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.

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