By Bob Livesay
Special to the Herald
A very happy new year to all.
Yes, 2018 will be a challenge for the city of Benicia. The biggest thing to look forward to is the City Council election in November. The biggest issue is water/sewer rates. Economic development will be a major issue too. At that time, there will also be an excise tax issue and possibly a measure to allow pot on First Street on the ballot also.
Let’s talk about those issues. They are all very important. First, the council election. There will be two seats up for election. I do hope Councilmember Hughes chooses to run for re-election. It appears the other seat held by Councilmember Schwartzman is up for grabs. He apparently is all saddled up and will gallop out of town. Now who are the possible candidates? Former Councilmember Strawbridge has already announced she will run. There are also a few potential candidates who have not yet announced, and possibly others. We shall see.
The single biggest issue facing any candidate will be water/sewer rates. Councilmember Hughes was against the present rate structure, which is a big win for him. It appears Lionel Largaespada falls into that boat also. A big win for him, if he chooses to run. The voters are reminded of the increase every two months. That issue will not go away. I believe the others will dance around it.
The next issue is economic development. The development of the Seeno Property is huge. Even though the mayor and Councilmember Schwartzman had a big public chuckle at the last meeting about my comment that the property is a gold mine. That shows you how much they know. This issue is big win for Largaespada and Hughes.
The next issue is the excise tax. I hope it goes on the ballot at a maximum of 10 percent. That way the council can adjust up to 10 percent or below without a ballot measure. This issue is money in the bank for the city. Keep in mind that if this issue passes, the city will now get up to 10 percent along with the 1 percent sales tax and Measure C 1 percent tax on recreational cannabis. That 10 percent will also apply to manufacturing and distribution. The up to 10 percent will not go into effect until 2019. In 2018, all the city gets is the 2 percent. As you see, it is a big issue. I do believe all candidates will be for this.
The last issue is very important: a potential ballot measure to overturn the council’s decision to not allow recreational cannabis on First Street. Any candidate that is against this issue has a big win. The council followed the voices of the residents/voters and voted against allowing recreational cannabis on First Street. Any candidate that is for this ballot measure will lose big time. Also any candidate that was for the recreational cannabis storefronts is a big loser. The voters/residents will not forgive the council on this issue.
As you see, the council has some issues to deal with in 2018. There are many others that are also very important. One big one is the financial status of this fine city. We are in a world of hurt and will see that issue come to head starting in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 two-year budget cycle. The hoped-for cannabis windfall will not happen at the retail level, as some are saying. The big money is in the Industrial Park and the Seeno property. Sorry., Mayor Patterson and Councilmember Schwartzman, you both are wrong. I believe the council election will change the voting a little bit. At present, there is a a 3-2 and 4-1 vote on many issues. There is also unanimous agreement on some issues._ At present the three of the five votes are Mayor Patterson, Vice Mayor Young and Councilmember Schwartzman, and when it goes to four it would be Councilmember Campbell. So as we see when it comes economic development there is nothing from the three or four votes. There’s a lot of talk but no concrete plans put forward. A one vote change could alter that issue, meaning a councilmember could join the two votes to make it three and we could see economical development move to the front burner and be a very hot issue. That is why the 2018 election is so important. Things can change in the next six to eight months. We shall see. I will follow up this article with separate articles on each subject with much further info included. Stay tuned.
Bob Livesay is a Benicia resident.