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Friends Fest

Sunday
September 15

2:00-5:00

Martinez Veterans Building
930 Ward St.
Martinez

Come out and show your support for our community with an afternoon of fun, food, wine and fundraising.

Roxx on Main is catering our event with a delicious menu. You’ll have the chance to mingle with locals and make new friends while enjoying live music and entertainment.

Kay Cox will be presented with the Citizen of the Year Award
Guest speakers include Contra Costa County District 5 Supervisor Candidate Mike Barbanica

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to give back to your community and make a difference.

The Thousand Friends of Martinez Fundraiser is a great way to support local causes and meet like-minded individuals who share your passion for making a positive impact.

So mark your calendar and join us at the Martinez Veterans Memorial Building for an unforgettable afternoon! We can’t wait to see you there.

Click to get your ticket now!!


Pine Meadow Park Groundbreaking
on Saturday July 20

The highly anticipated new Pine Meadow Park is scheduled to break ground in mid-July.  The first phase of construction expected to be completed in November.

When completed, the Park will boast an All Abilities Playground, restroom building, nature trail, picnic areas, and multi-use recreational fields.  Other amenities, such as accessible parking and pathways, will ensure that this park is a public space for all Martinez residents.  With approximately eight acres of open space and park land, the Park is sure to be a highlight for residents to enjoy!

The City will host a Groundbreaking Ceremony for Pine Meadow Park on Saturday July 20 at 10am. The ceremonies will bring together the City Council, contractors, and the community to celebrate this milestone event.

The park is located on Pine Meadow Drive near Center and Morello.

For more information about Pine Meadow Park and its construction, please visit the Park project web page at https://www.cityofmartinez.org/pinemeadow.

Information from the City of Martinez newsletter


The Story of Pine Meadow Park and Measure I

If you have read our emails over the years, you may remember the struggle to bring Pine Meadow Park into existence.  The story is here and is a good history of how it came about.  

The fight for Pine Meadow Park is an excellent example of how democracy works and how citizens can have a real impact in today’s world. 

A quick recap is: about ten years ago the City Council was consistently voting to convert open space to housing development—three times in just a few years. Martinez citizens opposed this.  And, when the Council voted to convert the 26-acre Pine Meadow Golf Course from open space to housing, citizens took action. 

It took several years—and three lawsuits, a referendum and an initiative (in all of which citizens prevailed)— to bring the city and the developer/owner to the negotiating table.  Pine Meadow Park is the heart of the result!  The details are much more gory and involve law suits, including the City suing its citizens for placing a ballot measure before the voters.

But our clear lesson from the Pine Meadow Park saga is that citizens can shape the direction of local policy. It takes hard work, dedication and more than a bit of obstinance to overcome a Council that has gone in a different direction from its constituency…BUT IT CAN BE DONE. 

This is a shining example of how our democracy works and why the threats to it today are so important to resist.   The Founders of our country and subsequent generations of lawmakers have built a truly resilient system of government that really does empower the people, but we need to be ever vigilant.

——-

Of course, the ultimate decider in our way of governance is elections.  It is heartening to see that Martinez citizens have turned a corner and have elected a set of officials that are much more open with local government and have shifted the direction of the City in ways that are much more in line with citizens’ current sensibilities.  

Both this current Council and the former Council—after the negotiations— have been very supportive of making Pine Meadow Park a truly unique asset for our town.  

Democracy needs constant attention though.  We have elections in November.  It’s important that all of us keep in mind the continued need for open, transparent government when it’s time to vote.


THE MARTINEZ REDEVELOPMENT STORY AND THREATS TODAY

Martinez citizens saw decades ago that the formation of the Martinez Redevelopment Agency (MRA) would be a major threat to those qualities that make Martinez a special place to live.  Putting the tremendous powers of a Redevelopment Agency into the hands of the wrong politicians would undermine our city finances, but, more important, would jeopardize our town’s friendly and safe, historic, small-town nature and its close connection with the hills and shoreline, open space and parks that are intrinsic to it.

