Thursday, December 4, 2008

Community workshop to be held before reconsideration of denial vote

On Dec. 2, the City Council briefly discussed the circumstances and terms of the Nov. 24 Seeno agreement letter (terms of the agreement arranged by Councilmember Mike Ioakimedes). They voted to hold a facilitated community workshop in January to allow the community to add their input to the process of refining and augmenting the terms of the agreement, and to dialog and negotiate with Seeno on those revised terms. The Council also voted to agendize, for the Feb. 3 City Council meeting, a reconsideration of their Nov. 18 project denial vote, and take a vote on whether to rescind that denial vote . Their reconsideration decision will be based on the terms of the revised agreement that will evolve out of the community workshop. In the meantime, their Nov. 18 project denial vote remains in full force.

The current version of the Seeno agreement has many pros, but also many cons. Some of the language is vague, or contains loopholes; some important provisions are not mandated, only suggested "if Council so desires;" and many important provisions are not mentioned. Please read the letter carefully and submit your comments and proposed additions to the City Council members. (If you email your comments to they will be forwarded to all Council members.) And please plan to attend the public workshop in January when the date is announced, as well as the Feb. 3 City Council meeting.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Council to discuss reconsideration of Seeno denial vote on December 2

There will be a crucial discussion and vote at the City Council meeting Tuesday, Dec. 2, concerning the future of the Seeno Project in Benicia.

After the Council voted to deny the project on Nov. 18 (following up on a previous denial vote on Oct. 7), the property owner, Albert Seeno III, wrote a letter agreeing to major concessions and modifications to the current version of the project if the Council would reconsider and rescind their Nov. 18 denial vote. There are many pros and cons to this choice. Please read the Seeno letter and decide for yourself. (The letter is also posted on the city website as a link to item XI. on the City Council Agenda.

The discussion of the Seeno letter and a vote on whether to reconsider their Nov. 18 denial vote is scheduled (item XI.) on the City Council agenda to begin approximately 9:20 p.m. on Dec. 2. Please try to attend this meeting if you are able; inform yourself about this important decision that will greatly affect the future of Benicia and let the Council hear your wishes.

If you cannot attend the Council meeting, please email your comments to the City Council members. If you email your letter , it will be forwarded to all Council members before the meeting.

This Nov.29 Vallejo Times Herald article provides some additional details about this recent new turn of events. You can also read background information about the Seeno project and the process that has brought us to this point at

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On companies doing business with the City of Benicia...

by George delaCruz

An editorial on the relationship of City Staff and companies in Benicia...
[in response to a newspaper article revealing that Nationwide Auto Auction is delinquent in $300,000 in back fees owed to Benicia.]

Regarding the issue of Nationwide Auto Auction, is it incompetence? Is it collusion? Just what is it that allows our City Staff to go merrily on its way? It seems to have its head in the sand. All the while companies doing business in Benicia fall behind on fees or don’t follow through on promises made to the City so they would be granted the right to conduct certain business operations in our fair city. Nationwide Auto Auctions is just one example of our City staff’s complete lack of oversight. Is it incompetence or is it corruption? Amports is another example. It has broken more agreements then you can count. It pays nothing to operate the Port of Benicia which is owned by the City. No business tax. No port tax, nothing. And then, of course, there is Valero, and Seeno and who else, may I ask? Do some in City Government have their hands out? Or does it just seem that way? Or do they just look the other way?

Nationwide should be held accountable for all agreements made with the City. As for Amports and Valero, I must again raise the issue of a port tax. Every other port operation in the United States collects a fair tax, based either on a tonnage or per unit basis for all cargo handled through that port. I would estimate that Amports alone avoids between $5 and $10 million in taxes per year which would go directly to the City of Benicia. Valero pays no port tax on the 40 to 50 thousand barrels of oil it processes daily at our port. At other ports in the U.S., these quantities are taxed, be it petroleum products, automobiles or any other item that crosses the docks, either in import or export. I suggest the City could use a formula similar to the ones in use in Oakland, San Francisco or Los Angeles to apportion these taxes because they have already been litigated. This tax money would go a long way to help this cash strapped City, especially with the present state of our economy. These companies are not paying their fair share, nor, in fact, in many cases, they are not paying any share at all. But for some reason, our City government is unwilling to make these firms pay their fair share.

But then, the question arises: Are our City employees, our City government, unduly influenced or are they in some way compensated by these companies? If there is any suspicion of fraud, then the Solano County Grand Jury must become involved. If it is just some mis-begotten, ill conceived, unfair influence from these companies, who then should or could, investigate and deal with the problem? Perhaps we could hire a team of forensic Bureaucrats to dig into our City government?

The failure by Nationwide to pay over $300,000 in fees brings up another question Did Nationwide pay the City for the equipment or automobiles it sold on consignment on our behalf? If not, why not?
But then, I remembered that Benicia, rather than taxing companies doing business in the City, would rather collect revenue from the tickets motorcycle officers are writing. Something seems out of whack here. Our self-serving City Staff, which won’t go after a source of revenue most Cities would cherish, instead go after our citizens who are already overburdened with taxes.

When City Staff takes responsibility and changes a vote of our City Council, I suggest something is drastically wrong at City Hall. If our City Staff cannot enforce rules or if it is inappropriately connected to businesses in Benicia, some should certainly be fired. It costs our community too much in salary and benefits to have incompetent or corrupt City employees. Perhaps a good old fashioned house cleaning is needed...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Corporate development vs Community rights; who wins?

by Will Gregory, Oct. 2008

" Voting no on Seeno is the right first step."
Nicole Byrd–Greenbelt Alliance, Fairfield. (Bencia Herald. 9/24/08)

I noticed in the Vallejo Times Herald that Mayor Elizabeth Patterson stated to reporter Jessica York that she did not consider the " no " vote on Oct. 7 a victory.
" This was, take a deep breath and get back to the drawing table." Patterson said.
(See: Seeno plan flawed for Benicia: Council votes 3-2 to bar development. VTH. 10/9/2008)
I was confounded by this comment. With all due respect to the Mayor, in my estimation this was a victory.
A project as the Mayor has said, has been flawed, from day one.
The community has been waiting for this moment, this vote, for years.
Individual activists as well as collectivist clubs - Benicia First ; Green Gateway Group have worked tirelessly to secure this decision- one that favors the community over a recidivist corporation.
Using every means available the community was made aware of this corporate entity's criminal justice record, disregard for the environment and influencing peddling at the local government level: Newspaper/editorial accounts; documented records from the past; and eye-witness stories. This was a victory for community activism.
When you consider that this project would take over 20 years to complete, and as Vice Mayor Tom Campbell has stated, would cause "... traffic, grading, view, watershed and air pollution problems make the present Seeno Project unacceptable to Benicians."
(See: Inside Benicia.. City Coucil Update. April/2008.) ...this was a victory for our environment.
This was a crucial victory for the" rule of law. " In our esteemed and well thought out 1999 General Plan-the principal policy document for guiding future conservation and development in Benicia-one of the primary goals of the GP as stated on page #33-listed as Goal 2. PRESERVE BENICIA AS A SMALL SIZED CITY.
Policy 2.1.1: states- Ensure that new development is compatible with adjacent existing development and doesn’t detract from Benicia’s small town qualities and historic heritage.
This was a victory for a community vision by diversifying the city’s portfolio-(see: that will enable the city of Benicia to become the leader in Solano County for green growth, green jobs and a green future. This is the A+ project Mayor Patterson has been fighting for our " little town."

