Noel Pineo grinning

Noel Pineo is one of three men running to represent Ward 5 on the Bakersfield City Council. Early voting started Monday; Election Day is June 6. 

He will probably most stand out to Ward 5 voters as the one listed as “Stay-At-Home Father” on their special election ballot for June 6.

Father of two Noel Pineo, 58, is running the quietest and most frugal campaign of the three candidates seeking the southwest Bakersfield City Council seat, which was left open by Jeff Tkac’s suicide in early January.

Pineo says he does not want donations, that he'd prefer supporters give to the Bakersfield Homeless Center instead. Nor is he spending the approximately $1,000, or one month’s mortgage payment, required to have a candidate statement published in the sample ballot book. If he had the money, he said, he'd donate it to the homeless shelter.

Pineo calls the money his two opponents, Bruce Freeman and Ryan Nance, have raised “inappropriate.”

"You shouldn't be paying $140,000 on a job that pays $100 a month," he said at the time of the interview. Since then, Freeman and Nance have reported raising almost $230,000 in campaign contributions.

Pineo, or “Penny-O” as he explains how to pronounce it to his students, became a father at age 40, and when his second child was born, he left his teaching job to become a full-time, stay-at-home father.

"In America, we say we value parenting, but we value making money," Pineo said.

He described the lifestyle change as going from a king to an untouchable. 

“All of a sudden my opinion was unimportant,” Pineo recalled. 

But Pineo stuck it out, home-schooling his children for a total of seven years and continuing to take care of the house, periodically substitute teach, and buying, fixing and selling bicycles he finds at yard sales.

It was his enthusiasm for bike riding that made him decide to run for city council.

In recent years, he said, he’s realized he needs bicycles with good shocks on them to ride on Bakersfield's neglected roads. He said he's thinking of selling all but his mountain bikes — the ones that can handle the rough ride.

A 2016 statewide local streets and roads assessment found the City of Bakersfield's roads are in better condition than those in other parts of Kern County. However, the city's rating is still one step away from "good," which is a rating that means roads need preventive maintenance such as chip seals or slurry seals.

In front of Pineo's house, there are tiny cracks in a pattern similar to an alligator's skin. The Ward 5 candidate said he usually sees that kind of wear turn into potholes.

Pineo said there's also wear around the Campus Park area.

"When you ride (via bike or car) over the road," he said, "you can hear the subsurface rumbling underneath you."

He said he is concerned that delaying road repair will triple the cost of what it would be if the city hadn't waited a couple years.

One recent day, Pineo leafed through the 2-inch-thick city budget that he paid $35 to have printed and pointed out that by this time, the city had hoped that oil prices would be at $60 a barrel, which it is not.

He said the more he reads the city's budget, the more it reads as a Steven King novel.

"Anyone who says we're not in a financial crisis, I invite them to call a man named (City Manager) Alan Tandy and ask him if he has enough money," Pineo said.

He said the city's finances have been historically supported by oil and agriculture, but now things are changing and it’s time for the city to find new revenue sources.

“It’s very much like a teenager in that [we] must start funding ourselves,” he said.

Pineo is proposing to increase the city's two main sources of revenue: property and sales tax.

Tandy said the city council can vote to put a question on the ballot on whether to increase sales or property taxes. If that tax revenue would go to a specific purpose, like road repair or public safety, two-thirds of the voters would have to approve the increase; otherwise, the tax increase can be passed by a simple majority of voters. 

Pineo contrasted himself with the other candidates, pointing out he has attended every city council meeting since filing his candidacy. He also said he's telling people up-front what needs to be done to help the city's financial situation, saying the city needs to look for more sources of revenue.

Pineo's other goals are to spend more money on police officer training — teaching them how to deal with the mentally ill and to de-escalate situations.

Meanwhile, his yard is filled with feasting doves, not campaign signs. In fact, his candidacy came as a surprise to neighbors, but they said they support him.

He believes in doing something more than just “laying sealing there, stomping it down, and hoping it stays” on the roads, Larry Hupp, 58, said.

“If there’s something wrong, he’ll jump on it,” Hupp said.

The nature of his campaign, Pineo said, is to engage people on an intellectual level — not an emotional one. He encourages people to message him,, or call him at 203-3991. He has no online presence, like a website or social media account.

His son William, 15, said, “Even if he thinks he isn’t going to win, he’s going to throw himself in.”

Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at (661) 395-7368. Follow her on Twitter via @TBCCityBeat.

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