Silent Spring in Benicia? City and school officials respond, activists call for ban

“Silent Spring in Benicia” – Progressive Dems of Benicia Forum on local glyphosate use and disuse

By Pat Toth-Smith, June 13, 2019

(Repost from

“As we move away from herbicides things are going to look shabby at first until we figure it out,” stated Alfredo Romero, Benicia Unified School District (BUSD) Maintenance Director.  He also added, we’ve stopped using Roundup and we’re moving towards more natural approaches.”  He cited goats as an example.

Stopping herbicide use was a common theme voiced by many of the speakers at the Tuesday night “Silent Spring” forum in Benicia held at the library, and sponsored by the Progressive Democrats of Benicia.

Romero worked with Lee Johnson, the former BUSD employee who won a historic lawsuit against Monsanto, when a jury agreed that his exposure to Roundup on the job was the cause of his lethal, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  Romero said, “I remember when Lee was starting to get ill and didn’t want to spray the weed killer.  We supported him in not doing it anymore….  I don’t ever want what happened to Lee to happen again,” He said at the end of his talk, “It will take a community effort to stop using chemicals, because using the herbicides are cheaper, and we need to have an increased tolerance for weeds.”

Theron Jones, Benicia Parks Supervisor, reported that Roundup is not being used by the city Parks staff and that they are moving towards an integrated pest management approach.  He said, “We never apply herbicides to playgrounds. The only places we apply herbicides to control weeds are in tree wells, planter beds and along fence lines.”  Asked about what herbicides are used, he continued,” We use the emergent weed killers sparingly, and what is applied includes Gallery S.C., Dimension Ultra, Finale, and Vastlan.”

One of the featured speakers at the forum was Kat Furey, a Client Advocate for the law firm which provided legal support for the Roundup non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma clients.  She spoke about the dangers of “glyphosate,“ the main ingredient in Roundup.  She cited the World Health Organizations’ International Agency for Research on Cancer’s declaration that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, and noted that at this time three California courts have agreed, and awarded billions of dollars in damages to plaintiffs.  She continued, “Besides the cancer connection, glyphosate is also an endocrine disrupter, a neurotoxin, and a genotoxin, and there is no safe level of glyphosate.”  She said that it should have a warning label.   She encouraged eating organic foods as the main way to avoid glyphosates.  GMO foods have the Roundup ready gene in it to prevent the GMO plant from dying when sprayed.  Roughly 85% of our food supply contains some level of glyphosates in them as a result.

The final speaker was Makenzie Feldman, founder of Herbicide-Free UC.  She said she became an activist when groundskeepers at UC Berkeley beach volley ball courts were spraying herbicides to kill weeds in the vicinity of where her team practiced.  She and her teammates were worried about the dangers of Roundup, and so struck a deal to pull the weeds out by hand themselves. She educated herself about glyphosates and wrote an op-ed piece for the newspaper, which attracted like-minded students.  Eventually a temporary ban by the U.C. Regents on Roundup at UC Berkeley was achieved.  Ms. Feldman now is working to make the ban permanent, and has partnered with the group, “Beyond Pesticides,” to train the U.C. groundskeepers in organic methods of pest control.  These include methods to return microbial life to the soil, which naturally helps control weeds.  She also organized student volunteers to pull weeds and mulch soils to help control weeks, but added, “People need to learn to accept some weeds.”


    225 California elected officials call on Gov. Newsom to phase out all fossil fuel production

    By Elected Officials to Protect California (EOPC), June 5, 2019
    [Scroll down for full page ad from today’s Sacramento Bee.]

    “The era of reliance on dangerous and polluting fossil fuels must end, and California will lead the way.”

    More than 225 elected officials from 41 counties representing more than 16 million Californians agree.

    Governor Newsom,

    Please join us in protecting our climate, communities, and health. We call on you to:

    1. Place a moratorium on new oil and gas well permits and other new fossil fuel projects.
    2. Develop a plan to phase-out all fossil fuel production and immediately halt drilling within 2,500 feet of homes, schools, hospitals, playgrounds, and farms.
    3. Invest in a Just Transition to 100% clean, renewable energy to support communities, families, and workers.


    …signed by over 225 California elected officials …

    Paid for by Elected Officials to Protect California
    Learn more and view the full letter at


      UPDATE: 8 more Democratic presidential candidates sign 2020 WE ARE INDIVISIBLE PLEDGE

      By Roger Straw, June 5, 2019
      [UPDATE: As of June 5th, 17 of the 24 Democratic presidential candidates have signed!  – R.S.]

