NBC Bay Area: Politics Professor Commends Governor for Exercising Leadership on High Speed Rail

Brown’s Perseverance Pays–For Now

Posted by NBC July 8, 2012.

By Larry Gerston

Presidential scholar Richard Neustadt once wrote that the president’s greatest clout lies in his power to persuade. More than signing executive orders or vetoing legislation, Neustadt claimed, the president succeeds when he convinces others to do what they might otherwise choose not to do.

California Governor Jerry Brown showed a bit of Neustadt over the past few months when he convinced a majority of legislators to do what they, too, might have not otherwise done, when they decided on Friday to fund the first portion of the state’s $68 billion high-speed rail project.

Brown had a terrible political headwind to conquer. Public opinion polls showed that the voters were queasy on the idea, given the state’s dreadful economy. Republican leaders in the House of Representatives promised there would be no more federal assistance if they had any say over the matter. And let’s not forget the initial construction site, from Chowchilla to Bakersfield. Who’s going to ride the train there? No one, but that’s where the feds with $3.2 billion in matching funds said the building should commence.

Not a pretty picture. Still, Brown persevered.

In some ways, Brown took a page from the legacy of his father, Edmond G. “Pat” Brown, who also proposed a huge infrastructure project. In 1959, shortly after his election to the state’s highest post, the senior Brown asked the voters to pass a then-huge $1.7 billion bond to create the California Water Project, the backbone of the state’s massive water movement system. At the time, the proposal equaled the size of the state budget. Critics viewed it as an unnecessary boondoggle. Others looked into California’s future and saw nothing but trouble without enough water to meet the state’s needs. Of course they were right.

We won’t know whether the current Brown is right for decades, but we know this: against tremendous pressure he prevailed. And whether or not you believe the high-speed rail project is a good idea, you have give credit to Brown and Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg for exercising a characteristic rarely seen these days–leadership.

Larry Gerston teaches political science at San Jose State University and is the political analyst for NBC Bay Area.

SJ Mercury News: SJSU Helps San Jose Score a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

San Jose to get major, federal prize: A new U.S. Patent Office in the heart of Silicon Valley

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News July 1, 2012.

By Sharon Noguchi

Delivering Silicon Valley a long-coveted prize, the U.S. Department of Commerce has selected San Jose to a get new U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The Commerce Department will make the long-awaited announcement Monday, said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose.

“Fabulous!” said Kim Walesh, the economic development director of San Jose, which dangled a 20,000-square-foot floor in City Hall among other enticements for picking the city.

More than 600 cities applied to host the first-ever expansion of the patent office. The pool was narrowed to fewer than 50 in the spring. In addition to San Jose, Denver and Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas also have been chosen for patent office sites, according to documents obtained by the Denver Post.

“I’m kind of floating right now,” said an ecstatic Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, part of the public-private coalition that pushed hard to persuade the Department of Commerce to select San Jose. As part of the 58-page application submitted in January, 125 valley CEOs signed a letter backing the effort. On Sunday, Guardino was on his way to toast the victory with Lofgren at her San Jose office. “You’ve got to celebrate on this occasion.”

“A local patent office will give Silicon Valley the capability to deal with the volume of patent applications generated here but will also enhance the quality of the applications,” said Lofgren, who also lobbied for the local office. “Having patents examined in the valley will enhance the communication between the inventor and authors and increase patent quality and decrease the delay in the development of patents. This is a very big deal.”

Spread the credit

Lofgren credited, among others, Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, San Jose State University, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the city of San Jose for putting on a successful full court press.

Mayor Chuck Reed had made winning a patent office a priority, promising prime real estate at good rates to the feds.

Jeff Janssen, Reed’s senior policy adviser for government relations who worked on the application, expressed caution on Sunday about the final announcement. While the Commerce Department would not deny to Lofgren’s staffers that three locations were winners, Janssen will not relax until he hears the formal announcement on Monday. Still, he was confident because he believes that San Jose exceeded the necessary site criteria, including the number of patents filed in the area and the ability to recruit top engineers.

