Tag Archives: Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson

Solano County Public Health Officer answers questions about increasing number of youth with COVID-19

By Roger Straw, June 2, 2020
Are young people the main carriers for Covid-19?  –  NJ MMA News, photo: Getty Images

On May 27, I asked Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson to ask Solano Public Health Officer Dr. Bela Matyas a number of questions about recent increases in the number of our youth who are showing up positive for COVID-19.  The Mayor passed my questions on to Dr. Matyas that day, and on May 31, he replied with answers to all eight questions – see below.

BACKGROUND: 

Solano County is reporting an upward trend in confirmed cases among young persons 18 and under, adding (as of today) 26 more positive cases over the last 20 days, having reported only 6 over the 5 weeks prior. (Latest update…)

MY QUESTIONS & DR. MATYAS’ ANSWERS…

  1. How serious are these youth cases?   ​
    • The youth cases are mostly asymptomatic, although a few have been mildly symptomatic.
  2. How old – teens or young children?
    • While we have had a few young children, most of the youth are older teenagers.
  3. Any of them hospitalized?
    • None have been hospitalized to date.
  4. Are any of them showing symptoms of the “pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome likely linked to COVID”?  (See Nearly 200 Cases of Severe Child COVID Syndrome…in NY, NJ)
    • ​None so far.
  5. Surely the increase can be partially explained away as a result of more testing, but that doesn’t mean the numbers are any less serious.  Right?
    • The increased numbers are apparently the result of increased testing of asymptomatic household contacts of cases and testing of asymptomatic persons at the recently opened Optum sites in Vallejo and Vacaville; we are likely uncovering a phenomenon that has been present all along.  As to seriousness, the percentage of positive youths we are seeing seems to match statewide and national numbers.  These individuals, while not themselves experiencing serious illness, are nonetheless able to spread the virus to others.
  6. Is the County conducting contact tracing for these youth?
    • Yes, just as for all positive cases.
  7. Does the County have sufficient staffing for contact tracing?
    • So far, yes.
  8. What can the County and cities do to intensify communication with our young people and parents?
    • Presumably, utilizing social media and school-based communication systems.

SO NOW WHAT?

I sincerely hope that parents and youth reading this will take note, and that the County and its cities and school districts will intensify communication about the serious reality of COVID-19 transmission among youth, and from youth to their elders.

See also: “Are young people the main carriers for Covid-19?”   NJ MMA News

Benicia City Council unanimously adopts Climate Emergency Resolution

Benicia Herald, by Galen Kusic, Editor, May 24, 2020 (No link, only available in the print edition.)
Climate Emergency - Greenpeace International
Climate Emergency – Greenpeace International

At the Sept. 3, 2019 Council meeting the City Council agreed to discuss a request from Mayor Elizabeth Patterson considering the adoption of a Climate Emergency Resolution.  The request was discussed again on Feb. 4 at a Special City Council meeting, where a subcommittee was formed consisting of Councilmembers Tom Campbell and Steve Young.

[BENINDY EDITOR’S NOTE: See the proposed resolution here, noting that this does not contain Council’s amendments.  I have requested the amended resolution and will post it when it is released by the City Clerk.  See also the accompanying Staff Report here.]

“The world’s changed since I first brought this forward,” said Patterson.  “Who would have guessed…it is actually very interesting for us to contemplate this kind of situation with a pandemic which has been described as one of the consequences of climate warming.”

Cities are adopting these resolutions to end city-wide greenhouse gas emissions.  The resolution highlights the need to combat climate change, including that Benicia is specifically vulnerable to sea-level rise, storm surge and coastal erosion, which are all enhanced by extreme weather events that cause increased flooding.

The resolution declares that an existential climate emergency threatens Benicia, the region, state, nation, civilization, humanity and the natural world.  The resolution calls for a city-wide mobilization effort to reverse global warming and appropriate financial and regulatory assistance from Solano County, state and federal authorities to end city-wide greenhouse gas emissions while safely drawing down carbon from the atmosphere quickly.

“I think we saw this as more of a global aspirational document,” said Young.  “The only thing we wanted to change in it was to localize it to some degree.”

The subcommittee added a clause at the end for the city to promote a more sustainable future, like eventually moving to an all-electric fleet.

