Candidate profile: George Martinez wants to bring the community together and move Anchorage forward
He says his campaign’s message is one of unity.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - George Martinez believes the next mayor of Anchorage must bring people together in order to move the city forward, and he believes he’s the right person for the job.
“I’m running for mayor because the future of my family depends on the future of this city,” he said during a sit-down interview with Alaska’s News Source.
Martinez says his campaign’s message is one of unity.
“We’re at a place where the level of vitriolic partisanship has grown to the point where we have political vandalism as commonplace, threats of violence, and people who are dividing our community for political ambition, and that’s not the way forward,” he said.
Martinez served as a special assistant to former Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, focusing on economic development, youth development, education and diversity.
“I’m the only candidate with a diplomatic background that has actually worked in the mayor’s office,” he said. “And that also distinguishes me. I have 25 years of public-private partnership experiences, working, whether it’s small businesses, working as a cultural diplomat for the United States of America, working in nonprofits, building nonprofit organizations, and working in urban politics, really bringing people together across all different spectrums and different spheres of influence, to just work on what we could do together. That’s been a long-standing part of my career, and in this city, I have the unique opportunity to bring in all those skill sets and then actually put it to work.”
Though he declared his intention to run for mayor before the coronavirus reached Alaska, Martinez says the pandemic highlighted the need for a change in leadership.
“Last summer was a summer where we were distracted, quite honestly. Public trust was eroded, and that was a direct result of policy and communication choices that were an error, in some ways, and also weren’t communicated with transparency,” he said. “So people were pitted against homeless folks in our community because we talked about a summer of four properties, versus making sure that the most important message that was delivered to our community was that we would protect our bottom, we would protect the vulnerable, we would make sure we would address those equity challenges with health and education and keeping the lights on for our working families in our small businesses that needed to be a priority.”
While he recognizes the authority of governments to impose mask mandates and issue emergency orders and restrictions, he believes the prior administration moved to exercise that authority too quickly.
“Bringing people together is what’s most important,” said Martinez. “We’re not going to bring everybody to the table, but at least if you have enough grace at the start when you have to get to a place where the data says we have to take stronger actions and stronger measures, then there’s that ability to use that grace and trust to get into more deeper and more challenging times. But we gave it away early on.”
When it comes to addressing Anchorage’s homelessness problems, Martinez said he condemns rhetoric criminalizing people who are experiencing homelessness.
“Let me speak directly to a few of the candidates who have moved toward criminalizing our homeless: That’s wrong. Being homeless is not a criminal offense,” he said.
Martinez believes there are ways to improve efforts to help people experiencing homelessness in Anchorage and said he’s ready to implement a rapid impact plan.
“The first most important thing is we have to reset the values. Our values should be framed around building pathways of dignity, respect, and independence for our unhoused community. We should know the names of programs more than we should know the why these programs exist, and I don’t believe we have a core set of values that have driven this conversation,” said Martinez.
He believes there are immediate strategies that, if implemented, will result in a change in the visibility of homelessness in Anchorage.
“One of those strategies would be, for example, to bring back an idea that we explored a few years ago, a daily dignities job program to help individuals who are looking for work find that work with all sorts of public works that we have in our community and provide wraparound resources for them,” Martinez explained. “I do not believe in warehousing people. I don’t want to see 200-bed facilities in our community. I believe in small, scattered-site models with high accountability and transparency and its operations.”
Outside of plans to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing Anchorage, Martinez is passionate about making sure community sports are accessible and says during the summer of 2020, he encouraged the mayor to eliminate fees for community and youth sports on municipal properties.
If elected, he plans to use a small portion of COVID relief funds to get rid of municipal fees for public sports.
“I believe that community sports are critical,” he said. “They’re important to the fabric of neighborhoods, they are important to the health of our young people, but they’re also important to prevention for the negatives that happen in our community.”
According to public filings, the campaign for Martinez has raised more than $70,000. Those endorsing Martinez include former Anchorage Mayor Rick Mystrom, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawai’i, Anchorage School District Board member Margo Bellamy and local business owner John Schwartz.
Martinez previously ran for the U.S. House to represent the 7th Congressional District of New York in 2012 but was not elected. He says he’s been a full-time Anchorage resident for more than seven years now.
While he’s one of more than a dozen candidates hoping to become Anchorage’s next mayor, Martinez says he’s not concerned about the likelihood of a runoff election.
“The more voices the better,” he said. “Bringing that diversity forward is critical, and I look forward to a runoff because I believe that I can beat anyone in a runoff, no matter who it is.”
More information about Martinez and his campaign is available on his website.
Alaska’s News Source will also offer continued coverage of candidates and ballot proposals from now until the election on April 6.
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