There isn’t a thing, we did, that I would have changed.
A group of intelligent, passionate, concerned citizens organized, campaigned, called, walked, talked and worked day and night for a safe, healthy and prosperous future for Benicia.
If it had been a traditional, clean campaign, we most likely would have prevailed. Despite the unfair, dirty resources that skewed the results, we came close. Three percentage points away from office will be noticed by the outside interests that poured more than $200,000 into our race. We spent less than $20,000.
I am honored to have been your candidate. I learned so much about Benicia, its neighborhoods, its politics, and the best and worst of our community. The most treasured outcome of this process has been getting to know and working beside so many wonderfully engaged and compassionate people. Many of you were more surprised, upset or disillusioned than I am about the outcome. Thank you for your outpouring of cards, flowers, and well wishes. I have one request for you and then I’ll make you a promise.
Please stay engaged. Attend City Council meetings. Ensure that the elected councilmembers keep their promises to work towards a healthier, safer Benicia. Write letters despite the dysfunction of our local paper. Shine a spotlight on lies or councilmember votes that don’t match the campaign rhetoric. Remain vigilant in working towards our vision.
I promise to work as hard as you did this season in preparing for 2020, by supporting the best candidates up for election and/or re-election.
Thank you, my friends. I’m glad I ran and I am proud of the race we nearly won.
“People and companies go negative when they are afraid.”
Benicia City Council candidate Kari Birdseye responded Tuesday to questions asked by this newspaper after a special committee was formed to oppose her campaign.
As of Tuesday afternoon, financial records submitted to the Benicia City Clerk’s Office show that $124,000 has been pumped into the committee, which was also formed to support fellow council candidates Lionel Largaespada and Christina Strawbridge.
Records show that the Valero Benicia Refinery has contributed $14,200 to the committee named: Working Families for a Strong Benicia, a Coalition of Labor, Industrial Services Companies, Public Safety and Local Leaders Supporting Christina Strawbridge and Lionel Largaespada and Opposing Kari Birdseye for Benicia City Council 2018.
The other funding sources are a number of union PACs.
“Valero and their friends are afraid of a candidate whose priorities include diversifying our tax base, promoting access to clean air and clean water and being a good neighbor at City Hall,” Birdseye wrote in an email to the Times-Herald.
The committee paid for a series of political phone calls to Benicians. A phone script was provided with the expenditure report given to the clerk’s office. It shows that if a respondent reported he/she may vote for Birdseye, the caller was to say that Birdseye is a “yes man for the mayor,” and not an independent thinker.
“I’m not sure if that phrase was meant to be a misogynistic slight but it is,” Birdseye wrote in her email. “I’m a woman, with a brain of my own. I’m nobody’s yes person. I will do my homework, listen to Benicians and make my own decisions based on what I think is best for our community.”
She also repudiated the claim that she isn’t an independent thinker.
“I’m a critical, strategic thinker with years of experience in management, finances and leadership,” she added. “I’m the last person who wants to give oxygen to the lie being spread about the Mayor and Vice Mayor building their shadow government, but if you look at the Vice Mayor’s voting record, he also is an independent thinker.”
The committee also bought digital advertisements to convince Benicia voters that Birdseye would be bad for the city.
Birdseye said Valero’s committee reminded her of when Chevron pumped millions of dollars in to the Richmond’s City Council race in 2014 — and lost.
“Outside influences are pouring more than $100,000 into our Benicia race, where all the candidate campaign money combined doesn’t equal that,” she said. “It is wrong, unfair and Benicia deserves better.”
Birdseye, Largaespada, Strawbridge, and Will Emes are all running for two open seats on the five-person Benicia City Council this fall. The two incumbents, Alan Schwartzman and Mark Hughes, have both declined to seek re-election to the council.
BENICIA — Kari Birdseye says she has the skill set needed to make Benicia the best it can be; that’s why she decided to seek a seat on the Benicia City Council.
“Placing a priority of the long-term economic vitality of our community while maintaining the historic, small-town charm will take proactive thinking,” she explained.
