Challenges Facing California’s Ports

Despite a history of success, 2014 will pose a number of challenges for public ports throughout California. It is no overstatement to say that California’s economic wellbeing is dramatically and positively impacted when the volume of international trade flowing through our public ports is growing.  Hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout California are directly related […]

Sequestration Blues

The negative impacts of sequestration on the international trade community are looming for California’s public ports, and what happens here will ripple through the national economy in a matter of weeks unless Congress takes quick action. California’s ports and its goods movement system support hundreds of thousands of jobs, and result in billions of dollars […]

Honor a Vet by Voting

With Veteran’s Day coming up, I started thinking about Carl Seiberlich, a retired Admiral who always told me to take the day off.  Years ago, when I went to work with Carl in the Washington D.C. office of American President Lines (APL), while I knew that Carl was in the Navy, he rarely offered any […]

To Everything There Is A Season

Alan Lowenthal started his legislative career in Sacramento about the same time I started in my current position.  Over the years I opposed a number of bills introduced by the Senator.  The running joke in many speeches I’ve given in past years was that his name came up so frequently at my family dinner table […]

Autism Awareness Month

While the Legislature will adopt a resolution announcing April as Autism Awareness Month, as the parent of a young adult with autism,  it will just be another month.  I appreciate the gesture, but the reality is, it will have no impact on my daughter’s life. Being the parent of a child or adult with autism […]

Sunshine on State Agency Yielding Results

We all have done our share of griping about the gridlock and myopia that can grip Sacramento, including myself; so, when the Legislature is actually doing its job well and elevating common sense over politics, we should praise those efforts as well.  So, I want to take the opportunity to say a word or two […]

Lt. Governor’s Proposal – It’s Time to Move Forward

For the past several years, Sacramento
has been focused almost exclusively on the state budget crisis.  Ignored
for the most part has been how to deal with California’s unemployment rate,
currently second highest in the nation.  Except in isolated instances,
policymakers have failed to address the issue of job creation and
expansion.  That’s what makes Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom’s recently issued
"Economic Growth and Competitiveness Agenda for California" a sober assessment of the challenges facing
California and worthy of discussion.  

From an international trade
perspective, imports and exports through our ports generate hundreds of
thousands of trade related jobs in California.  International trade is a
critical component of the overall economic health of California.  However, because of California’s inability to build major
infrastructure projects, California’s role as a gateway for trade is
threatened as alternative gateways are being developed throughout North

The Lt. Governor was right when he
stated "Onerous and inconsistent regulations, slow bureaucracies, and
misaligned policies at the federal, state and local levels present real
barriers to the speed and agility needed to compete in the global economy…
California must also bring its cumbersome licensing and regulatory processes
into the 21st century."  

Neither Fish nor Fowl, but SF Pilot Benefits Abound

The San Francisco Bar Pilots
know how to lobby Sacramento, witness AB 907.  As a result this
homogenized monopoly of 55 men and one woman hold exclusive state licenses
which allow them to drive ships in, out and around the San Francisco Bay, and
this license comes with some great benefits.

They have a great pension.  As the only non-public
employees with a publicly mandated defined benefit pension system in California,
they don’t have to contribute a penny towards their own retirement.  This
small perk costs somewhere between $250 million and $650 million, depending on
who you ask.  Either way, pilots are receiving annual retirements of over

They have great work
.  In 2010 each
pilot actually piloted about 140 times, that’s a job on average once every 2
and a half days.  And many of those jobs, like the ships moving from sea
to the Port of Oakland are completed in 3 or 4 hours.

Shiver Me Timbers: Bar Pilots Want Gold-plated Deal

If the state gave you a monopoly for a job which paid $400,000 a year for six months of work, were driven to and from jobs in a town car or limo, had all of your business expenses paid for by someone else, and were on your way to earning a public pension of a quarter million dollars per year to which you didn’t contribute a dime of your own money, would you be demanding a raise in this economy? You might if you were a state-licensed Bar Pilot.

Most people never heard of the San Francisco Bar Pilots until the Cosco Busan oil spill, when a ship under the control of a state-mandated pilot hit the Bay Bridge. After the accident in 2007, several changes in the state pilot system were enacted by the Legislature and the State Board of Pilot Commissioners was put under the jurisdiction of the Business, Transportation & Housing Agency (BT & H). Since then, BT & H has made significant improvements in much of the oversight of the state pilot monopoly.

What Have We Done?

Autism Awareness Month is coming to a close. Despite all of the “angels” that are out there in the world who are seeking answers to the why and how of autism or who educate children and adults with autism, I am left with a sense of foreboding. Perhaps it is a reflection of my own mortality viewed through the prism of my daughter who is autistic and who is now a young adult.

My daughter is part of the initial and growing wave of rapidly aging individuals diagnosed with autism. She lives in a state and a society which is completely unprepared, and perhaps incapable, of dealing with her needs. I wake up in the night, wondering what her life will be like when my wife and I are gone. It is at those moments that fear creeps in.