Tag Archives: Candidate forums

September 19 is National Voter Registration Day – Register at the Solano Mall!

League of Women Voters Solano County to register voters at Solano Mall

On September 19, 2023, a coalition of thousands of partners across the country will celebrate National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) with a coordinated democracy blitz aimed at getting every eligible American registered to vote in advance of local elections and next year’s presidential primaries.

League of Women Voters Solano County (LWVSC) is proud to be a National Voter Registration Day partner. On September 19, they invite all non-registered voters to stop by the LWVSC table at the Solano Health Hub in Solano Mall between 11 am and 3 pm to register. Please bring a California Driver’s License/ID card and social security number to fill out the form. Members will be there to help if there are questions about registration status and provide information on voting and future issues.

First organized in 2012, NVRD is the nation’s largest, nonpartisan civic holiday dedicated to celebrating our democracy by registering to vote as many eligible Americans as possible. Since that first 2012 celebration, the holiday has helped more than 5 million Americans register to vote through the collective efforts of thousands of volunteers, nonprofit organizations, businesses, schools, libraries, election officials, and friends just like you from all over the country. Thousands of national, state, and local organizations and volunteers will be the driving force behind National Voter Registration Day 2023.

With this year’s holiday being the last National Voter Registration Day before voters in all 50 states, D.C., and U.S. territories head to the polls for the presidential primaries, there’s no time like the present to get every eligible American registered to vote.

The civic holiday’s website, NationalVoterRegistrationDay.org, provides a listing of National Voter Registration Day events across the country. It also includes comprehensive and state-specific resources on all things voter registration and voting more generally.

For more specific information about voter registration in Solano County, including whether they are registered, where they can go to register, or how they can register via mail or online, people can go to solanocounty.com/depts/rov/

For inquiries about LWVSC’s National Voter Registration Day activities, please contact Craig Paterson, Voter Services Chair, at LWVsolano@gmail.com.

League of Women Voters of Solano County was first founded in Benicia in 2004 and in 2020 expanded to all of Solano County. Its membership includes over 130 members from Benicia, Cordelia, Dixon, Fairfield, Vallejo, Vacaville, Suisun City, and Rio Vista, reflecting the diversity of Solano County. You can contact them at lwvsolano@gmail.com or visit their website at http://lwvsolanocounty.org/

The National League of Women Voters was founded in 1920 and is a non-partisan organization of women and men that is community-based and organized at the local, state, and national levels. Its mission is to promote political responsibility through the informed and active participation of citizens in governance and to act on selected and studied common-good governmental issues and policies.

KQED: In Benicia’s City Council Race, the Valero Refinery is on People’s Minds

Now, Benicia doesn’t get a ton of media attention…

Smokestacks and machinery are visible at Valero’s Benicia Refinery, in February 2022. The Bay area plant processes crude oil. (Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

KQED News, by Alan Montecillo and Maria Esquinca, Oct 19, 2022

The politics of fossil fuels in Benicia’s City Council race

Benicia is home to an oil refinery operated by Valero, which employs hundreds of people and contributes tax revenue totaling an estimated 20% of the city’s general budget.

The company has also played a very active role in local elections. Valero’s political action committee spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2018 and 2020.

Now, with this year’s city council race underway — and residents frustrated over recent controversies at the refinery — Valero’s role in Benicia looms large once again.

GuestScott Morris, reporter for the Vallejo Sun


Valero Refinery looms over Benicia City Council candidates forum

The five candidates seethed over revelations of undisclosed emissions and fretted about the oil giant’s influence in the city’s politics.

Benicia City Council candidates Christina Strawbridge, Lionel Largaespada, William Innes, Terry Scott and Kari Birdseye appeared at a candidates forum at the Benicia Senior Center on Wednesday. Photo: Scott Morris.

The Vallejo Sun, by Scott Morris, October 14, 2022

BENICIA – Like its place in the center of Benicia overlooking its downtown, the Valero Benicia Refinery cast a shadow over a forum for Benicia City Council candidates Wednesday night, where the five candidates seethed over revelations of undisclosed emissions and fretted about the oil giant’s influence in the city’s politics.

