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Q&A – California State Senate candidates address issues important to Benicia

[BenIndy note: Elections for the California State Senate will take place on November 5, 2024, but the all-important primary is March 5, 2024. Benicia’s current District 3 State Senator, Bill Dodd, has termed out and will not be seeking re-election. The following is great information about the candidates from .] 

STATE SENATE RACE 2024 – Candidate Questions & Answers

The candidates have answered a few questions in writing to give you more background before our upcoming meeting.  In the interest of fairness, we are presenting the questions and answers in two ways, so you can choose how you interact with them.

  1. You can scroll down or click a candidate’s name just below to read each candidate’s answers all at once.  In this presentation we order the candidates alphabetically. This is a great way to learn about the candidates one at a time.

2.  You can click the questions below to see all three of the candidates’ answers to that question at the same time. In this presentation we order the candidates’ answers by length, from shortest to longest.  This is a great way to compare the candidates’ answers to each question. [Note: these links take you to the PDB website.]

    1. Please provide a one or two paragraph background sketch.
    2. Provide one paragraph about why you are running for office.
    3. In one paragraph, describe your top three priorities.
    4. How would you know you’ve been successful at your job after two years? What’s your measure of success?
    5. What do you view as the highest (or top 3 things) priorities for attacking climate change?
    6. What do you view as your greatest accomplishment?

We feel this is as fair as we can make it for these three amazing candidates while respecting our members’ time.

Please note PDB did not edit or condense the candidate answers in any way except to format them slightly for this presentation. This means if a candidate was asked to write one paragraph but wrote more we kept their whole answer. We would like to thank the Northern Solano Democratic Club for allowing us to piggyback on their questionnaire. 

Christopher Cabaldon
also: United Dems 1-Hour Interview Video

1. Please provide a one or two paragraph background sketch.

Christopher Cabaldon led West Sacramento as its mayor for a record-setting two decades, transforming what was a forgotten old-industrial town into what is now cited as “America’s most interesting small city”, “America’s most livable small city”, and one of the world’s “21 Smart Cities to Watch”. He was chair of the national LGBTQ Mayors Alliance, and chair of both the Asian/Pacific and LGBT caucuses of the League of California Cities. He chairs the judges panel for the Police Reform & Racial Justice national award program, and is Mayor-in-Residence at the Institute for the Future.

President Obama appointed Christopher to the national College Promise board, leading a successful nationwide effort to enact free college programs in hundreds of cities and states. An appointed official for five governors, Christopher is California’s delegate to the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education. He served previously as vice chancellor of the California Community Colleges and director of the state legislature’s higher education committee, and as a tenured professor of public policy and administration at Sacramento State University. He was national president for Asian and Pacific Americans in Higher Education and president of the statewide Linked Learning Alliance. At the US Conference of Mayors, he chaired the Jobs, Education & the Workforce Committee. He is a board member for EdSource, California Competes, and the California Education Learning Lab.

As chair of the Sacramento region’s metropolitan planning organization and its transportation committee, his pioneering work on integrating transportation, land use, environmental justice, housing, air quality, and climate change has won numerous federal government and other national awards, and became the basis for some of California’s most sweeping transportation and climate reforms. He has been a state Delta Protection Commissioner, water quality control board member, and statewide advisory committee member for the 30×30 biodiversity conservation effort, as well as a board member for the Capitol Corridor rail service and Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District. CalMatters recently featured his commentary on the shadowy Flannery Associates’ massive land acquisition in Solano County.

