Keeping Watch over Trump’s First 100 Days

This Friday, April 28, 5 PM
City Park, First & Military Streets

We are determined to organize, to keep watch, to remain vigilant, and to support one another in our efforts to resist authoritarian governance of our constitutional democracy. And so we gather again this Friday on the day before the Trump Administration’s 100th day.Several groups have sprung up in and around Benicia to resist: Benicia Resist, Benicia Indivisible for Justice, Vallejo-Benicia Indivisible, Progressive Democrats of Benicia, and Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community. Members of each will be in attendance. See links below.

Please share this invitation with friends and family, bring signs and banners, and prepare to have your discouragement and anxieties transformed into purpose and strength in the warmth and insight of our hopeful community of Benicia progressives.Bring information about groups you are working with.
Connect with others who are taking action.
Bring signs and banners

Trump most successful in limiting science research and reversing environment protectionsA San Francisco Chronicle analysis confirms our worst impressions of Trump’s first 100 days. Much has been made of the ineffectiveness of his many posturing executive orders.  But he and his cronies are making real inroads against clean air and on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. This is important!  MORE on BenIndy:

A few good local organizing links:

JOIN us at the vigil on Friday, April 28 and SHARE on

We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, [at] the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us.
– Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967

PREVIOUSLY (Past Events):


PLEASE JOIN ME ON INAUGURATION DAY: Stay vigilant, speak out!

RDS_2015-06-21_200pxFriends – Watching President Obama’s farewell speech with family and friends, we were so moved. We agreed that we should gather locally as citizen activists to mark the day of the inauguration with a commitment to keep vigilant about our constitution and democratic values. We need to live out our concern about the future, and hold up significant issues during and after this inauguration.

We will gather briefly in City Park, sing This Land Is Your Land, reflect on democracy, maybe hold up a few signs on issues of respect for Muslims, women, immigrants and people of color – and we will remember other issues that have arisen of late.  Bring a sign with a message if you want – and/or a small U.S. flag.  Please plan to attend.

So far there are about 2 dozen who have said they will attend the Benicia Inauguration Day Vigil (details below).  I expect many more of you will show up without signing the Facebook event page (

Roger Straw
The Benicia Independent



Friday, January 20, 9 AM, First & Military

we the people const flag

On Friday, January 20, Donald Trump will take the oath of office. He will pledge as President to “preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States of America.”

facebook-button-join-event_176At 9 a.m. on Friday, January 20 (as the new president takes the oath of office, noon EST) a group will join in a vigil at City Park in Benicia. Please come!  This inauguration day vigil will be an affirmation of the constitutional conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And it will mark our commitment to remain vigilant in these matters.

As President Barack Obama reminded us in his farewell address, “It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: citizen.”




Council heard public comments on April 4 and 6, and will be open to additional spoken comments on Monday, April 18.  Your written comments are welcome between now and the close of comments. Council is likely to conclude public comments during the meeting on April 18 and begin deliberations. A vote could occur that night, or on a final scheduled meeting the next night, Tuesday, April 19.  All meetings are at 7pm at City Hall. Plan to attend all if you can – we want to show our strong opposition to these dirty and dangerous oil trains. THIS IS THE FINAL SERIES OF HEARINGS – IMPORTANT!

To send a letter to the City, see our TAKE ACTION page.

PREVIOUSLY… (now outdated info)



For now, we know this (check for updates later):

