Women of Persistence 2019: Winners Announced

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For the second year running, the Women’s Caucus of the League of California Cities honors women who have shaped their local communities through their tireless commitment.

In Santa Clara County, Women’s Caucus Board members Hon. Nancy Smith and Hon. Ellen Kamei used a common nomination form.

Following the Tradition of Women in State Legislature

The women of the State Legislature have a similar celebration and each legislator decides who he or she will honor for their Woman of the Year award based on their contribution to their district. Each Board member of the Women’s Caucus can select an honoree.

Eligibility and nominations

The honorees reside in Santa Clara county and could be elected, appointed, community leaders, and volunteers who are deserving of this award by having worked to equality, change, growth, improvement in their communities. We received nineteen nominations for eighteen amazing women this year.

Selection Process

As a way to celebrate women who have been ‘persistent’ in their journey, nineteen men and women took time to nominate eighteen women of persistence. The members of the Sunnyvale Youth Public Policy Institute created the nomination form and reviewed the nominations. They enjoyed learning about local women who have worked for equality, change, growth, improvement in their communities. They narrowed down the eighteen nominees to six finalists and called references. Two especially outstanding women emerged from the nominations received. The YPPI team recommended the two honorees and the Women’s Caucus Board members agreed.


Marie Bernard

Marie Bernard, Woman of Persistence 2019

Marie Bernard, Executive Director of Sunnyvale Community Services, has been selected as an honoree for persistence and tireless efforts to help families and at-risk individuals to find housing and resources. She writes grants and makes connections to help as many people as possible. She’s a great collaborator and cares a lot about not just helping people, but also helping them find a voice. Just one example of her persistence and dedication occurred in spring 2016, after a three-alarm fire at the Twin Pines Manor Apartment complex, rendering the entire complex unsafe, and left 169 people homeless, 80% of whom were low- to extremely low-incomes, and they had lost their homes, and for many, all of their belongings.

Just three days after the fire, Sunnyvale Community Services took over case management for all of the families. Marie personally reached out to members of the City Council, who helped the families relocate the day of the fire. Over the ensuing weeks, she helped 70 families rebuild their lives by securing funding from our City, our County, The Housing Trust, dozens of corporations, and hundreds of individuals. Local hotels gave discounted rates, nonprofits stepped up with transitional housing units, and dozens of landlords eased their lease requirements for fire victims. Just a month later, all 70 families found permanent housing.

Marie resides in Sunnyvale.

Joan Kurtz

Joan Kurtz, Woman of Persistence 2019

Joan Kurtz, Co-Chair of the Educational Equity Committee of the AAUW Sunnyvale Cupertino Branch, has been selected as an honoree for persistence in helping girls in our region get exposure to STEM careers. She does all she can raise funds for women returning to school, helping women preparing for college, and sending girls Tech Trek, a camp designed to develop interest, excitement, and self-confidence in young women who will enter eighth grade in the fall. It features hands-on activities in STEM-related fields.

She lead the selection process for choosing the 8th grade girls by forming teams to review the applications and essays, interview the girls and their parents, and make the final selection of eight girls. Throughout the year she constantly looks for sources of funding for the campers – $900 to $1,000 per girl. She organized used book collections and sales at her home, using her garage to store books between sales, often carting them around on her ever-present walker. Her ISBN parties found members sitting around her kitchen table checking online to find book buyers who would pay more than the $1.00 price charged at books sales.

When book sale profits began to fall, she sought help from other organizations. She approached the Cupertino Rotary and explained the Tech Trek mission, brought Cupertino girls who had attended Tech Trek to talk about their experiences. The result: Cupertino Rotary now contributes $2,000 each year to support Tech Trek. Each year she arranges for the Cupertino campers to give a presentation at a Rotary meeting. This is a great experience for the girls as well as the members. She has also collected funds from other local groups she is associated with.

Now 86 years old, Joan’s eyesight no longer allows her drive or use the computer, but she is still able to phone and send notes to keep members of the group involved. Her persistence goes on and on.

Joan is a resident of Santa Clara.

Additional Recognition (So Far)

Hon. Cindy Chavez of the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors meeting will be recognizing the League of California Women’s Caucus Women of Persistence honorees with a proclamation presented at 4 p.m. Monday, March 11, when the Board of Supervisors will vote to adopt a special commendation for Marie and Joan for her achievements and dedication as a “Woman of Persistence” honoree of the League of California Cities.

The women will be featured in an upcoming post from the League of California Cities.

Reception for All

Join us for a reception celebrating all the nominators who shared their admiration for women of persistence and the women they admire. The Eventbrite page is here – sign up for a free ticket! The reception will be held at the Sunnyvale Elks Lodge on Sunday, March 31 from 3 to 5 pm.

