LETTER SERIES: Roger Straw – Leaders for the future of Benicia

[Editor: Benicians are expressing themselves in letters to the editor of our local print newspaper, the Benicia Herald. But the Herald doesn’t publish letters in its online editions – and many Benician’s don’t subscribe. We are posting certain letters here for wider distribution. – RS]

Why NOT to vote for Hughes and Largaespada, and WHY TO VOTE for Elizabeth Patterson and Steve Young

By Roger Straw
October 19, 2016
Roger Straw, Editor, The Benicia Independent
Roger Straw, Editor, The Benicia Independent

Here in Benicia, we have a seriously important choice as we vote for our next mayor.  Everyone agrees that Mark Hughes is a nice guy, and I have had cordial relations with him.  But Mark is a Republican, worked for years as an executive in a major corporation, PG&E, and has not joined with the progressive majority on a number of important Council votes.

On Seeno, for instance, Hughes voted on Aug. 7, 2007 to approve the Seeno DEIR.  On June 3, 2008 he voted to accept Seeno’s request for an extension, have a comprehensive traffic study submitted to Council, and limit the public hearing to the traffic study.  Most importantly, on October 7, 2008 Hughes voted to approve the Seeno project when the Council narrowly defeated it on a 2-3 vote.

Unlike her opponent, Elizabeth Patterson embraces climate change science, is a longtime protector of the environment, lives and promotes progressive values.  With Elizabeth as Mayor, Benicia has strengthened the arts, won awards for environmental stewardship, brought in numerous grants and weathered the great recession.  She is responsive to residents, offering open office hours and regular email communications on issues of importance to us all.  Napa and Solano County political action committees (PACs) have endorsed Mr. Hughes and are spending huge sums of money to support him.  It is not at all guaranteed that Elizabeth will win this race – it’s incredibly important that you vote.  Don’t stay home!  Vote for Mayor Elizabeth Patterson. More at ElizabethForMayor.com.

Equally important is the Benicia City Council race.  Five candidates, including two incumbents, are running for the two open seats.  All but Lionel Largaespada are on record opposing Valero Crude By Rail.  Largaespada is another PAC-backed Republican. In 2011-12, he was paid $40,833 as a campaign consultant for NO ON 29. Proposition 29 was a tobacco tax for cancer research, and narrowly lost, under heavily funded attacks by big tobacco companies, law enforcement & labor.  (Sources: California Secretary of State, Cal-Access and Ballotpedia.)  According to his Linked In page, Largaespada operated an online advertising business, Civis Media Group, “specializing in issue advocacy and voter outreach for political candidates and issue-based non-profits and trade associations.”  Largaespada is surely another very nice man, but someone who would likely take Benicia on a rather permissive developmental joy ride.  Vote for anyone but Largaespada.

So the choice comes down to the other four candidates: incumbents Tom Campbell and Christina Strawbridge, and two Planning Commission challengers, Steve Young and George Oakes.  The top two vote-getters will win a seat on Council.

I was highly impressed with Christina’s and Tom’s actions in leading a unanimous vote on Council to deny Valero Crude by Rail.  But it was Elizabeth Patterson’s steady presence as an environmental advocate and the Planning Commission’s unanimous vote that led the way.

Planning Commissioners Don Dean, George Oakes, Elizabeth Radtke, Suzanne Sprague and Susan Cohen Grossman were all admirably outspoken in opposition to Valero’s proposal. But it was Steve Young’s persistent and challenging voice on the Planning Commission that was particularly effective in making the case against oil trains, and served as a wake-up call to everyone, including current Council members.

Against the formidable pressures of Benicia City staff, the City’s paid consultants and contract attorneys, and Valero’s executives and attorney, Steve proved himself to be a fearless champion of independent thinking, a leader with an eye for detail and a public servant with an unshakable concern for the health and safety of our residents and businesses.  Perhaps most importantly, Steve’s work helped shape and preserve Benicia’s reputation as a forward-thinking community.  I will vote for Steve Young.  Please vote for Steve.  More on Steve Young at SteveYoungForCityCouncil.org.

Roger Straw
Benicia resident and editor of the Benicia Independent