Category Archives: Tom Campbell

Campbell wanted to sue immediately over push poll; Largaespada defends himself

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
[BenIndy Editor: I believe that no current Benicia City Council candidate was involved in nor favors push polls. But the reason for Valero to smear one candidate and lift another is clear. Valero can’t be unaware that Mr. Largaespada stood firm with Valero and against the will of the people during the controversial Crude by Rail debate in 2014-16. Planning Commissioner Kari Birdseye voted with the unanimous decision to stop Valero “in its tracks.” Valero has every reason – and every right – to openly and fairly voice its preference. But to secretly fund dirty tricks to achieve its goal is a tactic that should be soundly criticized by all candidates. I’ll vote for Birdseye, and hope that our next Council will include 3 women for the first time ever.  – RS]

Campbell sought tougher response to push poll incident

By John Glidden, October 8, 2018 at 5:51 pm
Tom Campbell

BENICIA — Days after the Benicia City Council met in closed session directing City Attorney Heather Mc Laughlin to seek answers about a controversial polling incident, speculation swirled on which councilor voted against the move.

Councilman Tom Campbell confirmed he was the lone “no” vote in the Oct. 2 closed session decision.

“I wanted a stronger response than the rest of the council members wanted,” Campbell explained in an email to the Times-Herald.

The City Council authorized Mc Laughlin to contact Research America and EMC Research about their respective roles in a series of phone calls made to residents in September. Research America conducted the polling, which included questions about the city’s current council candidates.

The polling firm said EMC hired them, and just last week, Mc Laughlin confirmed that the Valero Benicia Refinery sponsored the entire polling.

Steve Young

Vice Mayor Steve Young, and other residents, have stated they received one of the survey calls which allegedly smeared council candidate Kari Birdseye while championing fellow council candidate Lionel Largaespada. Young called the survey a “push poll,” a type of survey meant to influence voters instead of gathering objective survey information from those called.

Councilors expressed concern that since the survey calls didn’t provide a “paid for by” disclaimer at the end of the phone calls the survey may have violated the city’s municipal code. A claim the polling firms have denied through their lawyer.

Campbell, who led the charge for the present campaigning ordinance in the municipal code, said he wanted immediate action in response to the poll.

“What I wanted was that the council authorize the city attorney to immediately go to Superior Court, file an injunction/lawsuit against the pollster and subpoena the records from EMC on who paid for it, how much, and what the exact questions were,” Campbell wrote in the same email. “The council took a little softer line than I wanted. I felt we had to act now to obtain the information as quickly as possible before the Nov. election.”

Lionel Largaespada

Largaespada issued a statement on Sunday in response to the news that Valero paid for the polling.

“I was very disappointed to learn that Valero sponsored the recent polling in Benicia,” he wrote in an email to this newspaper. “As I previously stated, I was not involved in any way with this polling effort, and I did not know who was conducting it.

“As I also stated, push polling, or any misrepresentation of a candidate’s stance or ideals is not something that I support in any way,” he added. “I hope that Valero will provide the content of the poll so that this issue can be resolved.”

Largaespada, who has expressed support in the past for the “crude by rail” initiative, also defended himself from comments made online by residents.

“To the commenters on Nextdoor that have suggested that I am in favor of this type of tactic, or that I am a ‘tool’ or ‘mouthpiece’ for Valero — these comments are completely false and without merit,” he wrote. “I understand that issues involving Valero are polarizing in our community, but to say that because someone believes differently than you do about an issue makes them a ‘tool’ for an entity is nothing more than name-calling.”

Mc Laughlin was also tasked by the council to obtaining a copy of the poll questions. In a letter she sent Research America, and EMC, last Friday, she gave them 72 hours to send a copy of the questions to her office.

Mc Laughlin said she didn’t have a copy of the poll questions as of Monday afternoon and was told she would get a response to her request on Wednesday.

Larnie Fox: We would simply like to know what is in the air

Submitted by the author…


By Larnie Fox, June 25, 2018

Larnie Fox, Benicia

As a citizen of Benicia who lives close to a refinery I, like many other Benicians, would simply like to know what is in the air that we breathe.

At the Benicia City Council meeting last Tuesday, 6/19/18, the Council missed an excellent opportunity to get us that information. Valero clearly does not want us to know what is in the air we breathe. Unfortunately Tom Campbell joined Mark Hughes and Alan Schwartzman in opposing the proposed Industrial Safety Ordinance. Tom did say that he would vote for such an ordinance in November “if Valero doesn’t act”. I have no doubt that Valero will “act”, but I doubt that it will act in such a way that gets us real-time, publicly accessible air-quality monitors in our neighborhoods. People in our community have been working to get such monitors for close to twenty years. Valero has consistently hampered efforts in that direction. These are the simple facts. It raises the simple question: why does Valero not want us to know what is in our air?

My wife and I are not part of the ISO Working Group, but we and scores of Benicians supporting an Industrial Safety Ordinance sat through the marathon Council meeting last Tuesday until the wee hours of the morning.

