Meet your City Council Candidates: Mother/TV Producer Dianne Martinez
The first E’ville Eye candidate questionnaire was Park Avenue District resident John Bauters, next up is Triangle resident and mother of two, Dianne Martinez. Dianne represents the type of resident that Emeryville would like more of: engaged, young families that are vested in our town. Dianne has a warm smile and sincerity about her that seems to have resonated with the city and has put her squarely in the lead in our preliminary voter poll below. She is running alongside fellow R.U.L.E. (Residents United for a Livable Emeryville) backed candidate Scott Donahue as a “slate”. A slate, according to Wikipedia, is a group of candidates that run in multi-seat elections on a common platform.
Additional resources about Dianne can be found at the bottom of the questionnaire including her Green Party Questionnaire, links to her personal site and a gateway to make a contribution to her campaign.
We reached out to our four City Council candidates and they all graciously agreed to an exclusive interview with The E’ville Eye. We established 15 questions that we hope will help you better understand who they are, what they stand for, what their priorities are, and help you make the best decision for your family and our city. We will be publishing these in no particular order over the next two weeks.
1). So where are you from originally and what brought you to Emeryville?
I am a lifelong Californian. I was born in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale, attended high school in the San Fernando Valley, and graduated from the USC’s School of Cinema-Television. After establishing a career as a television and new media producer, I moved to Oakland in 2008 when my husband was accepted into law school at UC Berkeley. We subsequently moved to Emeryville in 2010, and we loved our neighborhood so much that we convinced our landlord to sell us our Triangle Neighborhood home in 2013.
2). What compelled you to run for Emeryville City Council? Can you refer us to a specific moment that helped reaffirm your commitment?
At the onset of 2013, I learned from Jennifer West that she was stepping down from office. She made a plea to the public that parties interested in running should come forward. I did not like the prospect of losing one of city hall’s most progressive voices, let alone a parent of young children. I stepped forward to fill the void that I foresaw in our city’s leadership.
My commitment to this process is girded by the women candidates and elected officials I’ve met on the campaign trail, including our city’s leaders. While Emeryville’s City Council has the distinction of having a female majority, we are only represented at a paltry rate of 27% statewide. That is simply not enough women in elected and appointed office.
3). Being an effective Councilmember can require upwards of 20 hours per week of your personal time. How do you intend to balance this with your career, family-life and do you think the relatively low-wages that Councilmembers receive are a barrier to attracting more qualified candidates?
After putting my husband through law school, I’ve stepped back from my role as breadwinner in our family. I take on freelance projects with limited hours to accommodate my family and campaign duties. I’m in a very fortunate position where my family’s solvency does not rely on my income alone. And I am a believer in the adage: if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.
The meager stipends available to our city council members absolutely create a barrier in attracting candidates. I’d like to see this addressed by ballot initiative, but we need to get voters educated on the issue. I think it’s unseemly to do this via ordinance.
4). How do you intend to finance your campaign and will you be employing a campaign manager? Are there any major contributors that you can disclose ($1000+)? What Political party are you aligned with?
I’ve tapped into my personal network and Emeryville residents for the majority of my fundraising. I have had three contributions at the $1,000+ level, detailed below:
1. $1,000 – a loan from myself to open my campaign bank account.
2. $1,000 – from William Reuter and Ruth Major, residents of Watergate.
3. $1,000 – from my mother, Rosalind Martinez.
I have been a registered Democrat since I turned 18 in 1996.
Together with Scott Donahue, I’ve acquired the services of Kathleen Russell Consulting for this campaign.
5). Community engagement in Emeryville has historically been abysmal. Any ideas on how we can further engage Emeryville residents and even increase civic participation and voter turnout?
Scott Donahue and I participated in the Love Our Neighborhood event with our own voter registration / giant bubble booth. I think continued support for this event, and others like it is a great step! I’d also like to see a PRIDE event in Emeryville in coming years.
Now that city council elections are in even years, I expect greater voter participation. One way to leverage this into interest and exposure for municipal affairs is to supplement traditional informational mailers (about measures, etc.) with targeted exposure on the internet and social media outlets. As someone who has worked in new media, I know the value of reaching constituents through digital modes.
6). One of the major agendas that the city has been trying to solve is getting families to root in Emeryville by incentivized developers to include family-friendly housing in new projects (Generally, units larger than 2 bedroom). Do you think this is important to the maturation of our city and the right approach?
Yes, I support increasing our family-friendly housing stock in Emeryville. I am someone who was faced with the decision to put down roots in Emeryville, or expand my family elsewhere. I was in an extremely lucky situation to be able to purchase a single-family home here, and becoming a mother in this city has solidified my commitment to Emeryville’s success. I think the same quality-of-life issues that support children and families can make whole communities stronger. With improved schools (and school ratings) come higher real estate values. With strong emergency services comes a sense of community pride. It is my belief that fostering families in our city can lead to an increase of civic engagement.
7). Many existing Emeryville residents, lower AND middle-incomes, are getting pushed out by rising rent costs with absolutely no course of retribution. How can we help solve this? Is pursuing any rent-stabilization measures or alternatives even viable?
If Scott Donahue and I are elected, we will seek innovative ways to fill Emeryville’s well-documented gap in affordable housing, and ensure that future housing developments prioritize affordability and are transit-oriented. Our focus is on making Emeryville a place where people and families from all backgrounds and income levels can afford to live.
