produces geothermal energy; provides energy efficiency solutions; and develops the energy resources of the future, including biofuels.  Chevron is based in San Ramon, Calif.  More information about Chevron is available at www.chevron.com.

 

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Executive Recruiter David Nosal of Nosal Partners Convicted of All Charges in FBI Investigation and Federal Grand Jury Trial

SAN FRANCISCO—David Nosal, an executive recruiter based in San Francisco, was convicted of all charges in a six-count indictment by a federal jury today, United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced. Nosal is founder and president of Nosal Partners, a member of NGS Global.

The jury found that Nosal had conspired to gain unauthorized access to the computer system of his former employer, the executive search firm Korn/Ferry International, and to illegally obtain trade secrets belonging to Korn/Ferry. The jury also found Nosal guilty of three substantive computer intrusions in April and July 2005 and two substantives trade secret offenses that occurred in April 2005. The guilty verdict followed a two-week jury trial before U.S. District Court Judge Edward M. Chen.

Evidence at trial showed that Nosal, 55, of Danville, entered into an agreement with other Korn/Ferry employees in 2004 to take confidential and proprietary materials from Korn/Ferry’s computer system to be used in a new business that Nosal intended to establish with those individuals after he left Korn/Ferry’s employment in late 2004. The evidence showed that two of those employees downloaded large numbers of “source lists” (essentially, targeted lists of candidates developed by Korn/Ferry for the purpose of filling particular positions at particular client-companies) prior to their own departures from Korn/Ferry. Thereafter, those two employees used the Korn/Ferry login credentials of another conspirator who was still employed at Korn/Ferry to download additional source lists and other information from Korn/Ferry’s computer system in April and July 2005 for use in Nosal’s new business.

The trial in this case occurred after remand from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which had affirmed then-District Court Judge Marilyn H. Patel’s pre-trial dismissal of several computer intrusion counts.

Nosal was initially indicted by a federal grand jury on April 10, 2008. The government obtained superseding indictments on June 26, 2008 and February 28, 2013. In the most recent superseding indictment, Nosal was charged with one count of conspiracy, three counts of unauthorized access to a computer used in interstate or foreign commerce or communication, one count of unauthorized downloading and copying of trade secrets, and one count of unauthorized receipt and possession of stolen trade secrets. Nosal was found guilty on all six counts of this indictment.

The sentencing of Nosal is scheduled for September 4, 2013, before Judge Edward M. Chen in San Francisco. The maximum statutory penalty for the conspiracy charge in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371 and the unauthorized access charges in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1030(a)(4), is five years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution if appropriate. The maximum statutory penalty for the trade secret charges is 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution if appropriate. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Assistant United States Attorneys Kyle F. Waldinger and Matthew A. Parrella and U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Jenny C. Ellickson are the attorneys who are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Rayneisha Booth, Elise Etter, Beth Margen, and Hui Chen. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

 

David Nosal of Nosal Partners

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California Public Utilities Commission President and Commissioner Must Recuse Themselves, City of San Bruno Says in Legal Filing Over CPUC Ex-Parte Discussions with PG&E

CPUC President Peevey Must Recuse Himself

San Francisco—The City of San Bruno today filed a legal motion demanding CPUC President Michael Peevey and Commissioner Michel Florio recuse themselves from an upcoming “safety” event featuring PG&E executives, noting it is illegal and unethical for the regulatory agency to participate when it will stand in judgment of the utility and fine it for the Sept. 9, 2010 explosion and fire in San Bruno that killed eight, injured 60, destroyed 38 homes and damaged scores more. The safety symposium will focus on the same subject matter that is at issue in the CPUC investigations: natural gas safety and emergency response.

 

The California Public Utilities Commission Safety Symposium featuring PG&E is scheduled for May 7-8 in San Francisco to “explore solutions to safety within California’s utility services and infrastructure sectors” and “will focus on natural gas safety issues,” according to the invitation.

 

Among the scheduled speakers and panelists are PG&E President Chris Johns, PG&E SVP of Gas Operations Nick Stavropoulos, CPUC President Michael Peevey, CPUC Commissioner Michel Florio, CPUC Executive Director Paul Clanon, and CPUC Safety Director Jack Hagan.

 

“This is like the defendant in a criminal case taking the judge to play golf together before the judge rules on his case and his penalty,” said attorney Steven Meyers of the Meyers Nave law firm, representing the City of San Bruno.

 

The legal filing cites the symposium for being an illegal ‘ex-parte’ contact between the regulator (CPUC) and defendant (PG&E) at a critical time in the CPUC hearing process in the San Bruno explosion and fire case. The filing says “the participation of the defendant and the judges… (is) a violation of the law” and calls it “unethical and inappropriate.”

 

“On its face, the PG&E-CPUC Safety Symposium appears to be a step forward in promoting natural gas safety,” San Bruno’s filing says.

 

“However, upon further scrutiny, this Safety Symposium is nothing but a forum for PG&E to put on a dog and pony show in front of two out of the five Commission decision-makers charged with determining the fines and penalties warranted by PG&E’s past misconduct, right in the middle of unprecedented and high-profile CPUC investigations into PG&E’s deficient management and operation of its natural gas system.”

 

In conclusion, the filing says “San Bruno urges the CPUC to demonstrate to the intervenors in these proceedings, the residents of San Bruno, and to the public at large that its commitment to accountability is more than mere posturing, and to do so in these cases that are gravely important to the residents of San Bruno and the ratepayers of the State of California.  San Bruno has a strong and vested interest in a CPUC process that follows the rules.   San Bruno has participated in these proceedings in good faith for over two years in reliance on the belief that a just, transparent, reasonable outcome which is in the public interest can be achieved.  San Bruno cannot achieve this outcome when the very decision-makers that are determining PG&E’s fate will be in the same room with PG&E discussing natural gas safety in a forum other than the courtroom.”

 

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Recology Recycling Gets New Board Members as Insurance Company Exec and Recycling Pro Join Board

SAN FRANCISCO–Two prominent California businessmen have been elected to the board of directors of Recology, the leading independent employee-owned recycling and disposal services company in the western United States.

Insurance executive Larry A. Colton, CEO of G2 Insurance Services, and recycling executive George P. McGrath, EVP and COO of Recology, were named to Recology’s board of directors on April 18, announced Recology President and CEO Michael Sangiacomo.

“We are honored to have these leaders on our board,” Sangiacomo said. “Their expertise, insights and experience will help us expand our recycling and disposal services as we continue to grow and develop our employee-owned company.”

Mr. Colton, one of California’s leading insurance specialists, is active in community based causes. A founding board member of National AIDS Memorial Grove, he has served on the board of Larkin Street Youth Center, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, YMCA, Working Solutions, Bureau of Jewish Education, Jewish Family & Children’s Service Honorary Board, Horizon Foundation, and Presidio Bank advisory board.

Mr. McGrath is responsible for all of Recology’s collection, processing, and disposal subsidiary operations. He has served the recycling company for 16 years, previously as SVP and CIO, responsible for the strategy and management of the company’s information systems.

Recology manages municipal disposal processes and services, including urban cleaning services, collection, sorting, transfer, recovery, and landfill management.

The company name, Recology, reflects its unique success record in driving resource recovery to unparalleled levels through recycling and composting.

Recology companies operate in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington coordinating dozens of recycling programs to recover a variety of materials. Recology programs have been replicated throughout the country and serve as a national model for resource recovery initiatives.

Recology is:

  • The largest employee-owned company in the resource recovery industry, partnered with over 113 communities;
  • Parent to over 40 subsidiaries that provides integrated services to over 670,000 residential and 95,000 commercial customers in California, Oregon, Nevada and Washington;
  • Recognized as the industry leader in resource recovery, having established the first and largest curbside yard trimmings and food scraps collection program in the country.

Recology is 100 percent owned by the Recology Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and not by any outside investors.

Recology has been honored multiple times by the national Employee Stock Ownership Plan Association for the quality of its ownership program and its positive impact on corporate performance.

The Recology ESOP makes it easy for Recology to focus on providing long-term, sustainable solutions to our customers. It strengthens teamwork and collaboration by tying employees’ performance to the overall success of the company.

As the largest employee-owned company in our industry, we believe that our individual and collective hard work and dedication directly correlates to our long term success.

 

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American Group at Center of Historic Israel-Palestine Effort to Remove Landmines from Bethlehem April 24

San Francisco, Calif.—The San Francisco Bay Area should be proud that one of its own locally headquarted non-profits has assisted in helping bring together–in an historic first–both Israel and Palestine to remove landmines from a residential neighborhood in the holy city of Bethlehem this week.  And, the effort would not have been possible without the financial assistance of Napa Valley winery Spiriterra Vineyards, which founded the landmine removal effort.

Roots of Peace, which spearheaded the historic Palestine and Israel agreement to remove landmines from the City of Bethlehem, will join Israeli and Palestinian officials at a ceremony in Bethlehem to begin safely removing and detonating mines left over from a 1948 territorial dispute in one of the holiest of cities to three of the world’s major religions, Muslim, Christian and Jewish.

Heidi Kühn, founder and CEO of Roots for Peace, a landmine removal advocacy group in the San Francisco Bay Area, will participate in the at 10 a.m. April 24 explosion of the first landmine to be removed from the Husan Village in Bethlehem.