      I first highlighted the 2020 We Are Indivisible Pledge on these pages on May 6.  At that time, 7 Dem presidential candidates had quickly taken the pledge (Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Harris, Inslee, Sanders and Warren).

      As of June 5, 17 of the current 24 declared candidates have signed on. 

      Signed the Pledge: Booker, Bullock, Buttigieg, Castro, Delaney, Gillibrand, Harris, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Klobuchar, Moulton, O’Rourke, Ryan, Sanders, Swalwell, Warren and Williamson.

      Yet to sign the pledge: Bennet, Biden, de Blasio, Gabbard, Gravel, Messam and Yang.

      IMPORTANT: Regular folks like you and me are also asked to sign the Indivisible 2020 We are Indivisible Pledge. (You can sign here:

      We must defeat Donald Trump. The first step is a primary contest that produces a strong Democratic nominee. The second step is winning the general election. We will not accept anything less. To ensure this outcome, I pledge to: 1) Make the primary constructive. 2) Rally behind the winner. 3) Do the work to beat Trump.

      For more info, see below.

      Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent

      Indivisible press release:  


      April 25, 2019

      Washington, DC — The Indivisible Project today unveiled its 2020 “We are Indivisible” pledge that asks Democratic presidential candidates and grassroots Indivisible groups to commit to a constructive primary, backing the eventual Democratic presidential nominee and working to defeat Trump in November.

      “Democrats do not need to choose between creating space for a healthy primary debate and taking back the White House in 2020. Indivisible’s pledge invites candidates and grassroots leaders to join together in rejecting that false choice, and recognizing that those two goals support each other,” Indivisible’s national political director María Urbina said. “As a progressive movement, we are united in our commitment to a robust primary that elevates the best ideas, and to winning in November 2020.”

      As a demonstration of unity, Indivisibles and others will be hosting 2020 unity kickoff events across the country on the weekend after the Democratic National Convention, which they can begin registering now at

      “We believe in rigorous and spirited primaries, and we also know that once we have a nominee, our entire focus must turn to defeating Trump. The “We Are Indivisible” Pledge commits all of us to a debate of ideas followed by dedicated work to make our ideas reality,” Indivisible’s co-executive directors Leah Greenberg and Ezra Levin said. “This pledge is about beating Donald Trump and the anti-democratic, xenophobic right wing. And it’s about the ideas and vision we need for a post-Trump future.”

      The “We Are Indivisible” 2020 Pledge builds on the success of Indivisible’s 2018 midterm endorsement program. To seek the Indivisible Project’s endorsement in a primary, every candidate and every endorsing local Indivisible group had to affirm that they’d endorse the ultimate Democratic primary winner and work hard to elect them. This model empowered Indivisible groups to elevate progressive challengers, including freshman standouts like Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It also positioned Indivisible groups to serve as unifying forces after the primary, rallying progressives together to knock doors and flip seats across the country.

      Below is the full pledge language:

      The “We Are Indivisible” Pledge

      We must defeat Donald Trump. The first step is a primary contest that produces a strong Democratic nominee. The second step is winning the general election. We will not accept anything less. To ensure this outcome, I pledge to:


      1. Make the primary constructive. We’ll make the primary election about our hopes for the future, and a robust debate of values, vision and the contest of ideas. We’ll remain grounded in our shared values, even if we support different candidates.
      2. Rally behind the winner. We’ll support the ultimate Democratic nominee, whoever it is—period. No Monday morning quarterbacking. No third-party threats.
      3. Do the work to beat Trump. We’re the grassroots army that’s going to power the nominee to victory, and we’ll show up to make calls, knock doors, and do whatever it takes.


      1. Make the primary constructive. I’ll respect the other candidates and make the primary election about inspiring voters with my vision for the future.
      2. Rally behind the winner. I’ll support the ultimate Democratic nominee, whoever it is—period. No Monday morning quarterbacking. No third-party threats. Immediately after there’s a nominee, I’ll endorse.
      3. Do the work to beat Trump. I will do everything in my power to make the Democratic Nominee the next President of the United States. As soon as there is a nominee, I will put myself at the disposal of the campaign.

      # # #


      The Indivisible Project is a registered 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Our mission is to cultivate and lift up a grassroots movement of local groups to defeat the Trump agenda, elect progressive leaders, and realize bold progressive policies. Across the nation, thousands of local groups are using the Indivisible Guide to hold their members of Congress accountable. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.


        For safe and healthy communities…