A great meal is often a combination of hard work, fantastic flavors, creativity and synergy. Some of the best meals are the result of experimentation, refinement, and collaboration. One might say the same thing about a healthy community. And while Benicia, like the most sumptuous culinary creation, does have that certain je ne sais quoi, some essential ingredients contribute to its synergy.  In understanding these essentials, we come to know ourselves better, value each other more, and continue refining towards an even greater goal.

It’s all the buzz that Benicia was recently named the 40th safest city in California by SafeWise, a private security company, and no doubt safety is a key ingredient. Safety fosters an environment of trust, and we’re fortunate to have a foundation of trust between the community and the police department. The Citizens Police Academy serves as a venue for community members to learn about the structure, operation and values of the police department, with the stated goal of strengthening the “mutually beneficial partnership between citizens and the Benicia Police Department.” Community policing and oversight foster further openness. With a strong aura of community safety, people are free to focus on pursuits that bring richness to the collective fabric, such as commerce, education and art.

No doubt safety and education go hand in hand, as our children benefit the most from the good fortune of living in a safe community. In 2012, Solano County was named (for the sixth time) one of the 100 best counties for young people in America, by the organization America’s Promise Alliance. The organization cited health and social services programs, including early pairing of children with special needs with services, and services for teens working towards career paths. Benicia Rotary, Arts Benicia and Liberty High’s collaborative “Expanding Experiences” was specifically cited for bringing together local artists, students and business people. Again, collaboration and innovation are key components. Safe routes to school, a stellar library, strong support for students, and knowledgeable, caring school district employees are strong contributing factors for the big picture of education; giving our students the best chance to be leaders of the future.

Art is highly valued in Benicia, and the history and picturesqueness of this waterside hamlet make her a prolific muse. Visual, literary and performing arts flourish, through Arts Benicia, Benicia Old Town Theatre Group and a multitude of artists’ studios, galleries, and whimsical touches, like Benicia’s Poem Homes. The waterfront has been carefully maintained and preserved as a source of inspiration for artists, writers and ramblers alike. It’s a landscape and climate that draws people out of doors, for a walk, a run, a bike or kayak. Benicians love to stay active, and this kind of health and happiness go hand in hand. Crossing paths with neighbors and friends as you exercise is an added bonus to the fresh air, perspective and healthy living.

Downtown is an intersection (a veritable cornucopia, one might say) of natural beauty, commerce, dining, art, and camaraderie; and recent improvements to the entrance of First Street put the icing on the cake. And while no place is ever picture perfect (is anything in life?), perhaps perfection isn’t the goal. Maybe it’s about building foundations for a better future, sharing and collaborating and finding new intersections of relating and giving our gifts in this grand experiment of life. One of the best human traits is the desire for change—it makes us strive to be better. So let’s all continue striving to be better contributors to our community, while still enjoying the fresh breeze off the water and the sweet scenery.