Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson stands up to Big Oil and questions the safety of Valero oil trains coming to its Benicia refinery. Read more at the link above. And let this be an encouragement to all local government officials to think and act for themselves, and not get pushed around by corporate business interests.
Pacifica City Council final vote results. Keener trailed O'Neill by a mere 130 votes.
Also victorious: Nicole David and Captain Tom Mattusch for San Mateo County Harbor District Commission.
In an upset victory in the November 4 elections, Pacifica voters sent a clear and unequivocal message of opposition to a Caltrans proposal to widen one section of Highway 1 in southern Pacifica, and of support for alternatives to the widening.
Anti-widening candidates were elected to two of the three seats by significant margins. Incumbent Councilmember Sue Digre, who opposes the widening, finished as the top vote-getter, with just under 20% of all votes cast, significantly ahead of the other incumbent, Mike O’Neill (just over 17%).
Even more striking was the victory of newcomer John Keener, who centered his campaign on the highway issue, opposing widening and favoring alternatives. Keener garnered 16.5%, just half a percent less than veteran O’Neill, and well ahead of several other candidates who had far more experience and name recognition in Pacifica politics, and who spent far more money.
Pacificans for Highway 1 Alternatives (PHIA) strongly endorsed and supported Keener's and Digre's campaigns. PH1A held two large public forums and several rallies, carried out a high-profile campaign gathering more than 1,000 petition signatures to get the Pacifica City Council to hold public hearings and hire an independent consultant to explore more effective, less disruptive alternatives to the Caltrans widening.
Cynthia Kaufman, PH1A
By Ian Butler, Riptide Correspondent
Now that the Pacifica City Council election is behind us, it’s time to analyze the results, specifically whether they are a mandate against the Caltrans widening plans for Highway 1 between Rockaway and Vallemar, by all accounts the primary issue in this election cycle.
Of the seven candidates, three were against widening, one was for, and three were vague or uncommitted on the issue. Three distinct tiers of candidates emerged: incumbents, contenders, and also-rans. In each tier, the anti-widening candidate fared the best.
Sue Digre, anti-widening incumbent, has a solid base of constituents, but many of her supporters had grown frustrated by her inability to build consensus and her increasing isolation on the council. Nevertheless, she beat popular incumbent Mike O’Neill by a solid 704 votes for the top spot.
Of the contenders, John Keener was the long shot. He was virtually unknown until a few months ago, and not a polished public speaker, yet he snagged the third seat, solidly trouncing Eric Ruchames, a popular school board member with deep roots in the community, and Victor Spano, who finished second two years ago and who basically has been campaigning for nearly three years.
Keener actually got more Election Day votes than O’Neill, and finished only 101 votes behind him (and a whopping 639 votes ahead of fourth-place finisher Eric Ruchames). Since Keener made opposition to the highway widening the centerpiece of his campaign, people on both sides of the issue framed Keener’s campaign as a clear referendum on the widening.
As for the also-rans, 23-year-old anti-widening newcomer Matt Dougherty beat 82-year-old pro-widening Therese Dyer by 554 votes, and on Election Day even got more votes than Spano. Matt has a bright future and could be a legitimate contender in two years with a little seasoning. Therese was the only candidate to unequivocally support Caltrans' widening plan, thus her poor showing, getting only 8 percent of the total vote despite decades in the public eye, implies weak support for the widening plan among the public.
Additionally, the low turnout of a midterm election usually skews toward older, conservative, absentee voters. All three anti-widening candidates fared considerably better on Election Day than they did with absentee voters. Thus, it is likely they would have finished even stronger in a higher-turnout election.
Although many factors are involved, making it impossible to fully separate the signal from the noise, surprisingly strong showings by all three anti-widening candidates suggests that this election was indeed a mandate against widening Highway 1. Our public officials would be wise to take heed.
Richmond, California. All progressive eyes around the country were focused on this blue-collar city of about 100,000, where Big Oil and Wall Street sought to oust a progressive local government that has been battling big business for the past decade. Instead, the lefties won against overwhelming odds. Under Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and her progressive allies on the City Council, Richmond has challenged Chevron, which owns a huge refinery in the city, to clean up its pollution, pay more taxes into the city coffers, and be a more responsible and accountable corporate citizen. Faced with a decade of predatory lending and an epidemic of foreclosures and “underwater” mortgages, Richmond city officials pushed back against Wall Street banks, demanding that they help troubled homeowners save their homes. In Tuesday’s election, community groups, labor unions, the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) and others mobilized a grassroots campaign to protect their gains and elect a progressive slate against candidates hand-picked and funded by Chevron and the real estate lobby.
