By EMMA GOULARTE
This month there is an election for City Council here in Benicia. There are two open seats due to Mark Hughes and Alan Schwartzman leaving. There are four candidates racing for the two spots. Christina Strawbridge, Lionel Largaspada, William Emes, and Kari Birdseye are the four candidates. Kari Birdseye is a candidate who is determined to get a spot on City Council.
Birdseye has lived in Benicia for the last 18 years. She grew up in the Bay Area and in different parts of California. Throughout her childhood, she watched Mary Tyler Moore on television. Moore was a professional, and a television producer, who Birdseye looked up too. In high school, she was on the school paper and in college she studied Journalism. She got her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and wrote for the college paper. After she graduated she became a television news producer for CNN. She even won an Emmy for the Olympic Park Coverage. She later left CNN to become a Director of Communications at the Wine Institute. She enjoyed the environmental part of the job, so she went back to school to get her Masters of Science and Environmental Management. In addition to her job, she has been on the Matthew Turner PTA board President for eight years, Benicia Stingrays board for 10 years, served through city government, held fundraisers, and administered grants to the non- profit organizations in this community.
Along with all of the organizations she is a part of, and her full time job, she added campaigning into the mix. According to Birdseye, “Having to get yourself out there and campaigning is like having two full time jobs, but I love doing it so it doesn’t feel like work to me.” She loves to keep busy. As long as she likes what she’s doing, then she is happy to do it. While campaigning you have to put forth your strongest qualities to catch people’s votes and being on City Council people need to see you follow through and put your best foot forward. Her strongest qualities are synthesizing information and understanding complex situations and data. She is good at communicating and understanding how to find solutions to problems. In other words, she is a good strategic planner and a good problem solver.
Birdseye has three main problems in our community that she would like to fix. She first wants to face economic sustainability and diversity. The city faces some tough financial problems coming up due to the retirement funding set up. We need funding to help run our city so we can have a police department, fire department, sewer, and other things Benicia needs to keep a happy and healthy community. Improving the industrial park, different kinds of businesses, and keeping businesses financially healthy is also important for our community. “We need to plan for the future and what we want our city to be in 10-15 years,” Birdseye said.
Another thing Birdseye would like to maintain in Benicia is access to clean air and clean water. She believes everyone deserves clean water in Benicia, not just the rich. Also, she wants air monitoring throughout our community so we can see what we are breathing. They should start at schools first because that’s where the most “vulnerable” people are.
The next important thing she wants to address is better planning and better communications throughout our community. City hall needs to become easier for citizens to come, listen, and share their ideas to help our community. It is important to her to make it so everyone in Benicia who wants to deal with city government can do so and feel welcome.
Benicia has a good school system that draws families here. The school is in the heart of the community and it is important to keep it safe and vibrant. It is important to embrace diversity within our schools and communities. We need to keep the Kyle Hyland Teen Center. It is important to our community, so teens can have a healthy and great place to go. “We need to keep our best teachers and make sure they are treated fairly. They deserve to be paid like rock stars or sport stars.” They are people shaping our lives so they should be treated importantly.
Birdseye is going to approach each problem or vote with an open mind and bring the experience and intelligence that she has to each problem. This will set her apart from the other candidates along with her reasoning, strategic thinking, and her independent thinking. She also wants the other candidates to know that she hopes they can stick to a fair campaign. She looks forward to working with whomever wins with her.