Republicans Push for Cutting Bay Area Transportation Funding

As a daily commuter in the Bay Area, I have been excited at the prospect of improved public transportation here. The high speed rail, the BART extension, the subway in San Francisco.
I was doubly excited to hear Obama’s commitment to national infrastructure improvement during his State of the Union.
Now to hear that Congress wants to cut this funding, affecting us here in the Bay Area, I must call upon my fellow Bay Area Commuters to go to support Obama when he comes to meet high tech business leaders on Thursday, February 17.

Original article posted By Gary Richards on Mercury News

One day after the Federal Transit Administration announced it would give the BART extension to San Jose $130 million as a down payment on $900 million in aid from Washington, political reality set in.

The Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee now recommends slashing funds to new rail lines by 22 percent — cuts that could slow the flow of money for BART and 27 other projects across the country.

“Obviously, any of their cuts would set us backwards rather than going forward,” FTA administrator Peter Rogoff said Tuesday from Washington, D.C. “We want to work with the House Republicans on deficit reduction, but we are heading in opposite directions on infrastructure and investment.”

President Barack Obama’s budget calls for $3.2 billion for new rail lines across the country, up from $2 billion this year. San Francisco’s Central Subway line would get $200 million, with Sacramento in line for $50 million for light rail.

The Republican budget proposal set off a flurry of angry responses Tuesday. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, called it “another example of mindless budget slashing. We can’t win the future if we don’t have a 21st-century transportation infrastructure to take us there.”

William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, said, “None of these cuts makes sense.”

Added Randy Rentschler of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in Oakland, which allocates federal and state money to the nine counties in the region: “It is areas such as the Bay Area who need a balanced transportation system and who would be affected most by this proposal. We need more, not less funding.”

Easing the potential pain for transit agencies is the freeing up of $350 million in federal aid after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie blocked construction of a commuter rail tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan. This would have been one of the largest transit projects in the country, and nearly $9

billion of the $12.7 billion construction costs had been covered.But Christie canceled the project because it would have meant borrowing funds or raising the gas tax to cover the difference — moves he refused to make.

Michael Burns, the general manager of the Valley Transportation Authority that will build the BART extension, took heart, saying that even with the Republican budget proposal, nearly 80 percent of the new train program would be funded.

“This demonstrates that the new starts program has solid bipartisan support,” Burns said.

But issues remain, from opposition to increasing spending to questions about where Obama’s ambitious transportation budget would get more revenue.

It calls for spending $556 billion over the next six years. But only $230 billion would be covered by gas tax revenues over that period, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“How does the president propose to bridge the $326 billion funding shortfall?” asked Ken Orski, editor and publisher of a widely read transportation newsletter and the associate administrator of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration under Presidents Nixon and Ford.

Last fall a panel of 80 transportation experts that included Norm Mineta, the director of transportation under President George W. Bush and a former congressman from San Jose, estimated that an additional $134 billion to $262 billion must be spent per year through 2035 to rebuild and improve the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

Locally, said Honda, that must mean delivering on the promise of federal money for BART.

“The long-awaited BART to Silicon Valley project is too important for businesses and jobs in our communities to be put in danger by political gimmicks,” Honda said, “and I will fight tooth and nail to make sure it gets the federal funds that it deserves.”

How TED Connects the Idea-Hungry Elite

I have published multiple videos and discussions spawned by the TED conference that happens every year in Long Beach, CA

I find the talks inspiring and the fact that the videos are available to the general public and spawn additional ideas and responses is what makes TED so influential.

An article from FastCompany Online makes mention of several of the best features of TED.

Additionally, they point out some of their favorite videos. I must say that Patti Maes and Pranav Mistry’s Sixth Sense talks still; capture my imagination of the future of personal computing. Barry Schwartz’s Paradox of Choice is also very compelling.

1) Jill Bolte Taylor
My Stroke of Insight

2008
When the neuroscientist picks up a human brain with a spinal cord attached, the audience gasps. When she’s done talking about her stroke, they’re crying.
6) Dan Pink
Surprising Science of Motivation

2009
The science proves that intrinsic motivation works better than extrinsic rewards, but your boss doesn’t understand. Pink explains how to tell her.
2) Patti Maes and Pranav Mistry
Sixth Sense Demo

2009
The MIT Media Lab researchers debut a spooky Minority Report — style wearable interface.
7) Hans Rosling
The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen

2006
The Swedish professor dances through a spectacular animation of world development.
3) Ken Robinson
Schools Kill Creativity

2006
This highly influential talk spawned a viral 2010 follow-up and made the creativity expert a star; Robinson says he now “gets stopped in airports.”
8) Benjamin Zander
On Music and Passion

2008
TED hosts performances as well as talks. This blends the two, with Zander at the grand piano.
4) Tony Robbins
Why We Do What We Do

2006
Robbins high-fives Al Gore in this video. “One of the best TED moments of all time,” says TED video chief June Cohen.
9) Barry Schwartz
The Paradox of Choice

2006
In a baggy T-shirt, with glasses sliding down his nose, Schwartz gives a profound, witty discourse on why more freedom doesn’t equal more happiness.
5) Elizabeth Gilbert
Nurturing Creativity

2009
The best-selling author bares her struggle to repeat the success of Eat, Pray, Love.
10) V.S. Ramachandran
On Your Mind

2007
A brain scientist in a leather jacket tell us how “this 3-pound mass of jelly … can contemplate the meaning of infinity.”

