Here’s an opportunity to voice your opinion on the misguided and ridiculously expensive recall effort of two Benicia School Board members.
This Tuesday, March 2, Mayor Steve Young and Vice Mayor Tom Campbell will ask the Benicia City Council to consider whether the City Council should take a position on the proposed Benicia City School Board recall effort.
The Council agenda will allow for public comment before Council members discuss the request and provide direction to staff on whether or not to schedule this topic for future Council discussion.
Please call or email Council members before Tuesday’s Council meeting, and if you can, attend the meeting and let the Council know that School Board members Sheri Zada and Mark Macelli need our support. (Email addresses and zoom instructions below.)
Mayor Young and Vice Mayor Campbell are submitting the request and will support the measure. Please email the three other Benicia City Council Members, Christina Strawbridge, Lionel Largaespada and Trevor Macenski, to let them know that the City and its residents will oppose this $300,000 effort to target and remove two excellent School Board members.
Zoom instructions and how to comment are available on the City Council’s March 2 AGENDA.
From the March 2 Agenda:
ITEM 14.D – TWO-STEP REQUEST TO CONSIDER WHETHER THE CITY COUNCIL SHOULD TAKE A POSITION ON PROPOSED BENICIA SCHOOL BOARD RECALL EFFORT (City Manager)
Vice Mayor Campbell and Mayor Young submitted a two-step process request for Council’s consideration of whether the City Council should take a position on the proposed Benicia School Board recall effort.
Discuss the request and provide direction to staff on whether or not to schedule this topic for future Council discussion.
The Goal Setting Workshop is an annual opportunity for the City Council to discuss and set its priorities for the next fiscal year. The City Council will be joined by the City’s Executive Management Team, composed of the City Manager, City Attorney, department directors and selected division managers, in a process designed to review the current work plan of projects and initiatives, conduct a review of strategic priorities, conduct a strengths / weaknesses / opportunities / threats (SWOT) examination, and ultimately determine the areas of focus for the next fiscal year, 2021-22.
RECOMMENDATION: Engage with staff and Council colleagues in discussion about priorities, then provide staff direction with Council consensus of a list of high priority projects and initiatives, ranked in order of importance by the Council. The list will then be used as a work plan for Fiscal Year 2021-22.
P.S. There are three pages to the Updated Work Plan with brief explanation of status of implementation and funding. Click on the link above for the three pages. I’d like to note that the effort to get a climate action coordinator has taken five years. The results of NOT having the coordinator is telling in that we did not qualify for any of the Beacon Awards which we received on an annual basis until the majority of the council did not renew the then existing contract. As predicted, without the dedicated climate coordinator, there simply is not enough staff time to do what is necessary. The funding for a part-time coordinator was approved last year for implementation in 2020. The summary Work Plan indicates that the coordinator will be hired soon.
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I just read this powerful document from Elizabeth Patterson and I must say that I am experiencing a lot of emotions. I am very Happy that Elizabeth had the insight, awareness and courage to write this. She saw the apparent disparity and refused to remain silent as many people who shouldn’t remain silent choose to do.
If no one acknowledges and speaks out about such things, then such things will continue to happen. I found this writing very enlightening and encourage all to read it. This writing is not one of blame, but of shedding light on a problem that has remained in the dark for much too long.
I am saddened because situations like this still exist and not many people are even aware of it (“There’s no racism in Benicia”) . If people are aware of it, they are choosing not to speak; Maybe because the powers that be and community members at large don’t see this as an issue, they agree with this behavior, or are too timid to say anything, as some people think it best not to “Rock the Boat.”
I assure you that the Benicia Black Lives Movement (BBLM) is here to “Rock the Boat,” not by burning, looting or hating the police (as is the falsely applied stereotype), but by bringing to the attention of the government and the citizens of Benicia that events and issues of structural, conscious/unconscious racism, bias and social injustice will be identified, called out, fought against, and will certainly not be tolerated.
This is why I am so proud of Elizabeth for writing this document. The BBLM is collaborative and will not identify challenges that need to be addressed without working with the appropriate people toward the solution. I Thank the City Staff, Mayor, Past Mayor and City Council for the support you have shown us so far, but we still have a long way to go (as is made very clear by this attached writing). I again recommend that everyone read Elizabeth’s writing and work with us to create a better Benicia for All Citizens.
From an email by Elizabeth Patterson, former Mayor, City of Benicia
EL PAT’S FORUM by ELIZABETH PATTERSON Benicia, California
STRUCTURAL RACISM IN BENICIA
I have no doubt that the Benicia City Council members earnestly want to address structural racism. No one wants to be a racist and most people seek to avoid racists acts.
So, what is structural racism? I am going to describe two examples – one locally in Benicia and the other at the federal level.
Benicia City Council, August 2020
Last fall the city council responded to city staff’s recommendation to address the urgent and timely requests of the local group Benicia Black Lives Matter (BBLM). The three legs of staff recommendations are:
establish a commission for equity and inclusiveness
initiate through a consultant an “Equity Indicators” analysis in Benicia, and
hire a part-time Equity and Diversity Manager, 30 hours/week at an estimated cost of $133,000 per year.
