I know you've got a lot of rounds to make tonight, but I hope it's not too late for you to consider the following pleas from some of Kern County's finest elected officials. You see, our cities here need lots of help, Santa. Some are in dire financial straits wondering how they will pay for increased costs in police and fire protection next year, keep parks open (or at least clean for citizens to use) and others face a growing homeless population.
So I asked several cities what they wished for Christmas and I am forwarding their responses to you, big guy. Those that did not respond I can only guess that everything must be just fine, though I really suspect they know they've not been behaving so nicely and therefore are not asking for anything. In alphabetical order, let's start with the little town of Arvin.
“This year, I hope Santa Claus brings health and prosperity to the people of Arvin," says Arvin Mayor Jose Gurrola. He continues: "Whether it's bad air and water, lack of an after-hours urgent care clinic, or not enough good-paying jobs, Arvin residents have long-suffered systemic and institutionalized economic, medical, and environmental burdens."
I gotta say Santa, Gurrola has a point there. Because of its location, the air in Arvin can get pretty bad. Can you do something about that? I take it your sleigh runs on clean energy? I digress, let's get back to the Arvin mayor.
"The city has made significant progress in those areas the past couple of years -- and we plan on continuing that progress. We recently updated our Oil and Gas code to protect Arvin residents from the harms of neighborhood oil drilling. We have been working with the Arvin Community Services District in their effort to find funding and land to drill for new water wells that will hopefully yield improved water quality. We are also a member of the Kern Economic Development Corporation and are working to attract new businesses and a potential urgent care facility. Although the city is working diligently in these efforts, we could always use a little Christmas magic from Santa Claus to help us bring health and prosperity to the people of Arvin this holiday season.”
And in 2021, Arvin will be getting a satellite campus from Bakersfield College! So you see, these guys are really trying to improve.
Let's move on to Bakersfield. Here's the short list from mayor Karen Goh:
1. She wants a clone of herself so she can participate in all the wonderful causes in the community. 2. A championship football season for the USC Trojans. 3. Long-term solutions to the complex challenges of homelessness, including more permanent supportive housing and emergency shelter spaces.
Mayor Goh is correct -- just too many ribbon cutting ceremonies, speaking engagements and community events to cover for one person.
But I don't know if you can clone her; she's one of a kind. Santa, I do hope you can do something about the homeless issue because no one anywhere appears to be making any true progress.
As you head north, Santa, please check out the good people of Delano. Here's what Mayor Grace Vallejo wants: A steak house.
"We currently have none and our residents want a nice place to go for a steak dinner and drinks," said Mayor Vallejo. I think this is pretty reasonable, practical and one you should definitely consider, Santa.
Next on her list? She says, "Complete our airport partnership project because with it comes over 1,000 jobs, strengthening our economy."
And for her third wish: "A cohesive city council, so that we can continue with our success of bringing the best quality of life for our residents." Yes, yes easier said than done. Many cities appear to have factions or one or two council members with quirky personalities that rub others the wrong way. But Delano is Kern County's second largest city, is growing and, like Arvin, continues to make positive strides. Did I mention the city has singing and dancing policemen and policewomen? Check out their video: Visit Youtube.com and search for "Delano dancing police."
Right down the road from Delano are the good people of McFarland, USA. Here's what Mayor Manual Cantu has on his list:
"For my first wish, I would ask for a commercial development boom in our town. We will be opening our first Taco Bell in town just before Christmas, which will employ many good hard-working residents, college and high school students. Therefore, more new jobs and an increasing sales tax will make many more residents happier at Christmastime in McFarland. We also currently have many business owners from throughout Kern county anxiously looking and waiting for rental and or lease properties to open for business in our town, a win-win for everyone on Christmas.
"My second wish is to see McFarland continue to grow with more residential housing developments on both the west and east side of town. More new housing opportunities for all desiring to own a home here in our small, yet growing Hispanic community. We are currently experiencing long waiting lists for both new homes and affordable rental dwellings all over town. Therefore a safe and adequate home for everyone would be wonderful on Christmas.
"For my third wish I would ask that everyone in McFarland would experience the joy of unwrapping the real Christmas gift, by allowing God’s gift for us all, his son Jesus, into our lives and homes. For me, these would be the perfect gifts for the City of McFarland this and every Christmas."
And finally from Wasco, home of the Wasco Tigers. Ex-mayor and current City Councilman Tilo Cortez gets straight to it. He says,
"I would like to have a community center for youth programs, senior citizen programs and community events. Also a beautiful shopping center with a great steak restaurant and a movie theater complex. A sprawling dog park for all fur friends and fur babies. And streets that magically repair themselves." Love that last wish, don't you?
So there you have it, Santa. I think all those wishes are perfectly within reason. How about it?
Contributing columnist Jose Gaspar is a news anchor/reporter for Telemundo Bakersfield and KGET. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed are his own.