Still there are cheerleaders for Seeno..
The recent Vallejo Times editorial.(10/10/2008) asks "What message was city trying to send Seeno?" Is the VTimes seeking increased circulation and advertisers by this message? The local newspaper's editorial uses the tired rhetoric of fear-in this case, revenue stream for the city vs the values and character of our community.
Growth friendly, council members Alan Schwartzman and Mark Hughes voted in favor of the project. That is their right. Even though they both promised in their campaigns for council in 2005 that they wanted to protect our small town atmosphere. When it comes my turn to vote next November, I’ll be voting for candidates that keep their words about our special small town. I won’t vote for folks that have ties to the chamber of commerce or unscrupulous corporations. That is my right.
Other cheerleaders for Seeno included- (our) non-elected city staff : or more appropriately a pro growth shadow government. City Manger Jim Erickson; City Attorney Heather Mclaughlin; and Community Development Director Charlie Knox have been leading the charge for this project. The only prop missing- is the pom poms!
What is galling, here, is that these public representatives through their advocacy and strong influence have been avid supporters of a private corporation over and beyond their concerns for the public they are suppose to serve. I think it is fair to ask: What does the city staff not understand about the 3-2 vote? Has our city staff been coopted by the forces of growth promotion? Never a word about Seeno’s development history in Contra Costa County in general or more specifically its record in Pittsburgh influencing elections and politicians. Or how Seeno was involved in our own elections, here in Benicia.
See: "Connecting the Dots". Inside Benicia. City Council Update. Elizabeth Patterson.. April/2007.
It is important to note: that our well-paid public employees Ms. Mclaughlin ($189 thousand) lives in San Ramon and Mr. Knox ($158 thousand) lives in El Cerrito. Mr. Erickson ($197 thousand) lives in Benicia . (Source: Human Resources Dept., City of Benicia) Interesting, how some of these folks won’t have to deal with the ramifications of a decades long project that they are demanding- but won’t have to live with.
Now, these same folks, in today’s Vallejo Times Herald (See: "Staff asks council to delay Seeno vote." 10/19/08.) want another round of talks with our elected officials. After the final 3-2 vote! This is unprecedented in Benicia politics.
According to the Green Gateway Group web site- members received an earlier copy of the staff report. Activist Mr.Roger Straw had these cogent remarks:
" Let me say that [City] staff’s Report and Recommendation is an apparent effort to try and save the Seeno Project in its current form after the council's NO vote of Oct.7. [City] staff seems to be heavily invested in getting Council to approve this project. They believe it is a good project."
Mr. Straw continues.. " this can only be interpreted as an attempt to entice Council to reverse its vote of Oct. 7. [City ] staff has received Seeno’s o.k. on the plan to once again extend conversation- "
" ... many (citizens) are wondering if it is appropriate for [City] staff to recommend continuance, and to encourage project approval, given the council’s meeting of 10/7. It borders on [City] staff advocacy, or perhaps crosses the line.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Council votes to deny Seeno project; City Manager tries to keep it alive...

At the October 7 City Council meeting, the Council voted to deny the Seeno project (527-acre Business Park in north Benicia). After hearing the results of a traffic study, and much deliberation, three of the five Council members remained unsatisfied with the sufficiency of the proposed mitigation measures which attempted to address the project's harmful impact on air quality and public health caused by excessive traffic.

Around 1 AM, Council took a vote on a Resolution to Approve the EIR Addendum (which was necessary in order to approve the project). It failed, 3 No votes (Patterson, Campbell, Ioakimedes), 2 yes votes (Hughes, Schwartzman). Therefore, the project could not be approved. City Attorney was instructed to bring forth a Resolution to Deny the project at the next Council meeting.

At the Oct. 21 Council meeting, City Manager Erickson submitted a report recommending that the Council “continue” the Seeno Item until the Nov. 18 City Council meeting because one of the five Council members (Campbell) was absent. He also produced several resolutions for their consideration. In addition to producing a resolution to deny the project and the EIR Addendum (as staff had been instructed to do), he also presented a resolution to approve the project (!) and he made a recommendation that the Council enter into “facilitated” discussions with the Developer to consider additional project requirements that might enable project approval.

Lacking a fifth vote, the Council did not act on the various resolution, and instead voted to "Continue the Item" to the Nov. 18 Council meeting.

With that as background, Roger Straw submitted the following column to the Benicia Herald:


Rebuilding Eroded Trust
By Roger Straw
Benicia Herald, Guest column, October 29, 2008

In recent statements before and during the October 21 City Council meeting, I believe that our City’s professional staff exercised their authority in a questionable manner.

Prior to the meeting, City Manager Jim Erickson, Community Development Director Charlie Knox and City Attorney Heather McLaughlin submitted a Staff Report that many feel ignored the will of the Council. Many feel that in bypassing the will of our elected representatives, staff has thwarted the will of the citizens of Benicia, who elected the Council.

The record will show that on October 7, Council voted 3-2 in a very clear and difficult decision, to not go forward in considering the Benicia Business Park as proposed by Seeno and Discovery Builders.

After the motion and before the vote on October 7, Councilmember Ioakimedes said, “I have a question for the City Attorney: the motion that's on the floor right now is the resolution that is on [page] B45. There will be another motion for B47?”

McLaughlin replied, “No. There'll be another motion if you approve B45, to approve the resolution that's on page 183.” She went on, “The part that's on 47, and the part that's exhibit B, which is on page 110, will be included as part of the resolutions, so you don't need a separate action on those.”

Ioakimedes then said, “But if there's a vote to deny, then there isn't any subsequent vote, is there?”

McLaughlin: “Right.” Ioakimedes: “Ok. That's ... Thank you.”

Mayor Elizabeth Patterson then called upon Councilmember Alan Schwartzman.

Schwartzman, addressing McLaughlin, said, “…Ok, so if the one we've got on the table now passes, we can go back to the table, and think about other conditions. If the one that we have on the table now fails, we don't go any further, we're done. Is that the way I understand it?”

McLaughlin: “Well, then I would suggest that we do a Resolution of Denial. You all could direct me to go back, using the model from June 3rd, with the findings or whatever you came up with.”

I find this record explicit, and without loopholes. The vote to approve CEQA documentation failed, 3-2, under deadline to pass, and the city attorney was directed by the mayor at the end of the meeting -- and agreed -- to return to the next meeting with a formal “Resolution to Deny” to conclude the rejection of the Seeno project.

Contrary to staff’s suggestion on October 21 that a “no” vote on a motion to approve leaves wiggle room for more consideration, the reason for a formal Resolution to Deny is not to state positively an affirmation which was not yet voted. The resolution is a formal statement with legal findings to solidify -- for the record and for legal reasons -- that a no vote has been taken.

Benicia needs to sit up and take notice of all this. Not only because of the stakes in approving or denying the current Seeno project, but for reasons of good and trustworthy government.

It is my understanding that staff brought forward its controversial recommendation on October 21 based not only on its rather manufactured reading of Council’s action on October 7, but that certain comments were conveyed in writing by Ioakimedes after the vote that could have been interpreted – or misinterpreted – as a wish to keep the current proposal open for discussion.

At issue here is not whether City staff should be fired, but how to regain trust after a major blunder. The human heart does not regain trust easily, and the public, having come to a high degree of respect for all five Council members despite their differences, now faces a huge hurdle in understanding the motives and honor of those who serve the Council, and by extension, the public.

Over the course of the next month, we are told that all stakeholders will be invited to sit down in professionally facilitated meetings to discuss the project, in hopes of agreement and approval at Council’s November 18 meeting. One of the outcomes of those meetings is likely to be a regained sense of trust among us all, or a further erosion of trust.

Roger Straw is a member of Benicia’s Green Gateway Group. For more information on the group, visit

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Real Choke Point

by Bob Craft, Benicia, CA
originally posted to Benicia Herald, July, 2008

Full disclosure up front. I am not a scientist or air quality expert – only an interested lay observer.

The recent spate of wild fires that so affected Benicia’s air quality in mid to late June was very instructive. Raw data, if I am interpreting it correctly, from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District – the folks that issue the bad air alerts – shows that for much of the time from 14-29 June, Benicia had the worst air in the entire bay area as far as fine particulate matter is concerned (the stuff coming at us from the fires). This is a real health issue matter and should be of concern to everyone.

During this heavily polluted period, this particulate matter (fine grain soot if you will) was measured in Benica, Napa and Vallejo along with five other places in the bay area. Based on the maximum concentrations reported, one can conclude that much of the bad stuff, perhaps mostly from the Napa – Solano fire – north of Green Valley, was funneled directly to Benicia by the wind currents and straight into our lungs if we needed to be outside. As noted, the maximum readings here were elevated well above normal during most of the last half of June, but from 23-25 June were incredibly high. On two of those dates, Benicia measured almost double that of Vallejo and a third more on the other date. As compared to Napa, local readings were even more dramatic.

Apart from the immediate health implications, we should be concerned. As near as I can tell, we had this kind of specific data on a timely basis only because the Air Quality District has a temporary monitoring facility in Benicia. Were it not for this facility, I guess we would have known how bad the situation actually was only from our eyes and lungs and general area alerts. Certainly data from the permanent facilities at Vallejo, Napa and elsewhere would not have come close to measuring the real severity of the situation in Benicia. Measurements from the other locations did show a general problem, but not that Benicia was apparently in its worst pollution storm in months and perhaps ever. We should be concerned that the detailed and location specific data we need for health warning and exposure prevention purposes was likely only available to us because a temporary facility is in our area –one that is in place for an entirely different reason.

Another reason to be concerned is that all of the environmental studies for Benicia with which I am familiar have used data collected by the permanent monitoring station in Vallejo to establish our air quality baseline. To this layman, the recent situation clearly shows that this is not an accurate way to establish such a baseline. In routine periods, i.e. where there are no immediate health risks and air quality is normal, Vallejo measurements may be more or less representative. But it is in non-routine periods such as the recent June activity – especially that of 23-25 June – that we need Benicia specific data to allow us to characterize our immediate environment. This is, after all, the one that affects us most directly, not Vallejo’s.

