Category Archives: Stephen Golub

Benicia resident Steve Golub: Christopher Cabaldon Deserves Our Votes for State Senate

Benicia resident and author Stephen Golub, A Promised Land

By Stephen Golub, first published in the Benicia Herald on February 18, 2024


On December 19, the Council unanimously voted to back a trailblazing ISO proposal by Vice Mayor Terry Scott and Councilwoman Kari Birdseye. The ordinance will help protect our children, our seniors and all of us from the risks of toxic pollutants that the Valero Refinery spewed into the air for years, vastly exceeding regulatory limits, and from the kinds of massive industrial fires and explosions that have plagued other communities across the country. Benicia is the only Bay Area community that has a nearby refinery but that is not protected by an ISO.

The March 5 meeting is part of a process that will result in an ISO, as decided by that unanimous Council vote on December 19. But the devil is in the details, and it’s crucial that the community turn out to show support for a strong ordinance rather than one that could be watered down along the way.

State Senate Candidate Christopher Cabaldon. | Kevin Fiscus /

Now, back to our regularly scheduled column…

Christopher Cabaldon is running to be state senator for California District 3, which includes all of Solano County and many adjoining areas. Endorsed by Benicia Mayor Steve Young, Vice Mayor Terry Scott, former Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, former Council Member Dan Smith and dozens of other officials from across Solano and the region, Cabaldon is by far the best candidate seeking that position.

He deserves our votes in the nonpartisan primary, in which we can vote by mail right now or in person on March 5. The two candidates gaining the most support will go on to compete in the November general election.

In seeking office, Cabaldon is running against fellow Democrats Jackie Elward and Rozanna Verder-Aliga, as well as Republicans Thom Bogue and Jimih Jones. In the candidates forum I attended, which involved the three Democrats, he offered by far the broadest and deepest knowledge of issues affecting Benicia and the many other areas he’d represent if elected. He also came across as someone who is not just a fine speaker, but a good listener, eager to engage with constituents.

At another event, he provided the clearest analysis I’ve heard or read about the “California Forever” initiative that would allow ultra-wealthy and secretive Silicon Valley investors to pretty much do as they please with the large swaths of Solano County they secretly purchased in recent years. I came away from that talk with a clearer understanding of their still-murky motives and plans. (One possibility: They might be motivated by zoning changes that could allow them to reap prodigious profits by reselling the land to developers, despite their promises to build model, affordable cities.) With Cabaldon in office, Benicia would have an important ally in protecting not only our interests but all of Solano County and District 3.

As summarized in a Mercury News editorial endorsing him, “Cabaldon brings an impressive resume: He was West Sacramento mayor for 22 years, worked in the Assembly for eight years as chief of staff to the Appropriations Committee chairperson and staff director for the Committee on Higher Education, served as a California Community Colleges vice chancellor, and as president and CEO of EdVoice led an education advocacy group aimed at reshaping public education to better serve low-income groups. Cabaldon is one of the best-prepared candidates for the state Legislature that we’ve seen this year.”

Given the length of his tenure as West Sacramento mayor, he merits special credit for leading that one-time sleepy backwater’s growth, with its emergence as a dynamic town that won an award as “America’s Most Livable City” from the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The elements of that success are too numerous to enumerate here. But his leadership has contributed to rising incomes and real estate values, as well as expansion of affordable housing and initiatives regarding flood plain management, sustainable land use and urban farming.

Furthermore, as praised at the state/local governance website Governing, another Cabaldon initiative “includes universal preschool for every 4-year-old, a college savings account for kindergartners, guaranteed internships for high school students and a program for one year of free community college. West Sac now has its own on-demand rideshare service run by a private company that allows residents to get anywhere in the city for $3.50.”