The project began when Daniel Yuval, an 11-year-old Israeli boy who lost his leg three years ago playing in the Golan Heights, appealed to Roots for Peace, an international landmine removal organization, to ensure the explosives were removed so no other child would be harmed.  Present will be a 75-year-old Palestinian shepherd who lost his arm to a landmine as a young boy in the same field.

“This is an historic occasion made possible by the cooperation from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Ministry of Defense, Palestinian Ministry of Defense, and the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian Authority,” said Kühn.  “We are honored to have played a role in bringing these concerned and thoughtful parties together to make this neighborhood safe again for humanity.”

“The 3 acre site, located 4 miles from Nativity Manger Square where Jesus Christ was said to have been born, will be cleared of mines during a one month operation conducted jointly by Palestinian and Israeli militaries working cooperatively.  The area will be replanted with grapes as part of Roots of Peace’s Mines to Vines (Demine~Replant~Rebuild®) program.”

 

Governor of Bethlehem Mr. Abd Al Fattah Hamaye and Roots of Peace CEO Heidi Kuhn

The project cost was donated by well-known Napa Valley vintners Shirley and Paul Dean, owners of Spiriterra Vineyards, to Roots for Peace to pay the military for the mine removal.

“No child should be born anywhere in the world with the risk of losing life or limb to a landmine.  This is an important first effort in the Holy Land and we hope to clear other fields when additional funding becomes available,” Kühn said.

During the past 3 years, Kuhn has worked with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas to gain their support for her landmine initiatives.

Roots of Peace CEO Heidi Kuhn and Israel PM Netanyahu and Daniel Yuval, who lost his leg in a landmine explosion

Interfaith support for the landmine removal includes the Sheikh of Bethlehem. “We are pleased to put our hand in yours to demine The Holy Land and start from Husan Village in The Fields of Bethlehem where Jesus was born and his feet stepped once upon a time so as our children will step in the same place with peace and love,” the Sheikh said.

In a personal letter of support from Dr. Andy David, Consul General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest, he wrote of the effort: “the work of Roots of Peace is in alignment with the Hebrew phrase ‘Tikkum Olam’ which translates into ‘Repairing the World,’ humanity’s responsibility to make good amongst our nation and others, and bring justice to all mankind.”

There are an estimated 1.5 million landmines and UXO (unexploded ordinance) in The Holy Land. Following the completion of her work in Bethlehem, Kühn aims to broaden the Roots of Peace demining efforts in Qasr al Yahud, the Baptismal Site of Jesus—respected by Muslims, Christians and Jewish alike.

About Roots of Peace

Roots of Peace an international humanitarian, non-political organization works to unearth dangerous landmines in war-torn countries and empowers the local communities scarred by these inhumane weapons. For more information visit www.rootsofpeace.org

 

 

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Patton Boggs’ Partner James Tyrrell, Jr., Lied to Burford Capital in Chevron Ecuador Litigation

 

 

James E. Tyrrell, Jr.: Liar says Burford Investment Company

 

In the latest in a series of bombshell filings, Chevron today submitted a 26-page sworn declaration from the CEO of Burford Capital, a $300 million, publicly traded fund that in late 2010 agreed to finance Patton Boggs’s representation of the plaintiffs bringing an environmental suit against Chevron in Lago Agrio, Ecuador.

 

In it Burford CEO Christopher Bogart says his firm would never have invested in the case were it not for “false and misleading representations” made not only by Steve Donziger, the Lago Agrio team’s longtime New York lawyer, but also by Patton Boggs, a prominent Washington-based, AmLaw 100 law firm that agreed to take on the plaintiffs’ troubled environmental suit in February 2010 on a partial contingency basis. (Read the full declaration here.)

 

Burford relied on a misleading analysis of the case made by Patton Boggs partner James Tyrrell, Jr., with whom, Bogart says, Burford had a “‘special’ and multifaceted relationship” at the time. Most of the misrepresentations Bogart alleges concern the extent to which Patton Boggs already knew that a crucial damages assessment drafted by a purportedly “neutral and independent” court-appointed expert in the case had, in reality, been secretly ghost-written by the Lago Agrio plaintiffs lawyers themselves.

 

Emails seeking comment from Tyrrell and other Patton Boggs attorneys were not immediately returned. Nor were emails to Donziger’s counsel, John Keker (who is in a court proceeding this morning).

 

Lago Agrio plaintiff team’s spokesperson, Bill Hamilton of Fenton Communications said that “in the final analysis, this … is just more of Chevron’s non-stop Big Money attempt to intimidate and malign the Lago Agrio plaintiffs and their lawyers and supporters. It has no bearing on what happened in Ecuador, does nothing to remediate the harm that even Chevron has admitted took place in the Amazon and constitutes a side show that will not stop efforts to attach Chevron properties in Argentina, Canada, Brazil, and around the world.” He asserted that Burford’s allegation of misconduct by the plaintiffs is “at its core, just a dispute about money.”)

 

Because an Ecuadorian provincial court issued an $18.2 billion judgment against Chevron in February 2011 — later bumped up to $19 billion—Patton Boggs theoretically stands to collect hundreds of millions of dollars if the judgment can ever be enforced. The plaintiffs’ team is currently attempting to enforce it foreign courts, including those of Canada and Argentina.

 

Chevron is currently considering whether to bring fraud charges against Patton Boggs, the company stated in a Manhattan federal court filing Friday, and will make up its mind by May 10.

On October 31, 2010, Burford gave the plaintiffs $4 million in financing as the first tranche in what was planned to become a $15 million investment in the case. In exchange it received a 1.5% stake of any recovery, which was to rise to a 5.5% stake upon full funding.

But on February 1, 2011, Chevron (CVX) filed a civil RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) suit in Manhattan federal court against Donziger, the Amazon Defense Fund, and others key figures involved in the Lago Agrio case, alleging wire fraud, extortion, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan issued a preliminary injunction in March in a 131-page, 434-footnote ruling that detailed the disturbing state of the evidence against Donziger and his Ecuadorian collegues on the case at the time. (The injunction was later vacated on appeal jurisdictional grounds unrelated to Kaplan’s factual findings.) Burford never made any follow-up investments.

 

Although Burford quickly resold most of its stake in the case in December 2010, it retained until today an upside interest in the outcome of the lawsuit. With today’s settlement, however, Burford turns that remaining stake over to Chevron. In this morning’s joint press release, Bogart says, “Burford stands by its clients in the face of aggressive litigation tactics by their opponents, but Burford does not sit still for being deceived or defrauded and has no interest in profiting from such conduct.”

 

In Bogart’s affidavit he argues that Burford was especially inclined to credit Tyrrell’s assessments of the case because of Tyrrell’s “special relationship” with the firm. To begin with, he writes, Tyrrell was, as a former partner at Latham & Watkins, close friends of four former Latham partners who then occupied senior positions at Burford.

 

“Tyrrell was also an advocate and enthusiast of litigation funding,” Bogart continues, extending “support to start-up funders.” For instance, Patton Boggs was providing Burford with rent-free office space at its New York office, which Tyrrell heads, at the time the Lago Agrio investment was negotiated, Bogart writes.

 

Last month Judge Kaplan ordered Patton Boggs to make voluminous productions of documents, finding that any attorney client privilege that might apply would be pierced due to the “crime fraud exception,” which applies when there is evidence that documents were made in furtherance of a crime or fraud. Though Judge Kaplan made no finding as to whether Patton Boggs itself had any actual knowledge of any crime or fraud, his 73-page ruling was tart in its rejection of the firm’s portrayal of itself as an unrelated outsider who, if it complied with the subpoena, would be forced to incur excessive and burdensome costs.

 

He wrote: “Here, [Patton Boggs] was well aware of Chevron’s fraud allegations when it joined the [Lago Agrio plaintiffs] team — indeed it was brought on to combat them — and understood Chevron’s intention to fight this matter vigorously. Any failure to have anticipated that its involvement could lead to discovery obligations and expenditures on its own behalf, if there was such a failure, would have reflected an uncommon lack of foresight.”

 

Burford’s investment in the controversial case — which, like most such investments, remained secret until disclosed through ancillary U.S. litigation brought by Chevron — was the subject of a May 2011 Fortune feature story which had been highly critical of the investment firm. (See Have you got a piece of this lawsuit?)

While at least four federal court judges had already found “prima facie” evidence of fraud by the plaintiffs team at the time Burford invested, the quality and quantity of that evidence has strengthened geometrically since the filing of Chevron’s RICO case. Last July U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan ruled that “uncontradicted evidence” showed that the case had been “unquestionably … tainted” by this fraud. (See Chevron claims Patton Boggs tried to cover up a fraud)

 

In addition, Chevron has now also presented in its RICO case substantial evidence indicating that the entire 188-page, $18.2 billion judgment ruling was ghostwritten by the Ecuadorian plaintiffs lawyers themselves — an opportunity that was allegedly accorded to them after they agreed to pay two Ecuadorian judges $500,000 from the anticipated recovery. Chevron has shown, for instance, that at least one third of the judgment contains material that was lifted from internal plaintiffs memoranda that were never made part of the record in the case, and it has submitted an extensively corroborated affidavit from one of the two Ecuadorian judges in question.

