Benicia passes historic resolution, takes action on Black Lives Matter

City Council debates, weakens and passes a nontheless historic anti-bias resolution

By Roger Straw, August 28, 2020

Benicia city staff and the Benicia City Council heard from Benicia Black Lives Matter residents and passed a resolution on August 25 requiring the hiring of a part-time Equity and Diversity Manager and giving birth to a number of other measures to combat unconscious bias and overt racism in Benicia.

The Resolution was accompanied by a 6-page  Staff Report and Recommendation, clearly outlining the need, documenting significant steps already being taken by Police Chief Erik Upson, and detailing a multi-pronged emphasis aimed at recognizing black lives in Benicia and taking actions to address unconcious bias.

After hearing from multiple members of the public, almost all of whom were supportive of the measure, Councilmembers debated the staff recommendation at length, downgrading the hiring of a new Equity and Diversity staff, but approving all other recommendations.

Some egregiously dismissive comments were made by several Councilmembers during the discussion.  More could be said, but today I will focus on the excellent outcome.  Benicia might be the first and only small city (27,570 residents) to take such positive steps in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.  Kudos to City staff and electeds for taking this profoundly important action!

Here are the proposed items from the resolution, with outcomes in red:

  1. Create & fund a part-time Equity & Diversity Manager – Council amended the resolution to reduce from 3/4-time @ $133,000 to 1/2-time and “temporary” at $89,000/year and requiring extension after 6 months.  Also requiring that the Manager place first priority on item 6 below.  See also the DRAFT Job Description.
  2. Join the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) and explore National League of Cities’ Race, Equity And Leadership (REAL) Initiative. GARE membership at cost of $1,000 – approved as recommended.
  3. Mandate anti-bias training for all City employees and elected and appointed officials – approved as recommended, at a cost of $8,000.
  4. Recognize Juneteenth as a City holiday – approved as recommended.
  5. Establish Benicia Library program related to BLM – approved as recommended.
  6. Commission an Equity Indicators report, similar to one prepared for the City of Oakland. (https://cao-94612.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/2018-Equity-Indicators-Full-Report.pdf) – approved as recommended at a cost of $75,000 for consultant costs.
  7. Create Council subcommittee and liaison relationship with BBLM similar to BUSD liason committee – approved as recommended.
  8. Enhance civic engagement efforts and remove barriers to allow broader community inclusion in City business – approved as recommended.
  9. Support business opportunities for Black residents—seek opportunities for BBLM to work with the Chamber of Commerce and Benicia Industrial Park Association and other business organizations and consider holding City workshops to assist. Consider re-evaluating use of the Commanding Officers Quarters as a business incubator to support this effort – approved as recommended.
  10. Create a webpage with resources for those interested in learning about the City’s actions related to BLM and with appropriate resources provided – approved as recommended.

Stay tuned for more on this!

Solano COVID update: 60 new cases today, focus on hospitalization rates by race/ethnicity


[For a complete archive of day by day data, see my Excel ARCHIVE – R.S.]

Friday, August 28: 60 new cases today, no new deaths.  Since the outbreak started: 5,388 cases, 46 deaths.Compare previous report, Thursday August 27:Summary

  • Solano County reported 60 new cases today, total of 5,388 cases since the outbreak started.  Over the last 2 weeks, Solano reported 792 new cases, an average of 57 per day.
  • Deaths – no new deaths today, total of 46 Solano deaths.
  • Active cases – Solano reported 23 fewer ACTIVE cases today, total of 331.  Note that only 28 of these 331 people are hospitalized, so there are a lot of infected folks out among us, hopefully quarantined.  Is the County equipped to contact trace so many infected persons?  Who knows?  To my knowledge, Solano County has no reporting on contact tracing.
  • Hospitalizations – the number of currently hospitalized persons were 4 fewer today, total of 28.  The total number hospitalized since the outbreak started remained steady, total of 278.  (Note that the County no longer reports Total Hospitalized, but we can add the new hospitalization numbers in the Age Group report – see below.)  Concluding a fifth week now, the County offers no information about availability of ICU beds and ventilators.
  • Testing – The County reports today that 394 more residents were tested today, new total of 72,141.  Solano has a long way to go: only 16% of Solano County’s 447,643 residents (2019) have been tested.

Positive Test Rate

Solano County reported today that our 7-day average test rate jumped today, from 5.7% to 6.4%.  Over this past week the daily rate change was +0.8%,  -1.3%, +1.0%, -1.0% and today’s +0.7%.  I find these daily fluctuations improbable.  7-day averages don’t normally jump like this – they are designed to “smooth out” the volatility of a daily data chart.  What is going on here?  The County reported a 7-day test rate low of 4.1% on August 11, and the County’s rate peaked at 9.3% on July 22.  Not really a smooth ride!  Health officials and news reports focus on percent positive test rates as one of the best metrics for measuring the spread of the virus.  The California 7-day test rate rose slightly today from 5.6% to 5.7%(Note that Solano County displays past weeks and months in a 7-day test positivity curve chart which also shows daily results.  However, the chart does not display an accurate number of cases for the most recent days, as there is a lag time in receiving test results.  The 7-day curve also lags behind current unknown results.) 

By Age Group

  • Youth 17 and under – 9 new cases today, total of 589 cases.  No new hospitalizations among this age group, a total of 5 hospitalizations since the outbreak began.  Thankfully, no deathsIt is clear that our young people are catching the disease, with a recent increase in hospitalizations.  It seems too many youth are ignoring public health orders.  Cases among Solano youth are 10.9% of the 5,388 total confirmed cases.
  • Persons 18-49 years of age – 35 new cases today, total of 3,261 cases. This age group is 41% of the population in Solano, but represents 60.5% of the 5,388 total cases, by far the highest percentage of all age groups.  The County reported no new hospitalizations in this age group today, total of 91 hospitalized since the outbreak began.  No new deaths among this age group today, total of 4 deaths.  This age group is very active.  Some are surely ignoring public health orders, and many are providing essential services among us.  I expect his group is a major factor in the spread of the virus.
  • Persons 50-64 years of age – 8 new cases today, total of 1,038 cases.  This age group represents 19.3% of the 5,388 total cases.  No new hospitalizations, total of 75 hospitalized since the outbreak began.  No new deaths  in this age group today, a total of 7 deaths.
  • Persons 65 years or older – 8 new cases today, total of 499 cases, representing 9.3% of the 5,388 total cases.  No new hospitalizations today, total of 107 hospitalized since the outbreak began.  In this older age group, 21.4% of cases required hospitalization at one time.  This is a much higher percentage than in the lower age groups.  No new deaths were reported in this age group today, total of 35 deaths.  This group accounts for 35 of the 46 deaths, or 76%.

City Data

  • Benicia added 2 new cases today, total of 131 cases since the outbreak began.
  • Dixon added 5 new cases today, total of 372 cases.
  • Fairfield added 24 new cases today, total of 1,724.
  • Rio Vista added 1 new case today, total of 38 cases.
  • Suisun City added 6 new cases today, total of 385 cases.
  • Vacaville added 11 new cases today, total of 916 cases.
  • Vallejo added 11 new cases today, total of 1,805 cases.  (Note that the County’s chart formatted 1805 as a date…)
  • Unincorporated areas – Unincorporated areas remained steady today, total of 17 cases.

Hospitalization rate by Race / Ethnicity

The County report on race / ethnicity includes case numbers, hospitalizations, deaths and Solano population statistics.  Today for the first time, I am featuring the tab that shows a calculated HOSPITALIZATION rate per 100,000 population by race/ethnicityAs with our case numbers and death rates, this information is discouragingly similar to national reports that indicate significantly worse outcomes among black and brown Americans.  Note that the Hospitalization Rate comparison here surely undercounts Latinx Americans, as there is a large group of “Multirace / Others” with a hospitalization rate much higher than every other group.

