[Note from BenIndy: While it may not seem as glamorous, the development and maintenance of transportation and transit systems plays a crucial role in long-term infrastructure development, economic viability in cities like ours, and – arguably most important of all – equity and accessibility. They are of course also key components of environmental sustainability. Benicia is at a crossroads of sorts, and transit/transportation issues are important parts of the conversation for what Benicia (and Solano more broadly) will look like in the future. We at BenIndy have heard some casual complaints about Benicia’s transit options and are happy to know who to point those complainants to in the near future. Good luck, Vice Mayor!]
SOLTRANS NEWS RELEASE: January 24, 2024
Solano County – Solano County Transit (SolTrans) is pleased to announce the appointment of Benicia Vice Mayor Terry Scott as the new Chair of the Board of Directors. In assuming this pivotal role, Vice Mayor Scott brings a wealth of experience, leadership, and dedication to advancing public transportation initiatives in the Solano County and beyond.
As Chair of the Board of Directors, Vice Mayor Scott will play a key role in guiding strategic decisions, fostering collaboration with stakeholders, and ensuring the continued success of SolTrans in providing reliable and sustainable transportation options for the community of Solano County.
“We are thrilled to welcome Vice Mayor Terry Scott as the new Chair of the Solano County Transit Board of Directors. His leadership skills, combined with his passion for public service, make him an ideal candidate to lead our organization into the future,” said SolTrans Executive Director Beth Kranda.
Vice Mayor Terry Scott expressed his enthusiasm for the new role, stating, “I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as Chair of the Solano County Transit Board of Directors. Public transportation is a vital component of our community, and I look forward to working collaboratively with the board, staff, and community partners to enhance transit services and address the evolving needs of our communities.”
Solano County Transit remains committed to delivering safe, reliable, courteous, efficient, and accessible transportation services that effectively link people, jobs, and communities. With Vice Mayor Terry Scott at the helm, the organization is poised to achieve new milestones and continue its mission of connecting communities through reliable transit services.
Solano County Transit (SolTrans) has been the public transportation provider for south Solano County since July 2011. SolTrans provides local and SolanoExpress fixed routes and complementary paratransit. The agency is a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) governed by a six-member Board of Directors, composed of two representatives from the cities of Benicia and Vallejo, Solano County’s representative on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), and a representative from the Solano Transportation Authority.
Investing in our schools is an investment in the future of our community. The proposed improvements, spanning infrastructure, classrooms, and technology, are crucial for fostering an environment where students can thrive.
A strong BUSD school system not only provides a high-quality education but also contributes significantly to the overall well-being of our residents.
Improved facilities and advanced technology ensure that students have access to modern resources, preparing them for the challenges of the future job market.
As Benicia residents, we play a pivotal role in shaping the foundation of our community. Supporting this bond measure is an investment in the growth and prosperity of our town.
Passage of the bond measure will not result in higher property taxes. In fact, because the way the bond is structured, the average Benicia property owner should see a tax reduction of about $30.00.
Let’s come together to empower our schools and, in turn, empower our future generations.
There, you’ll find a letter to parents and guardians, an FAQ for the measure, and the BUSD Facilities Master Plan.
Visit BelieveInBenicia.org 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. While some workshops have already occurred, there is still time to add your voice! Look for the red, bolded text below to see upcoming workshops, and please fill out the community survey (also linked below).
By now you’ve hopefully received a thorough letter from City Manager Mario Giuliani and a pamphlet outlining our City’s financial struggles.
As Vice Mayor, I encourage you to read, understand, and recognize the longstanding challenges we, as a community, are confronting. These messages represent our desire to be direct, transparent, and informative.
Some may call these messages “Gloom and Doom”, I’d like to refer to them as direct and to the point.
To me, this is a unique example of the City government ripping off the decades of band-aids and giving the citizenry insight and solution into our finances.
Our financial crisis did not just happen overnight.
Unfortunately, over the past decade, we’ve deferred addressing structural deficits and the need for systemic change. The proverbial can was kicked down the road.
We now are faced with the reality of what kicking the can down the road really looks like.
While it’s important to learn from the past, it’s more important to embrace the reality of creating a sustainable city governance model that includes reimagining what services and opportunities city government can provide within the financial constraints of a budget.
The time for confronting systemic change is apparent, as evident in the realities that continued deficit spending cannot continue. We cannot continue to deplete reserves.
Funding to budget, without additional revenue, will have a direct effect on our quality of life which impacts police and fire services, recreation, library resources and much more, as noted by City Manager Giuliani.
Unfortunately, the values and lifestyle that make Benicia a special place are now at risk.
As the City Manager noted, in combination there are three paths to move forward:
Reduce Expenses; cut staff, cut services, reorganize city government.
Increase Revenue; tax measures that are voted on by the community based on hard, straight facts identifying need and purpose.
Facilitate Development; provide opportunities for business growth, housing growth and economic development.
This is not a one size fits all solution. We can’t simply cut our way to savings. As noted, we find ourselves at the end of the road. The decades of no major business growth, flat housing growth, population decline and an explosion in general costs of operating including competitive labor costs has brought us here to today.
For most of us, we moved here for the quality of life of what living in a small town provides: open spaces, small-town charm, strong, responsive police and fire services, a multitude of parks, arts and culture, safety nets for the less fortunate, organized recreational activities, senior activities and much more.
In order to continue to be the Benicia we want, we must say to the voters clearly that we have few options to maintain our quality of life.
We are asking for your support on March 5 for:
Passage of Measure A, the hotel transient occupancy tax and Measure B, the increase of our Sales Tax to provide the revenue we need to generate funds to sustain the services we require.
