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Meeting Reflections – August 25, 2022, Local candidate interviews & endorsements

MEETING REFLECTIONS
PDB MEMBERSHIP MEETING
AUGUST 25, 2022, 7:00 PM

Read summary reflections below.
Watch the Zoom recording here.  >Passcode: Gv^1g6=Z

Endorsement Interviews & Vote

Our Interim Chair, Kathy Kerridge moderated a forum for the three Democratic City of Benicia Council Candidates, Kari Birdseye, Terry Scott, and Christina Strawbridge. Kathy asked each of the candidates to share with the group of approximately 55 attendees 1) why they chose to run for office, 2) why the PDB members should vote to endorse them and 3) what they individually plan to accomplish if elected to serve on the Benicia City  Council.

Kari Birdseye believes that this is the time for a change in leadership on the Council.  As a member of two City commissions, previously the Human Services Board and currently as Chair of the Planning Commission, Kari has great working relationships with City staff, and she understands the challenges that the City faces.  She believes that she can make decisions in a transparent and empathetic manner.  Kari has three main priorities that she will address if elected:  1)  diversification of Benicia’s economic tax base; 2) the housing crisis in our city with an emphasis on senior housing; 3) transparent, friendly leadership – having an open relationship with all of Benicia including the business and neighborhood communities.

Terry Scott believes that over the last five election cycles, the top issues negatively affecting the City have remained the same: roads, cost of water, poor infrastructure,  polluted air and water, and public safety.  If elected, Terry will focus on financial management, a commitment to change in core values among City Council members, to open discussions for change, understand how open space is managed, respect and preserve Benicia’s historic heritage, and promote the reimagining of how things get done on an economic basis.  Terry’s list of accomplishments in Benicia includes Chair of the Arts and Culture Commission (promoting the painted piano, Shakespeare in the Park, signal boxes, BUSD collaboration on student murals, and working with the mayor to add diversity to the Arts and Culture Commission).  Terry was co-organizer of the first Benicia Diversity Festival and co-organizer of the recent March for Our Lives and Women’s March.  Terry is a businessman, futurist, and philanthropist who will use sound business sense and judgment to assess how to fix our current issues with a focus on the future, and how those fixes will affect our community members and our environment.

Christina Strawbridge is running on strength and experience.   She has been a Benicia City Council member for 9 years.  She stated that she was initially hesitant to run again due to the fact that she felt our 2020 election was a “blackeye” on Benicia, mainly due to Valero’s running of attack ads against her opponent, Steve Young.  Christina also stated that she was the recipient of a lot of social media attacks, most of which she stated were untrue.  Christina was very supportive and complimentary of Erik Upson, the current City Manager.  She praised the city staff and Council for their management and support of the citizens and businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Christina’s list of accomplishments for the City of Benicia includes working to revitalize Benicia since 1985.  She also worked to keep both of our state parks off the closure list in 2010.

Kathy Kerridge asked a series of questions previously prepared by the PDB Steering Committee.  Each candidate was given 2 minutes to respond.  The question topics included:

  • Stance on Crude by Rail (should Valero attempt to push through this again)
  • An Industrial Safety Ordinance, and guaranteeing the safety of Benicia’s citizens from industrial accidents caused by Valero
  • Campaign finance restrictions
  • The Valero PAC
  • The Federal Inflation Reduction Act and the facilitation of mitigation and adaptation strategies for climate change
  • Housing in general and housing for seniors and low-income citizens
  • Racial equity and environmental justice
  • Benicia financial position and retention of city staff
  • Position on Measure R (increase the sales tax to improve infrastructure)

During the presentations, attendees entered questions into Chat.  PDB Secretary, Maggie Kolk, chose questions that had not previously been addressed and each candidate was given an opportunity to respond.

Candidates provided a one-minute wrap-up to state their reasons for seeking  PDB’s endorsement.

Members in good standing participated in the endorsement voting process which included the three City Council Candidates and Jose Altamirano for State Board of Equalization, as well as voting whether to provide funding for the endorsed candidates.   The results were not announced but were delivered to members by email the following day.  (See here on PDB website.)