I would also recommend taking a look at several of the best performance videos on TED. (click on TED and select talks re-sized to ‘beautiful’ and related to ‘entertainment’)

A New Age: Internet Presidency

Barack Obama

The 2008 presidential election marked two great changes to the U.S. Presidency. TheĀ  most obvious, of course, was the election of an African-American as the next president of the United States.

But the bigger change over the long term was the crowning of the Internet as the king of all political media. It was the end of the era of television presidency that started with JFK, and the beginning of the Internet presidency.

“Barack Obama built the biggest network of supporters we’ve seen, using the Internet to do it,” Joe Trippi, an Internet political and business consultant who pioneered the use of the Internet in politics managing Howard Dean campaign in 2004, and who managed John Edwards’ campaign in this election, told InformationWeek. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that communication through YouTube and other social networks put him over the top.”

Obama used a combination of television, the Internet, and social media to recruit volunteers and supporters, and cement relationships with them. He asked supporters to supply their cell phone numbers, and sent out regular text-message blasts, even announcing his selection for vice president over text message. Using a custom social networking site, created with the help of a Facebook co-founder, Obama supporters were able to log in and find lists of people they could call, or whose doors they could knock on, to try to persuade others to vote for their candidate.

And it’s only the beginning, said Trippi. That kind of networking will likely transform the White House. Trippi anticipates Obama will create a similar social networking for his legislative initiatives and recruit supporters to lobby Congress to get his policies enacted into law.

The result will be further increase of presidential power and the erosion of congressional authority. “Congress will be put between a rock and a hard place, if millions of citizens sign up to help the president pass his agenda,” Trippi said. “If the president says, ‘Here are the members of Congress who stand in the way of us passing health care reform,’ I would not want to be one of those people. You’ll have 10 or 15 million networked Americans barging in on the members of Congress telling them to get in line with the program and pass the health care reform bill. That will be a power that no American president has had before. Congress’ power will be taken over by the American people.”

The Obama administration is expected to build on a foundation of grassroots support in his private social network, on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. YouTube users alone spent 14.5 million hours watching official Barack Obama campaign videos — and that isn’t even including user-generated videos, Trippi said, adding that amount of network time for political commercials would have cost $46 million — and, while YouTube users requested the videos and therefore most likely watched them, there’s no way to tell whether anybody’s watching TV commercials.

The Obama campaign used Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Maps mashups to help volunteers find local campaign resources and people to contact and try to persuade. And, of course, it used the Internet to solicit donations. Some 3.2 million people donated to the Obama campaign through its Web site.

Obama’s Facebook page has 2.6 million supporters. Obama’s official Facebook application has 161,000 active users, who used the application to share news items, blog posts, speeches, and videos.

The BarackObama Twitter account has about 123,000 followers, making it the most popular account on Twitter, according to the Twitter tracking site Twitterholic.

By comparison, John McCain’s Facebook page had 624,000 supporters.

The statistics mashup tool Trendrr.com reported that Obama was mentioned in nearly 500 million blog posts since the conventions at the end of August. During the same period, only about 150 million posts mentioned McCain. On social networks, Obama led, with 844,927 MySpace friends compared with McCain’s 219,404, according to the Web 2.0 blog ReadWriteWeb.

Joe Baker is one Obama volunteer who used the Internet to help work for his candidate. He worked in an Obama campaign office in Chico, Calif., making phone calls to persuade voters, staffing the front desk, taking donations, and greeting people and taking donations. Baker is a disabled, retired Army officer.

He praised the Neighbor to Neighbor application on the Obama Web site as a means of getting out the vote. Obama supporters in swing states could log on to the Obama Web site and get a phone list of people in their neighborhoods to call and encourage them to vote for Obama. Baker and his colleagues in Chico used the site to coordinate with Democrats in Reno, Nev., to persuade Nevada voters to support Obama.

“MyBarackObama was very much a key place,” Baker said. “The tenet of the campaign was to always send people directly to what Obama had said.” The campaign made that easy by making Obama’s position papers, statements, and videos readily available. “They didn’t necessarily want us to tell people our opinions, they wanted it to be representative of what Obama thought.”

Baker, whose injuries sustained in Vietnam and subsequent military service make it difficult for him to stand or walk for long periods, is active in Second Life, using the name “Willys Faulkes.” He built an Obama campaign headquarters in the virtual world, where supporters could download campaign literature and get in discussions with other Obama supporters, undecided voters, and McCain supporters as well — the Republican campaign also had supporters in Second Life.

Obama’s Internet candidacy should be a lesson for business as well, said Trippi, who does both political and business consulting on the use of the Internet. “You have to change your whole way of thinking,” he said. “You’re going to lose control of your brand to a large degree, unless you create networks to change your brand.”

Historically, businesses have sought to be big and controlling Goliaths, and the Internet and social networks are becoming armies of Davids. “You don’t want to be Goliath anymore, you want to be the guys handing out the slingshots,” Trippi said.

For example: The traditional recording industry is a Goliath, trying to force people to continue to buy whole albums and CDs to get one good song. The army of Davids consists of consumers downloading music.

Apple is the company selling slingshots, in the form of iPods and iTunes.

this article taken in part from InformationWeek.