Vice Mayor Christina Strawbridge and Councilmember Lionel Largaespada both asked for small amendments to the resolution, including not making undue burdens on businesses to attain reduction of greenhouse gas, while implementing policies that are economically feasible.

The resolution is designed to protect the community’s health and safety while also protecting and enhancing the environment.

A resident’s public comment stated that the council should not be focusing on climate change during a pandemic, but Patterson shot back that the pandemic is exactly why immediate action needs to be taken toward combating the climate emergency.

“We now from the early science of COVID-19 that one of the principle challenges for recovery and surviving an infection, particularly in older people, is the air quality,” she said.  “We know there’s a direct link to our goal to reduce carbon which contributes to air quality.”

The council unanimously voted for the resolution.

VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD: Valero’s crude-by-rail project turned down in Benicia

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

Valero’s crude-by-rail project turned down in Benicia

By Matthew Adkins, 09/20/16, 9:54 PM PDT
Anti-Valero supporters wave sunflowers as Benicia’s crude by rail project was denied Tuesday evening by council members in Benicia City Hall.
Anti-Valero supporters wave sunflowers as Benicia’s crude by rail project was denied Tuesday evening by council members in Benicia City Hall. Matthew Adkins — Times-Herald

BENICIA >> Environmentalists hoping to defeat Benicia’s crude-by-rail project scored a huge victory Tuesday night, handing Valero Refining Company a significant defeat in the process.

In a unanimous decision from Mayor Elizabeth Patterson and Benicia City Council, Valero’s application for a conditional use permit for a crude oil off-loading facility was denied.

Vicki Dennis, who moved to Benicia two years ago, was one of many present at City Hall and said she was “just delighted” with the decision.

“I’m so proud of this city,” Dennis said. “Our council people are very thoughtful. This process has been a long one, but I think they handled it in a wonderful way.”

The City of Benicia’s Planning Commission first began considering the issue in December 2012 when the refinery submitted an application seeking permission to build infrastructure to bring two 50-car trains a day carrying up to 70,000 barrels of North American crude oil into Benicia.

In March, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny the application and to not certify an accompanying environmental impact report. The decision was made against the recommendation of city staff who said the project’s involvement with rail-related issues made the decision a federal issue.

Valero representatives submitted an appeal looking to reverse the commission’s decision to deny their application, and the matter was postponed until Sept. 20.

As part of the appeal, Valero sought a declaratory order from the Surface Transportation Board on the issue of federal preemption in regards to the project.

During this time, many governmental agencies, private organizations and individuals publicly opposed the city council’s decision to transfer authority on the matter to the federal government.

At the city council meeting Tuesday, however, public comment on the topic was officially closed.

“We are eager to hear from you about any item that is not on the agenda,” Patterson said. “I know it’s a little difficult right now. We have an item on the agenda that I know a lot of you are interested in, but there is no public comment on that tonight.”

This drew a few hushed laughs from the crowd of approximately 150 people who had shown up to witness the landmark decision at Benicia City Hall.

Mayor Patterson’s warning didn’t stop a few concerned citizens from indirectly talking about the issue.

“I originally put in my request to speak before I knew you were not accepting public comments about Valero,” said one man. “If the council decides to change their mind and re-open public comment on the issue, I would be glad to come back up and speak.”

“Since I can’t talk about what the Surface Transportation Board has just done, I would urge the council to support the struggle against the Dakota Access pipeline,” said another man.

After public comment was closed, a brief recap of the project’s journey though Benicia’s civic system was put forth along with two resolution findings, one for approval and the other for denial,

The denial resolution highlighted specific issues that city council members had with Valero’s proposed project, including the unclear traffic impacts of having an unregulated shipment schedule, spill risks associated with shipping by rail and the project’s uncomfortable proximity to the city’s waterways.

Before making a judgement, Council members took turns voicing their concerns about health, safety and the project’s effect on the environment.

“When we first started considering this, there seemed to be little risk involved,” said Councilwoman Christina Strawbridge. “After four years, the community has endured numerous public hearings with hundreds of people speaking about the project. During this time, there have been 13 derailments around the country involving multiple carriers.

“The derailment in Oregon was a game-changer for me,” she continued. “Union Pacific was the same carrier and the railroad cars involved were the same ones Valero is offering. The strongest car didn’t withstand a puncture and crude oil came in contact with fire and burned for 13 hours. Union Pacific failed to maintain its track, resulting in its derailment. The railroad industry has not kept up with safety standards regarding the transportation of crude. I’m going to vote to deny the project in hopes that the community can begin to heal after such a divided process.”

