Although Martinez has a very engaged citizenry, the vast majority of residents have never attended a city council meeting. The reasons for this vary widely. Most people care very much about what happens in their community and where it is going in the future, but we all have families to support and take care of, kids to take to school and baseball practice, homes to maintain, and jobs to pay for all of it.
To make it a bit easier for Martizians to speak to representatives and engage with local government, the Martinez City Council is holding a series of neighborhood meetings in different sections of the city. For obvious reasons, these neighborhood meetings are held during non-election years. The meetings are preceded by a mass mailing to the neighborhood announcing the meeting date, location and how to contact city representatives with issues prior to the meeting.
This year we have already held two neighborhood meetings: one in February for the traditional downtown neighborhoods and one in mid-April for the Tavan Estates, Golden Hills, John Muir and Alhambra Valley neighborhoods. The last one this year will be held in September at Morello Park Elementary and will cover the Morello, Hidden Valley and Center Avenue neighborhoods.
The format of the meetings is informal, with little or no regular council business on the agenda. All the senior city staff is in attendance and scattered around the meeting room, ready to speak one-on-one to residents about specific issues. The Chief of Police is there to hear about crime and traffic, Public Works takes care of streets and maintenance issues, Planning helps folks with building items, and Code Enforcement will take complaints about blight and unsafe buildings.
So far, most people attending these neighborhood meetings leave feeling their issues where heard and problems were solved. If you have a chance to attend the next meeting, I think you will find it a very valuable experience. I look forward to seeing you there.