May 2024 – Page 3 – The Benicia Independent ~ Eyes on the Environment / Benicia news & views (2024)

Benicia CA, Benicia City Council, Benicia city staff, Benicia elections

May 7, 2024 BenIndy

[Note from BenIndy: Earlier today we posted a brief reminder of changes proposed to Benicia’s voluntary campaign ordinance and public engagement policies (after we posted a long-form description of changes last Thursday). Benicia resident and longtime activist Bob Berman has written Benicia City Council to protest the proposed changes, how they were presented in the agenda packet, and how they were noticed to the public. Folks who are struggling with what to write or call into the meeting tonight to say can use Bob’s letter as a launch-off point for their own public comment.]

May 2024 – Page 3 – The Benicia Independent ~ Eyes on the Environment / Benicia news & views (1)

By Bob Berman, May 3, 2024

Re: Council meeting agenda item 22.C – OPEN GOVERNMENT COMMISSION’S RECOMMENDATIONS TO COUNCIL

Dear Mayor and Councilmembers:

I am writing to you regarding the proposal to decrease the amount of time public speakers may address a City public body (City Council, Planning Commission, etc.) from 5 minutes to 3 minutes on your May 7, 2024 agenda. I urge you to reject this proposal.

Among the various staff recommendations to the City Council is the following:

3. Decrease the amount of time public speakers may address a City public body in open session from 5 minutes to 3 minutes.

Earlier this year the City’s Open Government Commission (OGC) was asked to review several staff recommendations regarding changes to the City’s campaign ordinance.

It is unclear to me why the issue of reducing the time for public comments (from five minutes to three minutes) is incorporated into the update of the campaign ordinances. Nevertheless, at its April 23rd meeting the OGC decided not to recommend any change to the time limits for public speakers to address a City body.

As each of you are surely aware Benicia residents are very engaged in the City’s public participation process in each of the various commissions, boards, and the City Council. For one who has provided public comments during Benicia hearings for more than 40 years I can attest to the fact it is often difficult to say everything you want to say within five minutes, and it would be even more difficult if speakers were limited to three minutes.

I am disappointed that this proposal is buried in the staff report and that the City has not provided more public notice of this, plus other proposed changes, to the City’s campaign ordinance.

I do not support the change to the time speakers have to address a City public body and urge the City Council to not approve this proposal.

Yours Truly,

Bob Berman

How to write and email a public comment

If you would like to make your opinion on the topic of the proposed revisions known to City Council, members of the public may provide public comment via email to the City Clerk by email at lwolfe@ci.benicia.ca.us. Any comment submitted to the City Clerk should indicate to which item of the agenda the comment relates. (THE PROPOSED REVISIONS ARE IN AGENDA ITEM 22.C – OPEN GOVERNMENT COMMISSION’S RECOMMENDATIONS TO COUNCIL (City Attorney’s Office).)

– Comments received by 2:00 pm on the day of the meeting will be electronically forwarded to the City Council and posted on the City’s website.

– Comments received after 2:00 pm, but before the start time of the meeting will be electronically forwarded to the City Council but will not be posted on the City’s website.

In your email, put the item number in your subject line (e.g., “Public comment re. Item 22.C”).

In your email body, share why you support or oppose the changes.

How to view the meeting and/or make a live public comment

You can participate in the meeting in one of four ways:

1) Attend in person at Council Chambers
2) Cable T.V. Broadcast – Check with your cable provider for your local government broadcast channel.
3) Livestream online at www.ci.benicia.ca.us/agendas
4) Zoom Meeting (link below)

The public may view and participate (via computer or phone) link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88508047557?pwd=cHRsZlBrYlphU3pkODcycytmcFR2UT09
  • If prompted for a password, enter 449303.
  • Use participant option to “raise hand” during the public comment period for the item you wish to speak on. Please note, your electronic device must have microphone capability. Once unmuted, you will have up to 5 minutes to speak.
  • Dial in with phone:
    Before the start of the item you wish to comment on, call any of the numbers below. If one is busy, try the next one.
        • 1 669 900 9128
        • 1 346 248 7799
        • 1 253 215 8782
        • 1 646 558 8656
        • 1 301 715 8592
        • 1 312 626 6799

• Enter the meeting ID number: 885 0804 7557 (*please note this is an updated ID number*.)

Say the item you wish to speak on. (AGAIN, THE PROPOSED CHANGES ARE IN ITEM 22.C.)

Once unmuted, you will have up to 5 minutes to speak.

Enter password: 449303

When prompted for a Participant ID, press #.

Press *9 on your phone to “raise your hand” when the Mayor calls for public comment.

Any member of the public who needs accommodations should email City Clerk Lisa Wolfe at lwolfe@ci.benicia.ca.us, who will use her best efforts to provide as much accessibility as possible while also maintaining public safety.

