Repost from the Benicia Herald
[Editor: The Benicia Independent endorses Steve Young for City Council. Learn more about Steve’s campaign kickoff party this Friday, April 27, and RSVP here. – RS]
Planning Commissioner Steve Young will make bid for City Councilby Nick Sestanovich
Steve Young, a current member of Benicia’s Planning Commission, is looking to make the leap to City Council.
Young’s decision to run was partly influenced by the Council’s decision to delay Valero’s Crude-By-Rail Project rather than deny the refinery a permit to have its crude oil delivered by railroad rather than by boat.
The project was announced in 2013 and drew concerns from residents over its environmental impacts. On Feb. 11, the Planning Commission unanimously rejected a permit from Valero, but the company sent a letter of appeal to the city. City Council held hearings in April, and in a 3-2 decision, the hearings were delayed until September as Valero asks the Surface Transportation Board for a decision on the issue of federal pre-emption.
That was the final straw for Young, who had been considering a bid for City Council.
“I had a lot of people approaching me after the Planning Commission meetings, urging me to run,” he said. “I put off making a decision until I knew which way the Council was leaning, and once it became obvious which was the Council was leaning, I felt it was important for me to throw my hat in the ring and give people who were anxious about this project an alternative way to express their opposition.”
Young does not feel the project is necessary and proposes that the refinery just keep its delivery operation as is.
“Tankers, to me, are much safer, much less polluting and doesn’t require massive potential traffic problems that we already see happening down in the Industrial Park,” he said.
Young acknowledges the economic benefits of the project but feels the environmental risks are far greater.
“It increases their profits, but I think the tradeoff is too great to justify,” he said.
Young has a long history with politics, dating back to his tenure as student body president at his high school in Burbank. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science from UC Berkeley in 1973 and a master’s in urban policy and administration from San Francisco State. He served in various government management positions in California and Virginia and was also the community development director for the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency from 1999 to 2008. After his retirement from that position, he and his wife Marty moved to Costa Rica so that their daughter Cora could attend high school in a different culture. After Cora graduated in 2012, the Youngs moved back to Benicia where Steve was appointed to the Planning Commission that year. He says that being retired gave him a lot more time to research documents for the Crude-By-Rail Project.
“I had the time to dig through all those documents and do three years of research on it,” he said. “When the Planning Commission started on the Final Environmental Impact Report, I was well-prepared and I had three years’ worth of questions to ask.”
Young also proposes examining the Seeno project, which would construct a 528-acre business park development by East Second Street and Lake Herman Road.
“The idea of straight suburban-type development on that property is problematic for a lot of reasons,” he said. “I’d like to give that a close look.”
Young also supports transparency regarding the recent water and sewer rate increases, diversifying the Industrial Park and turning the Majestic Theatre on First Street into a live music venue to generate revenue for the city.
“Overall there is a challenge that the city is a full-service city, but it doesn’t have a lot of different ways to raise revenue,” he said. “They’re trying to serve a lot of functions with a limited source of money, and I think that’s something that’s going to have to be looked at going forward. Either raise your money or limit your cost, because it’s not sustainable the way it’s going.”
More information on Young’s campaign can be found at SteveYoungForCityCouncil.org. There will also be a campaign kickoff event from 5:50 to 9:30 p.m., Saturday, May 27 at Ruszel Woodworks, located at 2980 Bayshore Road. Food, drinks and live music will be provided. If you go, please RSVP to SteveYoungForCityCouncil@gmail.com.