If I am interpreting the data correctly, the message here is that while we would have known we had a problem in June without the temporary monitoring station, its real severity would not have been documented. Without such a resident capability, we will not know in the future. In June, we could see the problem. The next time we may not be able to do so. Not all airborne pollutants are so obvious.

Our city leaders should treat this with urgency and do everything in their power to assure the Air District’s temporary facility remains in place until it is replaced by a permanent one. Our location as an apparent wind current funnel as exhibited by the June activity and situation with respect to the freeways seem proof enough we need a permanent real time monitoring station in Benicia that measures all harmful pollutants. For health and safety reasons, our citizens deserve no less.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Time for Action on the Solano General Plan

By Nicole Byrd, Solano - Napa Field Representative, Greenbelt Alliance

The Board of Supervisors will hold their first public hearing on the General Plan next week. Our community needs to show up in full force to let the Supervisors know that we want a plan that makes our quality of life better, not worse. Unfortunately, the proposed plan will drastically change Solano County for the worse! The plan could result in paving over as much as 30,000 acres of farmland – that’s more than the size of Fairfield. Implementing this plan will further deteriorate our air quality, and we already have the worst asthma in the state. Traffic will get much worse than it is and we could face water shortages. Please come to the public hearing and tell the Board that we want a plan that makes our community stronger, healthier and safer.

The first hearings are set for Tuesday, July 1, 2008 from 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm and 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm. Come to either time that works for you.

Additionally, the board will be holding a public hearing on the Environmental Impact Report on Tuesday, July 22, 2008 – 2:00 p.m. Please also put this date on your calendar.

[See list below of additional hearings, agendas, and supporting documents.]

There are many aspects of this General Plan to be concerned about. I’ve included some points of concern below. Please feel free to address these in your comments, or bring up other issues.


--Developing more of our county land will increase traffic and make our air quality even worse.

--The Draft Plan does very little to acknowledge Solano County’s water supply problems. More work needs to be done to ensure that development in the unincorporated areas will have a sufficient water supply.

Growth Concerns
--The land use diagram shows a significant increase in development in the unincorporated County over existing conditions. Why is the county growing right up against the cities’ limits?
--The extension of the Orderly Growth Initiative should be a part of any ballot measure put forth to the voters.
--Package sewage treatment plants are a bad idea (perhaps they may be ok for certain agricultural operations but not for residential subdivisions). These sewage plants will have growth-inducing impacts on agricultural lands.
--The Cities of Vacaville and Dixon have expressed concern about the plan. How can this be a good plan for the County if the Cities don’t like it? I hope that the County will work with the Cities to resolve their issues.

Community Separators
--The 2008 Draft Solano County General Plan discusses five existing Community Separators but only maps the Tri-City and County Area. More work needs to be done in regard to protecting and expanding the community separators, including mapping all of them on the land use plan. For example, the Vallejo-Benicia Separator is discussed but there are no policies to strengthen this separator nor is it mapped on the Land Use diagram.

Special Study Areas
--The GP sets up four Special Study Areas - Collinsvillle, Middle Green Valley, Old Town Cordelia, and Suisun Valley. It looks like these areas will be studied further later, but the issues should be resolved now.
--The Middle Green Valley Special Study Area sets up this area for growth.
The plan does not deal with the water issues related to growth in this area.
The plan promotes 400 new houses in Middle Green Valley which is inconsistent with the city-centered growth model that the plan says it should follow.
The plan does not deal with the traffic issues that will be created by growth in this area.

Climate change/ greenhouse gas emissions
--The plan addresses this as a mere afterthought. They did such a poor job on this that the Attorney General has asked the County to put some real protections in place.
--We know that transportation is a major source of greenhouse gases. The car – dependent rural residential growth recommended by the General Plan update will make the problem worse!

Biological Resources
--The General Plan should be consistent with the proposed Habitat Conservation Plan.

--Why is this process being rushed to get the land use changes on the November ballot? We should be focusing on creating a plan that represents our community.

If you have additional questions, please contact:
Nicole Byrd, Solano - Napa Field Representative, Greenbelt Alliance, 1652 West Texas St. Suite 163, Fairfield, CA 94533, phone: (707) 427-2308

Public Hearings on the 2008 Draft General Plan
Click on the links below for agendas and supporting documents

July 1, 2008
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Staff Presentation
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. City Comments
3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Public Hearing
6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. Public Hearing

Board of Supervisors Chambers
675 Texas Street, 1st Floor
Fairfield CA, 94533

For more information, see here.

Additional Public Hearings:
July 8, 2008
July 18, 2008
July 21, 2008
July 22, 2008
July 29, 2008

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Find a new plan

by Bob Berman

In July, the Solano County Board of Supervisors will consider the adoption of Solano County's new General Plan.

I recently reviewed the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the county's new General Plan and was astonished to find that it will result in 27 individual significant unavoidable adverse impacts. This means that of the impacts discussed in the EIR 27 will result in significant unavoidable damage to Solano County's environment. These impacts cover a wide variety of areas including land use, air quality, noise, transportation, hydrology, agricultural land, public services, cultural resources, aesthetics, and climate change. Pretty much everything that makes up the precious Solano County environment that we all would like to protect.

For example, according to the EIR new development as proposed in the General Plan will:

• Result in the generation of air pollutant emissions beyond established standards.

• Result in a significant increase in noise along county roadways.

• Result in a significant increase in traffic congestion - 27 different locations where traffic will be unacceptable are identified, including, of course, on Interstate 80, I-680, Lake Herman Road, and Curtola Parkway.

• Result in the conversion of nearly 22,000 acres of farmland to urban uses.

• Result in damage to scenic vistas and resources.

And there is more - there will not be adequate water to serve all of the projected development. New methods to obtain water and additional sources of water will be required.

This is not the future that I envision for Solano County.

I urge all Solano County residents to contact individual members of the board of supervisors and tell them it is time to stop the new General Plan and go back to develop a plan that protects, not destroys, Solano County's environment.

Note: To contact the Board, Click HERE, or email:
Michael Reagan

Jim Spering
John Vasquez
Barbara Kondylis
John Silva

Monday, June 23, 2008

Questions and Answers on Seeno Project

A Statement from BeniciaFirst!

Question: Does this debate over the Seeno project represent a clash between pro-development and anti-development forces?

Nothing could be further from the reality of the case we have presented. The central issue is the quality and practicality of the currently proposed plan. What Seeno is proposing is a dated plan for a commuter-driven park--one that is geared to attract conventional warehousing and shipping, with a commercial area located at the freeway. Such an outmoded model ignores the new realities upon which Benicia First has focused. We face an energy-constrained future economic environment as highlighted by the Global Warming Solutions Act, AB32, which mandates drastically reduced "vehicle miles traveled" generated by any new project. At the same time, there is a revolution in thinking about green industrial development together with an unprecedented demand for the kind of research and development campus for which Benicia is uniquely suited.

Question: If your concerns and hopes for achieving what you call a 21st Century project are spelled out in "Conditions of Approval" set by the City, would this not be a solution?

Essentially,this approach heightens one of the major drawbacks of the Seeno proposal. With a project that incorporates neither coherence nor a visionary comprehensive plan for a campus-style R&D park, attempting to reshape that project through hundreds of conditions simply underlines and emphasizes its flaws and its fragmented character. It would require permitting and overseeing virtually all detail of the development and attempting somehow to create coherence through endless, difficult management of detail. It would require enormous oversight responsibilities for the city extending through 25 years into the future. We do not think this feasible or realistic. Practical enforceability is questionable. Nor do we believe it possible to create an integrated, coherent, energy sensitive and future oriented project in this fashion.

Question: Didn't the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) with the recently produced Addendum give this project a clean bill of health?

No. The voluminous comments submitted by Steve Goetz and Don Dean, both professional planners, detail the numerous flaws and inadequacies of the FEIR and the present revised proposal. We cite here just one dramatic example: its treatment of traffic increases and resulting air pollution impacting Semple School. If you think the health and safety of Semple school children are important, consider this. The FEIR contained a gross error in its estimates of future traffic on I-780 and East 2nd St., adjacent to Semple School. Real world traffic projections put that figure far over the prescribed limit for locating new schools. NOTE THIS CAREFULLY. The City Council must legally agree that these unavoidable negative impacts on air quality affecting the Semple School, are justified by "overriding considerations"; in short that the benefits of the Seeno project override those impacts. Would you want that Resolution of CEQA Findings signed?

Question: If this project is denied, won't that delay development for many years?

In reality the highly questionable phasing plan of the present proposal already delays the industrial development for five to ten years. Currently there is a great need and business climate for the kind of development that Benicia should be getting. Venture capital is flowing to precisely those research and development, future-oriented clean tech projects that are most desirable for Benicia. There will never be a more obvious window of opportunity for Benicia to get the green industrial development that enhances and serves the city while exploiting its unique demographics and location.

