KQED: Texas refinery candidates win in Benicia City Council race

Repost from KQED News

Valero-Backed Candidates Win Benicia City Council Election

By Ted Goldberg, November 7, 2018
The Valero refinery in Benicia. (Craig Miller/KQED)

Two candidates backed by Texas-based Valero Energy Corp. won seats on the Benicia City Council in Tuesday’s election, while another candidate attacked by the large oil company lost.

Valero — which operates a refinery that’s one of Benicia’s largest employers — along with five state and local labor groups donated more than $165,000 to a political action committee that backed Christina Strawbridge and Lionel Largaespada and opposed Kari Birdseye, an environmentalist.

That amount is more than three times as much as what the candidates raised combined.

By Wednesday morning, Strawbridge got more than 33 percent of the vote, Largaespada garnered close to 30 percent and Birdseye received 26 percent, according to the Solano County Registrar of Voters. Those numbers don’t yet include all mail-in and provisional ballots.

Birdseye has conceded the election, but she expressed displeasure with the PAC’s actions.

“We ran a smart, clean campaign and played by the rules. These election results will only embolden special interests to throw in money to local races to buy candidates to do their dirty work,” Birdseye said in an emailed statement.

The Valero PAC’s ads called Birdseye “a yes man” for Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, and “another job killer” that was “bad for Benicia.”

Its work deepened a divide at City Hall and the rest of Benicia over the city’s relationship with its refinery neighbor, 18 months after the facility experienced a full power outage that led to a major release of pollution.

The Valero PAC’s work led to a failed attempt by Benicia city officials to get the state’s political watchdog to investigate some of Valero’s communication with voters weeks before the vote.

And it reminded critics of an effort by Chevron to sway voters in Richmond in 2014 when the company spent millions on an attempt to elect a slate of its allies to the City Council.

Strawbridge, who was previously on the council, emphasized that she did not support what she called the committee’s “smear campaign,” and said it’s time for the city to come together and improve its dealings with Valero.

“It’s been a tough election,” Strawbridge said in an interview Wednesday. “I ran on my own credentials, my own experience and I feel like that resonated with the residents.”

A Valero spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Last month the company wrote a letter to the editor at the Vallejo Times-Herald, emphasizing the refinery’s strong safety record and criticizing Mayor Patterson.

Union officials have said that Patterson’s criticism of Valero puts the city’s economic health at risk. And, since Birdseye was her ally and a spokeswoman for the National Resources Defense Council, she became the target of the PAC.

“Last night the voters of Benicia made it clear the path they want our city to take,” said Don Zampa, president of the District Council of Ironworkers, in an emailed statement. Zampa’s group is one of the those that donated to the PAC.

“Benicia is home to a blue-collar workforce. We’ve been here for generations and we are not going anywhere,” Zampa said.

Patterson, for her part, has said Valero tried to bully and buy its way into politics in Benicia. [Editor: see Mayor Patterson’s email comment to KQED.]

Largaespada did not respond to a request for comment.

    Oh please, not again… (32 mass shootings in California in 2018)

    By Roger Straw, November 8, 2018
    [See also, Gun Control Links, from last May.  – R.S.]

    Respectfully and profoundly, the Thousand Oaks, CA mass shooting is first and foremost about human lives, carnage, grieving, bullets and fear.

    THE NUMBERS aren’t nearly as staggering as the personal loss and our common grieving.  But the numbers tell the larger story of legislative and executive governmental inaction.  The numbers may not have the passion, but they have the fact-based, incontrovertible, insistent, deadly proof that sensible gun control in the U.S. is needed NOW and long overdue.

    California has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation.  And yet, California recorded 32 mass shootings in the first 312 days of 2018, one every 10 days.  49 individuals are dead with grieving families and friends.  Another 131 were injured.  (Mass shooting is defined here as 4 or more shot or killed, not including the shooter).

    Nationally in 2018 to date, there have been  307 mass shootings, (just shy of ONE EVERY DAY), killing 328 (OVER ONE A DAY) and injuring another 1251 (OVER FOUR EVERY DAY).

    These numbers are a call to action:

    Incident Date City Or County # Killed # Injured
    Source: gunviolencearchive.org/ (GVA defines mass shootings based on the numeric value of 4 or more shot or killed, not including the shooter.)
    7-Nov-18 Thousand Oaks 13 10
    2-Nov-18 Long Beach (North Long Beach) 0 4
    30-Oct-18 Vallejo 2 3
    30-Oct-18 Los Angeles 0 5
    29-Oct-18 Riverside 0 7
    14-Oct-18 Palo Alto (East Palo Alto) 2 2
    6-Oct-18 Oakland 0 6
    30-Sep-18 Compton 1 3
    23-Sep-18 Bakersfield 1 4
    23-Sep-18 Baldwin Park 0 4
    12-Sep-18 Bakersfield 6 0
    2-Sep-18 San Bernardino 0 8
    12-Aug-18 Clearlake 4 1
    11-Aug-18 San Francisco 1 4
    31-Jul-18 Gardena 2 3
    28-Jul-18 Los Angeles 2 4
    26-Jul-18 Oakland 2 2
    5-Jul-18 Los Angeles 3 3
    27-Jun-18 Oakland 1 3
    21-Jun-18 San Bernardino 1 3
    20-Jun-18 Modesto 0 5
    14-Jun-18 Union City 0 5
    14-Jun-18 Tracy 1 4
    10-Jun-18 Valley Village 0 6
    13-May-18 Stockton 3 2
    13-May-18 Los Angeles 2 2
    7-May-18 San Diego 0 5
    20-Apr-18 San Francisco 1 5
    9-Apr-18 Vallejo 0 4
    21-Mar-18 San Francisco 1 5
    12-Mar-18 Modesto 0 4
    27-Jan-18 Los Angeles 0 5
    TOTAL 49 131

    What do do?  Protest in the streets, phone and write our state and national elected officials.  Weep.  Try like mad to stay hopeful…

    Roger Straw
    Benicia, California

      Gun control links – renewed call to VOTE THEM OUT!

      By Roger Straw
      [Originally published in the spring of 2018 following the Parkland, FL mass shooting, republished here in November 2018 following mass shootings in Pittsburgh, PA and Thousand Oaks, CA.  – R.S.]

      School shootings and other mass murders will never stop until we elect new leaders who are willing to stand up to the NRA.  Below you will find links to organizations dedicated to ending gun violence.  Many are focusing on electing new leaders who stand for change.  Please click on at least one today – sign a petition, make a contribution, join or start a new group.  Renew your commitment to resist!


      Everytown For Gun Safety (everytown.org/throwthemout/)


      Guns Down America (gunsdownamerica.org/)

      States United to Prevent Gun Violence (ceasefireusa.org/)

      States United to Prevent Gun Violence

      Indivisible (indivisible.org)

      The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus (keepgunsoffcampus.org/)

      Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (lawcenter.giffords.org/take-action/)

      Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (csgv.org/)

      California & Benicia

      Bay Area Student Activists (bayareastudentactivists.org/)

      Bay Area Student Activists

      Benicia March For Our Lives (facebook.com/groups/529647794085732/)


      North Bay|#NEVERAGAIN (twitter.com/nbayNEVERAGAIN)

      North Bay|#NEVERAGAIN

      northbayneveragain (instagram.com/northbayneveragain/)

      Women Against Gun Violence (wagv.org/)

      Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, California Chapters (bradycampaign.org/)

      Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence logo

        For safe and healthy communities…