  • Benicia City Council began hearing Valero’s appeal of the Planning Commission’s unanimous denial of Crude by Rail on Tuesday, March 15 at 7pm at City Hall, 250 East L St.  City staff, the Planning Commission and Valero made presentations and Council members raised questions.
  • Valero surprised everyone at the March 15 hearing by asking for a delay in the hearings while it submits a petition to the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB), requesting a declarative action regarding preemption. Valero and City staff have agreed on an unsettled interpretation of federal law that prevents local, regional and state governments from taking action to regulate rail operations. Opposing attorneys have pointed out that the City has every right (and responsibility) to regulate a refinery.  Valero is not a railroad, and the health and safety of Benicia, Benicia’s Industrial Park, and consideration for communities uprail from Benicia are protected under Benicia’s General Plan, Municipal Code and California law. Valero’s delay tactic is being characterized as unnecessary interference in local politics.
  • Council set dates for continuing public hearings: Monday, April 4, Wednesday, April 6, Monday, April 18 and Tuesday, April 19, all at 7pm at City Hall.  Note that these dates for public hearings are NOT CONSECUTIVE EVENINGS as was the case in previous hearings.   Plan to attend them all if you can.  Please attend to show our strong opposition to these dirty and dangerous oil trains.  THIS IS THE FINAL SERIES OF HEARINGS – IMPORTANT!
  • Sign the petition if you haven’t already done so.
  • Write to Benicia’s City Council members.  Send your email to City Planner Amy Million at  Be sure to note that your comments are “for the public record on Valero Crude By Rail.”
  • Benicians For a Safe and Healthy Community needs your help. Please go to their Facebook page and their website,

Update on February 12:
Thank you to all who have helped over the last 3 years in opposing Valero Benicia Refinery’s dangerous and dirty Crude by Rail proposal.  Last night, the Benicia Planning Commission UNANIMOUSLY voted the project down!
     The Benicia Independent is getting viewer numbers off the charts after this incredible good news.
     We’re all exhausted from the effort, exhilarated by the outcome, and ready to take up the next challenge: an almost certain appeal by the refinery to Benicia’s City Council. There’s work yet to be done, and your support will continue to be critical – stay tuned!


PREVIOUSLY (now outdated info):

Evite_Tell_BeniciaRSVP – Yes, I will attend the Feb. 8 Commission Hearing.  Click here.

Sign here!

Over 1500 have already signed the Safe Benicia petition.  Let’s hit 2000 today! Click the image above, or email us at

A FOURTH PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING has been called for TONIGHT, THURSDAY, FEB. 11, 6:30pm.  Public comment is now closed, but it will be just as important to fill the chamber with concerned residents and regional support.  Be there if you can!  Arrive early to get a seat in Council Chambers.

Tonight, the first portion of the meeting will be given over to City staff and consultants.  According to Community Development Director Christina Ratcliffe, City staff will begin by discussing new materials given to Commissioners last night.  City Attorney Heather McLaughlin, notably absent during Commission procedings to date, was observed midway through the evening Wednesday delivering a huge stack of documents, presumably for Commissioners’ review.  It stands to reason that these documents will have further comments and instructions having to do with federal “preemption.”

City staff will also take time in the opening portion of tonight’s meeting to answer questions put to staff previously during the hearings, to which staff had responded that they would need to “look into it.”

Commissioners will no doubt interact with staff with further questions and clarifications, so it is likely Commissioners will not move into their final deliberations until – anybody’s guess – an hour or two (or three or four) go by.  Those deliberations and final statements are likely to take some time as well.  Director Ratcliffe advised Commissioners to bring their calendars to Thursday’s meeting, in case they need to schedule yet another continuation at a “date certain.”


Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community has been waging a critical fossil-fuel expansion battle virtually alone. Now it’s crunch time! We MUST stand with them!

On Monday and Tuesday nights, we witnessed history in the making. In an act of citizen heroism, Benicia Planning Commissioners directed pointed question after pointed question to City Staff, contract attorneys, paid consultants and Valero executives.  At critical moments, consultants couldn’t even defend their own report and some in the audience were heard to whisper “shame on you.” The hearing will continue tonight and quite possibly Thursday night.

Valero’s control over the city of Benicia is pervasive and pernicious. This battle has national and global ramifications. We need to turn out in force to encourage the Planning Commission to vote down Valero’s dirty crude proposal.

Sure, attending a meeting at Benicia City Hall at 6pm is inconvenient. But really, is this about us and our comfort level? We’re in a war for the soul of our community, our country and our planet.

Are you in?

Where: Benicia City Council Chambers | 250 East L St. Benicia
When: Arrive by 5:00 if you want a seat in the CC Chambers.
More info:


After nearly 3 years of strong local and regional opposition and warnings from a host of experts and officials, Valero’s reckless proposal is going to the Benicia Planning Commission for final hearings and a vote.  Our city staff has actually recommended approval!  YOU are needed! Plan now to attend.  Bodies count, even if you don’t speak at the event!

