02-08-24

22 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY february 8-14, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com that will enable her to lead most effectively, helping the next Board of Supervisors take on the big things. Yes on Measure N That Watsonville Community Hospital is still open for care and governed by the public Pajaro Valley Health Care District is a minor miracle. Former owner, Halsen Healthcare, filed for bankruptcy in December 2021, and announced plans to close the hospital, which serves over 30,000 patients a year in its emergency room. For some 6,500 North Monterey County residents, it is the nearest hospital. A desperate attempt to save the hospital succeeded, with last-minute legislation by State Sen. John Laird to create the new district, and a fundraising campaign that generated more than $60 million in public and private contributions. But the little hospital that could is still subject to the same challenges of running a small, rural hospital that its former for-profit owner faced, and the board voted to put Measure N on the ballot, asking voters in the district—which includes the Pajaro Valley, straddling Monterey and southern Santa Cruz counties—to approve a $116 million bond. (This equates to about $24 per $100,000 in assessed valuation, meaning a property owner whose home is worth $1 million would pay $240 per year.) Hospital leadership says priorities are renovating the emergency room, upgrading imaging systems like CT scanners, purchasing land to save money on rent ($3 million a year to an Alabama property owner), facilities upgrades like the roof and ventilation, and modernizing the hospital to help better serve patients and minimize the need for transfers to other hospitals. City of Soledad No on Measure P At-large elections for local government—in which voters choose their top two or three candidates, from anywhere in a jurisdiction—are on their way out. City by city, challenges under the Voting Rights Act are forcing a transition to district-based elections. The concept is that candidates from minority communities are more likely to run, and to win—they need to campaign in a smaller region, or district, rather than an entire city (or hospital district, etc.). When it comes to the process of drawing districts, a process meant to be based purely on demographic data and keeping “communities of interest” together, it can be hard to keep politics out of it. Soledad was no different and not just in the drawing of the lines, but in how many lines to draw. In one concept, there were four districts for council and one mayor who would be elected at-large. In another, there were five districts; the mayor would serve on a rotating basis, meaning no candidate is elected at-large by voters citywide. From step one, this process has followed political lines. That’s meant a 3-2 vote with a majority faction aligning to support a map that has five districts, not four, and has no at-large mayor. The map was drawn by former mayor Fred Ledesma—who was ousted by current Mayor Anna Velazquez—and notably, under this map, Velazquez could not seek re-election in 2024. There is no longer a mayor’s chair to run for, and she lives in the same district as her sole political ally on council who is midterm, so that seat is not on the ballot this year. The five-district map has the effect of forcing Velazquez out. And it’s the map that council approved on the predictable 3-2 line. Of course, to argue in support of the four-district option (plus an at-large mayor) is in Velazquez’s political favor. But there are other reasons to support that concept. One, it’s a common practice—consider Salinas, Monterey and Marina for examples. Two, the outcry from the community has been vociferous. Voters quickly organized a signature-gathering campaign seeking to overturn the five-district concept—they want to elect an at-large mayor. The result of their effort is Measure P, a referendum on the district map. If passed, it would uphold the five-district map. A no vote on Measure P means repealing that concept, giving City Council another shot at drawing the lines in a way that more effectively empowers the city’s voters. Fernando Ansaldo for City Council Despite the politically charged 3-2 divide on redistricting (see Measure P, above) Soledad City Council is often aligned on the issues. But after former councilmember Alejandro Chavez moved away, it shifted to a 2-2 divide, and created one open seat that’s on the ballot this March. Fernando Ansaldo, a Soledad native, sees priority areas as investing in infrastructure and affordable housing, but he has a practical understanding of the limitations. He suggests prioritizing sidewalks and roads in the budget, and encouraging city staff to apply for grants to go beyond. On housing, he wants to see policies that support multi-family housing and developing partnerships with nonprofits that may be keen to develop affordable housing there—housing accessible to the people who live here now. Ansaldo, who works as an admissions counselor at San Jose State University, is also experienced in local government. He served on the contentious redistricting advisory committee (where he supported a four-district map) and is currently vice-chair of the Soledad General Plan Advisory Committee. For more information about the March 5 primary, call the Monterey County Elections Department at (831) 796-1499 or visit montereycountyelections.us. The office is located at 1441 Schilling Place, Salinas. Robert Rivas is seeking re-election in Assembly District 29, but his role also has implications for the entire state. Last June, he was sworn in as the Speaker of the California Assembly. Daniel Dreifuss Monica Andrade of the Soledad Committee for Voting Rights (in blue), delivers the signatures needed for a referendum on the city’s district lines to City Manager Megan Hunter (right) on Oct. 30. A no vote on Measure P supports the referendum. Celia Jiménez

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