Perhaps the best measure is to compare each group to the County’s overall hospitalization rate of 61.9/100KAs of today:

  • Asian Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 9% of cases and 11% of hospitalizations, but 16% of deaths.  The hospitalization rate for Solano Asian Americans is 39.4 per 100K.
  • Black Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 11% of cases, but 18% of hospitalizations, and 23% of deaths.  The hospitalization rate for Black Americans is 66.4 per 100K.
  • Latinx Americans are 26% of Solano’s population, but account for 30% of cases, 34% of hospitalizations, and 28% of deaths.  The hospitalization rate for Latinx Americans is 69.1 per 100K.
  • White Americans are 39% of the population in Solano County, but only account for 20% of cases, 21% of hospitalizations and 21% of deaths.  The hospitalization rate for Solano Whites is 28.5 per 100K.

Much more…

The County’s new and improved Coronavirus Dashboard is full of much more information, too extensive to cover here on a daily basis.  The Benicia Independent will continue to summarize daily and highlight a report or two.  Check out the Dashboard at https://doitgis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=055f81e9fe154da5860257e3f2489d67.

We turned the tv off on Trump – And here’s some of the reasons why…

Trump presented the mother of all fabrications on the White House lawn

This Washington Post video is sickening. 4 minutes of voices of RNC convention speakers, mostly Trump, with text that fact-checks their lies and misdirections. I’m not going to embed it here. If you REALLY want to listen, go to the WP website, linked below.
The Washington Post, by Dana Milbank, August 27, 2020

Four years ago, when the United States was in the eighth year of an economic expansion and enjoying a time of relative peace and prosperity, Donald Trump saw only carnage.

“Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation,” he told the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, describing a nation full of “death, destruction . . . and “weakness.”

Now, America actually is in crisis: a world’s worst 177,000 dead from the pandemic, nearly 6 million infected, 6 million net jobs lost during Trump’s presidency, nearly $7 trillion added to the debt, and racial violence in the streets.

And Trump, accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for a second term on Thursday night, offered a most counterintuitive assessment: Everything is awesome!

He declared himself “proud of the extraordinary progress . . . and brimming with confidence in the bright future.” He said he accepted the nomination “full of gratitude and boundless optimism.” He spoke of “new heights of national achievement,” a “new spirit of unity.”

“I say very modestly that I have done more for the African American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln,” he declared. He proclaimed that “the wall will soon be complete” along the Mexican border. Factories are booming! Workers are happy! “This towering American spirit,” he said, has “lifted us to the summit of human endeavor.” He boasted of creating 9 million jobs since the pandemic struck, leaving out the fact that he lost 22 million.

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. And Trump presented the mother of all fabrications Thursday night on the South Lawn of the White House. With the Truman Balcony as his backdrop and a massive convention stage erected outside the People’s House, he made only passing references to the pandemic that has disrupted our lives. And the 1,500 Republican lawmakers, party officials and others in the crowd sat cheek by jowl, for the most part without face masks, pretending there was no such thing as covid-19. Jumbo screens projecting “TRUMP/PENCE” lit up the South Lawn. And at 11:35 p.m., after Trump’s 70-minute speech, the extravaganza ended with fireworks lighting up the capital’s night sky.

Trump’s reading of his optimistic speech was, to coin a phrase, low-energy. He gave the slow, singsong delivery he has when using a teleprompter. He was clearly reading written words not his own, and he mispronounced — twice — the name of the Iranian official he had assassinated, Qasem Soleimani. Trump, who once bragged on a recording about sexually assaulting women, even sought to present his opponent as the sexual predator: “For 47 years, Joe Biden took the donations of blue-collar workers, gave them hugs and even kisses.” Trump raised his eyebrows as the crowd laughed.

As he portrayed the current era of recession and pandemic as good times, he warned voters not to return power to the people who presided when there actually were good times. He warned of a “socialist agenda to demolish our cherished destiny” and to “crush our industries.” He said Democrats would give “free rein to violent anarchists, agitators and criminals” and allow a “radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy” our way of life. In Trump’s telling, the violence in the streets occurring on his watch, which he foments and which his followers have engaged in, is the fault of Democrats who “stand with anarchists, agitators, rioters, looters and flag-burners.”

