Benicia Council Candidate Kari Birdseye: ‘Time for new leadership’

Planning commissioner Kari Birdseye believes Benicia City Council needs new leadership

The Vallejo Sun, 8/15/2022

Kari Birdseye for Benicia City Council https://karibirdseyeforbenicia.com/

BENICIA – Kari Birdseye believes it’s time for new leadership in the city of Benicia. The longtime planning commissioner is running for a seat on the Benicia City Council this fall to bring change to the city she has called home for 22 years.

“I will listen, study and work collaboratively to bring the transparent, independent, leadership our city deserves,” Birdseye told the Vallejo Sun. The race is her second run for council, after she was opposed by petroleum manufacturer Valero in 2018.

Birdseye was first appointed to the planning commission in 2014. She works for Natural Resources Defense Council as a senior strategic communications manager.

The Vallejo Sun sent questionnaires to each of the Benicia City Council candidates. In her response, Birdseye outlined her top goals, if elected, by pledging “to lead with intelligence and a focus on sustainable economic growth, meeting our housing needs, and a healthy and safe future for all of us.”

Birdseye said one goal is to diversify the city’s tax base by bringing new businesses and economic opportunities to Benicia. She also said she wants to bring more housing to the city.

“I will continue to address the housing shortage in Benicia and throughout the state by concentrating on smart infill development opportunities where affordable housing is a priority,” said Birdseye.

Birdseye touted her environmental record, highlighting the planning commission’s 2016 denial of a permit that would have allowed Valero Benicia Refinery to transport crude oil by rail. The refinery submitted an application in 2012 to transport up to 70,000 barrels of crude oil via two 50-car trains each day. The project was met with strong opposition from the community as questions were asked if the body had the authority to reject the item. Kamala Harris, then state attorney general, stepped in and said the commission was the proper authority.

“When the California Attorney General Kamala Harris sent the City a letter letting us know that we did have the right to say no, it was up to the Planning Commission to do the right thing,” she said. “We did and the refinery appealed our decision so it was sent to the City Council, which ultimately did the right thing too. Since 2017, my fellow planning commissioners have elected me Chair each year, an honor I take with humble dedication.”

Two years after the 2016 decision, Birdseye ran for city council for the first time. Valero opened a campaign committee dumping large amounts of money to oppose her, while supporting Lionel Largaespada and Christina Strawbridge. Largaespada and Strawbridge were elected.

Two years later, Valero’s PAC once again backed Strawbridge for a mayoral bid, while opposing then-councilmember Steve Young. Despite the PAC spending $250,000 during that election, Young was elected mayor. Young also served on the planning commission when it rejected the crude-by-rail project in 2016.

Birdeye also pledged to ensure clean air and water remained on the council’s agenda.

“Bringing more air monitors online throughout our community will give us a better picture of what is in the air where our children play,” Birdseye said. “Access to clean drinking water has been a problem in communities throughout the U.S. and the importance of keeping our City’s infrastructure safe and updated is crucial.”

Birdseye said she supports Measure R, a three-quarter-cent sales tax increase placed on the November ballot, which is expected to generate $5 million annually for the city.

“I support Measure R because it will allow our community to continue to be a full-service city while making the road improvements we desperately need,” she said, while also confirming she supports Measure K, which would extend the duration of an Urban Growth Boundary to Dec. 31, 2043. Benicia voters first approved the 20-year plan in November 2003 to prevent urban sprawl and preserve agricultural land and open space in the city.

“The importance of open space, agricultural lands and wildlife habitat is becoming even more apparent as climate change adds stress to our ecosystems,” Birdseye said. “I can’t think of a better ballot measure than assuring the maintenance, restoration, enhancement, and protection of natural resources and the environment.”

When asked, she also praised the job performance of City Manager Erik Upson.

“Our city manager has been doing the hard work of uncovering years of poor financial management at City Hall,” Birdseye said. “He’s not beholden to anyone or afraid of losing his job so he asks the tough questions and makes decisions that benefit the economic stability of our community for years to come. He has pledged to stem the staff turnover, which is unnecessarily expensive, by building a positive work culture at City Hall, implementing new staffing structures and leading by example.”

Upson was hired as Benicia’s police chief in 2015. He was named interim city manager in September 2020 following the departure of City Manager Lorie Tinfow. The Benicia City Council appointed Upson to the permanent city manager position in January 2021.

Birdseye is one of five candidates running for two seats on the Benicia City Council this fall.  Council incumbents Largaespada and Strawbridge are both seeking re-election while retired executive Terry Scott and retired teacher William Innes have also launched campaigns. As Benicia does not have election districts for its council, the top two vote-getters will be elected to the council.