2. Provide one paragraph about why you are running for office.

I am running for State Senate to help California live up to its potential. In California, we have made many strides to make our state a leader in equity, justice, sustainability, and economic prosperity, but there is still so much more left to do. I know we can, because I’ve done it—in my city and region, as an appointee of President Obama and four California governors, and as an educator and advocate.  I’ve fought successful, pathbreaking battles for Dreamers, to close fraudulent trade schools, to create life-changing college and career pathways for tens of thousands of young people, to protect habitat, farming and air and water quality, to end student debt, and to advance equity, racial justice, reproductive freedom, and LGBTQ+ rights. As Mayor, I spearheaded initiatives to expand access to preschool and higher education, protect natural resources, and tackle the housing crisis. Too often, the unique needs of communities like ours here in the 3rd District are not reflected in state policies. I’m excited to use my blended experience working in the Legislature and executive branch as well as regional and local government to be a pragmatic champion to get the job done for all Californians.

3. In one paragraph, describe your top three priorities.

Too many Californians cannot afford safe, secure housing in the communities where they work. As the mayor of one of California’s first ProHousing-designated cities, I know that it is both urgent and possible to increase the supply of housing—you shouldn’t have to move out of your community when your hours get cut or you get laid off. Housing is the foundation for so many health and social outcomes. At the same time, the housing challenge isn’t solely about supply—Californians need the wages, benefits, and economic security to afford quality housing. Protecting our land, water, and air while we grow housing—in particular, protecting farmland and habitats, precious natural resources—is crucial to both our economic future and the preservation of our community identity. Senate District 3 is comprised of diverse communities—rural, urban, with rivers, the Delta, and families across the socioeconomic spectrum.  As Delta Protection Commissioner, air/water quality regulator, and member of the state’s 30×30 biodiversity committee, I’ve fought to protect the land, waters, and habitat of our district and beyond. Finally, I’m a classroom educator who believes that California owes its success to its world-class education system, promising universal access to learning and economic mobility, a vibrant citizenry, and ideas and innovation. Learning beyond high school—whether a degree, certificate, or apprenticeship—is as essential as high school itself had become by 1900. But while we responded to the industrial revolution by making high school universal, public, and free, we haven’t done the same with postsecondary education. I’ll fight not just for incremental budget increases, but rather to restore the California promise of education for prosperity and democracy by a new financing strategy for our schools, colleges, universities, and apprenticeship programs.

4. How would you know you’ve been successful at your job after two years? What’s your measure of success?

The simplest metric—number of bills enacted into law—doesn’t tell much of a story. After all, a bill designating a new official state freshwater mollusk counts the same as a bill overhauling California’s healthcare system or decarbonizing all state buildings. I intend to introduce transformative bills that advance the policy priorities that we share and that I’ve discussed with so many of you. But senators will consider 2,000 bills, as well as the wide-ranging California state budget, and an effective senator must be deeply engaged far beyond their own package of legislation.

One key measure of success for me is increasing the share of state grants, appropriations, and investments that flow into the communities of the 3rd District. This is, in part, a matter of communication, making sure that opportunities are visible to local communities, organizations, and leaders, and weighing in to support these efforts. Even more important, it means working in the weeds of proposed bills and budget items so that the formulas and criteria for state spending see our communities. Too often, these formulas—whether for parks, schools, dredging, transportation, or other infrastructure—are weighted toward Los Angeles and other parts of the Bay Area. As a result, we lose before even applying, or we’re not even eligible. I’ll be ever-vigilant and in the room when these quieter but critical battles are waged.

Along the same lines, a second measure for me is how much better adapted our communities see California policy on (1) housing and (2) climate change to our local conditions, needs, and opportunities here in the 3rd District. The mismatch between well-intended state policy and the unique landscape of our region is wide and getting wider. Aligning these critical state policies with communities like ours is a top priority for me.

I measure my own progress, further, by policy innovation that works. While fighting as a champion against all odds is a central part of a senator’s role, it cannot be the only one. Democracy is strongest when government actually works, and when it delivers. A key metric for me: how many breakthroughs on important issues did we achieve, with innovative win-win solutions or unusual coalitions coming together?

