Craig Snider: Think Twice Before Supporting Largaespada and Strawbridge

…we can make a constructive change this November by replacing both with Terry Scott and Kari Birdseye.

By Craig Snider, October 9, 2022

Craig Snider, Benicia CA

With the Benicia City Council election in full swing, I’ve read with interest various opinions about the candidates. But two candidates stand out for their anti-public health and antibusiness development stances: Largaespada and Strawbridge. Consider the influence of Valero corporation, with its $250K war chest under the guise of “Working Families for a Better Benicia”. That’s troubling given its chronic air and water pollution problems. In the past, Valero worked to defeat candidates who support better oversight of their polluting operations. Apparently they expect lax treatment by the candidates they support. Otherwise, why would they get involved in our elections?

Remember the whole “Crude by Rail” debacle that plagued our community for years while we fought Valero’s efforts to bring “Bomb Trains” loaded with filthy shale oil into our community; snarling traffic, compounding air pollution and otherwise putting our citizens at risk? Lionel Largaespada was one the few Benicians to support it. So it’s no surprise Valero looks favorably on his candidacy. Largaespada is a Republican whose party works tirelessly to diminish air and water pollution regulations by using industry lobbyists to alter rules in their favor. These lobbyists also work hard to limit the the EPA and other regulators’ ability to do their job of keeping us safe from toxic pollution.

Christina Strawbridge eventually did better on the Crude by Rail project when she did an about face on the issue after a bomb train derailed and caught fire in Oregon in June 2016. Evidently, 12 prior bomb train derailments including the destruction of Lac-Megantic, Quebec and the death of 47 residents were insufficient up to that point. Valero’s Crude by Rail project had reached the breaking point in Benicia and it was clear that any candidates supporting the project would be rejected by voters. Perhaps that’s why she finally came around, but her lack of support before the political winds changed is telling.

Another issue that Lionel and Christina agree on is their opposition to cannabis retail in Benicia. Many of us attended numerous council meetings to achieve a good compromise cannabis ordinance for the city. We were tired of seeing cannabis tax revenue drift off to Vallejo and elsewhere. The original ordinance passed the council and allowed for two cannabis shops at limited locations. In the run up to the 2018 council race I had the opportunity to ask Strawbridge directly, during a public candidate forum, where she stood on the new cannabis ordinance. In front of a packed room at the library, she stated that she supported the ordinance, and if elected, wound not change it. But once elected, she immediately changed her position and opposed the ordinance, voting in May 2019 to ban retail sales altogether. In her words, “Cannabis dispensaries are not a good fit for Benicia”. Christina and Lionel led the anti-cannabis retail effort by proposing so many “no retail cannabis” buffers that it would be nearly impossible to site a cannabis store anywhere in town.

A month later, on June 18, 2019, The council voted 3-2 in favor of allowing one retail cannabis shop, dropping many of the onerous buffers proposed by Strawbridge and Largaespada. In one year, our single cannabis shop has generated more tax revenue for the city than over half the downtown businesses combined! By now you know who the two “no” votes were.

Frankly, I’m tired of the shenanigans. But we can make a constructive change this November by replacing both with Terry Scott and Kari Birdseye. Scott and Birdseye will both put public health and safety above politics while supporting needed business development in Benicia. Both are long-running chairs of Benicia Commissions, skilled in dealing with tough issues and respecting diverse views in our community. Terry’s considerable business background will add a much-needed element to our City Council while Kari’s background in communications and media will improve city communications and public involvement on important issues. They’ll both bring a creative, problem-solving skillset that is often lacking in city government. Please join me in voting for Terry Scott and Kari Birdseye for City Council. You’ll be glad you did!

Craig Snider
Benicia, CA

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