Rich Ehisen writes Comstock’s monthly Discourse column, featuring insightful interviews with the Capital Region’s most influential leaders. He is also the managing editor of the State Net Capitol Journal. His work has appeared in print, online and on video in Government Technology, Sunset, San Francisco Magazine, California Journal, Sacramento Magazine and the Lexis Legal Network. On Twitter @WordsmithRich.
With about $350 billion in assets, CalPERS is the largest public pension fund in the nation. Comstock’s spoke with CEO Marcie Frost about some of the challenges the system faces — including the decision to lower its expected rate of return, thereby driving up the mandatory financial contribution from state and local governments.
When it comes to charter schools, people seem to either love them or hate them. We sat down with Ting Sun, executive director of the Natomas Charter School and a member of the California State Board of Education, to talk about the role charter schools play in modern education.
For the last dozen years, the UC Davis Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has fostered hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs out of the classroom setting and into the real world. Comstock’s sat down with Senior Program Manager Niki Peterson to learn how her institute is helping turn the Capital Region into a world-class incubator for innovation.
Anne Bown-Crawford, executive director of the California Arts Council on the arts as an economic driver.
Raised in Oak Park and a Sacramento State graduate, Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn brings a lifetime of local experience to the job. Rich Ehisen sat down with Hahn last January — exactly two months prior to the officer shooting of Stephon Clark — to discuss Hahn’s priorities for our April issue, which went to press just days after details of the shooting began to surface. We have updated the Q&A with a follow-up interview that took place in early April.
When Marybel Batjer left her C-suite position with Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas to run California’s newly-created Department of Government Operations in 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown tasked her with a big mandate: Make the Golden State’s government more efficient. Five years later and recently named one of Governing magazine’s 2017 Public Officials of the Year, Batjer sat down with us to discuss what she’s done to make that a reality.
After five years as the Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency, Brian Kelly took the helm as CEO of California High Speed Rail Authority, effective February 1. We sat down with him to talk about the state’s critical infrastructure needs and the nation’s first high-speed rail system as construction continues in the Central Valley.
As the state’s fiscal watchdog, California State Controller Betty Yee has a finger on the pulse of what is now the world’s sixth largest economy. But her influence reaches far beyond just paying the State’s bills. We sat down with her recently to talk about taxes, climate change and why she is compelled to address issues like human trafficking.
Chris Waugh’s entire corporate career has been about finding a better way to do things. Two years ago, he brought expertise in innovative thinking and problem-solving to local health powerhouse Sutter Health, joining the company as its first chief innovation officer. We sat down with him to discuss his views on bringing out-of-the-box thinking to a company over a century old.
Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee on navigating the uncertainty of health insurance.
New UC Davis Chancellor Dr. Gary May arrived at the university with a stellar reputation for innovation, leadership and academic equality for all students. We sat down with him recently to discuss his plans and goals for one of the region’s landmark institutions.
California Gov. Jerry Brown created the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, or GO-Biz, in 2012 to serve as a single point of contact for assisting entrepreneurs and others looking to start, grow or move a business that creates jobs in the Golden State. We recently sat down with Director Panorea Avdis to learn more about what the agency is doing to help California businesses.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg has a decidedly unique perspective on the role of government borne of experience few can match: he is a former city councilman, California assemblymember and senate president who has come home to local government. We sat down with him to talk about his vision for the city.
James Corless has been called “a world-class visionary and leader” in transportation, land use and creative urban planning by Roseville Mayor Susan Rohan. He became CEO of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments in April, after serving as the founding director of Washington D.C.-based Transportation for America. We sat down with him to discus the future of the Capital Region.
California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross is far more than just an administrator. Ross grew up on a farm in Nebraska, where she and her husband still own an 800-acre farm and ranch. We sat down with her to talk about the challenges and opportunities currently facing the Golden State’s agricultural industry.
Over the last few decades, the newspaper industry has endured some of the most challenging times in its long history. We sat down with Sacramento Bee Executive Editor Joyce Terhaar to talk about revenues, technology and reporting in the modern age.
California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has spent his career advocating for education issues, from his days as a high school science teacher through his time in the Legislature and now as the state’s top education official. We sat down with him recently to discuss a few critical issues facing California’s schools.
