Saturday, October 31, 2009

Vote for Smith

by Roger Straw, Oct. 31, 2009

In the summer of 2008, it looked very much like Albert Seeno would finally get his way with the city of Benicia. Many in our community were astonished that a majority on the city council were ready to approve staff's recommendation of Mr. Seeno's decidedly unworthy project proposal to grade and commercialize our beautiful hills north of town. Vocal opposition and expert critique had come forward, Benicia First! held a great series of public educational forums, and our small Green Gateway Group worked up an alternative vision for development north of our fair city.

At that time, many thought that only one or two votes on our five-member council could be counted on to listen and vote "no" on Seeno. Most everyone was sure that Mr. Hughes and Mr. Schwartzman would continue to support whatever proposal came forth from Seeno and Discovery Builders. I recall presenting the work of our Green Gateway Group at several council meetings in the fall, and I recall the indifference and dismissal of our group by city staff and council members, particularly a few very cynical and biting statements made by Mr. Schwartzman, questioning our motives and intent.

Not until Mike Ioakimedes took a stand alongside Mayor Patterson and Councilmember Tom Campbell for good air and a safe environment for Benicia's schoolchildren, did the Seeno train run off the tracks. When the project had all but failed, some very serious and creative negotiations resulted in a reversal of the vote to deny, and the train was back on the tracks again, this time with a very different look. The project would be overseen by a Specific Plan, a Development Agreement, and a citizen oversight committee, and would comply with new state laws AB32 and SB375. There would be a new environmental study, and protections for Semple School. Mr. Seeno committed to a number of other design characteristics, including LEEDS certified buildings, free public transit to and from the site, and a plan for proactive promotion and recruitment of green/clean technology users. The council voted 5-0 to reconsider, and everyone felt hopeful, but then Mr. Seeno pulled the project for the time being, citing the economic downturn.

At every point in this public process, Mr. Hughes and Mr. Schwartzman, honorable and respected in so many ways, could not bring themselves to stand up to the commercial interests and staff recommendations that drove the Seeno project, and would not give thoughtful citizens a decisive voice in planning and oversight.

I believe it is imperative that at least one of our city council incumbents be replaced. My vote in this election is strongest in unseating an incumbent if I vote only once, for candidate Dan Smith. Dan has worked as an advocate for open space for years in our community, and demonstrated his ability to say no when necessary to the powers that be. I reject outright Mr. Schwartzman's claim that it is somehow unfair or undemocratic to cast a single vote on Tuesday. "Bullet voting" means casting an intelligent single vote for the single most qualified candidate, and it is a time-honored and fair electoral strategy in the United States.

Please join me in voting for Dan Smith for City Council.

Dan's the One!

Dan is the man

by Jane Vanderwerf, Oct. 30, 2009

I've attended city council meetings periodically over the past couple of years and have seen council candidates Mr. Hughes and Mr. Schwartzman in action. My impression was that, when presented with a vote that forced them to choose between what a business wanted and what might be viewed by cautious people as protecting Benicia citizens' health, well-being and quality of life, their votes tended to be on the side of business. If you agree with this, by all means vote for one or both of these men. As for me (being one of those cautious people), I am voting for Dan Smith.

Mr. Smith is pro-business while at the same time being careful to ensure that both Benicia citizens and its businesses come out ahead in the process. He has served on the council before, in addition to having participated in other civic committees and volunteer organizations in town over the past 20-plus years. Dan Smith knows Benicia well and has a good feel for what its citizens want in terms of programs and services. If you are interested in maintaining Benicia's high quality of life and increasing the city's business tax revenues by electing a person dedicated to boosting First Street, the industrial park and our other commercial areas, vote for Dan Smith and only Dan Smith.

Please take the time to vote on Tuesday and remember, "Dan's the One."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dan Smith answers Benicia Herald

Dan Smith, Candidate for City Council on Nov. 3, answers the Benicia Herald questionnaire.
Dan's Website ; Dan's Blog

Personal: Dan Smith
Birthplace: Anaheim, CA
Age: 52
Years in Benicia: 22
Job/Company: Community relations specialist/Currently freelance
Family: Wife Diana, daughters Jessica and Catherine

Political history

How did you get into politics?

I have engaged in political discussions since I was young. Shortly after moving to Benicia, I was encouraged to apply for a city commission by then-Mayor Marilyn O’Rourke. I had always been involved in coaching and playing baseball, so I applied and was appointed to the Benicia Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Commission in 1990. Then, when the city planned to replace the playground in City Park, I saw the proposed equipment and thought the park was too special for typical catalogue variety equipment. My wife and I and several other families worked together to organize volunteers to build the Playground of Dreams. It was a life-changing experience that has inspired me in politics and community work ever since.

