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.