I ask for your support on passage of these two measures.
I ask for you to attend the open houses to gain more knowledge on the implications of the city budget.
City of Benicia
Visit BelieveInBenicia.org 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!
January 15-26 – link coming soon
In Person Workshops
January 18 • 6pm-8pm
City of Benicia Public Library
January 25 • 6pm-8pm
City of Benicia Community Center
Virtual Workshopsvia Zoom (links coming soon)
January 17 • 6pm
January 24 • 6pm
[BenIndy will post links to these meetings when they become available. Meanwhile, save the dates!]
By Stephen Golub, first published in the Benicia Herald on November 10, 2023
At 4 a.m. on June 21, 2019, a series of massive fires and explosions at a Philadelphia refinery sent both large amounts of toxic chemicals and huge chunks of debris into the air. One 19-ton fragment landed across the Schuylkill River, 2,000 feet away.
The cause of all this? According to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, a corroded ruptured pipe. Apparently, it had been poorly maintained.
The Philadelphia debacle is but one of many refinery and similar disasters that have occurred across the country in recent years. Many of us recall the Chevron fire in Richmond, just over a decade ago.
And just this week, a chemical plant explosion in east Texas triggered large fires, a shelter-in-place order for a five-mile radius around the facility and, even after that order was lifted, official caution “that residents should still avoid spending unnecessary time outdoors, and young children or people with respiratory illnesses and other health issues should stay inside.”
Against this backdrop, and in view of ongoing toxic pollution hazards presented by the presence of Texas-based Valero’s Benicia refinery, a proposal by Vice Mayor Terry Scott and City Council Member Kari Birdseye comes as a breath of fresh air. In a June 10 letter published in the Benicia Herald and through other outlets, the two describe reasons for Benicia adopting a new law that would make our wonderful city safer and healthier for our kids, our older adults and all of us.
Among other things, the ordinance would improve the monitoring of the refinery’s operations and the flow of information from Valero when documented or apparent emissions and violations occur. In these and other regards, it would improve on the rather toothless Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that the City currently has with the giant Texas corporation. It would similarly improve on the MOU’s associated community advisory panel that rarely meets publicly, that most of us have never heard of and, most importantly, that Valero substantially controls.
Now, does Valero’s track record indicate that Benicia needs a strong ordinance rather than the weak MOU?
Consider what a top official of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) said about the fact that for well over a decade the refinery released into Benicia’s air 138 tons of toxic contaminants hundreds of times the legal limits without informing BAAQMD, the City or any of us – something we only learned of last year:
“We have a situation here where you’ve got a facility who’s [sic] taking samples of emissions from this vent to control and verify refinery processes. They’re doing that from 2003 onwards. And they knew or should have known that those emissions should have been reported. It’s that simple…”
Or consider these realities:
Despite the Memorandum of Understanding, we did not learn of other serious, longstanding Valero violations, which triggered a federal Environmental Protection Agency investigation, until the EPA announced major fines earlier this year.
Despite the MOU, Valero has committed hundreds of other violations over the past several years.
Despite the MOU, Valero did not report or adequately address the 2022 event in which approximately 200 Benicia households were impacted by an oily, airborne residue that fell onto yards, children’s play equipment, solar panels and other neighborhood facilities.
Despite the MOU, earlier this month air monitoring devices in the vicinity of the refinery detected the presence of the dangerous neurotoxin hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in the air, quite possibly emanating from the facility, even as Benicians reported smelling something like rotten eggs – the odor of H2S – in several parts of town.
In addition, let’s be realistic about where the ultimate responsibility for the Benicia refinery’s safety, health and other decisions rests: at the company’s Texas headquarters. Its track record compares unfavorably even with other petrochemical corporations, as indicated by a leading Texas environmental activist’s assessment and a lawsuit filed against the corporation by the Texas Attorney General (normally an ally of the oil industry) over a Valero Texas refinery’s continuing “poor operational, maintenance and design practices.” That same refinery’s 2017 fire poured nearly a million pounds of potentially dangerous pollutants into the air, “including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds,” according to Valero’s own estimates.
Finally, consider the fact that the Valero facility is the only refinery in the North Bay that is not governed by an industrial safety ordinance (ISO).
None of this is to criticize the hard work and efforts of our fine Fire Department, which does its best to monitor actual and potential Valero hazards under the MOU, despite financial and technical constraints. As always, we should all appreciate its service. But we need more than that.
Also, I’m sure we value the jobs, economic impact and other benefits that the company brings to the area, as well as the wonderful current and former Valero employees who are our friends and neighbors. But if Valero itself wants to be a good neighbor, it needs to cooperate with the City as we move on from the MOU, which expires in 2025. In fact, one great feature of the Scott-Birdseye proposal is that it aims for a cooperative, consultative process.
So what’s next? As per the proposal, at its December 19 meeting the Council will vote on whether to instruct city government staff to examine what the next steps are, including a possible ordinance.
To be clear: This will not be a vote on an ordinance itself; it merely authorizes careful examination of options, in cooperation with Valero, the broader business community and of course all of us.
To read the Scott-Birdseye letter or show support for this initiative, please go to https://www.bisho.org/. You could also weigh in by emailing the Council members with your thoughts. You can access their emails by going to this page at the City website.
In addition, you could attend the December 19 Council meeting, whether in person or via Zoom. The link for the latter will be shared by the City Manager (whom you also should feel free to contact about this) down the line.
This process is well worth getting involved with. The safety, health and lives we save could be our own.
There is a group of concerned citizens of Benicia who also support the adoption of a Benicia Industrial Safety and Health Ordinance (BISHO). To learn more about the effort and add your support, visit www.bisho.org.