Since the question asks generally about how success is measured, I haven’t addressed specific policies in this response. However, one key topic stands out here, because it applies uniquely to any senator from the 3rd District: Flannery. Given the scale, intention, and sheer power of Flannery, and the role that state agencies and policies must play over at least the next three years, a senator’s success in this district must also be graded by whether Solano is steamrolled or empowered. And by what happens if Flannery succeeds or fails. No senator from another district will be able tackle this, and the stakes are supremely high. As you know, I’m not waiting for the election to contribute to the local efforts on this.

Finally, a senator should be evaluated by their contributions to strengthening civic engagement and helping to nurture a wide range of diverse leaders, including in the Democratic Party but also in government and other community efforts. A senator should help plant seeds of new leaders, and contribute to a political environment where diverse voices thrive.

5. What do you view as the highest (or top 3 things) priorities for attacking climate change?

California is a global leader in prioritizing climate change response and justice. And it isn’t enough. We need to do much, much more. Climate change is an urgent, existential threat that requires immediate action as we are already seeing devastating effects throughout the 3rd District.

First and foremost, I would prioritize investing in renewable energy infrastructure and promoting clean energy adoption throughout the state. This includes funding for solar and wind energy projects, as well as supporting research and development of innovative clean technologies. By transitioning to cleaner energy sources, we can reduce our carbon footprint and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Secondly, I would focus on dramatically strengthening transportation options, including transit, electric vehicles, biking, and walking. That means continued investments in incentives, infrastructure, and operating support. Just as important, California must insist on sustainable land use development that makes these choices viable and scalable. I helped pioneer this approach, leading the groundbreaking Sacramento Region Blueprint that inspired SB 375 and the regional allocations for climate emission reductions in transportation plans. Fidelity has been uneven, however, and I would work to ensure that this important element of our strategy to reduce transportation sector emissions fulfills the promise. With California set to phase out the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035, the use of fossil fuels will and should diminish. I also believe the state should focus on incentives for electric vehicle adoption and trip reduction, promoting clean transportation, and investing in renewable energy infrastructure. These policy considerations must prioritize environmental justice, just transition, and innovation in clean technologies to ensure a sustainable and equitable energy future for our state.

Thirdly, I would press for increased funding for climate resiliency and adaptation measures, married with tougher state policies. As climate change continues to impact our state with extreme weather events, it is crucial to invest in infrastructure that can withstand these challenges. This includes measures like sea- level rise protection and managed retreat, wildfire prevention, and water conservation initiatives. As the environment policy facilitator for the California Legislative Staff Education Institute, I’ve seen first-hand the patchwork of approaches and sometimes counterproductive policies in places throughout the state. I served on the statewide advisory committee for California’s sweeping new 30×30 strategy, which will protect 30 percent of the state’s land and coastal waters by 2030, using conservation of natural areas to protect biodiversity and combat climate change. I’ll be a leader in the Senate to get this done.

6. What do you view as your greatest accomplishment?

This one is easy. My life’s work has been transforming my own town, from neglected, polluted, disrespected, poor, and almost hopeless to resilient, imaginative, inclusive, green, integrated, admired, fun, and proud. We changed virtually every policy, invented financing tools, created the social capacity for hope and for change, evolved our values, broke down doors and broadened tables, accessed every kind of external investment and grant, partnered with gusto, and never stopped innovating. We accomplished what had seemed utterly impossible.

Let me share one specific example: the West Sacramento Home Run. Inspired by voter adoption of the statewide tobacco tax and First Five initiative, the following year I launched a local effort to become the first small or medium-sized city in California to connect every child with high-quality preschool. We built what became a national model for city action. Later, I signed on as one of the first dozen pilot Cities of Learning, getting an LRNG grant to create digital badges for out-of-school learning. We used that to support our school district’s efforts to build Linked Learning pathways that prepare high school students for college and career, not one or the other (I was also national president of the Linked Learning Alliance—which helped!). Then, President Obama announced his proposal for America’s College Promise, which would make tuition-free higher education available to all. When the Republican Congress refused to consider the idea, he decided to take it to cities and states instead. He appointed me to the national College Promise board, charged with sparking a movement. Today, more than 500 cities and states have College Promise programs, including several in the 3rd Senate District. One of the first was in my own city. In 2016, building on our proven success with preschool, college and career pathways, and out-of-school learning/internships, and fired up by Obama’s College Promise, voters approved a tax measure I placed on the ballot that supports the West Sacramento Home Run. Now in full implementation, it includes preschool, college savings accounts for every entering kindergarten pupil, paid internships for high school students in college and career pathways, free community college, and scholarships based on community service. And in 2020, we broke new ground, partnering with the school district and community college district, to send a letter of college admission and a full tuition waiver to every graduating high school senior in the city.

