Letter from Larnie Fox: Civility in local political discourse

We received the following letter to the editor from Larnie Fox, Benicia artist and former director of Arts Benicia

Civility

September 11, 2017

Many citizens are very upset about the hike in water bills and the new water meters. Our bill went up too, and we have a new water meter. I don’t like paying more for water now that we are on a fixed income, but it seemed reasonable and necessary to me, if a bit sudden. I understand that it came as a huge shock to many, and that there were big problems with the rollout of the new meters and that the increase in some people’s bills is apparently not justified by their actual usage.

I understand why people are angry, and I like the fact that they are civically engaged. However, the tone of the debate has become pretty ugly. I have seen some grandstanding at City Hall meetings, very unkind posts in social media, and personal attacks on the Mayor, Council, and City Staff. During my time directing Arts Benicia, I worked with and came to know many of the people who are now being vilified, and I know that they are without a doubt motivated by a love of Benicia and its citizens, and a deep desire to serve them.

We see similar angry rants and hateful social media memes in national politics now ~ and I think we can all see how this anger, which may be justified, becomes a barrier to finding solutions. I had hoped that our community was better than that.

As I wrote last year during the height of the crude by rail controversy: “Let’s keep in mind that we all care deeply about our charming, artistic, innovative little town. Please, let’s all keep civility and respect for the First Amendment, for each other and for our vibrant but frail local democracy at the forefront during this debate. After the issue is settled, let’s all reunite to work towards our common vision: maintaining Benicia as the safe, friendly, livable, economically viable small town in the Bay Area that we all love.”

Larnie Fox, artist and former director of Arts Benicia

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BenIndy editorial – Benicia fire chief leaving

(See story below from the Vallejo Times-Herald)

Benicia Fire Chief Jim Lydon

Editorial comment:
Benicia Fire Chief Jim Lydon is leaving Benicia. Jim’s the guy who stood up for Valero Crude by Rail, and who hedged – publicly and on the record – claiming that oil train explosions are not “left to burn themselves out.” He seemed to think that mobilizing and evacuating folks and setting up perimeters and throwing water on nearby tank cars to keep more cars from exploding, etc. – was reason enough to dispute the widely understood knowledge that first responders to oil train explosions are REQUIRED to keep a safe distance from the burning cars, letting them burn for days until they burn themselves out.  His disingenuous comments during hearings was one of the lowest moments in my 3-year opposition. I’ve tried to be forgiving, understanding how tough the firefighters’ jobs are when facing disasters, and how a Chief must stand up for his crew. But Lydon’s blind support for Valero’s proposal was in stark contrast to public comments by Fire Chief Jim Appleton in Mosier Oregon following the derailment and explosion there.   The Benicia Independent wishes Jim and the people of Coronado well, but we hope for an impartial understanding of public safety issues in the next Chief here in Benicia.  – RS

Benicia fire chief leaving department for Coronado

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Katy St. Clair, 09/07/17, 4:37 PM PDT

BENICIA > > Fire Chief Jim Lydon will be leaving Benicia and heading down to Coronado to lead the fire department of the suburb of San Diego, he confirmed.

Lydon has over 40 years of experience but served Benicia for four years, where he often wore several hats, including interim city manager for a bit.

Lydon was also in charge of coordinating the town’s emergency response during the Valero flaring that began on May 5 of this year.

According to reports, Lydon underwent a rigorous hiring process and beat out 47 other candidates. His last day will be October 6 and his new job begins on October 10, he said.

“Benicia’s been a great opportunity for me and I think I’ve learned a lot through the process of being here,” he said. “I’m certainly going to miss some of the contacts and relationships that I’ve built here, but it’s time for new challenges and new opportunities.”

Lydon said that the City Manager hasn’t yet determined who will take his place until a permanent chief is hired.

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Monitor Pollution in Refinery Communities with New Online Tool

Repost from Sunflower Alliance

Monitor Pollution in Refinery Communities with New Online Tool

Click to go to AirWatchBayArea.org

Air Watch Bay Area is a new, online, interactive tool that allows you to see current data on air pollution in Richmond, Crockett, Rodeo, and Benicia. You can also sign up for daily air quality alerts or use the website (or a downloadable app) to report smells and pollution events to the Air Watch Bay Area website and/or to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

This tool was created by the The Fair Tech Collective at Drexel University in Philadelphia in collaboration with the Community Robotics, Education, and Technology Empowerment Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, the Fair Tech Collective, and concerned community members from:

Download the Air Watch Bay Area flyer

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