Question: With denial, what would happen next?

It would be essential for the city to send the strongest possiblesignal to Seeno that it wants to cooperate, proactively andimmediately, in helping the company to both advance a new plan and to recruit the kind of research and development ventures, (biotech and alternate energy enterprises and other supporting businesses) that are now demonstrating such promise for the future in the Bay Area.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Update on Seeno Project

The final fate of the Seeno Project was supposed to have been decided on June 3, 2008. But, that decision has now been postponed until October 2008…..

To back up a bit, in case you are not familiar with the Seeno project, it is a huge 527 acre commercial/industrial development proposed for the rolling hills in the north-east section of Benicia. It is officially named the Benicia Business Park but is commonly referred to as the Seeno Project because it is owned by Discovery Builders, an Albert Seeno company.

It is a controversial project because many citizens contend (with ample evidence) that the project, as currently conceived and designed, would radically damage the character and livability of Benicia forever. It fails to conform to many important goals in the General Plan relating to environmental and economic quality and sustainability, and the type of commercial businesses proposed for the development would likely weaken the Downtown as the City's central commercial zone, contributing to urban decay.

Following is a very rough outline of the review process so far on this project :

2007: The year of 2007 saw countless months of City Council meetings, votes, public hearings, public forums and presentations, and voluminous written and oral public comments on the Seeno Project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR). It was well documented by citizen comments that the EIR was inadequate in many ways and did not conform to the requirements of the Calif. Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Feb. 19, 2008: In spite of its flaws, the Council approved the final EIR, but this vote did not approve the project itself. The Council told the applicant (Seeno) that the project itself could not be approved unless they came back with a revised project containing significant environmental improvements and substantial documentation to support it such as a supplemental EIR and a new urban decay analysis.

April & May 2008: In April the applicant brought forth a significantly changed project containing several environmental improvements but still lacking the degree of improvements that were needed and called for by the Council, and lacking the supporting documentation that was expected.

There were several hasty hearings in April and May, with insufficient time for review and documentation, because of a statutory requirement that mandated a final vote on the project by June 3, unless the applicant approved a time extension.

June 3, 2008: (actually 1:00 a.m., June 4) Sensing that they did not have the necessary three votes for approval of the project, the applicant agreed to a time extension so that an additional traffic study could be conducted (after school resumes in late August) to determine the extent of traffic congestion on E. 2nd Street.

Oct. 7, 2008: The results of the traffic study will be presented to the Council, and the applicant will pressure the Council to approve the project.

A citizens’ committee, Benicia First, is calling for denial of the current project, so that a new project can be designed that is a better fit for Benicia and for the environmental and economic constraints and opportunities that we now face in the 21st Century. To read more about their ideas for an alternative vision for the Seeno project, see the Benicia First Website at

(To read more details about the review process chain of events, see the Benicia First Blog at )

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Long Look at Silva's History

by Marilyn Bardet

My long experience of Mr. Silva's judgment as a politician forms a cautionary tale and reminder of what your June 3rd vote is worth, and why I believe it's time for change up county, where Mr. Silva now assumes leadership of what can only be called a "good ol boy" majority on the Board of Supes supported by big development interests.

At the League of Women Voters forum here, Mr. Silva appeared gruff and annoyed that, after 12 years, he was having to run "opposed". He never looked at Linda Seifert, as though she didn't exist at the table beside him. This is beyond an observation of absent civil decorum for a career politician. Mr. Silva doesn't tolerate well being opposed. He stiffens when challenged, and his best retort on a topic that gives him discomfort is silence, or a distortion of fact. This is a major pitfall for any politician, unless he or she has amassed so much power there appears to be no need to acknowledge differences of opinion, let alone facts that come to light that cast shadows on the illusion of a sterling record.

Mr. Silva's outright advocacy, in 1995, of Koch Industries' bid to build six giant petroleum coke storage domes at the port--adjacent to our Arsenal Historic District and artists' quarters--thankfully failed, but only by enormous effort of an alarmed, and finally united, community. Despite research to the contrary, much of which I and others worked hard to assemble, Mr. Silva vociferously pleaded how beneficial it would be to bring coke storage capacity and a 24/7 transport shipping terminal to our city that would serve six Bay Area refineries including Exxon at the time. He suggested the domes could fit directly below the Clocktower--a spot identified as a remaining army landfill--the only problem he saw being that stretch of Adams Rd., which he'd thought could be closed off.

He touted that the project would bring "good jobs for Benicians" (27 - 64 jobs all told), such benefit, in his opinion, apparently outweighing any public health, or environmental or cultural costs. He never once worried about the health risk: coke dust particulate has nickel in it and so is a carcinogen when inhaled, penetrating lung tissue, reaching the blood stream, this according to EPA, which also says soot aggravates asthma. He never seemed concerned about the devastation the project would instantly bring to the historic district and neighborhoods. He believed what Koch Industries told him: that he'd get a "state of the art", dust-free operation, with tons of revenue for the city. He lobbied hard for a mighty illusion, until citizens across all constituencies forced the project out--by petition and constant work to counter the falsities promoted by Koch Industries, and Mr. Silva, and others tied to him.

I also was exposed to Mr. Silva's stubborn refusal to acknowledge that, as a former city manager, he had any responsibility for the lack of oversight over the removal of the Braito dump and the subsequent construction of houses on lower Rose Drive atop wastes that had not been removed to the remaining East Canyon landfill, as had been ordered by the county. In 1991, a viscous stew of toxic "black material" was found below ground in several backyards, about which the negligence of Mr. Silva's alleged vigilance began to add up: an expensive, EPA-led 7 year investigation and final cleanup commenced. The anguish of many families on Rose Drive and those living on other streets where landfill wastes had been "moved to" and re-buried was barely acknowledged by Mr. Silva, if not outright dismissed.

The story that finally emerged to explain the mysteriously empty, methane-laced Blake Court, which nevertheless had been paved and readied for housing with street lamps and sidewalks, must have been known to Mr. Silva, much earlier than 1991: the city attorney had written a letter to the developer, refusing their offer of Blake Court for a city park, because of the "uncertainty of the land's condition". (I've saved a copy of that letter, this is a paraphrase.)

This may seem "old history"; but as we know, if we don't learn history, we're doomed to repeat it. I'd really like to believe Mr. Silva has changed his stripes with regard to development issues. But he didn't support Measure J that would have re-affirmed the county's "Orderly Growth Initiative" to protect county ag land from housing development and subdivisions. He's not helped Benicia be fairly represented in drafting the new county general plan. Why?

I'm voting for Linda Seifert.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Environmental Leaders Call Supervisor John Silva A Liar

Fairfield—Local environmental leaders expressed outrage today at a campaign mail piece sent to voters by Solano County Supervisor John Silva, who is currently seeking re-election. The mailer was sent to households throughout the 2nd Supervisorial District of Solano County, which includes Benicia, parts of Vallejo, Green Valley and Cordelia. The mailer asserts that "John Silva has a strong record on the environment." It also attempts to discredit his opponent Linda Seifert, and falsely portrays her as being overly pro-development.

Former Solano County Supervisor Duane Kromm takes Silva to task for the falsehoods peddled in his mailer.

“I served with John on the board of Supervisors for eight years. It is sad to watch a career politician lose focus and try to portray himself as something that he isn’t. I respect someone who has different goals and vision, and stands on them. When John now tries to become the environmentalist it is just pathetic. He isn’t an environmentalist and never has been. He simply lost sight of what is important to his District and is now trying to convince people that the developer’s friend has put on a green coat” explained Duane Kromm, former Solano County Supervisors from district 3.

"The only green John knows," continues Kromm, "is from the dollars developers and speculators are investing in his campaign," a reference to the over 25,000 dollars in campaign contributions Silva has taken from land developers like Albert Seeno.

Local Sierra Club president Jim DeKloe also takes offense at John Silva's portrayal of himself as an environmentalist. "It is a sad day when the anti-environment candidate puts out a mailer that inaccurately paints him as pro-environment," DeKloe says. "John Silva has opposed our efforts to create a Regional Park system with protected areas and hiking trails. John Silva stated during a Board of Supervisors meeting that he does not think global warming is a serious problem. John Silva supported the expansion of the garbage dump into environmentally sensitive marsh areas. John Silva is trying to open up 30,000 acres of county land (an area larger than the City of Fairfield) for development. If John Silva is an environmentalist, Donald Trump is modest."

The Solano County Orderly Growth Committee's Jack Batson is equally critical of Silva's claims.

"John would have you believe black is white and white is black," says Batson. "It is reasonable to disagree on issues and have policy debates, but this is outrageous. Obviously, he is ashamed of his real record, and therefore has no choice but to invent lies and distortions."

John Silva will face challenger Linda Seifert in the June 3rd election.

Too Many Skid Marks

By Peter Bray, Benicia

While John Silva may have been working "behind the scenes" at the county level for the past 12 years, his earlier track record in Benicia left some serious skid marks:

• When I arrived in Benicia in 1983, we had a bad joke for a post office on the west side, and a less-than-laughable library on the east side. Who then later as city councilman voted against the new library?

• Where was Benicia's City Manager while the "hides and tires" were being "reburied" in the Rose Drive area? While Blake Court was being capped? While the "methane wells" were active and general toxic chaos ran down from the East Canyon and into the Strait?

• Who was our city manager while IT's toxic ponds were leaking in the hills above Benicia, and why did it require then Mayor Marilyn O'Rourke to take action that eventually resulted in their final closure?

• As city councilman, who supported the Coke Domes Project that would have turned the Benicia waterfront into the petroleum coke waste armpit for all of Contra Costa County's refineries? Fortunately someone did the numbers and showed that there was no employment or revenue gain for Benicia or our residents, only a degrading of our local infrastructure, and a genuine risk to the global environment. Duh?

• A new County General Plan is in the offing which would allow for developer's growth outside the existing city limits in the county. No thanks, John. And there's no Benicia representation on the committee that overviews this plan?
Just who is representing Benicia at the county level?

• How long does it take to balance a county budget? Four weeks? Five weeks? It's gotta be read and added up and subtracted from, That is not rocket science.
That leaves 47-48 weeks per year for other work. And for 12 years? Gimme a break!

• Contrary to some of John Silva's campaign literature, he did not single-handedly build the new Benicia-Martinez Bridge. That was a Caltrans project.

I'm voting for Linda Seifert. Period.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Supervisor's Coup

by Will Gregory, Benicia

In endorsing Linda Seifert for Solano County Supervisor, the Solano County Orderly Growth Committee stated: " Our County’s General Plan, which protects open space and manages sensible growth, is being updated by the Board of Supervisors, ...In order to ensure that we have a new General Plan which both conserves Solano County’s miles of rural land and focuses balanced, sustainable growth within our seven cities, we need a supervisor who will stand up for our environment, not rampant rural development by special interests."

Special to the( Benicia) Herald- 4/3/2008.
In contrast, over the past couple months, I’ve been able to show the community that Supervisor John Silva is well tied to developers and real estate entities by reading, researching and writing about his campaign disclosure statements: Public Documents- Form#460. Secured at the Voters of Registrar office at the County Government building in Fairfield. These files are extremely important because they give the citizen/voter a rare glimpse into the mind-set of our elected officials. Another way to find out how a public official is doing- is to check his voting record.

One issue in particular that caught my attention was the Solano County’s General Plan/ selection process for the Citizen’s Advisory Committee.

This 16 member group was selected by the BOS to update and enhance a document that hadn’t been revised in over 20 years.

Two original members of this group were (then) Benicia Planning Commissioner Bonnie Silveria and (then) councilwoman Elizabeth Patterson.

A letter written by Nicole Byrd of the Greenbelt Alliance and (7) members of the original and second CAC team to the Vallejo Times Herald- 3/15/08- is instructive:

"...the original Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC), a well balanced committee consisting of four people appointed by each supervisor was disbanded in Jan.2007. The Supervisors claimed the committee wasn’t getting enough done. However, the original committee- like the second committee–followed agendas designed by consultants, with some input from an agenda sub-committee. Additionally, the original CAC was developing a vision plan and attending a number of field trips to various county locations in order to be better informed when making decisions. The criticism that the original CAC was not doing enough was a smokescreen by those who wanted an excuse to remake the committee."

When you check the Supervisors agenda schedule-what happened next is very revealing.

Here the Supervisors ( Chairman Michael Reagan, John Silva ) moved to send the CAC issue to the Ad Hoc- Land Use and Transportation Committee- See: BOS minutes of 1/09/08.
The senior member of this committee is Mr. Silva: who recommended that the original CAC committee be dissolved and a new CAC selection process be established.
Note: What is interesting is that, because it was "Ad Hoc" they didn’t have to have public meetings. See: BOS meeting 1/23/08. Agenda Item #21 of the Committee Report.

"The supervisors met in closed session, without public input or public viewing and hand picked the ...the new members for the second CAC." From: the above Greenbelt Alliance letter.

Where is the respect for the public process or open and transparent government, here?

Even more disturbing the # 3 item of the new Citizens Membership Report specifically states: The CAC shall not consist of individuals who in their present capacity make decisions dealing with land use such as elected officials and appointed officials. e.g. City Council-persons or Planning Commissioners will not be allowed to serve on the new CAC.
Note: the only two members of the original committee who were either elected or appointed were Ms. Patterson and Ms. Silveria.

In a 4-1 vote the second CAC was formed. Note: Supervisor Kondylis expressed her opposition to the restructuring of the CAC Membership for the Solano County General Plan Update and did not feel that there was equal geographic, gender, or ethnic representation in the new restructuring.

When you check Ms. Patterson’s resume at her web site ( See: it is full of the kind of top notch experience that should’ve been a worthy asset to this citizens group. Ms. Silveria has held numerous positions in our city government-again experience is an invaluable tool on a citizens committee.
So why would Mr. Silva, the most senior politician from Benicia, deny his own home town (native son) representation on the CAC ?

It is important to remember: Benicia was the only city in Solano Co., that voted overwhelmingly in favor of Measure J in 2006. The initiative would have extended Solano Co. Orderly Growth law for another 30 years. ( the OG law requires a " vote of the people " on any major development of agricultural land. Since Measure J failed, the OG law will expire in 2010.)

The revised General Plan draft, that has been developed by the CAC ( from which Mr. Silva removed all Benicia representation), " proposes giving the county authority " to develop agricultural land, rather than keeping development within city boundaries.
Benicia and Dixon were the only cities in Solano County that don’t have representation on the CAC.

It is also important to note that Benicia was not included in cities selected to have an Open House to preview the General Plan update. Other Solano cities had open houses, which included a walk through of the document and a question and answer session with CAC members. Benicians were directed to the JFK Library in Vallejo April 28th to be part of this important process.

So Benicia went from having two highly qualified CAC members to zero representation.

Mr. Silva, had many chances to pick another person from our city–he chose – Mr. Anthony Russo from Fairfield, to represent District 2. Mr. Russo, I have learned, is the son-in-law of Mr. Billy Yarbrough who is a major land owner in Solano County. Mr. Yarbrough owns B&L Properties, a real estate development company.
Please note: According to Mr. Silva’s 2007 campaign disclosure statement- Debbe Russo gave $1,000 to his campaign. Louise Yarbrough donated $2500 to Mr. Silva. There was also a $667 non-monetary contribution from B&L Properties.

In closing, Supervisor Silva (the third most senior politician in the county) uses his considerable muscle in closed session –Ad Hoc Committee- to deny his " home town" of any kind of respectable representation on the most important advisory committee affecting our city/ county in the last twenty years!

So we have a public official who has ties to developers-like- Seeno Co. and other special interest groups- on the one hand- and then using his years of experience as a politician and legislative maneuvering to make sure that two of our city’s most known and experienced public officials are fired . See: Mayor Elizabeth Patterson’s e-alerts. Subject: Solano Farm lands at risk-Supervisors and the Solano County General Plan. 3-15-2008 – for her reaction.

With the June 3rd District 2 election just weeks away, it is important to remember- Mr. Silva hasn’t been challenged in over 12 years- I think it is fair to ask, do we really want another four years of this kind of representation?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What has Silva done for us?

Dear Editor:

What has Mr. Silva done for us in the past 11 years?

Health Issues: According to the State, as reported on the County website, Solano has the highest rate of asthma in California. Over my career as a middle school teacher in the County, I’ve watched the number of my students with asthma, increase alarmingly.

Air pollution is a well-known contributor to asthma problems. Recently, the Bay Area Air Quality District gave the County a grade of C (down from B) for summer air pollution and a grade of D for winter air pollution.

Concerning other health issues, a recent Study reported in the Fairfield Daily Republic found that our County ranks 9th for obesity and 6th for diabetes, among counties studied. The article suggested that this could be connected to the fact that we have five times more fast food/convenience places as grocery stores. A note here: some of these fast food/convenience places were built in the past 11 years.

Finally Mr. Silva voted to use tobacco money—NOT on health related issues—but, rather, to build new County buildings.

Transportation: Recently Mr. Silva has said he will work to repair our roads. Great! The problem, though, is that Mr. Silva was supposed to be ensuring that these roads were maintained over the past 11 years. Also, during those 11 years, nothing has been done to improve perhaps the biggest road problem in Mr.Silva’s District: the I-80/680 interchange.