PDB Business

The Treasurer’s report was delivered by Kathy Kerridge.

Announcement and Action Items 

Cynthia Seguin – Asking for support of two congressional bills -repealing laws introduced in the Reagan Era – the Social Security Fairness Act (HR 82) and the Social Security 2100 Act (HR 572). Call congress to end the unfair tax on retired educators.  www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/action-center/take-action/repeal-gpo-wep?ms=daisychainconfirmation

Call Tim Grayson and Lori Wilson to support SB 1137 setbacks for oil wells. https://docs.google.com/document/d/18D_sFxXloOdxBbzda418MPqbo0Iw0bJRHS93-W1uELo/edit

Contact Kathy Kerridge to send out postcards and get yard signs for Benicians for Clean Elections.

Mayor Young – Addressed the City’s financial issues stating that the Council was not aware of these issues.  The Council was presented with what they believed were fair, accurate audits.  The Housing Element was passed by Council last week and will be submitted to the State by the end of the month.  A use permit was given to a cannabis distribution company:  Shryne Group is moving their No. Cal headquarters to Benicia and they will build a 40,000 sq. ft. warehouse.

Future Speakers for September – Erik Upson and Bob Berman.

Meeting Reflections – July 12, 2022, Plastic Trash & Vote Forward

MEETING REFLECTIONS
THE PDB MEMBERSHIP MEETING
JULY 12, 2022, 7:00 PM
Housing Element Update

Terry Mollica, Vice-Chair of Benicia’s Planning Commission, shared that the City and Planning Commission has been working on this for the past 6 months.  The City is required by State law to periodically update the Housing Element, and to allocate a certain number of houses to help support the development that is needed to help bring the cost of housing down in California.  Solano County is required to allocate 10,992 units for residential development.  Benicia’s target is 863 units over the next 8 years, 2023-2031.  We are examining barriers to development including zoning codes that might need to be addressed.  Beyond the simple numbers, we are also looking at inclusionary housing, low and very low-income housing.  After months of work, we are now at a critical stage of inviting public participation and support.  An updated DRAFT Housing Element has been published, and we need YOU to read it and review it.  It’s available on the City’s website at https://www.ci.benicia.ca.us/housingelement.  You have until the end of July to comment.  There will be a joint Council / Planning Commission meeting on July 26  at 6pm focused only on the Housing Element.  There will also be an August 16 Council consideration where public comment is also welcome, written or spoken.

Conversation continued on SB 35 and Jefferson Ridge development and other projects under consideration.

Presentation: Recycling California’s Plastic Trash

The question of whether a plastics initiative will be on the ballot this fall has been decided. A new state law, SB 54 went into effect and the initiative has been pulled. We heard a brief update on this important issue including some suggestions about how you can help with this problem.  What does SB 54 do?:

    • 25% drop in single-use plastic by 2032
    • 30% of plastics recyclable by 2028, 65% by 2032
    • Establishes a producer responsibility organization, overseen by the state, to run the recycling program, and to pay $500 million to assess the impacts of plastics.

How to replace one single-use plastic item with a renewable or permanent item: https://myplasticfreelife.com/plasticfreeguide/

Action: Vote Forward

Don’t agonize, but organize! That was the focus of the second part of our July meeting. The Supreme Court’s decision that week on Roe was not unexpected, but it was a vivid reminder of why we are Democrats and believe that the government should not force women to bear children they do not want or can not support. This decision may only be the start in rolling back rights we have long taken for granted. We must turn this around, and the best way to do it is to make sure we maintain a majority in the House and get at least 2 more Democratic Senators so we don’t have to even think about Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema.  

How can we help when we live in a solid blue state? Well, one way is to write to people in swing states. You can write postcards or letters. While it may seem like a chore, it’s actually fun, and is best achieved when we designate a time and a place for it and work collectively. To help get us all started, the second part of our meeting focused on the ins and outs of letter- and postcard-writing.

