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For Martinez, 10-1 dominated 2014
Council Member Mike Martinez is fresh off a campaign for mayor, one where he did his level best to bring up big-picture issues. Indeed, as many have reported, affordability and transportation became key notes in the campaign.
Still, when he sat down to talk with the Monitor about the past year, the very first thing on Martinez’s mind was the city’s budget. “From sitting on the City Council perspective … the budget was a tremendous highlight for me,” he said. “We ended up with one of the most progressive budgets we’ve ever adopted, staying within our current tax rate — including lowering it this year — but pouring more funding into sorely needed items like social services and animal services and departments that have historically been left behind.”
But, as might be expected, Martinez suggested that the biggest moments of 2014 came thanks to the switch to a district-style of government in Austin. “That’s the biggest, in my opinion,” he began. “I believed in and fought for single-member districts since being an Austin firefighter … and I’m glad that it is finally in place.”
As for a suggestion from Council Member Laura Morrison that Martinez and other colleagues who were running for office in 2014 ‘campaigned by resolution,’ Martinez was not sold.
“It’s easy to point fingers and say that that’s what we’re doing,” he said. “But, when you look back over time, there isn’t a single Council meeting where we don’t have a Council resolution on the agenda that you couldn’t point to and say, ‘Man, that’s really political.'”
“I don’t buy the notion that just because there was an election cycle, you see more of that, [and] I think you are going to continue to see that,” he said before pivoting to what he argued might be a positive result of political resolutions.
“I think what we’ve demonstrated — what I’ve demonstrated — is that we can have an effect on national policy issues,” he said. “Like raising the minimum wage. We don’t have purview to raise the minimum wage here for everyone in Austin. But where we do, we implemented it — where we can we put it in place. And so we drive that conversation.”
Martinez next turned to social services. He refutes the notion — offered by Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole from the dais at this Council’s final meeting — that the body would be remembered as the Social Services Council. “The gap is too big,” he said. “The Council that truly funds what is needed will be the Council that is known as the Social Services Council. Now, we could certainly be given credit as to starting that, pushing that. But the gaps are too big right now to say that this Council fixed the problem.”
Council members approved a new set of social service mandates and goals that tie social service spending to indexes in an attempt to increase the city’s future commitment to funding those organizations. Their action came after complaints from various social service contractors that Council action did not meet the needs of the community.
Martinez also cited no-kill, the city’s stated goal of returning nearly complete live-outcome results for pets taken in by city services. “We maintained no-kill again. That, to me, is obviously a big policy issue,” he said. “And then at the end of the year, you saw us at the very last Council meeting [invest] in 100 new kennel spaces for the animal shelter.”
However, Martinez worries about the transition as the city acts to replace departing Animal Services Chief Abigail Smith. “I think that’s part of my future, though — and that’s to stay involved.” He added that he might “help them understand” that the city’s no-kill policy is “not difficult to achieve.”
Martinez also noted that police use of force “as it relates to people of color” was a big issue. “I don’t necessarily think it is an issue that is indicative of 2014, but I think it’s an ongoing issue that this next Council is going to have to face as well,” he said. “I’ve said this before: This is not just a police issue, it’s not just a Council issue — this is a community issue.”
He suggested that the next Council “could be faced with a question very, very soon as to whether they want to settle other parts of Mr. Jackson’s case.”
Mr. Jackson is Larry Jackson, Jr., an African-American man shot and killed by then-APD Detective Charles Kleinert. Kleinert was then indicted for manslaughter in the case. Kleinert is set for trail in the spring.
“Are they going to be able to make that decision with limited information and limited experience — and will they want to?” Martinez continued. “Our legal advice has been settle with the children, but with the others, let them be heard in the courtroom.”
Martinez also remembered smaller moments that may not have garnered high profile status. He cited Council efforts to rein in noise from a CrossFit gym and multiple urban farms issues, among other examples.
Martinez has not yet settled on what might be next for him. He noted that he would like to be around for key moments in the life of his youngest son, Diego. He also pointed to a handful of opportunities that have presented themselves in the wake of his runoff loss to Mayor-elect Steve Adler.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.
Mike Martinez: Former Austin City Council member. First elected in 2006, Martinez served as Mayor Pro Tem from 2009 until 2011. He ran for Austin Mayor as part of the November 2014 citywide elections.