When were you first interested?

When I was 10, I was affected by the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. It compelled me to learn more and take a lifelong interest in politics. I later wrote editorials for my high school newspaper, including one urging President Nixon to surrender his tapes. I also took some Political Science classes while at Cal. As an adult, I read a great deal and engage in discussions to keep up on the politics of each city and county where I have lived.

What motivated you to run for Benicia City Council?

In the late 1990s, I was inspired by the work of Councilwoman Jan Cox-Golovich and other leaders I had admired through the years. As a newspaper journalist for 17 years, I had reported on several city councils in California, including Benicia’s. Many people were asking me if I would consider running. I also felt that too much power was being wielded by the city manager, who was also police chief at the time. The council was being led astray from our General Plan, so I ran for the first time and won in 2001. Then, in both 2005 and this year, I was asked again by many Benicians to run. I am proud of past achievements like the Playground of Dreams, the XPark skatepark and the 10,000-acre Tri-City Open Space and am driven to repeat those successes on behalf of the city I love.

What do you think you would bring to the Council, if elected?

I am a voice for young people and for the environment, two critically important aspects of society too often neglected in politics. In addition, I am an independent who endeavors to be consistent, yet weigh each decision on its own merits, on a case-by-case basis. Mayor Patterson and I agree on a great many things, but not always. We did not always vote the same way when I was on the City Council.

Finally, regarding the most important issue before the City Council, I will insist on a first-class project from the Seeno development that adheres to the components of the community-based agreement. With me on the council, I believe there will be a majority who will not accept a project that would violate our city’s General Plan with regard to environmental impact and sustainability. That is the key difference between me and the incumbents.

What issues in this race do you feel you’re most qualified to address? How, then, would you address those issues if elected?

I have been working on the Seeno project since the late 1990s when I was on the Economic Development Board and during my time on City Council 2001-2005. I am qualified to address that issue and, as I mentioned in my response to the previous question, I will insist on a first-class, sustainable business park.

I opposed the city’s takeaway of the scout houses when I was on the City Council, and I will push to get permanent housing as soon as possible for Benicia’s scouting programs at Mills Community Center. The troops are in temporary portable housing right now.

I have been a leader in preserving open space and creating trails throughout Southern Solano County for 15 years on the Tri-City Open Space group and other committees. I will continue to work toward creation of the county’s first regional park and completion of a Carquinez Shoreline Loop Trail. Both of these projects will improve quality of life and stimulate economic development in Benicia.

What direction do you think Benicia is heading during the next four years? Where do you see Benicia four years from now?

Benicia, unlike many cities, is in solid financial shape during this recession thanks to the 20% General Fund Reserve we approved when I was on the City Council with Tom Campbell. I think that will continue. We are closer to getting a good project from the Seeno company, which could be one way to create jobs and help Benicia in the next couple years, assuming we find ways to mitigate the environmental impacts on the East Second Street corridor, including Semple school.

I am concerned about the ability of our school district to provide the same excellent level of instruction that my children have benefited from here, with state funding per student being slashed dramatically. My record of improving city cooperation with the district in the Joint Use Agreement revision proves I am a strong advocate for the district at City Hall, which could be critical to the district’s continued success. I was a major force behind the city stepping up on maintenance of the community ball fields, used by everyone but owned by the financially strapped school district.

The county’s continuing public access at the Lynch Canyon open space and the opening of the bicycle/pedestrian lane on the Benicia-Martinez Bridge have been huge steps, suggesting that the aforementioned regional park and loop trail could happen by 2013 with an improved economy and enlightened leadership.

We have money in the Valero Improvement Project Mitigation Fund for possible land acquisition in our Arsenal, reviving the potential of a Civil War history park on Jefferson Street. With vision we can polish the jewel that is the Benicia Arsenal.

In what areas do you think Benicia has succeeded in the past? Where has it fallen short? How can it address those areas better, and what can it do to keep addressing the other areas well?

Benicia has done a pretty good job at preserving one of California’s most historic and charming cities as the Bay Area has exploded with growth and population. Traditions like the parades and the Holiday Open House may be the best things about Benicia along with its waterfront view and great weather. Staying around 30,000 people instead of building in Sky Valley was a superb, critical decision by the community. It protected the small town feel, which is fragile enough with the freeway bisecting two distinct residential areas.

Certainly the Library and the Playground of Dreams were two great successes of 1992. Our Community Park was completed a few years later and it is an award-winner. I think the improvement of the foot of First Street was a great accomplishment, especially after we saved and moved the old Lido building.

As for mistakes, I already mentioned prematurely taking away the scout houses and how it should be remedied ASAP.

