Category Archives: Seeno property

LETTER SERIES: Larnie Fox – “Leadership Style” on the Benicia City Council

[Editor: Benicians are expressing themselves in letters to the editor of our local print newspaper, the Benicia Herald. But the Herald doesn’t publish letters in its online editions – and many Benician’s don’t subscribe. We are posting certain letters here for wider distribution. – RS]

“Leadership Style”

By Larnie Fox
October 21, 2016
Larnie Fox
Larnie Fox

Republican mayoral candidate Mark Hughes is running on a platform of changing the “leadership style” on our City Council, and the other council members are supporting him. I’ve been attending City Council meetings and watching them online for the last six years, and I think I know what he means.

As Mayor, Elizabeth Patterson is constantly trying to lead the Council to be forward-thinking and visionary, and has often been frustrated by the inertia of the current Council.

During the recent debate over Valero’s crude by rail proposal, Council members, including Mark, appeared to be unhappy with Mayor Elizabeth Patterson’s questioning of Valero’s proposal. Elizabeth was unhappy because Council members and City staff made a concerted effort to stop her from spreading information about the project via the informative email newsletter which she produces at her own expense. She was forced (also at her own expense) to mount a legal defense against those efforts. Personally, I want a mayor who is willing to share information with the public and has opinions on important issues. Other Council members and City staff, (whom I know to be good people and like personally), apparently disagreed with this understanding of the First Amendment.

The decision on crude by rail should have been a no-brainer after our Planning Commission’s extensive research on the subject, the environmental impact reports, the input from communities and governmental entities across the state including our Attorney General, and the ongoing pattern of explosions, derailments, and spills. Yet, under pressure from Valero, the Council voted for delay. Elizabeth Patterson and Council member Tom Campbell were opposed to the project early on, but the other three were noncommittal about it until the recent explosion in Mosier Oregon convinced Christina Strawbridge. No one wants to be on the losing side, especially right before an election, so we had a unanimous Council opposing the project, thank goodness! Mark Hughes is now running on his record of opposing crude by rail. Clearly, Elizabeth Patterson on the Council and Steve Young on the Planning Commission provided the leadership to finally stop this dangerous proposal.

The debate over water rates provides another illustration of differing leadership styles. My understanding of the water issue is as follows:

1. We are in a drought; water is harder to get and more expensive.
2. The infrastructure is old and needs work. Benicia loses around 25% of its water to pipeline leaks, faulty meters, etc.
3. The council postponed raising rates to appropriate levels during the Recession.
4. Our current Mayor is a water-use professional on the State level, and an expert in the field.

Therefore rates have gone up; more so for the bigger users. Elizabeth led the Council to this action to secure our water supplies and rebuild our old infrastructure, in spite of the fact that it was politically unpopular. Hughes, on the other hand voted against it. Clearly that that was the politically expedient thing to do. Elizabeth could have waited until after the election to do this, but was unwilling to “kick the can down the road” and did the responsible thing.

Now the Council is considering the “Northern Gateway project” development proposal to build 900 homes on Seeno family land near the industrial park in land zoned for industrial use, without much consideration of the need for additional schools, police, fire or road infrastructure, and no plan for more water. Elizabeth, Steve Young and Tom Campbell are for smart growth and clearly against the proposal as it stands. Hughes recently said repeatedly that when a developer approaches Benicia with an idea we should “throw out a welcome mat” for them. The Council’s style so far has been reactive, one in which they react to proposals piecemeal as they come in, rather than a proactive style, in which Benicia makes plans then finds developers to execute them. Elizabeth and Steve are both planners by profession, Elizabeth at a high-level position with the State Department of Water Resources, and Steve, retired with 30 years experience planning housing and redevelopment. They are both arguing for a proactive approach to planning.

I have been working actively for the campaigns of Elizabeth Patterson and Steve Young primarily because of these three issues, and also because they would better support the arts.

Elizabeth’s opponent Mark Hughes is a decent guy, but conservative, Republican, pro-development and pro-corporate; a veteran of PG&E. I feel that it’s crucial for Benicia to finally get a forward-looking, proactive majority on City Council and put the “good ol’ boys” days behind it.

The local election may have more impact on our lives than the national election, so please do your research and vote, and pay special attention to this race.

Larnie Fox, former Director of Arts Benicia
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LETTER SERIES: David Schulter – Steve Young for City Council

[Editor: Benicians are expressing themselves in letters to the editor of our local print newspaper, the Benicia Herald. But the Herald doesn’t publish letters in its online editions – and many Benician’s don’t subscribe. We are posting certain letters here for wider distribution. – RS]

Steve Young – Successful In Leadership, Experience, and a Vision for the Future

By David Schulter
October 21, 2016

At the Planning Commission meetings, I saw Steve put the health and living interests of city residents and homeowners above those of the Valero oil refinery. Steve transcended normal due diligence and questioned Valero’s attempts to bypass Benicia’s local land use authority for non-rail entities — i.e. Valero.

The Defeat of Crude by Rail: Steve Young was the key Leader in the successful effort to save our City and deny Valero the Crude by Rail Permit. This was a struggle with Valero that took 3 years of diligence to defeat, and happened despite the steadfast support of City Hall for the project. Steve was able to see the long term and unintended consequences of this project on the life, health, and welfare of citizens of our City – especially our children and elderly.

