Alumna vies for council seat

by Sandy Coronilla

Last Thursday, Araceli Martinez, an attorney and SDSU alumnus filed paperwork with the city clerk’s office to run for District 9 council member. Photo by Sandy Coronilla/ Photo Editor

Emerald, Katherine Eaton, San Diego Labor Council

With the approval of a new map for city council districts by the San Diego Redistricting Commission late last month, San Diego State finds itself planted squarely in the newly created District 9, which stretches from the College Area southwest through the communities of City Heights, Kensington and Talmadge to Southcrest.

Last Thursday, Araceli Martinez, an attorney and SDSU alumnus filed paperwork with the city clerk’s office to run for District 9 council member and in doing so represent the thousands of students who live within it.


Background on the districts:

The new District 9 is comprised of neighborhoods that were once mainly part of Districts 3 and 7. The shift in district boundary lines has Gloria packing up for a move into the new District 3 and Council member Marti Emerald concentrating on a run for the new District 9 seat.

Martinez and Katherine Eaton, a member of the City Heights Redevelopment Committee plan to challenge her though.

The Daily Aztec sat down with Martinez at Kensington Café to discuss issues pertinent to students and residents of District 9 and to allow readers to get to know her.

She was born in Los Angeles and lived there for nine years before moving to Imperial County. After high school, she moved to the College Area to attend SDSU. Martinez graduated in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree and double-major in political science and psychology and a minor in French. While at State, she served as president of the Children’s Center Board.

“I love my school,” she said. “Even now, 10 years later I try to find any excuse to go up there and just take a walk, enjoy the beauty of it.”

In 2003 she also married Graciel Rivas. They have a daughter, Dorian, and are expecting another in January.

Martinez later studied at California Western School of Law where she was president of La Raza Law Students Association. She’s now a practicing attorney specializing in family and education law and civil litigation.

She currently sits on the board for the lawyers division of the New Lawyers Division and is involved in Consumer Attorneys of San Diego.

Martinez said she made the final decision to run for District 9 city council representative after seeing the newly formed boundaries. “I’ve lived all over the newly created district, San Diego State, City Heights, Talmadge and now (Kensington),” she said. “I know this place. We shop here; we go to the Vietnamese market down on Menlo. I thought it was perfect.”


On state budget cuts to higher education:

Martinez, who said she was dependent on financial aid throughout her time at SDSU, spoke out against the recent CSU Board decision to raise tuition 12 percent while simultaneously approving Pres. Elliot Hirshman’s salary of $100,000 more than his predecessor’s calling it ridiculous.

Echoing the argument that Gov. Jerry Brown made in a letter to the CSU, Martinez questioned the presidential selection process. “Didn’t they bring (Hirshman) from out of state? I think there’s plenty of talent here in California that they could’ve made an effort to look locally to begin with,” she said. “If your heart is in the right place you don’t need $400,000 to do it. You don’t need to accumulate more wealth but the students do need to be educated.”

Martinez acknowledges the fiscal sacrifices that need to be made within the state but she said it isn’t fair to make them on the backs of students. “In the short run people think they’re saving money but in the long run, you’re just axing our future workforce.”


On the communities of District 9:

Martinez said the reason she wants to represent District 9 is a combination of living and volunteering within the district. “I’m part of this community. I’ve lived here for fourteen years,” she said. “I’m always signing up to help people in one way or another. I have the energy.”

She has served on the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education, which advises San Diego Unified School District on the needs of its students with disabilities. Her interest in special education stems from experiences as parent of a child with autism.

Martinez believes that hope for the future is the focus of most of District 9’s residents. “I think they care about their job security. They care about their family, their children’s future, health, opportunity,” she said. “For a lot of people here it’s about hope. It’s about ‘I work hard so my child has a little bit of a better chance.’ It’s all those basic human needs and the pursuit of happiness. That’s what it is for me, too.”

Creating a sense of neighborhood pride is at the top of Martinez’s priority list. “The thing about this district that I do see there’s a need for is unity, that personal responsibility to take pride in your neighborhood and want to get up and do something more than what is required of you,” she said. Beautification of the community with art projects could help with that, she said.


Martinez v. Emerald?

Asked what the difference is between herself and the city council incumbent also running for District 9, Martinez replied that her independence is what separates her from Emerald.

“Well, I don’t owe anything to anybody,” Martinez said. “I saw some articles that said I was labor-backed but I like to listen to everybody. I’m not sold on one or the other before I even get into office. That’s one big difference.”

“I haven’t committed any ethics violations,” Martinez said, referring to campaign violations that Emerald admitted to last year. Also she said she’s humble and approachable and will listen to the concerns of those in District 9.


On Labor:

Some of the initial news reports on Martinez associated her with the Middle Class Taxpayers Association, a non-profit organization created in part to be an alternative voice to the sometimes anti-labor sentiment of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.

MCTA focuses on issues such as healthcare, education and the economy and does not endorse candidates for any political office.

While Martinez did serve as MCTA’s interim president last year, she is almost as quick to disassociate herself from the group as they have been to dismiss her on Twitter. “Araceli Martinez is not currently affiliated with the Middle Class Taxpayers Association, nor have we endorsed any candidates,” MCTA tweeted on Sept. 1.

Martinez said that her husband is an ironworker (“Local 229,” she added) and that is how she became involved with the labor movement in San Diego.

In addition to it being a big time commitment during a period when she needed to focus more on providing for her family, Martinez said that she resigned from MCTA because of a concern about the organization’s ability to make decisions independent of the San Diego Labor Council.

“I think that the group has a lot of potential if they can act truly independently,” Martinez said. “Since they’re new and a lot of us that started that organization came from a labor background or some connection with it, I think it’s hard for labor to let them act independently. That’s hard to say.”

She reiterated that everyone involved in MCTA had great ideas but that some people may have felt that they owed something to the leadership in the labor council and are afraid to cross it.

“I was always of the mentality that if it’s not in the favor of the taxpayers who we’re representing then we should take a position contrary. Other people were a little more hesitant.”

Dr. Murtaza Baxamusa, MCTA’s board of directors secretary and treasurer, said that Martinez must be referring to him. “Everyone is acting extremely independently,” he said. “This is strongly reflected in the bylaws of our organization.” Baxamusa said that Martinez wasn’t around during the formation of the bylaws so she may not be aware. “I’ve been trying to get as much help from as many people as I can,” Baxamusa said. “I can’t totally disassociate myself from labor. But everyone on the board brings in different resources.”

Martinez talked about the vilification of unions by corporations, too. “I don’t see them as bad per se,” she said. “Obviously when you get together with another group of people to fight for your interests, you have a better chance of being heard than if you try to go do it on your own. So I think they have a very important role to play. It’s just a matter of finding some common ground. I think everybody has to compromise, has to put a little bit on the table.”

Part of making herself accessible to the residents and businesses in District 9, Martinez said she encourages citizens to contact her to let her know their concerns. She can be reached at

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