HIGH SPEED RAIL TEST IN JANUARY

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Posticker Sig revisedThe California High-Speed Rail Authority is facing a test of its commitment to small and minority business enterprises as it receives bids on Jan. 18 to build the first stretch of 28 miles between Madera and Fresno as part of a system eventually connecting San Francisco to LA in just above 2.5 hours…The bids – estimated to be $1.2 to $1.8 billion of the $68 billion Phase 1 – comes after the USDOT’s Federal Railway Administration ordered CHSRA in Sept. 2011 to reform its contracting practices to meet goals allocating 30% of work to small businesses, which includes 10% to minority and 3% to disabled veterans enterprises. The statewide Associated Professionals and Contractors – including Latino, African and Asian Pacific American and women small business leaders – had filed with FRA a complaint for “lack of minority-owned business participation” against CHRSA through the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in Dec. 2010. APAC alleged that the federally funded authority was violating Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by excluding minority firms. Although CHSRA at the time committed to 25% of its contracting to small businesses, less than 4% actually reached such awards. The statewide APAC represents APA firms and small business advocates like Vice Chair Jonathan Hou, directors Tony Wong and M.C. Yu…If goals aren’t met, “We will go back to the FRA, that’s our muscle,” said Oakland’s Eddy Lau, a civil and geotechnical engineer and recent panelist at the Dec. 5 California High Speed Rail Small Business Opportunity Conference led by APAC and Asian American Architects and Engineers of Northern California in Chinatown’s Empress of China. He expressed concern APA small firms – especially architects and engineers – had a “difficult time making contact” with prime contractors with the Jan. 18 deadline rapidly approaching. A pool of APA architecture and engineering firms are qualified and available said Lau. Their numbers lead firms owned by white women while Latino and African Americans are further behind. If APA architects and engineers are not being hired, “It sends the sign that it’s business as usual,” said Lau…

Eddy Lau, small business advocate

Eddy Lau, small business advocate

NO DYNAMIC DUO: No dynamic duo of two APA women in the US Senate but more dynamic duel between Hawai`i Democratic Party factions. Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie picked his 2010 running mate, Lt. Governor Mike Schatz, 40, as the next US Senator from Hawai`i while snubbing Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. He succeeds late US Senator Dan Inouye, the former Senate President pro Tempore third in line to succeed the President…Inouye had written in his “political will” for Hanabusa to succeed him and join Senator-elect Mazie Hirono. Hanabusa, according to a Washington Postanalysis, was part of state Democratic Party faction led by Inouye…

SNUB LEAD TO GOV RIVAL?: Leading a rival faction, Abercrombie, a 74-year old weightlifter who bench pressed 272 lbs. two years ago, appointed an ally. That’s leading to calls for Hanabusa to run against him according to a blog on The Hill on Dec. 27….Abercrombie could have helped clear the field for his own 2014 reelection by appointing a potential gubernatorial rival like Hanabusa and shipping her off to Washington. Hanabusa, if appointed, would have been too busy to challenge him for governor in 2014 since she would have faced a special US Senate election in the same year and then 2016 election for another six years…Ward Research polls showed Abercrombie – elected in 2010 – isn’t too popular (41% approval, 48% disapproval as of October), albeit better off than he was (39%-54% in Feb. 2012). That bucks the high popularity trend favoring Inouye, President Obama (born and raised in Hawai`i), Rep.-elect Tulsi Gabbard, Hanabusa and Hirono. Although, Hawai`i voters are split on the Gov – Japanese Americans split (43%- 44%, 21% of voters), Filipino Americans thumbs up (54%-36%, 13% of voters) while Hawaiians disapprove (40%-52%). Caucasians (42%-46%, 32% of voters) disapprove…

LEADERSHIP AT THE TOP: APA small businesses have other challenges. CHSRA promised to “unbundle” larger contracts into smaller, manageable $6 million contracts. Lau said, “There’s no way for Asian, [architecture and engineering] firms, to go bigger than $10 million. There’s no practical way. One of the major problems is we don’t have the capital to finance the project.” Although commitment exists to help small, minority and disable vet businesses like unbundling projects, middle management inertia has slowed directives by new leadership like board chair and former BART board member Dan Richard since the Governor appointed him in August 2011 and the board hiring of senior managers like executive director Jeff Morales in May 2012. “We are in good hands when we have Dan Richard as chair,” said Lau, praising him and senior staff for “better access.” However, Lau said “upper middle management is business as usual. In a nutshell, we’re not making that much headway.”

