Bakersfield is truly in a state of flux.
And while there’s a lot of talk about people leaving California, Kern County’s population is expected to grow nearly 24% over the next two decades, according to projections by the California Department of Finance.
The city is creating a master plan that will shape its existence for the next 20 years.
There’s also a parks plan in the works that could be just as transformative.
So it’s no understatement to say that in November, voters will have the chance to make decisions from the podium that will have a huge influence on the future of the city. There are four spots on the ballot, but technically only two races.
For all intents and purposes, two have been decided: Eric Arias and Bob Smith, who currently represent Wards 1 and 4, respectively, are running unopposed. And a run, for Ward 7, will guarantee at least a new face on the council, as the area’s current representative, Councilor Chris Parlier, is not seeking re-election – leaving Tim Collins, Raj Gill and Manpreet Kaur vying for the voter support.
In Ward 3, Councilman Ken Weir, the city’s vice mayor and chairman of the Kern County Republican Party, is challenged by Boyd Binninger and Lonnie Daddow. (Zeferino Barron confirmed his intention to withdraw from the race after qualifying as a candidate.)
Weir, who has represented Bakersfield on the podium since 2006, is seeking a fifth term on city council. Ward 3 covers the northeast of the city.
As the owner of a CPA firm for over 30 years, it makes sense that one of the first things he mentioned in his questionnaire The Californian gave to candidates was how he would like to change the process. city budget.
“Our budget pays little attention to the main issues facing the city. It’s more of a shotgun approach than an intentional focus,” he wrote. “It’s time to reformat the city’s budget process to focus on our highest priorities, fund those programs first, before looking for new ideas to spend.”
He also mentioned that he would like to see more transparency in reporting on how Measure N’s public safety and vital services dollars are spent, and a more focused plan for the city’s investment in technology. .
Weir also noted that Sacramento’s policies “make this state an impoverished wasteland,” and hopes to see voters “think hard and make changes for their elected officials.”
Boyd Binninger has a background in finance, as well as over a quarter century of experience in commercial real estate.
He listed crime, homelessness and more fairness for municipal investment as his top priorities if elected.
“The City of Bakersfield needs to improve how we recruit and retain police officers so they can be more proactive, which will allow them to work on preventing crime before it happens,” Binninger said. He also wanted to ensure that the city’s police and fire departments were adequately staffed, which has been a longtime city goal for the Bakersfield Police Department.
He also noted that the city’s Measure N spending needs to be reviewed more consistently.
“Most people who voted for Measure N wanted the majority of the funds to go to public safety,” Binninger said. “The city needs to make sure that’s the priority.”
The city’s most significant change in the past 10 years has been its downtown revival, he said, an effort he wanted to see more cohesively across the city.
Lonnie Daddow was an electrician for over 20 years before going into manufacturing. Now retired, he would like the city to put more emphasis on educating the workforce, including computer and construction skills. Part of that goal is also paying educators more, he added.
“Ward 3 needs a redesign from the ground up,” he said, “and I’m the candidate to implement those improvements.”
Daddow also noted that the city needs more housing to help deal with the homelessness crisis.
Asked about Bakersfield’s most significant development in the past 10 years?
“The freeway system was very important because of the growth that Bakersfield is experiencing,” he said.
“The expansion of houses and the influx of new residents have impacted agricultural land which was already taking a beating and water resources have been permanently affected.”
The other contested seat of the city represents a southern district sandwiched between districts 1 and 5.
Professionally, Tim Collins has taken on the role of his former agricultural mechanics teacher in the Kern High School District, where he worked for the past four years at the Regional Occupational Center, he said.
He wants to see the city cleaned up, more investment in skills training to grow the city’s workforce and added that he likes that Bakersfield is known as a welcoming community.
Collins also felt the city should prioritize its Measure N funds over what voters requested when it was approved in 2018.
“That sales tax money should be for what was advertised on the ballot and the campaign: law enforcement first,” he said. “Injecting sales tax money into the pension program or creating lots of new non-law enforcement jobs is not a responsible way to fund pensions.”
He also said the last two governors of the state had created a number of problems for the region with their policies over the past 10 years.
“We need to get our own oil out of the ground rather than looking to import our food and fuel from other countries,” Collins said. “Sacramento cannot continue down this absurd path for long.”
Manpreet Kaur said she was a first-generation American Sikh, born and raised in Bakersfield.
His top three priorities for the city are improving road safety by tackling issues such as street racing, the homelessness crisis, and streamlining the city’s permitting process to better facilitate his growth.
“We’re the ninth largest city in the state and we’re still growing,” she said. “The City of Bakersfield needs to improve its systems to better meet the growing demand for municipal services.
In terms of funding priorities, Kaur said she can appreciate the investment in public safety with Measure N, “but until the issues are fully resolved, more needs to be done through infrastructure and to programming towards more durable solutions”.
She also wanted to see the city budget include more investment in opportunities for its residents.
“I appreciate the investments in public safety and homeless services,” Kaur said, “but until the issues are fully resolved, more needs to be done through infrastructure and programming toward solutions. more durable.”
She noted that the pandemic, homelessness and growth are the biggest changes the city has seen in the past 10 years.
Raj Gill declined to submit responses to the candidate’s questionnaire sent out by The Californian. The owner of Gill Construction, Gill said he has lived in Bakersfield for more than 25 years.
He has previously said his priorities are tackling homelessness and improving police response times.
Eric Arias, who represents South East Bakersfield, is one of two City Council incumbents running unopposed in the November election.
When asked what the city could do differently in its funding of Measure N, Arias noted that the city has made significant progress in its efforts to improve its workforce, but acknowledged that it there was still work to do. He also wants to continue working to make city parks safer for families.
“Over the next four years, I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Chief of Police to improve response times for voters and businesses in Ward 1,” he said.
He also called for an overhaul of affordable housing production, in which he plans to play an active role over the next four years as a member of the city’s ad hoc committee on homelessness.
Although COVID-19 has had as big an impact as anything else in the city in the past 10 years, he said, funds from the city’s bond measure represent potential still. bigger for his future.
“Post-pandemic,” he said, “I think the biggest changes we’ll see will be in the years to come, as we see the positive total profit from Measure N’s investments.”
Bob Smith, who represents the city’s most northwest neighborhood, said three things the city can improve are addressing quality of life issues with improvements to its parks, pathways and other areas. pedestrian; do a better job of telling Bakersfield’s story and building local pride; and make City Hall more business friendly.
Responding to a question about funding Measure N, which he says has been the city’s biggest event for the past 10 years, Smith noted that he’s a big supporter of it, and he said that over time, residents will continue to see its benefits. growing up.
“We have the resources to address homelessness in our community, which would be much worse without PSVS (Public Safety and Vital Services) resources. We are tackling decades of deferred maintenance issues in our parks , medians and streets to improve the quality of life in our city,” he wrote. “We are investing millions of dollars in efforts to build more affordable housing and leveraging local dollars to receive even more state dollars. and federal to help solve our local affordable housing crisis.
“I believe the positive impacts of PSVS are only beginning to be felt. I am confident Measure N will change Bakersfield for the better, benefiting our citizens for years to come.”