The city also touted easy access to major universities with strong engineering programs and to public transportation systems, including a major airport. But while San Jose can share facilities with other government operations, the feds’ desire for a place with a reasonable cost of living was a challenge that Silicon Valley overcame with other virtues.

However, according to Mohammad Qayoumi, president of San Jose State, the school offered to create an internship program with the patent office and training.

“We will make sure the patent office quickly has a qualified staff,” he said.

Prime location

The new locations mark the first expansion of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is based in suburban Virginia and is swamped with a backlog of more than 1 million applications due in part to 500,000 applications being submitted annually. Today, it takes roughly three years to get a patent approved. An office in Detroit, approved two years ago, is expected to open later this month.

California submits one-quarter of all patent applications — more than half of those from Silicon Valley. For years, reformers have pushed to create regional patent offices, a goal embraced by patent office Director David Kappos and former Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

Legislation passed by Congress last year and signed by President Barack Obama requires at least three new offices to open in satellite locations around the country by 2014.

“This shows the federal government understands that you go where your customer is,” Guardino said. “When it comes to patents granted in U.S. that fuel the innovation economy, the epicenter on earth is Silicon Valley.”

Hank Nothhaft, a longtime patent reform activist and former CEO of Tessera in San Jose, said he was concerned that politics and other considerations might trump sound judgment in locating satellite offices. “The No. 1 choice was right here in the valley,” he said.

Staff writer Tracy Seipel and reporter Allison Sherry of the Denver Post contributed to this story. Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.

SJ Mercury News: Spartans Travel to London for Olympic Torch Relay

Bay Area residents will participate in Olympic ceremonies

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News June 25, 2012.

By Molly Vorwerck

Although the upcoming Summer Olympics are being held in London, individuals from around the world, including at least five from the Bay Area, are participating in the ceremonies.

As performers and torchbearers, these Californians will contribute to the games, even if they’re not throwing a discus or swimming laps in the pool.

Audrey Rumsby, 21, of San Jose, will play the harp and portray an acrobat in a circuslike tribute to the athletes during the Olympic and Paralympic Team Welcome Ceremonies in mid-July at the Olympic Village.

Rumsby was chosen to perform with the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain in a “promenade spectacle” that will feature live music, puppetry, acrobatics and poetry. The rotating cast will perform 75 30-minute shows from July 16 to July 26 for 204 Olympic teams. Two weeks later, they will perform the same shows for 170 Paralympic teams.

Rumsby, a dual citizen of the United States and the United Kingdom, is a recent graduate of the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. For the performance in the Olympic Village, the National Youth Theatre’s director, Paul Roseby, assembled a cast of 140 actors. Rumsby said she’s the only American chosen.

Barbara Rumsby, Audrey’s mother, said her daughter’s part in the Olympics serves as a source of pride for their entire family.

“Of course, we’re very excited for her,” she said. “It’s an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so it’s very exciting for all of us.”

Other Bay Area individuals involved with the London Olympics are torchbearers Cynthia Guevara, 25, and David Wang, 28, both graduates of San Jose State University and employees of The Crowne Plaza Hotel, San Jose/Silicon Valley.

The torch relay, which began on May 19 in Land’s End, England, will pass through 1,019 communities in the British Isles. Guevara and Wang are among the 8,000 torchbearers. Both will carry the torch on July 2 through Coventry, England, a borough about 95 miles northwest of London.

Since Crowne Plaza Hotels are owned by the InterContinental Hotels Group, a partner of the Olympic Games, the company was able to nominate 72 employees to carry the torch. Guevara and Wang were chosen for their frequent volunteerism. Guevara, who is anemic, donates blood and builds homes for impoverished families in the Philippines. Wang volunteers at the Second Harvest Food Bank and spearheads a soap recycling program at the hotel.

Guevara said that both of them were apprehensive about the potential physical challenges of running with the torch but were relieved when they discovered that each torchbearer only jogs less than a quarter mile.

“In our heads, we’d been like ‘oh my gosh, we’ve gotta train!'” Guevara said. “I can’t even run a mile, but luckily, its only .2 miles.”

According to Wang, though the torch bearing experience goes by quickly, it will be something he remembers his whole life, down to the standardized uniform.

“We have official uniforms,” Wang said. “They give us a run through, and that’s it. … They put you on the spot and you stand there until the next guy comes and lights your torch and you take off till you [reach] the next person.”

In addition to Guevara and Wang, Sarah Williams, 19, of Pleasanton, and Kylan Nieh, 19, of Fremont, also will serve as torchbearers. Williams and Nieh were selected through the Coca-Cola Co., which chose 22 people from across the country who have left positive impacts on their communities to participate in the relay

Wang, who is taking his wife and 2-year-old daughter to Coventry with him, is equally excited about the torch relay and his first trip to Europe.

“I’m excited about just being in a different country, but [also for] having a reason for being there, and being recognized,” Wang said. “It’ll be fun.”

Contact Molly Vorwerck at 408-920-5064.

Joint Venture Silicon Valley: Qayoumi Sees SJSU as “New Model for Stewardship of Education”

Meet Mo Qayoumi: President, San Jose State University, and Joint Venture board member

Posted by Valley Vision, a Joint Venture Silicon Valley newsletter, June 2012.

By Duffy Jennings, Valley Vision Editor

Growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan in the 1950s and 1960s, Mohammad Qayoumi often worked in his father’s carpentry shop after school and on weekends, learning to make doors, windows, cabinets, chairs and other items.

School was his priority, but few might have predicted that Mo Qayoumi would eventually earn five degrees – four in the U.S. – publish eight books and more than 100 articles, hold top administrative positions at five American universities and be president of two of them.

On the other hand, it wasn’t a preposterous notion, either. Kabul then wasn’t the war-torn city we see today. It was more westernized and education was valued. Qayoumi recalled the era this way in a 2010 issue of Foreign Policy magazine:

“A half-century ago, Afghan women pursued careers in medicine; men and women mingled casually at movie theaters and university campuses in Kabul; factories in the suburbs churned out textiles and other goods. There was a tradition of law and order, and a government capable of undertaking large national infrastructure projects, like building hydropower stations and roads, albeit with outside help. Ordinary people had a sense of hope, a belief that education could open opportunities for all, a conviction that a bright future lay ahead. All that has been destroyed by three decades of war, but it was real.”

Mo Qayoumi was formally inaugurated as San Jose State University’s 28th president in April after a year in office, and he has been a Joint Venture board member since last year. He recalled his upbringing during a recent visit in his Tower Hall office on campus.

Qayoumi’s father, Abdul, and his mother, Habiba, were working class Afghans who had high expectations for Mohammad and his five younger siblings.

“My father was very good in school, but he only had an elementary school education,” says Qayoumi. “He had a deep sense of curiosity. It bothered him that he did not have the opportunity for higher education. He wanted that for all of us.”

Mo took an early interest in electrical and technical disciplines, earning a scholarship to study at the American University of Beirut, where he received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering in 1975.

Fast-forward 37 years. Now, with two masters degrees, an MBA and a doctorate from the University of Cincinnati and some three decades of administration experience, Qayoumi has a unique perspective on American higher education.

Today, Qayoumi sits at the helm of the oldest public university in California, a vibrant but underfunded urban university, guiding more than 30,000 students and some 4000 faculty and employees through a period when classroom space and budget dollars are both in short supply.

“Higher education is at a very important juncture in the United States,” he says. “We’re falling behind in building a knowledge economy. Public universities are raising fees due to sharp reduction of state funds, thus closing the doors of opportunity for many students.

“I see that to be a major issue for us in the race for talent on a global scale. Technology is changing the role of universities and the body of knowledge required to be successful. This is a major paradigm shift.”