Where:   Benicia City Council Chambers | 250 East L St. Benicia
When:     Feb. 8, gather at 5:00pm, hearings start 6:30pm
PETITION:  Over 1300 of you have already signed the Safe Benicia petition.  If you have not yet signed, please do so now.  Go to  Add your personal comments or just push the button.

The City has UPDATED it’s “sign-up to speak” policy:

  1. After 8:30am on Feb. 2, you may PHONE in your request to speak at the public hearing: 707) 746-4280.
  2. You may sign up yourself AND family members or friends who are unable to be present to sign up.
  3. You don’t even need to give your name, address, etc.

PLAN AHEAD: There will very likely be AT LEAST TWO EVENINGS of hearings.  Set aside time on Tuesday and/or Wednesday in case you don’t get to speak on Monday.  See details below about additional meetings.  Many of us will attend each night, in anticipation of Commissioners’ final comments and the vote.


ADDITIONAL MEETINGS are scheduled to hear public comment on Tuesday, February 9, Wednesday, February 10, and Thursday, February 11, 2016, all at 6:30 pm. These meetings will be held only as needed. If all public comment is provided and the Planning Commission takes action, the agenda item will be closed and the additional meeting(s) will be cancelled.

The City is instituting a sign up system in order to speak during the public hearings. According to the City’s website, you will be “allowed to speak in order of sign up. Sign ups will be available on the day of the meeting(s) from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Community Development Department. If you are unable to come in person, please call 707-746-4280 to be added to the list. At the hearing, please go to the sign up table just outside of the Council Chambers. Your name will be called in the order in which you signed up. You do not have to sign up in order to speak.  However, you will not be called on until those who have signed up have spoken.  In order to accommodate the public, we have arranged for overflow rooms in City Hall with the hearing streaming for you to view and listen. You can also view the event live from the City’s website.”



NOTE: All speakers were heard at the first Planning Commission hearing on Tues., Sept 29, so all previously scheduled additional hearings have been cancelled.  No hearings on Sept. 30, Oct. 1 and Oct. 8.

6:30 P.M., City Hall, Council Chambers
Arrive at 5:30pm to get a seat!

A Revised (and recirculated) Draft EIR on Valero Crude-By-Rail was released for public review and comment on August 31, 2015.  On that date, we began an all-too- brief 60-day public comment period (ending on October 30).  The City of Benicia welcomes your questions and concerns.  A formal public hearing on Valero’s proposal and the RDEIR will convene at the Planning Commission’s Tuesday, September 29, 2015 meeting, 6:30pm, City Hall.  BE THERE at 5:30pm to get a seat!  Check out these RESOURCES for how to read and how to write and/or comment on Valero’s DEIR.   Also, you can go to Forest Ethics’ sign-on page to easily and quickly send your concerns to the City of Benicia.

RSVP to attend the Planning Commission’s 9/29 public hearing on Facebook: Stop Crude By Rail!

NOTE: It is important to attend this September 29 meeting, but if you can’t, there is another hearing scheduled for Wednesday, September 30, also at 6:30pm in City Hall.  The City has pledged to hold additional hearings until all are heard, but additional meetings are not guaranteed. 

Benicia Torchlight Parade
Friday, July 3, 5:30pm, East B Street

USflag02(sm)Benicia’s Independence Day parade stretches along First Street and includes dancers, floats, clowns, entertainment – and again this year, our own passionate call for health and safety in Benicia.  Join us on Friday, July 3, 2015, 5:30 pm, as we march in the annual Benicia Torchlight Parade to stop oil trains in Benicia, California!  Gather at the east end of East B Street, just outside the Marina office.

For the past two years, local and regional citizens have been fighting to stop the Benicia Valero Refinery’s proposal to  transport 100 cars of explosive crude daily from the Bakken Fracking Fields of North Dakota.  So far, we have been able to hold off this dangerous and foolish project.  But we need your help for the final push!

Honoring the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and it’s rallying cry to end tyrannical rule, we are marching in the parade to let the politicians sitting in the viewing stand know that this project is unacceptable!