In my opinion, we did not get good work from our environmental impact consultants on either the Seeno project or the Lower Arsenal Mixed Used Specific Plan. I believe there are even more shortcomings to the Arsenal environmental impact report than those the city has already tried to correct, and I think that dense housing as has been proposed in the Arsenal would be ill-advised. We need both the Council and staff to be more demanding of high-paid consultants, not allow them to submit subpar work.

We have fallen behind on what the Association of Bay Area Governments estimates should be our “fair share” of affordable housing time and again, too often allowing developments of only expensive single-family homes. We need to find appropriate places for affordable housing and commit to them, preferably as in-fill in residential areas but not in sizeable open space areas.

Sometimes it’s difficult for some organizations in town to work together, particularly ones that have common interest like the Chamber and Main Street or the Historical Society and the Historical Museum. Perhaps we can all try to think outside the box and keep the town’s best interests at heart. The formation of the new Arts and Cultural Commission may serve as a useful example of groups coming together for a common good.

Finally, why should Benicians vote for you over your opponents?

I am honest and hard-working. Children and the environment are my top priorities, and I have a track record that proves I will lead that way and vote for what is best for Benicia. I am accessible and work hard at communicating with Benicians through email, community meetings and the phone. I believe that, as your Councilmember, I will help to protect Benicia and encourage the City to thrive.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

David R. Archer for School Board

by Norma Fox

If you are dismayed that your ballot does not show any statement from David R. Archer, Benicia School Board Candidate, and you would like to know more about him and what he could offer to the Board, check out his blog at

A quick review of the questions and answers on that page will reveal that he brings an important set of skills and knowledge to the school board that it currently lacks.

His education and work experience are particularly strong in the area of financial expertise ( he is a Certified Internal Auditor with a Masters in Accounting and Information Systems). These skills and experience would be especially useful in guiding the board through the budgetary constraints and decisions it will face in the years ahead.

In addition, he has specialized training and experience in implementing strategic planning and organizational efficiency measures for large organizations.

It’s also nice to note that he currently has three children in our Benicia schools (elementary and middle school), and he is an active volunteer in youth sports coaching.

There are three positions open for the School Board on Nov. 3. Our two incumbents, Dana Dean and Rosie Switzer, both have proven records of quality service on the Board. It looks to me that David R. Archer would be a great complement to that team.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why "Dan's the One"

by Jon Van Landschoot

Dan Smith is a true Public Servant. His efforts on behalf of our community and youth reach back nearly 20 years.

In 1992, Dan was the leader of the volunteers that built the wonderful Play Ground of Dreams. This park continues to be used, daily, by scores of our families.

Dan , as a past member for several years of the Youth Action Task Force, has long been a strong advocate for the Scouts and youth activities in our town. He was, and remains, a champion for helping our schools maintain and improve their sport fields.

Dan has chaired the Tri-City Open Space Citizens' Committee. This group actively seeks to promote a county-wide Regional Park System . Also, he was a driving force behind saving Sky Valley from being developed ( Measure " K " in 2003.) Dan is a big supporter of the efforts to make our First Street Green into a truly spectacular and inspiring waterfront venue. To Dan, Open Space is a cause, not a convenient campaign slogan.

Open Government is the essence of our Democracy. Dan pushed for, and voted into existence, our " Open Government " Commission in 2005. Not all members of the present Council supported such a commission. Nor, did the same council members support and sign the recent "Clean Elections " petition this past Summer. This effort was greatly aided by Dan's vigorous efforts to collect signatures to limit the money spent to influence our local elections. The current election limits are a direct result of the efforts of Tom Campbell , Dan and other concerned citizens .

The State Parks were "saved" recently , but still remain underfunded and in danger of cuts in the future. Dan was with the group who campaigned last year and this to "Save Our Parks ". He will not relent until the State parks are fully funded .

While on the City Council, Dan voted to create the Historic Preservation Review Commission , and helped Benica seek Certified Local Gov't status. Long a supporter of Historic Preservation in our quaint town, Dan continues seeking protection for our many assests that will enhance our draw as a tourism haven.

The City's budget is currently being hit by Sacramento's grabbing a lot of our share of local property taxes. Dan has long stressed the importance of a sustainable budget process and voted to require a 20 % General Fund Reserve. This is still the standard to which Dan holds firm. Past salary contracts passed during the reign of the former mayor have made the city's legacy cost rise dramatically . According to a Contra Costa Times article in September, we rank in the top ten of regional cities whose employees make over $100,000 annually. Dan is convinced that this path is not sustainable.