 

(In reply, the Lago Agrio plaintiffs team submitted an unnotarized declaration from the other former judge, the titular author of the ruling, Nicolas Zambrano. In it Zambrano says he wrote the ruling himself and denies having accepted any bribe offer. But the Lago Agrio plaintiffs team has also indicated that Zambrano will probably refuse to submit to a deposition backing up his claim, rendering his declaration’s legal value dubious. Further, in his declaration Zambrano makes no attempt to explain away the voluminous corroborating evidence of ghostwriting that Chevron has submitted.

 

Similarly, in a terse, carefully worded affidavit the Lago Agrio plaintiffs’ chief U.S. lawyer Donziger has denied personal involvement in or knowledge of bribery or ghostwriting of the judgment, but has not denied that bribery and ghostwriting may have occurred. The other Amazon Defense Front defendants have defaulted by failing to appear in the RICO suit.)

 

Finally, just last week, the plaintiffs team’s environmental experts, Stratus Consulting of Boulder, Colo., recanted all its scientific findings and conclusions in the case in exchange for being dropped as a defendant in the RICO suit. Its officials expressed regret for having “allowed the firm to be used the way it was.” (The Lago Agrio plaintiffs say Chevron “bullied” Stratus into the recantation by threatening it with “financial extinction.”)

 

By Roger Parloff, senior editor, Fortune Magazine

 

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San Francisco Symphony Musicians and Board Ratify Approves New 26-Month Contract


The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) announced today that the Board of Governors and musicians of the Orchestra have approved and ratified a new 26-month collective bargaining agreement.  The agreement sets a course for the Orchestra’s future artistic and audience growth and represents a new partnership that charts a path toward a financially sustainable operating model and demonstrates an enhanced commitment to serve its community.


The new agreement includes increases in weekly base pay and changes in health care benefits and enhances the orchestra’s ability to attract and retain not only the most talented musicians, but also an audience facing an ever-wider variety of entertainment options.  It expands the commitment to the artistic development of the musicians, by enlarging the Orchestra’s instrument loan program, the pool of funds available to finance the purchase of their instruments, already the largest program of its kind in the country.  Increased flexibility of scheduling will allow the SFS to create new types of programming to reach new audiences and expand the concert experience in Davies Symphony Hall and beyond.


The agreement also outlines a new process for sharing information among the musicians, Board of Governors, and administration on an ongoing basis to maintain trust, respect and understanding between the members of a sustainable arts organization.  The administration and musicians are committed to working with a third party on an ongoing basis to improve communication and seek a cooperative spirit to address future challenges and opportunities.  A shared commitment to grow audiences and serve our community includes broadening musicians’ involvement in fundraising, marketing and audience development activities.


Negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement began in September 2012. The previous agreement expired November 24, 2012 and was extended by mutual agreement to February 15, 2013.  A tentative agreement on a new contract was reached March 31, 2013 and has now been ratified and approved by the full Orchestra and Board of Governors.  Over the course of the 26 months of the agreement, musicians of the SF Symphony will receive a 4.5% increase in salary, with current minimum weekly compensation of $2,725 and increasing to $2,850 by the end of the contract.


“The success of the San Francisco Symphony lies in the dynamic partnership among the musicians, Michael Tilson Thomas , the careful stewardship of the board, hard work of the staff, and the enthusiastic and consistent support of our community,” said Sakurako Fisher, President of the SF Symphony.  “This agreement represents a significant amount of collaboration and a recognition that only a shared vision and a true partnership will propel our outstanding 100-year-old orchestra toward an even greater future. We remain deeply gratified by our community’s exceptional commitment to our orchestra and to the arts.”


“The musicians of the San Francisco Symphony recognize the important qualities of partnership and collaboration that defines all successful orchestras,” said violist David Gaudry, Chair of the musicians’ negotiating committee.  “Everything we do is for our audiences.  We love what we do, and we want to keep providing our listeners the highest level of musicianship, be active in growing our community, and ensure the long-term artistic vitality of our great orchestra.”


“This new agreement recognizes the immense talents and dedication of our musicians and underscores our commitment to their well-being on every level,” said Brent Assink, SF Symphony Executive Director.  Their artistry shapes and enriches the cultural landscape of our community in meaningful and far-reaching ways.  I want to express my thanks to Dave Gaudry and the musicians’ negotiating team for their many long hours of collaboration on this new contract.  I would also like thank the Board Labor Relations Committee, the entire Board of Governors, and our hard working staff.  But most of all, I deeply appreciate the patience and ongoing support of our Bay Area community, touring partners, and fans around the country during the past few weeks. We all have a stake in the success of this institution and we look forward to strengthening our partnership to move the orchestra forward.”


The Orchestra’s negotiating committee was chaired by David Gaudry and included Rob Weir, Cathy Payne, Linda Lukas, and Nanci Severance.   Also participating was David Schoenbrun, President of Musicians’ Union Local No. 6 of the American Federation of Musicians.  Susan Martin of Martin and Bonnett acted as counsel to the musicians.  Negotiating for the SFS administration were Executive Director Brent Assink, General Manager John Kieser, Human Resources Director Ken Auletta, Chief Financial Officer James Kirk, Orchestra Personnel Manager Rebecca Blum, and attorney Curt Kirschner of Jones Day.

 

 

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Chevron Ecuador Lawsuit Crashes: Plaintiffs Join Chevron—Recant Statements about Damage in Steven Donziger Case


The environmental consulting firm that provided the evidence which led to a $19 billion judgment against Chevron in Ecuador has disavowed its work and is now joining the Chevron legal team to fight the false charges against the oil company promoted by lead plaintiffs’ attorney Steven Donziger, Chevron announced today.

Stratus Consulting of Boulder, Colo., has provided sworn declarations outlining the firm’s knowledge of the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ misconduct in the Lago Agrio, Ecuador litigation as well as testifying that there is no scientific merit to the plaintiffs’ damages claims against Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) and Texaco Petroleum (TexPet).


“We are pleased that Stratus came forward to reveal the truth. We call on others with knowledge of the fraud tainting the trial in Ecuador to come forward and do the right thing,” said Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president and general counsel.


The legal case against Chevron is spearheaded by plaintiffs’ attorney Steven Donziger and two Ecuadorians Luis Yanza and Pablo Fajardo. They used manipulated data and alleged bribery to win a judgment in Ecuador for $19 billion against Chevron.


For years, Donziger, Yanza and Fajardo were honored for challenging the oil company and demanding that it pay for alleged pollution in the Amazon region of Ecuador. Yanza and Fajardo were awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in San Francisco in 2008.


Now, the tables have turned as more evidence mounts the case by Donziger, Yanza and Fajardo is a fraud, whose story was promoted by publicist Karen Hinton (now of Mercury Public Affairs in Washington, D.C.) to the media–even resulting in a Hollywood movie, “Crude: The True Cost of Oil.”
Hinton and others were shills for Donziger’s fraud, perhaps the biggest con since Bernard Madoff was exposed.


It was the movie “Crude,” by Joe Berlinger, that propelled Chevron’s ability to show the lawsuit was a fraud. Chevron attorneys won the right to outtakes, which provided the first evidence to demonstrate the collusion and false data in the lawsuit against it. Berlinger and his film have since been discredited.


Since that time, judges, environmental experts and funders of Donziger’s lawsuit have disavowed their work and admitted they were misled or paid by the plaintiffs for their ‘independent’ testimony.


Today, in sworn declarations (here and here), Stratus details the role the firm and the plaintiffs’ lawyers played in drafting the supposedly independent damages report of Richard Cabrera, which serves as an evidentiary basis of the 2011 judgment against Chevron in Ecuador. Testimony also provides a direct account of lead plaintiffs’ lawyer Steven Donziger’s control of the “Cabrera Report” process and the pressure Donziger applied to contrive damages attributed to Chevron. In filings submitted in the Southern District of New York today, Stratus’s representatives state:


• “Stratus is not aware of any scientific evidence that people in the former concession area are drinking water contaminated with petroleum.”

• “At no time while working on the Ecuador Project did I see any data supporting a finding of groundwater contamination from TexPet operations…”

• “I am not aware of any scientific data that shows that any adverse health effects are caused by contamination from petroleum operations in the Oriente.”

• “…the conclusion that there were 1,400 ‘excess cancer’ deaths near the oil operations area is invalid and unsupported.”

• “I am not aware of any credible scientific evidence that supports the statement that cancer rates were up to 30 times higher than normal, or that the incidence of childhood leukemia was found to have reached alarming levels.”

• “I am not aware of credible scientific evidence that more than 9,000 people in the area of oil operations in Ecuador are going to contract cancer in the coming decades or that links any such incidence to oil operations.”

• “I am not aware of any credible scientific evidence that supports the statement that TexPet’s operation of the concession ravaged thousands of square miles of once-pristine rainforest, that it poisoned the environment of tens of thousands of people, or that it decimated indigenous tribes who lived in the region.”

• “I disavow any and all findings and conclusions in all of my reports and testimony on the Ecuador Project. I deeply regret that I allowed myself and my company to be used in the Lago Agrio Litigation in the way that we were…”


Stratus is the latest instance of individuals and groups formerly aligned with the plaintiffs either accusing the plaintiffs’ lawyers of fraud or providing firsthand accounts of corruption tainting the trial and judgment. In January, a former Ecuadorian judge came forward to admit his role in orchestrating the fraudulent judgment against Chevron. It was also revealed that Burford Capital, one of the largest financial backers of the plaintiffs, accused the plaintiffs’ lawyers of fraud and other misconduct in connection with their pursuit of their case. In December, a former environmental consultant to the plaintiffs came forward with additional proof of fraud and the fabrication of evidence on the part of the plaintiffs’ lawyers.



