Category Archives: Benicia Vice Mayor Steve Young

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.”

LETTER SERIES: Kathy Kerridge – how to elect Elizabeth and Steve

[Editor: Kathy Kerridge asked me to help distribute her letter, below.   – RS]

How you can help elect Elizabeth Patterson and Steve Young

By Kathy Kerridge
October 24, 2016
Kathy Kerridge

There are only two weeks to go before the election and Mayor Patterson and Steve Young need your help.  This will be a close election and if you want to see Mayor Patterson reelected and Steve Young elected to city council please donate an evening or two of your time.  We need help phone banking on Oct. 25, 27, Nov. 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 (from 6 to 8:30) and on November 8 (8am on).  We also need help walking precincts on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 to 2.  Please email Kathy Kerridge at, or call 745-8049 to let us know when you can help.

Mayor Elizabeth Patterson will put Benicia First.  She is the best mayor we’ve ever had in my opinion.

    • She raised safety concerns early in the process and led the council to a no vote by voting against the project at the first opportunity.
    • She has shown leadership on ensuring a safe and reliable water supply.
    • Mayor Patterson is leading efforts at the city council to put a cap on refinery emissions – no increase in air pollution.
    • She wants to diversify our businesses to be less dependent and beholden to Valero.
    • Elizabeth will promote Clean Tech.
    • She believes in protecting open space (endorse by Solano County orderly Growth Committee and Sierra Club).
    • Elizabeth Patterson is endorsed by Solano Democrats, Mike Thompson and Mariko Yamada.

Steve Young has served for the past four years as a planning commissioner.   He will provide new ideas and leadership to the council.

    • Steve has 30 years of experience in managing and directing local government projects in the fields of military base conversion, redevelopment and economic development.
    • He served on Benicia’s Planning Commission since 2012, where he thoroughly studied, raised questions and voted to oppose Valero Crude by Rail.
    • Steve will bring new ideas to our city council and has the ability to ask tough questions.
    • Steve believes the city should decide how to develop the Seeno property rather than just responding to a residential development application.
    • Steve supports the proposal to replace half of the city’s water used by Valero with treated wastewater.

– Kathy Kerridge

Elizabeth’s website is
Steve’s website is

Benicia Independent enters a new phase… crucial Benicia elections

By Roger Straw, October 21, 2016

Benicia Independent enters a new phase…

stopped-steve-and-elizabeth-800Following our astounding victory over Valero’s oil train proposal this fall …

…following this grand conclusion to our 3½ year volunteer-led effort to defeat Valero’s plan … I was exhausted.

The Benicia Independent – a one-person operation – will be entering an entirely new phase, starting today. I will be on a “sabattical leave” from oil train news for at least the next 3 months, maybe a year.

The Benicia Independent was born in 2007, an act of necessity when many felt that our local print newspaper was not representing candidates for Mayor impartially and fired its editor. The Independent came to life again in 2008-9 to oppose the Seeno development proposal and promote a Green Gateway alternative for Benicia’s last large privately-owned open space. After a period of dormancy, the Independent wakened again for the 2011 elections in Benicia, and again after a period of hibernation, re-invented itself in January, 2014 as “Crude by Rail in the News.”

So … the Benicia Independent has evolved as a single-issue blog on a series of emerging issues of local significance.

Right now, the most important local news to cover is our elections for Mayor and City Council.

There is a CLEAR CONNECTION between our last 3 years of David and Goliath struggle to stop oil trains and the 2016 elections. It is critical that we elect two city officials who gave great leadership in stopping Valero’s proposal: Mayor Elizabeth Patterson and Planning Commissioner Steve Young. The Benicia Independent endorses them both, and will post articles to support their candidacy for the remaining weeks of this election.

>> Mayor Elizabeth Patterson is a long-time environmental scientist and Democrat, with progressive views and a strong record of local and statewide accomplishments. She is being challenged by sitting Councilmember Mark Hughes, a retired PG&E executive and Republican, who is business and development friendly, does not wholeheartedly embrace the science behind climate change, and has voted in support of the Seeno proposal. Hughes’ candidacy is supported by outside PACs, and Mayor Patterson’s election is not at all guaranteed. This is a MUST WIN! More at