Dan Richard, Chair of California High-Speed Rail Authority

Dan Richard, Chair of California High-Speed Rail Authority

SPEEDY BILL: The Great Recession drove quick 2009 Washington D.C. passage of high-speed rail as part of the so-called Stimulus Bill. But in its haste, affirmative action got lost in the shuffle. “Congress in its wisdom…forgot to include specific federal authority to allow us to set [small business, disadvantaged and disabled veteran business enterprise] targets based on racial composition or ethnicity and so forth for the federal funding we’re getting,” Richard told more than 130 small businesses on Dec. 5….CHSRA is being “more creative” in getting around federal law barring CHSRA from creating a “local hiring program” slanted at California residents and firms, especially Central Valley construction centers with 35% unemployment (California unemployment fell below 10% on Dec. 21). However, Richard said the authority is allowed to target “communities hardest hit by the economic downturn” which still benefits California, especially the Central Valley….

Marily Mondejar, incoming Community Investment and Infrastructure Commissioner

Marily Mondejar, incoming Community Investment and Infrastructure Commissioner

THE DATING GAME: Rumors to the contrary that supervisors wanted to derail Marily Mondejar’s nomination to the Commission on Community Investment and Infrastructure (former SF Redevelopment Commission) as the full board unanimously endorsed her nomination along with Darshan Singh on Dec. 11…No antipathy towards Mondejar (See 12/6/12 “Potstickers” atalturl.com/6yvjj) as Committee Supervisors Kim, Mark Farrell and John Avalos had a light moment days before at a City Hall Rules Committee screening of nominees. Mondejar, a single mom of two sons, introduced her oldest, “I do want to acknowledge Franklin, who’s here rooting for his mother.” But turning around only to notice his absence, she added, “I guess he left…and he is still single…”

UNREAL ESTATE: During the screening, Rules Committee Chair Jane Kim cited resident struggles with below-market rate (BMR) housing, which supposedly helps make home purchases affordable. “[BMR housing] continues to be an issue in South Beach owners and Rincon Hill…and [residents] struggle to stay in their housing,” said Kim. Mondejar, a BMR homeowner, said SOMA BMR owners have found out high HOA fees are “difficult” to negotiate. “HOA dues should be based on BMR too,” she said. While selling non-BMR homes at market rate allows homeowners to recover these costs, BMR sellers can’t recover costs like HOA fees…

CATCHING FINGERPUPPETS: Not even 24 hours out of office earlier this month, emeritus Assembly pro Tem Speaker Fiona Ma was Segwaying and pottery making in Pacifica with hubby andOxnard Harbor Commissioner Jason Hodge. While Ma nabbed fingerpuppets tossed from Jennifer Ball (also an ESL teacher to Laotians) at a local dive hosting the Fingerpuppets band, the former legislator was drumming up dollars for the Daly City Youth Health Center and scouting out Jennifer’s yard artwork she’d like to bring to a San Francisco hillside…

MISS ME?: Follow me on Twitter at @SFPotstickers and email Samson Wong at potsticker@prodigy.net.

About the Author

Veteran columnist has appeared in up to 450,000 households weekly in the SF Independent, Examiner (2000-04) and AsianWeek since 1996. As Editor-in-Chief (2003-07), AsianWeek and Samson received wide recognition from the California Legislature, New American Media, League of Women Voters, GLAAD, Organization of Chinese Americans, SPUR and APA civic groups. Thru the SF Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections, SF Elections Task Force and Chinese American Voters Education Committee, Wong helped boost APA influence from 25,000 in the 1980s to over 50,000 voters by the early 1990s.