A People’s Candidate: Based on the campaign finance reports on file with the City Clerk’s office Steve Young has the widest base of support when compared to the other candidates running for Benicia City Council: This base of support includes proportionally more people who live in Benicia than his rivals. Steve, unlike some other candidates, is not supported by unions with members who do not live in Benicia. Indeed he has no special interest PAC’s and money from outside of Benicia.

To date, Steve has the largest total contributions and the largest number of contributors, nearly 90 percent of whom are Benicia residents. At the same time, he has the lowest average donation of $148, compared to $531 for Strawbridge and $327 for Largaspaeda.

Steve’s Vision For Creating a Better Future In Benicia: Valero uses about 50 percent of the water in Benicia. Valero and the city need to rethink how to prepare for the future, and perhaps provide a way of reprocessing water, which is becoming our most valuable commodity.

Mr. Young is also concerned with attracting more retail and commercial industries to Benicia. He supports maintaining and upgrading our city parks and waterfront for the benefit of residents and to continue to attract visitors to the many restaurants and shops on First Street.

Having a large developer build housing on the Seeno property in Benicia’s Industrial Park would mean the need for an additional school, additional water for the 900 new houses, and other infrastructure. Steve Young questions whether this project would be “smart growth.”  See Steve’s Website for more information

Experience: Steve Young has over 35 years of experience in Planning, Economic & Community Development. In Sacramento he met the challenge to transform land use to people friendly and economically viable uses following the government shutdown of military facilities at Mather Air Force Base and McClellan Air Force Base.

David Schulter
Benicia Resident


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LETTER SERIES: Roger Straw – Leaders for the future of Benicia

[Editor: Benicians are expressing themselves in letters to the editor of our local print newspaper, the Benicia Herald. But the Herald doesn’t publish letters in its online editions – and many Benician’s don’t subscribe. We are posting certain letters here for wider distribution. – RS]

Why NOT to vote for Hughes and Largaespada, and WHY TO VOTE for Elizabeth Patterson and Steve Young

By Roger Straw
October 19, 2016
Roger Straw, Editor, The Benicia Independent
Roger Straw, Editor, The Benicia Independent

Here in Benicia, we have a seriously important choice as we vote for our next mayor.  Everyone agrees that Mark Hughes is a nice guy, and I have had cordial relations with him.  But Mark is a Republican, worked for years as an executive in a major corporation, PG&E, and has not joined with the progressive majority on a number of important Council votes.

On Seeno, for instance, Hughes voted on Aug. 7, 2007 to approve the Seeno DEIR.  On June 3, 2008 he voted to accept Seeno’s request for an extension, have a comprehensive traffic study submitted to Council, and limit the public hearing to the traffic study.  Most importantly, on October 7, 2008 Hughes voted to approve the Seeno project when the Council narrowly defeated it on a 2-3 vote.

Unlike her opponent, Elizabeth Patterson embraces climate change science, is a longtime protector of the environment, lives and promotes progressive values.  With Elizabeth as Mayor, Benicia has strengthened the arts, won awards for environmental stewardship, brought in numerous grants and weathered the great recession.  She is responsive to residents, offering open office hours and regular email communications on issues of importance to us all.  Napa and Solano County political action committees (PACs) have endorsed Mr. Hughes and are spending huge sums of money to support him.  It is not at all guaranteed that Elizabeth will win this race – it’s incredibly important that you vote.  Don’t stay home!  Vote for Mayor Elizabeth Patterson. More at

Equally important is the Benicia City Council race.  Five candidates, including two incumbents, are running for the two open seats.  All but Lionel Largaespada are on record opposing Valero Crude By Rail.  Largaespada is another PAC-backed Republican. In 2011-12, he was paid $40,833 as a campaign consultant for NO ON 29. Proposition 29 was a tobacco tax for cancer research, and narrowly lost, under heavily funded attacks by big tobacco companies, law enforcement & labor.  (Sources: California Secretary of State, Cal-Access and Ballotpedia.)  According to his Linked In page, Largaespada operated an online advertising business, Civis Media Group, “specializing in issue advocacy and voter outreach for political candidates and issue-based non-profits and trade associations.”  Largaespada is surely another very nice man, but someone who would likely take Benicia on a rather permissive developmental joy ride.  Vote for anyone but Largaespada.

So the choice comes down to the other four candidates: incumbents Tom Campbell and Christina Strawbridge, and two Planning Commission challengers, Steve Young and George Oakes.  The top two vote-getters will win a seat on Council.

I was highly impressed with Christina’s and Tom’s actions in leading a unanimous vote on Council to deny Valero Crude by Rail.  But it was Elizabeth Patterson’s steady presence as an environmental advocate and the Planning Commission’s unanimous vote that led the way.

Planning Commissioners Don Dean, George Oakes, Elizabeth Radtke, Suzanne Sprague and Susan Cohen Grossman were all admirably outspoken in opposition to Valero’s proposal. But it was Steve Young’s persistent and challenging voice on the Planning Commission that was particularly effective in making the case against oil trains, and served as a wake-up call to everyone, including current Council members.

Against the formidable pressures of Benicia City staff, the City’s paid consultants and contract attorneys, and Valero’s executives and attorney, Steve proved himself to be a fearless champion of independent thinking, a leader with an eye for detail and a public servant with an unshakable concern for the health and safety of our residents and businesses.  Perhaps most importantly, Steve’s work helped shape and preserve Benicia’s reputation as a forward-thinking community.  I will vote for Steve Young.  Please vote for Steve.  More on Steve Young at

Roger Straw
Benicia resident and editor of the Benicia Independent
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