Many citizens are very upset about the hike in water bills and the new water meters. Our bill went up too, and we have a new water meter. I don’t like paying more for water now that we are on a fixed income, but it seemed reasonable and necessary to me, if a bit sudden. I understand that it came as a huge shock to many, and that there were big problems with the rollout of the new meters and that the increase in some people’s bills is apparently not justified by their actual usage.
I understand why people are angry, and I like the fact that they are civically engaged. However, the tone of the debate has become pretty ugly. I have seen some grandstanding at City Hall meetings, very unkind posts in social media and personal attacks on the mayor, council and city staff. During my time directing Arts Benicia, I worked with and came to know many of the people who are now being vilified, and I know that they are without a doubt motivated by a love of Benicia and its citizens, and a deep desire to serve them.
We see similar angry rants and hateful social media memes in national politics now ~ and I think we can all see how this anger, which may be justified, becomes a barrier to finding solutions. I had hoped that our community was better than that.
As I wrote last year during the height of the crude by rail controversy: “Let’s keep in mind that we all care deeply about our charming, artistic, innovative little town. Please, let’s all keep civility and respect for the First Amendment, for each other and for our vibrant but frail local democracy at the forefront during this debate. After the issue is settled, let’s all reunite to work towards our common vision: maintaining Benicia as the safe, friendly, livable, economically viable small town in the Bay Area that we all love.”
Larnie Fox, artist and former director of Arts Benicia