The progressives won, despite operating on a shoe-string budget. City Councilman Tom Butt was elected mayor with 51.4 percent of the vote. He defeated Nat Bates, a longtime councilman who was heavily funded by Chevron but only managed to win 35 percent of the vote. The progressive slate of council candidates appears to have swept the four available seats. McLaughlin, the city’s termed-out mayor, won her City Council race as did her allies Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez. As of early Wednesday morning, progressive-backed incumbent Jal Myrick trounced fellow City Councilman Corky Booze for a two-year seat. If these leads hold, no Chevron-backed candidates will have won, despite dramatically outspending their progressive opponents. The RPA, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and SEIU waged a major grassroots get-out-the-vote campaign that triumphed over the Chevron funded assault that included an expensive flood of mailers, phone calls and an oil-stained local online “newspaper.”
A Riptide reader reports on the November 3 AAUW meeting advertised as Mayor Mary Ann Nihart discussing the Highway 1 widening:
"I went to the meeting tonight only to find out that the Tribune article announcing Mary Ann's talk was wrong. She never planned to talk about the highway, and in fact refused to even answer questions about it, as the City Council has all along. A number of us had come for the highway discussion, including several who had read it on Riptide."
The Sierra Club endorses Nicole David for a four-year term as commissioner of the San Mateo County Harbor District.
"As a marine biologist with 15 years of experience at the San Francisco Estuary Institute, Nicole brings a much-needed perspective and expertise to an organization that must frequently collaborate with resource agencies such as California Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), California Coastal Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), and California Coastal Conservancy, to name just a few. Nicole also has served as president of the local Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry," says the Sierra Club press release announcing the endorsement.
"We believe that the Harbor District will be greatly aided by having a Commissioner who is so well versed on such important stewardship issues. We are also heartened by her expressions of support for the local fishermen who are a vital constituency of the District and by her awareness of the need to lead the District out of its chronic budget deficits. Best environmental practices require that the district be on a sound financial footing to adequately perform those practices," the press release adds.
In the November 4 election, three council seats were up for grabs, with two incumbents (Mike O'Neill, Sue Digre) and five challengers (John Keener, Matt Dougherty, Victor Spano, Eric Ruchames, and Therese Dyer) in the race. Councilman Len Stone did not run for re-election.
In our opinion, the most important issues in Pacifica are Highway 1 widening and broken city finances. If you have been paying attention (Pacifica Riptide, Pacifica Index, candidate forums, and Jane Northrop's coverage in the Pacifica Tribune), only John Keener, Sue Digre, and Matt Dougherty clearly opposed widening Highway 1 and favored fixing city finances.
Congratulations to John and Sue on their clear victories. Though Matt's bid for office was unsuccessful, we hope to hear more from him in the future.
As to the other candidates: Victor Spano focused on traffic issues in northern Pacifica (Skyline and Fairmont). Mainstream political heavyweights endorsed Eric Ruchames, but we did not know where he stood on key issues. Mike O'Neill and Therese Dyer favored highway widening, but only O'Neill won.
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John Maybury, Editor and Publisher
Pacificans for Highway 1 Alternatives (PH1A) endorses John Keener, Sue Digre, and Matt Dougherty for Pacifica City Council, based on their responses to PH1A'S questionnaire on the proposed Caltrans highway-widening project.
All three candidates expressed clear opposition to the current proposal to more than double the width of a 1.3-mile segment of Highway 1. All three candidates have shown that they support the city applying for grants to have independent professionals evaluate alternatives to improve traffic flow, enhance safety, protect our environment, and beautify our town.
In PH1A'S outreach to thousands of Pacifica residents during the past two years -- public forums with large turnouts, petitions to City Council, tables at FogFest and throughout town -- it has found that an overwhelming majority of people it has spoken with support its position.
Caltrans has already certified its own Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the project. The San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA) has programmed funds for the final design.
Pacifica City Council could formally request that SMCTA allocate those funds. Then the final design would be done and the project would move forward. Caltrans finalized the EIR for this project with very little input from the City Council. Now all council can do is either accept or reject the Caltrans widening plan.
I was born in Pacifica and have lived here all my life. As a lover of the natural world, I have pitted myself over the years against any development that would not add to but only take away from the quality of life here on the coast.