Senior Scams: What to Watch Out For

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Coming up on a year ago (April 6th), I attended the Sunnyvale Senior Scam Stopper Seminar hosted by Assembly Member Marc Berman. This seminar focused on helping senior citizens address the following: how to prevent falling for a scam, the resources available to help identify, and avoid scams. There are many different types of scams, from consumer scams to construction scams.

A consumer scam includes a scam from buying items of the internet, in store, on the radio, and in printed ads. One of the aforementioned resources is the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit, it strives to help consumers identify scams and resolve these issues. Any consumer in the Santa Clara County is eligible.

Some tips from the Consumer Protection Unit include:

  • Make sure to keep records of all your purchases, organized by category/date
  • Keep all receipts, correspondence, and other permit documents
  • Keep records of all your purchases, organized by category and date

The senior scams seminar brought awareness to construction scams as well. Which can include: falsifying payments, theft of materials and money, and false representation. To help avoid these scams, here are a few tips:

  • Hire only licensed contractors
  • Get 3 references and reviews of past works
  • Get a written contract and don’t sign anything you don’t understand
  • Pay only 10% or 1,000, whichever is less
  • Avoid paying cash
  • Only make final payment when you are satisfied with the job
  • Make sure everything is in writing

Waymo has applied for the DMV’s Driverless Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program for Sunnyvale

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Waymo has applied or the DMV’s Driverless Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program in Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. While Sunnyvale is named in the application, this does not mean that driverless cars will arrive in Sunnyvale immediately. If the DMV approves the application, Waymo will start by doing 3D roadway mapping via manually driving vehicles and conducting appropriate testing with a test driver on board before conducting driverless testing in Sunnyvale.

As next steps, City staff will begin actively working with Waymo on the program specifics and a schedule for a community engagement event, where Sunnyvale can learn about Waymo, the test program, see the cars in-person, and get their questions answered.

Waymo is the self-driving unit of Google parent company Alphabet.

No-driver testing of autonomous cars became legal on April 2.



Sunnyvale Livability Index – How is Sunnyvale Doing?

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Sunnyvale's favorite news sources

Sunnyvale’s favorite ways to get news

Clearly, I need to spend more time on Nextdoor, where most Sunnyvale people like to get their news. Also, the Council needs to think about how to add enrichment and recreation opportunities.  

On Tuesday, April 10 at 6:15 PM, City Council will have a study session to discuss the results of the Community Livability survey managed by the  National Research Center Inc. (NRC). It’s based on a national template of questions in categories such as safety, mobility, natural and built environments, economy, recreation and community engagement.

The City included in this year’s survey two open-ended questions to assess the top three community issues and the top three City services on which residents would like the City to focus in the coming year. The top community issues were traffic, transportation and road conditions and safety; affordable housing; and crime and safety. The top City services were roads maintenance, traffic and street lighting, and parking; police, fire and safety services; and water, sewer, cable and utilities. Affordable housing and low-income services, along with parks, recreation, libraries and open space followed very closely.

Before the meeting, you can review the survey results here:


Women of Persistence

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On March 27, I awarded Rosemary Baez the League of California Women’s Caucus Woman of Persistence award. When she started the Young Engineers Program in 2007, this program aims at introducing first generation Latino youth to careers in engineering. When this program first started, it had less than 5% girl participation. Today, it is just shy of reaching the 50% mark of girls participating.

She employed creative means to overcome cultural barriers and gender stereotypes to achieve equity in this program in 10 short years.

These accolades are timely because the Third Street Community Center is celebrating 20 years of existence in an event at the Tech Museum of Innovation on April 7th. As the person who launch, Third Street’s technology programs, I’m especially proud of the agency’s and Rosemary’s work in the area of providing STEM education opportunities for underserved children in San Jose.

Rosemary Baez joined the Third Street Community Center in June of 2006 as the Executive Director. She has over 19 years of experience in the nonprofit sector including 14 years at the executive level. Her experience includes serving as the Assistant Director for a $2.4 nonprofit agency that served families in crisis. She has experience spearheading collaborative efforts to better serve communities of color and high risk communities. She also has extensive experience working with multicultural communities in Santa Clara County.

At Third Street, Rosemary spearheaded efforts to remodel and upgrade the children’s classrooms, transforming them to inspiring learning environments. Recently, she brought together the business partners and people needed to renovate the entire office area creating a more open and welcoming environment for employees and guests.