That is why citizens fought so hard against the formation of the Martinez Redevelopment Agency.  With its critical powers in the hands of a Mayor and Councilmembers who favored developers and large landowners to the detriment of everyday residents, they could diminish and potentially eradicate those unique qualities that many of us cherish. 

Those powers would let the Mayor and Councilmembers:  

  • use eminent domain to seize private properties throughout Martinez, including in the Downtown/Waterfront
  • consolidate those properties into large lots
  • pay for those private properties by issuing bonds without a public vote
  • pay off those bonds by diverting property taxes that would normally go to the City General Fund for police/parks/roads/etc. and also to numerous other local agencies, including Contra Costa County Fire Department/East Bay Regional Park District/ County libraries/Contra Costa County Sheriffs department/and more
  • make private sweetheart deals with developers and landowners, including turning properties over to developers free of charge or for less than the acquisition cost 
  • and more

In the hands of the wrong politicians, a Redevelopment Agency could ruin a town like Martinez while making favorite developers and landowners rich.

The Martinez Redevelopment Agency would pose a major threat to the Downtown and Waterfront in particular, potentially seizing private properties and consolidating them into large lots that could be passed to developers in sweetheart deals and used to build large scale “big box” stores and high-rise, high-density housing. Our town and marina would be rebuilt into just another suburban town with a concrete marina.

Our historic, friendly, safe, small-town nature would be lost forever.

Starting in the 1950s, concerned Martinez citizens saw this threat and banded together to fight the formation of a Martinez Redevelopment Agency.  The Committee Against Martinez Redevelopment Agency (CAMRA) was the last of several such citizen groups that worked hard for literally decades to keep a Redevelopment Agency out of our town. 

Citizens:    

  • held protests at City Hall and packed City Council meetings
  • testified at public meetings
  • blanketed the town with thousands of newsletters and fliers on citizen doorsteps
  • opposed the advisory ballot measure that Mayor Schroder and the City Council sponsored.  Citizens even published an actual 4-color newspaper to inform the public: the “Martinez Messenger Vol. 1  No. 1.”  (Click here to see one edition of the newspaper citizens produced.) 
  • held public classes on the problems with a Martinez Redevelopment Agency
  • wrote letters to the editor
  • ran their own websites
  • organized a successful referendum that overturned a key City Council resolution
  • and much more

Ultimately, after decades of successful citizen opposition, the Martinez Redevelopment Agency (MRA) was voted into being by then-Mayor Rob Schroder and three Councilmembers:  Mark Ross, Lara DeLaney, Janet Kennedy (Bill Wainwright voted AGAINST it).  The City Council named itself as the MRA’s governing body.

With only the narrow 30-day window for a referendum, citizens rapidly put together and led a referendum drive to suspend the Council’s vote.  Thousands of voter signatures were gathered, and the referendum succeeded.  The City Council vote to form the Martinez Redevelopment Agency was put on hold. 

Finally, in 2011, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill abolishing Redevelopment Agencies altogether.   He did this for several reasons, including:  (1) to protect funding for core public services at the local level (by that time billions of dollars of local property taxes were being diverted annually to Redevelopment Agencies); (2) the results of many Redevelopment Agencies were disappointing– inefficiencies and failure to achieve housing and business goals; threat to local businesses; loss of place character; displacement of local residents; and (3) more and more abuses and misuses of funds were being reported.

This is a link to an amazing short Power Point history of this Martinez citizen movement from the 1950’s through 2009:  Martinez RDA History 1950 to 2009

This is a link to Power Point presentation on the Martinez Redevelopment Agency war and surrounding issues—beavers/Pacheco Annexation/Downtown and Waterfront Master Plan and more:  The Martinez RDA Wars  A brief History

Here are links to two articles that give statewide historic background on why Redevelopment Agencies were abolished and some new alternatives about which we MUST be very cautious:

The Committee Against Martinez Redevelopment Agency (CAMRA) is the last group in a long line of Martinez groups and organizations that successfully fought the formation of a Martinez Redevelopment Agency.  CAMRA is now shutting down and is making an unrestricted donation of its assets and legacy to Thousand Friends of Martinez (TFM) because TFM closely shares CAMRA’s long-standing goals to protect and preserve Martinez’s unique values, including its friendly, historic, small-town character and its natural connection with the hills and shoreline, open spaces and parks that are all around us.