Chevron’s RICO claim is set for trial on October 15, 2013.

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Chevron Ecuador: Ecuador Environmental Plaintiffs In Trouble as Environmental Consulting Firms Disavows Work for Steven Donziger, Luis Yanza, Pablo Fajardo


Steven Donziger, once the toast of the environmental plaintiffs’ bar, is in deep trouble.

The New York lawyer made history in February 2011 when he engineered what’s grown into a $19 billion verdict against Chevron (CVX) related to oil pollution in the rainforest of eastern Ecuador.

Chevron, which has no assets to speak of in Ecuador, vowed it would never pay a dime. The oil company has claimed that Donziger 
masterminded
 a vast fraud with the assistance of lawyers and judges in Ecuador. Chevron filed a countersuit against Donziger in federal court in New York, alleging he had fabricated evidence, threatened an Ecuadorian judge, and arranged for the ghostwriting of a supposedly independent scientific report, as well as the ultimate judgment.

Donziger, who said he represented some 30,000 indigenous rainforest villagers and farmers, has denied all of the allegations, saying that Chevron simply wanted to deflect attention from its enormous liability.

Now the San Ramon-based company has reached an important settlement with the environmental consulting firm that served as Donziger’s main source of data and analysis in the long-running Ecuador case. Stratus Consulting, based in Boulder, Colo., said in a press release today that it “was misled” by Donziger. Stratus went on to say that the plaintiffs’ legal team used its extensive research as the basis of a 4,000-page report filed with the court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador. The report was supposed to be neutral and independent, but it was not, Stratus said. The consulting firm described a court process in Ecuador that “was tainted by Donziger and the Lago Agrio plaintiffs representatives’ behind-the-scenes activities.”

Chevron had named Stratus as a co-defendant with Donziger in the New York lawsuit. In its press release, Stratus said the damages assessment to which it contributed, as well as other evidence filed in court in Ecuador by the plaintiffs, “were fatally tainted and are not reliable.” The consulting firm disavowed its work and said it would “cooperate fully” with Chevron and “provide testimony about the Ecuador litigation.” Stratus added that it “deeply regrets its involvement in the Ecuador litigation.” Separate court filings indicate that Stratus has not agreed to pay any money to settle Chevron’s claims against it.

Donziger did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Chevron is expected to file more specific declarations from Stratus principals in federal court in New York in coming days. Judge Lewis Kaplan, who’s presiding over Chevron’s civil racketeering suit against Donziger, has scheduled a hearing for April 16.

Donziger’s reversal of fortune over the past two years has been nothing short of breathtaking. Heralded by Amazon Watch and other environmentalists, praised in a highly regarded 2009 documentary film, and heroized by CBS’s (CBS60 Minutes, Donziger now faces the second-largest oil company in the U.S. without the scientists who once backed his pioneering case. His financing has dried up, his public-relations consultant recently left the case, and his room to maneuver appears to be diminishing quickly.

 

From Business Week. Author Paul Barrett, an assistant managing editor and senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek, is author, most recently, of 
GLOCK: The Rise of America’s Gun
.

 

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San Francisco Symphony Musicians And Administration Reach Tentative Agreement For New 26-Month Contract

Concerts will resume Tuesday, April 2 with free performance for SF schoolchildren

All concerts this week to go on as scheduled

San Francisco Symphony (SFS) administration and musicians, as represented by Musicians Union of San Francisco, Local No. 6, American Federation of Musicians, have reached a tentative agreement for a new 26-month contract, subject to ratification by the full Orchestra and approval by the Board of Governors. No details of the agreement will be discussed or released until the new contract is ratified in the next several days.

SFS musicians will return to the stage of Davies Symphony Hall Tuesday April 2 at 11:30am in the first of a weeklong series of free concerts for San Francisco’s elementary schoolchildren.  The entire week of concerts for 1st and 2nd grade students will offer performances for more than 10,000 of San Francisco’s public elementary schoolchildren and their teachers as part of the Symphony’s Adventures in Music education program.

All SFS concerts scheduled this week will take place as planned: Bernard Labadie conducts the Orchestra, SFS Chorus, and guest soprano Lydia Teuscher and tenor Nicholas Phan in a program of Mozart and Handel April 4 and 5; SFS Resident Conductor Donato Cabrera leads a Music for Families concert April 6; and Orchestra musicians perform chamber music on April 7. The San Francisco Symphony’s Community of Music Makers instrumental workshop for amateur musicians will also take place as scheduled on April 7.

Tickets for all SF Symphony concerts are available at www.sfsymphony.org, by phone at (415) 864-6000, and at the San Francisco Symphony Box Office on Grove Street between Franklin Street and Van Ness Avenue. Patrons with tickets to cancelled or rescheduled concerts for the week of March 14-17, March 29, or March 30 may exchange them for an upcoming concert, donate their tickets, or receive a refund.  The San Francisco Symphony Box Office is open between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and two hours prior to concerts on Sundays.

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America’s Cup Refuses to Pay Workers: Will This Impact Upcoming America’s Cup Finals in San Francisco This Year?

by Zennie Abraham

America’s Cup stiffs San Francisco Workers? Read on…

America’s Cup, SF. If you’re as excited about the event being here in San Francisco and the SF Bay Area as I am, then you expect the organization to get everything right, and maintain good relationships with everyone.

And if you’re as excited about the America’s Cup as I am, then you’re going to be as disappointed in America’s CUP CEO Stephen Barclay as I am after you read my blog post.

According to numerous reports and SF City Hall sources, America’s Cup CEO Stephen Barclay has not authorized the San Francisco America’s Cup organization to pay full contracted union wages to San Francisco-based businesses – in particular, Hartmann Studios.

Hartmann Studios is under contract with America’s Cup Event Authority to set up events related to and help stage the races at the center of what’s called “America’s Cup.” San Francisco ChronicleColumnists Matier and Ross reported today that the America’s Cup Event Authority owes Hartmann Studios almost half-a-million, or $400,000 in unpaid not including the $56,000 in administrative costs the City and County of San Francisco has incurred to date. That’s a total of $456,000.

Matier and Ross quote America’s CUP CEO Stephen Barclay as saying “I’m absolutely unaware of this. I’m staggered.”

Really?

Not according to an extensive email letter dated Sep 25, 2012, and titled “Budget Discussion.” The email specifically mentioned the contracted union wages, or “prevailing wages” that the America’s Cup Event Authority has to pay San Francisco organizations like Hartmann Studios.

The email was from Hartmann Studios President Mark Guelfi, and to Mirko Groeschner, the person’s who’s name is on a number of America’s Cup communications and is Marketing Director of BMW ORACLE Racing, and it was copied for Rosie Spaulding, who manages events for America’s Cup, and for Sam Hollis, America’s Cup Event Authority General Counsel (he’s their lawyer who previously worked on London’s 2012 Olympics Bid before then working for the America’s Cup).

Given that the “Budget Discussion” was with three top America’s Cup executives, and that they all report to and work with America’s CUP CEO Stephen Barclay, for Mr. Barclay to tell Matier and Ross that he’s “absolutely unaware of this” and that he’s “staggered” stretches the imagination.

Indeed, read on and you’ll see the smoking gun that points to this blogger’s assertion that Barclay did know about the prevailing wage costs and the monies owed both Hartmann Studios and The City and County of San Francisco.

Here’s the email, with the email addresses removed:

From: Mark Guelfi 
Date: Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 6:37 AM
Subject: Re: Budget discussion
To: Mirko Groeschner
Cc: Keith Lovitt, Rosie Spaulding , Sam Hollis , *Matt Guelfi Guelfi , *Mike Guelfi Guelfi

Mirko -

Thanks for sending. I am always happy to discuss budgets and hope I was able to clear up some of your questions on our call Sunday morning. I circled back with Keith yesterday and reviewed the budget. Please see below for responses to your questions.

Shipping – These numbers come directly from our vendors to transport product to and from the venue. There is a significant amount of product ordered, which requires tractor trailer transporting. With fuel prices increasing these numbers are becoming significant costs to all of our budgets. We ask our vendors to break out their proposals by equipment, staff, labor and trucking/shipping so we can see and better analyze the detail.

Hartmann Production Staff – With regards to your call-out of Ian’s days onsite, I had the same question. Keith explained that Ian will be managing the load-out of the Yacht Club Peninsula Hospitality, which is planned to extend to October 15th. All of our pre-production time are estimates based on the scope of the project and will be billed as actuals once the project is complete although I don’t expect any surprises.

Hotel Nights/Per Diem/Travel – We normally use 100 percent local staff — both full time and those on our extended project team — however, there is nobody “left standing” in the Bay Area that is available. The city is extremely busy during the next ACWS race with Fleet Week, Blue Grass Festival, the 49ers Game, Giants Playoff Game, North Beach Festival not to mention Oracle OpenWorld. We would have had to book production staff 6 to 8 months ago in order to hire locally. Hotel costs are also significantly higher due to demand during this time period. Oracle OpenWorld alone sells out the entire city and much of the Bay Area. August costs in comparison were about half of what we are paying in October.

