Tag Archives: Benicia City Council

Benicia City Council free to meet electronically – Newsom issues new COVID-19 Brown Act Orders

Newsom Issues Three COVID-19 Brown Act Orders: Here’s What He Urgently Changed

Meyers Nave Law Firm, (from an email by Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson)

Governor Newsom recently signed three Executive Orders that changed fundamental limitations and requirements of the Brown Act. He signed Executive Order N-25-20 on March 12, Executive Order N-29-20 on March 17, and Executive Order N-35-20 on March 21. Before everyone had figured out the section of the March 12 order that addressed the Brown Act, parts of that section were withdrawn and superseded by the March 17 order and the remaining parts continued in the March 17 order. And then the March 21 order made more changes – all of which relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Executive Orders’ Brown Act changes are outlined below.

Join Our Webinar: Meyers Nave Principals Eric S. Casher and Richard D. Pio Roda will provide a webinar from 12:00-1:00 PM on March 31 to explain how the Executive Orders change the Brown Act. They will also share practical advice about how to implement the changes and conduct public meetings in the new COVID-19 environment. This webinar has been approved for 1 hour of MCLE credit by the State Bar of California. Meyers Nave, a Professional Law Corporation, is a MCLE licensed provider. PN #10416

Summary of Brown Act Changes

Executive Order N-29-20, March 17 (incorporates Executive Order N-25-20, March 12)

What’s the Big Change?
  • Waives certain requirements for teleconference meetings
  • Eliminates physical meeting location within the jurisdiction if there is a teleconference meeting
  • Simplifies notice and accessibility requirements
  • Waives numerous Brown Act requirements

N-29-20 allows local legislative or state bodies to hold public meetings via teleconference without having to provide a physical location from which members of the public may observe the meeting and offer public comment, as long as members of the public are allowed to observe and address the meeting telephonically or otherwise electronically, subject to specified notice and accessibility requirements.

Less Restrictive Teleconference Rules:
  • Physical presence of members of the legislative body or of the public are not required as a condition of participation in or quorum for a public meeting
  • Notice is not required of each teleconference location from which a member will be participating in a public meeting
  • Teleconference location does not have to be accessible to the public
  • The possibility of members of the public addressing the body at each teleconference conference location is not required
  • Agendas do not have to be posted at all teleconference locations
  • During teleconference meetings, at least a quorum of the members of the legislative body are not required to participate from locations within the boundaries of the territory over which the legislative body exercises jurisdiction
Notice and Accessibility Requirements:
  • Have and advertise (each time meeting notice is given) a procedure for receiving and swiftly resolving requests for a reasonable accommodation from individuals with disabilities, consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Provide advance notice of the time of, and post the agenda for, each public meeting according to the timeframes prescribed by the Brown Act. Include the means by which members of the public may observe the meeting and offer public comment.

Executive Order N-35-20, March 21

What’s the Big Change?
  • Allows serial or simultaneous updates about a declared emergency
  • Allows members of legislative body to ask questions during updates
  • Allows updates and questions without the public’s access or attendance

N-35-20 allows all members of a legislative body to receive updates (“including, but not limited to, simultaneous updates”) from federal, state and local officials relevant to the declared emergency (“including, but not limited to, updates concerning the impacts of COVID-19, the government response to COVID-19, and other aspects relevant to the declared emergency”).

What’s Allowed:

Members may ask questions of those federal, state and local officials who provide the updates in order to stay apprised of emergency operations and the impact the emergency has on their constituents.

What’s Not Allowed:

Members may not take action on, or discuss amongst themselves, any item of business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body without complying with otherwise-applicable requirements of the Brown Act.

Of Note:

Executive Order N-35-20 states that members of a legislative body may “receive updates” and “ask questions,” but they may not “discuss amongst themselves” nor may they “take action.” While the meaning of taking action is clear, when receiving updates members should be cautious not to discuss information, especially the answers to the questions that they ask. If the topic of a question feels like it will lead to a topic of a discussion then the communication should be deferred to a future Brown Act compliant meeting. Questions that only clarify are likely to be the most appropriate questions. While the update does not have to be brief, it should be conducted similar to a traditional press briefing or task force briefing, which are typically designed only to inform or educate.