California Forever Inc., Duane Kromm, Flannery Associates, Solano County CA, Solano Together

May 7, 2024 BenIndy

May 2024 – Page 3 – The Benicia Independent ~ Eyes on the Environment / Benicia news & views (2)
May 2024 – Page 3 – The Benicia Independent ~ Eyes on the Environment / Benicia news & views (3)

By Duane Kromm, May 7, 2024

The Flannery saga keeps getting stranger. Solano Together was invited to participate with California Forever at an event in early May. Both sides were given time to present, take part in a Q&A, and finally make a brief closing pitch.

We said, of course, we always want to explain why our Solano Together coalition is working to preserve farmland and open space, protect Travis Air Force Base from encroachment, avoid creating gridlock on our highways, and make sure we have enough water for our farms and cities.

We were quite surprised when the California Forever folks pulled out of the presentation at the last minute. They only wanted to participate if they alone would be making a presentation.

Sadly, this is becoming their norm. In the past two weeks we have taken two journalists on tours of the area; from Jepson Prairie preserve, through the proposed “New Community” land, and into Montezuma Hills. Both sets of journalists reported to us that California Forever would not even talk to them, much less spend time showing them the land, watching Travis missions fly overhead, or trying to explain why the gridlock they would create on Highway 12 would not be harmful to Travis’ mission.

Why would somebody who wants to win an election be so afraid of talking to journalists and taking part in town hall style meetings? I guess when you have billions of dollars you think you can control all of the messaging about their project.

Solano Together is eager to meet with any group who would like us to present our message or take part in a dialogue or debate with California Forever. Please call or email me, dkkromm@gmail.com, 707-580-7321, or connect through our website, solanotogether.org if you would like us to meet with you.

A postscript. Go out to Jepson Prairie now, it is spectacular. Weekends are best with the naturalists from UC Davis. naturalreserves.ucdavis.edu/jepson-prairie.

May 2024 – Page 3 – The Benicia Independent ~ Eyes on the Environment / Benicia news & views (4)

>> More stories on California Forever here on the BenIndy

May 2024 – Page 3 – The Benicia Independent ~ Eyes on the Environment / Benicia news & views (5)

Host Your Own Party To Support Solano Together

Solano Together is expanding its grassroots effort by asking people across the region to host small gatherings in their homes and communities to provide up-to-date information and expand its impact.

Hosting house parties is a great opportunity to get involved and contribute to Solano Together’s mission to fight this development proposal and help build an alternative vision for a sustainable and equitable future for the region.

If you’re interested in hosting a house party or just learning more, click the image above or visit the Solano Together website to get more information on next steps.

California Forever Inc., Flannery Associates, Solano County CA

May 7, 2024 BenIndy

[Note from BenIndy: Not long after the Vallejo Times-Herald revealed that Vacaville’s vice mayor might personally benefit from California Forever’s new development, KQED is reporting that California Forever made significant payments to political consultants closely linked to Governor Gavin Newsom and Solano officials. The named consultants are Angie Wei, Matt Rodriguez, Brian Brokaw, Dan Newman, and Sue Vaccaro, who is married to Fairfield Councilmember Rick Vaccaro. These relationships naturally raise concerns about the influence certain of these named individuals, who have received significant compensation from California Forever, could have on the initiative’s approval process.]

May 2024 – Page 3 – The Benicia Independent ~ Eyes on the Environment / Benicia news & views (6)

KQED, by Adhiti Bandlamudi, May 3, 2024

California Forever spent some $2 million in the first three months of the year on its campaign to convince voters it should be allowed to build a city from scratch in Eastern Solano County, newly released campaign finance records show.

That money includes funds it has budgeted but has yet to pay out to contractors and around $1 million of in-kind contributions. The company has thus far been the sole contributor to its campaign, according to the records.

When he introduced the initiative in January, California Forever CEO Jan Sramek promised to spend “as much [money] as we need to win.”

The filings show California Forever has so far spent the largest portion of its money — more than $330,000 — on firms hired to collect the more than 20,400 signatures it submitted to the Solano County Registrar’s Office earlier this week. More than $200,000 went toward campaign workers’ salaries, and nearly $210,000 was spent on campaign websites and emails.

However, the payments also show more than $238,000 paid to consultant firms headed by highly connected political campaigners, including several former strategists and aides to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the wife of a current Fairfield councilmember.

May 2024 – Page 3 – The Benicia Independent ~ Eyes on the Environment / Benicia news & views (7)

For a countywide ballot initiative, the spending is “robust,” said political and election lawyer Bradley Hertz, but “not terribly over the top.”

“If it were LA County, for example, with 5 million voters, [the budget] would be at least five or 10 times this amount to gather signatures and get the necessary publicity going,” Hertz said. “The big money needs to be spent at this stage for signature gathering.”

A representative from California Forever did not comment on its spending, but said the team is “feeling good” and that the company will have more updates on its plan in the coming week.

The company is relying on several high-profile political strategists to get initiative to the November election, includingAngie Wei, a former legislative aide to Newsom;Matt Rodriguez, who worked with the governor in 2022 to oppose Proposition 30; andBrian BrokawandDan Newman, two longtime campaign advisers to Newsom. Brokaw also served as Vice President Kamala Harris’s former campaign manager when she ran for Attorney General in 2010.

