All posts by Roger Straw

Editor, owner, publisher of The Benicia Independent

TODAY! – Ask City Council to protect Benicia’s health and safety at the Dec. 19 Council Meeting

A Message from the Benicia ISO Working Group:

The crucial City Council meeting on whether Benicia should consider an Industrial Safety Ordinance will take place on TODAY, Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 6 pm at the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 230 East L Street. It is vital that supporters of a strong ISO attend and voice our support. Valero is gearing up to oppose this and may bring personnel to the meeting to voice opposition.

By attending and offering comments, you can offer support for the proposal by Vice Mayor Terry Scott and Councilmember Kari Birdseye, to be voted on by the Council on Dec. 19, instructing City staff to look into the possibility of Benicia adopting an ISO.

In addition, please voice support for not just the Scott-Birdseye proposal but for a strong ISO. This has become all-the-more important because of a problematic Benicia City staff report that, perhaps unintentionally, repeatedly presents incomplete and potentially misleading information that paints Valero’s refinery in a favorable light compared to Contra Costa County refineries covered by ISOs. The report neglects to mention evidence and experience to the contrary.

For instance, the report lists accidents that have occurred only at Contra Costa refineries. Yet it makes no mention of the many instances of severe violations by Valero, including the 2022 revelation about its Benicia refinery’s over fifteen years of unreported toxic emissions, hundreds of times regulatory limits.

In fairness, however, the report briefly notes, “In the years following [the Contra Costa County ISO’s implementation], it is believed to have contributed to a decline in accidents and releases at refineries in Contra Costa.”

The point is that voices for a strong ISO can help counteract any misimpressions that staff report might leave to the contrary.

If at all possible, your showing up early can help ensure that supporters of a strong ISO are near the front of the audience. But even if you can’t make it by 6 pm, that will be ok as the discussion of this matter probably won’t start until close to 6:30 pm (or possibly even later if the Council does not move this priority item to early in the agenda).

Also, participation by Zoom is an option. You can find the link that explains how to access the meeting here: 

Thanks very much for considering all this and for any support you can show for making Benicia safer and healthier for our kids, our older adults and all of us.

See for more information.

URGENT – Benicia Black Lives Matter on City Council meetings this week!

[The following message was received from Benicia Black Lives Matter by email today. – BenIndy contributor Roger Straw]

Important Upcoming City Council Meetings-Supporters Needed!

There are two important City Council meetings coming up, tomorrow (12/18/23 at 9AM) and Tuesday (12/19/23 at 6PM). Despite the late notice, if anyone is able to call in, write in, or attend to give public comment, this would be a great time to participate.

We need to fight to keep the CURE Commission, the DEI Manager, and our membership in GARE (Government Alliance on Race & Equity.) Even a brief comment of a sentence or two to express support for these items will be helpful.

Below you can find meeting agendas, Staff reports, and details on how to submit comment:

Save DEI in Benicia: Agenda Item #20.A

The UPCOMING City Council meetings are:
MONDAY, December 18th at 9:00AM
TUESDAY, December 19th at 6:00PM

12/18/23: Item 11.A – RESILIENCY PLAN WORKSHOP – FINANCIAL SCENARIO REVIEW (Deputy City Manager) As part of the path forward for addressing the City’s structural deficit, the City is updating its Strategic Plan and developing a Resiliency Plan. Recommendation: Provide feedback and direction on the draft elements of the Resiliency Plan.


  • PUBLIC COMMENTS FOR AGENDA ITEMS WILL START AFTER THE ITEM IS INTRODUCED. Detailed information about how to submit comments via phone call or Zoom is below. While emails/letters submitted to City Council after the deadline of last week members may be read, they will not be entered into the public record nor will they appear in the agenda packets.
    Members of the public may provide public comments to the City Clerk by email at but the window of time to have those comments entered into the public record and added to the City Council agenda packet has closed. Any emails sent may or may not be read by City Council and Staff. Make your choices accordingly.

1) Attend in person at Council Chambers
2) Cable T.V. Broadcast – Check with your cable provider for your local government broadcast channel.
3) Livestream online at
4) Zoom Meeting (link below)


The public may view and provide public comment via Zoom (via computer or phone) link:

If prompted for a password, enter 449303.

    • Use participant option to “raise hand” during the public comment period for the item you wish to speak on. Please note, your electronic device must have microphone capability. Once unmuted, you will have up to 5 minutes to speak.

Dial in with phone:
Before the start of the item you wish to comment on, call any of the numbers below. If one is busy, try the next one.

