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?

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