10 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY february 22-28, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com Over the past year, the city of Salinas has lost several people from key leadership positions, including the finance director, city manager, airport director and lastly, the chief of police. Salinas is making progress to fill those seats and on Feb. 20 the City Council announced it had relaunched the process for one of them: the chief of police. Kelly McMillin, former police chief of Salinas, told officials that appointing a chief is a crucial decision, and in this case has been flawed. “This current selection process is occuring almost entirely out of the publice eye. It seems to contradict the principles of open government and transparency,” McMillin said. Open Vallejo, a non profit news outlet in the Bay Area, reported on Feb.12 that interim Vallejo Police Chief Jason Ta was resigning to accept the police chief position in Salinas. City officials confirmed there was a potential candidate, but didn’t confirm or deny if it was Ta for confidentiality reasons. “I’d like to see someone wihin our department. We have qualified officers to step up,” says Claudia De La Rosa, a former councilmember. On a cloudy Saturday morning, Feb. 17, the council made progress toward filling the city manager seat, interviewing several candidates for the position left vacant by the firing of Steve Carrigan on Oct. 4, 2023. On Feb. 20 Mayor Kimbley Craig announced the council had selected a candidate and the city is working on the contract. Residents felt the special meeting on Saturday was rushed and that few people were aware of it. “They need to find a better way to notify their people, each district needs to let their people know, ‘hey, we’re having a meeting, come join us.’ But they’re not doing it,” Victor Cervantes says, underlining public frustration with proceedings. Cervantes, who worked closely with Carrigan to overturn the city’s cruising ban, says staff and the council should work together for Salinas. “I’m not a proud resident of Salinas,” Cervantes says.” Salinas is upside down and we need to change that.” While city manager in Salinas, Carrigan had announced that he was a finalist for the same position in San Bernardino. He later sent an email to city staff and the council stating he dropped out from the process. “We are losing people right now,” says De La Rosa. “Why are people leaving in such a big turnover? Because we have no leadership.” A judge denied granting a group of neighbors over $400,000 for attorney fees in their lawsuit against the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District over a stadium lights project at Monterey High School. In the Feb. 2 decision, the court didn’t find any significant issues with the environmental impact report, and determined the neighbors’ motivations to sue were based on their self-interest and that it didn’t provide a significant benefit for the community. The battle lasted five years and it has been the longest Superintendent PK Diffenbaugh has experienced in his time at the district. “We’re just thankful that we can invest that money back into our students where it belongs and not have to waste taxpayer money on lawyers’ fees,” Diffenbaugh says. Molly Erickson, who represents the neighbor group Preserving the Peace, says the lawsuits weren’t about money but making sure MPUSD will focus on upgrading its facilities, such as classrooms, electrical systems and replacing windows, to benefit all students and staff. “Those projects are essential, would help all students and staff, and would not have environmental impacts. That is what the voters thought they were getting,” Erickson says. According to MPUSD’s 2018 facilities master plan, MHS needs over $95 million in upgrades. There is no mention of improving the stadiums at any of MPUSD’s high schools. Diffenbaugh says the master plan was a general overview of the district’s needs and notes the focus on the stadiums was based on community feedback they received. Since 2015, MPUSD has invested or plans to invest $33.3 million in Measure P and Measure I funds; it includes $12 million for the stadium project and $14 million for the science innovation center. Preserving the Peace is planning to sue the Division of the State Architect for approving MHS stadium’s lights project. The stadium project upgrades will start in the spring. Seat Time Salinas restarts police chief search and has a candidate for city manager. By Celia Jiménez news SPREAD AWARENESS Help raise your voice to prioritize breast cancer prevention strategies and interventions at the Breast Cancer Community Meeting: Central Coast. The Breast Cancer Prevention Partners are looking for community activists, policy experts, scientists, healthcare providers, survivors and advocates to make an impact on spreading information. 4-7pm Thursday, Feb. 22 at United Way Monterey County Community Impact Center, 232 Monterey St., Suite 200, Salinas. In-person or virtual. Reservations required. eventbrite.com. UNITE HERE Members and friends of the United Nations Association Monterey Bay are meeting to discuss business and planning for 2024. A short film will be shown about the United Nations following the discussion. 5:30-7pm, Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Marina Library Community Room, 190 Seaside Circle, Marina. Refreshments provided. RSVP to unamontereybay@ gmail.com. JOB FAIR You can speak to dedicated and supportive Monterey County Office of Education staff about their day-to-day work at their Annual Recruitment Fair. MCOE has several positions available and is looking for team members who are passionate about education. 9am-noon, Saturday, Feb. 24, at Hartnell College Student Center, 411 Central Ave., Salinas. To see current open positions visit edjoin.org/montereycoe. TAX HELP United Way Monterey County’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance service is here to help put money back into the pockets of working families, or at least to file taxes in a timely and accurate manner. Families and individuals who earned less than $60,000 in 2023 can make an appointment at one of several VITA sites with a team of IRStrained and certified volunteers. Walk-in and appointment-only sites are available at several locations throughout Monterey County until Feb. 24. Visit unitedwaymcca.org/freetaxprep or call 372-8026. OPEN HOUSE Interim, Inc. is opening a new location for MCHOME, ACT, Keepin’ It Real and other programs to be housed in Soledad. Come for a guided tour of the new office and meet friendly staff at their open house to learn about how these programs will better help residents with mental health challenges in South County. 11am-12:15pm Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2149 H Dela Rosa, Suite 203, Soledad. RSVP optional. 800-7530, ext. 205. Lighting Up Judge denies attorney fees to neighbors who sued over Monterey HS stadium lights project. By Celia Jiménez Kelly McMillin, former police chief of Salinas, says he underwent an exhaustive interview process when he applied for the position and urged officials to reevaluate the process. e-mail: toolbox@mcweekly.com TOOLBOX “Why are people leaving? Because we have no leadership.” celia jiménez