When the recommendation was presented to Council by staff and BBLM members many council members were quick to offer ideas about what they thought the BBLM needed. One could almost feel the insult that a white city council was telling the panel of four BBLM members what they needed. After some discussion, a 4/1 council majority put aside most of their objections and accepted the recommendations, but with amendments. (Council Meeting of Aug 25, 2020 Item 11A, Agenda / MINUTES / Video[Item 11.A beginning at minute 19:35]).
There was a lot of haggling over the cost of the part-time Equity and Diversity Manager. After lengthy discussion and in an effort to get to “yes” the council majority made the position temporary so future councils could determine if they wanted to restore the position to permanent status. It is the haggling over the cost that I want to highlight.
Much time was taken up by the council discussing how much the city should impose fees to recover costs of the impacts from commercial and residential development. Staff provided data about what 100% recovery of costs would be and recommended in most cases the city impose less than 100%. These fees were established after nearly two years of staff and consultants reviewing other cities, evaluating city capitol needs and the nexus of the impact of new development or expansion of existing businesses. Seventy-five percent was the recommendation in most cases. This is customary in Benicia and not contrary to the General Plan goal that development pays its own way. The intent in the general plan is to recover the costs of development and more intense business activity impacts to parks, roads, pipes, wastewater and so forth from large developers – think Seeno or Valero. The real costs were not done in the past and Benicia taxpayers continue to pay the price for not assessing those impact fees to the new developments.
I agree with and have supported modest subsidization of individual residential development and small businesses. The subsidy should not be a giveaway but should fall in line with other Solano cities’ rates.
But you would not have heard that sentiment at the council meeting. A member of the public in the development business for small residential projects (small in terms of one to four units but not a major subdivision) spoke about the cost of materials and labor in addition to land costs, permit costs and, of course, the impact fees. Council members expressed understanding and sympathy for the challenge of residential development.
It is noteworthy that those same rising material costs and increasing labor costs are paid by the city, and yet the city is being asked to absorb the impact costs.
Structural Racism in Benicia
This is where the structural racism comes in. In December, the city staff was asked what – in approximate numbers – did the city get from all the impact fees charged in the last fiscal year. Staff hesitated in providing a number because it is complicated and risks comparing apples and oranges. The number eventually offered the council was approximately $230,000. And Vice Mayor Campbell noted that $230,000 was “nothing to the general fund” and the city could almost forgo impact fees.
But go back to August and BBLM: Council members said that $133,000 (highest pay level for a position with benefits) was too expensive and we couldn’t afford it.
Impact fees cannot be spent on anything but capital projects. But if the impact fees are largely subsidized and the city has to pay the market rate for material and labor, taxpayers pick up the remainder of the subsidized capital costs. Without adequate impact fees, we live with poor and unsafe roads for bicyclists and pedestrians and other capital infrastructure such as completing the library basement, ensuring water supply capacity and parks. Inadequate funded development impacts pushes the needed capitol infrastructure costs to the general fund – forgoing $230,000 is a cost to other programs such as art and culture, human services, adequate planning staff, retaining employees and so on.
The structural racism is clear. A council will say the city cannot afford programs that might have been beneficial to Black and brown people, but can afford to subsidize market rate housing and businesses. You get the idea.
Structural racism is this kind of unconscious bias in decision making that we can afford some things that are beneficial to the mostly white Benicia and cannot afford programs that would help Blacks gain parity with white wealth.
When the city completes its study on Equity Indicators, we will see more clearly and concretely what impediments to racial equity exist in Benicia. But it is apparent that not adequately funding programs and staff to investigate racial equity and make recommendations is good example.
Structural Racism in Washington, D.C.
The Federal example is so blatant that I will take less time to highlight here. At present, Congress will not provide COVID-19 relief funds to state and city governments to help pay public school teachers, public safety, public health and so on to provide services for all residents. In this case, the disproportionate effects of COVID_19 on black, brown, indigenous, pacific islanders and women is classic, and shines a light on structural racism at the highest levels.
We can agree on the problem that there are massive disparities between people driving buses, working in grocery stores, nursing homes, assisted living, hospitals, janitors – and the majority of higher paid workers able to work at home. Add to this problem the burden carried by women – white, brown, Black – who often have lost their job because it is a lower-end job or can’t work because of the cost of childcare and the need to provide online schooling.
City and state agencies are running out of funds to provide childcare, unemployment, teachers and substitute teachers, social workers, and other essential workers – all of which will help with depression and increasing suicides. And Congress refuses to provide relief funds to states so that this can be done.
In addition, some experts say that stimulus checks are not sufficiently targeted toward those most in need. To extract stimulus checks as a concession from Republicans, Democrats were forced not only to forfeit state and local aid but also to shorten the duration of the enhanced unemployment program to three months from four.
That is structural racism in Washington, D.C. America has been doing that since we used US Bonds to finance the slave trade. We have done that by preventing Blacks from moving into residential development with good schools and thus handicapping the next generation in education. Others have catalogued and documented federal actions that have led to the wealth gap between Blacks and whites.
The next time you hear someone say we can’t afford a program that is directed at helping to close the wealth gap, be sure to respond that we can’t afford not to.
This is the time for us to shine and do the right thing and I believe we will. . . 2021 is our New Year for getting it right after all.