GREENFIELD — Voters in Greenfield will soon be choosing a new mayor and two city council members in the upcoming Nov. 6 Statewide General Election. To help voters make an informed decision, Greenfield News sent out a questionnaire to all the candidates running for election, asking for their stance on city issues.
Part II of this two-part question-and-answer series focuses on the five candidates running for two positions on Greenfield City Council: Irene Garcia, Jessica Madrid-Bautista, David Mendoza, Drew Tipton and Angela Untalon. Part I, published Oct. 24, featured Greenfield’s three mayoral candidates: local businessman Raul Rodriguez, current Mayor Pro Tem Avelina Torres and current Councilmember Lance Walker.
Only Garcia, Madrid-Bautista, Mendoza and Tipton responded to the News’ questionnaire. Read their responses below:
What qualifications do you have that make you a good candidate for city council?
Garcia: When being on the city council, one must be honest, dependable, ethical and transparent to the community at large, and I am that person. I am a methodical thinker and a good problem solver and have background in finances. I see the issues facing our city today. I am not afraid to speak up and make a stand for what I believe and will continue to do so for our community. I work well with others as I have done during my working career and I am proud to have been chosen Employee of the Year several times.
Madrid-Bautista: I have years of experience of volunteering at the city level. Since 2008, I’ve worked for political campaigns, I co-chaired the Code Enforcement Board, I’ve served on two city hiring panels, and have attended countless hours of council meetings. I’m the fundraising chair for our local baseball league, I provide a recreational outlet to South Monterey County as a Zumba instructor and I work for my father’s business that opened its doors to Greenfield in 1986. Being involved in so many different aspects of our community, I feel gives me the experience to serve the entire city. My experience at the city level is key.
Mendoza: What qualifies me to be a good candidate for city council is my experience working in high-stress level environments and making difficult decisions. I have the time to listen to the concerns of the community and the drive to make sure things get done. I have worked in the cannabis industry for eight years and have first-hand experience, knowledge and understanding of how to ensure the long-term economic success of Greenfield. I’ve worked with state regulators, farmers, investors, developers, contractors and employees all at the same time juggling multiple agendas.
Tipton: I have been a Planning Commissioner for eight years (chair for seven), and have been on the Fire District Board for five years. I believe I can bring a measure of fairness and transparency to the City, as I have been involved in bringing both growth to the community and better public safety to the city and district. In addition, I have given back to the community in some way for even longer than that, as I was a volunteer firefighter/EMT in Ben Lomond for seven years before we moved to Greenfield.
What do you hope to accomplish as a city council member?
Garcia: Housing for all levels of income, business development/economic growth, recreation for all, advocate building our courthouse, promote clean energy, but most important, getting our infrastructure in downtown clean to showcase our city.
Madrid-Bautista: Restore civility, respect and ethics in our local government and govern with the community’s best interest in mind. My main focus is to work toward bringing much needed balanced economic growth. With the right leadership, we could lead the South Monterey County region in much needed retail also, improving the appearance of our community.
Mendoza: I hope to bring more housing to Greenfield for all residents, not just low-income and farmer housing. We need to meet the needs of all demographics and groups of people that reside here. I’d like to bring more variety of businesses to town as well. Lastly, I’d like to bring more youth programs to the city and really start investing in the future of our children. Things like football and cheer need to be brought back, and new programs need to be available that are current with the times we live in today.
Tipton: I hope to bring transparency and fairness back to the City. I want to continue the financial growth that the City has been seeing, and want to improve city services. The city needs to repair and improve infrastructure and public safety in order to continue to grow retail, commercial and housing in the city. We need to grow in a manner that is appropriate and responsible for the city and its residents and not outgrow our resources and services.
How do you feel about the cannabis industry in South County?
Garcia: We are not the only, nor will we be the last to have cannabis in our city. Not only has this brought in high-paying jobs to our community, they have been a good neighbor in educating the public about the industry. The City has brought in the fire department under its umbrella and working with the council on the budget for other priority needs, such as cameras throughout the city to deter crime, improve our parks and recreation for all to use, to name a few. It’s a win-win for all.
Madrid-Bautista: It was a very rushed process and not a well thought out plan. Location, smell, size, amount of permits issued, and the industrial park takeover, were the community’s top concerns. They’ve made commitments to our community: 1) Absolutely no smell; 2) $30 million to $40 million in tax revenue; 3) Help our community generate much-needed quality retail; and lastly, 4) No impact to surrounding neighborhoods. The cannabis industry is here but shouldn’t be our identity nor have control over local government. I’m not funded (directly or indirectly) by the cannabis industry. Accountability is one of my priorities.
