VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD: Interview with Mayor Elizabeth Patterson

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

Patterson seeks re-election

By Katy St. Clair, 11/05/16, 3:45 PM PDT
Elizabeth Patterson

Elizabeth Patterson has been the mayor of Benicia since 2007 and is seeking re-election on Tuesday.

When asked her favorite thing about Benicia, she had a lot to say. “How can you compare a sunset in Benicia, a favorite thing, to the Peddler’s Fair, another favorite thing, to Art Walk or Wine Walk or the Coastal Cleanup?” She also mentioned restaurants, opening days for soccer and little league, the Blessing of the Fleet, and “just quiet time.”

“The whole of it is my favorite thing,” she said.

Her inspiration for governance comes from “courageous” people and she strives to do the same thing, she said. “At the end of the day, my affirmed duty is to protect public health, safety, and welfare, and I am committed to that above all.”

The most pressing issue facing Benicia is its water supply, she said.

“Benicia is 85 percent dependent on the State Water Project which cut our water deliveries in 2014 to only 5 percent,” she said.

Addressing the problem will require diversifying the city’s water portfolio to include things like recycled water, rainwater capture, use contracts with other entities, and conservation, she said.

Benicia will also have to face a looming budget deficit unless more businesses open up shop here, she said. In order to attract new business, affordable high speed internet needs to come to the Industrial Park. “Without this investment, we will not be competitive for new business including clean tech which is providing over one-third of job growth in California,” she said.

The Seeno Property northeast of town is a large area zoned for business that has yet to be developed. Patterson wants to see it “add value to economic activities associated with the existing Industrial Park,” she said. “The site is not suitable for residential development because it is far from city services, close to the refinery with health and safety issues, and would add traffic and increased water needs.”

Patterson calls the city’s need for affordable housing a “complicated” issue. Federal funds for affordable housing have decreased by 80 percent over the last 30 years, she said, and “local politics make it nearly impossible to do infill housing.” “Infill” refers to areas that are not developed, like vacant lots.

“The most effective way to provide affordable housing is to work with local communities and neighborhoods to reach an understanding of what is affordable housing, who are the people — in other words, put a face to “affordable housing” — and keep the neighborhood in the loop of decision making rather than being reactive,” she said.

Valero’s proposal to off-load oil in the crude-by-rail project was a big issue this year for Benicia. Patterson led the “no” vote. She opposed it for many reasons, most of which were environmental. “I breathe the air here and it should not get dirtier,” she said. Patterson also feels that the federal oversight of public railroads is poor. “They have failed miserably in providing public safety,” she said.

Her worry was that it was too unsafe. “The proposed off loading oil terminal is too close to existing oil tanks and the proposed shipment of oil made the process of off loading even more dangerous,” she said.

She also opposed the project because it would have blocked traffic to the Industrial Park and would be a “potential blight for future business” she said.

Patterson discussed her accomplishments as mayor.

“I have brought and fostered clean, open, and civil governance,” she said. “I provided public participation to add value to our decision making.”

She also points to keeping Meals on Wheels active amid a recession, being the “voice of climate change solutions,” and bringing “millions of dollars” to Benicia, she said.

“My leadership is based on taking initiatives to further our quality of life, and should be judged on vision, courage, and heart,” she said.