I moved into Emeryville as a renter, and, like many progressives, I’m interested in preserving diversity while growing affordable housing. I think Emeryville’s rapid growth in the rental market warrants some regulation, and some oversight in the form of a Rent Stabilization Board.
8). Do you think we need to incentivize developers to build more for-sale, affordable units while discouraging all-rental units? If so, how can we do this?
Yes. A path to homeownership needs to be made available to more people in this city. I doubt my opponents disagree with this sentiment. I’d like to explore engaging experts who specialize in packaging incentives that encourage smart development.
9). Traffic, Parking, Bike-ability & Public Transportation are becoming a greater issue in our city. Tell us one thing we can do to make the biggest impact on these.
I support connectivity of bike / pedestrian access, including the bike path along the west end of ECCL. A bike path and adequate bike parking at ECCL can give us a much needed option in North/South bicycle routes, and keep school kids off of San Pablo during peak commute hours.
10). Homelessness is a regional issue and pushing them across our borders isn’t helping solve the problem. What should the city do and what approach should we take with “Camp CalTrans” (The homeless camp next to Target)?
I agree that homelessness is a regional issue and therefore requires a collaborative response. With under two square miles of city land, building a new homeless shelter in Emeryville does not seem practical. However, working collaboratively with local and regional stakeholders such as the AC Board of Supervisors, owners of vacant buildings, etc., I’m confident we can identify both traditional and out-of-the-box solutions to address the issue of homelessness in meaningful ways.
As for Camp CalTrans, my greatest concern is for the health and safety of the people making camp there. We know that that location has typically been a hotbed of prostitution and drug dealing and usage, and I don’t believe much has changed in that regard with the emergence of “Camp CalTrans”. My understanding is that there is a monthly clean up of the site, but once the cleanup is complete, people return to camp. That doesn’t seem like an effective use of resources and I am interested in identifying solutions – locally and regionally – that will address the issues of the indigents’ health and safety and local blight, while finding a practical and safe alternative to housing Emeryville’s homeless population.
With regards to greater issues of social strata that can lead to homelessness, I strongly support raising the minimum wage in line with what is happening regionally. We need to make sure that the people who work in Emeryville have a fair shot at living in this city, and that simply cannot happen when labor is not valued.
11). In regards to the ECCL, tell us one thing that could have been done better to make the project more beneficial to students, parents and the community. If you had school-age children, would you have any reservations about sending them to the ECCL?
I am among those who are hesitant to let go of the Anna Yates Elementary School campus, before we see how our combined schools and age-groups interact at ECCL. It would be nice to see the flow of the campus firsthand before we dedicate Anna Yates to another purpose.
That said, my son will be entering kindergarten in 2016, and if ECCL is complete, he will be in their first kindergarten class. I actually went to a school in Los Angeles with a kindergarten-9th grade spread, and because of great teachers, strong community involvement, and strong leadership in administration, that school was a success. I know that a centralized campus can work.
12). We’ve observed how creating Pet-friendly resources like dog-parks and trails can create interaction amongst residents and further engagement. Do you think this should be a higher priority in the city?
I think pet-friendly features are a net positive for our city, and do more for the public than just look nice. I’m in favor of bike and pedestrian access in general, and that includes space to recreate with and walk dogs. I would also be supportive of allowing dogs at Doyle Hollis Park.
13). The E’ville Eye is committed to promoting civic transparency and engagement through technology & social media including accessible city videos, Crime-statistics & the status of Public Works projects. Do you support this and will you commit to working to improve this for the media and our city?
Yes. In the case of SeeClickFix, which is well-used in Oakland, and which The E’ville Eye has promoted as a possible benefit to our community, I have a specific take. I am someone who has downloaded many iPhone apps in my time. I am keenly aware the apps that are most successful are the ones that get used, not necessarily the ones that work best with a pre-existing back-end. My family fell into the BetaMax trap in the 1980s, and was left with some very expensive and useless boxes when VHS came into favor. Just because a product functions better, doesn’t mean it will be a success.
In regards to the use of social media and transparency: the foundation of my career as a television producer is predicated on my interest in delivering information and entertainment in an easy-to-digest manner. My experience working at an internet-video start-up and in SONY’s PlayStation Network division have given me an understanding and respect for the power of digital engagement.
14). One of the agendas we’ve been promoting on The E’ville Eye is getting a pilot Emery Go-Round route to West Oakland BART as we’ve found roughly 3/4 of ridership is commuting to/from SF and would offer time-savings of an estimated 30-45 minutes roundtrip. Will you advocate for this or do you think this is a bad idea?
I think this is a great idea. I’ve spoken to residents who were unequivocal in their assertion that they would leave their cars at home and ride Emery Go-Round to West Oakland for their weekday commute, if that were a possibility. Our city is at a disadvantage by not having a BART station. This could be the next best thing. Scott Donahue and I have made preservation and expansion of Emery Go-Round a top priority in our platform.
15). Can you commit to accomplishing just one thing over the next four years that we can hold you to should you be elected?
I will be a strong advocate for the bike path at ECCL. Unfortunately, one council member alone cannot ensure that this path, which is included in the city’s general plan, will happen. That’s one reason that I’m running on a slate with Scott Donahue. Scott has worked for the last 10 years on Emeryville’s Bike / Ped committee, and has a thorough understanding of how paths like this can improve a neighborhood. If Scott and I are both elected, I think we can get a council majority in favor of funding this path.