Pinole Councilwoman and Mayor, Norma Martinez-Rubin, Describes Governing a Small City


Hi, I'm Jared Ash with the Capstone Conversation. I'm here with Councilwoman Norma Martinez -Rubin from the city of Pinole in Contra Costa County. We appreciate you being here today. As part of your everyday job, you're a principal at Evaluation Focus Consulting, where you focus helping mission -driven foundations, nonprofits, and government agencies and public health. So that's an exciting background to be here. What else can you tell us about yourself, Norma? Thanks, Jared. Thanks for having me be part of this. I can tell you that my adopted hometown of Pinole is this wonderful little city, relatively small compared to the other 19 cities in Contra Costa County. It's bisected by I -80, which has national fame. And for those of us who are local, it is both a blessing and whatever the opposite of that is, given the multitude of vehicles for many different reasons, recreation, transportation, transport of goods, etc., on a daily basis that we get to live with. Part of my personal history is having come to the city of Pinole via Los Angeles, where I grew up, it was weird, and having the experience of living in a more urban area relative to one which has these beautiful natural amenities just within a walking distance of where I live. We're surrounded by hillsides, we're surrounded by or adjacent to the San Pablo Bay, which in my mind counters the effects of an interstate that bisects the city and divides the city, and the way our residents view issues that come before us on city council. Interesting. Let's talk a little bit about that small town, but in a big metro area. From a governing standpoint, what would you say are some of the constraints and some of the advantages compared to other towns being a smaller city? As a smaller city, we're a full -service city, so we provide and we respond, we're responsive to provide services that are essential as the local governments grow. We have our own police department, we have parks and regulations, we address land use issues, keeping in mind the topography of Pinole, and most recently we have joined with our county's fire districts to serve our city in its small size. We have a different terrain, the north side or the south side part of Pinole adjacent to San Pablo Bay is the older part of town. We were incorporated in 1903, but as history goes, in the 1950s when I -80 was constructed, it divided the city and then we started seeing more of the tract homes built on what was formerly agricultural land. So in the Pinole Valley, which is south of I -80 in our town, we have people who are surrounded by hillsides, beautiful hillsides, but as valleys go, also face the risk of possible fires because many of the homes were built alongside that range for just open space. So the constraints in a small city is that urban planning back in the day when some of the older cities in Contra Costa County were designed and built may not have considered the growth that would occur over time and the needs that people had over time given the shift in demography or population figures. In my background as a public health practitioner, population shifts are something that we've observed and have been somewhat ready for. However, we also have a history in local government and more broadly state and federal that the response to these population shifts isn't always as quickly as we see the shifts occur.

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