Important for readers of the Benicia Independent: The deadline to submit your questions to candidates on the Valero PAC’s attempt to buy our Mayor’s seat and other “hit pieces” is close of business (5pm) on Thursday, October 29. Send by email to Benicia’s City Attorney Benjamin Stock, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
City of Benicia announcement on Nextdoor, October 24, 2020
City of Benicia Communications Office of Economic Development, Teri Davena
Candidates’ Forum Scheduled for Saturday, October 31, 10 a.m.
Candidates for the Benicia City Council will have the opportunity to participate in a Candidates’ Forum on Saturday, October 31 at 10 a.m.
All candidates running for Council Member and Mayor in the November 3 election have been invited to attend.
The forum, sponsored by the City of Benicia Open Government Commission, will be broadcasted live on Zoom and on local government Channel 27.
At the forum, voters will have an opportunity to hear candidates discuss any ‘hit pieces’ distributed before the election.
Members of the public are encouraged to send questions relating to ‘hit pieces’ for candidates to answer at the forum to the City Attorney Benjamin Stock, at email@example.com by close of business on Thursday, October 29.
Please note that the candidates’ forum may be canceled by unanimous decision of the candidates.
Letter to the editor by Judi Sullivan of Benicia, October 23, 2020
‘This is the same PAC that infected our last election…’
As a Benicia resident, I ﬁnd it disturbing to be repetitively assaulted by non-fact-based, character-smearing tactics showing up again in our city election via a well-funded, mass media/mailing PAC campaign. This is the same PAC that infected our last election with a series of lies slandering a well-qualiﬁed candidate. The PAC responsible for this behavior, titled, “Working Families for a Strong Benicia,” has The Valero Reﬁnery listed as its main donor. The purpose of the PAC’s multiple forms of mass advertising is to support one candidate while at the same time, (ﬂip side of the ﬂyer), falsely slandering another for the position of our Benicia Mayor.
Do they feel their chosen candidate, Christina Strawbridge, is not capable of being elected on her own merits? Their desperate need to slam her opponent belies her own credibility. From an educated voter’s point of view, this ploy is disrespectful to both individuals.
The negative campaigning from our last election led to the citizen-suggested concept of creating a “Code of Ethics” among candidates for future city elections. Instigation of this code was adopted in response to the dirty politics we had just experienced.
Where is the accountability to this new “Code of Ethics” showing up in this election? What different, proactive responses are candidates taking to respond to the same debacle faced in 2018, prompting the need for this code? Some candidates running now, ( Steve Young, Christina Strawbridge and Tom Campbell), worked on creating this code.
So far, “Code of Ethics” credit is due to three current candidates who have chosen to take an active stand in response to the PAC’s repeatedly offensive negative modus operandi. They are Steve Young, along with Jason Diavatis, both of whom are running for Mayor, and Terry Scott for City Council. In addition, they offered alternative suggestions of more beneﬁcial ways the PAC could support the needs of our city during these times of COVID & economic duress through the use of their abundant discretionary income. If interested, check out their quarter page newspaper ad in the Sunday, Oct. 11th edition of “The Benicia Herald.” These candidates are thanked for having the courage to publicly make a strong stand against dirty politics in our elections. I was hoping all of you would do so. If you took this stance repeatedly, dishonest negative politics could not be substantiated. Your continued collective outcry for lack of decency would undermine that game plan, no matter how much money went into the effort. As candidates, you have that power should you choose to use it. As citizens, we have that power, too.
The PAC referred to has knowingly overextended our city’s mandated contribution limits to run a campaign. No more than $34,200 per individual candidate is allowed to be raised by a campaign as regulated by our city’s election ordinance. This limit was set up for the purpose of keeping an even playing ﬁeld where campaign ﬁnancial contributions are concerned. However, over $200,00 this year has been spent so far by this PAC in support of Christina Strawbridge for Mayor. Last election she and Lionel Largaespada were funded by this same PAC. Needless to say, whomever the PAC supports has an unfair advantage ﬁnancially and exposure-wise in the their attempt to “buy a seat(s)” in our city government.
Since 2010, when the CITIZENS UNITED National Mandate was formed, PAC’s have been enabled to contribute unlimited amounts to campaigns. Unfortunately, Federal Law super cedes our own city’s Election Ordinance Mandate. Although we cannot legally stop this inﬂux of excess money from entering our elections, we can each voice our concerns for the inequity it creates by going against our local mandate. Under these circumstances, what is legal does not necessarily fall into the category of being ethical. I am also asking for ethical campaigning. For each candidate to stand up against obviously slanderous negative statements that are so offensive to most of us, regardless of whether it is denigrating our chosen candidate or another. It’s a despicable practice misrepresenting candidates.
I am requesting ALL candidates and funders of campaign strategies to focus on policy-based campaigning, using the foundation of facts, past and current experience
relevant to the position sought, along with accurate depictions of facets of the candidate’s character relating to the job they are seeking. What a refreshing change that would be!
Each of you can stand on your own merits. Do any of you really want to win based on maligned misinformation spread about your opponent? That is not a clean “win.” I hope each of you will step up by demonstrating the desire for a fair, honest election through consistent actions taken towards producing that goal. That may include daily repetitive comments to discount disreputable injustices propagated by surly ad campaigns. Each candidate, or preferably the candidates as a collective, can choose to demonstrate the strength and purpose of the newly formed “Code of Ethics.” Otherwise, this code is merely a collection of words on paper.
Judith S. Sullivan
41-year Benicia resident
Valero Refinery’s commercial PAC, which is out to buy Benicia’s mayor’s seat in our 2020 election, filed its latest income and expenditure reports yesterday.
The reports are required by law and cover the period September 20 to October 17, as well as totals for 2020.