Those seeking more information about Birdseye’s campaign can visit her campaign website.

Renewal of Benicia’s Urban Growth Boundary

Good news! ..and a call for your support!

At their July 19th meeting the Benicia City Council unanimously (5-0) approved placing the renewal of the City’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) on the November 2022 ballot.  [Editor: Minutes are not yet available, but see the Council’s July 19th Agenda, p. 10, for details.  The final text of the 2022 Measure K is available here on the Solano County website.]

Background

In response to development proposals in the 1990’s Benicia residents drafted and put on the ballot Measure K. In 2003 Benicia residents voted on and approved Measure K. That citizen initiative stated that Sky Valley, the hills north of Benicia, would remain undeveloped. Measure K runs for 20 years and expires in 2023. Benicia’s 2022 ballot measure (also called Measure K) would extend that protection for an additional 20 years – until December 31, 2043. The language of the renewal measure is exactly the same as the current measure except for the expiration date.

If the renewal of Measure K is approved by voters, then the area beyond our UGB will be protected from development for an additional 20 years. This means that the hills north of Lake Herman Road will be protected from development until 2043!

Call for support!

Now it is time to put together a campaign urging Benicia voters to vote yes on the renewal of the UGB. In order to run a successful campaign, we do need to raise money for this effort. So, the campaign committee would appreciate it if you will make a contribution. The campaign committee is the Solano County Orderly Growth Committee so checks should be made out to that group.

The maximum contribution is $640.00 per person. We will need your address, employer, and occupation with the check. If you are self-employed, please provide the name of your business. Just note “Retired” if that works for you.

Please send your check to:

Attn: Michael Zeiss, Treasurer
Solano County Orderly Growth Committee
832 Driftwood Drive
Suisun City CA 94585

If you would like more information regarding the renewal effort or want to help, please contact Bob Berman, 707-208-1991 or by email bob@nicholsberman.com.

Thanks for your contribution.

Larnie Fox: Trusting Kari Birdseye

Kari is organized, diligent, generous, courteous and a team player

By Larnie Fox, August 12, 2022

Larnie Fox, Benicia

We Benicians have an important City Council election coming up. We have an opportunity to elect a majority who are forward thinking, inclusive, and not beholden to big oil.

To make this happen I’m supporting Kari Birdseye, (and Terry Scott).

Kari and I play on the same bocce ball team, and I have learned a lot about her through that experience.

She’s well organized. When she saw that team communications were inconsistent, she stepped in and started sending us a concise, upbeat email two days before every game so we would all show up at the right time in the right place, mentally prepared for our game.

She is diligent. She has worked to improve her skills, gradually, steadily, and with good results. She is now one of our better players.

She is generous. Not only does she bring delicious food for every game, she has taken on the responsibility to bring a tablecloth, plates, napkins and utensils for everyone to share. And, she always shows up early to help prep the court, no matter the heat.

She is courteous. When other players were rude, bossy or mean spirited, she always kept her cool, stood her ground, and steered us back towards civility.

She’s a team player ~ and she’s fun.

I believe that the qualities a person displays doing small things will also be evident when they take on large things – and she has certainly taken on large things in the past. She has chaired the City’s Planning Commission since 2015, served on City’s Human Services board, is a past president of Turner Elementary’s PTA, and the Benicia Stingrays swimming club. She was an Emmy-winning executive producer for CNN.

I know that when she is on our Council, she will do her best to keep our town safe, livable, civil and inclusive.

I trust her.

Please join me in voting Kari Birdseye for City Council.

Larnie Fox
Benicia

More letters, news & links about Kari here on the BenIndy


And best of all – Kari’s website!

Kari Birdseye For Benicia City Council 2022
https://karibirdseyeforbenicia.com

Terry Scott running for Benicia council to bring ‘overdue change’

City needs new leadership

The Vallejo Sun, by John Glidden, August 11, 2022

Terry Scott for Benicia City Council 2022 campaign, terryscottforbenicia2022.org

BENICIA – Retired corporate executive Terry Scott believes maintaining the status quo has harmed the city of Benicia so he is seeking election to the Benicia City Council to bring about what he calls much needed change.

“What has changed in the past four years? The last decade? The way I see it, we have the same problems, being addressed by the same ineffective solutions,” Scott told the Vallejo Sun. “I am running to bring a new leadership perspective and vision to meet the challenges of change ahead of our historic community.”