The candidates took on other issues as well, in particular disagreeing on a proposed sales tax increase and whether to welcome more cannabis retailers to the city.

The prepared questions from the League of Women Voters of Solano County – which hosted the forum – did not address the refinery’s emissions or influence, but it dominated the questions solicited from the audience. A packed audience at the Benicia Senior Center listened intently to the candidates’ responses for nearly two hours.

Valero’s influence has been felt heavily in the last two election cycles in Benicia. In 2018, a Political Action Committee receiving funding from the company spent heavily on ads attacking planning commissioner Kari Birdseye, who had helped block a Valero proposal to ship crude oil by rail.

Birdseye ultimately lost her first council bid to incumbent Christina Strawbridge and Lionel Largaespada, who are both now running for reelection. Strawbridge then ran for mayor two years later, and once again Valero attacked her opponent, then-Councilmember Steve Young. Young ultimately prevailed in that race, 53%-31%.

This year, Valero has dumped $230,000 into its PAC but had not reported any expenditures for November’s election as of early October, leading to anxiety for some candidates over how and when Valero will spend that money. The candidates’ campaigns have a $34,000 cap on spending, but the PAC does not have that restriction.

Retired executive Terry Scott, who is running for the council a second time after narrowly losing in 2020, credited Young with keeping Valero at bay in this year’s election, saying that if Valero tried to buy Benicia’s elections “that the people in this community are going to rise up, they are no longer going to take this becoming a refinery town.”

But despite the lack of Valero spending so far, Strawbridge said that the current campaign is “as bad as 2020.”

“There has been attack after attack,” Strawbridge said, pointing to posts on social media and saying that she has made two ethics complaints about other candidates to the city. “So I just feel like there’s a lot of desire to say we are running clean campaigns. And I’m afraid we aren’t.”

Another change in the dynamic with Valero was revelations earlier this year that Valero had been spewing thousands of tons of excess pollution from a hydrogen vent for decades. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District first became aware of the issue in 2019, but did not alert the city government or residents until this year, when it sought an abatement order against Valero to correct the violations. Penalties for Valero have yet to be determined.

Largaespada pointed out that determining punishment for Valero is not in the city’s jurisdiction, though it will provide input. “Valero like any business and every business in the community is expected to follow laws, whether they come at a local level, the county or the state,” he said. “With respect to punishment of sorts, that is the jurisdiction of the air board.”

Strawbridge said that Valero had “betrayed” the city, but also chided regulators for not alerting the city to the toxic release.

“It’s not only Valero but the Air District,” she said. “They did not report what they have found as far as the emissions, we still don’t know what the impact that’s going to have on our health and we need more information on that.”

Birdseye and Scott both stressed the need for more monitoring, both in the community and in people’s homes, and said that they want financial penalties from Valero to go to the city to help pay for the cost of such monitoring.

“The fine that they are going to impose which hopefully will run into the millions of dollars to tens of millions of dollars, should come back to our community that should then be used for funding that can be used by every single person in this room to get air filtration systems and monitoring systems in your house,” Scott said.

Birdseye said that the community air monitoring currently in place was limited in terms of the emissions that Valero was found to have been releasing, so the city needed to find a way to have more robust air monitoring. “Right now, we rely on citizens’ Purple Air monitoring stations at our school sites and throughout our community,” she said. “And they pick up just the particulate matter, not the toxic gases, not the toxic compounds that are in our air.”

William “Billy” Innes, a retired educator who joined the race late, had a brief answer for how he would address Valero’s emissions that drew a rebuke from the forum moderator for addressing the other candidates. “Am I planning on doing anything about this? Oh, heck yes, I am. I’m planning on voting for Kari Birdseye and Terry Scott,” he said.

