Times-Herald interview: Kari Birdseye

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

Birdseye says she has skills Benicia needs

By JOHN GLIDDEN, October 13, 2018 at 4:23 pm

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.

Election day is Nov. 6.

For more information about Birdseye’s campaign, visit www.BirdseyeForBenicia.com and/or email Birdseyeforbenicia@ gmail.com.