Mendoza: I think the only way the cannabis industry can be sustainable in South County is if there is full transparency between the community, city and company. Each party needs to understand their role. There is only one facility in South County currently operating, and more than half is still in ashes. Development next to the storage facility has stopped, not to mention the countless number of expired or denied state cultivation licenses. The City needs someone that has already dealt with the industry in the past and can serve as the bridge between the community and cannabis industry.
Tipton: Cannabis has the potential for being great for South County. If we grow within what our resources and city services can handle, and bring cannabis into our community in a safe way that doesn’t adversely impact our residents, I think we have a win-win scenario. Cannabis gets the valuable South County agricultural land and employees that they need, and the cities get the revenue streams and employment that they need. But the flip side is that cannabis companies need to deliver on their promises, and provide the resources and jobs that they promised to the cities when they came in.
When you hear about concerns from the community, what steps would you take to see that they are resolved?
Garcia: I would listen to their concerns and bring them to the city manager for solutions/resolutions. If it is of greater circumstance, maybe it will need to go to council for resolution. I would certainly follow up with their concerns with updates until the issues have been resolved.
Madrid-Bautista: My first step was volunteering for years to bring positive change. Running for local office is secondary. The cleanliness of our city is one of the top concerns I hear from residents. Simple steps to improve the blight must be taken. Focusing on exits and entrances to town being maintained, offer incentives to residents for maintaining curb appeal, helping business owners maintain storefronts and limit advertisements on windows, are a few steps we must to take to improve our city and downtown area. Getting back to the basics is the key and focusing on reviving community pride.
Mendoza: When I hear concerns from the community, the steps I’ll take to resolve the issue is first listening. After we have figured out the details, I would point them in the right direction to the appropriate department. I will follow up with the city manager to ensure everybody employed by the City is doing everything possible to address and fix the issues the residents of Greenfield have. I have the time to follow up and ensure all concerns large and small get properly addressed.
Tipton: The biggest problem that I see is that the City doesn’t have enough staff to deal with the issues that they have. Code enforcement needs to be stepped up, and Public Works needs to be properly staffed to keep city services in operating order. City council needs to take a hard look at staffing levels and job allocations to make sure that problems are dealt with as they arise, and aren’t tabled because there’s nobody to deal with them. If elected, I will work to make sure that every problem, no matter how small, gets handled to a proper resolution.
What are the top challenges the city is facing in the next five years?
Garcia: Affordable housing, farmworker housing, moderate housing, jobs, recreation for all, child-care services, social services such as mental health, programs for at-risk youth, veterans’ services, building the city jail, attracting more retail stores and restaurants, downtown redevelopment to attract tourism, welcome center and vintners tasting room, getting courthouse built and striving for clean energy for our city.
Madrid-Bautista: I wouldn’t consider it a challenge but more of a chance. Greenfield, where do we want to go from here? What do you want to be known for? We need an energetic, civil, ethical, transparent and enthusiastic leadership, I know I can bring these much-needed qualities. We’re at an opportunistic and pivotal turning point, let’s build, unite and progress together. Let’s be a community we all love and share.
Mendoza: I think the top three challenges the city is facing in the next five years is the growing cannabis industry, homes for the residents of Greenfield that cover the full spectrum of demographics and getting new businesses to come to Greenfield. I feel confident enough to be able to solve these and many other problems that may arise in the future. At the end of the day, it’s about providing a higher quality of life for our residents and I’d like to help lead us in that direction.
Tipton: The biggest challenges, in my opinion, are the following: the need for improved city services, the need for housing and delivery on the Walnut Avenue Specific Plan area. The city needs to deliver more — more recreation, more housing, more commercial, more of everything. In order to do that, the services need to be there — more water, more sewer, more fire protection, more police, more City staff. In order to pay for all of this without increasing taxes, we need to bring more commercial and industry into town. Delivering successfully in the Walnut Avenue area will help provide that funding.
Vote-by-mail ballots have already been sent out to local voters, and early voting has begun at the Monterey County Elections Department, 1441 Schilling Place, North Building, in Salinas. Office hours are Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Polling place locations will also be available Election Day, Nov. 6.