Tag Archives: Lionel Largaespada

Largaespada letter ‘A Distortion of Truth’

[BenIndy Contributor Nathalie Christian — On April 19, 2023, the Benicia Herald published a letter penned by former City Council Member Lionel Largaespada. In his letter, Mr. Largaespada expressed “shock” that Benicia will realize a large deficit this fiscal year. Wednesday, April 26’s edition of the Herald featured a response from Benicia’s former Finance Director and current Assistant City Manager, Bret Prebula. In it, Mr. Prebula highlights our former Council Member’s many “distortions of truth” and notes that Mr. Largaespada conveniently avoids taking responsibility for some of the deficit spending he railed about. For Benicia to maintain its services and community benefits, “new tax revenue is a must, [and] that is a factual reality.” We must spurn politically motivated, distorted narratives about Benicia’s budget crisis and instead pledge to work together toward a common goal: Benicia’s financial sustainability. And with it, our future. — N.C.]

Former Benicia City Council Member Lionel Largaespada grimaces as he considers his position.
Former Benicia City Council Member Lionel Largaespada, pictured at a 2022 candidate forum in Benicia, CA.

Distortion of the Truth

by Bret Prebula, April 26, 2023, originally posted in the Benicia Herald.

The letter sent by former City Councilmember Largaespada is a distortion of the truth. Mr. Largaespada makes accusations of some lack of professional ability or structure to oversee and manage the City’s budget, that is frankly just untrue. In fact, the finance department has over the past two years transitioned into a professional and higher performing department. The City had a history of poor financial leadership and in just two years we have not fixed all the sins of the past, but we are a long way from the past poor performance with a vision of continuing to improve.

Mr. Largaespada speaks of this “discrepancy” from the April 2022 5-year forecast discussion to the March 2023 FY 2022/23 mid-year budget review. What Mr. Largaespada fails to mention is that his comparison is like comparing apples and oranges. The 5-year forecast is exactly that, a forecast, to provide the council, staff, and the community an awareness under current revenue and expense trends what financial health the City is predicting and what is the sensitivity to changes in the system, i.e., revenue decreases or expense increases. The summary of that exercise was that the city has a clear structural deficit. The amount of surplus or deficit of the projection within the 5-year forecast is to achieve a trend to assist in policy decision making as actual fiscal years can have specific changes that could not be considered in a projection. (Which is what happened in FY 22/23- current fiscal year).

Mr. Largaespada wants to paint a picture that the current deficit was something new, while in fact Mr. Largaespada was on the City Council and approved the FY 2022 & FY 2023 budget, at that time the budget clearly was approved with deficit spending. The current estimated deficit was in fact not shocking since the Council knew it had approved a deficit budget when the budgets were adopted in June 2021 (inclusive of Mr. Largaespada). The additional level of deficit was due to some approved changes in Public Works salaries and other operating costs throughout the City for which Mr. Largaespada was supportive.

Our City is going through a difficult fiscal time, that is a clear truth, but this fiscal issue has been looming for a long time. We are now making sure our community knows the issue is realized and no longer just a theory. We will and have to make some operational reductions/efficiency changes, but new tax revenue is a must, that is a factual reality. The only other outcome without revenue is to dramatically change the services and community benefits (such as parks, library hours, level of public safety support) we can provide. 

It is important that we all come together at this time to solve our citywide issues not distort information to further a narrative. We need to focus on our common interest that bind us together, we need to trust the staff that have shown in the past two years they are willing and capable to lead the City through this time, and trust our council (asking question genuinely to achieve information). As a citizen, I look forward to those interactions and discussions.

With hope,

Bret Prebula, Resident and Assistant City Manager

While you’re here…

The Benicia Herald  does not have an online edition. To support our local newspaper, please subscribe by email at beniciacirculation@gmail.com or by phone at 707-745-6838.

Benicia voters appear to reject incumbents, Valero in City Council election

Councilmember Lionel Largaespada wrote on Facebook that he called retired executive Terry Scott and planning commissioner Kari Birdseye to congratulate them.

The Vallejo Sun, by Scott Morris, Nov 11, 2022

Retired executive Terry Scott, left, and planning commissioner Kari Birdseye, right, appear to have prevailed in the Benicia City Council race. Photos: Scott Morris.

BENICIA – Benicia voters appear to have ousted incumbent city councilmembers who drew substantial monetary support from oil manufacturer Valero, as two challengers who have been critical of the refinery appear poised to win after Tuesday’s election, according to unofficial results from the Solano County Registrar of voters.

Councilmember Lionel Largaespada wrote on Facebook Thursday night that he called retired executive Terry Scott and planning commissioner Kari Birdseye to congratulate them on their apparent victory in the city council race.

