LETTER SERIES: Steve Young – Context on my endorsements

[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.  (Note that the Benicia Herald editor inserted his own comments midway through Mr. Young’s letter – a rather unorthodox practice.  The version below is the original letter as it appeared on Oct. 28 on Facebook: Steve Young For City Council.  I am printing the Benicia Herald editor’s comments at the conclusion of Mr. Young’s letter.)  – RS]

Context on my endorsements

By Steve Young
November 4, 2016


It has been said repeatedly in letters to the Editor that I sought out endorsements from Labor and that is mostly true. But some context is needed to understand the background of these endorsements. What is not true is that I was interviewed by either the Police or Fire unions.

As a supporter of labor unions my whole life, and the son of a teachers union President, I did hope to secure an endorsement from labor, which here is represented by the Napa/Solano Labor Council. I had been warned, however, that securing such an endorsement was unlikely. Having never run for office before, I was unclear as to why that would be the case.

I, along with the other candidates, had interviewed with representatives of the Napa/Solano Central Labor Council several months ago. After my interview, I was approached by two representatives of the Benicia Police Officers Association (POA), who said they were impressed by my honesty and directness, and asked if I would be interested in the endorsement of the POA. I answered that I would be interested, and that we should talk more. When I called the POA representative the following week to set up a meeting as they suggested, I was surprised to be told that they had talked with their political consultant and that, since they were told I was supporting Mayor Patterson, they could not consider me for an endorsement.

Putting aside the question of why a 27 member union in a small town like Benicia feels the need to have a political consultant, no other explanation was given for why my support for Mayor Patterson was a disqualifying factor. Perhaps it is because she has consistently supported a policy of “all for one, and one for all” in regards to labor negotiations. This approach means all bargaining groups in the City should be offered the same salary and benefit increases, and that city employees should not be pitted against each other. It is my understanding that the entire Council also supported this approach in past negotiations. It will be interesting to see if the new Council will uphold this, as negotiations on a new contract with the POA is now beginning.

I should stress that NO candidate interviews were ever held with the POA or the Firefighters union. These unions evidently did not need to talk to any of the candidates before making their endorsements and deciding to heavily invest in the outcome of this election.

A similar thing happened with the Benicia Teachers Association. After what seemed like a very positive interview with their group, the President of the union called me and said that, after consulting with the head of the Napa Solano Labor Council, they felt the need to endorse the same candidate slate as the rest of the unions. I wonder if the membership of these unions were ever contacted about these endorsements or expenditures.

On the other hand, all four of the Democrats running for City Council (Strawbridge, Campbell, Oakes and myself) DID interview for the endorsement of the California/Solano Democratic Party. (Since he is a Republican, Lionel Largaspaeda understandably did not seek this endorsement). I am proud to say that I was the only one of the four remaining Council candidates to receive the party’s endorsement, even though there are two seats being contested. None of the other candidates received the necessary 50% plus one vote. Mayor Patterson also received the endorsement of the Democratic party- which was a mere formality given that her opponent Mark Hughes is a Republican.

It used to be that labor unions were reliable supporters of Democrats. That evidently is no longer the case in regards to labor unions in Benicia, as they endorsed the only two Republicans running, along with Councilwoman Strawbridge.

It remains to be seen if the unions’ investment in our election will pay dividends.

Benicia Herald editor Nick Sestanovich added the following comments in the body of Mr. Young’s letter.

“The police and fire unions have said that the Napa Solano Central Labor Council interviews were conducted on behalf of all the unions, and representatives from the police and fire unions were present during the interviewing process.”

“BTA President Carleen Maselli has claimed that although some input from the CLC was taken into consideration, the decision was based more on who they felt would best support labor and teachers.”