Category Archives: Benicia City Manager

What does the Benicia City Manager do? By Lorie Tinfow

[Our current Benicia City Manager, Lorie Tinfow, is said by many to be the most highly qualified and best City Manager we’ve ever had.  She has brought stability in staffing, visionary planning and tough financial oversight in these hard times.  I hope she stays for a long, long time!  In today’s email newsletter, City of Benicia This Week, Lorie describes the work she does as our City Manager, published here with permission.  Incredible!  We should ALL be glad we’re not juggling everything she deals with every day.  Read on….  – R.S.]

City of Benicia This Week
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August 10, 2020

Hello Everyone,

Lorie Tinfow, Benicia City Manager

During a recent conversation with the Mayor, she asked if I thought people in Benicia knew what my job as the City Manager actually entailed. I said, “no”. In fact, even my mother didn’t know what I do until about 4 years ago. I was visiting my parents and while there I was sending an email on my smart phone. My mom said, “Honey, what are you doing?” and I responded, “Sending an email to the Police Chief.” She looked puzzled and then said, “You’re in charge of the Police Chief?”  I said, “Yes, and the Fire Chief, the Public Works Director, etc.” She said, “I thought you were a City planner.”

That reaction wasn’t a total surprise. City Managers tend to be in the background and mostly we like it that way. The Council/Manager form of government that Benicia (and most California cities) operates under has the City Council as the face of the City to the community, where it sets the policy direction and the City Manager implements that direction. Because of this structure, community members often don’t know much about what City Managers do. At the Mayor’s suggestion, I decided to share some information here.

One way to think of a City Manager is to compare the City to a company structure-think of me as the CEO of a $90 million non-profit corporation that provides critical services to everyone who lives or has a business in Benicia. Other executive level staff report to me and help me oversee all City operations. The Finance Director could be compared to the Chief Financial Officer, the Assistant City Manager is similar to a Chief Operating Officer and so on. Of course, there are major differences between running a City and running a business so the comparison isn’t perfect-for example, there’s really no private sector version of a Fire Chief or a Police Chief, and private sector businesses are not required to operate with the public sector’s breadth of service delivery, transparency rules, limits on pricing, and required service to all.

I’ve worked in city government for almost 25 years. My experience is broad and that’s necessary to be successful in this position. The work is fast-paced so knowledge and expertise about a variety of areas is important in order to keep the City moving. I’ve overseen many functional areas such as Human Resources, Information Technology, Finance and Economic Development. I’ve been the project manager for the construction of two large scale capital projects (the Saratoga Library and the Walnut Creek Library) and led many community-based efforts around traffic calming, community problem-solving, communication, etc. If you’re interested in knowing more, my resume at the time I was hired is attached here.

One of my primary responsibilities is delivering a balanced budget to the City Council and overseeing the City finances. I also enforce all the laws, ordinances and contracts; hire and supervise directly all the department directors; make staffing decisions related to all employee positions (except the City Attorney); negotiate labor contracts; conduct studies, reorganize work and exercise general supervision over all public buildings, parks and property. In all hiring decisions, I am always looking to recruit top talent from an increasingly small, competitive pool of qualified people. In short, I’m responsible for all the operational elements of the City. And, I serve as the Emergency Services Director during emergencies.

I also provide leadership by supporting and guiding the City Council through establishing its vision and helping to translate that into a work plan. In the City organization, my leadership is often a blend of overseeing the day-to-day activities with keeping an eye on the shifting long-term needs that require change and innovation.

I first learned what a “City Manager” was during an undergraduate class at Stanford taught by two City Managers.  I was already interested in government and this position intrigued me-serving the community and being part of something bigger than myself was attractive. As I continued into graduate school at Harvard and ultimately decided on working in city government, I stayed focused on becoming a City Manager. It’s a very challenging job and a very rewarding one.

So, now you know something more about what I do and how the City is structured.  Let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you for your interest in the City of Benicia This Week!

Lorie Tinfow,
City Manager

Great info about Benicia Police Dept policies – and a bunch of questions

By Roger Straw, June 10, 2020

City of Benicia publishes new “Use of Force Policy Review” web page, makes Policy Manual available to public – and pledges to remove choke hold from police policy

I almost always read the City Manager’s weekly newsletter.  But you know how email inboxes can get out of control…

So I missed a really important City of Benicia newsletter this Monday.  City Manager Lorie Tinfow shared information there about Benicia’s response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent nationwide protests and calls for police reform.  Here is her June 8 message for Benicians concerned about police violence and racial justice.  Read on, but don’t miss a number of my own concerns and questions that follow below.

City Manager Newsletter, June 8, 2020

“The past two weeks have been extremely tumultuous. The killing of George Floyd was the tipping point for many in our country and those participating in the protests and civil unrest that have followed have called for many necessary changes. And they are beginning to happen.

Friday night, Benicia Police Department (BPD) was notified that Governor Newsom ordered the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) to remove the Carotid Control hold from training certification. The change was immediately communicated to our Police Officers. This change seemed to follow an effort called 8cantwait.

Late last week we began to receive emails asking that we enact changes aligned with 8cantwait. Police Chief Upson evaluated the requested changes and directed his staff to create a webpage that offers information designed to increase transparency. The page includes a comparison of what BPD currently does with what 8cantwait wants as well as a table that shows total calls for service with instances of use of force for the past 3 years. Click here to visit the new webpage.

On the new page is also a link to the complete use of force policy that is posted online as required by law. For those interested in reading more, click here to view the policy.

During last week’s protest, the Benicia Police Officers who assisted, performed their duties exceptionally well. They managed traffic and helped keep the space safe for the participants. The officers’ response when at the police station in particular garnered my confidence and my respect. Click here to view the video in case you missed it. Clearly the protesters’ passions ran high but they too performed well, helping bring attention to the much needed changes across the country.

We are all navigating these uncharted waters to the best of our abilities. I appreciate the community, City staff and the City Council for maintaining the connections that keep Benicia strong. Benicia is better together!”


These new developments and the transparency embraced by our City Manager and Police Chief are to be applauded.  I believe that the Police Policy Manual has never before been disclosed to the public, and the Use of Force webpage is an excellent way to engage the public in further conversations.  These moves are significant and show personal and professional judgement in a time of profound unrest and hunger for reform.


The City’s new “Use of Force Policy Review” web page clarifies current BPD policy and announces that “We will be removing carotid control hold from our policy.”

That policy (§300.3.4, Carotid Control Hold, pp. 48-49) takes up two pages in the current BPD Policy Manual Exactly when and how the manual will be revised and adopted is not clear to me as of now.


There is more to be done.  City staff, electeds and community members should continue to ask questions and raise concerns.

For instance:

Use of Force Policy Review page on the City website
  1. The “Use of Force Policy Review” page on the City website is a good start. The chart compares policy recommendations with BPD policy.  It’s important to note at top that we will be “removing carotid control hold from our policy” (§300.3.4, pp. 48-49).  But other than that, in most cases the BPD column qualifies each policy with “when reasonably necessary,” “where feasible,” etc., which seems a bit weak…  Maybe that’s the best we can hope for?
  2. The final item on that page is requiring comprehensive reporting. The BPD policy is to document all use of force promptly, but it does not address the 8cantwait recommendation to report any time an officer threatens to use force.  Should we consider adding that to our BPD policy?
  3. The 2017-2020 statistics provided on the page are interesting, but pretty thin on facts, context, details.  It would be especially of interest to know about the racial characteristics of suspects and officers involved in these incidents.  Can the BPD make more information available?
  4. It is GREAT that no major injuries have been sustained by suspects or officers in use of force incidents over the past 3 years. But it is noteworthy that tasers have been used in 6 of the last 7 incidents (2019-2020), but prior to that only once in 11 incidents (2017-2018).  Why has the use of tasers increased?  And what are the “minor injuries” that are reported with nearly every use of tasers?
  5. It is GREAT that the public now has access to the BPD’s Policy Manual.  But gosh, it’s 756 pages long!
    • I would assume new officers are required to read the whole thing.  And take a test?
    • How often are officers required to review the document and then take a refresher test?
    • I understand that the BPD is to be commended for its strong emphasis on frequent training exercises.  Have our officers had a recent in-service training on Use of Force policies?  This might be welcome in the current time of unrest and reform.
Other concerns and questions
  1. The BPD Policy Manual has 7 references to “community policing.” It might be well to highlight and expand upon this official Department philosophy in a news conference and/or press release, as well as in an internal BPD memo or workshop.
  2. The BPD Manual lays out crowd control measures and has extensive policies governing discipline. Will the BPD review these policies carefully in light of recent times?  One suggestion: Minneapolis Police Chief Arradondo announced today (June 10) that the MPD will begin tracking disciplinary data as compiled by Benchmark Analytics, and that the Department will rely on this data rather than the authority of a supervisory officer when making decisions related to hiring and firing.  Perhaps the BPD hiring and disciplinary policies could be reviewed in light of this?
  3. Questions about race and gender: How many BPD officers are there, and how many are Black, how many Hispanic, how many Asian, how many White, etc.? How many male and female officers?  The BPD Policy Manual is clear in opposing all forms of discrimination (§328.2, p. 156).  But is the Department under any obligation or philosophical intent to achieve racial and gender balance?  Does the BPD have any official goal statement on recruiting women and minority officers?

City of Benicia This Week – a great source for local news

Today’s weekly newsletter from Benicia City Manager Lorie Tinfow is  full of important and interesting information.

Today for instance, you will find excellent clarifying info on Solano/Benicia rules for retail openings, and short articles on upcoming City Council consideration of mandatory face coverings, Benicia Farmers Market, Library book drops, public works week, high heat warnings, the 2020 Census and various press releases.  See below…

You can sign up to receive City of Benicia This Week at


City of Benicia This Week

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Highlights:  City Sets a Modified Reopening for June 1, Outdoor Activities and Encroachment for Business Order, Downtown Business Walk, Library Book Drop, Farmers Market Returns, Public Works Week, Census Reminder, High Heat This Week

May 25, 2020

Happy Memorial Day!
Today is the traditional start of summer and a heat wave is forecast for the next few days. In times past, the City’s facilities-the senior center, the library, and the pool-served as cooling centers for those who don’t have air conditioning at home. This year is different with those facilities remaining closed because of the pandemic emergency. Even so, we are still here for you! If you need assistance, please call the Community Services Phone Line at 707.746.4285, Monday through Friday, 8:30 – 5:00 or email And remember the following heat wave safety tips:
  • Check in on those most susceptible to heat impacts
  • Reduce outdoor activities, especially in the afternoon
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing
  • Apply sunscreen regularly when outdoors
  • Know where shade is available
  • Don’t leave pets or children in cars
It’s never been more important than it is now to check on your senior neighbors, friends and family members, during the pandemic when seniors need to stay home. We will be checking on the seniors who regularly participated in our programs. Please join us in reaching out to those you know and let’s take care of each other!
On a different topic, last Friday, Solano County amended its shelter-at-home order to allow more business sectors to begin the safe reopening process under a set of specific safety parameters. Businesses newly allowed include destination retail stores (such as bookstores, jewelry stores, toy stores, clothing stores, home furnishing, sporting goods, florists), shopping malls, swap-meets, dine-in restaurants, and office-based business operations. Patrons visiting businesses should look for social distancing protocols, occupancy limits, and extra sanitary activities such as use of hand sanitizer. Face coverings are not required but are strongly recommended. Businesses are also required to post signage certifying compliance with the regulations that apply to their business type. For more information about restaurants, please see the COVID-19 Dine-in Restaurants Checklist and for retail, please see COVID-19 Retail Checklist. Risk of virus transmission remains an active threat so please take steps to protect yourself and if the business you want to visit doesn’t meet the requirements, don’t patronize it! For questions about the regulations, Solano County has a warm line about COVID-19; call 707.784.8988 or email, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Tomorrow night, the Council is holding a study session to discuss ideas related to assisting businesses during COVID-19 as well as how to proceed related to face coverings in Benicia. This meeting will be held via teleconferencing; click here for the agenda. The meeting is broadcast in the usual ways-on Channel 27 and via the City’s website. Speaking of helping businesses, please take a look at the press release at the bottom of this newsletter to learn about City action taken last Friday to streamline the process for outdoor dining and shopping.
Thank you for your interest in the City of Benicia This Week! 
Lorie Tinfow
City Manager
COVID-19 News

