FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD
A Prosperous City Requires Bold & Unique Vision
"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." And they did. Failure to plan has been a significant contributor to the issues Benicia is facing today. Our goals and vision for Benicia’s economic future should be brave and be bold. To drive economic development, we need to create a long-term vision and implementation plan on how we can continue to revitalize our downtown sales tax generating base while we preserve our small-town historic character.
Economic Development is a complex issue which may explain why my opponents have failed to address it in any detail. Business owners and developers need more than a list of past "achievements" and endorsements. They need our support and advocacy. It starts with concrete ideas and innovation. Below is a summary of the direction I see Benicia heading in.
Downtown Destination and Small Business Support: Increase Access for All
Part of downtown’s charm is its accessibility. This increased accessibility includes more bike lanes, more handicapped parking, more opportunities which fit into our historic community aesthetic. We need to take a look at the following:
Develop a Downtown Retail Zone that encourages first floor small businesses that generate sales tax revenue (such as retail shops, pubs and restaurants) and help contribute to Benicia’s destination tourism efforts.
Create a holistic parking plan that requires innovative solutions
Encourage relocating employee parking off First Street and into designated parking areas
Reconfigure East 2nd and East H Streets for diagonal parking
Pave the E Street parking lot, while we wait to see when technology can make the lot buildable.
It’s not just about First Street. Clearly, we need to upgrade our Business Industrial Park by improving infrastructure, digital fiber and protecting it from housing encroachment. The path to business ownership and expansion should be easier. Too many business owners have complained to me that their desire to expand and update their business are held up in permitting processes. I want to explore why this is and advocate for business owners.
Council must continue to provide support for Economic Development through keeping an open mind to new revenue generating businesses. We have been successful in attracting green businesses like Raven SR and Benicia Fabrication and Manufacturing. We should target other emerging next generation green technology companies including renewable energy manufacturing for the next generation of long-term business park growth.
We must expand the use of block grants and increase the funding to our Economic Development Department to create an incubator environment that encourages stable growth. The State of California has an $80 billion dollar surplus. Benicia could use a grant writer to help us tap into those resources.
As a member of the Bay Ferry 2050 Citizens Advisory Committee along with former Benicia Mayor Jerry Hayes, we should be exploring what Ferry services look like in the future. Would Ferry service benefit Benicia? This conversation should be ongoing until we find a worthwhile solution for both commuters and those who would benefit from the revenue a ferry service would bring. Any discussion with ferry services would need to include environmental impacts as well as stress put on affected neighborhoods.
Amports: Vehicle Destination Tax Proposition
We need to start a conversation with Amports about the application of a "Port of Benicia Pass-Through Tax" on each vehicle delivered using Benicia’s port. The cost of the tax would be paid for by wholesale distributors/purchasers of the fleet, and would not be paid for by Benicia tax payers. I propose a $25 per car pass through tax which we can negotiate with Amports. With a total lot of capacity of 400K vehicles, and an estimated 250K vehicles arriving annually, a $25 per vehicle tax would generate $6.25 million dollars annually paid for by wholesale car companies, not Benicia tax payers.