Birdseye, 52, the strategic communications manager at Natural Resources Defense Council, also serves as chair of the city’s Planning Commission.
She says diversifying the tax base by attracting clean tech companies to the city’s industrial park, while also maintaining access to clean air and clean water for everyone are her campaign priorities.
“New businesses will provide economic diversity and stability to our full-service city,” she explained. “Polishing our industrial park into the jewel that it can be is key to the economic vitality of our city. We need to modernize the area’s infrastructure, by repairing roads and offering affordable, high-speed internet access, which will in turn attract new businesses that can help us diversify our tax base.”
Birdseye says she supports a thorough examination of Mayor Elizabeth Patterson’s proposed Industrial Safety Ordinance.
“At the heart of the ISO is better communications between the community and Valero and installation of community air monitoring stations with access to real-time data available to the public,” she said. “I believe the ISO could repair the relationship between Valero and Benicians by facilitating an honest dialog between the refinery and its neighbors. The proposed draft ISO is in no way redundant to Solano County’s Program 4, as other candidates have stated.
“The purpose of Program 4 is to prevent major incidents at petroleum refineries in order to protect the health and safety of communities and the environment. The local ISO picks up where Program 4 leaves off and involves the community in discussions related to the health and safety of us all,” she added.
Birdseye further said that Benicia is the only Bay Area refinery town without its own local ordinance.
“We need and deserve the same type of protections,” Birdseye added.
When asked about the city’s water rates, Birdseye said she supports the council’s decision to address the city’s crumbling water and sewer infrastructure in 2016.
“However, how that 2016 City Council addressed it needs to be re-examined,” she said. “Our economy today looks different from what they were facing two years ago. Installing smart meters with front-loaded rate increases was not the way to handle it.
“Smart meters should have been installed to capture the 25 percent leakage rate the city was facing, losing money on the lost water. Once the smart meters were in place, the city should have audited the updated water measurements, usage and increased fees that residents were facing,” she added. “Then and only then should have modest increases been considered and they should have been tiered over time.”
She said if elected she will lead examination and audit of the city’s water and sewer rate structure “and find avenues of relief for ratepayers.”
Birdseye says she fully supports Measure E, which would, if adopted by local voters, place a six percent tax on the gross receipts for the city’s cannabis businesses. City Hall through the measure could also impose a tax of up to $10 per square foot for commercial cannabis cultivation.
“Regulated cannabusiness in Benicia has the potential to generate millions of dollars annually between fees and Measure E taxes,” she said.
Birdseye further said her top priorities, if elected, are protecting the small town, historic charm of Benicia, and being a good neighbor at City Hall.
“I pledge to work hard to bring together the best thinking on this issue. It may take updating zoning ordinances, more resources at the city level for our economic development team,” Birdseye said. “I will bring my record of honesty, integrity, tenacity and caring about people.”
Benicia City Council incumbents Mark Hughes and Alan Schwartzman both declined to see re-election to the five person council. Four candidates are going for the two seats, including Birdseye, Lionel Largaespada, Christina Strawbridge, and Will Emes.
As you may have heard, Valero’s Benicia Refinery admitted last Friday to sponsoring the unfair telephone “push poll” many Benicians have been responding to during the past month.
Benicia’s City Attorney shared this fact with the public in a letter to the polling companies’ attorney. Valero General Manager Don Wilson did the right thing by disclosing Valero’s involvement. However, City Attorney Heather McLaughlin stated in her letter “In order to avoid having to issue a subpoena, I would ask that you voluntarily provide a copy of the poll questions to me within the next 72 hours.”
Benicians who received the phone survey have reported biased lead-ins to questions, including “Kari Birdseye wants to shut down Valero, costing hundreds of jobs” and “She will bring radical left-wing politics to City Hall.”
Benicia City Council candidate Lionel Largaespada’s response suggested that the poll may not even have been biased: “I have heard many different opinions on how it was conducted – ranging from Steve’s claim that it is biased towards me, to residents who found it equally balanced, to others who thought it was negative-sounding towards me. As with most topics, people have differing reactions and take aways based on their own beliefs and opinions.” Mr. Largaespada’s statement aligns with attorneys of the polling companies by casting doubt on whether there was bias at all.
