Learn about open government at LWV forum
Current local news and discussion is rife with concern about elected officials being “paid off” by corporate interests or wealthy donors. While our election system has some definite flaws, it does have required procedures and penalties for reporting campaign financing. Just last week, the Fair Political Practices Commission penalized a Fairfield City Councilwoman for failing to report her expenditures and contributions in a timely manner after a complaint was filed about her run for County Supervisor. As controversy swirls over various issues at City Council meetings, audience members can be heard mumbling about the Council members “being in someone’s pocket.”
The League of Women Voters Benicia believes it’s important for the populace to know their rights and use those rights to know more about campaign financing and transparency in government. Consequently, we are hosting an educational forum, Citizen’s Right to Know: Campaign Financing and Transparency in Government on Nov. 16, 7 to 8:30 p.m., at the Benicia Community Center, 370 East L St., Room 2. Our panelists include Lisa Wolfe, Benicia City Clerk; Dawn Abrahamson, Vallejo City Clerk; Heather McLaughlin, Benicia City Attorney, and Lee Lawrence, LWV California Government Director. We will be learning about campaign financing filing requirements, public access to financial information, and laws restricting behind the scenes collusion for local, regional, and state elected officials.
Whether you are thinking about running for office, seeking information about your local representatives, or just want to know more about civics in our community, you should plan to attend.
The meeting is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided.
Remember, democracy is not a spectator sport!
Benicia deserves Industrial Safety Ordinance
It is past due for Benicians to have the same level of protection and information from an Industrial Safety Ordinance, or ISO, the same as the other refinery towns along the Bay Area Refinery Corridor.
Contra Costa County and the city of Richmond realized Cal OSHA provides for worker safety and protection, but not community protection. Thus, in 1991, they have developed and have continued to improve their landmark ISO. They have done this by applying lessons learned from incident analyses and revising and updating the ordinance to deal with evolving concerns.
Will it prevent the next catastrophe from management neglect? No, but it will produce a report within 72 hours directly to the city of Benicia with the latest information on the incident and will be required to continue to report to the city on a timely basis.
It will allow Benicia to learn from those managerial errors and impose corrective action where necessary.
The usual howls from the right-wing “no regulation” climate deniers will certainly be heard, but Benicians have learned from the Crude-By-Rail battle and the May 2017 Month of Flaring that Valero seems to put its profits ahead of community health and safety.
Benicians must take action to protect ourselves from corporate avarice! Please come and get informed at the Benicia Industrial Safety Ordinance Town Hall meeting next Tuesday, Nov. 14, at 6:30 p.m. in the Dona Benicia Room of the Benicia Public Library.
Benicia’s children and community deserve the best. Benicia needs an ISO now!
Agendize discussion of ISO
At its May 23, 2017 meeting, the Benicia City Council agreed on a 4-1 vote to “agendize in the future” a discussion on adoption of an Industrial Safety Ordinance (ISO).
The vote came close on the heels of the near-catastrophic sudden shutdown of power at Valero Refinery.
“Time has shown that Benicia needs to have an Industrial Safety Ordinance,” wrote Mayor Patterson. “This was considered in the early 2000s but no action was taken. Recent events are compelling for adoption of an ISO modeled on the Contra Costa ISO. Unlike the other 4 refineries in the Bay Area (all in Contra Costa County), Valero is an ‘integrated refinery’ where power loss in one area of the refinery impacts the whole facility. In other refineries in the Bay Area, power outages can be isolated to parts of a refinery.”
When the Council agrees to agendize a discussion in the future, city staff are called upon to follow up with research and to supply a report to the Council preparing the way for the discussion.
Our city staff is excellent. Staff is undergoing a huge transition after losing key staff members, orienting new staff and managing with a few interims. So it is understandable that staff may be reluctant to take on the responsibility of providing support on a Council request such as the one of May 23.
But the health and safety of Industrial Park workers and the good people who live and work in Benicia must not take a back seat to other significant concerns.
We learned a fearful lesson last May. It’s time to review, learn lessons, and take action to protect ourselves.
Six months with no agenda item is long enough. I call on our elected officials and staff to move quickly to convene a follow-up discussion on adoption of an ISO to protect Benicia workers and residents.
For more information, please attend a Town Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 7 p.m. at the Benicia Library. A distinguished panel will offer insights and background on the interface between State regulations and a local ISO.
member of Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community