The COVID-19 pandemic brought many challenges for us to overcome as a city during 2020 and into this year. The restrictions imposed by the state impacted our local economy, prompting many innovations and new thinking for businesses and ourselves as a government organization.
I’m proud to say that the city of Bakersfield remained open for business despite those challenges. We kept our doors open to the public at City Hall, Development Services, Recreation & Parks and all of our other departments, so we could continue to provide vital services to the people of Bakersfield when they needed us most.
We also worked to support our local businesses in a variety of ways, including our very successful B-CARES Small Business Assistance Grants — which awarded nearly $6 million to 938 local businesses — and the creation of a COVID-19 Special Event Permit to allow restaurants and retail shops to expand their operating footprint to sidewalks and streets during indoor restrictions. The city provided millions of dollars in financial support to local nonprofits and individual residents as well.
Despite the pandemic, we were also proud to open the Brundage Lane Navigation Center in October, helping address homelessness in our community, a top priority of businesses and residents alike.
We launched the new Clean City Initiative efforts such as pop-up trash drop-off events and clean teams to address litter and illegal dumping throughout the city, and we provided millions in funding for parks improvements across Bakersfield.
Many other cities in California and around the nation were not as fortunate as Bakersfield, being forced to cut staff and programs due to financial hardships brought on by the pandemic. Bakersfield did not have to make such harsh decisions thanks to fiscally conservative planning already in place.
Thanks to that financial position, I’m pleased to say that in fiscal year 2021-22 we will be able to not only continue the great services and programs we offer our residents, but also to expand many of them and, in some cases, start new ones.
Our Public Safety & Vital Services (PSVS) Measure — also known as “Measure N” — has been an important part of our continuing success, and I feel the community has yet to see its true impact, even three years into its implementation. We have nearly $78 million in PSVS funding going toward addressing community priorities. This includes funding to reach our goal of an additional 100 police officers.
Significant funding is also available for creating economic development and business assistance tools that will be implemented through our new Economic Development Strategic Plan, including façade improvements loans, entrepreneur grants, and urban redevelopment projects in downtown and east Bakersfield. Money from the measure will also be allocated to continuing to support our Clean City Initiative and related programs.
Homelessness remains a priority for the city, investing more than $9 million combined for local affordable housing construction projects as well as operating the BLNC and enhancing other homelessness-related programs. It’s a problem that will be best addressed by cooperation between the city and our local business partners, and we are continuing to work toward finding as many solutions as it takes to do so.
I am proud to say that the city of Bakersfield remains committed to supporting our local business community in many ways and that will only increase as we move forward.
Christian Clegg is Bakersfield's city manager.