Political Divide

The city of Soledad holds its last at-large election for City Council, before transitioning to district-based elections in 2024.

On Nov. 8, Soledad voters will vote for mayor and two City Council members. .

Challenging Mayor Anna Velazquez is Councilmember Maria Corralejo, who was appointed to her council seat just two months ago. The council heard from nine nominees to fill a vacancy, and selected businessperson Corralejo on a 3-1 vote, with Velazquez dissenting. Councilmember Alejandro Chavez nominated Corralejo.

Two years ago, Velazquez became the city’s first female mayor, ousting Fred Ledesma, who had been mayor since 2010, by a 15-percent margin.

Two incumbents are running for re-election to two seats on the council: Marisela Lara, who is seeking a second term, and Chavez, who works as executive director of Salinas United Business Association, is seeking a fourth term. New to the mix is Fernando Cabrera, an educator and Mexican immigrant, who says he wants to bring balance to the council. Cabrera says politicians need to engage residents in the decision-making process and make information accessible for non-English speakers, “not only for voting purposes, but we need people to be involved in the city.” Recently, the city started offering translation services during council meetings.

Velazquez is endorsing Cabrera; Corralejo is endorsing Lara and Chavez, a sign of two distinct political camps.

Yet Corralejo, Velazquez and Cabrera each support development in the city, and land annexation to build. They also agree housing prices are unaffordable for many residents. Corralejo says she supports the annexation if it doesn’t impact agricultural land. Cabrera and Velazquez support annexation if it provides opportunities for low-income families.

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“I support smart growth policies that focus on producing housing that meets the needs of the community,” Velazquez says.

The city currently seeks to annex 647 acres for Miramonte, a project that is planned to include 2,392 single – and multi-family units. Prices are estimated to be $600,000 and up.

“The Miramonte project is following similar construction strategies that prioritize low-density houses that do not meet the need of our current residents,” Cabrera says.

Velazquez and Chavez both support diversifying and bringing more businesses and jobs to Soledad. Many residents travel for work or purchase goods and services outside the city, and the struggle is to keep sales tax dollars inside its borders. That said, the city has attracted new businesses in the past few years, including Premiere Cinemas and a Grocery Outlet.

But a division that sometimes runs under the surface became especially evident during the discussion about Corralejo’s appointment to the council. (Cabrera also submitted his application for the vacancy.) City Attorney Mike Rodriquez explained that even if an applicant was already a candidate for mayor, it did not exclude someone from being appointed to council for the remainder of the term, which still has two years to go.

(1) comment

monica andrade

I don't think we were upset that she applied for the position. We knew everyone could apply. What we were upset about was the way they did it. All candidates were given a set of 4 questions and they presented their answers to the council. After the council was done, we expected them to have some sort of discussion afterwards. There were plenty other qualified candidates that were overlooked because this council had already endorsed the candidate that ultimately picked before the interview process began. There was more dialogue about the whole 5 taco trucks in town than about who next councilperson should be. The process felt rushed, and typical going-through-the-motions as to appear transparent. That was the insulting part.

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