Listening to Constituents: Mr. Silva’s home town is Benicia—yet he removed the only two Benicians who were on the General Plan Citizen’s Panel. In addition, the General Plan Public Outreach Forum—which visited five County locations—skipped Benicia.

Attempt to Raise Taxes: Mr. Silva attempted to raise taxes at least three times. In 2002, 2004 and 2006 he supported Measures E, A and H respectively. Each of these Measures would have increased our sales tax.

Open Space: Mr. Silva was the deciding vote against a Solano Regional Park System a few years back. In addition he opposed Urban Growth Boundary Measures in Benicia (Measure K) and Fairfield (Measure L).

Budget Balancing: Mr Silva claims he has balanced 11 budgets. Yes, the County has had a balanced budget for the past 11 years. The thing is, State law requires a balanced County budget. Therefore, the County’s budget will always be balanced—no matter who sits in the Supervisor chairs.

Crime/Attracting Jobs/Survey Results: Finally, the results of the County’s own Survey, released this month—report that Benicians and Vallejoans are less satisfied with the County than other County residents. Also, despite Mr. Silva’s 11 years in office, the Survey reported that Vallejoans feel the County is, according to the Vallejo Times Herald, “barely doing enough to address” youth crimes, chronic diseases and attracting businesses and jobs. Benicians were also concerned about youth crimes as well as, according to the Benicia Herald, County government organization and environmentally friendly land-use practices.

After 11 years in office, it does not matter what John Silva may say he will do—but what he has done.

Mr. Silva has had his chance. It’s time for someone new, like Linda Seifert.

Jon Van Landschoot
Benicia, CA

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A win-win situation for Seeno?

To the editor: (Benicia Herald, May 9, 2008)

We want our City Council to keep downtown alive, to reap the most revenue possible, and leave an inheritance for Benicia for the 21st century; a legacy of intelligent land use planning, development, and a reputation for smart growth.

Benicia can be the leader in Solano County, situated perfectly between Davis and UC Berkeley for a high tech, green, campus style development in the Benicia Business Park. But Seeno wants us to wait for him to build his passé commercial development as a first phase, and wait for the second phase, proposed for 5-8 years from now…..that will be too late.

A huge opportunity for Benicia has arrived. There are investors RIGHT NOW ready to invest in and facilitate green technology and there are companies RIGHT NOW looking for places to build imaginative, clean-tech developments. There are also countless numbers of bright, educated people right here in this town, that are willing to help forge a vision for the Benicia Business Park, aka the Seeno Project.

The trick is what to do with the old project we have now. There is precious little to be recommended in terms of the needs of Benicia and the 21st century. The conditions recently styled by the City Staff are easily dodged or ignored. And we are not equipped to establish a development agreement (although that would be preferable to nothing at all). Seeno has said that they will not accept a development agreement anyway.

Maybe there is way to find a win-win solution here.

First, the Council must insist that Seeno give it time to learn about alternative, profitable possibilities.

Second, the Council needs to work with Benicia First in helping to create a forum with speakers from the field of clean-tech, with examples of cities working with these concepts of green industry and research and development campuses. Let’s listen to the experts.….let’s learn together.

Third, given that the future of Benicia’s well-being lies in Council’s hands, they must negotiate with Seeno from a position of strength and accommodate both the town and Seeno….. by opening their minds to the possibilities and find an alternative where Benicia AND Seeno can win.

This is not an easy task, but I sincerely believe that the Council has the ability to accomplish this for Benicia. The challenge is this: Why settle for second best? A brand new, clean tech project is the right choice for Benicia.

Susan Street
Benicia, CA

[Note: to learn about the Seeno Project and what it means for Benicia, go to , and to keep up to date on rapidly evolving developments in the approval process, go to ]

Friday, May 2, 2008

A deeper look at the Solano County 2008 election

by Will Gregory, April 2008

" Money is the mother’s milk of politics"
Jesse Unruh, Speaker of the California Assembly-1961-1969

One of my favorite quotations from James Madison in 1822, is that a popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy. Or perhaps both."
– Article: Neither Popular Government Nor Popular Information- spotted in Z magazine, March 2008 -

The author of the article is Professor Emeritus Edward S. Herman– He continues,
"By ‘popular government’ I think Madison meant an elected government and by ‘ popular information ’ I think he meant information that would be useful to the citizenry and allow them to make intelligent choices consistent with their own interests and perception of the public interest. Of course if you have an elected government without popular information there is a good chance that you may end up with a government that serves the special interests that control that flow of information. In that case popular government would be a misleading phrase, as the elected government would likely be a servant of those special interests."

In this particular installment I will concentrate on District 5 Supervisor Michael Reagan. Closing with questions and comments about this County election cycle.

Very much like his colleague District 2 Supervisor John Silva, Mr. Reagan has secured contributions from a variety of sources.

Here are some of the highlights: 62 pages of [campaign disclosure statements/ public documents] that candidates are required to file by law.

These are the cumulative totals for all of 2007 up to March 17, 2008.

Mr. Reagan has raised: $117,888. (of this amount- $13,070 came from un itemized monetary contributions of less than $100.)

Mr. Reagan has had 171contributors –"39" of which came from out side the county. The out of county cash totals: $15, 584.

Largest contributors: out of county.
1.) Lodi Gas & Storage...Acampo, CA .$1,500.
2.) Abernathy Valley...... Mt. View ...$1,000.
3.) ENXCO No. Palm Springs .. $500. Wind Power Co.
4.)Ferma Corp. Mt. View ....$500. General Engineering Contractors.

Largest county contributors:
1.) John and Lola Dobles............................ $10,700. Cattle rancher.
2. ) MV Transportation ............................... $10,000 . Fairfield Transportation Co.
3.) Northern Solano Co. Assoc. Of Realtors. $3,000
4.) Yolano Engineers, Inc. ...........................$2500. Land Survey Co.
5.) Jelly Belly Co. .......................................$1,500. Candy Co.
6.) Biggs Realty ..........................................$1599.

Trade Groups:
1.) Nor Cal Waste Management Co. ...PAC #921099. S.F. $250.
2.) North Bay Credit Union Vallejo. $1,000.
3.) Golden Gate Chapter of Assoc. Builders. Pleasanton. $ 500.

To sell himself, so far, Mr. Reagan has spent $46,000 ( Note: That is more than District 2 Linda Seifert and District 5 Skip Thompson have spent on their respective campaigns combined!! See below.)

1.) MMS Strategies ..Sacramento. Consultant fees and polling. $32,000.
2.) Sharp Public Affairs. Vacaville. Video Production; voter link; and consulting fees.
3.) Simz Production..Sacramento. T.V. Video. $3,000.

In contrast, challenger Mr. Skip Thompson has raised a modest sum of just over $14,000. From 44 donors. Mr. Thompson has had "5" out of county contributors totaling...$1900.

Here as you can see, Mr. Reagan has raised more money outside of Solano Co.. Than Mr. Thompson has raised in the county. This is the same scenario in the Seifert vs Silva race. ($30,000 vs $52,000)

This outside monetary influence is unfair and undemocratic; (we saw this in our last Benicia election when then Planning Commissioner Mr. Scot Strawbridge raised over $61,000 from out of town sources) I believe if it continues, it will cause the citizenry to lose confidence in the integrity–of what is suppose to be a " LOCAL COUNTY ELECTION."

So this powerful duo of Supervisors (our popular government) Michael Reagan and John Silva have dominated the election process and the politics (political direction) in Solano County.

Or as professor Herman, states," In that case ‘popular government’ would be a misleading phrase, as the elected government would likely be a servant of those special interests."

Here’s the breakdown:
Mr. Silva is just over $116,000 up to: March 2008. Nearly $52,000 came outside the county from 65 donors out of a total of 161 contributors.

Mr. Reagan’s figures of nearly $118,000 raised– with over $15,500 from outside the county.

With yet one more contribution filing set for May 22 for both of these incumbents.

The opposition candidates: Linda Seifert and Skip Thompson have raised a humble $44,000 combined. Outside contributions for Ms. Seifert total: $2500 from 13 donors.

These kinds of figures (over $234,000 in this last election cycle-with well over 25% of contributions coming from outside Solano County ) would seem to indicate a "certain pattern" of special interests money pouring into our county for these incumbent elected officials.

Especially when you compare and contrast senior District 1 Supervisor Barbara Kondylis’ present campaign for another 4 year term on the Board. Ms. Kondylis has raised just over $6,000. With no special interest money,in her file. And only "2 " outside contributors totaling $1200.

This kind of largess is just a microcosm of what the citizens see at state and national elections. They may be smaller amounts, but the influence and impacts are the same. This is only what (the community) knows about through these public documents; what is going on behind closed private business doors is anybody’s guess?