Since the abolition of Redevelopment Agencies in 2011, watered-down versions that have some of the same powers, including the diversion of local property taxes, have been passed into State law.  Infrastructure Financing Districts (IFD) and Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts (EIFD) are two notable examples.   Also Assembly Bill 1476 reauthorizing Redevelopment Agencies with “safeguards” was just recently killed in the Assembly.  It is our hope that Thousand Friends of Martinez will keep watch on these and similar laws that could have a negative effect on our town.

Please keep a copy of this memorandum and attachments easily accessible on the TFM website so the long history of the fight to stop the Martinez Redevelopment Agency (MRA) and the warning about future property tax diversions and other negative effects of redevelopment are readily available to the public.

Tim Platt for Committee Against Martinez Redevelopment Agency (CAMRA).

June 16, 2024

Martinez Messenger Vol 1 No 1
Martinez RDA History 1950 to 2009
The Martinez RDA Wars – A brief History
Why Redevelopment failed and efforts to revive it
California’s Redevelopment Agencies: The Bad Idea That Won’t Die


Thousand Friends of Martinez Endorses Mike Barbanica
for County Supervisor in the
March 5 Election Primary

Antioch Councilmember Mike Barbanica is head and shoulders above the other candidates for District 5 County Supervisor.  He’s better on the issues, he loves parks and open space, and he’ll defend ridgelines and the urban limit line. He has concrete plans for addressing Martinez’ current oil refinery challenges. He’s accessible and eager to learn, and he fully participated in our endorsement process, answering a questionnaire a week before the deadline and participating in our Feb. 6 Candidates Forum.  As both a former Pittsburg policeman and current small business owner, Mike will make homeless and safety issues a high priority. In addition to our endorsement, Thousand Friends also agreed to make a $1,000 contribution to Mike’s campaign.

Mike is:

·         Strong on protecting quality-of-life issues, such as local open space and parks, historic features and well-planned housing projects.

·         Actively working with the refinery to demand better operations and ensure public health.

·         Solid on public safety and finding solutions to homelessness.

·         Accessible to the public (as stated on his questionnaire: “I currently have and will continue an open door policy”) and believes in government transparency.

It was an easy choice, after a robust discussion. Some of us have followed all three of these candidates’ records in their cities for years.

Pittsburg councilmembers Jelani Killings and Shanelle Scales-Preston, the other candidates, are weak on environmental issues and inaccessible to the public. Killings and Scales-Preston have both disqualified themselves in our opinion with their pro-development record in Pittsburg. Despite claiming to be open and accessible, that’s not our experience.

Thousand Friends was organized in 2015 as a political action committee with the number one goal of supporting better candidates to represent the public rather than just big-moneyed interests. This is our 5th election cycle. Thousand Friends of Martinez helps elect conscientious representatives; promotes open government; quality of life, parks, open spaces, and historic elements.

There are four candidates to replace retiring Supervisor Federal Glover but only two have a shot based on campaign fundraising and endorsements, Antioch councilmember Mike Barbanica and Pittsburg councilmember Shanelle Scales-Preston. Pittsburg councilmember Jelani Killings has almost no funding and Pittsburg resident Iztaccuauhtli “White Eagle” Hector Gonzalez has reported no campaign funds at all.  You can read more about each at www.mikebarbanica.com , www.shanelle4supervisor.org , www.jelanikillings.com , and www.whiteeagle.info

District 5 runs along the Contra Costa northern waterfront from Hercules to Martinez to Pittsburg and a part of Antioch. If any candidate gets more than 50% in the March primary, they’re elected. With four candidates there will almost certainly be a runoff in the November election. Because Martinez voter turnout is generally high Martinez will play a significant role in who gets elected.

