Tag Archives: Benicia CA

Tell Benicia City Council – ‘no more gunfire near our homes and waterfront!’

Benicia City Council to vote on boosting citizens’ petition to halt early-morning gunfire barrage during hunting season 

By Nathalie Christian, May 22, 2023

On Tuesday, May 23, 2023, Benicia City Council will vote on whether or not to adopt a resolution in support of a citizens’ petition to California’s Fish & Game Commission (FGC) to prohibit duck hunting near Benicia’s residential shoreline.

According to the petition brought by Benicia resident Cathy Bennett and several community members, for the past two seasons duck hunters have been discharging their weapons within 150 yards of residential homes and parks. The barrage of gunfire has reportedly traumatized both residents and animals – including young children, pets, wildlife and adults – and potentially lowered the value of homes in the area.

However, the FGC has yet to place the matter on an upcoming agenda for consideration, effectively stalling the effort in its tracks.

To support the safety of residents as well as business interests in the area (considered prime waterfront real estate), Benicia City Council is seeking public input on whether adopt a resolution “to reinvigorate the urgency of the matter to the FGC with the goal of having the merits of the petition discussed at the August 2023 meeting.”

Show your support

Benicia residents are strongly encouraged to show support for our neighbors living on the shoreline who, for two hunting seasons now, have been awoken by loud gunfire early in the morning. The impact on human, wildlife and business interests in the area has been severe.

Take a stand with your Benicia neighbors by making a public comment telling our City Council that enough is enough – we have a right to safety, peace and quiet in our own homes.

Showing your support can be as easy as writing an email, but commenting in person is a great way to be heard.

How to write and email a public comment

Members of the public may provide public comment via email to the City Clerk by email at lwolfe@ci.benicia.ca.us. Any comment submitted to the City Clerk should indicate to which item of the agenda the comment relates (DUCK HUNTING IS ITEM 21.B).

– Comments received by 2:00 pm on the day of the meeting will be electronically forwarded to the City Council and posted on the City’s website.

– Comments received after 2:00 pm, but before the start time of the meeting will be electronically forwarded to the City Council but will not be posted on the City’s website.

In your email, put the item number in your subject line (e.g., “Public comment re. Item 21.B”).

In your email body, share why you support the resolution. You don’t have to write much. You can simply say, “I support a resolution to prohibit duck hunting near Benicia homes.”

The important thing is to send the email on time, ideally before 2 pm on Tuesday, May 23.

How to view the meeting and/or make a live public comment

You can participate in the meeting in one of four ways: 

1) Attend in person at Council Chambers
2) Cable T.V. Broadcast – Check with your cable provider for your local government broadcast channel.
3) Livestream online at www.ci.benicia.ca.us/agendas.
4) Zoom Meeting (link below)

The public may view and participate (via computer or phone) link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88508047557?pwd=cHRsZlBrYlphU3pkODcycytmcFR2UT09
  • If prompted for a password, enter 449303.
  • Use participant option to “raise hand” during the public comment period for the item you wish to speak on. Please note, your electronic device must have microphone capability. Once unmuted, you will have up to 5 minutes to speak.
  • Dial in with phone:
    Before the start of the item you wish to comment on, call any of the numbers below. If one is busy, try the next one.

        • 1 669 900 9128
        • 1 346 248 7799
        • 1 253 215 8782
        • 1 646 558 8656
        • 1 301 715 8592
        • 1 312 626 6799

•  Enter the meeting ID number: 885 0804 7557 (*please note this is an updated ID number*.)

Say the item you wish to speak on. (DUCK HUNTING IS ITEM 21. B)

Once unmuted, you will have up to 5 minutes to speak.

Enter password: 449303

When prompted for a Participant ID, press #.

Press *9 on your phone to “raise your hand” when the Mayor calls for public comment during the

Any member of the public who needs accommodations should email City Clerk Lisa Wolfe at lwolfe@ci.benicia.ca.us, who will use her best efforts to provide as much accessibility as possible while also maintaining public safety.

Update: Benicia Public Works restores water service near East 5th Street

Benicia Public Works crews worked around the clock to repair water main line break near St. Dominic’s School

A Benicia Public Works staff member assists in repairing a damaged pipe.
Benicia Public Works crews worked day and night to ensure St. Dominic’s School and the 800 and 900 blocks near East 5th Street have access to running water. | Uncredited image from Benicia City Government tweet.

By Nathalie Christian, May 18, 2023.

On the morning of May 17, 2023,  Benicia City Government reported via social media that a leak occurring in a water main around the 800 and 900 blocks of East 5th Street had left many residences and St. Dominic’s School without running water.

On Thursday, May 18, Public Works Director Kyle Ochenduzsko provided the Benicia Independent with following update via the Benicia City Government’s Twitter account:

Yesterday morning, a water main line break was detected on East 5th Street. City of Benicia Public Works crews worked around the clock to repair the line and restore water to affected residents this morning. Thank you to our dedicated crews!

Thank you, Benicia Public Works crews and staff!

Water main break leaves Benicia residents without running water (Update!)

Benicia Public Works Director promises to restore water service at St. Dominic’s and impacted homes, even if it takes all night

Map of impacted residences and buildings
This map shows impacted homes and businesses left without running water, as shared by the City’s Instagram post. | Uncredited image

By Nathalie Christian, May 17, 2023; updated May 18.

From the Benicia City Government’s Instagram account:

Early this morning, there was a water main break near the 800 and 900 blocks of East 5th Street. St. Dominic’s School and homes in the area are currently without water (see map of affected area). St. Dominic’s is closed for the day and parents have been notified. Public Works has begun working on the repair to restore water service as soon as possible. The repair is estimated to take several hours depending on the severity of the break. We will update the community when we have more information.

Responding to a request for an update, Public Works Director Kyle Ochenduzsko shared the following:

Crews are still working on the leaking pipe. Unfortunately, I do not have an estimated time to fix. If need be, our crews are prepared and ready to be working throughout the night to restore water as soon as possible.

As someone who has personally seen Mr. Ochenduzsko and his team in action, working tirelessly to fix a water issue that impacted my own home, I have full confidence that this issue will be resolved as swiftly as humanly and safely possible.

Benicia’s Public Works Department has consistently gone above and beyond to ensure essential infrastructure and services are safe and operational for Benicia residents. They deserve our support during trying times like these.

Status update

At 10:25 am on Thursday, May 18, Mr. Ochenduzsko provided the Benicia Independent with following update, available through Benicia City Government’s Twitter account:

Yesterday morning, a water main line break was detected on East 5th Street. City of Benicia Public Works crews worked around the clock to repair the line and restore water to affected residents this morning. Thank you to our dedicated crews!

Thank you, Benicia Public Works crews and staff!

A separate post announcing this update will be created and shared shortly.

Benicia’s Budget Crisis

Benicia & Beyond – Our Daunting Deficits

The Benicia Herald (no online presence), by Stephen Golub, April 9, 2023. About Steve Golub, below.

Benicia’s budget is in dire straits. As former City Manager Erik Upson, Interim City Manager Mario Giuliani and others have emphasized, our heads are financially below water. We face mounting deficits, stretching for years.

At the risk of being Davey Downer, here’s some daunting data, courtesy of Assistant City Manager Bret Prebula (though any mistakes in presenting or analyzing the figures are most certainly mine):

For Benicia’s current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, the estimated deficit is $2.2 million. That is, our expected expenditures are $2.2 million more than our revenues.

That figure is elevated somewhat by one-time costs of about $1 million for operating and legal expenses linked to the city-owned marina. But…

The city staff anticipates budget deficits of $3-6 million per year for both the 2023-24 and 2024-25 fiscal years.

To put this in context, the anticipated annual city expenditures (excluding water and wastewater, which are budgeted separately) amount to $55-60 million.

Therefore, unless Benicia makes adjustments, we’re looking at an annual deficit of 5 percent to 10 percent of the budget for the next two years and beyond.

