The Bakersfield City Council will likely vote on a proposal to add “In God We Trust” decals to police vehicles after a proposal was made at a meeting Wednesday in which the council also selected the ninth member of the sales tax oversight committee.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, local pastor Angelo Frazier formally requested the city add the nation’s motto to police vehicles, following in the city of Delano’s footsteps.
“I look to the wall and I see ‘In God We Trust.' It welcomes all,” Frazier said during the meeting, referring to the words emblazoned on the emblem in the council chambers. “Police are part of this community, they need to be honored with everything we can give them.”
News of the proposal had quickly spread through Bakersfield when it became public at the beginning of the week.
For more than 30 minutes, public speakers either made their case for the decals or spoke out against it.
Jennifer Bloomquist, founder of the Atheist Society of Kern, pushed back against the claim that “In God We Trust” was an all-inclusive phrase, encompassing all forms of belief.
“These stickers very clearly imply one Christian god, and this request very clearly implies one religion, Christianity,” she said. “Proponents like to claim that ‘In God We Trust’ is neutral and inclusive. They perform impressive mental gymnastics to make this claim, while the truly neutral and inclusive but still powerfully patriotic motto, our original motto, ‘e pluribus unum’ is conspicuously ignored.”
“E pluribus unum” is a Latin phrase meaning “out of many, one” that was considered the de facto motto of the United States until 1956, when Congress passed an act declaring “In God We Trust” as the official national motto.
City Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan requested that city staff place the proposal on the agenda for the June 5 meeting, making it likely that it will be considered at that date.
“You cannot go to Washington, D.C. and read the words on the walls of the monuments and not know that a faith in God was very important to the framers of our country,” she said.
Sales tax oversight committee
The council also appointed Connie Perez-Andreesen as the ninth member of the sales tax oversight committee, making her only the second woman to be appointed to the high-profile position.
Perez-Andreesen works as the chief administrative officer for United Farm Workers of America.
“I want to give back to the community where I am raising my two daughters,” Perez-Andreesen said after her appointment. “I felt that I wouldn’t be doing my job as a mother to two daughters if I didn’t step up to the plate.”
The nine-member committee has been tasked with overseeing the spending related to the city’s 1 percent sales tax increase. The committee’s job is to make sure the city’s spending matches with at least one of 13 priorities for which the city promised voters the money would be used.
During the initial selection process in February, the city selected eight men and one woman, five of whom were white and four were minorities. Criticism quickly followed from community members who felt that the committee did not accurately represent Bakersfield.
After one of the members resigned, the council decided to request additional applications to fill the open spot.
A total of 10 people submitted applications for this round of voting, a far cry from the 87 applications submitted during the first round.
Perez-Andreesen, who was passed over in the first round of voting, said she hoped to empower Latina women to apply to be on boards and commissions, and run for political office.