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Holiday@Home

Mick Fleming on Monday, December 21, 2009 at 11:39:25 am 

For a road warrior, there really is no place like home for the Holidays.  Home is where we can enjoy family and neighbors, but increasingly, it is also the place FROM which we connect.  Between email, texting and social media outlets, our laptops and cell phones are almost as busy @ home as they are @acce.org. 

Rather than stifling conversation across a coffee table, the messages we receive and send provide our family with MORE to talk about.  We comment on e-photos of new babies, messages from folks en route, FaceBook postings from former co-workers and, inevitably, office concerns.  Many people lament the modern world's loss of genuine family time, balance and peace.  I find more of all three BECAUSE I am linked thru modern COM.

It's going to be a great Christmas.  Yes, the 20-somethings will be texting instead of watching ancient home movies, but that's okay because the new dads we know will be posting pictures on FaceBook we want to see.  I actually LIKE to get holiday messages and posts from members in late December.  Also, the new recipe for stuffing we get from a website won't be as bland as Aunt Edna's and the video call we place on Christmas Eve through Skype to my Buffalo family will put us in their home and them in ours.

It's all good and it all makes us even more . . . "In This Together."  Merry Christmas

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Me and Bobby McGee

Mick Fleming on Sunday, December 20, 2009 at 2:46:44 pm 

Busted flat in Baton Rouge . . . feelin' almost faded as my jeans . . . all the way to New Orleans."

I can't pretend that I flagged a diesel down, but my recent trip from Houston to New Orleans -- with numerous stops along I-10 -- did allow me to sing out just about every song I knew, including the Kristofferson /Joplin classic.

Observations? Refining is still big business. Casinos are hurting everywhere, not just Vegas. Texas has more regional economies than most of the countries in the world. Houston alone seems to have a dozen distinct economic drivers to go along with its half dozen dominant ethnic cultures. Louisiana in general is doing pretty damn well and the New Orleans' recovery impressive real traction. If someone along our south coast mentions "the corps" everybody knows which organization they're talking about -- and it's not the Marines. Fried pig ears aren't bad.

The chamber boards I visited with in Beaumont and Lake Charles were extremely proud of their chamber and staff leadership. The staffs, in turn, are mighty ambitious along that Gulf corridor.

Final note -- I never expected that New Orleans would be a "new frontier" kind of talent magnet. Young, smart, eager people are flocking there for a chance to be part of rebuilding the region and venturing into the "next" Louisiana economy. Very cool.

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Courts Overturn San Jose PAC Cap

Ian Scott on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 1:49:20 pm 

Santa Clara County Court Judge James Emerson has ruled that limits imposed on by the City of San Jose on individual contributions to the  San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber's PAC are unconstitutional.  The ruling is a big win for the politically active chamber.

"Today's victory is a victory for all who wish to participate in the democratic process in San Jose and the state of California," said chamber President Pat Dando.

Click to read coverage of the ruling from the San Jose Mercury News.

Click to Download Chamber Press Release - Judge Emerson Ruling 2 Dec 09

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State Green Economy Profiles

Ian Scott on Friday, December 4, 2009 at 10:05:00 am 

We've all heard a lot about the current and potential impact of green jobs and the green economy - it is campaign trail gold.  But how to define green jobs and the green economy has been problematic.  A new set of reports released by the National Governors Association (www.nga.org) helps solve that problem.

NGA's State Green Economy Profiles, prepared by Collaborative Economics (www.coecon.com), are designed to provide a detailed, empirical account of each state's current green economy.  The reports apply a common definition to green economic activity - defining a green business as one that provides products and services that do one of the following:

  • Provide alternatives to carbon-based energy sources
  • Conserve the use of energy and all natural resources 
  • Reduce pollution and re-purpose waste.

These reports can serve as a foundation for identifying your state‚Äôs competitive advantage and future growth areas. 

Click HERE to access the report on your state.

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Pittsburgh Tuition Tax Proposal

Ian Scott on Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 3:03:12 pm 

Like most American cities, Pittsburgh faces a budget deficit.  Howver, their mayor's proposed solution to the budget gap is much less common - he plans to tax college tuition.

The Wall Street Journal says the proposed 1% tuition tax on college tuition, "appears to be a one-of-a-kind."  It would bring in $16 million in new revenue.

The city has argued that the 1% tax, which would cost $409 a year for Carnegie Mellon undergrads, isn't much for students who receive a great deal of city services.  The city has also pointed out that, due to the large number of non-profit and charitable organizations, 40% of city property is tax exempt, thus leaving few options for raising new funds.

The proposal,  announced by Mayor Ravenstahl last month, has created a lot of controversy.  The plan has made headlines nationwide, and the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education is lobbying state lawmakers to prohibit taxing students.

Talk about Town-Gown relations!

Click HERE to read more from the Wall Street Journal.

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Gas Tax on the Table

Ian Scott on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 2:08:06 pm 

Increasing the Federal gas tax is very much on the discussion table in Washington these days.  Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is pushing for a $550 billion federal transportation program that would include a 5-cent federal gas tax increase.  Speaking in relation to the gas tax, Congressman Oberstar said:

"The maintenance and improvement of our transportation infrastructure has fallen well behind our needs...An increase in the tax that funds these projects is long overdue."  Click HERE for more.

Currently the Federal Gas Tax is set at a fixed rate of 18.4 cents per gallon.  It hasn't increased since 1993, and overall revenue from the tax has declined as automobile efficiency has improved.

Transportation Secretary LaHood has mentioned indexing the federal gas tax, along with tolling, bonds, and a miles traveled tax, as a possible revenue stream to fund transportation infrastructure projects.  At a summit in Texas this week LaHood said:

"Congress wants to pass a very robust transportation bill in the neighborhood of $400 billion or $500 billion, and we know the highway trust fund is just deficient in its ability to fund those kinds of projects."

Click to read more from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The Feds aren't the only ones looking to increase revenue per gallon of fuel, states leaders are also looking at gas tax hikes.  Some legislators in West Virginia are at odds with the Governor over his plan to keep a 5 cent fixed portion of the state's gas tax in place past its original expiration date in 2013.  In Texas, Governor Perry has rebuffed State Senate Transportation Committee Chair and fellow Republican John Corona's proposal to raise the state's gas tax by $.10 per gallon.

Every community has a lane expansion, interchange improvement, or light rail project in planning that would improve mobility and quality of life, how to pay for them is the question.  State bond ratings and public opinion may preclude more debt, and force government at all levels to look at alternative sources of revenue.  Please share comments about gas tax proposals in your city, county or state.

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