“While there are still ballots to be counted the data indicates their respective leads will hold,” Largaespada wrote. “It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve the community I love, where I raise my family and I hope they will raise theirs.”

Birdseye, who works as an environmental spokesperson, thanked her opponents in a statement provided to the Sun.

“Although we don’t always agree on policies that are best for our community, Councilmember Largaespada served Benicia well, especially working with frontline community groups,” Birdseye said. “I thank both Lionel and Christina for their dedication to our community and look forward to their continued counsel as I step into this new role.”

Scott has been in first place since the first returns were released Tuesday night. Birdseye was initially in second place, but fell behind Largaespada as more Election Day votes were counted. But as the county continued counting late-arriving vote-by-mail ballots, Birdseye again took second place, and her lead grew to more than 100 votes late Thursday. Incumbent Councilmember Christina Strawbridge has remained in fourth place.

Benicia’s council members are elected by the entire city and the top two vote-getters will be on the council for the next four years.

The race was hotly contested, particularly because of the influence of Valero, the city’s largest employer that spent tens of thousands of dollars campaigning for the incumbents in the last days leading up to Election Day.

Valero previously campaigned for Largaespada and Strawbridge and against Birdseye in 2018. Birdseye narrowly lost that race. When Strawbridge ran for mayor two years later, Valero again supported her, but she lost badly to now-Mayor Steve Young.

This year, it appeared that Valero might sit out the race following a scandal when it was revealed that the refinery had allowed toxic gas to be released from a hydrogen vent for years. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District obtained an abatement order for Valero, but what penalties the refinery may face have yet to be determined.

Valero’s political meddling was a major issue at a candidates forum in October, where Scott and Birdseye called for greater oversight of the refinery in the wake of the emissions scandal.

Altered Valero PAC mailer (added here by the BenIndy, not in the original Vallejo Sun article)

But Valero did not take any action during the campaign until its final weeks, when a political action committee (PAC) receiving funding from Valero sent mailers on behalf of Largaespada and Strawbridge and spent $10,000 on Facebook ads. According to filings available by Tuesday’s election deadline, Valero had spent $89,507.71 supporting Largaespada and Strawbridge.

Largaespada and Strawbridge have both denounced Valero’s attempts to influence the city’s politics. By law, their campaigns cannot coordinate with the activities of Valero’s PAC.

Benicia City Council: Largaespada concedes

From his facebook page…

By Roger Straw, November 11, 2022


A few minutes ago I called to congratulate vice-mayor elect Terry Scott and councilmember elect Kari Birdseye. While there are still ballots to be counted the data indicates their respective leads will hold.
It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve the community I love, where I raise my family and I hope they will raise theirs. Please rest assured I am not going anywhere. I served you before I got into politics and I will continue to serve you going forward. I remain available to the Benicia community and will always do my best to help where there is a need. If you need anything I can be reached at 415-377-2872… I still know people ????.
But seriously, thank you so much to my family, friends and supporters – you mean the world to me. The votes, signs, meet and greets and outpouring of support was incredible and something I will never forget.
I love you Benicia, and I’ll see you around town.

Benicia City Council: Scott and Birdseye increase their lead

The trend is clear, but it’s still too early to call the race. There are around 1,900 Benicia ballots yet to count.

By Roger Straw, November 11, 2022

New votes today

Here is the updated chart showing today’s Solano County Registrar of Voters report.

Click on image to enlarge.

It’s good news for supporters of Kari Birdseye and Terry Scott, who continued adding newly counted mail-in votes at about the same winning rate as was reported on election day. 3,572 new votes were reported for Council candidates today. Of that number:

    • Terry Scott and Kari Birdseye both received exactly 886 new votes or 24.8% each;
    • Lionel Largaespada received 816 votes, 22.8%; and
    • Christina Strawbridge received 741 votes, 20.7%.

These percentages are very similar to those reported for the 10,000 mail-in ballots reported out on election day:

    • Scott 25.6%
    • Birdseye 24.5%
    • Largaespada 22.1% and
    • Strawbridge 21.1%.
Totals as of today

Ballots and votes still outstanding

As of today, Thursday at 5:40pm, the Solano County Registrar of Voters reported 17,588 outstanding countywide vote by mail ballots and another 1,671 outstanding provisional ballots. Total of around 19,000. My estimate of Benicia’s total remaining to be counted is around 10% of that, or 1,900 ballots. With each voter able to cast up to two votes for Council candidates, that means nearly 3,800 votes have yet to be split between the 5 candidates.

For the daily update of remaining countywide outstanding ballots, see Solano County Election Results.

Still close, but leaning towards Kari and Terry.

Today’s numbers again favor Scott and Birdseye. It may be too close and too early to call the race, but I am feeling good about our likely two new councilmembers, our friends Terry and Kari.

Stay tuned for daily updates – I’ll keep you posted here.


Previous updates: