All posts by Roger Straw

Editor, owner, publisher of The Benicia Independent

Benicia Final Forum – Candidates to discuss negative campaigning on Saturday, Oct. 31, 10am

By Roger Straw, October 25, 2020

Send your questions to the candidates now!

Important for readers of the Benicia Independent: The deadline to submit your questions to candidates on the Valero PAC’s attempt to buy our Mayor’s seat and other “hit pieces” is close of business (5pm) on Thursday, October 29.  Send by email to Benicia’s City Attorney Benjamin Stock, at

City of Benicia announcement on Nextdoor, October 24, 2020
City of Benicia Communications
Office of Economic Development, Teri Davena

Candidates’ Forum Scheduled for Saturday, October 31, 10 a.m.

Candidates for the Benicia City Council will have the opportunity to participate in a Candidates’ Forum on Saturday, October 31 at 10 a.m.

All candidates running for Council Member and Mayor in the November 3 election have been invited to attend.

The forum, sponsored by the City of Benicia Open Government Commission, will be broadcasted live on Zoom and on local government Channel 27.

At the forum, voters will have an opportunity to hear candidates discuss any ‘hit pieces’ distributed before the election.

Members of the public are encouraged to send questions relating to ‘hit pieces’ for candidates to answer at the forum to the City Attorney Benjamin Stock, at by close of business on Thursday, October 29.

Please note that the candidates’ forum may be canceled by unanimous decision of the candidates.

Letter on Benicia Mayor’s race: ‘Disturbing to be repetitively assaulted by non-fact-based, character-smearing tactics’

Letter to the editor by Judi Sullivan of Benicia, October 23, 2020

‘This is the same PAC that infected our last election…’

Judi Sullivan, Benicia

As a Benicia resident, I find it disturbing to be repetitively assaulted by non-fact-based, character-smearing tactics showing up again in our city election via a well-funded, mass media/mailing PAC campaign. This is the same PAC that infected our last election with a series of lies slandering a well-qualified candidate. The PAC responsible for this behavior, titled, “Working Families for a Strong Benicia,” has The Valero Refinery listed as its main donor. The purpose of the PAC’s multiple forms of mass advertising is to support one candidate while at the same time, (flip side of the flyer), falsely slandering another for the position of our Benicia Mayor.

Do they feel their chosen candidate, Christina Strawbridge, is not capable of being elected on her own merits? Their desperate need to slam her opponent belies her own credibility. From an educated voter’s point of view, this ploy is disrespectful to both individuals.

The negative campaigning from our last election led to the citizen-suggested concept of creating a “Code of Ethics” among candidates for future city elections. Instigation of this code was adopted in response to the dirty politics we had just experienced.

Where is the accountability to this new “Code of Ethics” showing up in this election? What different, proactive responses are candidates taking to respond to the same debacle faced in 2018, prompting the need for this code? Some candidates running now, ( Steve Young, Christina Strawbridge and Tom Campbell), worked on creating this code.

So far, “Code of Ethics” credit is due to three current candidates who have chosen to take an active stand in response to the PAC’s repeatedly offensive negative modus operandi. They are Steve Young, along with Jason Diavatis, both of whom are running for Mayor, and Terry Scott for City Council. In addition, they offered alternative suggestions of more beneficial ways the PAC could support the needs of our city during these times of COVID & economic duress through the use of their abundant discretionary income. If interested, check out their quarter page newspaper ad in the Sunday, Oct. 11th edition of “The Benicia Herald.” These candidates are thanked for having the courage to publicly make a strong stand against dirty politics in our elections. I was hoping all of you would do so. If you took this stance repeatedly, dishonest negative politics could not be substantiated. Your continued collective outcry for lack of decency would undermine that game plan, no matter how much money went into the effort. As candidates, you have that power should you choose to use it. As citizens, we have that power, too.

The PAC referred to has knowingly overextended our city’s mandated contribution limits to run a campaign. No more than $34,200 per individual candidate is allowed to be raised by a campaign as regulated by our city’s election ordinance. This limit was set up for the purpose of keeping an even playing field where campaign financial contributions are concerned. However, over $200,00 this year has been spent so far by this PAC in support of Christina Strawbridge for Mayor. Last election she and Lionel Largaespada were funded by this same PAC. Needless to say, whomever the PAC supports has an unfair advantage financially and exposure-wise in the their attempt to “buy a seat(s)” in our city government.