No more exploding trains. No more tar sands. No more Bakken.  No more Climate Catastrophe!  March with us on July 3, 2015, a truly effective way of getting our message to those who need to hear it!

Please tell us you are coming on the Facebook Event page(RSVP definitely NOT required!)

…This event is part of nationwide Stop Oil Train WEEK OF ACTION, commemorating Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, where 47 dear ones lost their lives following a Bakken Bomb Train explosion.

Refinery Corridor Healing Walk Benicia to Rodeo, Saturday, June 20
Refinery Corridor Healing Walk Martinez to Benicia, Sunday, May 17

Next walk date:
Sunday, July 19: Rodeo to Richmond

(For more information, see below and go to

PAST EVENT: May 7, 2015 – Another Oil Train Just Exploded!
Rally for Awareness.  Oil train explosion in Heimdal, North Dakota on May 6, 2015.  Don’t let this happen in Benicia … or anywhere uprail of Benicia on account of Benicia!  (Story below.)

Another Oil Train Just Exploded - Heimdal ND.  Rally in City Park, Benicia CA, May 7, 2015
Another Oil Train Just Exploded – Heimdal ND. Rally in City Park, Benicia CA, May 7, 2015. Photo: Chris Riley — Vallejo Times-Herald

In March 2015, the Steering Committee of Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community (BSHC) adopted a Plan for the Day After the Next BIG ONE.   When news broke on May 6 of the derailment and explosion in Heimdal, North Dakota, the plan was implemented.  On the day of the explosion, members hastily sent out email invitations to the media and to the extensive BSHC mailing list, calling for a Rally for Awareness on the “Day After.”

In the evening of May 6, Benicia residents gathered an created a huge banner reading, “Another Oil Train Just Exploded!  Don’t Let This Happen In Benicia!”

Banner - Awareness after derailment and explosion in Heimdal, ND, May 6, 2015
Banner – Awareness after derailment and explosion in Heimdal, ND, May 6, 2015

May 7 was a Wednesday, so the short-notice turnout was light.  Still, 21 of us gathered in City Park on a weekday morning, and two news media reps showed up.  BSHC spokesperson Andrés Soto spoke, as did Marilyn Bardet and several rally attendees.  Passing cars honked and gave thumbs-up, pedestrians stopped to talk and to offer encouragement and thanks.  The photo above appeared in the Vallejo Times-Herald.

STAY TUNED – regrettably, there will be another Next Big One.  The Plan for the Day After will undoubtedly need to be exercised again in coming weeks or months.  To be added to BSHC’s email notification list, go to

PAST EVENT: Community Forum & Update, Jan. 18, 2015
Speakers Antonia Juhasz, Diane Bailey, Marilyn Bardet, Andrés Soto.
Click here for VIDEO OF FORUM SPEAKERS (Many thanks to Constance Beutel!)

    • Learn more about Valero’s crude by rail project and how it might affect Benicia residents at a Community Informational Forum on Sunday, January 18, 2015, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at the Benicia Public Library, 150 East L Street, Doña Benicia Room. The Forum is sponsored by Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community (BSHC), a grassroots organization advocating responsible environmental action and currently working to STOP crude by rail in Benicia.
    • You’ll hear from guest speakers:
      • Antonia Juhasz, oil and energy analyst, award-winning author and investigative journalist, and
      • Diane Bailey, Senior Scientist in the Health and Environment Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
    • Members of BSHC will also provide an update on our work.
      • Marilyn Bardet will discuss the history and status of the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR).
      • Andrés Soto will discuss the local, regional and cumulative impacts of transporting crude oil by rail. There will be plenty of time for questions, discussion and brainstorming.
    • Join and share this event on Facebook:
    • For more information about the Community Forum or BSHC, please call (707) 742-3597, or email info@SafeBenicia.  For more information about Valero Crude by Rail check out  SafeBenicia.orgOf course, you can find lots of info here on


The Public Comment period on Valero’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) closed on Monday, September 15.  Your voice is important!  Take Action TODAY to learn more, to get a yard sign, or write a letter.  To learn more, read Project Documents, Project Reviews.  Then go to Take Action for how-to.  More Resources on


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