California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is one of the most powerful political figures in our state. With term limits now allowing folks like him to serve longer in one chamber, he is likely to stay that way for years to come. We sat down with Rendon to talk about some of the critical issues facing lawmakers and Californians in what is expected to be one of the most turbulent years in modern history.
Good economic times are rarely anything to complain about. But for local and state governments, one downside to an improved economy has been the renewal of the so-called “silver tsunami” of aging baby boomers opting for retirement.
As head of the California Air Resources Board for the last decade, Mary Nichols is considered the second most powerful person — after Gov. Jerry Brown — in the state’s wide-reaching efforts to combat climate change. It is an effort state officials have vowed to continue despite the election of President Donald Trump, a climate change denier.
Roseville City Manager Rob Jensen oversees the Capital Region’s only full-service city, a task that comes with managing a $500 million budget, 15 departments and over 1,200 employees. We sat down with him to talk about the challenges and opportunities facing one of the area’s fastest-growing cities.
Over the last few years, a growing number of states and cities have created offices designed to foster job growth and economic development by helping private sector companies with innovative ideas find their footing. We sat down with Diane Parro, chief innovation officer for the City of Davis, to talk about the city’s role in this process.
Every community wants a robust economy capable of competing with any other in the country. But how do you do that? That’s the question the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council is trying to answer. We sat down with Dr. Chris Weare, the group’s director of research and strategy, to learn about its efforts to pump more life into the Capital Region’s economy.
California’s landmark greenhouse-gas reduction law, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, turned 10 last month. Like most precocious 10-year-olds, AB 32 (as it’s better known) is very much a work in progress.
Since 2007, the nonprofit Capital Region Family Business Center has worked to help family-run businesses solve some of the unique challenges facing their companies. The organization recently took another step toward that goal by hiring Stella Premo as its first full-time, paid executive director. We talked to her about the ups and downs of running a family business.
These days, college athletics is as much about big business as competition on the field. We recently sat down with Sacramento State Athletic Director Bill Macriss to talk about the challenges small programs face as they try to compete with the behemoths of big-time college sports.
One of the biggest challenges facing California “pot czar” Lori Ajax in developing the first statewide regulations for medical marijuana might simply be getting folks to grasp what she and her team are and are not doing.
Two decades after California voters approved medical marijuana use, state lawmakers finally endorsed the idea of creating a statewide framework regulating the product last year.
As West Sacramento’s mayor since 1998, Christopher Cabaldon has been an integral part of the city’s metamorphosis from a gritty industrial outpost to one of the region’s most up-and-coming locales. We recently sat down with him to talk about riverfront development, craft breweries and the impending “green rush” of legal marijuana.
Innovation is understandably not something most people associate with government. More than most any place in society, government offices are thought of — accurately or not — as where innovation and cutting-edge thinking go to die. But it doesn’t have to be that way, nor is it that way everywhere.
For decades, the UC Davis College of Engineering has consistently ranked in the top 35 engineering programs in the nation. That’s definitely good, but not remotely good enough for new engineering dean, Jennifer Sinclair Curtis, who took over the post last October. We recently sat down with the highly accomplished chemical engineer to discuss her vision for making the program even better.
Things are slowly getting better for women in engineering and other STEM fields, but let’s just say they’re not exactly working with a tailwind at their back. To be blunt, engineering is still a damn sausage fest. And the reasons for that go deeper than one might think.
Women have made huge strides in corporate America. But they continue to encounter hurdles far higher than those faced by their male counterparts, particularly in fields still dominated by men. Women remain vastly underrepresented at virtually every level of the corporate ladder.
The “Women in the Workplace 2015” report, a joint effort of Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn.Org and global management consultant McKinsey & Company, also suggests women may be 25 years away from parity with their male colleagues at the senior vice president level and a full century away at the C-level (the top executive level).
Soon, it will all be over. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will leave office, most likely leaving politics behind for good. For a city that has come to simultaneously love and loath his high-flying, face-planting tenure, the future is sure of only one thing: It’s going to be a lot calmer around City Hall the next few years.
