By Stephen Golub, posted in the Benicia Herald on October 29, 2023
If you go to https://www.ci.benicia.ca.us/strategicplan, or simply search for “Benicia Strategic Plan,” you’ll find a short but important online survey that the City has commissioned to help set priorities for years to come. The survey is one stage in a strategic planning process, stretching into early next year, by which we can all weigh in on where Benicia goes from here in terms of building on our strengths and tackling our challenges.
An online meeting this past Tuesday, attended by about 80 Benicians, provided a chance to discuss the planning process. We’ll have several more opportunities in the months to come. Watch for emails from and other announcements by City Manager Mario Guiliani for updates and future forums. The survey is a key component of this initiative.
But be aware:
The deadline for survey responses is November 3.
(Given the amount of time it can take for word about something like this to percolate, I’d suggest that the deadline should be extended. But let’s assume it’s set at November 3.)
The exercise takes maybe five or ten minutes to complete. It’s well worth the slight but interesting effort involved.
In taking the survey, I found myself wanting to endorse all fifteen potential answers for the “What are the things that make our community a great place to live?” question. We can only select up to five, however.
Nonetheless, there’s an opportunity to go beyond that list, under the “Other” option. I discussed the City’s waterfront setting as a significant asset that sets us apart from so many other communities.
Conversely, I wanted some more specificity regarding potential answers to the survey’s “What do you think are the top opportunities for improvement that the City of Benicia should focus on?” question. But thankfully, again, there is an “Other” option by which you can add and explain your own preferred answer(s).
Two things came to mind regarding that “Other” option:
First, I realize that we rely on Valero to some degree for jobs and other benefits, I appreciate the many fine Benicians who are its employees or retirees, and I respect the perspectives of our fellow community members who fully support it. But…
There’s a major need to better address the massive, hazardous, longstanding air pollution violations Valero has committed, and which it didn’t tell us about for many years, while our kids, older adults and many other citizens possibly suffered health effects from potentially toxic emissions hundreds of times government limits. There are too many incidents and ongoing issues to detail here. But I’ll note that two examples of such repeated violations – at least one stretching back well over a decade – only came to light in 2022 and 2023.
Moreover, there’s nothing about Valero’s positive contributions that make them mutually exclusive with it being a better, safer neighbor. It’s the only refinery in the Bay Area that operates without a city or county ordinance geared to protecting citizen health and safety. The Texas-based corporation could do much better in partnering with the City, making its refinery here a less hazardous operation and sharing information vital to our safety and health.
The second thing that the survey brought to mind – even without specifically offering this as a potential answer – is that Benicia has the opportunity to diversify and strengthen its economy by taking advantage of potential private sector, federal and state funding to encourage manufacturing, servicing or otherwise profiting regarding wind, solar and other emerging technologies. Such initiatives would be great for local jobs and businesses, as well as our overall economic growth and health.
In a related vein, and even as we’re wary of the hazards the Valero refinery imposes or grateful for the economic benefits it brings, the facility won’t be here forever – or conceivably could be sold or altered in ways that make the need for alternative economic opportunities much more urgent. The strategic planning process, including the survey, gives us a chance to start considering such alternatives.
But those are just my quick reactions. And to be clear, the survey is about far more than such specific concerns, as it touches on parks, infrastructure, community engagement, arts and culture, festivals, policing, fire protection and a host of other matters.
So what are your thoughts? If you want to weigh in, the survey provides a great chance to offer your own goals and concerns. Yet another of its questions asks us to rank priorities; it’s a pretty thought-provoking exercise to engage in.
And again, it only takes five to ten minutes, at most.
And again, the deadline is November 3. Check it out!
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.
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