Questions: WHY is so much money coming into Solano County? One astute political observer asked me recently is the county up for sale? Should this be a campaign issue? WHO is really represented by my elected officials? How do modest/grassroots campaigns compete (legitimately) against this onslaught of cash? WHERE is the accountability to the public sector,here? WHAT government agency/citizens group/grand jury(?) oversees this kind of abuse of the electoral system?? Is it time for public financing of elections in Solano County? Do we need a Measure T (Tea Party) in our county. Please See: (google) Measure T campaign in Humboldt Co., for example.
Or go to .

If as President James Madison states-- "we don’t have the popular information"– i.e. an informed citizenry. For example- not one of the" newspapers in our county" has covered the past contribution filing period of March 22. (As of this writing)

Both of the working clerks I have come to know in the Registrar of Voters office were both astounded that not a single reporter had come in to check for the campaign disclosure state- ments of the candidates and incumbents. They both can’t remember this ever happening in the past.

How can we as citizens of Benica have the "popular information", President Madison considers essential to our democracy; when our own home town paper doesn’t even cover the Board of Supervisors meetings or our most senior politician on consistent basis?

Is this the prologue to a farce or tragedy. Or perhaps both. That Madison warns us of ?

These are serious concerns. I hope the community would agree.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Fiscal Conservative John Silva?? Facts from the past speak for themselves!

January 24, 1997
Contra Costa Times Editorial -- regretting their endorsement of John Silva...

Solano supe’s costly raise

Compared with others they are not underpaid

[Reprint of January 1997 editorial from CCTimes]
Solano County Supervisors did something last week [January 1997] we probably all wish we could do. They gave themselves a 41 percent raise. On a 3-2 vote, supervisors raised their salaries more than $14,000 – from $34,932 to $49, 399.

Supervisors contend they are underpaid when compared to supervisors in other Northern California counties, specifically Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Stanislaus.

This raise is outrageous. First, they aren’t comparing apples to apples. Solano is smaller, more rural and the cost of living is less compared to Contra Costa, for example. Check these numbers. Solano: 2,500 employees, population 375,000. Contra Costa: 6,800 employees, population 868,600, supervisor’s pay $50,328.

Although Alameda wasn’t used in Solano’s comparison, here’s how it’s numbers compare
: 10,000 employees, 1.3 million people, supervisor’s pay $63,000.

Besides having fewer people to manage and a smaller population to serve, it cost less to live in Solano than Contra Costa and most of Alameda. And it’s far less than Marin.

Disappointingly, newly elected Supervisor John Silva of Benicia voted for the raise. Silva won the Times endorsement when he told our editorial board before last spring’s primary that he would consider hiring freezes, early retirements and even reducing supervisors’ pay to meet budget demands. Silva’s vote on this issue makes The Times regret its endorsement of him.

Besides embarrassing themselves, the supervisors have opened the floodgates. The county’s largest employee union says it wants equal treatment when its contracts expire in October. They make a good point. Supervisors can hardly claim to be fiscal conservatives now.

If supervisors truly believe they are underpaid – which they aren’t – at least they should have approved the raise incrementally. Supervisors were wrong to give themselves this raise. They should rescind the action and apologize to county taxpayers.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Supervisor John Silva’s 2007-8 campaign war chest (as of March 17 filing)

Will Gregory, Benica, CA, March 2008

The District 2 Supervisor’s race of three term incumbent John Silva vs newcomer Linda Seifert is one that promises to give the citizenry of our district a choice of continuing with an entrenched politician, Mr. Silva, or the opportunity to break from the past and start in a new more progressive direction with attorney-public advocate Ms. Seifert ( See: to learn more about her campaign.)

A concern about Mr. Silva is: Does he really represent the interests of citizens? According to Campaign Disclosure Statements, Mr. Silva has no trouble accepting cash contributions from special interest groups or " out of county corporations". Very often politicians represent, primarily, those who give them money.

Here are some highlights of Mr. Silva’s more than 50 pages of campaign disclosure statements for 2007-8, for the filing period ending March 17, 2008.

** Mr. Silva has raised $116,290 ( Note: Only $5,029 of this money came from un itemized monetary contributions of less than $100.)

** Mr. Silva has had 161 contributors (individuals, organizations and corporations)- 65 of which came from "out of county." (Key fact: the out of county cash totals nearly $52,000.)

** Two out of state contributors were Valero Energy Corp. of San Antonio, Texas ($4,000) and AWIN Management (Allied Waste Industries) of Phoenix, Arizona ( $2000).

** Largest contributors-out of county-
1.) Olney Land & Cattle Co.: Four Bar Cattle Co....Concord...$3,000.
2.) Yolano Engineers, Inc. Napa...$5000. ( Land Survey Co..)
3.) De Silva Gates Construction Dublin. $3000.
4.) Lucas, Austin &Alexander, LLC- Newport Beach .$4500. ( Real Estate Development Co.)

** Largest-in county contributors:
1.) Falati & Associates, Fairfield. $2,500. ( Insurance Co.)
2.) Lindemann Enterprises. Fairfield. $1450 (Suisun Valley Grape Growers Assoc.)
3.) MV Transportation, Fairfield. ...... $2500.
4.) Jelly Belly, Fairfield. ................. $1500. (Candy Company)

** Trade Groups:
1.) IBEW-Local#180 PAC#1259083. Napa... $1650.
2.) Cement Masons Local 400. Pac#68-0444454. Sacramento... $500.
3.) United Assoc. Journeyman Plumbers&Steam Fitters Local 343. PAC # 862309. Vallejo..$3,000.

In addition, Mr. Silva has received money from the Seeno Company called West Coast Home Builders. ($250)

With one filing period to go before the June 3 election- scheduled for May 22nd,2008- Mr. Silva could possibly raise $150 thousand for his supervisor’s seat.

Let me close with a series of questions and comments for District 2 voters to consider:

We know that Mr. Silva is a Benicia Native son. He has served 22 years on the Benicia police force. Was Benicia City Manager from 1979-1987. Spent two terms on the city council. He now has served 12 years as County Supervisor for our district.

Mr. Silva is the most senior politician in our community-third most senior, in time of public service, in Solano County.

As far as I know, however, I’ve never seen a column from Mr. Silva about Solano county politics in any local newspaper. You would think, with his long background in public service, we would hear from Mr. Silva through public discourse. Curious?

I started to think, when was the last time Mr. Silva held a public meeting? For example at the Dona Benicia Room or Council chambers about the doings and happenings (important business that concerns our District) at the upper county level. As far as I know, no meetings have been scheduled.

I started to think when was the last time I received a mailer, flyer or letter from Supervisor Silva letting me know about his job as my representative. Can’t recall ever receiving any mailing from Mr. Silva. Odd?

I started to think, when was the last time I saw Mr. Silva in person (he lives in Benicia) yet he doesn’t seem to attend city functions or council or planning commission meetings. He is not a visible presence in our town.

I started to think what kind of representation is this, when we never hear, see or meet with our District 2 Supervisor at the local level?

I believe these are fair questions and concerns. I hope the community would agree.

As a concerned citizen, taxpayer and voter, I’ve presented key public documents that give the citizens hard facts and figures (discovered truths) about Mr. Silva’s contributors–and have asked some relevant questions about the incumbent’s nearly invisible representation in our city. It is up to us-the citizens- to pay attention to this mid summer election- and make a decision about important change at the District 2 level.

Seifert vs. Silva: Ladies and gentleman–start your engines.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Supervisor John Silva’s 1996-7 campaign war chest

Will Gregory, Benicia, CA
Feb. 2008.

" I’ll run as hard as I did the first time I ran for the board and do all of the things that need to be done to be elected to the board." -District 2 Supervisor John Silva
Source: " Touting change, Seifert goes up against Silva," Benicia Herald, 2/12/08.

I received a call on my way home from work on Friday from the Registrar of Voters, that, my request for Mr. John Silva’s 1996-7 Campaign Disclosure Statement Form #460 was ready for pick-up. Requested on Monday of the same week–I was told it wouldn’t be ready until after the Super Tuesday Feb. 5th election. Kudos to Denise Nussbaum, who was very helpful, despite the pressure of the up coming voting period.

This County election was the first for Mr. Silva. He ran against union activist Doris Lowe. I’ve asked a few local- veterans of the political wars who Ms. Lowe was (?) but, I’m still in the dark about this person. Here, I’ve learned, that the late Ms. Lowe ran a low budget campaign-$28 thousand- (checked her file , also) and lost the election by just 600 votes.

What we do know is that Mr. Silva is running for a fourth term as supervisor for District 2.

He has won three elections. Two of the three elections, Mr. Silva ran unopposed. This of course would explain why so little money was spent in the 2000 and 2004 election cycles. $28 thousand and $19 thousand respectively. (Note: spent time going over these files as well.)

