Stephen Golub Interview with Mayor Steve Young
By Stephen Golub, March, 2023 (About Steve Golub). Previously appearing in the Benicia Herald, no online presence.
INTERVIEW PART 1 (…and when you’re done, here’s Part 2)
SG: Where are you from, originally?
SY: I grew up in Burbank, in the San Fernando Valley.
SG: What kind of work have you mainly done during your career?
SY: I managed a variety of local government programs in the fields of affordable housing, neighborhood improvement and military base conversion in California and Virginia.
SG: I understand that some time ago you and your family lived in Costa Rica. Could you say something about why you moved there, what you did while there, and why you returned to the United States?
SY: We moved to Costa Rica primarily to give our daughter the experience of going to high school in a foreign country, living in a different culture, and learning a new language; while we spent time exploring all of the beautiful country as well as some of the rest of Central America, much time was spent trying to become established as residents and becoming comfortable with the uniqueness of the country. We returned after four years when my daughter entered college in the US and to help care for my aging parents.
SG: When and why did you first move to Benicia?
SY: We moved to Benicia in 2012; we fell for it for the same reasons most do: small town, waterfront setting, open and friendly people.
SG: I believe that your first major involvement with Benicia’s city government was on the Planning Commission. What made you decide to apply to join it?
SY: Knowing literally no one when I moved here, and having spent my career in local government, I hoped to both meet new people and use my government experience to help serve in a volunteer position.
SG: When you were on the Commission, what was your reaction and actions regarding Valero’s Crude by Rail plan? (For those new to Benicia or otherwise unfamiliar with this issue, for four years until ultimately defeated by a unanimous 2016 City Council vote, the Valero Refinery sought to bring two 50-car trains a day carrying up to 70,000 barrels of crude oil into Benicia from Canada and North Dakota.)
SY: Given the long time between hearings on this project, I had ample time to research a number of issues related to rail cars, fracked oil, and the possible impact of these train cars on backing up traffic in the Industrial Park. I eventually had the chance to ask a variety of detailed questions of the staff and Valero, not all of which were answered to the satisfaction of the Planning Commission. My questions triggered other questions from Commissioners and helped lead to the unexpected unanimous rejection by the Planning Commission of the Valero request and the EIR [Environmental Impact Report].
SG: What made you decide to run for City Council and then for Mayor?
SY: My exposure to local government on the Planning Commission motivated me to step up and run for Council in 2016. And I saw an opportunity in 2020 to add my experience, ideas, and leadership.
SG: What are you most proud of from your two years in office (so far) as Mayor?
SY: Working with the City Manager to help navigate the COVID pandemic through a contentious time and helping bring back our civic celebrations. Also adding a new level of transparency and communication with the community with my extensive use of social media.
SG: What has been your biggest challenge(s) as Mayor?
SY: Internally, trying to get the City to be more communicative with the community as well as our upcoming fiscal challenges. Externally, trying to get people to understand that maintaining the level of services like they have come to expect comes with rapidly increasing costs that the City is not able to meet with existing revenue.
SG: One of Benicians’ biggest concerns is the state of our roads. Measure R, which would have funded road repair, narrowly lost when on the ballot in November. What, if anything, do you think should be done now to address the situation with the roads?
SY: There is a citizen driven sales tax initiative being proposed by a variety of community leaders that would set aside the same amount of funds strictly for roads and related infrastructure. It is our best chance to actually fix all our roads over a 10 year period.
SG: Another challenge is water charges. What, if anything, should be done to address that?
SY: Unfortunately there is not a magic bullet for this that will bring down water charges. Treating water and wastewater is highly regulated and expensive, and requires a number of employees with specific skills and licenses. And many of our pipes are quite old and failing. There are too few ratepayers to spread (and lower) these costs. More growth and customers may lead to more ways to spread those costs.
SG: There also is the question of Benicia’s large stretch of land known as the Seeno property (named for the land owner). What are your thoughts on whether and how that should ever be developed for housing? Do you see alternative uses for it?
SY: I would like to withhold my specific preferences on that in deference to the planning/visioning process that is currently underway, and that may eventually come to Council for decisions. But I can say ,that, as one member of the community, I would hope to see a mixed use development including multifamily and single family housing, in addition to some localized commercial development. Ideally, we would have direct micro transit options to downtown and a few locations in Vallejo. And perhaps some office or R/D uses along the East 2nd street frontage.
Benicia resident Stephen Golub offers excellent perspective on his blog, A Promised Land: Politics. Policy. America as a Developing Country.
To access his other posts or subscribe, please go to his blog site, A Promised Land.