SF Bay Area population health suffers amid economic stress, long commutes


Health Department officials began analyzing the link between housing insecurity and health after watching hundreds of their clients get displaced from Oakland and surrounding cities. To understand the depth and magnitude of the housing crisis, officials conducted interviews with 188 Health Department workers and 167 Behavioral Services staff and contractors. Ninety-four percent of respondents said the stress of inadequate or unstable housing was affecting their clients’ health, in many cases nullifying the services that county health programs provide for needy communities.More than 10 staff members who filled out the survey said that they, too, had been priced out of the metropolitan areas of Alameda County, where rents are steadily escalating — the median rent for a two-bedroom is now $2,850 a month, according to the real estate site Trulia. Many of them now have long commutes from places like Tracy, Modesto or Antioch, which cause them to lose sleep and have led to car accidents, the study said.

Source: Public health problems in Oakland linked to housing crisis – SFGate

These results are not surprising and would likely be found in other high cost metro areas. In short, the center no longer holds as a diversified, sustainable socio-economy. Something has to give and that something is population health status.

California state agency improperly reimbursed super commuter’s costs as travel expense, audit finds

California Department of Public Health wasted state funds when it failed to enforce proper policies or procedures to ensure that it made travel reimbursements in accordance with the applicable state laws. Specifically, from July 2012 through March 2016, Public Health inappropriately reimbursed the commuting expenses of an official from the official’s home in Sonoma County to the official’s headquarters in Sacramento. In total, Public Health reimbursed the official $74,200 in state funds for lodging, meals, incidentals, mileage, and parking during this period. As of June 2016, Public Health continued to improperly reimburse the official for commuting to Sacramento.

Source: California State Auditor – Report I2016-2 Summary – August 2016

So found the California State Auditor’s Office in a report issued this week. It concluded the department cannot ease the personal economic and time burden of a super commuter’s long journey from home to work by treating the employee’s commute as reimbursable business travel and paying for lodging during the work week. (IRS rules do regard long commutes to a distant job as business travel in cases where the job is expected to last less than one year.)

This is an example of how mindless adherence to an outmoded concept of knowledge work (defined solely by daily presence in a centralized, commute-in office) can cause unnecessary problems. The official involved here could likely perform the vast majority of his/her job functions in their home community using the department’s Intranet and a phone. It’s time to embrace the 21st century, people.

Words of IT Wisdom From Silicon Valley to Governments

[I]t’s no longer practical to have a centralized IT operation, where city governments design and build large-scale computer programs that can take years to implement, are rarely delivered on time and are often over budget. Instead, Keene wants cities to break up big technology projects into more manageable pieces that can be built more quickly, an idea called “agile development” that is already a growing trend in public sector IT. Keene also wants cities to rely less on expensive hardware and take advantage of cloud computing. “We’re moving everything we can into the cloud,” he says. “It’s absurd to keep maintaining all those server farms.”

Source: Words of IT Wisdom From Silicon Valley to Governments

Nightmare Building

That same decentralization principle also applies to the knowledge workplace. It no longer makes sense to have knowledge workers assemble daily in a centralized, commute-in office. Just as information and communications technology has outmoded the proprietary, on premise server, it has also obsoleted the office building as knowledge work becomes an activity that can be performed anywhere with a decent Internet connection to the server cloud.

Rural tech startups see success across the US | TechCrunch

While tech startups have become synonymous with urban areas that offer improved access to talent, resources and infrastructure, the reality is that rural areas are also home to startups. This may come as a surprise to those who have moved away from rural areas specifically to find a job in the tech industry, which accounts for more than 6.7 million jobs in the United States alone.

* * *

And the advantages to having your tech startup based in a rural area? Plenty. Young was full of praise, citing “low cost of living, no traffic, elbow room, and easy access to the outdoors.” In a similar vein, Langer talked about how Red Wing is a great place for those with a love of the outdoors, its close proximity to both Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as only being 45 minutes away from the nearest airport. “Red Wing is the perfect mix of small town and big city,” Langer said. “It’s a wonderful place to raise children. It’s got everything.” An important factor Levy brought up was access to quality education. The Gorge has access to quality schools and “employees for a high-tech company want the best schools for their kids.”

Source: Rural tech startups see success across the US | TechCrunch

In my 2015 eBook Last Rush Hour: The Decentralization of Knowledge Work in the Twenty-First Century, I discuss these and other advantages less populated regions offer in terms of housing affordability, enhanced quality of life and the end of stressful, time sucking commutes across congested metro areas. The growth of the knowledge and information-based economy makes location far less relevant — unlike during the Industrial Age when work was centralized in downtown metro areas and suburban office parks.

Key to this reverse Industrial Age migration to what author Jack Lessinger termed Penturbia in his 1991 book of the same name is the modernization and expansion of fiber to the premise telecommunications infrastructure to ensure all areas have access to advanced services. It is as critical to the 21st century as roads and highways were to the 20th.

Silicon Valley — of all places — is suffering from future shock

Alvin Toffler, the recently deceased futurist who authored the bestselling book Future Shock, is credited with coining that term. As Toffler defined it, it’s the psychological reaction to too much change over a short period of time. The mind protects itself by effectively putting on blinders to block out the change it’s not yet ready to accommodate.

Not long after Future Shock was published in 1970, a Los Angeles aerospace engineer had a brainstorm while stuck in that city’s infamous traffic congestion. What if companies could set up satellite offices connected with data lines in communities where workers live so they can avoid getting on the freeway each workday, Jack Nilles thought. With that, Nilles conceived of a novel transportation demand technique — what he was to call “telecommuting” — to take the place of vehicular commuting to jobs that continues to plague L.A. and other large metro areas today. The idea didn’t catch on right away. Nilles attributed it to societal shock to the revolutionary notion that people could avoid commuting daily to an office distant from their home communities. After all, people “go to” work, don’t they? How could that be possible?

Today, nearly a half century later, that future shock not only continues but has intensified with the advances in information and communications technology (ICT). Many of those innovations were hatched in Silicon Valley and make it possible to perform knowledge work in the satellite offices envisioned by Nilles but also in home offices, libraries, coffeehouses and virtually anyplace with good Internet connectivity. Still, Silicon Valley companies like Google, Apple and Facebook continue to insist everyone show up at their corporate mega campuses each workday. The rationale is it’s necessary to have staff co-located in order to collaborate. It stems from Silicon Valley’s founding as a technology manufacturing center where people worked in “plants” operated by Hewlett Packard, Intel and Apple Computer.

That’s less the case now with nearly all manufacturing offshored and the aforementioned advances in ICT that facilitate both real time and non real time collaboration. Ideas can occur and be exchanged with colleagues whenever and wherever they germinate. The “everyone must be on campus in order to collaborate” rationalization is a symptom of future shock. Ironically manifesting in Silicon Valley of all places.