Cabaldon has demonstrated a wide array of expertise and experience, progressive in some regards while working across the aisle in others. He was appointed to national and state commissions by former President Obama and by five California governors from both parties. His many other accomplishments have included  serving as National President of Asian and Pacific Americans in Higher Education and Inaugural Chair of the National LGBTQ Mayors Alliance, as well as receiving the following honors: Innovation & Vision in Government Award by Governing Magazine, Public Champion for Business by the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce , Executive of the Year by the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce, Equality Leadership Award by Equality California and Outstanding Elected Official Award by the Mexican American Concilio of Yolo County.

Cabaldon’s Democratic opponents do not bring nearly the same degree of expertise and experience to bear as he does. Rohnert Park Councilwoman Jackie Elward does offer an admirable background as an educator, organizer and immigrant, but did not demonstrate nearly Cabaldon’s qualifications and grasp of the issues at the aforementioned forum and otherwise. She has a promising future, but for now a vote for her would be a vote taken away from Cabaldon, who is District 3 progressives’ and moderates’ best hope to achieve effective representation in Sacramento. This is especially important, because…

Cabaldon’s other Democratic opponent is Vallejo City Councilwoman Rozzana Verder-Aliga. Though she brings her own wealth of experience to the table, in certain ways it includes acting in ways potentially detrimental to Vallejo, Benicia and Solano County. Most notably, in 2017 she led the way in the Vallejo  Council extending consideration of an (ultimately unsuccessful) proposal to build a cement plant and deep-water port in Vallejo, despite widespread community opposition and a nearly unanimous vote against the project by the Vallejo Planning Commission.

The development, which would have imported and processed an industrial byproduct with an apt and ugly name, “slag,” could have caused havoc for Vallejo, Benicia and surrounding areas in multiple ways, including: polluting the waterfront, the Bay and the Napa River; spouting  clouds into the air during construction; in case of overexposure to slag, causing “chemical burns, irreversible skin and eye damage, lung failure and cancer”; and burdening the transportation network with loads of heavy vehicles moving back and forth.

It also was reported that Verder-Aliga and the three other Council members voting to extend consideration were backed by a PAC funded by pro-cement plant interests, including the parent company of Orcem, the firm proposing to build the plant and port.

I’d add that in the candidates’ forum I attended, Verder-Aliga seemed ignorant of or otherwise out of touch with issues of concern to Benicia and the region, in contrast to her two opponents, particularly Cabaldon. It’s also noteworthy that Vallejo Mayor Robert McConnell has endorsed Cabaldon over Verder-Aliga, as have several other current and former city officials. While she’s received the California Democratic Party endorsement, that can be chalked up to the influence of certain vested interests more than to attributes or accomplishments.

Unfortunately, Cabaldon has been the victim of a smear campaign and repeated mailings aiming to smear him with poorly documented claims. Suffice to say that such attacks do not seem well-founded.

In sum, then, the choice is clear: Christopher Cabaldon for State Senate. Please remember to vote by mail or, at the latest, in the primary on March 5.

[Full disclosure: I have donated to Cabaldon’s campaign.]

*Senate District 3 includes the counties of Solano, Napa, and Yolo as well as portions of the counties of Sonoma, Contra Costa and Sacramento.

In addition to this Benicia and Beyond column, Steve Golub writes about democracy and politics, both in America and abroad, at

Note from BenIndy: The race to become the state senator for District 3 is heating up, and we are interested in hearing from you! To submit your recommendations for this or any other office, or ballot measure, please email us. Publication is subject to factchecking and, ultimately, the BenIndy’s discretion.

From the Budget Crisis to Valero Fines: Two Ways and Ten Days to Benefit Benicia’s Future

Benicia resident and author Stephen Golub, A Promised Land

By Stephen Golub,  originally posted in the Benicia Herald January 15, 2024

Over the course of the next ten days, Benicians will have two major opportunities to weigh in on the future of our community.

January 15-25: Addressing Our $6.5 Million Budget Gap

The first opportunity features a community survey, open houses and virtual workshops by which we can have our say on how to address the City’s budget crisis. As you may know, a variety of factors (stagnant population growth for 20 years, very little new housing or housing sales, limited retail outlets, etc.) have constrained our tax base while inflation and other factors have increased our costs. The bottom line is that we face a budget deficit of $6.5 million per year.