City Sets a Modified Reopening for June 1:  Typically, we would be announcing that we are closed today in observance of Memorial Day. But as most City facilities have been closed due to the State’s shelter-at-home order, we are taking the opportunity to remind that the City will begin reopening with modified services on Monday, June 1. Details were shared in last week’s message.

The annual Memorial Day Ceremony, sponsored by Benicia Historical Society, has been canceled this year. Due to the historically large turnout for this event, it has been canceled for the health and safety of attendees. Please take time today to honor military personnel who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Outdoor Activities and Encroachment for Business Order:  Late Friday, City Manager Lorie Tinfow signed her third order as Emergency Services Director. The order streamlines the process for businesses to expand operations into outdoor locations to allow for social distancing, allowing for businesses to set up seating in their parking lots, on neighboring property with owners’ permission, or in the public right of way.  Click here to view the order. Business owners will find the Temporary COVID-19 Outdoor Activities and Encroachment Agreement application beginning on page 5 of the order. The completed application and property permission should be submitted to City Manager Lorie Tinfow at or Economic Development Manager Mario Giuliani at

A big THANKYOU goes to Republic Services. In recognition of increased outdoor dining and picnicking, they have agreed to add an additional day of garbage pick up from cans on First Street at no additional charge to the City of Benicia.
Library Book Drop:  Benicia Public Library will begin accepting book returns with a new process. Due to the need to quarantine items for 72 hours before staff handles them, (Covid-19 lives that long on plastic), library staff will open the outside book drops twice a week. Upcoming dates are:
  • May 26, 12 – 6 p.m. or until full
  • June 1, 12 – 6 p.m. or until full
  • June 5, 12 – 6 p.m. or until full
More dates are to be announced. Books may also be returned to any Solano Library location, open daily. Library staff ask that you do not return Link+ items, LaunchPads, or eBook Readers. If you are unable to return items during these hours, do not worry. Fines are not being accrued until further notice. Please note that the library is unable to accept book donations at this time.

Farmers Market Returns:  After review by City staff in the special events process, one of the first events to return from quarantine is Benicia Main Street’s  Certified Farmers Market, on Thursdays, 4-8 p.m., starting June 4. Please note, however, that this farmer’s market will be smaller and operate with more rules than in the past. Details follow.

The farmers market provides fresh, healthy food for our community. Best practices will be implemented to protect customers, farmers, and staff to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, with guidance provided by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), California Department of Food & Agriculture, and California Alliance of Farmers’ Markets.
Per orders of the State & County only farmers and prepackaged food vendors may participate in the market. No sampling will be allowed. There will be no hot food, arts & crafts, jump houses, face painter or music at this time.
If you plan to attend, Benicia Main Street asks that you:
  • Come prepared and limit your visit time.
  • Wear a face mask/face covering before entering the market.
  • Clean/Sanitize your hands.
  • Honor social distancing of six feet while at the market.
  • Observe all posted signage and demarcated lines, which signal where customers should wait, six feet apart, while in line.
  • High risk groups should send another family/household member or neighbor to shop for them.
  • Always stay home if you are sick.
  • Visit booths with shorter lines first.
  • Always cough or sneeze, into your arm or a tissue, away from people and food.
  • As always, wash your fruits and veggies when you return home.
City News
Benicia Public Works Week 2020
Benicia Public Works Week 2020
Public Works Week:  “The Rhythm of Public Works” was the theme behind American Public Works Association’s (APWA) annual National Public Works Week, held this year May 17-23.
APWA’s municipalities across the country celebrated the Week by teaching their communities the importance of public works to improve the quality of our daily lives, giving a voice to the impact that the many facets of public works have on a community.
From providing clean water at your tap, disposing of solid waste, to engineering and administrative services that maintain, operate, repair, and where necessary, improve City public facilities, responding to natural or manmade disasters, public works services determine a society’s quality of life.
Benicia Public Works invites you to view this video showing what Public Works does in the City of Benicia. You can honor the vital contribution public works professionals make every day and celebrate their quiet dedication and indispensable influence on our way of life. Show your appreciation by spreading the word on social media with the hashtag #NPWW or #TheRhythmofPublicWorks.

Census Reminder:  If you have completed the 2020 U.S. Census, thank you! If you haven’t taken it yet, please do so as soon as possible. Taking the census now will avoid a census working having to come to your home to complete the census for your address.

You can take the Census online, by phone or by mail. It’s confidential, quick and easy. Your response helps determine how $1.5 trillion in funding is allocated to our community every year. Click here to take it online. Additional information is available at
High Heat This Week:  Our first heat wave of the year is forecast for this week with the highest temperatures occurring Tuesday through Thursday. The Benicia Public Library is typically used as a cooling center but as it remains closed, along with the James Lemos Swim Center, due to their being classified as phase 3 closures, residents should take extra precautions to remain hydrated, limit time outdoors, and dress for the heat.
Press Releases
Recent City of Benicia press releases are available on the City of Benicia website under Main/Announcements.
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Clarification: Solano County COVID-19 curve rising? Or flattening?

By Roger Straw, April 9, 2020

I’m confused.

The Solano County Health department reports out daily Mon-Fri with an excellent accounting of COVID-19 updates.  Here’s a screenshot of their most recent report:

In my daily coverage, I’ve highlighted the daily increase in Total Confirmed Cases (112 above).  I’ve also paid a lot of attention to the dramatic rise in the yellow curve shown in the graph at bottom, center, “Cumulative number of cases on the date reported to Solano Public Health”.

My daily observation has been, “Our coronavirus curve is on a steep uphill climb!  Everyone stay home and be safe!

Here’s the problem: Yesterday our Benicia City Manager, Lorie Tinfow, echoed the Solano County Public Health Officer, Dr. Bela Matyas, beginning her otherwise excellent press release with these words: “As we see the curve of new COVID-19 cases begin to flatten,…”

Stop.  What?  The curve is flattening?  I have been critical of our County Health department, but I trust our Benicia City Manager.  What does she know that I don’t know?

I wrote to Ms. Tinfow pointing out the apparent contradiction, and copied my email to Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, another public official whom I trust.  The Mayor was quick to reply, writing, “I think they might be referring to “active” cases.  The number of cases is increasing for the most part because of delayed test results (up to 12 days).  We have 35 active cases and the hospitalization and ICU rates are not increasing rapidly.  Overall, there is a less than 4% increase in active [cases], hospitalization and ICU.  So the message, I think, is sheltering at home is working and don’t blow its by mingling for Easter and Passover.”

This MIGHT make sense.  I wanted to see for myself, so I created the following chart.  You will notice the red columns track the DAILY CHANGES.There are indeed differences in the daily change rates shown in the columns above.  While total confirmed cases and new cases have been increasing, the change in the daily number of active cases has remained relatively stable.  Similarly, the change in hospitalizations doesn’t vary much from day to day.

So… to clarify, I guess…  Solano County is continuing to see daily increases in the disease among us, but it may not be rising as fast as the little yellow line in the graph would suggest.

The data is still pretty young.  That is, the sample in my chart above only covers a period of just over 2 weeks.  If the experts say the curve is flattening here in Solano County, well, ok.

There are two extremely important take-aways, though:

    1. We have a long way to go – social distancing is incredibly important.  Stay at home!
    2. When any community hits the curve’s apex, it’s far from over.  As one tv doctor put it, the day after the apex is still the second worst day of the crisis!  Be prepared for more cases, and possibly more deaths here in Solano County.