And finally, the Seeno Project ! Dan remains a tireless crusader for an environmentally sentive 21st Century project with an enforcible Development Agreement. None of the other candidates is so committed to " Getting it right " . Just remember who on the Council voted for the flawed Environmental Impact Report & Project each and every time . Dan opposes the removing of the hills and the massive traffic and pollution problems this unrefined project could bring to our town.
Dan stands with the community !

Dan is the " One " candidate who acts on his commitments all the time, not just around election time ! You often see Dan at civic events around town seeking to maintain and improve our life style.

In the Benicia City Council race, Dan is truly the " One ".

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Seeno project is the difference

by Norma Fox, Oct. 16, 2008

Wondering what’s the difference between the three leading candidates (Hughes, Schwartzman, and Smith) in the upcoming City Council election? They’re all well-meaning competent citizens with years of service to Benicia, so what’s the big difference?

The Seeno project is the difference!

When the Seeno project is developed (528 acres of open land, zoned industrial/ commercial, in the north corner of Benicia near Lake Herman Rd.) it will forever change the character of Benicia – for good or ill – depending on the degree of environmental and public health standards that our Council members insist upon.

Over that past couple of years, Mr. Seeno brought forward various versions of a mediocre Business Park plan, one that lacked any serious public transportation component for employees, and which would have snarled our traffic and vastly increased the extreme health-damaging effects of ozone in the air we breathe.

Throughout that process – while knowing that Benicia’s ozone levels are already fourth worst in the Bay Area, and knowing that Mr. Seeno’s plan would greatly exceed government established ozone thresholds – the two incumbents (Schwartzman and Hughes) were consistently willing to approve that project, demanding only cosmetic tweaks and non-binding promises from the developer.

Their response to the issue of increased ozone in our air (an invisible gas which instigates and aggravates everything from allergies to asthma and emphysema) was simply that it’s just an inevitable result of large developments and we just have to accept it.

By contrast, candidate and former Council member Dan Smith would attend those Council meetings and warn them not to vote for such a poor project, and urge them to require Seeno to go back to the drawing board and bring forward a fundamentally redesigned project, based on sustainability principles, that would not compromise our public health and our environment.

Early this year Mr. Seeno put the project on hold, but we can be sure he will be back with a new project proposal in the near future. And when that project becomes active again, Dan Smith is the only one in the choice of candidates who can be counted on to refuse to approve any elements of the Seeno project that will sacrifice our public health, our environment, and our quality of life on the alter of economic development.

Dan knows that we do not have to settle for less! Mr. Seeno can still turn a profit on a high quality “green” Business Park, one that conforms to Benicia’s rightful need for clean healthy air and respect for our environment.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dan Smith answers Times-Herald

Dan Smith, Candidate for City Council on Nov. 3, answers the Times-Herald questionnaire.
Dan's Website ; Dan's Blog

1. Why are you running for Benicia City Council?

My most important reason for serving on the City Council again is that I am committed to Benicia being the best that it can be. That means working to achieve a safe, healthy Seeno project that won’t destroy our downtown; finding new ways to fill vacant storefronts downtown; protecting Benicia’s small town charm; preserving the historic Arsenal and protecting businesses there; and keeping my promise to youth and seniors for the Mills Community Center.

2. What are the most important issues facing Benicia and how would you address them?

I don’t think the Seeno project offered to Benicia this year was a good deal for the community. We didn’t have a development agreement or a project labor agreement. We didn’t have a solid mechanism to ensure Benicia taxpayers don’t pay to build another fire station. Still, the incumbents voted in favor of it. I want a project that pays for itself and doesn’t make East Second Street a mess of traffic and air pollution.

3. How will you work to assure the city maintains financial stability?

I was on the Council when we approved a mandatory 20 percent level for our General Fund reserve. That, combined with prudent spending on capital improvements and investment in our Industrial Park infrastructure, assures our financial stability. My record of service and vision for the future are reasons why I am endorsed by the Mayor, our County Supervisor, the County Democratic Party and numerous past or current members of the Council, Planning Commission and School Board.

4. How do you propose approaching future growth in the Arsenal district?

Developers in town have been proposing various dense housing proposals for the Arsenal. I don’t think those are appropriate for that area, and one reason is because of the industrial pipelines and existing businesses there. The Arsenal is not the place to address needs for our housing stock. We need to revise and recirculate the Arsenal Specific Plan and its Draft Environmental Impact Report to get the right uses out there.

5. What will you do to address economic development?

I want to develop the Benicia Business Park on the Seeno land, and I want to increase revenue by increasing the effectiveness of our tourist economy, particularly heritage tourism about military and railroad history in Benicia. We have the best Civil War history site on the west coast. It’s a place where the Pony Express stopped and trains crossed a river on the world’s largest ferry. These assets need to be marketed and showcased more effectively.