Kern County Board of Supervisors

The Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a controversial ordinance Monday evening allowing the addition of more than 40,000 oil and gas wells over the next 15 years. The vote took place after supervisors heard 8 hours of public comments. 

 

The majority of those comments were against the ordinance. Small farmers, environmental groups and residents in the county were among those opposing the ordinance. 

 

Resident Daniel Ress said he’d read dozens of studies about the harmful effects of oil and gas drilling on people living nearby.

 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

 

Lawyers sent a letter last week to the Kern County Board of Supervisors complaining that information presented at a recent planning commission meeting about a controversial proposed ordinance on gas and oil drilling was inconsistent with the timeline of the actual county document.  

 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

After hearing more than 100 public comments, the Kern County Planning Commission voted Friday to pass the recommendation for a proposed oil and gas ordinance that would allow the permitting of up to 40,000 new oil and gas wells over the next 20 years.

 

Representatives from the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the League of United Latin American Citizens spoke in favor of the ordinance citing jobs for Latinx community members as a top reason. 

 

But the majority of the comments voiced concern over the new ordinance. 

 

Kern County Public Health Department Facebook Page

The Kern County Board of Supervisors is considering furloughing employees classified under non-safety in order to save $1.67 million. Social workers and other public health professionals in the county are pushing back. 

Alicia Aleman has been a domestic violence social worker with the county for over 13 years. She said the pandemic has caused huge mental health stresses for people dealing with job loss, school closures and COVID relief. 

 

 

The California Department of Justice announced a settlement Tuesday with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, following a four-year-long investigation into allegations of excessive force and other misconduct.

Among the issues filed: unreasonable stops, searches and seizures, access to services for people with language barriers and how the department addressed public complaints. 

Kern County Sheriff's Department

Kern County's sheriff announced Wednesday the department’s gang unit is shutting down, and one of the driving factors is limited funds.  

 

“We’re running out of people and we’re unable to recruit and retain more than we’re losing,” Sheriff Donny Youngblood says. “So we’re getting smaller and smaller and this is probably just the beginning of more cuts to come.”

 

Monica Velez

Last Tuesday, some people in Kern County were hoping District 4 residents would vote for a candidate that would make the Board of Supervisors more diverse. But, it looks like the board is staying the same, with four white men and one Latina.

Although election results are unofficial, it’s more likely than not incumbent David Couch will represent District 4. As of Tuesday, he has about 45 percent of the vote and leads by about 8 percentage points.

 

Kern County

In Kern County, today's election is historic: Not just because of the four marijuana-related measures on the ballot, but also because it marks the first time some residents will vote for a County Supervisor since the county was forced to redraw its districts.

Kern County

Lidia Gonzalez still lives in the same part of Delano she did a year ago. But even though she’s in the same place, she says one big thing is different- the district she lives in and the Kern County supervisor who represents her. 

She says it’s not just the districts that changed, but how the people in them are responding to the changes.

James Burger, reporter for the Bakersfield Californian (file photo)

Despite the passage of Proposition 64, commercial marijuana dispensaries are technically illegal in Kern County after a vote last year by the Board of Supervisors. While the board may consider making changes to that policy for some medical cannabis dispensaries, the issue has led to a political firestorm. Rival camps have accused supervisors of unethical conduct, in one case including accusations of bribes. With so much turmoil, we spoke with reporter James Burger of The Bakersfield Californian, who recently wrote a series of reports on the allegations.

Kern County is now considering turning to private companies to run county services as one way to help cover a big decline in tax revenue.

While many cheer low oil prices for declining gas, it is costing Kern County in a major way. The lower cost of oil means the county is bringing in less in property taxes; As much as 60-million dollars less next year.

County Supervisor Mick Gleason says the county board voted this week to prioritize forming partnerships with private companies to run county services, potentially saving money.

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Earlier this year eight Kern County families were forced out of their homes because of a gas leak. Now, seven months later families are still asking questions about their health and when they can return to their neighborhood.

When Yesenia Lara bought her home three years ago she never imagined living there would eventually bring so much anger and sadness to her family.

"This is my house, esta es mi casa. Excuse the mess but I hardly come here."