Parking Attendants – This was a request from Rosie via the city back in August, encouraging a “friendly face” assisting your security team in directing traffic. The request was made again for the October event.

Daily Maintenance – This was a carry over from August for litter pick-up/general cleaning for all tents on a daily basis. Rosie has since requested that this role is folded under the “greeners” that ACEA is hiring and will be removed on the budget revision.

Audio Labor – This is for the peninsula audio system, which runs the entire length of the peninsula…Nearly a mile, which requires running cable that distance. The 20k number is actually for the install, onsite crew to run the system for the entire week, and to strike the equipment post event. Labor is billed on per day basis, which is why you see a qty of 9…(1 day install, 7 day show (includes rehearsal day), 1 day strike. With the technical aspects of the requests, you have to have crew onsite managing the equipment/show.

Power – The significant portion of this cost, is again labor. Running cable, installing, onsite techs adds up quickly. Fuel is also factored in and with the economic climate this has a significant impact on costs. John Briggs with Race Management has worked directly with our technical director to ensure we are as efficient as possible when spec’ing this equipment.

As I mentioned, labor is a significant part of all event budgets, especially when there are Union Requirements and Prevailing Wage implications. Hartmann’s model is to pass along our costs directly to our clients, plus our management fee (at Oracle discount rate) and we work hard to create relationships with vendors to reduce these costs as much as possible for our clients. I agree with you. We do need to find a way to come up with a plan much further in advance so that we can minimize these costs for future events.

I will follow up, as promised, and send a separate note to you, Sam, Rosie, Keith and I will probably copy Stephen in regards to my concerns about the prevailing wage language in your contract with the City of San Francisco and the Port. The cost of labor is going to skyrocket. A laborer that we are currently paying $12 to $15 to $18 per hour is going to get paid somewhere between $50 and $85 per hour.

As you know, we are responding to the City’s Labor Standards Department’s investigation of labor rates that were paid by my company and by our subcontractors at the August race. We sent a very large stack of payroll records and copies of cancelled payroll checks to the department last week. We have since confirmed that they have received. This department has also been in touch directly with our subcontractors and they have all agreed to supply the same information. We expect the Labor Standards Department to come back to us and identify what the prevailing rate are for each discipline i.e. tenting, staging, janitorial, etc.

We will certainly have a significant amount of of back pay that we will need to send to most of the people that worked on the August project and on the upcoming October project. We are not able to pay prevailing wage at the next race since the Labor Standards Department has not yet given us the prevailing wage rates. We will provide them with our records after the race and wait for them to come back to us. This is a very time consuming process to say the least.

We will not have liability in regards to any theatrical/stagehand work since we gave all of this work to the local stagehand union, IATSE Local 16. Additionally, Hartmann Staff and any vendor staff that performed theatrical work and was not a member of the local, was paid at prevailing rates so we are covered on this front. No back pay will be required.

Please know that the final budgets that we submitted for the August events and the proposed budgets that we have prepared for the October events do not completely reflect prevailing wage. We will submit a invoice in October or November for the balance due based on the direction that we get from the City.

I hope this helps. I am available to discuss today if you have some time to discuss. I can be reached on cell.

Best Regards,
Mark Guelfi

In his response to Mark Guelfi’s email two things become obvious: first, that it becomes clear that Mirko Groeschner has issues with the union wages, and was already seeking a way to lower costs for the America’s Cup event, and second, that he was going to tell Mr. Barclay about it – he refers to him as “Stephen” – as well as Mr. Hollis, or “Sam,” the general counsel. Here’s Mirko Groeschner’s response email:

Hi Mark,

thanks for being available this morning to talk.

Looked more intensively at the budget again. Below are a few points where I would question some of the items or at least – I am not sure I understand fully the reasoning.

Perhaps we have a chance to talk towards the beginning of the week again.

Shipping: 21.400 USD. Do we need that much?
Hartmann Production Staff: as we discussed, pls have a look at the quantities again
Hotel nights, per diem and travel for crew: this is 44.000 USD, can we not have local crew that goes home each day?
Parking Attendant: Do we need that? Almost 6.500 USD
Daily Maintenance: 22.000 USD (what are these guys doing?)
Audio Labor: it says 1 day installation but still there are 20.000 USD – is that ok?
Power: when I add all costs for Labour, generators, shipping, electrician etc. I arrive at an amount of almost 100k USD….

Secondly, I will send to Stephen and Sam a note considering labour costs.

For labour in some areas it looks that we pay about 180.000 EUR. In more detail there is:

Stage Labour: 83.000 USD
Power distribution Labour: 55.100 USD
Audio Labour: 20.000 USD
Daily Maintenance: 22.000 USD

We need to find a way to plan all that a little more in advance and reduce some of these costs to make our events affordable.

Best, Mirko

So from this, it’s clear that America’s CUP CEO Stephen Barclay either wasn’t forthcoming with Matier and Ross or his deputy Mirko Groeschner withheld the information from him – neither direction is a good one, but I’m not believing that Mirko failed to tell Stephen about this issue . Again, the email exchange happened seven months ago – that’s ample time for Mr. Barclay to have known about the wage cost issue, and have done something about it.

As of this writing, it appears the something was to pay nothing to either Hartmann Productions or the City and County of San Francisco.

Stay tuned.

Originally published at: http://www.zennie62blog.com/

 

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Boston Properties And Hines Close On Record Land Sale For Transbay Transit Tower Parcel

Ceremonial Groundbreaking of the West Coast’s Tallest Tower Scheduled

Hines and Boston Properties (NYSE: BXP) announced today that it will ceremonially break ground to celebrate the acquisition of 101 First Street, a land parcel sold by Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) for approximately $192 million. The sale of the 50,000-square-foot parcel closed today at nearly $4,000 per land foot. The firms are now set to develop the Transbay Transit Tower, a new Pelli Clarke Pelli-designed icon adjacent to the Transbay Transit Center, a multi-modal transportation hub and the new heart of the revitalized South of Market San Francisco neighborhood. It was also announced that a partnership of Clark Construction and Hathaway Dinwiddie will serve as general contractors for the soaring, 60-story office building at Mission and First streets.

At 1,070 feet, the tower is set to be the tallest on the United States’ West Coast and the seventh tallest in the U.S., edging out New York’s Chrysler Building. The project was initiated in 2007 and received planning approval in October of 2012. Construction of the 1.4 million-square-foot tower could begin as early as summer 2013 with project completion in 2016, just before the opening of the new transit facility.

A ceremonial groundbreaking celebration is scheduled to occur on March 27, 2013 with such dignitaries in attendance as: San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee; TJPA Executive Director Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, Chair of the TJPA Board and Supervisor Jane Kim, along with other board members, as well as Boston Properties Chairman and CEO Mortimer B. Zuckerman; and Hines Chairman Gerald D. Hines.

“The sale of the Transbay Transit Tower property is a transformative moment for San Francisco,” said Executive Director of the TJPA, Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan. “The Tower and the Transbay Transit Center will stand at the center of one of the most forward-looking transit-oriented developments in the world today.”

Zuckerman commented, “We are dedicated to making this an iconic tower that will stand as a landmark for all who travel to San Francisco and add to its appeal as one of our most sought after 24/7 cities in the U.S. on top of being the technology capital of the world.”

Hines Senior Managing Director Paul Paradis notes, “Tenant interest in the financial, professional services and tech sectors has been extremely high. Now that we are closing on the land and moving full speed ahead with the design, I’m confident that discussions will progress into leasing quickly. Transbay will be a new icon for the city and state, but also a beacon for a progressive anchor tenant looking for the finest, sustainable office space.”

“This record transaction signifies the investor confidence that we all have in San Francisco’s future,” said San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “Soon to be the West Coast’s tallest building, the Transbay Tower benefits not only a world class transit facility but also represents the strength of our City’s economic recovery, providing jobs to build a better, more sustainable future.”

“Investments in transportation are fueling our economic recovery and the Transbay Terminal epitomizes how federal support helps attract and leverage private investment,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood. “Construction of the Transit Tower will create thousands of jobs today, while positioning the surrounding neighborhood to become a major employment center for the Bay Area for generations to come.

Boston Properties is a fully integrated, self-administered and self-managed real estate investment trust that develops, redevelops, acquires, manages, operates and owns a diverse portfolio of Class A office space, one hotel, three residential properties and four retail properties. The company is one of the largest owners and developers of Class A office properties in the United States, concentrated in five markets – Boston, New York, Princeton, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Hines is a privately owned real estate firm involved in real estate investment, development and management. The firm’s historical and current portfolio of projects underway, completed, acquired and managed includes 1,208 properties representing more than 488 million square feet. With offices in 104 cities in 18 countries, and controlled assets valued at approximately $23.8 billion, Hines is one of the most respected real estate organizations in the world.

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Head of Colorado’s Prisons Is Fatally Shot at Front Door of HiHome

The head of Colorado’s Department of Corrections was fatally shot Tuesday night as he opened the front door of his home, the authorities said, hours before Gov. John W. Hickenlooper was scheduled to sign into law a series of restrictive gun control measures.

The department’s executive director, Tom Clements, 58, lived with his family in Monument, near Colorado Springs in central Colorado, the authorities said. The police have not identified a suspect.