The candidates disagreed most sharply on Measure R, a proposed three-quarter-cent sales tax increase that will also be on the ballot in November, with their responses varying from enthusiastic endorsement to staunch opposition. The measure’s language says the estimated $5 million in annual proceeds would go to road repair, though the tax is a general tax and could be spent on any purpose.

Largaespada said that there are “5 million reasons to vote against Measure R” and argued that between a  statewide gas tax, franchise fees for trash collection and expected revenue growth in the city, it could already allocate $5 million toward roads. “It’s in the budget right now,” he said. “I’m a reasonable person. If staff had said we’re out of money, then yes on R.”

But Largaespada’s current counterpart on the council, Strawbridge, said that Measure R was necessary to maintain Benicia’s streets. “We must pass Measure R,” she said. “Our roads are pathetic and dangerous. It’s going to be less than a penny on the dollar. This is a small investment for maintaining your property values and keeping kids on bikes safe.”

Birdseye agreed with Strawbridge. “If we want better roads, not only for our home values, but for our businesses, for our industrial parks where trucks are banging around and getting broken axles. If we want safe roads, this is the way to do it right now,” she said.

Scott was more measured in his support. “While no one likes new taxes, I support Measure R,” he said. “It is the only way we will be able to finally address the steep cost of road repair maintenance and specific infrastructure.”

Innes bristled at the argument that Measure R would protect homeowners’ property values, pointing out that the tax would have a disproportionate impact on the city’s poorest residents. “The argument I hear on behalf of Measure R is that it will help maintain property values for homeowners,” he said. “I understand that. But is it right to have those who make the least amount of money, minimum wage, have to sustain homeowners’ property rights?”

The candidates also differed on whether to allow new cannabis dispensaries in the city. The only dispensary in the city, STIIIZY, opened a year ago and Young recently said in a Facebook post that it has become the second largest tax producer in the city. But in 2020, a ballot measure found that a majority of Benicia voters did not want more cannabis dispensaries by a vote of 47-53%.

Strawbridge and Largaespada were apprehensive about allowing more dispensaries. Strawbridge said that the city needed more time to understand the impacts of the current dispensary. “We’re hearing a lot of numbers being passed out,” she said. “So far the council has not gotten nor received any information about what the retail cannabis is developing as far as financial support. So I have concerns, because we have been told through our finance director that it’s lower than what they expected.”

Scott said that he would also like to see more information, but touted the tax benefits and said that the current dispensary has not caused any law enforcement issues. Birdseye said that industrial cannabis production has been going well in the city and she would support more retail. Innes said that he thought cannabis businesses were safer to have downtown than bars.

Benicia City Council Candidates’ Forum on Wednesday, Oct 12

Benicia City Council Candidate Forum
Wednesday, October 12th from 7:00 – 9:00 P.M.
Benicia Senior Citizen’s Center, 187 East L St., Benicia


Your Vote/Your Voice: Make an Informed Choice

As part of its mission to provide non-partisan political information, the League of Women Voters of Solano County (LWVSC) and co-sponsors provide forums that allow voters an opportunity to hear candidates, discuss issues face-to-face, and provide candidates an opportunity to answer questions from constituents. All candidates are invited to participate to stimulate public interest in their campaigns. For details please check LWVSolano.org.

The League of Women Voters Solano County (LWVSC) and American Association of University Women (AAUW), sponsors:
Benicia City Council Candidate Forum
Wednesday, October 12th from 7:00 – 9:00 P.M.
Benicia Senior Citizen’s Center, 187 East L St., Benicia

This is an in-person event, a recording will be available a few days after the event on the LWV Solano YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKsWzzfO8WOe8GB1HCn6FvQ.

The LWVSC and the AAUW do not support or oppose any political party or candidate.

For more Solano forums check https://my.lwv.org/california/solano-county/ and for unbiased voter and election resources visit: https://my.lwv.org/california/solano-county/voting. For information about the League, its partnerships and programs, contact us at LWVSolano@gmail.com or visit our website at http://lwvsolanocounty.org/

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League of Women Voters Solano County P.O. Box 83 Benicia, CA 94510 LWVSolanoCounty.org