Though it’s split into separate categories, the city’s reserve/general fund totals about $22 million. According to my rudimentary math, we could exhaust it in as few as four years unless action is taken.

Finally, unlike the federal government, the city has to balance its budget each year. When I write of expected or anticipated deficits, I’m discussing gaps that must be closed by reduced costs, additional revenue or drawing down the reserve fund.

How Did This Happen?

So how did we sink to this state? Our costs have increased while our revenues have remained relatively flat. More specifically…

The problem partly flows from gradual increases in the costs of city services (whether delivered by employees or contractors), materials Benicia buys and city employee benefits (such as health insurance). In addition…

Revenues are not rising enough to match the increasing costs. Why’s that? First, our population has barely increased since 2000. Also, while our industrial park businesses contribute to Benicia’s economy, they generate less city revenue than a more service/retail-oriented mix of firms would.

What to Do?

Proponents of Measure R, narrowly defeated in November, argue that the ¾ percent sales tax would have gone a fair distance toward addressing our road repair needs.

More broadly, some contend that it’s not just road repair, but also police, fire protection, parks and other city services that will face cuts unless we right the fiscal ship through greater revenues – be they through taxes, fees or other approaches.

Conversely, others maintain that we can in fact make cuts that eliminate or at least decrease the need to rely on new or expanded taxes and fees. In contemplating one kind of cut, though, we might bear in mind former City Manager Upson’s warnings that city employees’ salaries are lower than those in many other Bay Area localities, which can make retaining them difficult.

Another approach prioritizes limiting hikes in taxes and fees mainly to the town’s largest businesses.

Then there’s a perspective that contends that we should rethink whether Benicia should remain a full-service city. That broad blend of services is something most of us like about Benicia. But we could consider whether and to what extent we can afford all this, and what the potential alternatives might be.

My point here is not to provide or promote certain solutions. Far from it. I need to be better educated on these and other options myself.

Instead, I’m just offering a bare-bones account – and it’s admittedly barely even that – of a few potential directions. Benicians who understand municipal finances far better than I do can address this matter far better. Hopefully, though, this column takes a small step toward illuminating the issue.

How to Learn More

So, some food for thought. Here are a couple of ways to start chewing on all this:

On April 11, “Benicia’s Budget Crisis: The Problem and Potential Solutions”, a public forum, will be held in the Benicia Public Library’s Dona Benicia Room. Starting at 7 p.m., and organized by the Progressive Democrats of Benicia, it will feature Mayor Steve Young, Assistant City Manager Bret Prebula and Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown. The presentations will be followed by a Q&A session.

Since some Benicia residents remain especially vulnerable to Covid, masks will be required. Due to the complexity involved, Zoom will not be used for the session.

Again, all are welcome; you don’t have to be a PDB member to attend. You don’t have to be a progressive, a liberal, a moderate, a conservative or whatever. You just have to care about Benicia.

Then, on April 25, the City Council will convene a study session on the issue, starting at 6 p.m., in the Council Chambers. As usual, this Council meeting will be both an in-person and Zoom event.

We Can Get Through This

Crises can bring out the best or worst in folks. They can unite or divide. This one could include tough conversations and decisions in the months and years to come.

I’m optimistic that this challenge will see Benicia responding well. We are a resourceful, resilient community.

I also take heart from the calm, civil Council discussions about the indoor mask mandate back in 2021. (I can’t speak to social media.) Admittedly, the meetings were not warm and fuzzy affairs; they saw sharp disagreements. But, for the most part, they aired diverse perspectives in respectful ways.

Let’s hope the upcoming budget debates take the same path.

Stephen Golub, Benicia – A Promised Land: Politics. Policy. America as a Developing Country.

Benicia resident Stephen Golub

A version of this piece first appeared in the Benicia Herald, as part of my weekly Benicia and Beyond column for the Herald. At my blog, A Promised Land, I also write about national and international affairs, including lessons that America can learn from other countries.

My blog: A Promised Land: America as a Developing Country apromisedland.org.