Jackie Elward
also: United Dems 1-Hour Interview Video

1. Please provide a one or two paragraph background sketch.

As a City Councilwoman and former Mayor of Rohnert Park, I have found ways to bring the community together around affordable housing, solutions to help the unhoused, and investments in transportation, sustainable agriculture, and our clean energy future. As a first- generation immigrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I have an appreciation for the community that welcomed me, and I strive to govern with the same compassion that I was afforded when I made Rohnert Park my new home. I am an educator (teaching French at a French-American school) and a labor organizer from a labor family. I have been an integral part of the struggle to build pathways to the middle class and expand access to fair wages and benefits. In 2020, I made history as the first Black woman leader elected in the City of Rohnert Park. If elected to the State Senate, I would make history once again, becoming the first California state legislator born in Africa.

I serve as a Director of Sonoma Clean Power, as well as a Director of Sonoma County Continuum of Care. I am a member of the Executive Board of North Bay Jobs with Justice, a member of the Sonoma County Democratic Party Executive Committee and I was a leader in the campaign to pass Measure B in Rohnert Park, establishing an urban limit to prevent sprawl and protect open space and agriculture. I received my first BS in Sociology from Chico State University and a second BS in Criminal Justice from Central State University. I live with my husband John, a fellow labor organizer, and our three wonderful children in Rohnert Park.

2. Provide one paragraph about why you are running for office.

I believe that my life’s work has prepared me for this moment. Since immigrating to the U.S., I have strived to work hard for my community and to make it a better place for all. I have been a leader in the fight for unionization, worker rights, and the living wage. As Director of Sonoma Clean Power, I have committed myself to providing our communities with a carbon-free, healthy future. As the first black female elected leader in my community, I have provided sorely needed representation. I’m running for State Senate because the work is not done. I know from experience that having folks in Sacramento who will fight for working-class individuals, families, and our kids’ futures is critical. Our region needs a champion for the people in Sacramento – someone who is ready to be a voice for everyone in our district. This isn’t about me. It’s about providing a voice for the North Bay that will push us forward with bold leadership and strong principles.

3. In one paragraph, describe your top three priorities.

My top three priorities are to stand up for working families, tackle the threat of climate change, and invest properly in our schools. In standing up for working families, I will fight for a higher living wage, affordable homes, and will be an ally of unions and unionization efforts across the state. To take the threat of climate change seriously, I will work to invest seriously in preparation and defense for wildfires and rising sea levels, while supporting ambitious goals to move the state to net zero emissions and a carbon-free future as quickly as possible. As an educator, I know the importance of investing in our children’s futures, and I will make sure that every school in our state is properly funded.

4. How would you know you’ve been successful at your job after two years? What’s your measure of success?

I will know that I’ve been successful at my job after two years when working families in California have a higher living wage, better benefits, and a chance at an affordable home. As the progressive in this race I will not only fight for working families but tackle climate change and invest properly in our schools. My measure of success will be whether or not the constituents in the district feel that they are being heard, and these objectives are being met.

5. What do you view as the highest (or top 3 things) priorities for attacking climate change?

The top three environmental (and environmental justice issues) in the 3rd Senate District are (1) the ever present and growing threat of wildfires, (2) ensuring a just transition for workers in fossil fuel and other polluting sectors, and (3) overcoming the detrimental impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, including from the transportation and energy sectors.

A. Having experienced the Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa firsthand one of my top priorities is to invest more in mitigation efforts as we accept the reality that wildfire intensity and frequency will only continue to worsen over the years to come.

B. It is critical that our climate resiliency efforts go hand-in-hand with creating better jobs for Californians. The success and speed of our climate action will chiefly depend on whether working class people feel that the transition is helping or hurting their livelihoods. I support programs to invest in job training and workforce development for anyone in the state who wants to become a part of this green energy revolution. I believe that we need to prioritize the communities and folks who have been most affected by climate inaction and injustice — namely people of color and low-income individuals who have bore the brunt of climate change’s effects.

C. I support a just and rapid transition to a future where fossil fuels play a minimal role. Our transition to 100% ZEVs is important. Within our own district refineries need to be held accountable for illegal emissions.

For the record I have signed the no fossil fuel money pledge.

6. What do you view as your greatest accomplishment?

I view my greatest accomplishment in life as raising my three children. I came to the United States in 2003 pregnant with my firstborn child. During the following couple of years my husband and I worked hard to raise our family moving from place to place and fighting to get some sense of stability. I’m very proud of who my children have become. They have grown up with two cultures and are all bilingual. They are why I am where I am today. I’m in politics to make things better for their generation.

Rozzana Verder-Aliga
also: United Dems 1-Hour Interview Video

1. Please provide a one or two paragraph background sketch.

I have been an elected official for 27 years . I am the first Filipino American woman elected to public office in Vallejo and Solano County. In 1993 I was elected to the Vallejo School Board where I served for 12 years and elected in 2007 to the Solano County Board of Education where I served for 6 years. I was elected to a partial term to the Vallejo City Council in 2013 and re-elected to full terms in 2016 and 2020. Throughout my public service career, my work has focused on serving children, seniors, veterans and families. I served as Vallejo Vice Mayor in 2016, 2021, 2022 and currently Vice Mayor for 2023.

In the 1990s, I worked as a community organizer/volunteer with local non-profits, Fighting Back Partnership and Youth & Family Services. I am a mental health professional and licensed marriage and family therapist.  I have a master and doctorate degrees in counseling psychology.  I am currently Senior Mental Health Manager for Solano County Behavioral Health Adult Outpatient Integrated Care Clinics.

My core values of equity, diversity, inclusion, equitable access to education, jobs, housing are reflected in my support of policies throughout my public service career. As Councilmember, I supported initiatives to maintain financial stability, prioritized economic stability, public safety, infrastructure repairs, streamlined business permitting processes, approved fair labor contracts and collaborated with schools/county and other public agencies, funded arts, youth, seniors and homeless programs.

A native of Manila, Philippines, I immigrated to California in 1981. My husband, Nestor Aliga is a US Marine Corps veteran and retired U.S. Army Colonel. We have three adult sons: Nestor Jr., Xavier and Riz – all attended Vallejo public schools and graduated from California public universities.

2. Provide one paragraph about why you are running for office.

As an immigrant from the Philippines, I came to America to pursue the American dream. I am thankful and blessed to have been given the opportunity to serve others and dedicate my life to public service. I’ve been giving back to my community for 27 years in elected office, as a mental health professional for 30 years, and as a community activist my entire adult life. State Senate is the next, best place for me to serve my community and the people of California.

3. In one paragraph, describe your top three priorities.

1) Housing – A lack of affordable housing and shortage of housing units have plagued California for several years now. The majority of Californians are disillusioned with housing costs and 90% are worried that the younger generation won’t be able to afford a home in the state. California’s chronic shortage of housing manifests itself in sky high housing costs and the highest level of homelessness in the country. This lack of housing is stifling upward economic mobility for working Californians and making our state a two-reality place: Haves and have nots. I will work to build more housing everyone can afford so that everyone has a fair shot at greater economic opportunity as well as work on short term and long term solutions to homelessness.

2) Labor – It is only fair that any anyone who works deserves a living wage. In California, that amounts to $21.83/hour or $43,485 /year assuming a 40 hour work week for a single person without children. Coupled with this is the need for benefits, which at a minimum should include health insurance, sick leave, and a retirement plan. California is better than most but falling short. It is well understood that when gainfully employed, workers contribute to a stronger economy with purchasing power, tax payments and productivity.

3) Health Care/Mental Health – Health care should be accessible to all. Affordability and reducing health insurance premiums is needed to close equity gaps.  Need to rebuild state’s mental health and behavioral  health systems. Programs need to focus on early prevention, access, early intervention and treatment. I support Mental health programs/ Wellness centers at schools. Need to focus on access to behavioral health care and continuum of care that includes access, support, housing,  rehabilitation and treatment.

4. How would you know you’ve been successful at your job after two years? What’s your measure of success?

I hope to have accomplished and passed bills after two years of being a state senator.. However change takes time, it’s incremental. I will feel good if we have implemented significant policies that support the building of housing working families can afford, we’ve added additional support for our climate change goals, brought relief/support to working families and their paychecks, improved access/timeliness for mental health services/treatment .and increased funding for public education

5. What do you view as the highest (or top 3 things) priorities for attacking climate change?

I support California’s plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2045. This includes 1) reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and eventually eliminate its carbon footprint.  For existing buildings, the state’s proposal assumes 80% of appliance sales are electric in California by 2030 and gas appliances are completely phased out by 2035. Calculating for the replacement of old gas appliances over time, the plan anticipates 3 million all-electric households by 2030 and 7 million by 2035.  2) plan also includes all new passenger vehicle sales in California will be zero-emissions (electric cars) or long-range hybrid by 2035. 3) reducing fossil fuel demand by 86% with that time frame.
Lawmakers and government agencies have to pass legislation, establish regulations and earmark funding for climate initiatives that achieve these targets.  State will need the cooperation of private industry and Californians. We need to do everything we can to avert some of the most dire effects of global warming which in recent years resulted in unprecedented drought, historic wildfire seasons and record heat waves.

6. What do you view as your greatest accomplishment?

During my tenure on the Vallejo city council I have accomplished the following:
  1. Maintaining fiscal stability during  the past 9 fiscal years 2014-2015 through 2022-2023; with an ending fund balance of $24 million in June 2023 budget (18 % reserve; 15% is the recommended percentage for cities);
  2. Approval of Police Oversight ordinance and formation of the citizens oversight commission
  3. Secured funding to build 2 permanent supportive housing (Blue Oak Landing 75 units opened August 2023 & Broadway project 45 units opening Fall 2023), and funding for a Navigation Center (2024 opening) for our unhoused/homeless population. These facilities will also provide WRAP Around services that will include access to Health & Mental Health services, rehabilitation services and job referrals for residents).
  4. Approval of development agreements at Mare Island, Blue Rock Springs, Yoche Dehe Seka Hills at Vallejo Waterfront and Expansion of Costco. All three projects include new housing developments.

Solano County’s top official releases statement on Flannery land grab for new city

Solano County Administrator responds to California Forever Purchases

Cows graze on land purchased by the Flannery Associates with California Forever in hopes of building a new city between Suisun City and Rio Vista. | (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Nick McConnell, September 6, 2023

The Solano County Administrator’s Office responded with a Wednesday news release concerning the purchase of over 50,000 acres of Solano County farmland near Travis Air Force Base by California Forever, the parent company of Flannery Associates.

The release identifies the administrator’s office as “the government agency with land use authority over this region.” Solano County has been in communication with state and federal representatives about the extent of Flannery holdings since 2018.

“Communications with Flannery have been limited despite the county’s efforts to understand their intentions for the use of the land they had been acquiring,” according to the release.

The county has informed Flannery since it started making the purchases that the land acquired is limited to agricultural use under the current regulations.

“To be clear,” the release reads, “if the recent reports in the media are true, along with the assertions made on California Forever’s website, the concept of creating a new urban center in Solano County raises some complex issues.”

According to the administrator’s office, urban development in that area would need to be put to a vote on the ballot and be approved by a majority of Solano County voters.

“For decades, Solano County residents have consistently decided at the ballot box that preservation of agricultural land is a priority,” the administrator’s office said.

A cornerstone of land use policy in Solano County has been the protection of Travis Air Force Base from any encroachment that could threaten the base.

The release notes that Solano County has not yet received any project information or proposals from the company at this time.

We will continue to keep the community informed as new information becomes available,” the release said. “It is the County’s hope to have frank discussions with California Forever regarding Solano County’s long-standing land use policies and their expressed vision.”

This and four more stories on the Flannery land grab:

6,000-gallon ‘hot asphalt tar’ hazardous spill closes westbound I-780, no estimated time for reopening

[There is a massive hazardous spill fully blocking westbound I-780 lanes near the East 2nd Street exit. The closure is at East 2nd Street with traffic diverted off at 5th Street. Scroll down past the NBC post to see Benicia PD’s Facebook post regarding the incident. BPD has also reported that the liquid asphalt is entering a highway culvert, possibly on its way to Benicia storm drains, and we’ll follow up on that s we can. Benicia residents, folks picking up kids from Benicia schools, commuters – be warned, be safe and please find alternate routes home. ]

Overturned tanker truck spills asphalt across westbound I-780, injuries reported

Photo from BPD Facebook Page.

Initial reports from a California Highway Patrol incident information page said “6,000 gallons of hot asphalt oil slurries” spilled onto the freeway.

KRON4, by Alex Baker, August 6, 2023 (as of 12 pm)

An overturned tanker truck collision resulting in injuries occurred on I-780 near 2nd Street in Benicia Wednesday morning. The truck has spilled asphalt across the westbound lanes, according to a Sig Alert.

The truck that overturned was hauling 6,000 gallons of hot asphalt. All lanes are currently blocked. The California Highway Patrol said no one was hurt in the crash, which happened just before 9:30 a.m.

The tanker ended up leaking across all the lanes of the westbound I-780 and on the right embankment of the freeway and into a ditch.

Environmental regulators have been called to assess whether any of the substance has reached local waterways. At least one resident asked authorities if the substance hit her fence.

All traffic is being diverted off the freeway at Fifth Street. The CHP is asking people to avoid the area while the cleanup is ongoing Wednesday afternoon. There is no estimate for when the highway will reopen.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

Keep reading, there’s more.

Here’s another amazing photo, this time from the folks at NBC that shows the spill from the NBC chopper:

Photo from NBC Bay Area report.

And from Benicia PD’s Facebook Page:

Here’s the full text:

Westbound I-780 in Benicia is closed at East 5th Street due to a semi-truck turnover and hazardous materials spill. Please take alternate routes. It is expected to be closed for an extended period of time.
At approximately 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday, September 6th, the Benicia Fire Department responded to a report of a semi-truck turnover. Upon arrival, firefighters found that the semi-truck had been transporting 6,000 gallons of hot asphalt tar in two 3,000 gallon trailers. Both asphalt tar trailers ruptured. The product spilled across the westbound lanes of I-780 along the shoulder and into the culvert. One patient was transported to a local hospital.
Benicia Fire Department, Benicia Police Department, Solano County Environmental Health, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, Caltrans, and California Highway Patrol have responded.
For more information, contact Della Olm, Benicia Fire Public Information Officer at or 707-746-4272.

Ashton Lyle: Save Friday, September 8 from 6–8 pm for Benicia Public Library’s future

As the culture wars find a new front in public libraries, Benicia Public Library’s strategic plan presentation this Friday represents more than just a look into our library’s future

By Ashton Lyle, September 5, 2023

Portrait of Ashton Lyle
Ashton Lyle, BenIndy contributor.

