The appointment was made by the seven Mayors in Solano County. The seat was vacated when the current representative, Suisun City Mayor Lori Wilson, was elected to the State Assembly and resigned her position as Mayor.
Said Mayor Young “I want to thank my fellow Mayors for their support in making this appointment to the BAAQMD Board. As the only City in Solano County with an oil refinery, it is past time that the City was represented on this important regional board.”
Asked to confirm that Benicia has never had a mayoral seat on the BAAQMD Board, former Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson recalled that some years ago, she was “appointed to the Air District Board but on a technical mistake, and had to turn badge and binder back.” She explained that “the district had miscalculated the population numbers to qualify the county for a city representative.” Later when Solano County qualified, Patterson received “a commitment from Mayor Price of Fairfield, but Solano Supervisor Jim Spering helped Price renege on his commitment, and Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis was appointed.” Patterson’s recollection is that Davis’ attendance on the Board was minimal. More recently, Patterson sought to be appointed again, but Mayor Lori Wilson of Suisun City was appointed.
Solano County currently has two of the 23 seats on the BAAQMD Board. Solano’s mayoral representative is chosen by the seven mayors in the county. The Solano County Board of Supervisors has its own representative, currently Supervisor Erin Hannigan of Vallejo District 1.
Young’s appointment will be official when sworn in by the Board at their next meeting on April 6.
Mayor Young will also be taking a seat on the Executive Committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission/Association of Bay Area Governments (MTC/ABAG).
The most important question asked the evening that Dr. Matyas, Solano County Public Health Officer, testified at the Benicia City Council was: “Where does the COVID virus come from that is spreading in all the homes and family gatherings, and parties?” The reason this question is critical is because Dr. Matyas claimed he was a scientist and not a politician, and that the “evidence” was clear COVID was surging in Solano County because of family gatherings and parties. And therefore, “masking up where the public gathered” such as in-door restaurants was not necessary.
This question — “Where does the virus come from that is spread at family gatherings? — is key to understanding that outside of spontaneous virus eruptions at family gatherings, the virus is caught someplace. The suggestion that it is just circulating among family and friends independent of exposure in stores or gyms is not scientific and lacks credibility.
Why then do we as a county not have masking requirements? At that same Benicia meeting and a subsequent press interview, Dr. Matyas explained that Benicia and Vallejo are more “Bay Area-like” and up county is more “Central Valley-like.” He went on to say this meant progressive against conservative ideological bases. And that is a reason he does not recommend the Solano County Board of Supervisors require masking.
Is this “let them get infected” rather than adopt the best strategy proven which is vaccinations, masking and avoiding long-term contact indoors? Does this mean that “fake COVID” cry scares officials? I’ve seen the meetings where the supervisors have endured anger and vitriol. In my experience, the way to deal with bullies is to do the right thing. The right thing is to reduce the spread of COVID by adopting proven strategies.
I like Dr. Matyas and understand his stated struggle communicating. That is his problem. Our problem is that we don’t have the best public health policies. That is the supervisors’ duty.
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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BENICIA — “What are you doing here, shouldn’t you be in Vallejo?”
This was a question Benicia resident Nimat Shakoor-Grantham says her Black son was asked as he walked down a street in town. He had also been pulled over before and asked, again, what he was doing in Benicia, she said.
A Black woman sitting in a Benicia restaurant told Shakoor-Grantham that she was pelted with ice cubes by white males at a nearby table. The message she got was, “You don’t belong here in our space.”
As for Shakoor-Grantham, an African-American woman who has lived in Benicia since 2002, the disrespect she has seen has ranged from a man at Safeway calling her “gal” and telling her to go fetch him a cart, to threatening letters left on her doorstep — again asking, “What are you trying to do here?”
She thinks that last threat was because she founded the Benicia group of Black Lives Matter. She has had anonymous people taunting her with, “You are poking the bear, and when the bear gets poked, the bear gets mad,” or “Why are you creating trouble in Benicia?”
The “trouble” she and her BBLM colleagues are getting into is what the late Senator John Lewis would call “good trouble,” or raising awareness of inequality, bias, and prejudice among citizens in town.
“We specifically address issues with the government, city, and county,” she said. “We address issues of education and Black arts and culture. We also promote the awareness of systemic racism and bias.”
This last aspect of their work — promoting awareness of systemic racism — was highlighted by former Mayor Elizabeth Patterson on her blog “El Pat’s Forum” at the end of December.
Patterson described a council meeting where BBLM members addressed the body about a need for an equity and diversity manager, something that many cities have. The job of the manager will be to become a liaison between citizens, government and businesses to promote awareness and movement toward a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable place to live for people of color in Benicia. The hire will reach out to the school district as well as art and cultural organizations and spaces as well.
“When the recommendation was presented to council by staff and BBLM members, many council members were quick to offer ideas about what they thought BBLM needed,” wrote Patterson. “One could almost feel the insult that a white city council was telling the panel of four BBLM members what they needed.”
Shakoor-Grantham was at the meeting and agreed with this assessment, but told the Times-Herald that what struck her more was that they seemed more interested in how much it was going to cost to hire a person to do this rather than discussing the importance of having one.
“I said, these are my experiences here, what can be done about it? And I got crickets,” Shakoor-Grantham said.
Patterson agreed that discussion became money, writing “there was a lot of haggling over the cost.” She then pointed out what she described as “structural racism.”
The cost of hiring a part-time equity expert (30 hours a week) was put at $133,000, which council members said the city could not afford. However, Patterson points out, some of the same council members had recently estimated the value to the city that fees from developers bring in and they came up with $230,000.
One councilmember, she wrote, described this amount as “nothing” to the general fund, meaning in the town’s large budget they could “almost forgo” even collecting the fees.
The mayor then juxtaposed this with the proposed equity hire.
“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.”
For Shakoor-Grantham and BBLM, the mayor’s message was exactly what they have hoped to hear from government.
“I am very happy that Elizabeth had the insight, awareness, and courage to write this,” Shakoor-Grantham said. “She saw the apparent disparity and refused to remain silent as many people who shouldn’t remain silent choose to do,” she wrote in an op-ed in this paper.”
BBLM has about 30 members, she says, and everyone is committed to moving Benicia “in the right direction.” She estimates that 80 percent of the group is made up of white allies. She is quick to point out the many stereotypes that some people might have about Black Lives Matter.
“We want to work together with people, to learn and evolve together,” she said. “We aren’t trying to guilt trip white people.”
Shakoor-Grantham acknowledges that everyone, even herself, holds biases that they need to be aware of. However she says if your bias impacts the peace of another member of this community or makes them feel like they don’t belong here, it is important to address it. She feels she also has a big ally in Police Chief Erik Upson, who she says has been incredibly responsive.
“I have faith in him,” she said.
Overall, she is pleased at progress that has been made and she is looking forward to the city hiring the equity manager.
“There’s some good stuff happening, I’m really happy,” she says. “The good stuff out-shadows any of the negative.”