Mr. Hickenlooper announced the news on his Facebook page early Wednesday, calling Mr. Clements “unfailingly kind and thoughtful.”

“I am so sad,” he wrote. “I have never worked with a better person than Tom, and I can’t imagine our team without him.”

Mr. Clements, whom Mr. Hickenlooper appointed to the post in January 2011, oversaw the state’s public and private prison system and parole operations. He is survived by a wife and two daughters, the governor said in the Facebook post.

On Wednesday, Mr. Hickenlooper is expected to sign three gun bills into law. They would require background checks for all gun transfers, charge firearms consumers for those background checks and limit magazine capacities to 15 rounds.

Some county sheriffs in the state have publicly vowed not to enforce the measures.

From the New York Times

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Greedy San Francisco Musicians Turn Down Federal Mediator Recommendation of Cooling Off Period, Forcing SF Symphony to Cancel New York Performances

The Musicians of the San Francisco Symphony (who make $165,000 annually, plus platinum healthcare and pension funds and don’t even work 12 months) have rejected a federal mediator’s proposal to resume playing concerts during a “cooling off” period while negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement continue. The Symphony’s administration was willing to abide by the federal mediator’s recommendation, based on developments over the past three days of talks.

As a result of the musicians’ continuing work stoppage, the orchestra’s three-city East Coast tour on March 20-23 will not go forward.  The tour was set to include performances at Carnegie Hall March 20 and 21, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on March 22, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on March 23. The ongoing five-day musicians’ strike has already forced cancellations of four concerts in San Francisco.

Over the past three days of lengthy negotiations, overseen by a federal mediator, the musicians’ union rejected the latest administration proposals and continued their strike.

Several proposals by the administration have been rejected by the musicians’ union.  The most recent proposal offered increases in musician compensation to achieve a new annual minimum salary of $145,979 with annual increases of 1% and 2% for the latest two-year proposal.  Contractual benefits also included a $74,000 maximum annual pension, 10 weeks paid vacation, and full coverage health care plan options with no monthly premium contributions for musicians and their families for three of the four options.  Additional compensation for most active musicians also includes radio payments, over-scale, and seniority pay which raises the current average pay for SFS musicians to over $165,000.

“We are deeply disappointed that the musicians have continued to reject proposals for a new agreement and that the musicians will not proceed with our planned East Coast tour,” said Brent Assink, Executive Director of the San Francisco Symphony.  “We have negotiated in good faith since September, have shared volumes of financial information, and have offered many different proposals that we had hoped would lead to a new agreement by this time.  We will continue to work hard to resolve this situation.”

In the current economic environment, the San Francisco Symphony is facing the same challenges that many other orchestras and arts organizations around the country are facing.  For all four years of its most recent collective bargaining agreement with its musicians, operating expenses have outpaced operating income.  The Orchestra has incurred an operating deficit in each of those years.

As a non-profit organization, the Symphony’s financial statements are audited annually by an independent certified public accounting firm.  These statements and related tax filings are publicly available in accordance with the law.  Since negotiations began, the administration has been cooperative in sharing financial records and responded to the union’s requests for information in a timely manner.  Since September, that includes over 50 formal requests for which over 500 pages of documentation were provided.

The administration has also offered to cooperate with third party financial consultants designated by the musicians to review the audited financial statements.  In addition, the administration had offered the musicians the opportunity to have two members join the organization’s Audit Committee of the Board of Governors.

The administration remains willing to continue negotiations with the musicians’ union under the auspices of a federal mediator in an effort to achieve a mutually agreeable contract. The administration will continue to work with the musicians to respond to requests for information, including requests about the Symphony’s finances.

Today’s rejection of the administration’s latest proposal also represents the latest in a series of delays by the musicians’ union in working with the administration on an agreement.  While the administration provided its first proposal October 15, 2012 and offered six subsequent proposals, the musicians’ union did not formally respond to any administration proposal until mid-January 2013. The union did not formally respond to any of this information until just over 60 days ago, weeks after the November 24, 2013 expiration of the four-year contract.

Media may contact Oliver Theil, SFS Director of Communications, for more details on the negotiations at (415) 264-1241, by email atotheil@sfsymphony.org, or visit www.sfsymphony.org/press.

 

For Ticketholders to Cancelled Concerts in San Francisco:

Refunds and exchanges will be offered for all cancelled Davies Symphony Hall concerts. We deeply appreciate your patience during this difficult time.

We apologize again for the inconvenience. Our Box Office opens at 10am on Monday and can help you with the following options for your tickets:

  • Exchange your tickets for another San Francisco Symphony performance this season
  • Donate your tickets, as the total ticket value is tax deductible to the extent permitted by law
  • Exchange your tickets for a Gift Certificate, which can be used at any time
  • Receive a refund for the value of the ticket

Please contact the San Francisco Symphony Box Office with your preferred option in the following ways:

  • email at tickets@sfsymphony.org and include your name and email address, and your preferred option
  • by phone at (415) 864-6000
  • in person at the Box Office on Grove St., between Van Ness and Franklin.

Box office hours this week are 10am – 6pm Monday – Friday, Saturday Noon – 6pm

 

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No Debt Crisis in U.S. Now: There’s no immediate debt crisis, Boehner says, agreeing with Obama

By Christi Parsons, Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — The country isn’t facing an immediate debt crisis, House Speaker John Boehner(R-Ohio) said Sunday, but he argued that Congress and the president must reform entitlements to avert one that lies dead ahead.

“We all know that we have one looming,” Boehner said on ABC’s “This Week”. “And we have one looming because we have entitlement programs that are not sustainable in their current form. They’re going to go bankrupt.”

Boehner expressed agreement with Obama’s statement in an ABC interview the other day that the debt doesn’t present “an immediate crisis.”

But Boehner took issue with Obama’s assertion that it doesn’t make sense to “chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance.”

The new spending plan from House Republicans would balance the budget in 10 years, a priority Boehner said this morning is important to the economy.

“Balancing the budget will, in fact, help our economy,” Boehner said. “It’ll help create jobs in our country, get our economy going again, and put more people back to work.”

“The fact that the government continues to spend more than a trillion dollars every year that it doesn’t have scares investors, scares businesspeople, makes them less willing to hire people,” he said.

In a wide-ranging interview, Boehner said the House would “review” any gun control measure that came out of the Senate. He restated his opposition to gay marriage, and said that, unlike his fellow Ohio Republican, Sen. Rob Portman, he can’t imagine a situation in which he would change his mind. Portman said this week that his views had evolved since he found out his son is gay.

Dwelling on budget issues, Boehner said he has a good relationship with Obama and trusts him, and that a lack of good relations is not the problem getting in the way of a sweeping deficit-reduction plan.

The challenge is in overcoming big differences, he said.

“When you get down to bottom line,” he said, “if the president believes that we have to have more taxes from the American people, we’re not going to get very far.”

“Washington has responsibility, to our seniors and our near seniors, that we firm up these programs so that they’re there for the long term,” Boehner said.

“Because if we don’t do it, not only will they not get benefits, we will have a debt crisis right around the corner. We have time to solve our problems. But we need to do it now.”

 

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AutoReturn Uses Cloud-Based Technology to Simplify Police Towing Management and Reduce Municipal Costs in Concord, California

AutoReturn, the nation’s leading municipal towing management and logistics company, has announced the successful implementation of the company’s cloud-based technology, ARIES Online, as a stand-alone technology offering to the City of Concord, Calif.

“We are pleased to bring this technology to municipalities around the country who want to be more autonomous in their towing management, but need our technology to help them,” said AutoReturn CEO John Wicker.  “Our solution transforms the way cities and residents think about municipal services, making them more transparent, efficient, and cost effective.”

AutoReturn has three solutions to assist cities with their towing needs:

  1. AutoReturn Full Service, offering a turn-key municipal towing solution
  2. AutoReturn Logistics, which layers logistics support over our technology solution
  3. ARIES Online, which allows municipalities to utilize AutoReturn’s technology and continue to manage all operations internally.


ARIES Online provides municipalities with the technology to optimize the entire towing life cycle, from the dispatch request to storage and the final disposition of the vehicle. This cloud-based technology helps transform municipal towing services and streamline this important city service, resulting in lower costs for municipalities.

By leveraging Android and iPhone smartphone apps, AutoReturn is able to electronically dispatch tow trucks closest to the call, helping reduce costs incurred by the locally owned tow companies and reducing officer wait times, increasing public safety.

“We are pleased to begin using AutoReturn’s cloud technology in Concord to better serve our citizens,” said Concord Police Chief Guy Swanger. “The decision to work with AutoReturn was based on their strong municipal experience and their leading technology that enables the City to simplify a previously complex system,” he said.

AutoReturn is the leader in municipal towing management and logistics solutions, partnering with municipalities and existing local tow operators to help achieve efficiency, superior service, and increased cost recovery. Founded in 2002 as a technology-enabled towing management and logistics company, AutoReturn has revolutionized municipal towing, making sizable investments in technology, repeatable processes, training programs, and other infrastructure. Learn more at http://www.autoreturn.com.