Scott, who has never held political office, has owned several small businesses and served more than 20 years as senior vice president and global head of brand creative services for toy maker Hasbro, Inc.

Scott said his top goal, if elected, would be to “ensure public safety resources are effectively funded and utilized.” An additional goal would be bringing forward thinking financial management to the city’s budget, and Scott said his final goal focuses on providing “engaging and transparent representation for all Benicians and helping bridge divisions in our community by providing common-sense and effective leadership.”

Scott says he supports Measure R, a three-quarter-cent sales tax increase placed on the November ballot, which is expected to generate $5 million annually for the city.

“Let’s face it, our roads are horrible and don’t reflect the pride Benicians have for our community. City streets have been under-maintained for a decade or more,” Scott said. “The city has a responsibility to maintain the quality of life for its residents and safe roads for transportation is imperative.”

Scott also said that properly maintained roadways “insure homeowner’s property values,” and that the “city must do its part to maintain the value of our homes and neighborhoods.”

Scott said that he understands the “distrust” from the community over whether Measure R revenues will go toward road issues as expected.

“That’s why if elected, I pledge to work with the City Council and City Attorney to establish a lawful method to protect and distribute those funds as intended,” he added.

Scott said he supports the renewal of Measure K to extend the duration of an Urban Growth Boundary, which is expected to sunset on Dec. 31, 2023. Benicia voters first approved the 20-year plan in November 2003 to prevent urban sprawl and preserve agricultural land and open space in the city. Measure K would extend the Urban Growth Boundary until Dec. 31, 2043.

“I do not want to see any development, otherwise known as ‘urban creep’ encroaching on our identified urban growth boundary (UGB),” he said. “Passing Measure K will serve to control growth in our UGB preserving the separation of communities, and it protects agriculture and wildlife from being displaced as a result of the aggressive development we’ve witnessed in neighboring towns.”

Scott said he had several plans if elected, including creating a joint economic purchasing pact with neighboring communities “for greater purchasing power for major investments like raw water, vehicles, water treatment chemicals, asphalt and other large purchases that are common purchases to each city.”

He further said that if elected he would work to declare First Street an economic development zone to promote the retail, restaurants, and other businesses along the corridor.

Scott also said he wanted to contribute in thawing the icy relationship between the city and Valero Benicia Refinery, which he said began with Benicia Mayor Steve Young.

“They are an integral part of our community, providing a significant income to the general fund as well as valuable donations to schools and non-profit organizations,” Scott said of the refinery. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t negate the fact that their presence also comes at a cost to our health and wellbeing.”

He noted the news from January that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District sought a legally binding order against Valero to correct “significant excess emissions violations” that had been going on for 16 years before they were discovered in 2019, resulting in more than 8,000 tons of excess emissions that were not previously reported.

“We deserve more transparency, more monitoring, more cooperation — they must act with us for the common good,” Scott said. “Valero claims to be Benicia’s ‘Good Neighbor.’ Good neighbors look out for one another. Our partnership with Valero has been challenging over the years, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.”

Scott also identified the need to work with state and federal officials on water conservation projects, and ensure Valero pays its fair share when it comes to water.

“Valero currently uses 60% of the raw water, however residents pay the majority of the raw water bill,” he said. “Valero should partner in underwriting the real cost of water. Negotiate with Valero to pay a fairer, larger share of the raw water that they use from $1 million to $3 million. Use the additional funds to support infrastructure improvements.”

Scott said the city needs affordable housing.

“I would love for my children to live in Benicia, but unfortunately they can’t afford it. It’s just too expensive,” he said. “Benicia teachers, nurses, small business owners and workers should be able to live and raise their children here. Housing that is attainable for them should be a goal of the City Council, with open space remaining the very last tier considered.”

Scott has extensive involvement in the Benicia community, serving as the former executive director of the Benicia Community Foundation, and serves on the Benicia Arts and Culture Commission, and Benicia Public Art Committee.

Scott joins what is shaping up to be a four-way race as both council incumbents Lionel Largaespada and Christina Strawbridge seek re-election. Planning Commissioner Kari Birdseye is also seeking election to the five-person council. Unlike district-elections in the city of Vallejo, the top two candidates in Benicia will be elected to the council.

Scott argues that the city is in need of “bold and overdue change.”

“I can make a difference in the way the City of Benicia operates, interfaces with the community and forecasts its future position,” he said. “A seat on the City Council will allow me to help change the way we solve current issues by planning for tomorrow.”

Those seeking more information about Scott’s campaign can visit his campaign website.