I think it is important for the citizens of the community to have a fuller picture of Mr. Silva’s election history. These campaign disclosure statements are PUBLIC DOCUMENTS- that reveal a paper trail of money and influence.

In the 1996-7 election cycle Mr. Silva had 157 contributors, "49" of these came from "outside the county" limits. This is an important statistic. Just like in our local Benicia election, outside interests can play a significant role in determining who will win an elected seat, in county government.

Mr. Silva raised over $60 thousand for this election period.

Mr. Silva’s file of documents was 74 pages- covering the time frame of 1/1/‘96 to 4//16/‘97.

Here are some of the highlights for the community of District 2 to consider:

The most startling information in this packet was that the Seeno Co., and its subsidiaries were a major player in this election. (10 entries)
A. Seeno Enterprises (Pittsburgh) $100.
B. Seeno Financial and Construction (Concord) $298.
C. Albert Seeno (Concord ) $697.
D. West Coast Homebuilders P.O. Box # 4113.(Concord ) $498.
E. Seeway Family Homebuilders, Inc.. P.O. Box # 4113 ( Concord ) $598.

Note: We now know, that this relationship between Mr. Silva and the Seeno Co. goes back to 1996. –What I hope to do in the near future is to check Mr. Silva’s council Campaign Disclosure Statements, to see how this relationship between publicly elected official and private corporate entity has evolved.

Outside Solano County groups contributing to John Silva:

Browning Ferris Waste Management Co.....$1,000.
KSK Management-Property Management....$1,000.
James Baird, CEO Bay Area Development Co..$500.
Walnut Creek.
Olney Land and Cattle Co. $1,000.
CRE/PAC–BORPAC ( California Real Estate Political Action Committee and Board of Realtors)
Los Angeles $400.
Carpenters Historical Society of the Bay Area....$1500.

Out of State donation:
Pacific Generation Co. $100.
Portland, Oregon

Trade Groups:
Plumbers and Steam Fitters $2,000.
District Council of Ironworkers $200.
Operating Engineeers District #4. $200.
AT&T West PAC $500.

Police And Fire contributions.

Peace Officer Reserve Association, Sacramento (PAC) $250.
Vallejo Firefighters Local #1186 (PAC) $500.

Consultant fees paid.
J Burchill and Assoc., Inc. .........$7,483.

Miscellaneous person(s) and organizations of interest:
Tom Gavin... (Chamber of Commerce) $150.
Brian Tulloch (Builder/Developer) $249.
Bruce Adams (Owner of the Bottom of the Fifth–Bar Establishment) $1,023.
Charles Britt ( Powerhouse Realty) $200.
Norman Koerner (Benicia Realty Investments) $549.
Virginia Souza ( City Treasurer, Benicia) $198.
VALPAC ( Vallejo Chamber of Commerce) $650.
West Coast Beauty Supply (located in Benicia) $950.
Benicia Plumbing $1150.
Benicia Industries $250.

If as Supervisor Silva states from (the above Benicia Herald article)" I’ve been accessible to the public." These PUBLIC DOCUMENTS also show he has been accessible to PACS’; special interests groups; developers and real estate firms. This kind of pattern shows up again in the 2007 campaign disclosure statements. Stay tuned. I hope to share this information with the community in the near future.

County's draft general plan deserves scrutiny

To: The Reporter Editor:
submitted by Nicole Byrd, Fairfield.

After reading recent letters regarding the Solano County general plan update process, we felt that a few other points should be made about what occurred with the process during 2007.

First, let's not forget that the original Citizen's Advisory Committee, a well-balanced committee consisting of four people appointed by each supervisor, was disbanded shortly after Supervisor Jim Spering took office in 2007.

The supervisors claimed that the committee wasn't getting enough done; however, the original committee - as did the second committee - followed agendas designed by consultants, with some input from an agenda subcommittee.

Additionally, the original committee was developing a vision plan and attending a number of field trips to various county locations to be better informed when making decisions.

The criticism that the original committee was not doing enough was a "smoke screen" by those who wanted an excuse to remake the committee.

The board, chaired by Supervisor Mike Reagan, directed Supervisors Spering and John Silva as an "ad hoc subcommittee" to review the structure of the Citizens Advisory Committee.

Supervisors Spering and Silva met in closed session, without public input or public viewing, and hand-picked the vast majority of the new members for the second committee. Each supervisor was allowed only one appointment in addition to those selected by the subcommittee. This was a move to change the original, well-balanced committee and replace it with a more development-oriented group.
The timeline is another point of contention.

The committee was forced to make important decisions, often with insufficient data, just to meet the timeline. In fact, the timeline was clearly more important than careful study of the issues. Only Supervisor Barbara Kondylis has shown the wisdom to question this overly hasty process.

As members of both the original and second citizens advisory committees, we wanted the public to hear more of the story.

A new Solano County general plan is a critically important blueprint for how and where Solano will develop during the next 20 to 30 years. The new plan is quite different than the original plan and it deserves a thorough public airing and discussion.

We urge the county, in addition to the circulation of the general plan's Draft Environmental Impact Report for review and comments, to thoroughly and publicly present the draft general plan to solicit input from throughout the county and consider the concerns and comments expressed.

Nicole Byrd, Fairfield.
This letter also was signed by Patrica Gatz of Vallejo, Eva Laevastu of Green Valley and Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, all of whom, like Ms. Byrd, served on both the original 20-member and the second 16-member Citizens Advisory Committee; as well as original committee members Marti Brown of Vallejo, Jeanne McCormack of Rio Vista and Ian Anderson of Birds Landing.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

What’s Wrong with the New General Plan?

By Gary Boudreaux
Green Valley Landowners Assn.

The Solano County Board of Supervisors is preparing a new general plan, setting forth principles to guide the evolution of the county in the coming 20 years. Unfortunately, there has been almost no direct citizen involvement in the creation of this plan, raising profound reasons for concern on the part of the average citizen.

So what's wrong with the county's new general plan?

• The proposed plan sets the stage for county-based development, even though our cities have provided effective jurisdiction over residential and commercial development since the county was established. (There is no obvious justification for this change, as the county shares in the fee revenues collected by the cities, and the county would not receive additional tax revenues after the costs of new services were paid.)

• The draft general plan is overly vague in its definitions or intent in utilizing lands within its newly created "municipal service areas," but it is clear that the county intends to encourage development in areas adjacent to existing cities, whether the cities want it or not. This will create poorly mitigated traffic, noise, diminished air quality, uncompensated use of city services, school crowding, and competition for utilities - all with no input from the affected cities.

• The proposed plan puts the county in competition with its cities for development, and interferes with cities' rights of self-determination and their established urban limit lines.

• The proposed general plan runs contrary to all well-known principles of smart or sustainable growth, in which development is planned in areas where there are existing services, not in scattered rural areas with no services or adjacent to municipalities where services must be duplicated.

• The notice of preparation for the plan's environmental impact report was issued before the draft plan was made available. It is obvious that the board is eager to get the plan completed and in front of the voters by Nov. 4 at any cost. The public comment period on the notice was to have expired Feb. 4.

• The proposed general plan clearly favors development interests and large landowners over long-term public interests. It fails to explain the justification for additional development in county areas. It especially fails to explain the general conversion of prime agricultural lands to residential development.

• The environmental impact report assessing the county's draft general plan is being prepared by the same company that was hired to write the general plan itself. How is it possible to objectively critique a work one has just written? Although permissible, the process smacks of conflict of interest and displays the single-minded urgency and profound lack of objectivity of the entire plan.

• County supervisors are establishing mutual sewer and water districts in rural areas to accommodate new developments, yet claim that these measures are not growth-inducing in and of themselves. These proposals, when written into our general plan, will radically and permanently alter rural Solano County.

• The proposed plan sets the stage for future rural land use designation changes by failing to establish concrete measures ensuring the protection of agriculture, habitat or open space. It addresses these critical concerns with vague platitudes.

• The rural character of Solano County is likely to be lost forever. Without public outcry, Solano County will go the way of Sacramento, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

The coming Solano County general plan is a plain and simple land grab and opens the door to unprecedented development, inevitably turning Solano County into an overpopulated, densely developed, urban cityscape. Our Board of Supervisors has no business developing the county in ways that are unsustainable by our infrastructure and our natural resources.

What can the average person do?

They can voice their opinions in writing to the Board of Supervisors.

They can vote against the acceptance of the general plan. Vote for those who care about our county heritage and the future of our county as we enjoy it today.

They can attend the Board of Supervisor meetings and speak out against the wholesale unbalanced sellout of Solano County to development interests.

Our children, and their children, deserve no less.


Information about the general plan and the process for adopting it can be found online at