Category Archives: Christina Strawbridge

Steve Young: Are outside corporations and individuals interfering with our local election?

By Steve Young, Benicia Vice-Mayor

Benicia voters should be wary of fake polls

Benicia Vice Mayor Steve Young

While relaxing at home last evening, I received a call from a Saratoga phone number. The caller said she was conducting a poll for Research America on the upcoming election for Governor, Senator and City Council.. Having more than a passing interest in the topic, I agreed to be questioned on my opinions. However there were no questions about the Governor or Senate race-it was strictly limited to the Benicia City Council race.

It soon became clear that this was a classic “push poll”.  According to the American Association of Public Opinion Research, a group of legitimate polling operations, “AAPOR defines a ‘push poll’ as a form of negative campaigning that is disguised as a political poll. ‘Push polls’ are actually political telemarketing — telephone calls disguised as research that aim to persuade large numbers of voters and affect election outcomes, rather than measure opinions.”

While there were no questions in the poll about William Emes, and limited questions about Christina Strawbridge, there were lots of questions about Lionel Largaespada and Kari Birdseye. All of the questions were in the format of “Let me read you some statements about the candidate, and tell me if they make you more or less likely to support them in the election”

The statements about Mr. Largaespada were uniformly positive and stated how, for example,  he would use his small business background to improve the City’s economy and relations with its businesses.

The statements about Ms. Birdseye were the opposite. Among these statements were “She wants to shut down Valero, costing hundreds of jobs.” and “She will bring radical left-wing politics to City Hall”.

If someone heard those statements, and believed them to be true, that would clearly influence their vote-which is the real purpose of a push poll. The descriptions of Ms. Birdseye’s positions are clearly NOT true. But that is of little concern to those paying for the operation, if they are successful in painting a false portrait of her in the minds of voters.

There was also a lengthy section on endorsements, asking if endorsements from the following people and organizations made me more or less likely to vote for a candidate. Among those listed were yours truly, the Mayor, the Central Labor Council (and their affiliates the Benicia Teachers, Police and Fire unions), Valero, the Chamber of Commerce, the Progressive Democrats of Benicia, Congressman Thompson, and the Solano County Democratic Central Committee.

Finally, there was a question about the proposed Industrial Safety Ordinance that offered two choices that boiled down to either the argument advanced by the proponents of such an ordinance or the one made by the opponents, including Valero.

When the questioning was completed, I asked the person on the other end a series of questions, and she was surprisingly talkative. First, who paid for the poll? She answered, convincingly, that she did not know, since knowing it might bias the questions.  (Of course, the questions were ridiculously biased as written). Second, who signed her paycheck? Research America. Third, where was she located? In the Poconos in Eastern Pennsylvania. When I responded that the call was shown coming from a California phone number, she said that was done all the time to convince more people to answer the phone. Fourth, was she calling from home? No, she was in an office building. Finally, how many people were making these calls on the Benicia council race? On any given day, she said, 40-80 people were making these calls.

The last answer shocked me. If true, and I have no reason to doubt any of her answers, this means that literally every Benicia voter could eventually receive these phony polling  calls.

Fortunately, I believe most Benicia voters are smart enough to see these calls for what they are-an extremely expensive effort to try and smear one candidate with false charges and to benefit another. Who would spend this kind of money to influence the Council race is the great unknown question. But there is clearly some outside person or corporation willing to spend a lot of money to try and influence this election.

    Birdseye and Strawbridge opposed Valero Crude by Rail – Largaesapada supported oil trains

    Pat Toth-Smith: Birdseye puts safety first

    By Pat Toth-Smith, September 9, 2018
    Pat Toth-Smith

    It’s been two years since the 2016 crude-by-rail permit for Valero was denied, but a strong memory of it remains for me and probably for a lot of Benicians.  It’s because of that experience that I’m urging Benicians to vote for Kari Birdseye for the Benicia City Council.

    Birdseye was a new Planning Commissioner when the permit process fell into the Commission’s authority, and she really did her homework to keep us safe in Benicia.

    When I spoke to her about that process, she said she would stay up long into the night reading the stacks of material submitted to the commissioners and also would focus intently on everything the public said during the Planning Commission meetings.

    She added that it was Kamala Harris, California’s attorney general at that time),who made the biggest impact on her in her comment about how local permitting measures absolutely applied to this process.  Birdseye said “I knew then, that the state of California had our back.”

    Birdseye voted against the permit along with all the other Planning Commissioners.

    When I asked her why she denied the permit besides the significant local reasons, her voice choked when she said “My dad, my husband, my sister and my two children live here, why would I want to risk the health and safety of my family, friends, and all Benicians by bringing in 100 crude oil rail cars into our town, when the safety of this form of transport was in question with the rapid increase of oil train explosions.  I did not want our town to be the next tragic headline news story.

    She continued, “After listening to so many of the speakers say, ‘I’m afraid of this,’ ‘Let’s not do this,’ ‘We don’t need this for our community,’ ‘Valero doesn’t need this,’ and ‘There are safer ways to bring in their oil,’ our community certainly wasn’t in favor of it, so how could I possibly vote for it?“

    After the planning commission denial, Valero appealed to the City Council to certify the Environmental Impact Report and issue the permit. After a five-month delay, this is where another 2018 City Council candidate, then-Councilmember Christina Strawbridge, also voted to deny Valero’s appeal for the permit. It ended up being a unanimous vote to deny Valero’s appeal for the permit, mostly based on the Planning Commission’s work.

    Another 2018 council candidate, Lionel Largaespada, was also involved in the crude-by-rail process. Largaespada was in favor of approving the permit and commented to the Planning Commission before their vote, “I understand the concerns. I understand the risks. But I urge you to be objective and pragmatic. Because the fact — the reality is that we need this project to ensure Benicia’s economic future and prosperity. I urge you to certify the EIR and to issue the conditional use permit.”

    Based on this recent history of our town and the way the candidates handled the CBR issue, I’m encouraging Benicians to vote for Kari Birdseye because I think she has the compassion and diligence to do the hard work to put the safety of our community first, especially when the next big permitting process comes along.  Also, praise to Christina Strawbridge, because she did the right thing.

    Pat Toth-Smith is a Benicia resident and member of Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community

      Vallejo Times-Herald report: Birdseye gets Progressive Dem endorsement

      Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
      [Editor: for more about Kari Birdseye, see For more about Christina Strawbridge, see – RS]

      Birdseye gets nod from Progressive Dems of Benicia

      Times-Herald staff report, 08/15/18, 4:55 PM PDT 

      BENICIA >> The Progressive Democrats of Benicia have endorsed Kari Birdseye in her bid for a seat on the Benicia City Council.

      The group’s membership voted on the endorsement during a membership meeting Tuesday night.

      Birdseye is current chair of the city’s Planning Commission.

      Fellow candidate and former Councilwoman Christina Strawbridge failed to secure the endorsement of the Progressive Democrats, group officials said.

      Strawbridge, who served on the council from 2011 to 2016, is also a member of the Progressive Democrats of Benicia.

      Two seats are open on the Benicia City Council this fall. Incumbents Mark Hughes and Alan Schwartzman are leaving the council after their terms end this year. Current Economic Development Board Chair Lionel Largaespada is also a candidate for a council seat.

      Members further endorsed Dana Dean for the Solano County Board of Education Trustee Area 3. Dean was the only person to pull and submit candidacy paperwork prior to the Aug. 10 deadline. Thus, her contest was removed from the ballot and she was automatically re-elected to a new four-year term.

      The election is Nov. 6.

      For more information, visit