Anti-Birdseye PAC tries to stop forum, threatens to sue City

By Roger Straw, November 3, 2018

Deep pockets hire attorneys, send threatening letter

Just hours before Benicia Open Government Commission was to convene its “Final Word” forum on Saturday Nov. 3 to give candidates a chance to counter dirty campaign tricks and last-minute smears, Valero’s anti-Birdseye PAC hired the attorney firm Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni to demand the forum be cancelled.

The November 2 letter is itself a last-minute campaign smear, explicitly linking Birdseye to city officials, claiming “the Forum is nothing more than a taxpayer-funded platform to boost the candidacy of a single candidate favored by the current Mayor.”

In a Trump-like maneuver to flip its own dark side back on its declared enemy, the letter makes up a fantasy and cries, “the appointed city officials tasked with policing political speech at the Forum certainly know that the City’s Mayor and Vice-Mayor have endorsed one of the candidates in the debate in the hopes of cementing their own political agenda, while aggressively trying to demonize others for their support of a different candidate.”

Reports indicate the City of Benicia will go forward with the forum.  The attorney letter will be reprinted and placed on a side table in Council Chambers as a matter of record.  [UPDATE: The forum was held.  See Final Word: No one likes the anti-Birdseye PAC’s dirty campaign.]

The PAC is highly active in its negative campaigning in other ways.  A local resident who works for a Richmond refinery and supports Birdseye reported receiving a phone call from an Ironworker asking him to arrive early to pack the forum.  The caller clarified that the PAC hoped to deny any Birdseye supporters from participation.

Now both sides are asking supporters to arrive early.  The doors at City Council chambers open at 8:30 a.m. for the 9 a.m. event.

One may assume that rules and procedures as adopted by the City will prevail:

“The City of Benicia code(Sec 1.42.110) allows for a last minute candidate forum to allow candidates to address last minute “hit pieces” and to respond to inflammatory statements and misinformation.

This forum does not always happen but, given the amount of negative campaigning happening in the City Council race, the City’s Open Government Commission will sponsor such a session this Saturday, Nov. 3 from 9-11am at the City Council chambers.

The event will be televised live on Ch. 27, and rebroadcast at 7pm on Sunday and Monday nights, Nov. 4 and 5. It will also be archived for the public on Monday, 11/5 on the City’s Agendas & Minutes page – scroll down to Open Government.

The forum will be moderated by Open Government Commission Chair Bonnie Silvera, with assistance from two other OGC members.  Questions from audience will be written on 3×5 cards and selected by OGC members. Questions will be addressed to all candidates.  Only questions that deal with the purpose of the forum will be addressed.  Candidates are asked to speak to the issues and not make personal comments about other candidates, especially in a negative manner.