The idea of Sacramento adopting the so-called “strong mayor” system of city government is dead. It’s kaput. If this was baseball, it was out on strikes even before voters threw another heater past Mayor Kevin Johnson’s fourth attempt at it in 2014. It’s done. Or maybe it’s not.
After a decade as a key staffer in the California Legislature, last year the 36-year-old Sacramento District 6 City Councilman Eric became the first Latino to be elected to the Sacramento City Council since former Sacramento Mayor Joe Serna died in 1999. We sat down with him recently to discuss some of the city’s major challenges and opportunities.
When Sacramento City Councilman Eric Guerra, 36, was elected to represent the 6th District last spring, he called his win “an iconic moment” for his generation. Today’s young people, he said, often feel disillusioned about their government and disconnected from the political process.
We sat down recently with Erica Taylor, Golden 1 Vice President of Communications & Community Relations and last year’s Young Professional of the Year, to talk about the credit union’s efforts to attract and retain younger employees and customers.
Much has been made of late about millennials leaving the big banks in favor of smaller community banks or credit unions. According to the Accenture 2015 North American Consumer Digital Banking Survey, community banks saw a 5-percent uptick in millennial customers in 2014. Credit unions saw a 3-percent increase. The big guys, meanwhile, lost a whopping 16 percent of their millennial account holders.
California State Senator Mark Leno never intended to enter the political arena. A Wisconsin native who spent two years in rabbinical studies at the Hebrew Union College in New York, his focus was on running the small sign business he owns in San Francisco. But in 1998, then-Mayor Willie Brown appointed him to fill a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors, and a new career was born. Now approaching his final year in the Legislature, we sat down with him to discuss raising the minimum wage, regulating the sharing economy and LGBT rights.
California State Sen. Mark Leno is often at odds with his Republican counterparts in the Legislature. But there is one area where Leno, a San Francisco Democrat, has regularly found bipartisan agreement: protecting consumers’ digital privacy.
There is an old jest that says the fastest way for a business to run off its customers is to adhere to the motto, “In God we trust; all others must pay cash.” But for Kimberly Cargile, director of the East Sacramento medical marijuana dispensary, A Therapeutic Alternative, cash and carry is her only option. And it really is no laughing matter.
Jody Ulich has been Sacramento’s director of convention and cultural services for just over a year. A transplant from Fort Worth, Texas, the energetic Ulich has brought a fresh energy and perspective to the city’s efforts to stabilize and grow its diverse arts community. We sat down with her recently to discuss the arts and ongoing efforts to modernize the Sacramento Convention Center.
Like most major cities, Sacramento has scores of arts organization that run the gamut of cultural offerings. Given that, how does it effectively synergize all of its cultural assets in a way that really advances the city’s ultimate goals?
Hacker Lab co-founder and CEO Gina Lujan has been focused on entrepreneurship for over two decades. Hacker Lab’s 10,500-square-foot space in midtown Sacramento had become a hub of innovation for numerous creators and doers in the Sacramento Region, from artists to engineers. The site has been so successful it has opened a second site in Rocklin. We sat down with her recently to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the hacker innovation space.
The most significant challenge for tech coworking spaces is usually having enough physical space, equipment and bandwidth for multiple creators to be able to work on a diverse number of projects at the same time. But women using hackerspaces often face another challenge as well – overcoming the tech world’s male-dominated “brogrammer” culture.
California State Senator Holly Mitchell can be an imposing figure. While most people presume that term evokes physicality, it is Mitchell’s intellect and passion for defending those she believes have little or no voice in the political process that make her such a formidable figure around the Capitol. We talked with her about her effort to turn that passion into policy.
Most people look at the civil unrest recently seen in places like Ferguson and Baltimore as strictly a matter of law and order. But to California state Sen. Holly Mitchell, those events are the inevitable result of a long-simmering frustration within much of the African-American community — not only at what they see as heavy-handed treatment of young black men by police, but of a general shortage of economic opportunities available to communities of color.
Before coming to Sacramento, Nelsen was instrumental in turning around the struggling University of Texas Pan-American — growing enrollment, raising revenue and boosting the university’s role in the community. We sat down with him recently to discuss his vision for California’s only true capital university.