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Lessons at the City level …

By E. CLARK
Martinez Tribune

LAST WEEK’S (Jan. 18) City Council meeting was brutal, lasting till nearly 2 a.m. As the hours ticked on, I became so frustrated by what I perceived to be a total waste of time that I actually called out “Time?” after one man decided his alloted three minutes during public comment wasn’t quite enough.

Looking at the agenda again today, I see the actual language posted is: “In consideration of others wishing to speak, members of the public are kindly requested to limit their comments to three minutes on any one item.” Well, that’s nice, but not very effective if council wants to get through their agenda. It’s also not very clear. Does it mean Joe Schmoe can talk for three minutes about one topic, then skip on to another topic for three minutes? That language should probably be changed before some loudmouth challenges it.

I’ve also noticed that sometimes the mayor speaks up and tells people they’ve gone over their alloted time, but that “rule” isn’t always enforced. I understand the council wanting to be polite and not wanting to interrupt people but, gosh, why have a buzzer if we’re not going to hold people to their three minute allotment? Additionally, quieting some who go over their three minutes while allowing others to drone on can appear prejudice.

I have to admit imagining a big trap door behind the public lectern and when anyone decides to go over their three minutes, the mayor could pull a lever and send those folks straight to the basement. I think more people would run for mayor if they had that opportunity!

But seriously, council, why not enforce the three-minute “rule?”

MANY THANKS to State Farm Insurance Agent Matt Rinn, who so generously sponsored the Tribune Athlete of the Week this month. The Tribune has been looking forward to adding that feature to our paper for quite some time, and we sure appreciate Matt stepping forward and allowing us to do so. If you’re looking for a new agent or you’re in need of a new policy, call Matt at (925) 671-0222.

THE RUMORED sale of the Shell Martinez Refinery has some in town abuzz. According to the Reuters news agency, the German global bank and financial services company, Deutshe Bank, has been charged with finding a buyer for the refinery. Reuters said the reason for the move is Shell’s desire to shed lower-profit operations such as its Martinez outfit.

It’s too early to tell how a sale might affect our city and the 700-plus workers currently employed by the refinery. One can only hope whatever company takes over the property will manage it properly and continue to give back to the community as Shell has done, if even in a small way.

While an editorial in another publication is pushing the idea of the City purchasing the refinery, let’s get real – that is not going to happen. It’s a nice idea, but not a feasible one. If the City can’t afford Pine Meadow, they sure can’t afford the refinery, which would likely sell for well over $500 million. If it does sell, it’ll go to another company that performs operations similar to Shell, and the City will hopefully continue to collect approximately $400,000 a year in property tax revenue.

Honestly, I worry more about health and safety concerns when it comes to the refineries. I don’t want to meet with a large earthquake anywhere, but especially not in Martinez. I know Shell says its equipment, even those rusty looking pipes weaved throughout the entire facility, are up to code and retrofitted for earthquake safety, but I wouldn’t trust it come an 8.5 magnitude quake. Or even a 6 pointer, if it were centered underneath our city.

With little access out of downtown and no solid plan for emergency exit via the bay, we’d sure be in a fix if anything happened at the refinery. Let’s hope if it does sell, the new owner will do their best to ensure a safe operation.

PINE MEADOW Golf Course, oh boy. What an issue. The single-minded will of some to keep the private property designated as open space has caused an awful lot of heartache here in Martinez. It’s divided friends and neighbors, and confused an awful lot of us. As Harry Truman said, “Intense feeling too often obscures the truth.” An intense feeling and desire to keep that land green seemed to obscure the fact that the land belonged to somebody, and that somebody wasn’t “Friends of Pine Meadow.”

In the end, it all came down to record keeping, or the lack thereof. The City really dropped the ball regarding the Pine Meadow open space designation, and for the past 10 years couldn’t give the property owner a clear understanding of how her land became open space. City staff also dropped the ball Jan. 18, when they only wrote one resolution – the one they recommended to council. Since it wasn’t the option the majority of council chose, we were all left to lolly-gag while they put something together. Let’s hope they learned a lesson.

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