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 I of this two-part question-and-answer series focuses on Greenfield’s three mayoral candidates competing to replace outgoing Mayor Jesus OlveraGarcia, who chose not to run for re-election: local businessman Raul Rodriguez, current Mayor Pro Tem Avelina Torres and current Councilmember Lance Walker.
Read their responses below, and look for Part II featuring the Greenfield City Council candidates in next week’s issue.
What qualifications do you have that make you a good candidate for mayor?
Rodriguez: My qualifications include four years on the Greenfield City Council, two of those years as mayor pro tem. I served four years on the Greenfield Planning Commission. I have served on our high school board of trustees for four years. I earned a certificate of Masters of Governance with the California School Board Association, which includes eight days of training on the many areas of governance. I have over 17 years of experience running a successful business. I have a bachelor’s degree from Berkeley and a master’s degree from Stanford University. I am easily the most qualified candidate.
Torres: I have been in the city council for almost four years and I have been the mayor pro tem since 2016. I’ve attended numerous monthly Salinas Valley mayor/manager meetings whenever the current mayor would not attend. I’ve also signed important City documents because the mayor refused to sign. I care very much about our City and our community and I know together we can move Greenfield to bigger and better things.
Walker: I am the most experienced candidate, having been elected twice to the city council. I’ve always listened to the community and voted in Greenfield’s best interest, even knowing I would be the lone vote on an issue. In six years, I have not made a decision I regret. I’m honest, transparent and have no agenda. I know I’ve been put up here by the people and that is who I will continue to serve. I’ve lived in Greenfield my whole life. I know this town, its people and will always have everyone’s best interest at heart.
What do you hope to accomplish as mayor?
Rodriguez: I hope to lead the council and the city to effective self governance. Effective self governance creates the environment needed for positive change. The mayor can provide the leadership that will promote all the changes needed to improve all city services. From recreation for residents to commercial development to improved housing opportunities, the road to change begins with good governance. So my goal will be to promote the right environment that allows all city staff to perform their jobs and together with our residents improve the quality of life for all residents. I will work to remove the barriers that have held us back. The biggest barrier we face is the current dysfunctional city council.
Torres: To bring much needed transparency to our council and work toward preventing any further lawsuits that is plaguing our City. We need to work closer with our community to find out what we can do to improve every person’s way of life. We will work together to solve the current housing crisis in Greenfield.
Walker: I hope to accomplish uniting our council. I believe we all want the best for Greenfield and can find common ground on important issues in our city. A key accomplishment I would like to see is revitalizing our downtown ECR with a much needed facelift. Working with city staff to accomplish the goals of attracting needed retail, bringing in the courthouse, improving our infrastructure, increasing recreation for all ages and exploring the use of green energy with wind turbines and solar are also important. Our community has grown, and we need to work together to meet its needs and expectations.
How do you feel about the cannabis industry in South County?
Rodriguez: Before marijuana industry opened its doors, the Greenfield community had many serious concerns about the possible side effects the industry could have. However, over the past year, the industry has demonstrated they can have a positive role in our city. They are providing over 200 jobs and contributing new revenue to our city. There have been unexpected side effects like the smell and parking issues, but those issues can be minimized in collaboration with the city. The most important thing we learned over the last year is that crime and marijuana use in our city did not rise, like many feared. My understanding is that the marijuana industry did not have a negative effect on crime in our city.
Torres: Since 2016 Greenfield has had the same number of cannabis businesses. Other cities are realizing the benefits of having the cannabis industry in their cities. Every city can use the revenue and jobs that the industry brings. There are approximately 400 to 500 people working in cannabis businesses in Greenfield and the revenue we have received so far is approximately $350,000 to $500,000. If not for the fire that happened at the industry, we would have received quite a bit more revenue.
Walker: I was the only council member who voted against the cannabis industry when it was first proposed. The process was rushed. Both of my opponents jumped in head first, issued too many permits in one area and ignored the community’s concerns. I would have preferred to slow things down in the beginning, so that other locations could have been considered that wouldn’t cause the frustrations the community is experiencing, especially the odor. Many promises were made and not many kept. I also think the revenue projections were overstated. As an untested industry, it needs oversight and accountability moving forward.
When you hear about concerns from the community, what steps would you take to see that they are resolved?
Rodriguez: Our residents deserve to have their concerns addressed by our city as quickly as possible. The challenge is making that a priority. The council will have to dedicate more resources to having more staff that will be able to resolve issues brought to our attention by residents. If the city does not communicate with our residents, we will lose credibility with our residents. As mayor, I would propose we require our staff to respond to a resident’s concern within 72 hours. The city may not be able to resolve issues in days or weeks, but we need to ensure we inform the residents what we are doing about the issue. Residents simply want to know what steps we are taking to resolve the problem.
Torres: Any concerns the community has, become my concerns too. If I am unable to assist, I will find someone who can. I will check back with the concerned community member to find out if the problem was taken care of and if it was properly handled and taken care of in a timely manner.
Walker: My first step would be discussing the concerns with our city manager to see what the next steps should be to address them. Depending on whether the concern could be handled at the staff level or by council agenda, we would go from there. I will gladly speak with anyone about their concerns and ideas. The mayor is one person on a five-member council and can’t do anything on his or her own. I encourage everyone to attend our meetings and bring forward any concerns during public comments.
What are the top challenges the city is facing in the next five years?
Rodriguez: The top five challenges our city is facing, in no specific order, are: economic development, revenue growth, balanced growth in housing, improving our streets and sidewalks, and improving our water and waste water capacity.
Torres: Definitely the three lawsuits the City is facing. There is always a danger of the City’s revenue being affected trying to defend against the lawsuits. Two of the lawsuits were caused by decisions made by council members. In defending Greenfield there could be lost revenue. It may affect public safety, well known recreation for our children such as the Boys and Girls Club along with recreation for our seniors. The lawsuits can even be a deterrent to national brand name stores and restaurants from coming to our city. Once again, the housing crisis is one of our top challenges.
Walker: The cannabis industry, lack of retail and housing are top challenges. We need oversight on the effects of allowing so many cannabis greenhouses in town. With the final approval of Yanks and Starbucks, Carl’s Jr. and AM/PM being constructed, we are seeing growth and employment opportunities, but we need to work to attract regional retail. Greenfield has done a good job constructing low-income housing, but it needs to be balanced with moderate and above-moderate housing. I see the next five years as more of an opportunity to realize our full potential, than a challenge. Our future looks very bright.
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.