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A people’s budget for Salinas.

Good afternoon. 

Celia Jiménez here, thinking about that old phrase: Silence is consent. Despite what some people think, silence isn’t consent. But staying silent can sometimes lead others to believe you agree with their perspective or behavior. 

This evening, from 6-8pm, the city of Salinas will hold a virtual community meeting during which residents will have the opportunity to voice their opinions on the city’s upcoming budget and what the city should (or shouldn’t) be allocating funding to. 

Before that meeting kicks off, the grassroots organization Agents of Change 831 will hold a cultural tailgate party outside of City Hall. Some of the speakers and performers include La Sofa Queen, Flaco El Jandro, and Xago of Baktun12.

Besides enjoying art and music, Agents of Change 831 wants to make sure residents know about the budget meeting. They want to bring attention to the needs of the community and make sure the budget puts people first. “We’ve seen historically that the city of Salinas needs to reinvest in our communities,” River Navaille, one of the organizers, says. Navaille wants to see the city invest in youth programs, housing, mental health, recreation, roads and infrastructure. 

Last week, many people voiced concerns about the approval of the new Salinas Police Department contract, which gives raises to police officers. Navaille says the raise is unfair: “Most of the people in the city of Salinas are really struggling with unemployment and just underpaid labor.” City Council members Anthony Rocha and Carla González came under fire by their constituents when they voted in favor. (You can read more about that vote, and the backlash, in the “Local Spin” column in tomorrow’s print edition of the Weekly.) 

This fueled Agents of Change 831—they saw it as a good opportunity to rally the community and make sure the people’s voices will be heard. “We want to see a people’s budget,” Navaille says. One where services, not criminalization, is prioritized. If the focus of the event seems to echo some of the work of the Black Lives Matter movement, that’s no accident; calls to engage in the local government budget process to get budgets that reflect our values have been a theme of the past year, and now it’s budget season.

Today’s event will have several community speakers, musicians, free food and an altar honoring community members killed by police. There will also be an open mic, motivating residents to share their comments with the council. It will all be livestreamed on Instagram. In-person participants are reminded to wear a mask and follow physical distancing guidelines.

The group wants to uplift and bring the community together, and encourage people to speak up for the Salinas they want to see in the future. Rather than staying silent, and implying consent to whatever others might decide, this is an opportunity for Salinas residents to tell their leaders exactly what they wish for.

-Celia Jiménez, staff writer, celia@mcweekly.com

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