One and done. That ought to be Terry Maxwell’s record in the Bakersfield City Council ledger. One term, four years and several thousand hours of mostly misguided obstruction.
The Ward 2 councilman had his chance. Now it’s time to turn to a challenger with a distinguished record of public service and an optimistic, realistic vision for the city. The Californian recommends voters choose Andrae Gonzales.
Maxwell, a 62-year-old restaurant owner and manager, has spent much of the past four years as the “1” on the short side of a few 6-1 votes. Not that there’s anything wrong with dissent — as long as it’s justified, constructive dissent.
Sometimes it seems like Maxwell objects for the sake of objection and debates for the sake of debate. He has spent most of his tenure naysaying two vital transportation projects: the widening of downtown Bakersfield’s 24th Street and construction of the Centennial Corridor, which will connect Highway 58 and the Westside Parkway.
He has battled city staff, demanding studies and reports that seem more focused on hindering progress than really gathering useful information. He has battled council colleagues who have grown frustrated and annoyed with his delaying tactics.
He has portrayed himself as a cost-conscious, small-government advocate but his objections to the 24th Street project — all ultimately rejected by a judge, to no one’s surprise — have cost the city millions in actual and hidden staff expenses.
And all this to derail a project that’s less than 300 feet from his front door, putting him at odds with a Fair Political Practice Commission guideline that suggests elected officials may have a conflict of interest if they advocate for or against a project within 500 feet.
Retired correctional officer Kevin Blanton, 59, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in June, is also on the ballot, but we believe Gonzales, 34, is the more promising and qualified of Maxwell’s two challengers.
An elected member of the Bakersfield City School District board, Gonzales is the CEO of Stewards Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps disabled and retired clients manage their finances. Five years ago, he also started the Children First Campaign and is credited with helping create a pocket park in east Bakersfield. He also is a longtime supporter of downtown improvement projects and community initiatives in Ward 2.
Among those supporting Gonzales is former Ward 2 City Councilwoman Sue Benham, who defeated Maxwell in his first election bid. Maxwell won the seat after Benham decided not to seek re-election in 2012.
Gonzales has said he would have taken different positions than Maxwell on two important votes. One, of course, was the 24th Street widening project, for which Maxwell was consistently the council’s only “no” vote. And two, Kern Health Systems’ quest to build its new headquarters on vacant, reclaimed city property, for which Maxwell was the only “yes” vote.
The land in question is immediately east of McMurtry Aquatic Center, Bakersfield Ice Center and Maya Cinemas. Clearly, this area has been developing into a leisure and recreation district. A healthcare building is better suited north of 21st Street, in Bakersfield’s ever-growing downtown healthcare district, where ample land is likely quite acquirable — and the city’s modest skyline might benefit.
Everyone on the council recognized this except the councilman within whose ward the property lies — Maxwell, for reasons never quite clear to us.
Maxwell had his chance. It’s time for new leadership, a new direction and a new style.
We urge Ward 2 voters to select Andrae Gonzales.