Now we face what a growing number of Pacificans realize is the WORST AND STUPIDEST IDEA: widening Highway 1 between Rockaway and Vallemar. If you think the traffic mess at the Pedro Point bridge project has been rough, just wait. This massive construction project between two major stoplights at the center of town would go on for two years at the very least, and judging by how far off-schedule Caltrans has been on other projects (Devil's Slide Tunnels, Bay Bridge), it likely would be MUCH longer.
Thanks to Caltrans shutting out public commentary and railroading the review process, this mess is about to happen, something most coastsiders do not realize. And for what? Imagine, if you will, a section of 280, a freeway more than twice the width of Highway 1, bordered by 14-foot-high concrete walls—a freeway that encourages drivers to bypass local businesses and jockey for position as the lanes squeeze back down into the existing road.
Why is Caltrans so eager to transform Highway 1 into a freeway with bottlenecks at both ends? Is it so that demand for another section, and then another, would follow? NOTHING in this plan would improve commuter traffic! Even traffic consultants working with would-be quarry developer Don Peebles said this approach was expensive and useless.
Don't take my word for it. These pork barrel projects have been happening everywhere. Let's not make the same mistake! This article spells it out better than I can. Check out "Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse":
Bigger Is Not Better
Without support for transparency and a fair process in our own city government, this may be a done deal. A new City Council seems to be our only remaining recourse. Keener, Digre, and Dougherty are the candidates who have the backbone to say, "This makes no sense. It's WRONG for Highway 1." Without their votes and voices on council, this may be a done deal.
Alternatives that could actually address congestion have not been fully examined. Please contact Pacificans for Highway 1 Alternatives PH1A or on Facebook. Heads up, Pacifica. We are being railroaded, in the true meaning of the word.
By Ian Butler, Riptide Correspondent
I just learned that City Council candidate Victor Spano left a message on BJ Nathanson's voicemail (above) threatening to sue her for slander for her letter to the editor in the October 22 Pacifica Tribune. This is highly inappropriate. You can't run for office and threaten to sue anyone who criticizes you. A lively, open debate on the candidates is the foundation of the democratic process. Here is BJ's letter; see if you can spot the slanderous part (hint: there isn't one):
Editor: Victor Spano's slogan is "Fix Pacifica." It's on his signs and his website. He was even handing out water bottles that said "Fix Pacifica" on them at the Fog Fest. For those unfamiliar with it, Fix Pacifica is a local blog that for years has spewed hateful attacks on anyone with whom they disagree, and no one has been a victim of those attacks more than the late Jim Vreeland. In the week after Jim passed away, while the rest of us were paying our respects, Fix Pacifica was posting dozens of inappropriately negative comments, denigrating Jim's name and legacy. Blog moderator Kathy Meeh not only allowed the comments to be posted, she herself made some of the worst ones, and then censored most of the comments that dared to call for restraint and civility. (In a tortuous twist of absurdity, she censored comments that rightly accused her of censoring comments, while allowing comments that accused rival blog Pacifica Riptide of censoring comments.) This is the same Kathy Meeh who is the second endorser listed on Victor Spano's website. It is one thing to be endorsed BY Fix Pacifica, but Victor's campaign appears to be an endorsement OF Fix Pacifica. He will not be getting my vote."
(BJ Nathanson, former Pacifica Planning Commissioner and Parks, Beaches & Recreation Commissioner)
By Ian Butler, Riptide Correspondent
With an important election coming up, and one candidate even adopting "Fix Pacifica" as his motto, some citizens who had written off the FixPacifica blog as too negative may be tempted to give it a second chance. Recent developments would suggest otherwise.
Over the years, no one has been treated more harshly on the site than Jim Vreeland, so when news broke of Jim’s passing, I checked FixPacifica to see if it was capable of showing respect for the departed. On the first day, things looked promising, with a total of nine comments, all perfectly appropriate, but on the second day things went off the rails. Not only were there several anonymous comments attacking Jim, but FixPacifica moderator Kathy Meeh joined in the attacks.
That’s bad enough, but then she went a step further and began deleting comments that asked for restraint (or as she put it, sent to "spam jail"). Then she began deleting comments that accused her of deleting comments, all the while insisting that all of the deleted comments were so over the top that they simply had to be deleted.
I had a hard time believing that the deleted comments could possibly be more offensive than the ones that were allowed, so I asked FixPacifica blogmaster Steve Sinai to make them public. To his credit, he allowed them to be posted, and they reveal a rare glimpse behind the curtain of FixPacifica.