In addition to her role as Executive Director, Rosemary has served her community in other ways. Past service includes: Commissioner and past chair, Social Services Advisory Commission; Leadership Team, Early Childhood Feeding Practices Collaborative; and Advisory Board Member, CSU Community-Based Research Conference, to name a few. Currently, she is a member of the St. James Park Advisory Committee (City of San Jose) charged with providing vision and direction for the renovation and future of St. James Park in downtown San Jose.

In her spare time, she works with two rescue organizations to save kittens & cats, she enjoys traveling, good coffee, and she likes to take quick getaways to local vineyards in California to do some wine tasting. Rosemary is the mom of a very defiant Chihuahua mix named Vlad.

New Disadvantaged Communities Advisory Group for CPUC

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The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Energy Commission have released a draft proposal to establish and adopt a charter for a newly created Disadvantaged Communities Advisory Group. This new Advisory Group will review and provide advice on state programs proposed to achieve clean energy and pollution reduction.

The Draft Resolution is scheduled for a vote by the CPUC on December 14, and comments will be accepted through December 1. More information is available here.

The CPUC and the Energy Commission are also seeking applicants to serve on this Advisory Group. Send applications to DACAG@energy.ca.gov by 5 pm on December 22. More information is available here.

Thanks to the Strategic Growth Council for the info.

Shared equity for home buyers in Sunnyvale

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Happy 70th Birthday, India

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Today, I would like to pause to congratulate India for reaching the milestone of 70 years since achieving independence and becoming the largest democracy in the world.  For the past two years, I’ve joined my neighbors to celebrate Indian Independence Day by celebrating songs and flags from both the United States and from India.

In spite of all the turmoil in our country, we need to hold dear the freedoms we exercise in our democracies – the freedom of assembly, the freedom of speech, freedom of worship. Let us never forget that the responsibility and rights of living in a democracy challenge us to work hard for the greatest freedoms for all –  freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Indian Independence Day 2017 in Ponderosa Park

Hurry and apply – Emerge California is seeking well-qualified women

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In 2016, I took the Emerge California training for women who want to run for office. I found the program profoundly helpful and am committed to expanding the wonderful things  that can happen when women support each other. It was great to stretch my wings and consider new possibilities.

Emerge 2016 opportunity for exploration

Emerge 2016 Grad Nancy Smith is exploring new levels of policy and government as a program member

My journey from awkward, very solitary teenager to becoming an elected official in Silicon Valley has been a long one requiring lots of help from friends. I grew up on a farm in the Midwest as the only child of a widower. Cancer took my mother when I was very young. Only my father and I lived in our farm house, and he worked the night shift in a manufacturing job. I knew going into my race last year that I had to work hard to come across as confident and decisive enough to win.

The content of the training was enormously helpful – everything from fundraising, structuring a campaign team, setting up field operations and defining and protecting your image as a candidate. I soaked it all in. I worked hard, putting in dozens of hours honing my message. Throughout the training, I felt acceptance and concern from the other class members. I commend Kimberly Ellis with building an organization of integrity, and compassion.

As great as the Emerge California training itself is, the network of supportive connections I’ve made is outstanding. During the CADEM 2016 weekend, I got a harassing phone call from a woman political leader in my community. Emerge sisters from 2006, 2008, and 2012 took me out for dinner and talked me through the dismay I felt at being threatened. Making time for this program has been an investment that continues to provide benefits over and over. It feels to me like we California Democratic women have reached a point where there is a network of powerful women who can help each other.

The beauty of the Emerge program is that the skills and knowledge and connections help get more women in positions of power, a mission I wholeheartedly support. I’m a proud supporter of Emerge California.

Just last week, I heard a compassionate Emerge alumna state that we need similar support for male candidates as well. For now, Emerge California is seeking women who are ready to step up as public servants.

If you are thinking about stepping out of your comfort zone to consider running for public office, check out the application form here.  The deadline is September 1st and you’ll need to leave time to get at least two references.

Information about the proposed utility rate increase

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Many people have expressed concerns about the increase in utility rates and have asked questions ranging from what gives the City the authority to set and collect fees for handling water, wastewater, solid waste and recycling to asking how each council member will vote.

In this post, I attempt to set forth the roles of the City Council, the City staff, and the property owners or utility account holders impacted by the utility rate increase proposal and to answer several questions and concerns I’ve heard.

The utility rates support both ongoing operations as well as infrastructure renovation.

New digester at Sunnyvale's Wastewater treatment plant

New digester at Sunnyvale’s Wastewater treatment plant

Wastewater rates support replacements of pipes, pump stations, and the Water Pollution Control Plant renovation.  Water rates support water distribution renovations to water tanks, pipes, pumps, valves and more. Solid waste rates support the collection, recycling and disposal of solid waste generated within the City of Sunnyvale, including the new FoodCycle program.


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