California Forever also paid Sue Vaccaro, wife of Fairfield Councilmember Rick Vaccaro, $4,000 for campaign consulting. Councilmember Vacarro has not responded to KQED’s request for comment.

May 2024 – Page 3 – The Benicia Independent ~ Eyes on the Environment / Benicia news & views (8)

The Registrar’s Office is now verifying California Forever’s submitted signatures. If they all check out, the Registrar will pass the initiative along to the Solano County Board of Supervisors, which must decide whether to approve it outright or put it to voters.

Supervisor Mitch Mashburn, a critic of the plan, said Wednesday that if the initiative qualifies for the election, he would call for a special report assessing the proposed city’s impacts, both positive and negative. But Hertz suspected California Forever has accounted for the added delay this report would require. The supervisors have until Aug. 9 to vote to place the initiative on the November ballot.

The next set of campaign finance reports is due by the end of July. Paul Mitchell, owner of polling firm Redistricting Partners, said California Forever’s spending on getting the ballot measure to voters is likely a drop in the bucket compared to what it will take to build the proposed city.

“Just because it gets passed by voters isn’t going to build a house,” Mitchell said. “[The amount spent so far] is not an enormous sum for what they’re looking to do, and it’s probably not going to break records.”

Benicia CA, Benicia City Council, Benicia city staff, Benicia elections

May 7, 2024 BenIndy

[Note from BenIndy: Last Thursday we posted a long-form description of changes proposed to Benicia’s voluntary campaign limits cost and public participation policies. Here is a brief reminder of the details and the same information for how to show your support or opposition to the changes, should you wish to do so.]

May 2024 – Page 3 – The Benicia Independent ~ Eyes on the Environment / Benicia news & views (9)

BenIndy Editorial, May 7, 2024

Tonight at 6pm, the Benicia City Council will vote on proposed revisions to the city’s campaign ordinances and public engagement policies.

Some community members support these changes, particularly those that close loopholes in political practices. However, other revisions have been criticized for potentially restricting public involvement in governance.

Key contested proposals from city staff, opposed by Benicia’s Open Government Commission (OGC), include aligning the city’s response time for public records requests with state law, and reducing public speaking time at meetings from 5 minutes to 3 minutes.

The OGC, established in 2005 to improve government transparency and public participation, reviewed these proposals but declined to recommend the reduction in public speaking time, citing lack of evidence that it would enhance meeting efficiency.

Tonight’s Council meeting will be crucial in determining the balance between reducing staff burdens and maintaining robust public participation.

How to write and email a public comment

If you would like to make your opinion on the topic of the proposed revisions known to City Council, members of the public may provide public comment via email to the City Clerk by email at lwolfe@ci.benicia.ca.us. Any comment submitted to the City Clerk should indicate to which item of the agenda the comment relates. (THE PROPOSED REVISIONS ARE IN AGENDA ITEM 22.C – OPEN GOVERNMENT COMMISSION’S RECOMMENDATIONS TO COUNCIL (City Attorney’s Office).)

– Comments received by 2:00 pm on the day of the meeting will be electronically forwarded to the City Council and posted on the City’s website.

– Comments received after 2:00 pm, but before the start time of the meeting will be electronically forwarded to the City Council but will not be posted on the City’s website.

In your email, put the item number in your subject line (e.g., “Public comment re. Item 22.C”).

In your email body, share why you support or oppose the changes.

How to view the meeting and/or make a live public comment

You can participate in the meeting in one of four ways:

1) Attend in person at Council Chambers
2) Cable T.V. Broadcast – Check with your cable provider for your local government broadcast channel.
3) Livestream online at www.ci.benicia.ca.us/agendas
4) Zoom Meeting (link below)

The public may view and participate (via computer or phone) link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88508047557?pwd=cHRsZlBrYlphU3pkODcycytmcFR2UT09
  • If prompted for a password, enter 449303.
  • Use participant option to “raise hand” during the public comment period for the item you wish to speak on. Please note, your electronic device must have microphone capability. Once unmuted, you will have up to 5 minutes to speak.
  • Dial in with phone:
    Before the start of the item you wish to comment on, call any of the numbers below. If one is busy, try the next one.
        • 1 669 900 9128
        • 1 346 248 7799
        • 1 253 215 8782
        • 1 646 558 8656
        • 1 301 715 8592
        • 1 312 626 6799

• Enter the meeting ID number: 885 0804 7557 (*please note this is an updated ID number*.)

Say the item you wish to speak on. (AGAIN, THE PROPOSED CHANGES ARE IN ITEM 22.C.)

Once unmuted, you will have up to 5 minutes to speak.

Enter password: 449303

When prompted for a Participant ID, press #.

Press *9 on your phone to “raise your hand” when the Mayor calls for public comment.

Any member of the public who needs accommodations should email City Clerk Lisa Wolfe at lwolfe@ci.benicia.ca.us, who will use her best efforts to provide as much accessibility as possible while also maintaining public safety.

For safe and healthy communities…

May 2024 – Page 3 – The Benicia Independent ~ Eyes on the Environment / Benicia news & views (2024)

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