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Eduardo Martinez campaigning outside a BART station.

Longtime teacher seeks council spot

on October 27, 2010

Standing in the morning chill along Sixth St., between Lincoln Elementary School and abandoned homes with broken windows, Eduardo Martinez greets parents as they walk their children to school.

“Hi, I’m running for city council,” says Martinez as he hands each parent a flyer. Some look bewildered as they grab the brochure and walk by; others stop to read the information and exchange hellos.

Education activist Michael Beer put on a colorful tie and campaign button for Martinez. "I live in Richmond and I see what's going on—the crime, the get rich schemes," said Beer. "I want a change for the better."

Martinez is used to talking with parents—he worked as an elementary school teacher for 21 years, 18 of them in the West Contra Costa County Unified School District.  Reforming education, he says, is the key to solving Richmond’s problems.

Martinez, now retired, feels his time  as a teacher prepared him well for a spot on the council. “I’ve been able to see how city policies affect students’ ability to learn,” said Martinez.

Campaigning along with Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and council candidate Jovanka Beckles, Martinez says he supports their visions for a new Richmond. He’s endorsed by the Richmond Progressive Alliance.

“My philosophy is much like hers [the mayor’s],” said Martinez. “We have the same people-based vision of Richmond—creating a community whose primary interest is the health of the community.”

Martinez would like to see community organizations such as martial arts studios to team up with the school district to build positive community relationships. Making each school a community center would remove a culture of fear and cultivate pride, he said.

Martinez’s ideas resonate with Richmond resident Michael Beers.

Eduardo Martinez, left, meets local residents at an event promoting co-ops. "This idea is waiting to be born here," he said. "Co-ops create jobs and provide motivation through ownership."

“I met Martinez at a campaign to save three neighborhood schools,” Beer said, standing outside Lincoln with a campaign sign. “And we did it—we helped save those schools. That’s when I decided I wanted to help this fellow—he’s wise, smart, passionate about education and willing to put in the hours.”

Martinez wants to make it easier for small businesses to flourish. “Don’t put all your eggs in one or two baskets like Chevron or the casino,” he said. “For an economy to be healthy it needs to be diversified.”

Martinez has heard from small business owners that the Chamber of Commerce is not helping them as it does larger companies, and that getting a business license takes a long time. “I will try to cut the red tape so things can happen faster,” he said.

Visual blight also worries Martinez. “I’d like the city to take over foreclosed homes and employ people to fix them up so the city can sell them back to the community,” he said.

As Lincoln Elementary’s school bell rings, Martinez is left to stand alone alongside abandoned homes with broken windows—in the distance the only thing stirring is a crossing guard holding a stop sign.

“I would like to see a Richmond that is community minded—where neighbors know each other and walk the streets together,” said Martinez. “It’s my job to learn every community—the history, the economic histories, social histories and cultural histories.”

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