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.”