In an effort to get community input on the problem and potential solutions, the City has organized various in-person and online ways in which we can offer opinions and ask questions. They will take place from January 15 through 25.

You can find out more at, where the link to the community survey is provided and those for the virtual workshops soon will be. Here are the dates:

  • January 18, 6-8 pm: In-person Open House at the Benicia Public Library, 150 East L St.
  • January 25, 6-8 pm: In-person Open House at the Benicia Community Center, 370 East L St.
  • January 17 and 24, 6 pm: Virtual workshops (online links will be available via
  • January 15-25: Community Survey (online link here)

To alleviate the problem, the City has already cut $4.5 million from its budget. This has involved reducing ten staff positions and service cuts that include reduction of swimming pool hours, closing the Benicia Library on Sundays, eliminating road paving projects except for emergencies, delayed and deferred maintenance/upgrades on city equipment and facilities (including parks and the storm water system), and cutting support for July 4th and Christmas Tree celebrations.

But, even after those cuts, a $6.5 million gap remains. One way of addressing it over the medium-to-long term is by building the tax base by cutting regulations so as to facilitate commercial investment and approving such projects as the “Eastern Gateway” initiative, which encourages mixed-use development in the area of East 5th St./Military East.

In the shorter run, the City has placed two budget measures on the March 5 ballot. Measure A increases the local hotel tax. Measure B, by far the larger revenue-producing vehicle, increases the local sales tax by 75 cents cent per $100. This works out to costing the average Benician about 33 cents per day.

Regardless of how you feel about all this, the next ten days offer opportunities to air your input, through the in-person and virtual meetings and the community survey. Again, is a good way to weigh in and get more information online.

January 18: Sharing in Refinery Fines

In early 2022, we learned from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (aka the Air District) that for at least 15 years Valero’s Benicia Refinery had been putting toxic emissions hundreds of times the regulatory limits into our air, without telling us, the City government or the Air District about it.

What’s more, for nearly three subsequent years the Air District itself had known about this, but had not informed us until two years ago. In addition, the Air District still has not informed us what fines it will levy on Valero, perhaps because it may be still negotiating the matter nearly five years after becoming aware of the violations.

Nor has it let us know whether or how any portion of the fines will go to benefit Benicia, beyond a vague assurance that it may allocate some sums from the fines for health and safety matters here.

On January 18 at 6 pm, we’ll have a chance to learn more, ask questions about and offer our opinions on Air District actions and policies regarding such fines, regarding not just Valero and Benicia but also the other refineries and communities in the area. On that day, the Air District’s Community Advisory Council will meet at the Air District’s Headquarters, at 375 Beale Street in San Francisco. But we can also access the meeting online and offer comments there.

More specifically, one key agenda item for the meeting is:

“4. Funding Community Benefits from Penalty Fund. This is an action item for the Council to consider recommending to the Air District Board of Directors that they set a policy that automatically allocates a portion of penalties for regional and local community benefits.”

The January 18 Community Advisory Council meeting will make a decision that could potentially yield great benefits to Benicia. It might well be worth attending in person, since we’re talking about potentially millions of dollars for Benicia from this one Valero incident and/or other violations by this or other refineries (such as in Martinez) down the line. (Again, the discussion is not just about Benicia and Valero, but about all local refineries and affected communities.)

But for those of us who can’t make it to San Francisco for the meeting, we can Zoom in and have up to three minutes each for public comment. Here’s the link for the relevant page where, if you scroll down a bit, you can in turn simply watch the meeting, join via Zoom to comment during the meeting or write a public comment.

The meeting offers a great way of seeking to secure well-deserved, potentially major compensation for Benicia, for both past and future harms. I intend to attend, whether in person or online.

