On Dec. 8, the city of Salinas will swear in a new mayor and three new councilmembers that represent a generational change for the council. With the incoming councilmembers ages 31, 27 and 21, the new electeds more closely resemble the city’s residents, where the median age is just over 30.
The elected officials face an unusual time, thanks to the impacts of Covid-19. Salinas faces a $19 million deficit for the next fiscal year, and is the epicenter of Covid-19 cases in Monterey County, with almost half of the county’s 15,245 confirmed cases as of Dec. 1.
In October, the unemployment rate in Monterey county was at 7.8 percent, almost 4-percent higher than last year’s projection. Residents are also facing, more than ever, food and housing insecurity due to Covid-19 and loss of employment.
Kimbley Craig was the only woman in the five-way race for mayor. Craig, who replaces late mayor Joe Gunter, becomes the city’s second woman mayor, the first being Anna Caballero. Craig earned over 36 percent of the vote.
Craig wants to address three main things when she takes office. The first: hiring a city manager, a position left vacant with the retirement of Ray Corpuz. “That will be a huge benefit if we can get that leadership in place,” she says. The second: “Really working on getting our numbers lower for Covid so we can get people back to work.” Last: stimulating the economy. “If we continue going down the path that we are going down now, we will end up having to cut services because we don’t have the revenue for it because the sales tax isn’t there.”
Carla González, an activist and educator, ousted incumbent Scott Davis. “What really set us apart is that I’m really pushing forward bold, progressive ideas and solutions,” González says.
She wants to change the way people think about crime prevention. For her, public safety translates to investing in the community and creating social programs: “What I want to do is to reorient our practices towards restoration and rehabilitation, working in partnership with experts and local groups.”
In District 4, Orlando Osornio will fill the council seat Gloria De La Rosa held for 22 years. He received 2,440 votes, or over 40 percent of the total in a three-way race.
Anthony Rocha will become the youngest council member in Salinas, representing District 6. Rocha obtained 4,799 votes and kept more than a 20 percent lead over Vanessa Michelle Robinson, his nearest opponent. He’s been a Salinas Union High School District trustee for two years and he ran for council because of the lack of representation of young Latinos.
Rocha says the majority in Salinas are young adults and families facing lack of affordable housing and employment opportunities. “We need diversity of opinions from age groups, ethnicities and backgrounds,” he says. “My age is a huge asset in terms of creating policies that help alleviate some of the stress of those communities.”
The new mayor and councilmembers will be sworn in on Dec. 8.