For the first time in six months, the Ward 5 seat will not be vacant at a Bakersfield City Council meeting.
Three weeks after winning the southwest Bakersfield seat, Bruce Freeman will take the oath of office Wednesday night. Then he’ll jump right in with one of the year’s weightiest votes.
Ward 5 residents have been without a representative since the death of newly elected councilman Jeff Tkac earlier this year. Freeman, who spent 21 years as Castle and Cooke’s mainland president, won the city council seat with about 1,700 more votes than vocational instructor and second-time Ward 5 candidate Ryan Nance.
Freeman ran as a businessman, having retired in 2014 from the land master-planning company, which designed much of southwest Bakersfield. His goal, he has said, was to build economic growth by diving into the fine-grain of city government and streamlining processes for businesses where possible.
He takes his seat the same night the City Council is set to vote on its $494 million budget for fiscal year 2017-18.
Freeman will be permitted to vote on the city budget if he says during the council meeting that he at least watched or listened to the June 7 public hearing on the city budget. The meeting was held following two workshops where city departments presented their budgets to the council. No one made any public comments during the hearing.
That preparation is the minimum requirement but, as City Attorney Ginny Gennaro noted, “the more the better” — such as if Freeman were to indicate that he’d read budget highlights or talked with the city manager.
The city budget remains fairly unchanged from when it was originally introduced in May.
The budget includes three more police officers to patrol downtown and southeast Bakersfield and one more solid waste employee. The additional police officers would be paid for with urban development funds the city annually receives from the federal government — but the city is at risk of losing those funds under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget.
Trash fees, which are increasing from $195.72 to $200 per year, would pay for the new solid waste employee to service the 1,472 homes that have been built since the city last added such an employee a couple of years ago.
Growth in departments’ budgets is mostly due to an increase in California Public Employees’ Retirement System costs. The City of Bakersfield expects its CalPERS costs will increase by $2.4 million this coming fiscal year and by an additional $6.5 million the following fiscal year.
Meanwhile, there are several cost-neutral amendments to the budget, which include $350,000 for a new trash truck for the new solid waste employee and $10,000 for a project to enhance the display of Sister City artifacts and other things in City Hall South. The money for the trash truck will come from trash fees, and money for the Sister Cities display comes from a previous contribution by an individual to the city.
The council also takes its first look at repealing the city’s limit on outside watering to three days a week.
Freeman’s installation ceremony will be at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in City Hall South, 1501 Truxtun Ave., before the City Council goes into closed session. The City Council’s vote on the budget will be toward the end of its 5:15 p.m. meeting, held at the same location.