Since 2010, when the CITIZENS UNITED National Mandate was formed, PAC’s have been enabled to contribute unlimited amounts to campaigns. Unfortunately, Federal Law super cedes our own city’s Election Ordinance Mandate. Although we cannot legally stop this influx of excess money from entering our elections, we can each voice our concerns for the inequity it creates by going against our local mandate. Under these circumstances, what is legal does not necessarily fall into the category of being ethical. I am also asking for ethical campaigning. For each candidate to stand up against obviously slanderous negative statements that are so offensive to most of us, regardless of whether it is denigrating our chosen candidate or another. It’s a despicable practice misrepresenting candidates.

I am requesting ALL candidates and funders of campaign strategies to focus on policy-based campaigning, using the foundation of facts, past and current experience
relevant to the position sought, along with accurate depictions of facets of the candidate’s character relating to the job they are seeking. What a refreshing change that would be!

Each of you can stand on your own merits. Do any of you really want to win based on maligned misinformation spread about your opponent? That is not a clean “win.” I hope each of you will step up by demonstrating the desire for a fair, honest election through consistent actions taken towards producing that goal. That may include daily repetitive comments to discount disreputable injustices propagated by surly ad campaigns. Each candidate, or preferably the candidates as a collective, can choose to demonstrate the strength and purpose of the newly formed “Code of Ethics.” Otherwise, this code is merely a collection of words on paper.

Respectfully submitted,
Judith S. Sullivan
41-year Benicia resident

Solano reports 37 new COVID cases and 2 new hospitalizations

[Source: Solano County Coronavirus Dashboard.  For a complete archive of day by day data, see my Excel ARCHIVE.]

Friday, October 23: 37 new cases overnight, no new deaths, 2 new hospitalizations.  Since the outbreak began: 7,286 cases, 423 hospitalized, 74 deaths.Compare previous report, Thursday, Oct. 22:Summary

  • Solano County reported 37 new cases overnight, total of 7,286 cases since the outbreak started.
  • Deaths – no new deaths today, total of 74 Solano deaths since the pandemic began.
  • Active cases – Solano reported 18 fewer ACTIVE cases today, total of 306.  Last week, Solano reported over 300 active cases for the first time since September 4, and we’re back to that level again this week.  Yesterday’s total of 324 was the highest since September 3.  Note that only 17 of these 306 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 offered no reports on contact tracing.
  • Hospitalizations – the number of currently hospitalized persons fell by 1 today, total of 17.  Total hospitalized rose from 421 yesterday to 423 today.  For manual calculation of total, see age group stats below.
  • ICU Bedsthe County reported a sharp decrease in ICU beds available yesterday, down from 39% to 29% and displaying in cautionary yellow.  TODAY the rate was back up to 35%(Still no information about availability of ventilators.)
  • Testing – The County reports today that 730 more residents were tested overnight, new total of 101,226.  (Solano has AVERAGED 522 tested per day over the last 3 weeks.)  We still have a long way to go; only 22.6% of Solano County’s 447,643 residents (2019) have been tested.  (And even less, considering that some individuals have been tested more than once.)

Positive Test Rate

Solano County reported today that our 7-day average test rate rose today from 4.9% to 5.2%.  Average percent positive test rates are among the best metrics for measuring the spread of the virus.  The much more stable California 7-day test rate rose slightly today, from 2.7% to 2.9%(Note that Solano County displays past weeks and months in a 7-day test positivity line graph 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 – 7 new cases today, total of 830 cases, representing 11.4% of the 7,286 total cases.  No new hospitalizations were reported among this age group today.  Thankfully, no deaths have ever been reported in Solano County in this age groupBut cases among Solano youth rose steadily over the summer, from 5.6% of total cases on June 8 to 11% on August 31 and has plateaued just over 11% since September 30, increasing to 11.4% for the first time this week.  Youth are 22% of Solano’s general population, so this 11.x% may seem low.  The significance is this: 1) youth numbers increased steadily and at a faster rate than the other age groups, and 2) youth are SERIOUSLY NOT IMMUNE (!) – in fact 7 youth have now been hospitalized.
  • Persons 18-49 years of age – 20 new cases today, total of 4,327 cases. This age group is 41% of the population in Solano, but represents 60% of the total cases, by far the highest percentage of all age groups.  The County reported 1 new hospitalization in this young age group today, total of 136 hospitalized since the outbreak began.  No new deaths in this group today, total of 5 deaths.  Some in this group are surely ignoring public health orders, and many are providing essential services among us.  I expect this group is a major factor in the spread of the virus.
  • Persons 50-64 years of age – 7 new cases today, total of 1,398 cases.  This age group represents over 19% of the 7,286 total cases. 1 new hospitalization was reported today, total of 116 hospitalized since the outbreak began.  No new deaths in this age group today, a total of 15 deaths.
  • Persons 65 years or older – 3 new cases today, total of 729.  This age group’s 729 cases represent 10% of the 7,286 total cases.
    No new hospitalizations were reported today, total of 164.  In this older age group, 22.5% of cases required hospitalization at one time.  No new deaths, total of 54 of our elders who died of COVID.  This group accounts for 54 of the 74 total deaths, or 73%.

City Data

  • Benicia remained steady today, total of 186 cases since the outbreak began.
  • Dixon added 1 new case today, total of 466 cases.
  • Fairfield added 7 new cases today, total of 2,364 cases.
  • Rio Vista remained steady today, total of 57 cases.
  • Suisun City added 5 new cases today, total of 532 cases.
  • Vacaville added 14 new cases today, total of 1,284 cases.
  • Vallejo added 10 new cases today, total of 2,374 cases.
  • Unincorporated areas remained steady today, total of 23 cases.

Race / Ethnicity

The County report on race / ethnicity includes case numbers, hospitalizations, deaths and Solano population statistics.  This information is discouragingly similar to national reports that indicate significantly worse outcomes among black and brown Americans.  Note that all of this data surely undercounts Latinx Americans, as there is a large group of “Multirace / Others” which likely is composed mostly of Latinx members of our communities.

  • Asian Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 10% of cases, 11% of hospitalizations, and 19% of deaths.
  • Black Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 11% of cases, but 18% of hospitalizations, and 24% of deaths.
  • Latinx Americans are 26% of Solano’s population, but account for 28% of cases, 29% of hospitalizations, and 18% of deaths.
  • White Americans are 39% of the population in Solano County, but only account for 22% of cases, 26% of hospitalizations and 30% of deaths.


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

Valero PAC – Expenditures of over $135,000 Sept 20 to Oct 17, now over $200K for the year

By Roger Straw, October 23, 2020

Valero Refinery’s commercial PAC, which is out to buy Benicia’s mayor’s seat in our 2020 election, filed its latest income and expenditure reports yesterday.

The reports are required by law and cover the period September 20 to October 17, as well as totals for 2020.

Form_460_Pre_Election_2.pdf shows income of $25,000 for the period, cash payments of $63,844 and unpaid bills of $71,275.  The form shows an ending balance of $173,779 as of October 17.

INCOME for the period September 20 to October 17
This period Year to date
Monetary Contributions (International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, forgers & Helpers Local 549) $25,000 $25,000
Total Contributions $25,000 $25,000
EXPENSES for the period September 20 to October 17
This period Year to date
Cash payments $63,844 $99,333
Accrued, unpaid bills $71,275 $101,567
TOTAL EXPENDITURES $135,119 $200,899
Current Cash Statement
Beginning Balance $212,623
Cash receipts $25,000
Cash payments $63,844
Ending Balance $173,779

The Valero PAC’s Form_465_2.pdf is a Supplemental Independent Expenditure Report.  This very important form carries detailed individual payments made to named companies for mailers, Facebook and other digital ads,  live phone calls and robocalls.  I must apologize for not presenting the information here.  The form is complicated, seems to overlap with previous reports, doesn’t total up accurately as far as I can tell, and so can’t be properly interpreted here.  Suffice to say, Valero has been busy spending tons of money to pick up the Benicia Mayor’s seat.  Check out their Form_465_2 on the City of Benicia website for details.