Sustainable Martinez

Preserve. Enhance. Unite.

The vision - Why Martinez doesn't need a redevelopment agency

There is an unknown layer of government in California, which few understand.

This unknown government currently consumes 8 percent of all property taxes statewide, $1.5 billion in 1997. It has a total indebtedness of over $41 billion.

Unlike new counties, cities and school districts, it can be created without a vote of the citizens affected.

Unlike other levels of government, it can incur bonded indebtedness without voter approval.

This unknown government provides no public services. It does not educate our children, maintain our streets, protect us from crime, nor stock our libraries.

It claims to eliminate blight and promote economic development, yet there is no evidence it has done so in the half century since it was created.

Indeed, it has become a rapidly growing drain on California's public resources, amassing enormous power with little public awareness or oversight.

This unknown government is Redevelopment. It is time Californians knew more about it.

A brief history of the struggle against redevelopment

Prior to 2002: There have been 7 previous unsuccessful attempts to create a redevelopment agency in Martinez since the 1940’s.

Pre-election 2002:  Menesini announces he won’t seek fifth term as Mayor. Council members Schroder and Ross (Ross has declared that he ran for Council so he could run for Mayor) throw in their hats mid-term. Linda Lewis, whose Council term is up, has decided to throw in her hat in for Mayor as well, rather than seek re-election to Council. Barbara Woodburn, long a popular Council member, decides not to seek re-election. The Council race is thus very wide open, and seven candidates run for the open Council seats. Shortly before the election John Foley, is brought in as editor of the Gazette.  Foley’s tenure as editor is marked by sensationalistic journalism including personal attacks on candidates and editorials masquerading as news.  Foley’s editorials were strongly pro redevelopment. For perhaps the first time, redevelopment is openly discussed as an option by candidates during an election. The community becomes noticeably polarized.  

Election 2002: Schroder wins the Mayor's race. Wainwright wins a Council seat with the most votes of any candidate in either race. DeLaney has the next highest vote count for Council. Platt is a close runner-up to DeLaney.  After a contentious Council session led by Schroder,  Janet Kennedy - relative political unknown, non-candidate, and wife of CCCo Redevelopment Director Jim Kennedy - rather than Platt, is appointed to the Council seat opened up by Schroder's successful move to the Mayoralty.

2003, early 2004: With a 4-to-1 pro-RDA majority, the Council openly discusses redevelopment. Keyser-Marston is selected in closed session to perform a blight study. Late in 2003, the Council decides, rather than actually create a redevelopment agency (RDA), to put an RDA advisory measure, Measure M, before the voters. On Christmas Eve, 2003, after ballot arguments have been submitted and the final ballot argument submission deadline approaches, and with only 24 hour's notice, Al Turnbaugh, plaintiff, with supporting letters from Schroder and Kramer, and with the Mayor of Concord as attorney, sues the opponents of Measure M with the intent of removing the Measure M opposing argument from the ballot. The opposition is able to retain local attorney Tom Greerty at the last minute. The opposing argument remained largely intact.

Election March 2004: Pro-M forces outspend the opposition about 4-to-1, with expensive, glossy mailers targeting Martinez voters living away from the downtown area, and are able to eke out a 317-vote margin, for a 50.4% to 47.6% victory, paving the way for the City to move forward on redevelopment.

RDA ordinance 2004: On May 5, the Council passes an ordinance creating an RDA. The Council makes no promises whatsoever regarding goals, debt limits or eminent domain. The expensive homes immediately east of downtown are included in the hypothetical RDPA at the last minute, presumably to increase anticipated RDA tax increment revenues. At the Council meeting two weeks later, 5/19, the ordinance receives its second reading. The opposition mounted a successful request for a referendum within the 30 day period after the ordinance was signed.

Referendum 2004: In 2004, RDA creation is still treated by law as just another Council action, and so there are only 30 days to collect 10% of the registered voters' signatures for a referendum. What follows: weekend union-hall breakfasts followed by walking; phone networking; shopping center signature gathering; evening walking. A bit before the 30-day deadline, over 3100 signatures (almost 50% more than required) are submitted. The referendum petition is subsequently certified, and the RDA ordinance is suspended.

RDA ordinance rescission 2007: despite calls for a vote, the Council sits on the ordinance and does nothing. Finally, on January 17, 2007, after 2 1/2 years, the Council rescinds the ordinance creating an RDA.