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.
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.
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.
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.