>> Planning Commissioner Steve Young was incredibly insightful and persistent when, after 3 years of study and hearings and thousands of pages of environmental review, City staff finally allowed Commissioners to raise questions. Steve was not bullied by 3 years of staff, paid consultants and Valero executives favoring the project. He asked hard and penetrating questions for over 3 hours that night, and helped the Planning Commission come to a unanimous vote to deny oil trains in Benicia – a victory for Benicians, communities uprail from here, and for the planet. Steve is running against 4 other candidates for a seat on City Council. It is important that we defeat Republican media consultant Lionel Largaespada. Steve Young deserves our vote, and he’s definitely got mine.  More at

LETTER SERIES: Larnie Fox – “Leadership Style” on the Benicia City Council

[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. – RS]

“Leadership Style”

By Larnie Fox
October 21, 2016
Larnie Fox
Larnie Fox

Republican mayoral candidate Mark Hughes is running on a platform of changing the “leadership style” on our City Council, and the other council members are supporting him. I’ve been attending City Council meetings and watching them online for the last six years, and I think I know what he means.

As Mayor, Elizabeth Patterson is constantly trying to lead the Council to be forward-thinking and visionary, and has often been frustrated by the inertia of the current Council.

During the recent debate over Valero’s crude by rail proposal, Council members, including Mark, appeared to be unhappy with Mayor Elizabeth Patterson’s questioning of Valero’s proposal. Elizabeth was unhappy because Council members and City staff made a concerted effort to stop her from spreading information about the project via the informative email newsletter which she produces at her own expense. She was forced (also at her own expense) to mount a legal defense against those efforts. Personally, I want a mayor who is willing to share information with the public and has opinions on important issues. Other Council members and City staff, (whom I know to be good people and like personally), apparently disagreed with this understanding of the First Amendment.

The decision on crude by rail should have been a no-brainer after our Planning Commission’s extensive research on the subject, the environmental impact reports, the input from communities and governmental entities across the state including our Attorney General, and the ongoing pattern of explosions, derailments, and spills. Yet, under pressure from Valero, the Council voted for delay. Elizabeth Patterson and Council member Tom Campbell were opposed to the project early on, but the other three were noncommittal about it until the recent explosion in Mosier Oregon convinced Christina Strawbridge. No one wants to be on the losing side, especially right before an election, so we had a unanimous Council opposing the project, thank goodness! Mark Hughes is now running on his record of opposing crude by rail. Clearly, Elizabeth Patterson on the Council and Steve Young on the Planning Commission provided the leadership to finally stop this dangerous proposal.

The debate over water rates provides another illustration of differing leadership styles. My understanding of the water issue is as follows:

1. We are in a drought; water is harder to get and more expensive.
2. The infrastructure is old and needs work. Benicia loses around 25% of its water to pipeline leaks, faulty meters, etc.
3. The council postponed raising rates to appropriate levels during the Recession.
4. Our current Mayor is a water-use professional on the State level, and an expert in the field.

Therefore rates have gone up; more so for the bigger users. Elizabeth led the Council to this action to secure our water supplies and rebuild our old infrastructure, in spite of the fact that it was politically unpopular. Hughes, on the other hand voted against it. Clearly that that was the politically expedient thing to do. Elizabeth could have waited until after the election to do this, but was unwilling to “kick the can down the road” and did the responsible thing.

Now the Council is considering the “Northern Gateway project” development proposal to build 900 homes on Seeno family land near the industrial park in land zoned for industrial use, without much consideration of the need for additional schools, police, fire or road infrastructure, and no plan for more water. Elizabeth, Steve Young and Tom Campbell are for smart growth and clearly against the proposal as it stands. Hughes recently said repeatedly that when a developer approaches Benicia with an idea we should “throw out a welcome mat” for them. The Council’s style so far has been reactive, one in which they react to proposals piecemeal as they come in, rather than a proactive style, in which Benicia makes plans then finds developers to execute them. Elizabeth and Steve are both planners by profession, Elizabeth at a high-level position with the State Department of Water Resources, and Steve, retired with 30 years experience planning housing and redevelopment. They are both arguing for a proactive approach to planning.

I have been working actively for the campaigns of Elizabeth Patterson and Steve Young primarily because of these three issues, and also because they would better support the arts.

Elizabeth’s opponent Mark Hughes is a decent guy, but conservative, Republican, pro-development and pro-corporate; a veteran of PG&E. I feel that it’s crucial for Benicia to finally get a forward-looking, proactive majority on City Council and put the “good ol’ boys” days behind it.

The local election may have more impact on our lives than the national election, so please do your research and vote, and pay special attention to this race.

Larnie Fox, former Director of Arts Benicia