May Martinez Mayor's Message
May 01, 2016 12:15PM
● By Rob Schroder
Rob Schroder, Mayor of Martinez
In the April issue of Community Focus, I discussed the deteriorating condition of our residential streets and the increasing challenge of obtaining funds to improve and maintain them. I reported that the city had done a good job with the major arterial roads, with $2.1 million of approved paving projects about to start and some already completed.
I received several email responses to last month’s column that clearly show the concern Martinez residents have about the city’s infrastructure, careful use of taxpayer dollars, and concerns about an additional tax burden. I would like to share one of those emails that encapsulates the concerns of many, along with my response:
Dear Mr. Mayor,
We read your message in the Community Focus, and you must think we’ve just come down the river in a banana boat. Low oil prices and gas taxes? Where is the revenue from all the years of high oil prices and gas taxes? The condition of the Martinez roads is only a part of a poorly managed township. For over 20 years we’ve been hearing about various projects and fixing the waterfront. 20 years and still nothing?
In that time Benicia addressed their waterfront issues with a beautiful marina, Pleasant Hill built a thriving downtown, and demonstrated they know how to maintain their streets. We watched as the county repaved Reliez Valley Rd., stopped at the Martinez City sign, then started again at the Pleasant Hill border. That section of the Martinez Reliez Valley road was like a third world road. We know; we drove it every day. The county manpower, materials, and machinery were all there for the taking, and Martinez could have negotiated with them and taken advantage of those assets and gone in with the county to fix a bad section of road. It was another opportunity missed.
The Martinez downtown has tumbleweeds blowing through it in the evenings and is full of vagrants that scare most folks away. Having an Amtrak station is no excuse for these people being there. I lived in SLO for many years, and they, too, have an Amtrak station, but their police force and town management discourage the vagrants from loitering around the downtown. In doing so, they thrive with tourists and businesses.
Don’t get us wrong. We love living in this area, but we are disappointed at seeing so little progress made in Martinez and lack of vision compared to other surrounding cities. Martinez has the advantage of a waterfront as a huge asset, but it’s wasted. If the waterfront thrives, the town thrives. Why can’t the management folks see this?
Thanks for reading my most recent contribution in Community Focus. I wasn't quite sure if anyone read it, but I can see by your response you did.
The City of Martinez is actually a very well-managed community, solvent with a healthy reserve and high bond rating. We have limited sales tax income, but a very stable property tax, as long as property values do not decline as they did in 2008-2012.
The waterfront continues to have issues that date back to five loans from the state taken between 1960 through 1985, to build and improve the marina. We have been negotiating with the state on that outstanding debt of $4.1 million. One success was that the state legislature has granted lands at the waterfront to the city under the public trust doctrine. This means that we no longer have a lease with a finite expiration date, which will allow us to master plan the waterfront (both water side and land side) and attract private partners with capitol. The waterfront master plan will start soon after we secure a new city manager.
Benicia has done a nice job with their waterfront with housing and a marina. Unfortunately, East Bay Regional Park will never allow us to build housing on our waterfront.
Roads continue to be an issue, but believe it or not, the main arterials are in pretty good shape. It is the neighborhoods that need work. Every year since I have been on the city council, over $1 million per year has been dedicated to roads and paving. This is in addition to any other funds we get from the State of California, federal grants, and Measure J funds. We have not been draining money away from gas tax and other sources for non-road issues.
You mention Reliez Valley Road and the county project. We had intended on joining the county on that project, but we felt they were unfairly overcharging us for our participation and decided not to join the project. As you probably know, the city section of that road was repaved at least 3 or 4 years ago. In October, we authorized $2.1 million of paving projects, some of which have been completed, with the remainder to commence after the rainy season. We are set to approve additional projects in Virginia Hills and Rolling Hills neighborhoods at a low bid of $759,000.
If you go downtown, you will see several buildings undergoing construction as a result of the mandatory earthquake retrofit ordinance. Property owners have either re-invested in their buildings or made upgrades, but many have sold and the new owners are upgrading and bringing in new businesses. Pleasant Hill was fortunate enough to institute a redevelopment agency that created their downtown. Martinez never had redevelopment. In fact, the only Contra Costa cities that did not have it were Orinda, Moraga, and Martinez.
We do have a homeless problem, just as every other city does. Being the county seat with all the county services, such as welfare, county hospital, jail, etc., exacerbate the problem. It is a social issue that the chief of police, Contra Costa County Mental Health, and the CC Homeless Program are always working on.
Thanks for sharing your views with me.