After the council’s comments, Councilmember Tom Campbell put forward a motion to deny, and was seconded by Patterson.

A quick vote was taken and the motion to deny Valero’s presence in Benicia was decided.

Misao Brown, a retired teacher and environmental activist from Alameda, was thrilled with the council’s decision and was seen embracing her friends outside of Benicia City Hall.

“If there were any spills where we are in Benicia, it would be in the Bay and go all over the place,” she said. “Benicia is concerned about the greater good and it’s just wonderful. It was really hard sticking it out for so long, but they gave every chance to Valero. In the end, we’re really talking about life on earth. So, when the decision comes through like this under tremendous pressure, I’m really grateful to every member of the planning commission and city council.”

STEVE YOUNG: What Benicia can learn from the Oregon train derailment

Repost from the Benicia Herald

What Benicia can learn from the Oregon train derailment

By Steve Young, June 7, 2016
Planning Commissioner Steve Young is running for City Council. Among the biggest issues in his campaign are opposing Valero’s Crude-By-Rail Project, diversifying the city’s economic base, modernizing the water and sewer system, improving the roads and maintaining the parks. (Courtesy photo)
Planning Commissioner Steve Young is running for Benicia City Council. Among the biggest issues in his campaign are opposing Valero’s Crude-By-Rail Project, diversifying the city’s economic base, modernizing the water and sewer system, improving the roads and maintaining the parks. (Courtesy photo)

On Friday, June 3, a Union Pacific train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed in the town of Mosier, Ore. Fourteen rail cars came off the tracks, and four exploded over a 5 hour period.

There are several things that the City Council needs to keep in mind whenever they re-open discussion of the appeal of the Planning Commission’s unanimous decision to reject the Valero Crude-by-Rail project. Many of the assurances given to the public about the safety of transporting crude by rail have been called into question by this derailment.

    1. The train cars that derailed and exploded are the upgraded CPC-1232 version promised to be used by Valero for this project.
    2. The train derailed at a relatively slow speed as it passed through the small town of Mosier. Union Pacific trains carrying Bakken to Valero will travel at speeds up to 50 mph in most of Solano County.
    3. The portion of track on which the train derailed had been inspected by Union Pacific three days before the derailment.
    4. A Union Pacific spokesman, while apologizing for the derailment and fire, would not answer a reporter’s question as to whether the Bakken oil had been stabilized with the removal of volatile gases prior to shipment.
      At the Planning Commission hearing, I tried repeatedly without success to get an answer from both UP and Valero as to whether they intended to de-gassify the Bakken oil prior to transport.
    5. A major interstate, Interstate 84, was closed for 10 hours in both directions while first responders used river water to try and cool the tank cars to a point where foam could be used to try and put out the fire. It took more than 12 hours to stabilize the scene.
    6. An oil sheen is in the river, despite the deployment of containment booms.

And finally, Oregon Public Broadcasting on June 4 had an exchange with the Fire Chief of Mosier, about how this experience changed his opinion about the safety of transporting crude by rail:

“Jim Appleton, the fire chief in Mosier, Ore., said in the past, he’s tried to reassure his town that the Union Pacific Railroad has a great safety record and that rail accidents are rare.

“He’s changed his mind.

“After a long night working with hazardous material teams and firefighters from across the Northwest to extinguish a fire that started when a train carrying Bakken crude derailed in his town, Appleton no longer believes shipping oil by rail is safe.

“’I hope that this becomes the death knell for this mode of shipping this cargo. I think it’s insane,’ he said. ’I’ve been very hesitant to take a side up to now, but with this incident, and with all due respect to the wonderful people that I’ve met at Union Pacific, shareholder value doesn’t outweigh the lives and happiness of our community.’”

When the City Council took up the appeal of the Planning Commission decision in April, Mayor Patterson and Councilmember Campbell stated their opposition to the project, while the other three councilmembers (Hughes, Schwartzman and Strawbridge) approved Valero’s request to delay a decision on this project until at least Sept. 20. There is still time for the citizens of Benicia to tell their elected officials how they feel about this project. I urge them to do so.

Steve Young, a member of the Benicia Planning Commission, is running for the Benicia City Council in November.