Form_460_Pre_Election_2.pdf shows income of $25,000 for the period, cash payments of $63,844 and unpaid bills of $71,275. The form shows an ending balance of $173,779 as of October 17.
INCOME for the period September 20 to October 17
Year to date
Monetary Contributions (International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, forgers & Helpers Local 549)
EXPENSES for the period September 20 to October 17
Year to date
Accrued, unpaid bills
Current Cash Statement
The Valero PAC’s Form_465_2.pdf is a Supplemental Independent Expenditure Report. This very important form carries detailed individual payments made to named companies for mailers, Facebook and other digital ads, live phone calls and robocalls. I must apologize for not presenting the information here. The form is complicated, seems to overlap with previous reports, doesn’t total up accurately as far as I can tell, and so can’t be properly interpreted here. Suffice to say, Valero has been busy spending tons of money to pick up the Benicia Mayor’s seat. Check out their Form_465_2 on the City of Benicia website for details.
From: Marilyn Bardet <email> Subject: BAAQMD oversight/enforcement of Reg 12 – Rule 15, the Petroleum Refining Emissions Tracking Rule. Date: October 21, 2020 at 3:37:37 PM PDT To: Marcy Hiratzka <firstname.lastname@example.org>
October 21, 2020
BAAQMD Board of Directors
Chair: Council member Rod Sinks, City of Cupertino
Vice Chair: Supervisor Cindy Chavez, Santa Clara County
Secretary: Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, Contra Costa County
Sent via email: <email@example.com>
Subject: BAAQMD oversight and enforcement of Regulation 12 – Rule 15, the Petroleum Refining Emissions Tracking Rule.
Dear Chair Rod Sinks, Vice Chair Cindy Chaves, Secretary Karen Mitchoff and Direrctors
I’m writing as a 34-year resident of Benicia and a founding active member of the Good Neighbor Steering Committee, [“GNSC”] which was organized in 2000 to address public concerns and protect community health and safety as related to operations of the Valero refinery. I’d hope to express the following concerns at the Special Meeting held as a webinar today, but was unable to do so.
On August 1st, the Board received emailed letters from Jay Gunkelman and myself, outlining problems to date with refineries’ fenceline monitoring systems’ performance and reliability.
As you recall, Rule 15 was adopted in April, 2016. It required Bay Area refineries to install new, best technology fenceline monitoring systems, with raw data to be collected in real time at 5 minute intervals, and with a website provided for public access to that data.
After 4 years since Rule 15’s adoption, for the sake of public health and community safety, we would have expected by now that the Air District would have enforced standards for reliable performance of fenceline monitoring systems at all Bay Area refineries, and that data quality would be assured. Yet, to date, as per Rule 15 protocols, the District has not yet signed off on—e.g., given final approval of— the refineries’ fenceline monitoring and quality assurance plans. This is an unacceptable situation.
Today, we encourage the board and staff to fully address the various problems associated to Rule 15’s implementation at all Bay Area refineries.
Pertinent to the Benicia community, Valero recently asserted that their Benicia refinery will be “the last man standing” among Bay Are refineries, and will continue to refine crude oil and produce petroleum products. Emissions tracking and fenceline monitoring will continue to be of particular concern to Benicians. The reliability of Valero’s fenceline systems’ performance is in serious doubt.
In 2017, as per Rule 15 Guidelines, the GNSC submitted substantial comments to the District on Valero’s plans that had been created by Sonoma Tech for Valero.
In late 2019, the Benicia City Council voted to encourage Valero to get their fenceline systems installed and up and running before the District’s original deadline. Valero complied, installing 3 pathway systems and creating a public website to provide access to the data collected. Later, when public questions began to arise, Valero said that the new Hydrogen Sulfide monitoring system they’d purchased had never been field tested. After a year’s worth of data collection, data reliability remains questionable even for “signature” gases, including benzene. According to the Federal EPA’s Benzene Fenceline Monitoring Program, Valero’s benzene emissions were not only found to be the highest in the Bay Area; Valero’s total benzene emissions are four times greater than the four other refineries in the region.
It is implausible that there would be so few reportable detections, as the website routinely reports. Repeatedly, the website indicates that instruments are offline, or data is “pending final review.” Whose review? There is apparently no public access to archived data. Good science requires independent validation of data. Credibility of the systems and the data collection is at stake. Without independent review, public confusion and doubt about the sytems’ reliability will persist.
Right now, there is no independent, 3rd party data analysis required by the Air District. Yet verification of data for accuracy is crucial to public trust. Unfortunately,in our case, the District has still not yet approved Valero’s fenceline monitoring system plan including the required quality assurance plan as mandated by Rule 12-15.
In the meantime, concerned Benicia residents formed a non-profit, incorporated in 2019, to provide an independently operated, community-based air-monitoring station for Benicia, called Benicia Community Air Monitoring Program. The system will be operated by solar, and will meet international standards for data quality. (Funding was appropriated through GNSC’s urging amendments to the Settlement Agreement negotiated with Valero and City of Benicia.) We expect the new station will be operational by the end of 2020.
How is it possible that a small community group in Benicia can locate, configure and install an array of air monitoring equipment in less than a year, while the refineries in the Bay Area are still installing technologically inferior fenceline systems four years after they were told by the BAAQMD that these systems had to be approved and proven reliable, thus producing accurate data by now?
I reiterate my request made in my letter of August 1st:
We ask the Board to compel Valero to present all of the data associated with these systems to the public as soon as possible. In addition, we would like to see all raw data produced by the fenceline system at Valero so that it can be reviewed by independent experts. We ask that the public have access to all District staff comments on refineries’ monitoring plans including quality assurance plans.
Thank you for your timely consideration of these matters.