Visit to learn more about Benicia’s Resiliency Plan, sign up for updates from Benicia City Manager Mario Giuliani, and join the effort to help shape Benicia’s future. Add your voice!


Community Survey
January 15-26 – Community Survey Link
In Person Workshops
January 18 • 6pm-8pm
City of Benicia Public Library
January 25 • 6pm-8pm
City of Benicia Community Center
Virtual Workshops via Zoom (links will be available at
January 17 • 6pm
January 24 • 6pm
[BenIndy will post links to these meetings when they become available. Meanwhile, save the dates!]

In the Name of Love: MLK Day Matters More Than Ever at Home and Abroad

[Note from BenIndy: This post was first published on Stephen Golub’s blog, A Promised Land: America as a Developing Country. There, Steve blogs about domestic and international politics and policy, including lessons that the United States can learn from other nations. If interested, you may sign up for future posts by subscribing to the blog.]

Nonviolence over brutishness, inspiration over resignation, love over hate.

By Stephen Golub, January 15, 2024

Benicia resident and author Stephen Golub, A Promised Land

Monday marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Preaching nonviolence over brutishness, inspiration over resignation, love over hate, his message rings truer than ever as we tread into 2024. I’m marking it here by sharing videos featuring a remarkable rock song and an even more powerful speech.

One lesser known aspect of MLK’s work was its international dimension. Traveling to India in 1959, he wrote that “India’s [Mahatma] Gandhi was the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.” He further linked “the Christian doctrine of love” to the Hindu leader’s words and actions.

King conversely inspired and supported human rights struggles across the globe. He helped mobilize international opposition to the South African government’s 1957 prosecution of Nelson Mandela and 155 other anti-apartheid activists for alleged treason. Mandela in turn echoed King’s resounding “Free at last!” cry on several occasions, including when proclaiming his party’s 1994 election triumph that capped the end of apartheid.

But others celebrate MLK far better than I can. Check out the clip that introduces this post. It couples the brilliant U2 song dedicated to King, “In the Name of Love,” with images portraying his life and legacy.

And prize the highlights from one of history’s greatest speeches, King’s “I Have a Dream” address, delivered (and, incredibly, partly ad-libbed) at the Lincoln Memorial as part of the August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom:

Shot dead at only 39, MLK did not live to see most of the massive progress he spurred, nor the backsliding that’s also occurred – including in America, India and South Africa. We can view that mixed aftermath as a source of resignation, I suppose. But especially in view of the challenges we face, far better to draw inspiration from all that King achieved and sacrificed in the name of love.

Once more, Steve blogs about domestic and international politics and policy, including lessons that the United States can learn from other nations, at A Promised Land: America as a Developing Country. We recommend you sign up for future posts by subscribing to the blog.


January 6: A Date Which, in One Key Respect, Will Live in Infamy Even Worse Than Pearl Harbor

[Note from BenIndy: This post was first published on Stephen Golub’s blog, A Promised Land: America as a Developing Country. There, Steve blogs about domestic and international politics and policy, including lessons that the United States can learn from other nations. If interested, you may sign up for future posts by subscribing to the blog. The images showing featured in this post were added by BenIndy editors and are not original to Steve’s post.]

By Stephen Golub, January 5, 2024

Benicia resident and author Stephen Golub, A Promised Land.

December 7. September 11. And as we recall the third anniversary of the U.S. Capitol being seized by rioters, January 6 has joined the ranks of the most horrible days in American history. In the words FDR applied to Pearl Harbor, it is a “a date which will live in infamy.”

Thankfully, the January 6, 2021 insurrection did not wreak nearly the massive deaths nor physical havoc of those other two days. But in one crucial respect, it’s proven even worse.

How so? In the wake of December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001, the country came together in the face of massive challenges to our democracy and way of life. In contrast, the time since Insurrection Day has seen us more divided than ever. What’s more, we face the distinct prospect of the person who prompted the insurrection – and a wide array of other attempts to subvert the 2020 election results – being returned to the presidency this year.

