Category Archives: Kari Birdseye

Kari Birdseye to announce 2022 run for Benicia City Council – Rally this Sunday!

Kari Birdseye Campaign Kickoff Rally
This Sunday May 22, 2 pm, Benicia City Park

Festive Gathering at the Gazebo to Announce Run for Benicia City Council

Benicia Planning Commission chairperson Kari Birdseye will run for City Council in November’s election, and strong support for our friend is already building.

Benicia enthusiasts have organized a Kickoff Rally around the Gazebo in City Park for this Sunday, May 22 starting at 2pm.  The Rally will feature music, banners, a short but impressive lineup of speakers and opportunities to volunteer and donate.  It will be a great time to mingle with like-minded friends.

More information and volunteer possibilities can be found at karibirdseyeforbenicia.com.

Many BenIndy readers will be turning out for Kari and offering to help organize a strong campaign.  You are invited to join in this Sunday, 2-4pm at the Gazebo.  See you there!

Kari Birdseye For Benicia City Council 2022
https://karibirdseyeforbenicia.com

KQED: Candidate Targeted by Valero Wins Benicia Mayoral Race

[Significant quote: “The fact that Young withstood the Valero PAC’s campaign is hugely significant, according to Matto Mildenberger, an assistant professor of political science at UC Santa Barbara, who focuses on oil politics.  ‘It means that Benicia voters are willing to take their climate future into their own hands and are going to resist efforts by oil companies to control local politics.'”] [See also KQED’s Oct 28 report on Valero PAC spending.]

Benicia Election Update with candidate quotes

KQED Election Updates, By Ted Goldberg, November 4, 2020

Benicia Councilman Steve Young, a candidate attacked by a political action committee funded mainly by the Valero Energy company, will be the city’s new mayor.

The Working Families for a Strong Benicia PAC raised more than $250,000 to defeat Young and support Councilwoman Christina Strawbridge. The committee said Young would put blue collar jobs, like those at Valero’s Benicia refinery, at risk.

But city’s voters were not swayed.

With Young leading the race with close to 52% of the vote, Strawbridge, who garnered about 31%, conceded the election Wednesday morning.

“I believe the voters reacted strongly against the negative ads and mailers that the Valero-funded PAC tried to use against me,” Young said.

“Hopefully, Valero will learn the obvious lesson from this result: Interference in Benicia elections will be rejected in the future as well,” Young said.


Strawbridge called Young’s election a “decisive victory.”

“Congratulations to him,” Strawbridge said, adding that the two lawmakers exchanged text messages Wednesday morning. “Even though it was a tough election, we have and will work together for Benicia.”

Since 2019, Valero has donated $240,000 to the political action committee targeting Young. The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 549 donated some $50,000 as well.

The same PAC spent thousands to help Strawbridge and Lionel Largaespada win seats on the Benicia City Council, and to defeat Kari Birdseye, a former chair of the city’s Planning Commission that denied Valero’s crude-by-rail expansion project.

Young will take over from Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, a critic of Valero who has served in Benicia city government for two decades.

Patterson had become increasingly outspoken about efforts to place more regulations on the Valero plant, scene of the two worst refinery accidents in the Bay Area in the last three years.

The fact that Young withstood the Valero PAC’s campaign is hugely significant, according to Matto Mildenberger, an assistant professor of political science at UC Santa Barbara, who focuses on oil politics.

“It means that Benicia voters are willing to take their climate future into their own hands and are going to resist efforts by oil companies to control local politics,” Mildenberger said.

KQED: Texas refinery candidates win in Benicia City Council race

Repost from KQED News

Valero-Backed Candidates Win Benicia City Council Election

By Ted Goldberg, November 7, 2018
The Valero refinery in Benicia. (Craig Miller/KQED)

Two candidates backed by Texas-based Valero Energy Corp. won seats on the Benicia City Council in Tuesday’s election, while another candidate attacked by the large oil company lost.

Valero — which operates a refinery that’s one of Benicia’s largest employers — along with five state and local labor groups donated more than $165,000 to a political action committee that backed Christina Strawbridge and Lionel Largaespada and opposed Kari Birdseye, an environmentalist.

That amount is more than three times as much as what the candidates raised combined.

