Category Archives: Benicia Open Government Commission

City decides NOT to post Final Word forum video- last rebroadcast Monday night 7pm

By Roger Straw, November 5, 2018
[Editor: At around 6pm tonight, City Manager Lorie Tinfow responded to urgent citizen requests to air the video.  She 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.”  UPDATEOn election day, Nov. 6, the Benicia Independent obtained and posted a copy of the video.  – R.S.]

This afternoon, the City of Benicia pulled back from its original plan to post a video recording of the November 3 meeting of Benicia’s Open Government Commission.  The meeting included a “Final Word” forum, in which candidates for City Council and the public responded to recent campaign “hit pieces.”

All four candidates joined with many residents at the forum in severely criticizing the misleading and untruthful claims made against candidate Kari Birdseye by a Valero/Labor political action committee (PAC).  One anti-Birdseye speaker refused to be civil and had to be escorted out by a Benicia police officer.

The City recorded the meeting, but for unknown reasons has decided NOT to publish the video on its website page of Agendas, Minutes and Videos.

At the time of this writing, you can still catch the City’s final rebroadcast of the meeting at 7pm tonight, Monday, Nov. 5, via live streaming on your computer at Benicia TV, https://www.ci.benicia.ca.us/btv or on your tv at home on Comcast channel 27 or AT&T U-Verse channel 99.

NOTE: On election day, Nov. 6, the Benicia Independent obtained and posted a copy of the video.

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    Final Word: No one likes the anti-Birdseye PAC’s dirty campaign

    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.

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      Anti-Birdseye PAC tries to stop forum, threatens to sue City

      By Roger Straw, November 3, 2018

      Deep pockets hire attorneys, send threatening letter

      Just hours before Benicia Open Government Commission was to convene its “Final Word” forum on Saturday Nov. 3 to give candidates a chance to counter dirty campaign tricks and last-minute smears, Valero’s anti-Birdseye PAC hired the attorney firm Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni to demand the forum be cancelled.

      The November 2 letter is itself a last-minute campaign smear, explicitly linking Birdseye to city officials, claiming “the Forum is nothing more than a taxpayer-funded platform to boost the candidacy of a single candidate favored by the current Mayor.”

      In a Trump-like maneuver to flip its own dark side back on its declared enemy, the letter makes up a fantasy and cries, “the appointed city officials tasked with policing political speech at the Forum certainly know that the City’s Mayor and Vice-Mayor have endorsed one of the candidates in the debate in the hopes of cementing their own political agenda, while aggressively trying to demonize others for their support of a different candidate.”

      Reports indicate the City of Benicia will go forward with the forum.  The attorney letter will be reprinted and placed on a side table in Council Chambers as a matter of record.  [UPDATE: The forum was held.  See Final Word: No one likes the anti-Birdseye PAC’s dirty campaign.]

      The PAC is highly active in its negative campaigning in other ways.  A local resident who works for a Richmond refinery and supports Birdseye reported receiving a phone call from an Ironworker asking him to arrive early to pack the forum.  The caller clarified that the PAC hoped to deny any Birdseye supporters from participation.

      Now both sides are asking supporters to arrive early.  The doors at City Council chambers open at 8:30 a.m. for the 9 a.m. event.

      One may assume that rules and procedures as adopted by the City will prevail:

      “The City of Benicia code(Sec 1.42.110) allows for a last minute candidate forum to allow candidates to address last minute “hit pieces” and to respond to inflammatory statements and misinformation.

      This forum does not always happen but, given the amount of negative campaigning happening in the City Council race, the City’s Open Government Commission will sponsor such a session this Saturday, Nov. 3 from 9-11am at the City Council chambers.

      The event will be televised live on Ch. 27, and rebroadcast at 7pm on Sunday and Monday nights, Nov. 4 and 5. It will also be archived for the public on Monday, 11/5 on the City’s Agendas & Minutes page – scroll down to Open Government.

      The forum will be moderated by Open Government Commission Chair Bonnie Silvera, with assistance from two other OGC members.  Questions from audience will be written on 3×5 cards and selected by OGC members. Questions will be addressed to all candidates.  Only questions that deal with the purpose of the forum will be addressed.  Candidates are asked to speak to the issues and not make personal comments about other candidates, especially in a negative manner.

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