Martinez Roundup: City Council & School Board meetings scheduled; popular coffee chain coming

by Craig Lazzeretti

Reprinted with permission from Martinez News and Views

City will try to shed more light on how CWS works in wake of spate of refinery incidents; Alhambra students discuss plans for “Multicultural Day” on Feb. 24 and the conversations that led to it

It’s busy week for Martinez elected officials, with School Board and City Council meetings (the school board met Monday evening; the City Council meets Wednesday). Here’s what was and is on tap.

  • The City Council will hold a study session at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday before its regularly scheduled meeting to discuss and educate the public about the county’s Community Warning System (CWS), including its limitations and the city’s efforts to supplement it with its own communications platform. The CWS has generated a lot of interest and confusion in the wake of the spate of incidents in recent months at the Martinez Refining Co. (read previous posts for details or check out the city’s website). The CWS consists of multiple “levels” depending on the severity of incidents, and the public communication associated with the activation of the CWS depends on the level. Many residents may assume that anytime the CWS is activated, it results in automated phone calls to residents and/or shelter-in-place orders, but as we’ve come to see, that’s not at all the case for Level 1 incidents, in which public notification and updates occur primarily through the internet and social media. The study session agenda and information about how to attend via Zoom is available here.
  • At Wednesday’s regular City Council meeting starting at 7 p.m., the council will hold a public hearing to consider a five-year agreement with Axon Enterprise Inc. for the purchase of body worn, in-car cameras and software for the Police Department at a cost of $75,601 for this fiscal year. Although the police department has employed body-worn cameras for several years, a city staff report says the current ones do not “meet the current or future needs of the department,” and the proposed purchase will provide for more robust and reliable technology, including the use of in-car cameras. Additional business items include the Measure D five-year pavement preservation program; a proposed calendar for the biennial operating budget and five-year capital improvement plan; and reimbursement to DeNova Homes for costs associated with the design of the new Pine Meadow public park. The full agenda and supporting documents, as well as instructions on how to access the regular meeting on Zoom, can be found here. To read my last update on the council’s work toward an updated Housing Element and Waterfront Mater Plan, as well as MRC’s final report from the Nov. 24-25 toxic dust release, click here.
  • Monday’s School Board meeting included a presentation by students on Black History Month, with speakers from John Muir Elementary School and Alhambra High School. This is good to see, as one of the complaints I heard raised by students of color when there was a reckoning over the racial climate in the district a few years ago is that they felt their voices were ignored or largely absent from cultural events such as Black History Month. Black History Month proclamations used to be routine, cursory school board items presented by staff. At Monday’s meeting, the voices of students took center stage, as the John Muir students discussed the actions their school is taking to mark the month, including classroom posters, books and teacher toolkits. The Alhambra students talked about plans for a Multicultural Day on Feb. 24.

Camille Ramirez, president of Alhambra’s Black Student Union, offered heartfelt, inspiring comments to the board on the the work and challenges to create this year’s event and the conversations that led to it since planning began in November (I wish I was this articulate at this age). Here is part of what she had to say:

“It’s a hard topic, especially at high school. As you get older, you have perspectives, you have opinions, and you create these conversations … these conversations that you can have and speak with students, but also these conversations that can open up a safe space for students who might not feel comfortable. As a result, we have changed Multicultural Week into a into a day, a day of celebration, no title, just to celebrate everyone in the high school. There will be a lunchtime celebration where students can perform and take home ‘United We Stand, Divided We Fall’ buttons. One of the key lessons we learned is in everything you do, there are trials and tribulations. You guys know that as a board, and we know that as students. The planning process was important in understanding and incorporating different, diverse perspectives. This leadership team has grown through this experience and learned and adapted to different viewpoints and ideas.”

Well said! We should all be open to learning, adapting and growing in the way Ramirez expressed as we address and grapple with the difficult issues facing our society.

  • The board meeting also featured a presentation on the district’s Facilitron program on the use of district facilities by community organizations; a School Finance 101 presentation explaining the different funding mechanisms for the district and how they impact the district budget, as well as a discussion about the possible layoff of classified employees because of lack of work and/or funds (a similar discussion about potential teacher layoffs occurred two weeks ago). For those who missed it, a post from freelancer Sam Richards last week explored some of the financial and other challenges facing the district. It can be read here. Other items of note on the agenda were the presentation of school achievement and safety plans for each campus. The video of the board meeting can be viewed here(there were some technical problems that interrupted part of the video stream).
  • In a piece of unrelated school news that I’m sure will nevertheless be of interest to many residents, Superintendent Helen Rossi said construction of the new Dutch Bros. Coffee shop on school district property next to Martinez Adult School (the former Wendy’s) will begin March 1. As many residents know, that site has been a blighted eyesore for several years, so this is good news indeed.


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