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Republic Urban Development Moves Full Speed Ahead on Millbrae BART Station Transit-Oriented Development

Immediately after being selected by the BART Board of Directors as the exclusive negotiating partner for the Millbrae BART Station development by a 5-2 vote, Republic Urban has committed its team and attention to establish a process with BART and the City of Millbrae that will result in the entitlement of a Transit Oriented Development at the BART station here. The station currently serves Caltrain and BART and will eventually host California High Speed Rail.

“Republic is honored to have the opportunity to develop a project that everyone will be proud of.” said Michael VanEvery, President of Republic’s West Coast Division. “We have the experience, resources and talent to make this project a national model and a great asset to the City of Millbrae and its citizens.”

Republic has already begun its planning process that will include an extensive community engagement program to ensure that the development satisfies the goals of both BART and the Millbrae community. This process will begin with scoping sessions for public input to be incorporated into planning and environmental review.

Republic’s vision for the site is a transit-oriented project that weaves into the city fabric, complements the city’s downtown and creates an attractive gateway. Republic proposes transforming the Millbrae BART station’s surrounding property into a dynamic mix of housing, retail, office and solar energy generation. This mixed-use concept will leverage the local and regional transit connections provide by SamTrans, CalTrain and BART to become an important symbol of 21st Century, regionally focused urban development.

Republic’s master plan takes advantage of the strong existing components of the Millbrae BART station and provides the best use for BART delivering a TOD that will bring riders to the system.  It adds needed housing to the City of Millbrae to assist the City in its struggle to meet ABAG housing requirements.

About Republic

Republic is a privately owned, full-service real estate investment, management and development enterprise with more than 25 years’ experience delivering quality results throughout the United States. Republic has developed award-winning real estate projects ranging from land development to historic adaptive reuse to shopping malls. The company has developed and invested in real property transactions totaling over 17 million square feet with a value in excess of $4 billion.

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U.S. bolsters missile defenses to counter North Korea threat: Hagel

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks at his news conference at the Pentagon in Washington March 15, 2013. REUTERS-Yuri Gripas

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks at his news conference at the Pentagon in Washington March 15, 2013.

 

By Phil Stewart and David Alexander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced plans on Friday to bolster missile defenses in response to “irresponsible and reckless provocations” by North Korea, which threatened a preventative nuclear strike against the United States last week.

Hagel said the Pentagon would add 14 new anti-missile interceptors at Fort Greely in Alaska – an effective reversal of an early Obama administration decision – and move ahead with the deployment of a second missile-defense radar in Japan.

The Pentagon also left open the possibility of creating a site on the East Coast where the Pentagon could field more interceptors capable of striking down an incoming missile. The 14 additional interceptor deployments would cost nearly $1 billion and must be approved by Congress.

“By taking the steps I outlined today we will strengthen our homeland defense, maintain our commitments to our allies and partners, and make clear to the world that the United States stands firm against aggression,” Hagel told a news conference.

North Korea issued its threat last week to stage a preemptive nuclear attack against the United States as the United Nations readied new sanctions against Pyongyang in response to its February 12 nuclear test.

Experts say North Korea is years away from being able to hit the continental United States with a nuclear weapon, despite having worked for decades to achieve a nuclear capability.

But Hagel said the moves announced by the Pentagon were justified to stay ahead of the threat, underscored by the nuclear test and a December rocket launch that analysts believe was aimed at developing technology for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Hagel also cited North Korea’s display last April of what appeared to be a road-mobile ICBM.

The Pentagon said the United States had informed China, North Korea’s neighbor and closest ally, of its decision to add more interceptors but declined to characterize Beijing’s reaction.

U.S. SAYS SYSTEMS NOT AIMED AT CHINA OR RUSSIA

Officials say its missile defense systems are not designed to counter the large number of ICBMs in arsenals in China or Russia and are focused instead on the threat from North Korea or, potentially, Iran.

Friday’s announcement came with a key caveat – the Pentagon said it would only purchase the extra interceptors if they perform appropriately in tests. The interceptors in question have not hit a target since 2008, a defense official said.

Boeing Co. is the prime contractor of the system. Key Boeing subcontractors include Raytheon Co., which makes the kill vehicle, and Orbital Sciences Corp, which makes the rocket booster.

Admiral James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed confidence in the missiles and said he believed the steps taken by the United States would make North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jung-un, think twice before acting on bellicose rhetoric.

“We not only intend to put the mechanics in place to deny any potential North Korean objective to launch a missile to the United States, but also to impose costs on them if they do,” he told reporters.

“And we believe that this young lad ought to be deterred by that. And if he’s not, we’ll be ready.”

The addition of another 14 interceptors amounts to a reversal of an Obama administration decision in 2010 to stop expansion of the missile interceptor system at 30 interceptors. The Bush administration had planned to deploy a total of 44.

The United States currently has 26 interceptors deployed at Fort Greely and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Congressman Mike Turner, chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, said the Obama administration had began “to realize the shortcomings of its missile defense strategy.”

“Now that the administration has decided to see clearly, America can get back on the right course,” Howard McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement, lamenting lost time and resources.

In a sign of fiscal pressures facing the Pentagon, U.S. officials acknowledged they were also forgoing development of a new anti-missile interceptor that would have been deployed in Europe. They said European defense would be unaffected.

Officials said the United States would move forward with congressionally mandated environmental impact studies for alternative sites in the United States for deploying additional ground-based interceptors, if needed.

Winnefeld said locations on the East Coast were being considered but declined to offer details.

“We’re still looking at sites,” he said.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and David Brunnstrom)

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Singer Associates Public Relations in San Francisco Wins National Awards as PR Agency of the Year, Issues Management, Media Relations Awards

Sam Singer of Singer Associates Public Relations San Francisco

Singer Associates public relations and public affairs in San Francisco was awarded national honors this week for its work with the City of San Bruno to gain $70 million in restitution for the city after the PG&E explosion and fire of Sept. 9, 2010. Singer received both the award for best issues management campaign and best media relations campaign at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

“We are humbled to receive these awards on behalf of our client,” said Sam Singer, president of Singer Associates.  “Our victory was made possible by the work of Mayor Jim Ruane and the City Council of San Bruno, City Manager Connie Jackson, the people of San Bruno, and the law firm of Meyers Nave and its attorneys Steven Meyers and Britt Strottman, and the investment firm of Prager & Co. and its senior advisor Craig Bettencourt,” he said.

PRNews is one of the public relations leading trade publications in New York for professionals in the field of public relations, public affairs, issues management, corporate social responsibility, government relations and non-profit public relations and communications.

Singer’s PRNews awards were won on the heels of the PRWeek Awards in New York City where Singer Associates was selected as the runner up for “Best Public Relations Agency of the Year.” This is the eighth time in 10 years that the agency has been a finalist for this honor, ranking it consistently as one of the nation’s top public relations and public affairs agencies.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Singer Associates is a leading public relations and digital communications agency in California and the western United States specializing in issues management, public affairs, crisis communications,  and litigation, labor relations, healthcare, transportation, commercial and residential real estate, energy, industrial, agricultural, academic and educational and employee communications. Singer agency clients include Chevron, Recology, Stanford Hospitals & Clinics, Transbay Joint Powers Authority, Oracle, The Irvine Co., Golden State Warriors, Gladstone Institutes, City of Oakland, California Pacific Medical Center, Children’s Hospital of Oakland, Calpine, AIMCO, AutoReturn, Sims Metal Management, Airbnb, BART, AC Transit, CalTrain, City of San Bruno, City of Los Angeles,  and others.

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Symphony Concert Scheduled For 2:00 pm March 14 Cancelled Due To Work Stoppage By Musicians

Due to a work stoppage by the musicians of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS), the concert scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 14 has been cancelled and will not be rescheduled.  Patrons can obtain up-to-the-minute information on concerts, ticket exchanges and customer service by calling the Symphony Box Office at (415) 864-6000 and on the Orchestra’s website at www.sfsymphony.org/press.

The Musicians Union of San Francisco, Local 6, American Federation of Musicians, representing musicians of the San Francisco Symphony, have rejected proposals from the Orchestra administration for a new three-year contract that would have kept the musicians among the three highest paid orchestras in the country.  The administration notified the musicians that a revised proposal would be presented Thursday, March 14 but the musicians decided to strike rather than continue negotiations overseen by a federal mediator.

The latest administration proposal offered a minimum base yearly salary of $141,700 in the first year, with multi-year increases to $144,560 by the end of the proposed contract.  During the most recent four-year contract, the musicians’ base minimum pay increased by 17.3%, an average of 4.3% per year.  In addition to the minimum base salary, other musician compensation such as radio payments, over-scale, and seniority raises the current annual average pay for SFS musicians to over $165,000.

The administration’s most recent offer also maintained all current benefit payment levels including 10 weeks paid vacation, a maximum pension of $74,000 annually upon retirement, paid sick leave, and a full coverage health plan with no monthly contribution for individual musicians.

“We are disappointed that the musicians have chosen to strike and deeply regret any inconvenience to our patrons,” said Brent Assink, Executive Director of the San Francisco Symphony.  “We will continue to work hard to develop a fair agreement that gives our talented musicians a contract that reflects our stature as one of the top orchestras in the country but also one that sets a prudent financial course for the future.”

Providing affordable health care options for musicians remains a key goal.   With the rising cost of health care, SFS administration proposed health care plan changes but still offered a health care plan option with no monthly contribution for individual musicians.  The latest proposal also maintained a maximum $74,000 annual pension for retiring musicians, with a slight increase in retirement age to draw full pensions.