By Wednesday morning, Strawbridge got more than 33 percent of the vote, Largaespada garnered close to 30 percent and Birdseye received 26 percent, according to the Solano County Registrar of Voters. Those numbers don’t yet include all mail-in and provisional ballots.

Birdseye has conceded the election, but she expressed displeasure with the PAC’s actions.

“We ran a smart, clean campaign and played by the rules. These election results will only embolden special interests to throw in money to local races to buy candidates to do their dirty work,” Birdseye said in an emailed statement.

The Valero PAC’s ads called Birdseye “a yes man” for Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, and “another job killer” that was “bad for Benicia.”

Its work deepened a divide at City Hall and the rest of Benicia over the city’s relationship with its refinery neighbor, 18 months after the facility experienced a full power outage that led to a major release of pollution.

The Valero PAC’s work led to a failed attempt by Benicia city officials to get the state’s political watchdog to investigate some of Valero’s communication with voters weeks before the vote.

And it reminded critics of an effort by Chevron to sway voters in Richmond in 2014 when the company spent millions on an attempt to elect a slate of its allies to the City Council.

Strawbridge, who was previously on the council, emphasized that she did not support what she called the committee’s “smear campaign,” and said it’s time for the city to come together and improve its dealings with Valero.

“It’s been a tough election,” Strawbridge said in an interview Wednesday. “I ran on my own credentials, my own experience and I feel like that resonated with the residents.”

A Valero spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Last month the company wrote a letter to the editor at the Vallejo Times-Herald, emphasizing the refinery’s strong safety record and criticizing Mayor Patterson.

Union officials have said that Patterson’s criticism of Valero puts the city’s economic health at risk. And, since Birdseye was her ally and a spokeswoman for the National Resources Defense Council, she became the target of the PAC.

“Last night the voters of Benicia made it clear the path they want our city to take,” said Don Zampa, president of the District Council of Ironworkers, in an emailed statement. Zampa’s group is one of the those that donated to the PAC.

“Benicia is home to a blue-collar workforce. We’ve been here for generations and we are not going anywhere,” Zampa said.

Patterson, for her part, has said Valero tried to bully and buy its way into politics in Benicia. [Editor: see Mayor Patterson’s email comment to KQED.]

Largaespada did not respond to a request for comment.

Here it is – video of the Final Word Forum

By Roger Straw, Election Day, November 6, 2018
[Editor: For whatever reason, the City backed off its plan to post the video of the forum, but made DVD copies available to the public on request.  This is therefore an official record of the proceedings, uploaded from the DVD by Benicia videographer Constance Beutel.  Many thanks, Constance!  – R.S.]

Candidates disavow Valero/Labor PAC’s offensive negative phone calls and ads

Below is the recording of the City of Benicia Open Government Commission’s “Final Word” forum held on Saturday, November 3.  (Note that there is a lengthy intro with nothing happening.  The meeting is called to order at 8:45.)

The Final Word Forum is convened by the City of Benicia Open Government Commission on the Saturday before an election as a means for candidates to address “last minute hit pieces.”  (Municipal code ordinance 1.42.110.)

The event this year was attended by an overflow crowd, following the massive spending and offensive negative advertising of a Valero/Labor anti-Birdseye political action committee (PAC).  At the forum, all four candidates for City Council roundly rejected the false and misleading claims made by the PAC against Kari Birdseye.

The Benicia Independent has endorsed Kari Birdseye for City Council.  For more about Kari, see BirdseyeForBenicia.com.

NOTE SLOW START: The first part of this video shows nothing happening.  The meeting is convened at minute 8:45, but nothing much happens until Public Comment, which begins at minute 12:28.  Even then, the call for speakers doesn’t come until minute 13:33.  To move forward through the video, hover your mouse at bottom and click/drag the little red ball to the right until you reach the minute you want.

NOTE ALSO:

  • Public Comment speakers favoring the Valero/Labor anti-Birdseye PAC run from 13:33 to 33:36.  Mr. Versace, who is eventually ejected by police for misbehavior, is called to speak at minute 22:50.
  • At 33:50 Gigi Giblin leads off a series of speakers critical of the PAC’s hit pieces.
  • Rules, procedures and housekeeping begins at 51:07.
  • The CANDIDATE COMMENTS followed by PUBLIC QUESTIONS and CANDIDATE ANSWERS begins at 55:50.