Benicia City Council to ratify emergency proclamation

UPDATE: An emergency “virtual” Benicia City Council meeting was held on March 19.  The procedings are available in audio only on the City’s website.
See also “Benicia City Council “virtual meeting” Thurs 3/19, public can watch but cannot attend

Benicia City Council to ratify emergency proclamation on Thursday

Vallejo Times-Herald, by John Glidden, March 18, 2020 at 3:28 p.m. 

BENICIA — The City Council has called an emergency meeting Thursday to ratify a proclamation of local emergency and conduct other essential city business amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

City Hall canceled the council’s regular meeting scheduled for Tuesday over fears of spreading the novel coronavirus.

Councilors will be asked to ratify City Manager Lorie Tinfow’s March 15 proclamation declaring a local emergency in the city of Benicia. Council ratification is required within seven days after a proclamation is announced.

The proclamation allows Benicia to seek reimbursement funds, and further allow “the city to enact regulations and orders to assist in responding to COVID-19 pandemic,” a city staff report states.

The five-person council will also decide three other issues, including a $47,500 contract with Chabin Concepts for on-call economic development services to implement various action plans for the Benicia Industrial Park Vision 2020 Plan, the 2015 Benicia Industrial Park Marketing Plan, the 2012 Business Development Action Plan, and assist in organizing the 2020 Clean Tech Expo.

They will also decide on approving a task order with Coastland Civil Engineering, Inc. for construction inspection services of the Bayshore Road/ East J and K Streets Sewer Improvement Project at a not-to-exceed cost of $85,195, and adopt a resolution approving a task order with Cullen-Sherry & Associates, Inc. for professional engineering services to design the Bayshore Road sewer lateral crossovers at a not-to-exceed cost of $18,500.

City officials say the general public may still attend the meeting in person by they are urging individuals not to do so. Officials say the public can view the meeting online or via television.

“As always, the public may submit public comments in advance and may view the meeting from home,” officials said.

Comments submitted prior to 3 p.m. Thursday will be presented to the council and included in the public record for the meeting, city officials said. Comments can be submitted to Benicia City Clerk Lisa Wolfe, lwolfe@ci.benicia.ca.us.

The Benicia City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, inside the Benicia City Hall Council Chambers, Benicia City Hall, 250 East L St.

How to Watch the Meeting:
1) Cable T.V. Broadcast on Channel 27
2) Livestream online at www.ci.benicia.ca.us/agendas.

How to Submit Public Comments:
Comments submitted by 3:00 p.m. prior to the commencement of the meeting will be presented to the City Council and included in the public record for the meeting. Comments can be submitted by email to lwolfe@ci.benicia.ca.us.


Benicia City Council adds “virtual meeting” Thurs 3/19, public can watch but cannot attend

UPDATE: An emergency “virtual” Benicia City Council meeting was held on March 19.  The procedings are available in audio only on the City’s website.

See below for how you can participate

The City of Benicia cancelled its regular meeting on Tuesday, March 17, and then called a special meeting for Thursday evening, March 19.  When the agenda was first made available to the public, it seemed that “virtual” attendance was optional, and that the Council chambers would be open for Council members and the public.  But a revised agenda makes clear that the meeting will not take place in any physical space:

Benicia City Hall, 250 East L Street
March 19, 2020 6:00 PM
Coronavirus (Covid-19) Advisory Notice

The Solano County Public Health Department has advised that non-essential gatherings should be canceled, postponed, or done remotely. Additional information is available at solanocounty.com/depts/ph/ncov.asp.

This meeting is necessary so that the City can continue to conduct its business and is considered an essential gathering. Consistent with Executive Orders No. 25-20 and No. 29-20 from the Executive
Department of the State of California, the meeting will not be physically open to the public. Members of the City Council and staff will participate in this meeting via teleconferencing as permitted under Executive Orders No. 25-20 and No. 29-20.

As always, the public may submit public comments in advance and may view the meeting from home.

Below is information on how to watch the meeting via cable and/or live stream and how to send in public comments that will be part of the public record.