In the current economic environment, the San Francisco Symphony is facing the same challenges that other major American orchestras around the country are facing.  For all four years of its most recent collective bargaining agreement with its musicians, operating expenses have outpaced operating income.  While concert and related revenues have increased 2.4% compounded annually during the term of the four-year agreement, concert production expenses have increased 8.1% compounded annually.  The Orchestra has incurred an operating deficit in each of those years.

“Many of America’s top orchestras are facing similar challenges with increased concert production, pension, and health care costs currently outpacing revenue growth.  We are developing a multi-year plan to achieve a balanced operating model, including identifying and growing new sources of revenue and at the same time reducing the growth rate of expenses,” said Assink.

As a non-profit organization, the Symphony provides transparency about its finances in fully audited and publicly available documents in accordance with the law.  The administration responded to all of the union’s specific requests for information in a timely manner throughout the negotiations.  Since September, this has included over 50 formal requests for which were delivered over 500 pages of documentation.

Patrons with tickets to the March 14 concert may exchange them for an upcoming concert, may donate their tickets, or receive a refund. Patrons can obtain up-to-the-minute information on concerts, ticket exchanges and customer service by calling the Symphony Box Office at (415) 864-6000 and on the Orchestra’s website at www.sfsymphony.org/press.

For more details on the negotiations please visit www.sfsymphony.org/press or contact Oliver Theil, SFS Director of Communications at (415) 264-1241 otheil@sfsymphony.org

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Mayor Lee Announces City’s Long-Term Infrastructure, Financial & Technology Plans To Build San Francisco’s Future


Ten-Year Capital Plan Together With Five-Year Financial Plan & Five-Year Information & Communication Technology Plan Continues & Improves Building a 21st Century San Francisco

Mayor Edwin M. Lee today introduced at the Board of Supervisors the City’s Ten-Year Capital Plan for Fiscal Year 2014-23 along with the Five-Year Financial Plan and the Five-Year Information & Communication Technology (ICT) Plan for Fiscal Year 2014-18.

“Whether we are investing in critical capital infrastructure, preparing for our long-term financial stability or planning for our innovation and technology needs, we must always consider how our City is growing and changing, so that we can best serve our residents,” said Mayor Lee . “With long term planning, we are better preparing ourselves to weather any economic impacts, maintain our fiscal stability, and create greater government efficiency. We can build and improve our City while creating jobs for our residents and supporting our continued economic recovery.”

The Ten-Year Capital Plan for FY 2014-23 recommends $25.1 billion in capital projects over the next ten years, including $4.7 billion for General Fund departments, $14.5 billion for enterprise departments, and $5.9 billion for external government agencies within the City and County of San Francisco. These proposed investments will safeguard and improve the City’s infrastructure, facilities, and parks, and will support roughly 223,000 local jobs over the next decade.

The City’s newest Capital Plan proposes a number of initiatives that have been key objectives since its inception in 2006, including fully funding the street repaving program at a Pavement Condition Index (PCI) of 70; funding facility renewals at levels that not only meet annual needs, but also reduce the backlog; relocating nearly all of the functions in the Hall of Justice to safer facilities; and continuing construction and planning on critical projects, including the Water System and Sewer System Improvement Programs, the new Acute Care San Francisco General Hospital, the War Memorial Veterans Building, Piers 27, 30-32, 70, Seawall Lot 337, the Central Subway, Transbay Terminal and Presidio Parkway (formerly Doyle Drive).

The Five-Year Financial Plan is required under Proposition A, a Charter amendment approved by voters in November 2009. The City Charter requires the plan to forecast expenditures and revenues during the five-year period, propose actions to balance revenues and expenditures during each year of the plan, and discuss strategic goals and corresponding resources for City departments. Over the life of the plan, revenues are projected to grow by $577.5 million or 13percent, at the same time, expenditures are expected to grow by $1,064.7 million or 25 percent resulting in a five year shortfall of $487.2 million. The plan proposes a package of balanced solutions to address the gap including, capital and debt restructuring, managing wage and benefits costs, identifying additional revenues, adjusting baselines, limiting non-personnel inflation, and implementing ongoing department solutions. In addition, the Plan identifies department specific issues including:

• Public Protection: The continued implementation of Public Safety Realignment; multi-year hiring plans to address retirements at the Police and Fire departments; and the continued planning and construction of large capital projects through the City’s General Obligation bond and General Fund debt programs, as well as the on-going costs associated with these large one-time investments.

• Public Works, Transportation & Commerce: Planning and construction of large-scale development and capital projects; identifying funding sources to meet development needs; and finding a sustainable funding source for street repaving.

• Human Welfare & Neighborhood Development: Managing increasing demand for services through Aid programs; the need for reauthorization of voter-mandated set-asides for the San Francisco Unified School District and the Children’s Fund; and continuing to monitor and adapt to large fiscal and policy changes enacted at the state and federal levels.

• Community Health: Managing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act; controlling rising General Fund costs; and completing the SF General Hospital rebuild project in addition to planning for other capital projects proposed through the City’s General Obligation bond program.

• Culture & Recreation: Managing losses in revenue due to the expected departure of the San Francisco 49ers from Candlestick Park; and continuing to implement large scale capital projects, including: the Veterans Building Seismic Retrofit, the Recreation and Park Department General Obligation bond program, and the Branch Library Improvement Program.

• General Administration & Finance: Continuing to implement major housing initiatives through the City Administrator’s Office and the Mayor’s Office of Housing; major technology system replacements; and the implementation of the Business Tax reform passed in November 2012.

The Five-Year Information & Communication Technology (ICT) Plan for FY 2014-18 builds on the progress made in the first Plan and provides a framework for how the City can proactively plan for and invest in technology. The Plan identifies four strategic IT goals: making government more efficient and effective through technology, improving public access and transparency, strengthening security and disaster preparedness, and maintaining and supporting critical city IT infrastructure. The Plan identifies IT projects above and beyond available funding and recommends improved project planning which will allow COIT to prioritize and appropriately fund projects during the annual budget process.

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Flax Art & Design Celebrates 75 Years

FLAX art & design (www.flaxart.com) , family-owned and operated since 1938, celebrates 75 years as San Francisco’s oldest locally-run supplier of quality materials for creative people. In 1938, Herman Flax opened Flax’s Artists’ Materials in downtown San Francisco, with $100 to invest in inventory and a used cash register, at first living in back of the shop with his family. From this humble beginning, FLAX gathered a loyal following of customers, and expanded to its current location, occupying 20,000 square feet at 1699 Market Street (at Valencia). Now operated by Howard Flax, who represents the family’s third generation along with his sister Leslie Flax Abel, FLAX art & design celebrates this business landmark with special events and promotions throughout 2013, and a grand birthday bash in August.

“FLAX has a long history of being connected to its customers, supporting artists and the Bay Area arts community,” says Howard Flax. “A lot has changed since the early days. Yet for an art store there is one constant, and that is the role we play in fueling a passion for the arts and inspiring creativity. I want to continue the family tradition of a store that is an essential part of our local art community.”

Like many American families, Herman and Sylvia Flax lost virtually everything in the Great Depression. Inspired by the success of Herman’s brother Sam in New York, who got his start selling art supplies out of the trunk of his car to vacationers in the Catskill Mountains, Herman took his family west from New Jersey and in 1938 opened a small art supply store on Kearny Street in downtown San Francisco. Flax’s Artists’ Materials was born and soon rose to success, buoyed by the artists’ movement that grew during World War II. Herman’s other two brothers also established independent, successful art supply outlets in Los Angeles and Chicago, and the Flax art supply presence spread to Phoenix, Orlando and Atlanta. In 1955, Herman passed away at an early age, and upon returning from military service, Herman and Sylvia’s youngest son Philip took over the San Francisco business alongside his brother Jerry.

The Flax brothers grew close to their local customers, becoming well known for their generous support of struggling artists and the Bay Area arts scene. Their retail store soon drew nationwide attention for its incredible breadth of products, its helpful and knowledgeable staff, and its ability to inspire creativity through inventive presentation of merchandise.

The FLAX store also played a role in one of the greatest films of all time, its back door providing the lead-in for Kim Novak’s scene in the Podesta Baldocchi flower shop in Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller Vertigo (1958).

In 1981, having outgrown the downtown location, Flax moved to 1699 Market Street, right next to the historic trolley line. The warehouse behind this new retail store also afforded enough space to venture into the mail-order catalog business. In 1989, Flax’s Artists’ Materials became FLAX art & design, a different name to reflect its broader, more diverse products, and moved its distribution and customer service centers south to Brisbane. A bustling e-commerce website soon followed, earning FLAX a listing in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide of 2005. In 2007, FLAX discontinued its mail order and e-tail branches and once again focuses on direct in-store sales to its third generation of customers.

In its 75 years, FLAX has become an icon of creative inspiration and a San Francisco institution. Staffed by artists, designers, and musicians, the store is visited regularly by residents and tourists alike. From established professionals and serious students to weekend dabblers and hobbyists, FLAX art & design has tools, supplies and gifts for every artistic passion and all age levels. Described by one pleased customer as “a candy store for the creative,” FLAX art & design offers a treasure-trove of arts and crafts materials and products. www.flaxart.com

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