Federal Glover made the Northern Waterfront an issue, where various industrial uses have declined over the years but there are robust transportation options from water, road and rail. The county and cities have been coordinating on economic development goals although progress has been limited and there’s a constant pressure to turn these partly vacant areas into housing. In our questionnaire and at the forum, Barbanica made clear that the Northern Waterfront is also affected by sea level rise and climate change, and that economic development must be balanced with park and resource goals.

Candidates get their message out with campaign funding. In Contra Costa, at the city and county level, there are about five sources of major funding other than the public and the candidates themselves: developers, refineries, garbage companies, public employee unions and building trades unions. Unions also put boots on the ground for grassroots organizing. Craig Lazzaretti does a valuable service in his Martinez News and Views by reporting on Martinez issues. You can read about campaign finances there in the “Candidate Races” section. https://martineznewsandviews.substack.com/p/a-look-at-what-martinez-voters-will .

Thousand Friends’ goal is to compete with the usual campaign stakeholders by encouraging good candidates to run, sponsoring public candidate forums, and providing ongoing education on candidates and issues year-round rather than just in the six weeks before elections when your mailbox gets flooded. And by encouraging public discussion on many issues rather than just the two or three hot button issues the campaigns will include.  

Martinez residents have worked for decades to protect our surrounding ridges and open space. But the County controls land use in surrounding unincorporated areas in Pacheco, the Mountain View and Vine Hill neighborhoods, the Alhambra Valley south to Briones, and west to Hercules. We’ve been protected by the Urban Limit Line but it expires (or gets renewed) in two years in 2026. The new County Supervisor will have a big role in what happens in those areas.  Do developers run the show, or residents? Mike Barbanica is supported by public safety unions but has been independent of development interests and refineries.

How have Pittsburg councilmembers Jelani Killings and Shanelle Scales-Preston disqualified themselves with their pro-development record? Twice in the past four years they’ve both approved the Seeno companies/Discovery Builders controversial Faria project, 1500 units on 600 acres on the Los Medanos ridgeline overlooking Concord and adjacent to the brand-new Thurgood Marshall Regional Park (formerly part of the Concord Naval Weapons Station). They claim they made the project better but it’s not true. Although elected officials often improve as they rise to higher office, Killings and Scales-Preston haven’t shown much ability to balance competing interests to create compromises.

We’ll write more about the issues in coming months. 

Mike Barbanica is pro-open space and loves Contra Costa’s green hills. He’s pledged to protect our ridgelines. He’s publicly supported these positions in Antioch. Thousand Friends of Martinez endorses Mike Barbanica for Contra Costa County Supervisor, District 5 in the March 5 primary. We urge you to support him too. 

Vote for Measure C

Measure C is a renewal of a longstanding parcel tax that has provided locally controlled funds for the Martinez Unified School District.This funding helps Martinez retain quality teachers and counselors, protect art and music programs, and support academic programs in science, technology, and engineering that enable students to compete for the best colleges and careers.

In our view, this funds from the parcel tax have been effectively used and are of benefit to the students of the district.  Measure C would renew the tax for an additional eight years for $75 a parcel with an $850,000 annual contribution to the district’s funds. We encourage voters to support the continuation of this valuable source of funding for local schools.  This is money that is controlled locally and cannot be taken away by the state.  The school board has put together a factsheet with more information here.

Candidate Forum for Supervisor

Tuesday February 6th 7pm

On Tuesday February 6th, Thousand Friends of Martinez will be hosting a Candidates Forum at the VFW Hall. This is your chance to get know who is running for County Supervisor to replace Federal Glover. Doors open at 6:30 pm and the event starts at 7:00 pm. There will be light snacks plus an enlightening event.  