Lies have been piled on lies, to portray the insurrectionists as heroes. A quarter of Americans believe that the FBI probably or definitely organized and encouraged the attack; fewer than half of us say that it probably or definitely did not do so.

The original, underlying sin of the insurrection and Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election was his misbegotten claim that Joe Biden stole it. Yet, as former Rep. Liz Cheney has pointed out, “There were over 60 court cases where judges, including judges appointed by President Trump and other Republican presidents, looked at the evidence in many cases and said there is not widespread fraud.”

Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results. | Ahmed Gaber/ Reuters.

To further hammer home this same point, eight leading Republican legal luminaries published a 2022 report that explained that the 2020 election was lost by Trump, not stolen by Biden. The group included two former U.S. senators, two former federal judges and a former chief of staff to two Republican congressional majority leaders. As he explained in asserting the Biden’s election was valid, “I’m certainly not a ‘Never-Trumper.’ I voted for Donald Trump twice for President.”

Trump’s legal allies failed in 61 of 64 cases. Even their three “wins” were minor, technical exceptions to the rule, all in Pennsylvania and none of them undercutting the validity of Biden’s victory there: They “threw out 270 provisional ballots lacking signatures, separated Election Day provisional ballots from those cast afterward, and moved back Pa.’s deadline for absentee voters to present voter ID by three days.”

I’m belaboring the point about these lawsuits because the conclusions by Republican judges and attorneys constitute key parts of the overwhelming proof that Trump has misled his followers – the over a thousand insurrectionists and the many millions of others – about 2020. Yet an August CNN poll found that two-thirds of Republican still attribute his loss to voter fraud.

Which brings us back to the insurrection, and the one respect in which January 6 was worse than December 7 and September 11, for all of their horrors.

Supporters of Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. | Brent Stirton / Getty Images.

Here’s how it’s worse: The drive to undermine our democracy continues. It includes Trump’s election denialism, as well as his Hitleresque attacks on political opponents as “vermin” and on undocumented aliens as “poisoning the blood of our country.”

But it also includes so much more. Just a partial compilation of Trump’s anti-democratic attitudes, actions statements and online activity includes his: excusing the January 6 insurrection; suggesting that the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff deserved execution; accusing NBC of treason and threatening to deny it airwaves access; threatening and otherwise attempting to intimidate judicial system personnel and witnesses; stating that he has “no choice” but to lock up certain political opponents if elected – even contemplating indicting Biden; praising Hungary’s authoritarian leader (as well as like-minded figures such as Vladimir Putin); and planning to politicize the federal civil service to do his political bidding.

Phil ScroggsUnsplash.

However, there’s another compilation we can take into account as we ponder January 6. It lists what we can do to prevent that date of infamy from defining not just our recent past, but our impending future. It’s what we can do to help save democracy. Here are a few such actions from that lengthy list:

First and foremost, voting for democracy, which means for Biden (or, in the unlikely event he does not run, whomever else the Democrats nominate). Personally, I believe he’s accomplished a lot. But you don’t have to be a fan of Joe to cast your vote for him. Recognizing the threat that Trump represents, a very conservative friend of mine (who thinks that Biden is lousy) intends to do so.

Not voting for a third party candidate, and not simply sitting out the election, even if you’re a progressive who feels Biden has fallen short. The choice is either/or: not voting for Biden only helps Trump. This election will be decided by voter turnout and whom people turn out for – we need only bear in mind 2000 and 2016 to recall the consequences of third party candidates’ impacts.

Finally, a biggie: Becoming politically active, whether it’s through donations, phone banks, canvassing, writing letters to editors, helping out in toss-up states or seeking to influence friends and relatives on the fence. Democracy is not a spectator sport.

Once more, Steve blogs about domestic and international politics and policy, including lessons that the United States can learn from other nations, at A Promised Land: America as a Developing Country. We recommend you sign up for future posts by subscribing to the blog.