    • 1 669 900 9128 
    • 1 346 248 7799 
    • 1 253 215 8782 
    • 1 646 558 8656 
    • 1 301 715 8592 
    • 1 312 626 6799
  • Enter the meeting ID number: 885 0804 7557 *please note this is an updated ID number*. Once unmuted, you will have up to 5 minutes to speak.

Any member of the public who needs accommodations should email City Clerk Lisa Wolfe at, who will use her best efforts to provide as much accessibility as possible while also maintaining public safety.


*YOUR OWN WORDS WILL BE THE MOST IMPACTFUL, BUT THESE ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF WHAT YOU CAN SAY. Adjust the language to suit your voice as these were all mostly written by the same person and really sound like it. 

*The basic idea is to express support for continuing the DEI work the city has undertaken, by continuing the CURE Commission, the DEI Manager position, and membership in GARE (Government Alliance on Race & Equity). Even a one or two sentence comment expressing your support for these items is useful and crucial. 

Equity issues continue in all areas including government, education, business culture, housing, and continued work is essential. 

Importance of continuing the work that has been started, for the importance of the work, but also not to waste the investment that has already been made.

City Council—all white, all but one white men

What CURE has actually accomplished (see report)

What CURE was intended to be and how it was sabotaged

Value of being model city

More than lip service DEI considerations attracts and retains talent, young people

Ideas to get started

Doonesbury peeks inside Capitol Hill

[This Doonesbury cartoon puts a predictable and funny-sad twist on the COVID pandemic. I can’t vouch for Garry Trudeau’s 43%, but I found several studies (see below) that confirm his analysis. Enjoy (?) the cartoon… – BenIndy Contributor Roger Straw]

Doonesbury, by Garry Trudeau

Doonesbury, by Gary Trudeau, November 26, 2023

Two important scientific studies:

Journal of the American Medical Association: Excess Death Rates for Republican and Democratic Registered Voters in Florida and Ohio During the COVID-19 Pandemic, July 24, 2023.

“The differences in excess mortality by political party affiliation after COVID-19 vaccines were available to all adults suggest that differences in vaccination attitudes and reported uptake between Republican and Democratic voters may have been a factor in the severity and trajectory of the pandemic in the US.”

Science Direct: The politics of COVID-19: Differences between U.S. red and blue states in COVID-19 regulations and deaths, November 11, 2023.

“CONCLUSION: …this work’s key conclusion is that mass-behavioral changes prescribed through legislation do provide mass-scale dividends in areas that promote these strategies. In highlighting the political divide between COVID-19 legislative and mitigation efforts, researchers do not intend to proselytize one ideology to another but to expand on the notion that differences between dominant political affiliations are equally relevant to consider. Diseases have demonstrated no partisan allegiance, past or present. The individual role of citizens is not without consequence, but to ultimately lessen the aversive effects of COVID-19 and other viral threats in the United States, it is necessary to behave collectively. Given the compelling evidence of mass-behavioral mitigation efforts being successful in pandemic remediation, further legislation should focus on best communicating and implementing these strategies across political landscapes. Focusing on effectively implementing mitigation strategies across ideologies should be paramount if communities are to address disease-based threats with minimal loss and aversive outcomes.”

More COVID on the Benicia Independent…


‘The Conspiracy to End America’

[BenIndy contributor Roger Straw: I’m not an easy adopter of conspiracy theories. But Stuart Stevens describes an alarming historical pattern that is rearing its head here in the U.S. – both quietly behind the scenes, and increasingly and alarmingly more plainly in public. Yes, I am alarmed. Stevens outlines the historic factors that have led to absolute and catastrophic authoritarian rule, and outlines ways in which we can and must be alert to such factors today, and active in opposing them. This analysis has risen to the very top of my activist concerns for our times. This important PBS interview is only 6 minutes – take a listen!]

Former Republican strategist raises alarms about GOP in ‘The Conspiracy to End America’

AMNA NAWAZ: Stuart Stevens has spent the majority of his decades-long career getting Republicans elected to political office. But his latest book is a warning to the country about the current state of the GOP and its threat to America’s democracy.

Stuart Stevens, Ex-Republican strategist, raises alarms about the GOP in ‘The Conspiracy to End America’

Amna Nawas spoke with Stuart Stevens about the book titled, “The Conspiracy to End America: Five Ways My Old Party Is Driving Our Democracy to Autocracy.”

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Stuart Stevens’ book at Bookshop Benicia: