by Roger Straw, November 4, 2018
[Editor: See video of the Forum. – R.S.]
Winners: the Candidates – Losers: Valero & the anti-Birdseye PAC
I think I know now, why the anti-Birdseye PAC was desperate to stop the Benicia Open Government’s “Final Word” forum. Turns out the forum was an unqualified success for all four candidates and a disaster for Valero and organized labor.
The candidates – every one of them – disavowed the anti-Birdseye smears and misinformation and distanced themselves from the PAC.
There must’ve been a half-dozen speakers who told of lifelong family commitments to organized labor who are now more than dismayed at the PAC’s dirty tactics and deep pocketed interference in Benicia’s democratic process.
Several said big labor “should be ashamed.”
If that wasn’t enough, the PAC trotted 5 or 6 speakers up to start off “Open Comment” period. That time is usually – and was supposed to be – reserved for comments on anything NOT on the day’s agenda. But PAC supporters strayed repeatedly into smears and misinformation, thus using the Forum itself for another public “hit piece.”
One PAC supporter presented himself as “the face of the opposition,” and was curbed by the moderator for stepping over the line of civil discourse. He raised his voice and refused to stop yelling when his time ran out. He was repeatedly graveled out of order, and finally had to be escorted out by an armed police officer.
The “face of the opposition”? Not a good moment for organized labor.
Candidate Kari Birdseye was measured and sometimes funny as she addressed the effect of the massive attacks on her character and her intentions.
Candidates Emes, Strawbridge and Largaespada ALL offered her the respect she is due, and clearly stated that the charges being leveled against her in PAC phone calls and advertising are FALSE.
So… can we have an election now?
Actually, it’s not clear sailing yet. There are two days left, the PAC still has a lot of money and I don’t think they will clean up their act. But I bet there will be a few working families no longer willing to go out for the PAC to knock on doors.
The Final Word Forum will be re-aired on Benicia TV on Sunday and Monday evenings Nov. 4 and 5, at 7 PM. Watch on your tv (Comcast Channel 27, or AT&T U-Verse Channel 99) or you may access the streamed broadcast on Benicia TV on the City’s website.
City staff originally said they would archive the video of the event alongside the 11/3 Open Government agenda. On Monday Nov. 5, they reversed that plan. City Manager Lorie Tinfow wrote, “We are treating the video of the Candidates Forum on Saturday in the same way we have treated previous videos of this forum when held. We are showing it twice on the cable television station and are making it available on a DVD for those who don’t have cable. If you would like to pick up a DVD tomorrow morning, please contact my office at 707-746-4200 or send me a message. We will make them available for pick up as soon as possible.” On election day, Nov. 6, the Benicia Independent obtained and posted a copy of the video.