All posts by BenIndy

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. 


Forget the fluffy drawings of a new city fueled by tech money. Let’s see an actual proposal

Flannery’s elevator pitch…

San Francisco Chronicle, by John King, Sep. 1, 2023

California Forever, a group of Silicon Valley investors who want to build a city in Solano County, launched a website for their project, which included illustrations of their proposed development. | Provided by California Forever

OK, this is something new — an elevator pitch for a whole new city.

That’s apparently what a cadre of Silicon Valley investors naming itself California Forever seeks to build on 55,000 acres in southeast Solano County: an Eden of walkable neighborhoods swathed in farmland and natural spaces, an oasis of sustainable energy and water conservation.

But the website launched Thursday by California Forever offers no real details, such as the projected population or precise location. Instead, there are renderings of cuddly townscapes and soothing talk of building “a remarkable place for Solano residents.” Oh, and an earnest promise to “begin the phase of our work that matters most: our conversation with you.”

Let the eye-rolling commence.

It’s impossible to critique the vision of the investors, because what was unfurled is so innocuous as to be an insult. The images are as placid as a video aimed at infants; just this side of cartoonish, depicting clusters of vaguely sized storybook homes hugging a terrain that looks more like Italy’s Cinque Terre than the wind-battered ranges of Solano County.

Cows rest in the shade of a wind turbine in the farmland southeast of Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield. The windswept locale is far different from the scene shared in renderings for a planned new city by a group dubbed California Forever. | Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle

The website also refers to how this will be a center of “economic opportunity” and “new employers.” Great! But only two of the 12 renderings show people at work, including one where three men install solar panels while the sun sets in the west. Let’s hope they’re being paid overtime.

A spokesperson for California Forever said Friday there’s no secret plan behind those remedies: “We’ll hear what the county wants and what the people are interested in,” explained Brian Brokaw. “The specifics will emerge.”

Besides the utter lack of specificity in terms of what the conversation will actually be about, here’s the most insulting aspect of California Forever 1.0: It claims to be the natural outgrowth of Bay Area planning tradition.

It does this by exhuming a pair of pre-1970 government documents, including the federal government’s “Future Development of the San Francisco Bay Area, 1960-2020,” and says, “Let’s dust off those plans, and breathe new life into them.”

Or maybe not: Among other things, the 1960 plan calls for a new bridge from San Francisco to Sausalito by way of Angel Island. Plus new suburbs in West Marin and filling in up to 325 miles of the existing bay for development purposes.

“It’s so sad and disappointing,” is how the California Forever mindset was described Friday by Amanda Brown-Stevens, executive director of Greenbelt Alliance. The nonprofit has worked for decades to protect farmland and natural landscapes while steering needed growth into existing communities.

A rendering of a scene in a proposed city planned in Solano County by the group California Forever show workers constructing a home. | Provided by California Forever

Yes, you can make the argument that environmental regulations have been applied in extreme and cynical ways — thwarting the construction of new housing that would have helped prevent the region from becoming a two-tier society where many people can’t afford to live in the communities where they grew up. But to turn back the clock without saying so, just pledging to build “a remarkable place,” is disingenuous and disheartening.

“They’re looking to the past, all the failed approaches that put us in this situation, and doubling down,” Brown-Stevens said.

The lone upside to the elevator pitch is that the people involved are legitimate, with deep pockets and Bay Area roots. The investors include Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, and Laurene Powell Jobs (the only woman among the 10 investors listed on the website, by the way). The consultants have track records in San Francisco and the region. This isn’t a fly-by-night land grab.

But the way to introduce yourself isn’t with soft-focus renderings and rhetoric and the assurance that California Forever’s top executive has a golden retriever named Bruce.

The Bay Area needs housing and jobs. It also needs honest approaches to making this happen. Let’s hope when California Forever 2.0 launches, there is less fluff and more facts.

Not your ordinary Benicia Peddlers Fair weekend Garage Sale

[Let’s start the long weekend with something very special from resident Cathy Bennett. It’s a little late to go up (the Peddler’s Fair was in early August) but the ‘epiphany of gratitude’ Cathy extends to the ‘kaleidoscope of humanity’ that attended the fair tells a story of warmth and welcome that is timeless and very, very Benician. Cathy shows us Benicia at its best in this lovely story. Please take the time to read this all the way through.]

By Cathy Bennett, Benicia resident

Folks come by the throngs happy to spend the day strolling First Street and looking for bargains at our annual Peddlers Fair.  Many in town take advantage of the chance to attract the spillover crowd by holding their own garage sales. Even though I live a fair distance away from downtown, I held my own garage sale across the street from a waterfront park that attracts a lot of folks from out of town.  I say “garage” sale, but my garage was too full of “stuff” to bring anyone inside, so the sale ventured out into my driveway and front yard.  The last time I had a ‘garage sale’ was nearly 20 years ago after clearing out my mother’s home as a result of her unexpected passing.  Like yesterday, at that time I took it on all by myself, and soldiered through the sorting & arranging as best I could, set up in the driveway, and positioned a chair that I rarely occupied because I was mostly on my feet talking with folks and moving stuff around as items got sold.

The amount of energy this requires reminds me of getting ready to take a long vacation.  All the necessary planning and preparation consumes you for days in advance, and sometimes the stress is enough to make you want to throw up your hands and say, “Oh forget it, I’ll just stay home!”  In this case, it was more like, “Who cares if I have too much stuff?  I’ll just shove it back into the closets, storage shed & various hiding spots, and avoid all this hassle!”  But I was determined, so again I soldiered on.

Just so you know, this isn’t going to be a rant about folks promising to come help out, (but don’t show up), or patrons that try to nickel and dime you to death. (If you price things low enough, you get very little of that, & most quickly snatch things up & happily pay you.)  Besides the physical exhaustion, I learn a great deal about myself and about others from the experience.

First to note, I am again reminded of my status as a white person that benefitted from privilege.  I initially realized this decades ago, but as I get older time and wisdom peel back & expose layers of awareness and I am continually being re-educated.  I’m no spring chicken.  As a woman of a “certain age” I occasionally see my former self in others, and am amused by the trips down memory lane to youthful naivety and innocent self-indulgences.  Sometimes I long for those youthful indulgences, but mostly I just smile and nod to myself, remembering my own personal version of it.

But yesterday as I watched the ebb and flow of folks coming & going in and out of my yard sale I was struck by the difference of those who “have” and those who “need”.   I’m not just referencing material “stuff”, but in every sense of “need”.

Before me was a kaleidoscope of humanity, and I took the opportunity to slow down and take it in without concern for time, status or judgement.  I was after all, a captive of my own advertised availability as defined by the posters I had put up all over the neighborhood.  So, I just surrendered to the experience, and in short time, I really enjoyed it.

What I was reminded of was just how many folks out there are struggling with loneliness, insecurity, grief and loss, unemployment, under &/or miserable employment, financial hardship, and lives that seem to be drifting in and out of uncertainty.  Yes, they were there to look at my “stuff” but they were also there to have someone to talk to, to feel some sort of connection, and to share their story with another person that might simply bear witness to their struggles and actually care about it.

It started with the elderly gentleman who moved about with obvious pain in slow deliberate steps.  He loved my collection of handmade “redneck champagne glasses”- (a mason jar glued to a glass candlestick holder), and swept them up with a chuckle.  He hung around, & when no one else was there he told stories as different items I had on display reminded him of various times in his life.  He spoke of his wife’s extended illness and passing, and his years of dedicated caregiving to her.  As the stories flowed it seemed to open a hidden passageway & soon he was telling me about his 9 years as a CIA prisoner of war in a Viet Cong prison.  He told me about living in a cage, and being beaten & tortured on a daily basis, and what they did to other prisoners in front of him to further their attempts to extract information.  As my body involuntarily retracted & my jaw clinched, he repeated, “That is what war is like.”  I eventually had to interrupt because I was beginning to experience secondary trauma.  We both moved our heads slightly & closed our eyes as if to shake off the images that now haunted both of us.  After standing in silence for a moment we somehow managed to turn the conversation away from his very painful traumatic past.  I could see the courageous & loyal person he was, and I held a great deal of respect for what he had been through.  He eventually left with a few of my items, which I refused payment for and thanked him for his service to our country.  The Vietnam war was a particularly ugly & unpopular war, but he clearly had performed an unimaginable duty out of loyalty to our country & to the authorities that commanded his actions.  This was not the place or time, nor did I feel the need for any discussion about whether it was a worthy or unworthy war.

Then there was the young woman who was relocating with her elderly mother from La Vegas to Vallejo.  She pulled up in her old beat up car that looked  crowded and hot.  She asked if I could help her figure out what was wrong with her CD player.  We spent about 15 minutes trying to figure out why it suddenly wouldn’t operate.  I loaned her my disc cleaner & then a pair of tweezers, looking for the bobby pin she suspected her mother had inserted into it.  We eventually gave up on the CD player, and she took a much-needed break wandering through my rows of items, telling me the story of her life circumstances, while Mom sat in the car. I gave this woman my full attention, and eventually some advice on how to follow up on job leads, as well as community supports she could check into.  Then I sent her off with a Barbie doll for her niece, a retractable pull-down window shade for her car, and a box of craft supplies- beads, ribbons, colored pens, stationary & dried flowers.  She left with a smile & I waved them on.

A young man wandered in looking quietly around.  After a few minutes I engaged him in conversation.  He was thoughtful and polite and careful with each item he handled.  He eventually told me about his young high school aged brother who had been left paralyzed from the neck down after a horrible auto accident.  It had been 5 years since the accident and he was rejoicing the fact that his brother had fought hard to find meaning in his post-accident life, and had recently broken through the barriers with a newfound passion and purpose to his life.  This young man’s admiration and respect for his brother was so evident that I couldn’t help but smile even though the story was a harsh one.

Then came the Grandmother with her granddaughter on a scooter, who had wandered all the way from visiting the Peddlers Fair.  With bright blue eyes & a youthful smile, she spotted a lamp & a set of brass candle stick holders that she said would go lovely with her homemade beeswax candles.  She also admired a large framed watercolor painting of a dancing horse, and told me stories of her childhood & the horses she grew up loving.  After a bit, she shared that she managed to get by on just welfare to make ends meet, and she clearly was one who took an active role in supporting her children and grandchildren.  I sent them off with the items she fancied, and in turn the next day she left me a jar of some home spun honey.

I had started the day at about 7:00am, and the sun was beginning to lower in the sky.  I was exhausted, but folks kept stopping by.  I had ‘sold’ a lot of stuff- most of which were high quality items that I once thought entirely necessary, but now realized I had no need for.  It was a pleasure to witness the delight of others who excitedly told me what they would do with each item I sold (or gave away).  I was down to some small wood furnishings, some garden equipment, a few boxes of clothes and shoes, some framed paintings, pet carriers, dog car seats and a few specialty items.

I did not want to haul any of it back into my garage, so as the sun started to set, I encouraged everyone to pick things out, and take them for free.  A couple of young women that work in town at my favorite bakery delighted themselves with some cool shoes and clothes I had long ago stopped wearing. If I must say so myself, I have very good taste & have acquired a nice collection high quality fashion ware.  It was fun to hear their giggles of delight as they tried on shoes, and held things up to check for size.

A Spanish speaking family with young children looked longingly at some of my items, but didn’t understand that I was now giving everything away.  With some help from an interpreter I was able to send them off with a box load of things.  Their young son picked out a framed painting and smiled widely with his new acquisition.  I wish I could have heard his story about where he planned to hang it, as I could see the light in his eyes as he held onto it proudly.

And so, the day came and went.  Yes, I was exhausted, but my heart swelled with gratitude.  With all of my life’s imperfections and periodic struggles, I felt so much appreciation for the luxuries I enjoy (& often take for granted.)  Yes, I have a huge mortgage, but that means I have a home.  I have a big yard that requires constant weeding, raking, trimming of bushes & trees- but that is because I have the pleasure of pride in ownership & the physical ability to take care of my home & yard.  I get frustrated & impatient trying to figure out what to cook for myself each day, sometimes eating the same boring meals because I get too tired to be more imaginative. But I never go hungry, nor do I worry about where my children’s next meal will come from.  I bare the high cost of high Veterinary bills & have at times resented the expense of having pets & being anchored to my home because some of my animals have special needs. But having pets is a privilege that not everyone is able to embrace.  I am so fortunate to enjoy the love, companionship & loyalty of my animals.  Do you see where I am going with this?

Unless your work or personal life involves close contact with the full spectrum of the public, and even then, one rarely hears their stories, and gets to know of their personal struggles, you might miss out on this epiphany of gratitude.

Some may think, what a softy giving away so much of her “stuff”.  To that I respond that I recognize my privilege, and the opportunities that I have been blessed with.  Often for no other reason other than the color of my skin, and the luck of the draw I was born under, as well as the chances that came my way to nudge my life in a certain direction. I appreciate what I have, and know that my life could easily have turned a different direction, as my roots are from a family of working class “white” immigrants. I hope to carry this appreciation in my heart for as long as possible.  It makes me a better person- more kind, compassionate & content.  But like everyone, I am prone to the occasional pity party. My hope is to recognize it quickly and snap myself out of it.  Rather than risk losing this gift of gratitude, I might very well need to periodically hold a garage sale.  If so, please stop by and say hello.  I need to hear your stories as much as you might need to tell them.