How to Watch the Meeting:
1) Cable T.V. Broadcast on Channel 27
2) Livestream online at www.ci.benicia.ca.us/agendas.

How to Submit Public Comments:
Comments submitted by 3:00 p.m. prior to the commencement of the meeting will be presented to the City Council and included in the public record for the meeting. Comments can be submitted by email to lwolfe@ci.benicia.ca.us.


My thoughts on possible District Voting in Benicia

By Roger Straw, January 17, 2020
Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent

On Tuesday January 21, Benicia’s City Council will consider a proposal to change our electoral process from At-Large voting for Council candidates to four newly-defined small geographical districts.  Benicia citizens need to pay attention to this – it may sound ok, but consider…

I think our ability to join forces against the massive and mean-spirited outside corporate influences we saw in our 2018 election would be immeasurably weakened by adoption of district voting.

In 2018, a PAC funded by Valero Services and organized labor spent over $200,000 to smear and defeat Council candidate Kari Birdseye.  (See below for background.)  A similar campaign was waged against candidate Elizabeth Patterson in 2007.

A Council campaign funded and run in a small Benicia district would not be capable of standing up to limitless corporate PAC money.  And Benicia is way too small to be divided into four districts capable of finding and supporting multiple competitive candidates across the political spectrum.

In many cities, district voting makes sense as a measure to strengthen and empower concentrated minority groups.  Note that I am decidedly in FAVOR of empowering minority voting strength, especially when it comes to racial and ethnic minorities.  Most of us would agree.  But Benicia’s racial and ethnic mix is not concentrated in any linear district – so district voting would do absolutely nothing to advance minority voting strength.

What about other sub-groups in geographically defined parts of Benicia?

Our Southampton hills 1) is already represented by Mr. Largaespada, 2) could have elected Kari Birdseye as a Southampton neighbor if she hadn’t been targeted and smeared, and 3) had Mark Hughes as a resident Council member for years.  I’m guessing Southampton probably had a few more Council members going back before my time.

A case CAN probably be made that Benicia’s East Side has been underrepresented over the years – but district voting would create more problems than it would fix for Eastsiders.  IMPORTANT: How could an underfunded campaign in a smaller population on the East side possibly put up a fight against Valero and organized labor?!

CORRECTION: A kind reader has pointed out that current Council member Tom Campbell lives on Benicia’s East side.  Campbell and former Council member Jan Cox-Golovich live in a section of town north of Military and just EAST of an imaginary First Street dividing line.

MY CONCLUSION: District voting would only give outside big money greater strength to stack our City Council.

Your voice is important!


    • My background article on Jan 6, 2020 with quote from SF Chronicle, stating over $200,000 was spent by the Valero PAC.  My comment: “Kari ran for City Council in 2018 in a field of 4, competing for 2 seats on Council.  Only she didn’t just run against her opponents.  She ran against a $200,000-plus smear campaign orchestrated by Benicia Valero Refinery and its friends in organized labor.  The three major candidates’ campaigns spent less than $30,000 each, while Valero saturated our phone lines, mailboxes, newspapers and social media with misinformation and ugly photos.”
    • My post-election call on Nov 12 2018 for Council action to reform campaign spending – including comparison of the $200,000 with candidate spending of under $30,000 each.
    • My Oct 28 2018 article just before the Nov election which reported a smear campaign total of $155,000 as of that time. My  comment in that article: “News broke in late September that a major worldwide corporate power had bullied its way into our local democratic process.  Valero Services Inc., based in Texas but with 115 subsidiaries in Delaware, Michigan, Canada and several wealthy Caribbean nations, decided it wanted to buy a seat on the Benicia City Council. Their first strategy was to spend an unknown amount of money to employ two national firms, EMC Research and Research America, to conduct a nasty telephone “push poll,” blatantly mischaracterizing and demeaning one candidate for Council and painting rosy pictures of two others.  When our City Attorney challenged the polling firms, Valero Refinery executive Don Wilson admitted that Valero paid for the poll, but neither he nor the polling firms would comply with our demands for more information.”
    • Weekly and daily reporting of details as the smear campaign unfolded: beniciaindependent.com/?s=birdseye