During my first year of college, my friend offered me a tour of her hometown, a small community in the Boston suburbs. While exploring downtown, she pointed out a small, nondescript building that had been the nation’s first public library. Founded by Benjamin Franklin in a town named for him, this library broke with the tradition of previous lending collections, which had subscription rates equivalent to $575 today. Instead, access was free to the community. 

The public library model pioneered in Franklin, Massachusetts expanded across the country, and libraries rapidly became essential public spaces, serving as community gathering points that hosted meetings, town events, and literary discussions. The Benicia Public Library, which helped introduce me to a love of learning as an elementary school student through its summer reading program, continues in this tradition and was fundamental to my intellectual development, especially when coupled with the libraries at my elementary, middle, and high schools.

Today, these same institutions are regularly under attack, both in Benicia and nationwide. The state of Georgia just applied its “divisive concepts” law for the first time, firing a longtime teacher for reading “My Shadow is Purple” to her class, a children’s book about “being true to oneself and moving beyond the gender binary.” And in Benicia, proponents of anti-trans bigotry have spoken before the school board with all the faux intellectualism typical of the “do your own research” crowd. 

These attacks have converged around school libraries which, despite their importance in educational outcomes, are now at continual risk of restriction and censorship. This is an especially concerning development because of the strong correlation between strong library programs and student success, even after correcting for parent education and income levels. Interestingly, studies find it is staffing levels, rather than the size of a library’s collection, that determine students’ success.

This finding reflects the changing nature of the contemporary library. The library, once focused largely on lending and storing books, has adapted to the internet age, refocusing its mission to become an essential training resource for media literacy, academic research, and critical thinking. In an age where a nearly infinite amount of written material is instantly accessible to students at an increasingly young age, libraries play an essential role in teaching young people how to process and prioritize information. 

Today, libraries are the primary means by which we teach students to vet the truth and relevance of something they’ve read. School libraries regularly provide students with formal training on how to responsibly use online resources, providing fundamental approaches to gathering quality information that is missing from many segments of our population. They also lead by example, providing young people with reading material that is accurate and well-contextualized, thereby familiarizing them with factual texts and well-informed opinions. In contrast to the internet, which provides stimuli in the most engaging package possible, a library contains information that is organized, research-backed, and vetted for extreme content. Learning to tell the difference between fact and fiction is increasingly difficult to teach, but libraries do it more successfully than any other resource I’ve seen.

Equally important to consider is that attempting to limit the information in school libraries, where it can be contextualized by librarians and expanded upon by other texts, does not eliminate a young person’s desire for this information. By removing texts and topics from the professionally curated and regulated space of a public library, “activists” such as Mom’s for Liberty force young people to seek insight through more accessible means, like the internet, where information is wholly unregulated, regularly untruthful, and usually decontextualized. Real harm takes place when naive children, desperate for guidance, stumble across content that exposes ignorant, explicit, or hateful beliefs. Algorithmic incentives to prioritize engaging content can lead teens to view self-harm, dangerous, or extremist content at a very impressionable age, potentially trapping them in silos of thought from which it can be difficult to extract oneself. 

Attempting to pull books off shelves condemns our young people to explore the world of information alone, without guidance and without guardrails. It leaves them un-inoculated against illiberal thought, prejudice, and other harms. Ultimately the censorship approach harms children’s development, produces adults less interested and able to participate in civil society, and further weakens our democratic institutions. This has been evidenced in civil societies across regions and cultures; there is nothing innate in America that will prevent it from happening here. Only a wholesale rejection of reactionary tendencies amongst our neighbors can stop the slow slide to autocracy.

Libraries are essential to giving young people the tools, information, and desire to maintain and expand America’s civil society. This is why I encourage all residents to participate in the upcoming discussion regarding the future of the library. On Friday, September 8th from 6 – 8 pm, the BPL is holding a meeting that discusses future planned initiatives. Help keep our library relevant and our society free. 

RSVP here.