Category Archives: Local vigilance

Zoning Out Fossil Fuels: Local Action for A Better Future

Repost from  (See far below for webcast)


Every environmental attack by the Trump Administration further emphasizes the importance of taking local action on climate. Climate inaction at the federal level isn’t new–and neither is real success on climate action at the local level.
Hidden by the barrage of bad news stories about hurricanes, wildfires, and international climate agreements, are dozens of good news stories about frontline communities defeating dirty fuel projects and municipalities leading the way on zoning out new fossil fuel infrastructure. 
Towns and counties have local land use powers that allow them to change regulations to prevent the siting of new fossil fuel infrastructure. Around the US, activists and NGOs have been working with these city and county governments to effectively “zone out” the ability to permit new dirty fuel projects. 
A few of the examples:

  • In Whatcom County, Washington, the County Council will hold a public hearing on 9/26/17 and vote to pass an extension of the moratorium on accepting applications for new infrastructure that could be used for unrefined fossil fuel export. This will eventually become codified in the county’s land use policy.
  • In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the board of Harbor Commissioners and Public Works department, operating under the City of Milwaukee, amended a lease to not allow US Oil to “receive, handle, store, ship or otherwise process or distribute crude oil” at the port.
  • In Tacoma, Washington, a permitting freeze similar to Whatcom’s is close to passage, with plans to alter the port’s industrial zoning to prevent new dirty fuel projects.
  • In Portland, Oregon, an ordinance was passed to prevent the siting of bulk crude storage in the city. The legal challenge from industry is winding through the courts, but the ordinance has a good chance of being upheld.

If implemented broadly, passing municipal land use ordinances can prevent the growth of the fossil fuel economy, and be a critical element in fighting global warming, regardless of what the Trump Administration tries to do.

We hosted a recent webcast with activists from the efforts in Whatcom County, WA and Portland, OR.

Want the local resources mentioned in the webcast? has got you covered. Click here.

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Letter from Larnie Fox: Civility in local political discourse

We received the following letter to the editor from Larnie Fox, Benicia artist and former director of Arts Benicia


September 11, 2017

Many citizens are very upset about the hike in water bills and the new water meters. Our bill went up too, and we have a new water meter. I don’t like paying more for water now that we are on a fixed income, but it seemed reasonable and necessary to me, if a bit sudden. I understand that it came as a huge shock to many, and that there were big problems with the rollout of the new meters and that the increase in some people’s bills is apparently not justified by their actual usage.

I understand why people are angry, and I like the fact that they are civically engaged. However, the tone of the debate has become pretty ugly. I have seen some grandstanding at City Hall meetings, very unkind posts in social media, and personal attacks on the Mayor, Council, and City Staff. During my time directing Arts Benicia, I worked with and came to know many of the people who are now being vilified, and I know that they are without a doubt motivated by a love of Benicia and its citizens, and a deep desire to serve them.

We see similar angry rants and hateful social media memes in national politics now ~ and I think we can all see how this anger, which may be justified, becomes a barrier to finding solutions. I had hoped that our community was better than that.

As I wrote last year during the height of the crude by rail controversy: “Let’s keep in mind that we all care deeply about our charming, artistic, innovative little town. Please, let’s all keep civility and respect for the First Amendment, for each other and for our vibrant but frail local democracy at the forefront during this debate. After the issue is settled, let’s all reunite to work towards our common vision: maintaining Benicia as the safe, friendly, livable, economically viable small town in the Bay Area that we all love.”

Larnie Fox, artist and former director of Arts Benicia

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Mayors of Vallejo and Benicia join 150 to say no to hate groups

Vigil announcement

A Unity Vigil drew 150 citizens from Vallejo and Benicia on Sunday evening, August 13.  The crowd expressed solidarity and heartfelt outrage following the violent white supremacist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay rally in Charlottesville, VA last week.

Of particular note was the presence of the Mayors of both cities.  Mayor Elizabeth Patterson represented Benicia, and Mayor Bob Sampayan represented Vallejo.

The Benicia Independent stands firm in opposition to the moral depravity of white nationalism, the KKK and neo Nazi ideologies.

• From the Benicia Herald (appearing in the print edition only):

Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson addresses the crowd at an informal vigil Sunday evening in Vallejo’s Unity Plaza. The event was put on in response to a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. over the weekend that resulted in – among other things – a car being intentionally driven into a crowd of protesters, injuring 19 people and killing 32-year-old legal assistant Heather Heyer. The event was organized by Vallejo Benicia Indivisible and Benicia Indivisible for Justice and also featured speeches by Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan and Vallejo Poet Laureate Genea Brice. A moment of silence for Heyer was held at 7 p.m. | Photo courtesy of Vallejo Benicia Indivisible

• From the Vallejo Times-Herald:

Vigil Held in Support of Charlottesville – Vallejoans fill Unity Plaza to stand against bigotry, hate

Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan addresses a group of residents during a unity vigil Sunday evening in Vallejo.
Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan addresses a group of residents during a unity vigil Sunday evening in Vallejo. | John Glidden — Times-Herald
By John Glidden, 08/13/17, 10:28 PM PDT 

With the classic “We Shall Overcome” as their rallying cry, Vallejoans took to Unity Plaza Sunday night to take on the hate they had seen on their TV screens over the weekend.

About 150 residents sang the legendary civil rights anthem, denouncing the bigotry ­— and violence ­— that led to tragedy Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.

The gathering was in response to the death of Heather Heyer, who was intentionally hit by a car Saturday while she protested a white supremacist rally.

“Was I mad? Hell yes. Did I put blame? Hell yes. Did I point my finger at certain people in our (presidential) administration? Yes, I did,” Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan said, attempting to stifle his tears. “But do I hate? No. Because that, my friends, is what caused Heather’s demise. Hatred.”

Sampayan lauded the ethnic diversity of Sunday’s vigil participants.

“That’s what really makes me proud,” he added.

Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson also spoke, proudly proclaiming that “Benicia and Vallejo stand together.”

Patterson said she has no idea how to stop the type of hate shown in Charlottesville during Saturday’s white nationalist rally which caused bloody clashes with counter protesters.

“I am looking for your help and your ideas because even though it happened across the country, we have to be prepared for what could happen here,” Patterson added. “I’m worried.”

Vallejo activist and Neighborhood Rising founder Hakeem Brown expressed determination that the events in Charlottesville would not come to Vallejo.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure hate doesn’t take root in Vallejo,” he said to applause. Brown said a divided America allowed for the election of President Donald Trump.

“Our division aided his rise,” Brown said.

He urged residents to stand together and vote to overcome the hate he says Trump and his supporters are spreading.

Several in attendance carried signs, calling for unity and/or for love. Those who addressed the audience stood in front of a large American flag.

At exactly 7 p.m., a moment of silence for 32 seconds temporarily stopped the speeches, as those assembled remembered the 32-year-old Heyer.

Genea Brice, the city’s inaugural poet laureate, was incredulous as she spoke about Heyer’s death.

“Somebody died because they were standing for what they believed in,” Brice said. “Somebody used a car as a weapon.”

Brice then read a poem she wrote about unity.

She said the events in Virginia will not happen “because we are standing together.”

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