Steve's Thoughts and Campaign News

Anti Cannabis Defeat


The dwindling population of anti-cannabis crusaders in our town suffered another defeat at Tuesday's meeting of our City Council to hear an appeal of the Planning Commsission's 5-0 decision to permit our first cannabis dispensary at 160 East N Street. As expected, the council locked up at 2-2, and the appeal failed. Tom Campbell had to recuse since he lives less than 400 feet away. 

Only sixty-one citizens objected, offering the same assurances of crime, etc. since day 1 of cannabis hearings. It is important to reaffirm the role of our Chief of Police in these matters. He has consistently testified that sound legislative policy, advanced security design, and diligent oversight are consistent with trouble-free dispensary operations he has observed in his career. Our city requires a Public Safety License sign-off from the Chief before any cannabis-related business can operate. That should be sufficient for those that harbor fears about regulated cannabis sales being a threat to public safety of the surrounding neighborhood.
Opponents rolled out years-old letters of opposition to cannabis in Benicia from the Benicia Police Officers Association, Benicia Unified School District, and the Chamber of Commerce. These groups did not present opposition to 160 East N Street at the Planning Commission permit hearing or for the appeal. As stated by council members and public speakers, Benicia is evolving on the issue of regulated cannabis activity in our city, much the same as it is across the nation. A number of comments were about how this city celebrates booze events; wine walks, beer crawls, and similar gatherings where people get high on alcohol, wander around downtown, then drive a car. 
With regard to political candidate views on regulated cannabis, at this time we have three contenders for the mayor's seat and two for a council seat. Leading mayoral candidate Steve Young has been unwavering in his support of a regulated and taxed cannabis industry in our town, and holds the distinction of being the only member of this council that has never voted to ban cannabis in Benicia. Mayoral candidate Christina Strawbridge, who owes her presence on the council to the corrupt tactics and enormous spending by external groups to place her and Lionel Largaespada on our council, has consistently been outspoken in opposition to cannabis in Benicia, as has Largaespada. Both have previously voted to ban regulated activity altogether, acquiesced to allowing on retail site, then flipped back again at the appeal to prohibit the one retail store they previously agreed to. Both of them were initially wrong about face masks as well, at first being against them, then flipping three weeks later just before the state ordered face masks in public. Mayoral candidate Jason Diavatis indicates support for retail cannabis, but was against the N Street location. Council candidate and Planning Commission Vice-Chair Trevor Macenski does not address the issue of cannabis at his campaign web site as of this writing, but indicates support for big oil, taking a shot at the mayor and Young as well. Candidate Terry Scott supports the Planning Commission decision. Clearly, Strawbridge and Macenski will be the annoited favorites of the same external groups' big money that helped put Strawbridge and Largaespada on council two years ago, securing a reliable majority of big oil advocates on our council
Steve Young, supporter of regulated cannabis industry as a substantial and sustainable economic component; cannabis oil = $300,000+ per gallon before taxes, produced in a moderately-sized industrial building. Christina Strawbridge, advocate for big oil and minimal city oversight of it; gasoline = $3 per gallon after taxes, produced on 800 acres of land. As of this submission, Strawbridge does not address cannabis at her campaign web site. My guess is she will not attend the open house for Authentic 707.
Steve Young, in step with modern Benicia. Christina Strawbridge, out of touch and out of time. Talks a lot of shavin' cream about supporting businesses and economic development, then slams the door on a multi-million dollar cannabis business group with assets and net revenues second only to big oil. It is unfortunate we will not have a Torchlight Parade this year. Strawbridge and Largaespada could have rode together in a '37 Packard. 
Stan Golovich
The author is a longtime Benicia resident, senior, veteran, artist, and Compassionate Use Act patient. 

Why I Post on Social Media


In 2017, I attended a League of California Cities conference for newly elected officials. One of the livelier sessions was about social media. Every panelist provided the same advice: stay far away from sites like NextDoor and Benicia Happenings. Only bad things happen to elected officials who dared to engage online with their constituents, they said. In fact, most politicians avoid social media like the plague.

I see it differently. To me, these sites are where people are engaging in civic issues. I believe there is no greater thing to strive for as an elected official than transparency. Opening the operations of the City through these posts allows people to better understand the issues surrounding them. And Benicians are smart enough that, given enough information, they will hopefully better understand the difficult decisions the Council must make. So I post not only information that can be useful to residents affected by Covid-19, but also on more specific City topics of interest to the community.

There is obviously a risk in doing so. Criticism comes much more often than praise, and you have to have a thick skin to talk about things that are not going to be universally accepted. I have published about all of the most difficult issues: street maintenance and repairs, water rates, pensions and district elections, to name only a few. Since I am the only Council member writing about these subjects, I have taken most of the heat from people who don’t like our decisions. Nevertheless, I see a big part of my job as a Council member to reach out to the public on issues of common concern.

The way I see it, all candidates should let people know where they stand on important issues rather than just running slick advertising campaigns around election time. And, in my experience, even when we disagree on policy, I always come away with a deeper and better understanding of the citizen’s needs and desires. And, hopefully, people come away with a better idea of who I am and where I stand on the issues.

More on Road Repairs


Many people have rightfully felt upset that their streets are not included on the list for street repairs for 2020 and 2021. There is no question that our roads, including the ones left off that have been listed by many of you on social media, are very bad. However, some of the frustration has been directed at Public Works staff. We have an excellent Public Works department, capably headed by William Tarbox. Ill feelings should not be directed at City staff for just doing their job.


Public Works has supplied additional information about how these funding recommendations are made.


Benicia 2018 Map - PCI Condition smMoney for road repairs comes from a variety of sources (e.g.Federal, State, Gas Tax, Measure C etc.} Federal and some State funds are distributed through the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). To access those funds, cities must utilize a Pavement Management Program and assign each street in the city a Pavement Condition Index (PCI). Staff relies on the PCI along with other factors like potential impact to residents and coordination with other road or utility projects in making the recommendations.


One of the reasons I like this approach is that it is apolitical, and should not be subject to requests by Council members for preference to be given to certain streets.


The City also uses StreetSaver, software developed by MTC, to provide a number of analytical measures of street conditions. This software helps assign a PCI number to every street in the City. In 2018, city streets were given an overall PCI of 56 on a scale of 100, down from 63 a decade ago. The City uses a variety of street treatments from total reconstruction of our worst streets to slurry seals and microsurfacing of streets in better condition. If we spent all of our money rebuilding our worst streets, the lack of maintenance on decent or good streets would soon see them deteriorate at a much faster rate. Rebuilding roads is 10 to 40 times more expensive than maintaining them. Taking this approach is the fiscally prudent way to address these problems.


We will be spending about $2 million on micro surfacing “good” streets in summer 2020; in summer 2021 we will be reconstructing bad roads, with a PCI between 8 and 18, at a cost of around $4 million. If you are interested in knowing what your PCI rating is, I have the list. Stay informed on Benicia's Public Works website.  And see the 2018 Pavement Condition Index MAP here.


Hilary Aitken
Marilyn Bardet
Nikki Basch Davis
Cathy Bennett
Constance Beutel
Madeleine Borges
Kathleen Carey
Ruscal Cayangyang
Stephan Clifford
Allison Connor
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Terry Mollica
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Tim Reynolds
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Patrick Roetzer
Steve Scheinman
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Andres Soto
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Sarah Westmoreland

Steve Young for Mayor

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