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Soledad City Council votes to let voters decide fate of District Elections ordinance

SOLEDAD, Calif. (KION-TV)- Soledad councilmembers have approved to allow voters to decide the fate of a District-Based Elections ordinance petitioners called for the council to repeal.

The main issue petitioners have with the ordinance is that it removed Soledad voter's ability to directly elect an at-large mayor.

The original district-based elections ordinance approved by councilmembers would have made the mayor's seat a rotating position among people on the council.

This week a stalemate occurred among councilmembers as no majority vote could be made on whether to repeal the ordinance as demanded by petitioners or to put it on the ballot.

Soledad voters will have their say on March 5th when they can decide to repeal the district elections ordinance or keep it as is.

Soledad City Council unable to agree on repealing district elections ordinance or leaving to voters in March 2024

The Soledad City Council members were unable to come to an agreement on Wednesday night on whether to repeal an ordinance implementing district-based elections or​ to let voters decide in a special election in March 2024.

The ordinance as it stands would change to a rotating mayor seat among the five council members.

Voters petitioned, however, demanding they be allowed to directly elect a city mayor as they've been able to for years.

"It's disheartening because people are saying, you know, I don't care if I come out and I speak up and I give my opinion, you know, like the council is going to listen. And that is not what's happening," said Monica Andrade, spokesperson for the Soledad Committee of Voting Rights.

Talks were heated Wednesday night, but there was no majority decision made on whether to repeal the ordinance or put it on the ballot.

The main concern for voters? Having the ability to choose an at-large mayor directly.

Councilmember Maria Corralejo questioned the validity of the signatures on the petition, indicating she wanted to hear from the whole community and not just the petitioners.

"10% is great but i would like to see 100% of the voters," said Maria Corralejo.

Councilmembers Corralejo and Ben Jimenez voted on Wednesday night to put the ordinance on the ballot for March, something that in recent months mayor Anna Velazquez and councilmember Fernando Cabrera initially wanted, but Corralejo and Jimenez voted no.

"I know that our our city staff is working on trying to look at what what could be possible for tomorrow in order for us to meet those deadlines, for that to still be able to go into the march ballot," said Velasquez

The city, running out of time as a decision needs to be made by Friday.

"It seems like they keep on moving the finish line a little further and further just because they can. And that is straight up arrogance and that is undermining our voices and that is what our community are," said Andrade.

If the city votes to put it on the ballot Friday, it would not cost the city anything but if they do not, they would miss that date to put it on the ballot in March and would cost the city $80,000 or more according to the city attorney.

Soledad voters petition to directly elect a mayor, voters could decide in March 2024 election

SOLEDAD, Calif. (KION-TV)- The Soledad Committee for Voting Rights announced on Tuesday night that they received enough signatures to put the decision for district-wide elections possibly on the March 2024 ballot.

The Monterey County Elections Office certified 862 signatures to place the referendum on the ballot, as they needed a minimum of 840 certified signatures.

Monica Andrade who is spokesperson for Soledad Committee for Voting Rights. She’s grateful the community came together to fight for what they wanted. However, it is still in the hands of the City Council.

"The voters have spoken loud and clear that this that we reject this five district map, that we do not agree with a rotational system, I think that the council owes it to the residents to resign their vote," said Andrade.

Councilmembers Ben Jimenez , Maria Corralejo, and former council member Alejandro Chavez saw the rotational system fit for the city as they said it was more equitable.

In a statement from current mayor Anna Velasquez she said quote,

"We celebrate an important win for democracy, and a great example of the power of the people to hold government accountable when it doesn’t reflect the values of the community," Velasquez said in a statement.

If the City Council does not rescind it’s vote, this ordinance will be qualified to be on the ballot to be voted on by the people of Soledad. Voters could possibly see it on the ballot on March 5, 2024.

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Dania Romero

Dania Romero is an reporter at KION News Channel 46.


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