Iraq vet faces new challenges in battle for Brisbane council

Roberto Martinez is only 24 years old, but he has seen his fair share of deaths.

A Marine veteran who patrolled the streets of Fallujah in 2004, Martinez served three tours of duty in the Middle East — two in Iraq — where he saw all forms of death. He said he has seen his buddies die and dogs roaming the streets pulling flesh from dead bodies.

Of the enemy, he said, “I did my job; let’s put it that way.”

Even when he returned to the states, death followed. Four months ago on his way down to Disneyland, he was in a rollover car accident that killed his nephew. His father died before he was born; his mother when he was 17.

Now, Martinez, a full-time student at City College of San Francisco, says he’s thankful to be alive and wants to give back. His first test comes in November, when he faces Brisbane City Council incumbents Cyril Bologoff and Steven Waldo. The three will run for two four-year seats.

What the Purple Heart recipient brought back from overseas is a view on leadership in which a good heart trumps a good education. He saw too many well-educated Iraqi leaders corrupted by power not to think a good-hearted person could make a difference.

Of the carnage in the Middle East and the deaths in his family, the Naval Reservist, who is studying political science, keeps a positive attitude.

“Gold must go through the furnace; so must man,” Martinez said, citing a favorite Biblical passage. “I take them kind of as a blessing in a weird way.”

In his first nine-month tour in Iraq, Martinez served as an infantryman during the siege of Fallujah, in which thousands of U.S. troops attempted to restore order to the city. His second tour placed him with a route reconnaissance unit.

As a council member, he said, he would work to make sure residents would not suffer any adverse health effects from the development of the Baylands, former dumping ground for San Francisco’s garbage. He wants to focus on transit. And with Brisbane residents growing older, he said he wants to make sure access to health clinics is quick and easy.

“I love the challenges you get presented” in life, Martinez said. “Sometimes you think, ‘How can that possibly be?’ but everything comes together for the greater good.”

Incumbents anticipate moving improvement projects forward

Young Iraq war veteran Roberto Martinez faces a tough challenge in unseating incumbent City Councilmen Cyril Bologoff, 75, and Steven Waldo, 58.

Between them, they have 27 years of experience on the council and are in the midst of the debate on a pair of projects that could change the face of Brisbane: the Baylands development and the future buildout on Sierra Point.

The council is also updating the city’s General Plan — a guideline for how the city is developed.

The combination of these things has had the council meeting every Monday since the beginning of this year. The meetings will resume in September.

“I just want to make sure we complete everything the way it should be completed,” said Bologoff, who has lived in the small hamlet since 1959 and was first elected in 1995. “We don’t want to lose our small town, and if we can get the Baylands somehow to complement our town it will be a great asset for us.”

The Baylands is a plot of land of roughly 660 acres between Brisbane and U.S. Highway 101 owned by Universal Paragon Corp. The company is interested in turning the site into the epicenter of the burgeoning clean-technology industry.

Developer Slough Estates has proposed a five-building, 540,000-square-foot biotech research and development campus on Sierra Point. Universal Paragon also has plans for a 400-room resort and 400-room condominium complex on Sierra Point.

Waldo, the current mayor, has lived in Brisbane since 1986. He served on the council from 1989 until 2001, retiring from the council, but he stepped in when Clara Johnson resigned. He called each issue “terribly complex.”

“These two projects [Baylands and biotech campus on Sierra Point] are easily the biggest things, and they will impact how things are in Brisbane for a long time,” Waldo said.

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