Silent Spring in Benicia? City and School officials respond, activists call for ban

“Silent Spring in Benicia” – PDB Forum on local glyphosate use and disuse

By Pat Toth-Smith, June 13, 2019

“As we move away from herbicides things are going to look shabby at first until we figure it out,” stated Alfredo Romero, Benicia Unified School District (BUSD) Maintenance Director.  He also added, we’ve stopped using Roundup and we’re moving towards more natural approaches.”  He cited goats as an example.

Stopping herbicide use was a common theme voiced by many of the speakers at the Tuesday night “Silent Spring” forum in Benicia held at the library, and sponsored by the Progressive Democrats of Benicia.

Romero worked with Lee Johnson, the former BUSD employee who won a historic lawsuit against Monsanto, when a jury agreed that his exposure to Roundup on the job was the cause of his lethal, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  Romero said, “I remember when Lee was starting to get ill and didn’t want to spray the weed killer.  We supported him in not doing it anymore….  I don’t ever want what happened to Lee to happen again,” He said at the end of his talk, “It will take a community effort to stop using chemicals, because using the herbicides are cheaper, and we need to have an increased tolerance for weeds.”

Theron Jones, Benicia Parks Supervisor, reported that Roundup is not being used by the city Parks staff and that they are moving towards an integrated pest management approach.  He said, “We never apply herbicides to playgrounds. The only places we apply herbicides to control weeds are in tree wells, planter beds and along fence lines.”  Asked about what herbicides are used, he continued,” We use the emergent weed killers sparingly, and what is applied includes Gallery S.C., Dimension Ultra, Finale, and Vastlan.”

One of the featured speakers at the forum was Kat Furey, a Client Advocate for the law firm which provided legal support for the Roundup non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma clients.  She spoke about the dangers of “glyphosate,“ the main ingredient in Roundup.  She cited the World Health Organizations’ International Agency for Research on Cancer’s declaration that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, and noted that at this time three California courts have agreed, and awarded billions of dollars in damages to plaintiffs.  She continued, “Besides the cancer connection, glyphosate is also an endocrine disrupter, a neurotoxin, and a genotoxin, and there is no safe level of glyphosate.”  She said that it should have a warning label.   She encouraged eating organic foods as the main way to avoid glyphosates.  GMO foods have the Roundup ready gene in it to prevent the GMO plant from dying when sprayed.  Roughly 85% of our food supply contains some level of glyphosates in them as a result.

The final speaker was Makenzie Feldman, founder of Herbicide-Free UC.  She said she became an activist when groundskeepers at UC Berkeley beach volley ball courts were spraying herbicides to kill weeds in the vicinity of where her team practiced.  She and her teammates were worried about the dangers of Roundup, and so struck a deal to pull the weeds out by hand themselves. She educated herself about glyphosates and wrote an op-ed piece for the newspaper, which attracted like-minded students.  Eventually a temporary ban by the U.C. Regents on Roundup at UC Berkeley was achieved.  Ms. Feldman now is working to make the ban permanent, and has partnered with the group, “Beyond Pesticides,” to train the U.C. groundskeepers in organic methods of pest control.  These include methods to return microbial life to the soil, which naturally helps control weeds.  She also organized student volunteers to pull weeds and mulch soils to help control weeks, but added, “People need to learn to accept some weeds.”

Meeting of June 11, 2019 – “Silent Spring in Benicia?”

June 11, Tues 7:00 pm
Benicia Library
Dona Benicia room

Our main program was “Silent Spring in Benicia?”  Let’s talk about herbicides and pesticides.

  • Who – if anyone – is still using Roundup in Benicia?
  • What can be done to stop it?

We had brief reports by a representative from the City of Benicia and a representative from Benicia Unified School District, with lots of Q&A.

Expert speakers included:

We also heard from Maggie Kolk of Sustainable Solano about alternatives to glyphosate products.

Benicia’s Kari Birdseye quoted in coverage of California Democratic Party convention

By By Julia Prodis Sulek, The Mercury News, June 1, 2019

Hickenlooper who? California Democratic Convention delegates anxious to winnow field of candidates

[1 of 36 photos] SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 1: Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) acknowledges the crowd as she speaks during Day 2 of the California Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, June 1, 2019. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)
SAN FRANCISCO — Some of the 15 presidential contenders schmoozing delegates Saturday at the California Democratic Convention are so popular, they need no introduction but their first names: Bernie, Kamala and Beto.

Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (if you can pronounce it), are right up there on the name recognition scale, too.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 1: Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during Day 2 of the California Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, June 1, 2019. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

“When you get below that, who the heck are they?” asked Orange County delegate Doug Harding, outside the main hall Saturday afternoon.

“We love ‘em, but they need to leave.”

Some delegates clearly subscribe to “the more the merrier” mantra and scrambled for selfies Saturday with any candidates who passed through the Moscone Center. But others are anxious to winnow the huge field of serious presidential contenders — 24 by most counts — hoping to earn the Democratic nomination to take on President Trump in 2020.

“I can identify up to about five,” said Becky Curry, 64, a delegate from Lake County who felt lucky to see the likes of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts make speeches Saturday. “When I get down to Bennet, Hickenlooper and some of the other Bs, they fall into the same category — I don’t know them.”

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 1: Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke speaks during Day 2 of the California Democratic Party Convention at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, June 1, 2019. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Marianne Williamson? John Delaney? Michael Bennet? While the author, the former Maryland congressman and Colorado’s U.S. senator have their acolytes, the enthusiasm on Saturday among California’s 3,400 Democratic delegates, based on the applause scale alone, seemed reserved mostly for the household names.

It wasn’t for lack of enthusiastic speeches by the candidates.

US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses a rally at the Pasadena Convention Center in Pasadena, California on May 31, 2019. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

“Our president is a coward,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said in a speech from the main convention hall Saturday. “That’s not what we deserve.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii criticized Washington politics as “of, by and for self-serving politicians and the rich and powerful. This must end.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s voice was already hoarse when she took the stage, saying, “I don’t have money, but I have grit” and received an ovation when she left the stage.

But when Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., said he woke up next to his husband Saturday morning thanks to a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court, the San Francisco crowd let out a prolonged cheer.

“The riskiest thing we could do is try too hard to play it safe,” he said.

The unfortunate task of following him fell to Rep. Eric Swalwell from Dublin, who has been a frequent pundit on CNN but still struggles to gain name recognition. And when former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said “socialism is not the answer,” the extended booing nearly drowned him out.

Delegate Gail Cain from Orange County called the large field of candidates “crazy,” especially since “they all have the same thing to say.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the frontrunner, was a no-show, opting out of the California convention — a decision that didn’t sit well with some of the delegates.

“To ignore us like this is a big mistake,” said Kari Birdseye, a delegate from Benicia. “He should have showed up.”

She also held disdain for candidates who didn’t seem to be in it for the right reasons: those she believes are angling to raise their profiles or be tapped for cabinet posts.

Still, “what’s important is that we’re going to be unified behind our candidate no matter what,” she said. Alluding to Trump’s 2016 win, she added, “we learned that the hard way.”

Equity & Justice for All