In addition to asking for the actual questions used in the poll, the City Attorney has requested an itemized invoice showing the dates, times and number of calls made. This request has been refused by the companies’ attorney.
More polls, paid for PACs against me, are continuing today and probably throughout the weeks leading up to the election. Please learn more about my campaign through reputable sources like the website BirdseyeForBenicia.com or by watching candidate forums like this one: League of Women Voters / AAUW forum here.
Remember to vote on November 6th or send in your ballot, which should be arriving in your mailbox this week. And if you haven’t visited my website yet, please stop by at BirdseyeForBenicia.com
Please join me and the other City Council candidates at a number of upcoming forums. I look forward to seeing you there. Please mark your calendar now!
Oct. 3: League of Women Voters Benicia and the local AAUW will be cohosting a candidates’ forum for the four people running for Benicia City Council Wed. Oct. 3, 7-8:30pm at the Benicia Public Library
Oct. 4: Valero Refinery, Napa/Solano Labor Council, others – Thurs, Oct. 4, 5:30pm to 7:30pm. Doors open at 5:00pm. Ironworkers Local 378 Union Hall, 3120 Bayshore Road, Benicia
Oct. 11: Benicia High School (seniors only), City Council candidates forum – Thurs, Oct. 11, 9:35am.
Nov. 3 – City of Benicia Open Government City Council candidate forum, Sat. Nov. 3, 9am-11am, Council Chambers, City Hall, 250 East L St. (And taped for re-broadcast on the local television channel at 7 PM on Sunday, November 4 and Monday, November 5, 2018.)
The campaign for Benicia’s City Council seats received a dose of ugliness this week with an outside “research firm” calling Benicians with a so-called poll on state and local politics.
My campaign is in no way connected to this poll. However, the telephone pollster offered lies about me and flattering comments about one of the other candidates. The favored candidate has publicly denied involvement. I believe him, but then he claims that the poll wasn’t necessarily biased. He suggests that people hear what they want to hear. But many Benicians have reported that the push poll is an obvious attempt to smear my good name. Our city attorney has contacted the firm to inform the outfit that they are most likely violating city ordinances that promote clean campaigns in Benicia.
All of the candidates have signed pledges to adhere to Benicia’s Code of Fair Campaign Practices. Our code includes this section:
The candidate will immediately and publicly repudiate those who take actions that either help a candidate’s candidacy or hurt an opponent’s candidacy, which are inconsistent with the Benicia Code of Fair Campaign Practices.
And now I’ve done so.
Let’s get back to the positive campaigning that has introduced me to so many new Benicians who want a smart, positive candidate who has a track record – on the planning commission and elsewhere – of working to improve our community.
Thanks to all of you who have reached out to me since receiving the bogus poll call to show support.
I rewatched Michelle Obama’s 2016 speech this morning and am inspired to repeat one of her most memorable quotes: “When they go low, we go high.”
It has been a busy week with the Chamber of Commerce forum, Planning Commission meeting, working all week at the Global Climate Action Summit and somehow, I found myself on social media reading mean-spirited, fact-less attacks. And then I receive this from Duane:
You are an impressive candidate Kari. Now go win.
Just when I needed it. Thanks Duane. I have an impressive team of supporters who will help me do just that; Jack and Maggie at the Farmers Market today, spreading the good word. Gary, Kathy and June knocking on doors with me this weekend. To the beautiful people I’ve never met, donating online, thank you. And all the wonderful Benicians who have placed yard signs and continue requesting them. The website continues to attract yard sign requests, endorsements and donations. Visit my How Can I Help page soon if you haven’t already. And leave me feedback on how you think I did so I can improve for the next forum hosted by League of Conservation Voters and AAUW on Wednesday, October 3rd, 7-8:30 p.m. at the Benicia Public Library. Please try to come and watch in person and show your support like a good number of you did this Wednesday.