10 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY march 7-13, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com About a dozen people gathered on election night, March 5, in support of a different direction for Soledad. They chanted, “No on P / Ansaldo Si,” referring to their dual mission: to vote no on Measure P, thereby repealing a five-district map for future elections that City Council approved in October, and to vote for Fernando Ansaldo in a race for a vacant seat on City Council. The group was small, but their margins of victory were massive. Early election results showed Ansaldo—a former member of the Soledad Community District Advisory Committee—winning with 65 percent of the vote over competitor Phillip Nickerson, and Measure P defeated with 85 percent of the vote. “It’s a massive win for the people,” Mayor Anna Velazquez said. After City Council voted 3-2 to approve the five-district map—with a rotating mayor, rather than a four-district council map and a mayor elected at large—residents quickly organized for a referendum. They created the Soledad Committee for Voting Rights and collected about 1,400 signatures. (As of 12:30am Wednesday, the No on P votes total 680, compared to 117 yes votes.) Council approved a map drawn by former mayor Fred Ledesma, who was ousted by Velazquez in 2020. She and her political ally on council, Fernando Cabrera, were the two no votes; Velazquez could not seek re-election in 2024, because the approved map put her in Cabrera’s district and his term goes until 2026. The newly elected Ansaldo shifts the 3-2 political dynamic. He supports the same four-district map as Velazquez and Cabrera. He doesn’t have a political background, but says seeing the same people at council meetings and Velazquez’s 2020 campaign motivated him to be more involved in his community. “We need some better representation, transparent representation, folks that are interested in serving their community,” he says. Ansaldo, 28, is the youngest person ever elected in Soledad. “I will definitely do my best to represent the millennial generation and also Gen Z. I’m in the middle of both generations,” he says. The Measure P result is a rejection of the existing district map; City Council will still need to approve a new map. Monica Andrade, a spokesperson for the committee behind Measure P (and also Cabrera’s wife) says the results were satisfying. “We wanted to make sure that it was clear to the council that this is what we’ve been wanting the whole time,” she says. A Salinas Valley cannabis grower is spearheading an effort to repeal a 2018 tax, saying it is burdensome to a struggling industry already hammered by excessive fees. That tax supports operations of the Monterey County Regional Fire District, with its chief saying the revenue is crucial for its work. The 2018 voter-approved Measure H adds a tax on cannabis facilities based on their square footage. Currently, those rates are $0.21 per square foot for cultivators, $0.12 for nurseries and $1.19 for dispensaries and manufacturers. According to Michelle Hackett Williamson, president of Riverview Farms in Salinas, that amounted to nearly $64,000 for the previous fiscal year for her family’s business. MCRFD Chief David Sargenti says the smallest operator pays around $2,700 in the tax annually. Over the years, the County of Monterey slashed its cultivation tax from $15-per-square-foot to under $2-per-square foot, while the state eliminated its cultivation tax. But the fire district’s tax still stands. Riverview Farms is leading an initiative to repeal the tax, with the hopes of gathering enough signatures to qualify for a measure on the November ballot. The proponents filed a notice to begin circulating the petition on Feb. 26. The group has 180 days to gather 841 qualified signatures of voters residing within the fire district’s boundaries. Williamson is quick to note that the goal of the petition is not to hurt the fire department, but rather to level the playing field for cannabis businesses. For the current fiscal year, the district expects to collect $375,000 from the tax. “The loss of these taxes would cause critical impacts to our ability to support and respond to the cannabis industry needs,” Sargenti says, adding that an election would cost the district $180,000-$260,000. “These are very significant losses of revenue for our fire district that is already struggling with engine company staffing below that of our neighboring agencies and industry standards.” Change Up By a massive margin, Soledad voters reject a fivedistrict electoral map. By Celia Jiménez news Recovery Mode The County of Monterey has launched the Pajaro Unmet Needs Disaster Assistance Program for individuals, households and small businesses affected by the March 2023 flood. The County is conducting community outreach efforts to inform residents about the application process, and has a series of community meetings. 6-7pm Thursday, March 7; Wednesday, March 13; Thursday, March 14. Our Lady of Assumption Church, 100 Salinas Road, Pajaro. Free. 755-3400, readymontereycounty.org/recover. Beach Time The California State Parks Natural Resources volunteer team invites you to work in a greenhouse and to collect seeds, plant native plants and remove invasive species. Youth ages 8 and up are welcome with adult supervision. 9am-noon Friday, March 8. Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove. Tools, gloves and training are provided. volunteer.monterey@parks.ca.gov. Healthy Living Montage Health offers classes for new parents and those looking to learn healthier habits. This week they offer a breastfeeding education class and a meal planning and preparation class. The breastfeeding class happens 11am-1pm Saturday, March 9 at the Ohana Center for Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health, 6 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Monterey, 625-4704. The meal prep class happens 11:15am-12:15pm Tuesday, March 12 virtually, 649-7220. Free; registration required. montagehealth.org/classes-events. How’d We Do? After the March 5 primary election, political organizer Vinz Koller presents on voter registration data, turnout and strategies to increase voter participation locally. A Q&A session follows the presentation. Noon Wednesday, March 13. Virtual event; email LWVmryco@gmail.com to RSVP and get a link to attend. Free. 648-8683, lwvmryco.org. College Class Hartnell College is accepting applications for general scholarships for the 2024-25 academic year. Students with a GPA of 2.0 or better who are enrolled in at least nine units for the Fall 2024 semester are encouraged to apply through an online application portal. Monday, April 8 is the deadline to apply. Learn more at workshops 6-8pm Wednesday, March 20 and 1-2pm Wednesday, March 27. Hartnell College, 411 Central Ave., Building B, Room B110, Salinas. Free. 755-6806. Visit the application portal at hartnell. academicworks.com to find and apply for scholarships. Cut Back Growers hope to repeal 2018 tax on cannabis businesses. By Erik Chalhoub Fernando Ansaldo, center, became the youngest candidate ever elected in Soledad. He says it feels great, but hopes others set new records in the future. e-mail: toolbox@mcweekly.com TOOLBOX “It’s a massive win for the people.” celia jiménez