Qayoumi noted that urban regions are playing a pivotal role in education today than in prior decades. San Jose State, he says, can be a new model for stewardship of education in building a local workforce.

“More than fifty percent of our students are local and eighty to eighty-five percent now stay here to live and work. They are defining the future direction of our region.”

A collective approach by academia and the public-private sector to train the local workforce for jobs in the tech economy is why Qayoumi lends his expertise to Joint Venture.

“It’s part of building a healthy and thriving community,” says Qayoumi. “Joint Venture goes beyond the political lines and city borders to collectively enhance our economic development.

“San Jose State produces more engineers for Silicon Valley than Stanford, Santa Clara and Berkeley combined. A majority of our students are place-bound, meaning they will be looking for local jobs when they graduate and we need to attract businesses that will create the jobs they are looking for. Joint Venture plays an important role in helping with that.”

“Mo is an extraordinarily hard working guy,” said former SJSU president and longtime administrator Don Kassing. “I don’t know how much he sleeps. He is a very good administrator, so comprehensive in terms of what he knows about universities and very progressive in terms of where higher education needs to go.

“Silicon Valley will find the agenda that Mo builds will be very progressive and savvy. People will appreciate and enjoy the depth of who he is.”

Kassing added that Qayoumi also has a “wonderful sense of humor. He can make fun of himself in a minute and that’s a good sign in a leader, that they don’t take themselves too seriously.”

Back to Qayoumi’s earlier years for a moment. While studying in Beirut, Qayoumi met Najia Karim, another student from Kabul who would eventually become his wife. A University of Cincinnati graduate who began her college studies in Nebraska, today she is an accomplished poet and clinical dietician at Eden Medical Center.

The Middle East was “booming” when he graduated, he said, and he hoped to stay there, but those plans changed with the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war in 1975.

He spent the next year as a communications engineer for a company in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and two more for an international contractor in Abu Dhabi, before emigrating to the U.S. for graduate studies at the University of Cincinnati.

Over the next seven years in Cincinnati, Qayoumi added master’s degrees in nuclear engineering and electrical and computer engineering, a master’s in business administration in finance and accounting, and a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering.

Concurrently, he served as a staff engineer, director of technical services and director of utilities and engineering services at the university.

Qayoumi’s career in administration began in 1986 with the opportunity to join San Jose State as associate vice president for administration.

“I always enjoyed the environment of higher education,” he says. “There’s a sense of optimism about it, a seasonality. Every year there’s a new class, an excitement that doesn’t exist in other industries. The access to libraries, experts, activities and culture – I saw a rich quality of life in it.”

After ten years, Qayoumi left San Jose in 1995 to become vice chancellor for administrative services at the University of Missouri-Rolla for five years before returning to California as vice president for administration and chief financial officer at CSU Northridge. He was also a tenured professor of engineering management at CSUN.

He remained at Northridge until 2006, when he became president of CSU East Bay, where he also taught engineering. He held that post until San Jose State came calling.

“As a university president in today’s dynamic environment, Mo is absolutely masterful at transformational change,” said Dr. Barbara Kaufman, a nationally recognized educational consultant who has worked with Qayoumi over the past ten years.

“He is passionate, extraordinarily strategic, and envisions a bold future. And he does it faster than anyone can imagine considering the normal pace for educational institutions. Mo ran 49 focus groups in three months. People who work with him talk about being on ‘Mo Time’ because of his work ethic.”

A branding phrase that emerged from his research into San Jose State’s impact on the region was “Powering Silicon Valley,” Kaufman added. “It’s something people can rally around.”

Along the way during his prolific career, Qayoumi has churned out an extensive list of books and papers, amassed numerous industry and community honors, served on dozens of professional and civic boards, associations and organizations, and gave keynote remarks and presentations to a broad spectrum of audiences.

He also has served his native country in various capacities, including as senior advisor to the Minister of Finance of Afghanistan and on the board of directors for the Central Bank of Afghanistan.

