By Sal Martinez, CBN Board President (representing CBN’s Board of Directors) and Executive Director of North Newstead Association
The Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis (CBN) recognizes that the City of St. Louis is facing a sizeable opportunity to invest in the economic development of our region through a proposed ballot initiative for a 1/2 cent sales tax increase. The current proposal dedicates funding to the varied aspects of economic development, including neighborhood revitalization, expansion of MetroLink, safety, workforce development, and infrastructure improvements. CBN must emphasize the importance of retaining this comprehensive use of funds for economic development in Board Bill 227 (BB227).
CBN has members carrying out neighborhood revitalization in over 50 neighborhoods throughout north, central, and south St. Louis. These practitioners have commended the neighborhood revitalization aspect of BB227 for employing best practices for improving our communities. This source of funding and approach toward neighborhood revitalization is critically important as federal funding for housing and community development has been cut over the past ten years and state support and distribution of tax credits continues to be uncertain. Between 2003-2014 alone, the city lost 49 percent of its Community Development Block Grant funding and 61 percent of its HOME funds when adjusting for inflation.
The current details of the sales tax proposal include language for a percentage allocation dedicated to neighborhood revitalization that is supported by the many organizations and businesses within CBN. Earmarking expenditures to percentages is crucial to ensure that investment in all the core issues of economic development in the City are maintained for years to come. Furthermore, changes in language that do not specifically identify a percentage allocation of funds could result in CBN not supporting the bill.
Increased investment in community development and neighborhood-based planning allows more dollars to be leveraged by the private sector into helping families and communities thrive. Without the support and leveraging power of protected revenue streams, St. Louis will continue to face tough decisions on how to support economic and community development with shrinking federal and state resources. CBN urges the Board of Aldermen and the Ways and Means Committee to protect the current language of BB227 with regard to the percentage allocation of funds and the ongoing support for neighborhood revitalization in comprehensive economic development.
As a regional association of nonprofit community building organizations, banks, foundations, government agencies, and businesses that support building strong neighborhoods in our region, we at CBN believe that strong neighborhoods help to build a stronger and more competitive regional economy. We appreciate the Board of Aldermen considering ways to increase support for our City’s neighborhoods and community-based economic development.
Sal Martinez has established himself as a force in the comprehensive revitalization of the St. Louis region. Martinez, who received his Bachelor of Science degree in Urban Education in 1994 from Harris-Stowe State College, was employed by the college as Neighborhood Services Coordinator from 1996-1998. During his tenure at College, Martinez served as a liaison to many local social service and non-profit agencies. These experiences had a profound effect on Martinez, as he developed a keen interest in assisting in the rebuilding of St. Louis’s many disinvested neighborhoods.
Since then, Martinez has spent years working with St. Louis-area efforts to develop and promote mixed income and affordable housing, innovative economic development, historic revitalization, and safety, security, and health programming for residents. He has served as Executive Director of the Grand Rock Community Economic Development Corporation, the Vashon/Jeff-Vander-Lou Initiative, and Community Renewal and Redevelopment, Inc. In January of 2017, Martinez was appointed as the Executive Director of the North Newstead Association (NNA). The NNA (which recently merged with CRD) is recognized as a community development corporation and has developed over 180 units of affordable housing in addition to promoting a number of human development initiatives for families residing in North St. Louis City.
Martinez has served two terms with the St. Louis Housing Authority Board of Commissioners; during his first, he was elected as the Board’s youngest-ever chairman. He serves on several advisory boards and committees designed to increase minority (MBE), women-owned (WBE), and Section 3 business and workforce participation on both publicly and privately funded construction projects, and is the co-founder of the Minority Contractor Initiative (MCI), which provides training, capacity building and technical assistance to St. Louis-region MBE/WBE/Section 3 construction firms. Martinez is also a long-time member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Martinez has received numerous community service awards from regional and national organizations, including the Human Development Corporation; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; Better Family Life; Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.; Metro Sentinel Journal; Senior and Disabled Services Committee; St. Louis Argus Newspaper; Employment Connection; St. Louis Housing Authority; Community Asset Management Company; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Committee; and the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council. He also has received the Harris-Stowe State University Distinguished Alumni Award. Martinez serves on the boards of several civic organizations, including the Community Builders Network, Central Patrol Business/Police Association, Civil Rights Enforcement Agency, North Grand Neighborhood Services, Inc., the City of St. Louis Community Jobs Board, and the City of St. Louis MBE/WBE Advisory Board.
Articles in “From the Field” represent the opinions of the author only and do not represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri-St. Louis.