We gave instructions, but writers had to do a little in advance:

    1. Make an account at votefwd.org (if you already have an account you can use that one). IMPORTANT: This must be done THREE DAYS before the meeting. Vote Forward has to approve letter writers before creating assignments. If you have gmail look for a response in your promotions folder. But, if you haven’t done it yet you can still try and you may get it in time.
    2. Within a few days of making the Vote Forward account you will receive an email with instructions to download the letters and addresses. You can pick what state you’ll be writing to using the website. We’ll show you how to write the letters at our meeting.
    3. Plan to print at least 20 letters. Be sure not to print on both sides of the page. Check the printer settings.
    4. Be sure to have envelopes and stamps for your letters. We’ll address them together.
    5. Have a blue pen to address the envelopes and write part of the letter (most is printed)

We offered to print out letters if needed, to provide stamps, envelopes and postcards, and to deliver these materials locally (Benicia only).

Further information:

  • You can order postcards through the Progressive Turnout Project.
  • 350 Bay Area Action will be doing postcarding to support California Democrats. More info: click on Send postcards. (Note: the price of a US domestic postcard stamp has increased from 40 cents to 44 cents as of July 10, 2022. First-class stamps, including Forever Stamps, work for postcards now and will continue to work after the change.)

Announcements

  • Jeanie White, president of the Northern Solano Democratic Club, also spoke about postcarding for Wanda Williams. and a fundraiser for Wanda Williams, “Cooking with Alice” on July 24, 4pm.
  • Mayor Steve Young reported on City Council actions:
    • Last week Council took first steps toward putting a sales tax measure on the November ballot, a general tax but focused almost exclusively on roads.  It would be a 3/4 cent increase in the sales tax, taking effect April 2023. Four Council members are required to support adding the ballot measure, and currently all but Councilmember Largaespada support it.  Next step, a vote on Tuesday July 19.
    • Council will also take the first step on the 19th to add Renewal of Measure K, the Open Space ordinance on the November ballot.  It will essentially be just a “word for word” replacement for the current law.
    • There will be a joint Council / Planning Commission meeting on August 26 focused only on the Housing Element.
    • August 2 is National Night Out, no Council meeting.  Neighborhood Groups can invite Council members that night.
    • On August 16 Council will consider a rate increase for Republic Services, connected to the new State law that requires more recycling of organic materials, including food waste, that is now supposed to be mixed in with green waste for weekly pickups in the green cans.  The City has a consultant negotiating with Republic on what the rate increase ought to be.
    • On Saturday, September 10 Council will hold our annual Goal-setting Workshop, an all day affair in the Library’s Dona Benicia room.  The event will also be televised.
  • Michelle Pellegrin of United Dems of Solano shared an update on HR 1808, the Assault Weapons Ban.  As of this date, our Rep. Mike Thompson is the only congressional rep in California who hasn’t said he will support the bill – strange given his long tenure as chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Plan is to have chairs of Northern Solano Dems, United Dems and PDB to send a letter to Thompson urging support of 1808.  Michelle shared contacts for members to write in support:
    • Adam Durand, Mike Thompson’s Legislative Director, Adam.Durand@mail.house.gov.
    • Phone numbers – DC office: (202) 225-3311; Napa office: (707) 226-9898; Santa Rosa office: (707) 542-7182
  • Interim Chair Kathy Kerridge welcomed 3 new PDB members:
    • Crispin Pierce
    • Nimat Shakoor-Grantham
    • Joyce Kennedy

Hello/Goodbye Party in Benicia for U.S. Reps. Garamendi & Thompson

You are invited to say hello to John Garamendi, our new US Representative, and to offer thanks and goodbye to our longtime US Rep. Mike Thompson

Hello/Goodbye Party – Sunday, June 26

Mark your calendar to attend a Hello and Goodbye Summer Social on Sunday June 26, from 2 to 4.  We will welcome our new U.S. Rep. John Garamendi and say goodbye to Benicia’s longtime U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson.  It will be held right here in Benicia, at the Veterans Memorial Hall, 1150 First Street, across from the Gazebo.  (See info about tickets below.)

Both Thompson and Garamendi will remain in Congress – the change is due to a redrawing of California Congressional Districts.

The party is also a fundraiser for our fellow Democratic Club the United Democrats of Southern Solano County. This is a great opportunity to connect with these important legislators and our fellow Democrats. Ticket information below, purchase your ticket(s) here.