In all, 16 comments were deleted, none that could be considered inappropriate in any way. The only reason they could possibly have been deleted was because Kathy disagreed with them. And this is a site that says at the top of the home page: “Unlike some other Pacifica blogs, FixPacifica won’t bury viewpoints that we disagree with.”
That is an obvious reference to Pacifica Riptide, probably because editor and publisher John Maybury has the decency not to publish the very type of negative attack that was promoted on FixPacifica.
The role of a moderator is to “moderate” the discussion, that is, to rein in the most extreme factions and keep the discussion civil. When the moderator is making the most inflammatory comments, while censoring calls for restraint, a civilized discussion is impossible. (To date, Kathy has not apologized for anything she has said or deleted.)
Therefore, I urge caution when visiting FixPacifica, and if you submit any comments that Kathy might disagree with, keep a copy, and if it’s deleted, send it to blogmaster Steve Sinai (email@example.com), who can be reasonable, and to me (firstname.lastname@example.org), just in case. The full thread is here:
But be warned: It is a rather unpleasant read. My apologies to the Vreeland family for extending this unfortunate discussion, but I believe that allowing such attacks to go unchecked would tarnish his legacy.
I'm John Keener, Ph.D., research biochemist, small-business owner, and medical writer, now retired. My wife and I have lived in Pacifica for seven years. We were attracted to Pacifica by its many hiking trails, open spaces, and beautiful coastline.
I've made the Highway 1 widening plan the centerpiece of my campaign for Pacifica City Council. The 1.3-mile Caltrans project from the Fassler/Rockaway intersection to just north of the Vallemar intersection would add an additional lane in each direction to the existing four-lane highway.
In doing so, the proposed project would more than double the width of the roadway, from 64 feet to 144 feet, 12 feet wider than a typical eight-lane interstate freeway. Caltrans must acquire all or part of 27 parcels, including residential and business, to accommodate the increased highway footprint. Mature cypress trees lining the existing highway would be removed, and retaining walls up to 22 feet tall would be needed to stabilize cuts into hillsides.
I oppose the widening project because it wouldn't work to reduce traffic congestion during peak commute hours. This is because, at either end of the project, three lanes would merge back to the original two lanes in each direction, causing traffic jams. Other Caltrans widening projects have resulted in similar problems, notably in Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties.
Funded mostly by San Mateo County Measure A funds derived from a half-cent surcharge on sales tax within the county, the current price tag of the Highway 1 widening proposal is estimated at $55 million. I question the use of taxpayer funds without adequate public input. Comments on the Environmental Impact Reports for the widening project that were inconsistent with Caltrans’ vision were rejected.
Caltrans approved its Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) in August 2013. At this point, the decision on widening Highway 1 is a yes or no vote — no modifications are permitted to Caltrans' plan without starting over.
The major hurdle before construction could begin is a formal request by Pacifica City Council to the San Mateo County Transportation Authority for the $55 million needed to fund the project. I think such a request is a waste of taxpayer money on a design that won't alleviate congestion and is out of scale with community needs.
So I oppose funding the Caltrans plan. Instead, I support opening the process to the public and exploring alternative solutions that would effectively reduce traffic congestion on the Highway 1 corridor.
I'm running for one of three open seats on Pacifica City Council in November. More information about my positions on the highway widening and other issues may be found on my campaign website:
Opinion by Todd Bray, Riptide Correspondent
I watched this panel of seven City Council candidates individually answer prearranged questions sponsored by Pacifica Business Community Political Action Committee (PBCPAC). A faceless moderator asked questions from off-camera and each candidate responded.
The event left me giggling and certain of only two things: I can vote for only two candidates out of the seven, even though three council seats are up for grabs, because only two of the seven are against widening Highway 1 from its current 64-foot width to 144 feet wide.
I can't in good conscience vote for candidates O'Neil, Ruchames, Spano, Dyer, or Dougherty because of their support for the highway-widening proposal known as the Calera Parkway Project.
Caltrans' widening proposal is the single biggest threat to our small-town coastal feel, and would open up approximately 140 acres to development along that stretch of highway between Rockaway and Vallemar, both in the quarry and behind Pacifica Pet Hospital. Caltrans estimates the cost of widening that mile of highway at a staggering $55 million. That's Bay Bridge kind of money.
That leaves me only two candidates I can vote for, Sue Digre and John Keener, both of whom are solidly against the $55 million highway expansion. We need their voices on City Council right now more than ever.