  • We heard a very detailed, commonsense, comprehensive proposal for an ISO that included both fence-line and community air monitors and a “seat at the table” that would give our representatives a voice and access to information about events at the refinery.
  • We heard requests from City Council members for Valero to provide more information about the May 5, 2017 flaring incident, which prompted shelter-in-place warnings in our schools and evacuations and sent residents to the hospital, and explain why such information had not already been provided.
  • We heard Valero stonewalling those requests to the obvious frustration of all five Council members.
  • We heard them talking about installing only fence-line (not community) monitors, and even being unwilling to say where those would be located. (We found out they would be on the side of their facility that would measure air moving away from Benicia.)
  • We saw an embarrassing moment when Robert Livesay, a frequent contributor to the Benicia Herald, claimed to be “an organized group” in order to speak out of turn and for an extended time – for an incoherent diatribe against community engagement on this issue – taking advantage of the courtesy the Council extends to actual organized groups like Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community and Valero Energy Partners. This was unfortunate as our local democracy flourishes only because of the civility and courtesy we show each other, even if we disagree on issues.
  • We also saw many well-informed members of our community ask our elected representatives for an ISO that would get us the information we need to be able to save lives should an accident worse than the May 5, 2017 event occur at Valero in the future.

This is not a simple issue. The ISO is multifaceted and complex. However, the simple fact remains that we deserve air-quality monitors in our neighborhoods and access to the information from those monitors in real time. The Council has again delayed this legitimate request. Let’s thank Mayor Patterson and Vice Mayor Steve Young for their leadership, and remember to hold the other three accountable in November.

Larnie Fox

Georgia Taylor Benedict: We will remember this vote

Repost from the Benicia Herald

We will remember this vote

By Georgia Taylor Benedict, June 26, 2018

Thank you to the Benicia Herald for the extremely well-written article regarding the recent City Council meeting during which the approval for an Industrial Safety Ordinance was discussed and once again put off to a future date. It appears three of our councilmembers who voted to “postpone” further review of the issue until November hope the voters will not remember their failure to approve the ISO.

Thank you to Mayor Patterson and Councilman Young for having the courage of their convictions to stand up to the secrecy that shrouds Valero’s safety response. The concerned voters of Benicia will not forget the NO votes cast by Hughes, Schwartzman and Campbell.

Georgia Taylor Benedict,

VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD: Benicia candidate Tom Campbell says democracy still works at the local level

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

Benicia candidate Tom Campbell says democracy still works at the local level

By Katy St. Clair, 10/31/16, 6:54 PM PDT
Tom Campbell
Tom Campbell

Tom Campbell is running for his 4th term on the Benicia City Council on which he’s served since 2001.

A Central California native with a orthodontic practice in town, Campbell has called Benicia home for nearly 20 years.

In addition to the City Council, he also serves on the Valero Citizens Advisory Committee, the Sky Valley Area Open Span, and the Soltrans Joint Powers Authority.

He holds a D.D.S. from UCLA as well as degrees in chemistry, law and business, he said.

“My favorite thing about Benicia is it’s a safe place with good schools,” he said in an email.

Campbell also cited what a great town Benicia is for kids and families, especially its local sports, the farmer’s market, and various downtown events.

“Benicia has a good quality of life,” he said. “In the over 20 years that I’ve been involved in various public offices, I hopefully helped a little to make it possible.”

Campbell points to the city’s budget as a major accomplishment during his tenure on the council.

During that time, the city’s had quarterly updates, 5-year projections, a 20 percent reserve requirement, and more disciplined budget policies, he said. These changes have created a 30 percent reserve, he says, and $4.4 million annually from Measure C, all of which will contribute to infrastructure like city roads.

“Benicia had none of this when I started in 2001,” he said.

The biggest issue facing Benicia in the future, he said, is water.

Relying on agreements with the State Water Project state are tenuous, since water officials can refuse to actually provide the expected water, he said.

“A water recycling plant would be a next logical step,” he offered, “but it is extremely expensive to construct and operate.”

Campbell said he hopes to spur a continued effort to conserve water in Benicia.

“At 39 percent conservation, we’re almost the best in the state, and this appears to be holding,” he said.

He also hopes to keep negotiating deals with agencies and cities with excess water.

Another of Campbell’s concerns revolves around attracting and retaining business in town, to which he says he takes a three-tiered approach.

“We need to improve our basic infrastructure, market our strategic location, and we’ve done some low-income infill projects that have been accepted by their neighbors, as well as incentive programs with accessory units. This is the direction in which we should continue,” he said.

Campbell opposed Valero’s crude-by-rail project, which would have created an oil off-loading site in Benicia.

“My graduate degree was in chemistry, so I’m familiar with the chemicals in the tank cars and their volatility,” he said. “Even though Valero’s employees are well-trained, the margin of error was just too small and the risk of catastrophic failure too great.”

Another environmental issue facing Benicia is what to do with the Seeno Property, a large swath of land that has been zoned as a business park.

“You don’t put 900 homes next to an active industrial park with a refinery a quarter-mile from the houses,” he said.

Something like a “hi-tech campus style park” would be a better fit, he said.

Benicia’s historic character is one of its main assets, and Campbell says he shares a pride it that as a long-time Benicia Historical Society member.

“I have a good idea of our historical assets,” he said. “We need to protect them through the Mills Act and give national landmark status for places such as the Von Pfister Adobe, where California’s first gold was announced,” he said.

Sharing what he calls his philosophy for local governance, Campbell said he thinks American democracy still works at the local level.

“That’s why I developed policies like open government and campaign finance ordinances, among others,” he said. “Residents have a right to as much access and knowledge about their public officials as possible.”