If you can’t attend in person, we have some options:

Friends Fest

It was a fine autumn Sunday afternoon September 24, 2023 at Roxx on Main where the supporters of Thousand Friends of Martinez gathered to renew old friendships, make new friends and just as importantly – keep working toward a better Martinez. With food, drink and music, the event was a great success.  125 people attended. We set several goals for the first annual event and exceeded all of them, including at least 100 guests and netting more than $5000 in our first time effort. Funds will support our efforts including to support good candidates for city council and other elected offices.

Air quality had been a little threatening, but the day was sunny and clear. There were short presentations by Mayor Brianne Zorn, East Bay Regional Park District Director Colin Coffey and Thousand Friends Co-Chair Seth Adams, who highlighted the focus of the group. 

We are here to promote open, transparent government and to support environmentally conscious leadership in the Martinez area.  Defending open space, wetlands, parks and historical elements are a key aim of our organization.

We would especially like to thank Steering Committee member Kay Cox for organizing the event and Pete Sabine for managing social media.

Our Event Committee: Kay Cox, Sherida Bush and Jane Moore

Volunteers: Ryan Aston, Lauren Cox, Kate Pearson, Brian Walker, Gigi Walker

Hosts: Seth Adams, Dan Barrows, Tina Batt and Sherida Bush, Kay Cox, Jennifer Pearson, Tim Platt, Pete Sabine, Harlan Strickland, Mark Thomson, Carol Wiley

Our Overwhelmingly Wonderful Venue Host : Leslie Stiles and Roxx on Main

The UnConcord and our own Mark Thomson for providing great music.

Our Wine donors – Tod Kilbourn and Nancy McMorrow, Jim & Bette Felton


Refinery Issues
Update from Mayor Brianne Zorn

At last week’s meeting, the City Council passed a resolution Urging the Martinez Refining Company (MRC) to Comply with Regional Air Emission Standards. This was prompted by the efforts of Healthy Martinez, a local activist group that formed following the spent catalyst release one year ago. The Martinez Refining Company attended the meeting with an update on plans to improve their process safety. They plan to update the Council every other month.

Click the button to read more about the plans going forward including community communications, monitoring stations and more.


Naming the new park at Pine Meadow

Choosing a recommended name for this new City park at Pine Meadow was the subject of the Park, Recreation, Marina and Cultural Commission (PRMCC) meeting on Tuesday, October 17.  Several names were discussed from the ones suggested by the public during the name application period.  The discussion was detailed and illuminating. 

Find out more details and proposed park names by clicking the buttons.


Who should make land use decisions – local or state government?

There is growing sentiment around the state, shared by city and county officials as well as average citizens, for a state initiative to take local land use decision making back from Sacramento. Passage of the initiative would be a major step with many consequences affecting cities and counties around the state far into the future, much like Prop 13 continues to affect us today. Thousand Friends has not taken a position on the idea, but Thousand Friends would very much like to hear your thoughts.


Briones Pilot Project

The East Bay Regional Park District has launched a two year pilot project at Briones Park to test trail management strategies. This project was created to better accommodate the increase in number of visitors at the park district.  The Briones Pilot Project establishes specific rules limiting trail use, such as hiking only, biking only, or biking/hiking only and direction of travel. Although the Park District is seeking to open new parks and provide more trails to reduce crowding on trails, the trail development process takes time. The pilot project will test some new ways to safely share trails and improve the trail experience for all users while protecting habitat, wildlife, and watersheds.



The Mission of Thousand Friends of Martinez is to provide a stable organization which will work with residents to elect informed, conscientious representatives; promote open government; enhance our quality of life by creating a livable city; defend our parks and open spaces, and; conserve natural areas and historic elements in the greater Martinez region.

Our Geographic Focus is: The greater Martinez region, including the city and unincorporated areas, the Briones Bioregion and significant watershed lands.

Our Objectives are to:

  • Endorse, support and fund responsible and environmentally supportive leaders
  • Promote transparent government
  • Promote better land use planning and the development of policies for the public benefit
  • Defend parks, creeks, wetlands, open space and historic elements
  • Support budgeting, ballot measures and funding for these purposes
  • Educate the public about these objectives and strategies