As the speech passed the 30-minute mark, Trump loosened up and strayed from his script, circling back repeatedly to denounce Democratic “radicals,” “anarchists,” “wild-eyed Marxists” and “cancel culture.” He returned to his familiar patter of insults: “China would own our country if Joe Biden got elected. . . . Joe Biden is weak.” He reported that Biden’s polling numbers were “going down like a rock in water. It’s too late, Joe.” As the speech hit the hour mark, he was rambling and railing in a familiar manner. “They spied on my campaign, and they got caught!” Referring to the building occupied by every president since John Adams, he boasted: “We’re here, and they’re not.”

It was a split-personality speech at the end of a whiplash week for Republicans, alternating between filling Americans with optimism and frightening them. Speakers before Trump on Thursday spoke of a “nightmare” in American cities, a “callous” indifference to human life, a “public safety disaster” and “vicious, brutal riots.” Then came Trump to declare America “the torch that enlightens the entire world” and say “the best is yet to come,” “we will reach stunning new heights” and “together, we are unstoppable.”

But however unconvincing Trump’s upbeat assessment of the current environment, it may be his only option. Back in 1980, when presidential candidate Ronald Reagan asked his famous question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” he said, “If all of the unemployed today were in a single line allowing two feet for each of them, that line would reach from New York City to Los Angeles,California.”

If we made a similar line today of all those on some type of unemployment relief, that line would cross the country five times.

Trump can’t ask Americans whether they are better off than when he took over because we all know the answer. The best he can do is pretend everything is hunky-dory, and hope people fall for it.

Former Trump official: Trump is enabling white supremacists

Trump’s ‘Racist’ Actions ‘Gave Permission’ To White Supremacists, An Ex-DHS Official Now Says

Forbes, by Andrew Solender, August 26, 2020
TOPLINE

Elizabeth Neumann, a former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Counterterrorism and Threat Prevention in the Trump administration who endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden last week, alleged Wednesday that President Trump enabled white supremacists and ignored pandemic warnings.

KEY FACTS

In a video for pro-Biden group Republican Voters Against Trump, Neumann says she is “first and foremost a follower of Jesus Christ” who voted for Trump in 2016 for his anti-abortion stance.

Noting the rise in white supremacy in the Trump era, Neumann said Trump’s rhetoric made her job more difficult, calling his language and actions “racist” and alleging he “gave permission” to white supremacists.

On the topic of the pandemic, Neumann says experts told her “we need to be executing on these plans,” but that Trump told officials to stop doing their jobs because “he didn’t want the economy to tank and he didn’t want a distraction from his campaign.”

In an interview with Politico, Neumann and several other former Trump Homeland Security officials alleged inaction on white supremacy by the administration, with Neumann asserting “there’s not going to be anything substantive done on domestic terrorism” and stating that Trump “botched” his response to Charlottesville by saying “you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

CRUCIAL QUOTE

“I do not think that we can afford four more years of President Trump,” Neumann said, concluding, “We are less safe today because of his leadership. We will continue to be less safe as long as he is in control.”

KEY BACKGROUND

Before her time in the Trump administration, Neumann served on the Homeland Security Council in the Bush White House, a role in which she “tracked terrorist threats and developed domestic prevention and mitigation strategies and programs,” according to the DHS website. In the Trump administration, she worked as Deputy Chief of Staff of DHS and as a senior advisor to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Kirstjen Nielsen, and Acting Secretary Elaine Duke before serving as Assistant Secretary. She departed the administration in April, according to Politico, and endorsed Biden alongside over 70 other Republican security officials.

CHIEF CRITIC

“Our brave federal law enforcement, national security, and Intelligence officials work around the clock to monitor every range of threats facing our nation, including domestic terror,” White House spokesperson Alyssa Farah told Politico. The White House declined to comment further to Forbes.

SURPRISING FACT

Neumann is far from alone as a Republican backing Biden. Scores of Republican lawmakers and former executive branch officials have publicly endorsed him, including former Republican Senator and Defense Secretary Bill Cohen on Wednesday. Several other Trump administration officials have endorsed Biden as well, including former Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci and former DHS Chief of Staff Miles Taylor, who alleged Trump claimed “magical authorities” beyond the law.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Taylor predicts even more Trump officials will come forward before the election. “The president hasn’t heard the last of us,” Taylor told ABC News earlier this month, calling his allegations the “opening salvo.”