As expected, Grace Vallejo, the mayor of Delano, formally announced her candidacy last week for 4th District supervisor. We'd been anticipating that, of course, because a group of local Democratic leaders — 17 Latinos and four Anglos — reportedly held their own little nominating convention in a private room at Bill Lee's restaurant April 12. That's the group that selected her.

Delano Councilman Joe Aguirre was said to be prepared to publicly announce his candidacy that same day but withdrew, apparently conceding that too many challengers, Latino or otherwise, would fatally fray the vote and hand the seat back to incumbent David Couch, a Republican. Couch's district, rejiggered by a court order, has dramatically changed, from substantially white and Republican to substantially Latino and Democratic, but he's charging ahead anyway.

Several readers and even some people in this newsroom have been grousing about the way Vallejo was anointed, saying that the Group of 21 denied voters the opportunity to select their own county government representative.

I say nonsense. Political parties have been whittling the field without voter input for years. State parties endorse candidates every election cycle and, although that doesn't bar others from running without the party's official blessing, it effectively directs campaign funds to the chosen one — who outpolls the unendorsed others more often than not.

Those proverbial smoke-filled room decisions aren't really necessary when a primary election is involved; voters eliminate the lesser candidates in that case. But this supervisorial race has no primary: It'll come down to a single plurality vote in November. The Group of 21 was wise, and within its right, to get everyone behind a single candidate.

But will a third or even a fourth candidate emerge in that race? The filing deadline is many weeks away — Aug. 10 for all of the county's November races — so I'm guessing somebody else will jump in.

POOR US

The U.S. economy is booming but not every city is enjoying a full measure of the bounty. Bakersfield is one of them. In fact, Bakersfield is participating less in this historic period of prosperity than any city in the country.

That's according to 24/7 Wall St., a financial news and commentary website that covers the stock market, industry research and government policy affecting the economy.

Bakersfield had the largest increase in concentrated poverty in the country between 2010 and 2016, 24/7 Wall St. found.

The news organization reviewed U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data on poverty rates at the tract level and based its findings on the share of a metropolitan area’s population with a poverty rate of 40 percent or higher. 

The share of Americans living below the poverty threshold of $25,100 for a family of four climbed nationally from 12.7 percent to 14.2 percent between 2010 and 2016. That was bad enough, but in Bakersfield it more than doubled from 16.1 percent to 32.5 percent, the largest increase of any U.S. metro area. Fresno was second-worst.

There could be any number of reasons why this has happened, but Cal State Bakersfield economics professor Richard Gearhart pins it primarily on one often-cited culprit: the falling price of crude oil.

"After people lost (oil industry) jobs in Kern County, they stuck around with the hope of getting hired somewhere else quickly, and when that didn't happen they fell into poverty," he said.

His suggestion to those people: Hurry and get training in another field. The health care industry is particularly promising, he said.

Gearhart added that the study's focus period may have closed too soon to account for the recent growth in local service-sector employment, noting a recent boom in the number of new local restaurants.

Judging by the length of some restaurant waiting lists I've experienced lately, he may be right. But Bakersfield's low educational attainment levels — which directly correlate to later earning potential — suggest that things won't be drastically changing for the better anytime soon.

MICHELLE NIXON

Students and graduates of Bakersfield High School are dealing with a death in the family. Michelle Nixon Machado — Ms. Nixon to her students — died April 24, reportedly from brain cancer.

Michelle, a well-loved AP English teacher, taught hundreds and hundreds of kids over her career of 15 or so years — including both of mine.

"She genuinely cared about every single student in her class, not just on an academic level, but on a personal one," my daughter, Jill, wrote in a text message. "She saw her students not as kids, but as evolving human beings worthy of empathy and respect. She prioritized actual learning over utilitarian measures of success like grades and homework, and she inspired kids to think about literature and the world around them in more meaningful ways."

A celebration of life will take place next weekend, time and place to be announced.

JAMES DAVIS

We at The Californian wrapped up the last in our series of 30-minute video interviews with candidates running for offices that will either be decided or their fields narrowed in the June primary.

Each of the candidates for sheriff, district attorney, 14th State Senate District, 16th State Senate District and 23rd Congressional District has or will soon have their interviews posted on Bakersfield.com. I am the host of the 30-minute webcasts; check them out and see why I'm a print journalist and not a broadcast journalist.

We were able to get all but three candidates into the studio, all of them running in the 23rd Congressional District. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the incumbent, is hopefully still to come. Kurtis Wilson, a Democrat from Lancaster, canceled at the last minute for reasons still not clear to me.

And then there was independent James Davis, who refers to himself as the "deviant" candidate. I received an email from him the morning after he failed to show up for his taping:

"This is CIA Director Mike Pompeo. I have decided that I am not going to run for Congress after all and am withdrawing from the Race. James Davis is Mike Pompeo so I believe there would be some kind of Conflict of Interest as I am already Secretary of State.

"This information is classified, however if you feel the need to run with this story that is still okay by me. People can choose to know the truth or not.

"Love Always — Mike Pompeo, also known as James Davis, also known as I AM, also known as Everybody."

I'm disappointed Davis wasn't able to make it, but also somehow relieved.

Contact The Californian’s Robert Price at 661-395-7399, rprice@bakersfield.com or on Twitter: @stubblebuzz. His column appears on Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; the views expressed are his own.

(7) comments

HeresJohnny

No fan of Couch here, I think he's a corrupt jerk, but let's replace him with an even bigger corrupt jerk. Makes total sense for Kern County.

GaryJohns

I'm sure James Davis will have his own By-Line at the Californian very shortly.

BakoMark

One would think they would have gone to a Mexican restaurant. Support the brothers. Instead, they just gave big money to a large land owner downtown. Sounds very fixed.

Michael Myers

Latinos are hardcore racists. And any district they gain the majority in (through the strategy of "Breed like Rats and Vote in Packs") becomes a hellhole. Let's face it, racial differences matter. It's time to take a realistic look at how races differ.

Nevermind

Don't you have a mask to put on and murder victims to attend to?

JSmith

The underlying reason poverty has increased is not only lower oil prices. Yes a lot of folks were let go when the oil patch stumbled. What has alleys been forgotten is the easy and extended unemployment benefits that the Obama administration and the state of California provided for 40 some extra million people (not to mention those who were already using these benefits). When that benefit runs out many would shift to welfare(which pays very little). Free cellular phone, free healthcare keep these folks just getting by. Heavy regulations from both the Federal government and the even more insane Californian (one rule supermajority) government have made it extremely difficult for business to expand hence less jobs. As the regulations increase laws written by attorneys who have no expertise in these businesses. These businesses are slowly leaving this state. For the first time I am starting to believe farming may not survive these regulations and California's water management. There are jobs in healthcare because of Obama's force of healthcare, healthcare has gone up exponentially because the government forced everyone to pay or at least pay a fine. At some point people will rebel and figure out a way around this policy. Then there will be less jobs in healthcare. Add uncontrolled immigration on top of all that by some estimates 11 million extra people you have a recipe for complete financial collapse. Voting these liberal Democrats in the last area of some conservatism in California will be the last blow. If you are a retired public employee be very concerned about your pension. California cannot have it both ways depending on oil revenues and writing legislation that makes it harder to operate and expect large tax revenues from this industry. To prevent water that Central Valley farmers paid for and get NO delivery is also not going to work. And you wonder why people voted for Donald Trump.

Inconvenient Truth

Who could have predicted that Bill Lee’s would become Kern County’s Tammany Hall.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.