Recent events have demonstrated that we are still a divided nation. It doesn’t have to be this way in Kern County. In my years of political experience, I have seen and talked to folks from all over the county. I have heard from them what matters, and I have listened. My findings will not surprise you, nor should my recommendations on what we should do. But sometimes, in the face of fear and hatred, we need to be reminded of who we are. In the end, as I’ve said here in this column, as I’ve said on the campaign trail, and as I’ve said to anyone who will listen, we all basically want the same thing.

When I represented the Haggin Oaks community and talked to folks, I always heard the same demands from local government: fix our potholes! Keep the neighborhoods safe! Give children a chance to thrive, at home, in school and in the open spaces provided for them. Make sure the community is clean. Help families succeed. Foster an economic environment that creates good paying jobs to folks in our community. Make a playing field for success for all that is not impeded by unnecessary regulations and bureaucracy. Make sure we are all treated fairly and justly.

Redistricting happened, and my district changed. Delano, Lamont, Shafter, McFarland, Arvin and more were added, and some communities were lost. My district and others dramatically changed. I represent different people and communities now, but what the people want didn’t change. I was reelected (thank you for that) and it is my desire and goal for the next four years to help these communities get what they want – the same things all of us have always wanted.

The outrage over the killing of George Floyd is shared by all. The communities’ right to protest this killing is shared by all. And I believe the disappointment and frustration over looting and destruction in the wake of the protests is also shared by all. Except for those few – there are always those few – who believe hate and violence accomplishes their goals. What sad goals they must be!

We must not fight each other because of the actions of the few. They cannot divide us. If they do, hate wins. Rather, we must stand together, work together and build a stronger union in response to these outrages. That is how we take the negative events of the past weeks and turn them into a positive.

At the county level, we can do this symbolically by standing in solidarity, but I was thinking perhaps another way is to build a District 4 dialogue – community groups that can meet regularly and discuss how to build trust and dialogue and genuine understanding of each other. We have made efforts like this in the past, through town hall meetings and other gatherings. Most recently, we met in Lamont after the gang-related shootings of three young people this past January. Now that COVID-19 restrictions are lifting, we could resurrect these groups. In times like this, people need to be heard. Let’s hear them. Let’s hear all of you.

That meeting in Lamont was a start. Folks were crying and happy at the same time. They were thankful they had a place and the opportunity to express their grief and fears and mourn. We were starting the process of building trust. Now we must take this goal district wide to build trust and respect for each other.

We should continue what we have already started: working together to create economic opportunity for all, improving the quality of life for all, creating an environment where we all have a voice and building a county where we all feel safe.

If you are interested in being part of the solution, or if you have any questions of me, contact the District 4 office at 661-868-3680 or email us at district4@kerncounty.com. Have a safe week. Be positive.

David Couch represents Kern County’s Fourth District.

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