MARTINEZ -- In his second bid for city treasurer, Charles Martin is calling for more transparency regarding city spending, but his unconventional views on voting rights may raise eyebrows.
The part-time city treasurer is responsible for signing checks and managing the city's investments, not overseeing elections -- that task falls to the city clerk.
But Martin, a certified public accountant who runs his own business, believes only property owners should have the right to vote. Martin made his comments about voting while lamenting the fact that people who don't own homes will vote on Measure Q, the $75 annual parcel tax the Contra Costa Fire Protection District placed on the November ballot.
Renters and the homeless, "don't contribute to society as much as a property owner" because they don't pay property taxes, said Martin, 71.
Martin, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council three times in the 1990s, is challenging incumbent Carolyn Robinson. In their 2008 matchup, Martin won nearly 37 percent of the vote.
Robinson, 70, was appointed to the office in 1999 when former treasurer Bill Pollacek left to take the Contra Costa County post. Before she became city treasurer, Robinson worked as secretary-treasurer for Teamsters Local No. 315 in Martinez, where she managed an annual budget of more than $1 million and oversaw the union's investments.
In response to Martin's support for restricting the franchise to property owners,
"I think the more people that can vote, the better off we are. In a true democracy we want to be inclusive," Robinson said.
Martin believes the city should publish detailed information on how much money it has spent on everything from consultants to utilities. The biennial budget, he said, is a plan for spending, but doesn't tell residents how much the city actually spent.
"I just feel that there's not that much known about the city and their finances. They want to raise taxes, but they don't tell you how much the police department costs," Martin said. "They want to raise money for the parks, but they never tell you how much goes to the parks and how much the parks really cost."
Robinson points out that the budget is posted on the city's website, budget subcommittee meetings are open to the public and the council approves the check registers -- the list of checks drawn on the city's accounts -- at an open meeting.
"I'm not sure what other financial accounting he's looking for," she said.
If he's elected, Martin said his top three priorities would be to make city finances more transparent, push the city to post signs on the downtown parking meters clearly stating the hours of operation and lower parking ticket fees. He believes the meters deter people from shopping downtown.
"I understand finances, I understand where the money comes from," he said. "I wouldn't turn around and encourage the City Council to put more taxes and burden on the city property owners."
In addition to her limited treasurer duties, Robinson also serves as the chairwoman of the Measure H bond oversight committee. The committee, made up of Martinez residents, has monitored the planning, budgets and construction of the bond projects, including the new swimming pool, library renovation and parks upgrades.
If re-elected, Robinson said her priorities would be to continue being frugal without sacrificing city services; and to ensure that the bond projects are completed and that the city has money to maintain them.
"Everyone has kind of pulled together to make sure we have savings in every department. The staff has been somewhat reduced but the work has been done, the city is still safe and we've managed to get through a financial crisis," Robinson said. "I kind of feel like we're turning a corner financially and I would like to remain a part of that."
Contact Lisa White at 925-943-8011.