The Tenor of our Times
If you are on the Benicia Independent email list, I can pretty much be sure that your alarm bells – like mine – are going off. A sampling…
- Christine Blasey Ford and others accuse Judge Kavanaugh – the #MeToo movement and an FBI investigation
- A “push poll” with Benicia election meddling by outside forces
- Positive and effective support for one or more local City Council candidates
- The Trump administration’s alarming “rollback” on oil train braking regulations
- Urgent calls to help “flip” California congressional districts from red to blue
- Continuing detention of immigrant children and families at our border
- Deadlines for financial contributions needed for countless important causes
- A Benicia resident – a neighbor – arrested and charged as the NorCal Rapist!
…and of course, I could go on. I confess that it all leaves me somewhat at a loss, personally. We’ve been on alert since The Donald won the presidential election, vowing to stand vigilant, to resist, to move the country back into the progressive mainstream. But we’re tired. How do we cope?
I take slivers of hope from a few recent sources:
- Earlier this month, Barack Obama slammed the Trump administration and addressed us all in a speech at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The line that stood out to me and continues to hold me up was, “If you’re willing to fight for it, things do get better.” And, “Better is good….Better is good.”
Making democracy work means holding on to our principles, having clarity about our principles, and then having the confidence to get in the arena and have a serious debate. And it also means appreciating that progress does not happen all at once, but when you put your shoulder to the wheel, if you’re willing to fight for it, things do get better….Better is good.
Now just yesterday, we saw a composed survivor of sexual assault and a historically intemperate and deeply suspect judicial candidate followed by two US Senators, a Democrat and a Republican, reaching a sensible compromise on the horns of the partisan dilemma in the U.S. Senate. Watching the proceedings from afar, we sat by, most of us helpless and dreading the outcome. But those who could, opted for public outrage, with signs and shouting. A few incredibly brave ones went public with their stories, and two made history confronting a Republican Senator in an elevator booth. The combined efforts of all these activists stopped the elevator ride for Brett Kavanaugh – at least for a week. Definitely NOT perfect… but BETTER.
- Here in Benicia, the clearly partisan attack of a telephone “push poll” could have powerful electoral results going into our local election. We probably will never know to what degree. Yet, it’s GOOD that our City Attorney is looking into it, with a tough communication to the company that was hired to phone us with an attack on Kari Birdseye and thinly disguised promotional statements for one of her opponents. It’s good that the City’s Open Government Commission will hold a last-minute public hearing on November 3rd, giving candidates a chance to defend against hit pieces and misinformation. It’s good that there are a number of public hearings in our small town where we can go listen to and ask questions of the candidates themselves. See the schedule of forums at birdseyeforbenicia.com/candidate-forums.
- Here in Benicia, I have come under personal attack for favoring one candidate, Kari Birdseye, over other credible opponents. The Solano County Democrats and Progressive Democrats have been criticized for endorsing only Kari while the Labor Council and its member unions endorse without blame. (Well, except for complaints by some of our Benicia teachers, who resent the controlling influence over their endorsement by the Labor Council.) Kari Birdseye is in my opinion far and away the most environmentally aware, progressive and highly qualified candidate for City Council. I personally hope that Christina Strawbridge comes in second. It will be great – no, GREAT – in this #MeToo year to have 3 qualified women on our City Council. But my first priority has been and remains, to secure a seat for Kari Birdseye. See more at birdseyeforbenicia.com.
- Here in Benicia, there are excellent substantiated reasons why NOT to vote for City Council candidate Lionel Largaespada. His registration as a Republican aside, he stood with Valero and Texas executives and attorneys in favor of dangerous and dirty oil trains cutting over the mountains and through California to Benicia. He was paid to help defeat a 2012 California tobacco tax initiative that would have funded cancer research. His friendly outreach and community service is notable, but he is undeniably a supporter of big business, and has demonstrated that he was impervious to community activist’s efforts to educate and organize for environmental health and the safety of the community. Let’s cast our votes and hope that the Council can proceed without that kind of drag on a bright future for our beloved city.
- Finally, here in Benicia our local news is disappearing. Cutbacks at the Benicia Herald and the Vallejo Times-Herald have meant that increasingly, regular citizens have no idea what is going on at City Hall. We are assuredly in a “news desert.” As of this writing, yesterday was Benicia Herald editor Nick Sestanovich’s last day, and there’s no news as yet as to his replacement. Giventhe Benicia Herald’s poor track record of owner support for staff AND the hard financial times for print media in general, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the paper close. Wait and see. (Nick’s good-bye is a poignant moment in local news.)
The Vallejo paper covers Vallejo, with only an occasional nod to Benicia news. Mostly we only see press releases issued by the city of Benicia and police and fire departments. The Times-Herald can only do so much with so few staff since Katy St. Clair was let go. (Note that both Nick and Katy went to work in Vacaville. No news desert up there.)
Where can we look for BETTER here? Not perfect, but better? Increasingly, we must rely on digital media, like The Benicia Independent, NextDoor, Facebook’s BeniciaHappenings, Patch, and Google groups like BeniciaResist! Definitely far from perfect. Let’s make those sources BETTER.
Well, if you made it through this lengthy analysis, you deserve a thanks and kudos. I’ll try to be more regular with my newsletters in the future. Nice chatting with you – let’s all make Benicia a BETTER place.