Will Eduardo Martinez be Richmond’s next mayor?
on October 19, 2022
Richmond Confidential posed the same questions to mayoral candidates Nathaniel Bates, Shawn Dunning, Eduardo Martinez and Mark Wassberg. Their answers are being presented verbatim, in the order they were received, with light editing, where necessary, for brevity.
Today’s Q&A is with Eduardo Martinez.
Where are you from, and how many years have you lived in Richmond?
I am a second generation Mexican-American born in Dumas, Texas. I moved to the Bay Area in the ’70s and moved to Richmond in 1993 with my wife, Liz.
In no more than 200 words, why are you running for mayor?
Before I was a City Councilmember, I was a public elementary school teacher in Richmond for nearly two decades. During that time, I noticed that many of my students could not participate in physical education. Because my students had grown up in the shadow of Chevron, they had much higher rates of asthma and other breathing problems than students in other districts. As a teacher, I addressed this problem by making a special physical education class for students who had difficulty breathing — we called ourselves The Asthma Club. When that didn’t feel like enough, I addressed this problem by seeking public office.
I am proud to have served on Richmond City Council since 2014. As an elected official, I have advocated for policies that support working families, such as a $15/hour minimum wage, rent control, affordable housing developments, numerous environmental justice initiatives, investments in violence prevention, and making Richmond a sanctuary city.
My primary reason for seeking the mayor’s seat remains the same as it was back then: I want to help build a city that cares for our children and meets their fundamental needs for clean air, stable housing, food access, and safe neighborhoods.
What qualifies you for this job?
I have lived in Richmond since 1993 and, through my public school teaching career and long-term work with multiple community organizations, have cultivated deep community ties. As an at-large member of the Richmond City Council, and now its Vice Mayor, I have always considered my duty to be to serve and represent the entire city. That fundamental duty is even more explicit for the mayor’s seat.
As a two-term Councilmember, I have a long track record of public service — and it’s a track record that provides a clear statement of my values. I am a pro-labor candidate who prioritizes communities of color, environmental protections, sustainable economic development, and economic equity.
I am proud to have been recognized as the inaugural recipient of the 2021 Sierra Club Community Defender Award, which “recognizes outstanding work in the area of environmental justice, for his defense of Richmond communities and the environment from corporate polluters including the coal and oil industries.”
Finally, I am proud of my blue collar work history. Before I became a public school teacher, I was employed as a farmworker, carpenter, USPS handler, and hospital orderly. In addition to teaching, these experiences have shaped my knowledge of the needs of working families.
What are your top three priorities if you become mayor, and what would you do to accomplish them?
1. True community safety. Crime and violence prevention is key, which means providing services that are additive to the police force and address root causes of crime and other dangers. These services include street safety measures, fire prevention efforts, and establishment of a community based mental health crisis response program. And true community security includes things we don’t typically associate with public safety, such as clean air our children can breathe and safe sidewalks our seniors and disabled residents can comfortably navigate.
2. Improved city services. Right now, we have many vacant positions on city staff, so the workers who take care of our city are overburdened. There are not enough people to do the work we need. I will advocate for improved quality of life in Richmond by investing in crime prevention programs, but also investing in our parks, libraries, and senior centers. I want to push maintenance of our streets, sidewalks, and sewers up to the level that neighboring cities enjoy. The only way to address this is to increase revenue via:
- Fully implementing Measure U, which will bring in millions of dollars to our city each year by taxing Richmond’s biggest businesses. And I am the only mayoral candidate that fully supports this popular tax on large corporations.
- Saving money by preventing awful deals with developers and big banks. I’m proud that I’m the only mayoral candidate who took a look at Point Molate and said, no, I don’t support a development deal that’s going to put our city $255 million in the hole for luxury housing.
- And in recent weeks, the progressive city council majority examined Richmond’s credit swaps and realized we were being taken for a ride by the banks. We progressives worked hard to fix that arrangement. As a result, we saved the city $84 million over the next 12 years. Saving our city money like this requires two things: experience governing our city, and a bold vision that goes beyond cutting services. I’m the only mayoral candidate that can offer you both.
3. Quality Affordable Housing. People become homeless because they can’t afford housing. And recent data shows no one working a full-time minimum wage can afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States. Rents are too high. Our children can hardly imagine owning a basic home to start a family in.
My approach is development without displacement. Young people should be able to afford to stay in the city they grew up in, and young families should be able to secure stable housing.
Under my mayorship, housing projects in Richmond will:
- Be centrally located, with reasonable access to public transportation, stores, and services.
- Meet strong affordability criteria, thereby increasing housing stock for a wider swath of Richmond residents.
- Include significant community benefits components and PLAs.
- Not cause significant disruption to Richmond’s environment or biodiversity.
- Not be built on or near a former toxic waste site without full remediation.
- Not convert significant portions of public green space to private property.
By providing affordable housing and renter protections, we can ensure stability for our communities and prevent displacement and homelessness.
What is the first big issue you would tackle?
I intend to focus on full city staffing to ensure city services to residents. Many of our city’s problems quality of life issues for residents, public safety, employee retention, and cost recovery — could be addressed with a protracted effort to fully staff our departments. This effort would also help bolster our local economy and support for small businesses, who currently report impossibly long and confusing permitting processes. Although it’s not a particularly glamorous platform plank, I believe this is a key issue impeding good governance in Richmond right now.
What do you want people to know about you and your campaign?
If my campaign is successful, I would be Richmond’s first elected Latino mayor.
I have been supported by a broad range of organizations and elected officials, including the California Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Contra Costa County, the Sierra Club, multiple unions representing our city staff (Richmond Firefighters Local 188, SEIU Local 1021, IFPTE Local 21), Democratic Socialists of America, the Working Families Party, and such officials as County Supervisor John Gioia, AC Transit Director Jovanka Beckles, and Richmond City Councilmember Claudia Jiménez.
I am the only mayoral candidate who does not accept any corporate donations, or from developers, or from lobbyists, or from professional associations. When my campaign gets donations, it’s from working people who feel that I will represent them, not a billion dollar company. And refusing corporate contributions communicates clear value: corporate money does not have a place in making decisions for people. It’s about an allegiance to the people who work, live, and play in our city, not profit making entities.
I am the only mayoral candidate that supports full implementation of Measure U, a taxation measure that passed in 2020. This measure, which was backed by 73% of Richmond voters, cuts taxes for small businesses and raises taxes on mega corporations (for instance, Sims Metal, which makes $
6 billion in revenue each year, only paid ~$2,000 in local taxes previously). This measure will also impact Chevron in the coming years. Measure U provides our frontline community with essential revenue for city services and public safety, but big corporations don’t want to pay it. This is important context for our race, as it has influenced a lot of dark money spending in the election so far.
This is the last of the four mayoral profiles. Follow the links in the first paragraph to read the others.
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