Qayoumi spends his recreational time reading, writing, listening to music and traveling. He and Najia travel as often as possible, in search of the “joy of discovery” that travel brings.

And he still dabbles in the occasional woodworking project. Qayoumi may be 7,400 miles from the site of his father’s old carpentry shop, but it’s always close to his heart.

Forbes: Professor Provides Insight into Sales Tax Issues for Online Shopping

Collecting Sales Tax – 20 Years of Waiting

Posted by Peter J. Reilly on his Forbes blog “Passive Activites” June 3, 2012.

Annette Nellen is a professor at San Jose State University. She has an excellent blog on tax policy called 21st Century Taxation. Professor Nellen was selected by the AICPA to tesitfy before Congress on the need for comprehensive tax reform.

By Annette Nellen, CPA, Esq.

In this Internet age, I’m surprised by the number of catalogs that show up in my physical mail box each week. I don’t order from them, but they do sometimes cause me to visit the sender’s website and place an order, in addition to reminding me to shop, I assume these catalogs help delay the financial collapse of the U.S. Post Office, as well.

The catalogs are also a reminder of a decades old tax issue: how can states collect sales tax on purchases their residents make from out-of-state companies?

Despite the world of catalog commerce being greatly expanded by the world of e-commerce, states must still rely on a catalog-era U.S. Supreme Court case that limits their ability to collect sales and use tax.

This year, the case – Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992), reached its 20 year anniversary, still intact. Despite technological advances, the sales tax collection problem Quill addresses remains. In 1992, the Court observed that Congress was where states should go for help. Twenty years later, states still wait for that help.

So, what happened in Quill?

Without stores and employees in the state, sellers also save the cost of collecting sales tax in that state. In the 1980s, North Dakota thought that no longer made sense given how easy it was for companies to do business by just mailing catalogs. So it decided to challenge a 1967 Supreme Court ruling (National Bellas Hess) that stressed the need for physical presence for sales tax collection obligations.

In 1992, the Court held that there was no due process problem with a state imposing sales tax collection obligations on an active seller. However, the Court found a commerce clause problem with non-present sellers being subject to sales tax collection due to the existence of thousands of jurisdictions with non-uniform sales tax rules. Requiring out-of-state businesses to deal with that administrative nightmare would impede interstate commerce. So, the sales tax collection standard that has held since 1992 is that a state may only make a seller collect sales tax if the seller has a physical presence in the state.

With only the commerce clause standing in the way of broader sales tax collection, the court noted: “Congress is now free to decide whether, when, and to what extent the States may burden interstate mail order concerns with a duty to collect use taxes.”

As we all know due to the number of times we are not charged sales tax for items ordered online or via catalogs, Congress has not exercised its authority under the commerce clause to change the Quill result. In theory, states still get the revenue because buyers are to self-assess use tax when sellers are not required to charge sales tax. Of course, in practice, states do not see a lot of that revenue. States would do much better if allowed to collect sales tax from thousands of vendors rather than hope for use tax from millions of consumers. States, as well as many sellers, want Congress to take action.

There are currently three proposals before the 112th Congress to change the holding of Quill:

The Main Street Fairness Act (H.R. 2701 and S. 1452)

The Marketplace Equity Act of 2011 (H.R. 3179)

The Marketplace Fairness Act (S. 1832)

The bills primarily differ in what a state would have to do to be allowed to collect sales tax from out-of-state vendors and the size of the de minimus rule to exempt small vendors from collection.

Congress knows states need the revenue and that “main street” businesses want the improved price competition that should result when their out-of-state competitors have to charge sales tax. We’ve got a few more months to see if 2012 will be the year Congress finally exercises its commerce clause authority that the Supreme Court reminded it of 20 years ago. What is your prediction?

For more information on the sales tax collection issue, see the author’s “affiliate nexus” website and 21st Century Taxation website and blog.

You can follow me on twitter @peterreillycpa.