The passage of Measure N, the city of Bakersfield’s Public Safety and Vital Services 1-cent sales tax, begins a new era for the citizens of Bakersfield. The passage is one more example of a long list of positive changes to the Bakersfield community.
We have seen great improvements to our transportation system in the last few years and will soon see the completion of our dead-end freeway and widening and landscaping to our downtown bottleneck on 24th Street. We have expanded our bikeway system by 25 percent in the last few years and have plans for even more. Our wonderful local park system has seen the addition of incredible regional facilities including Riverwalk Park, Kaiser Permanente Sports Village and Tarina Homes Sports Village. Our vibrant downtown has numerous entertainment facilities, a growing restaurant scene, and various housing options in addition to its strong economic job base.
The passage of Measure N is a continuation of these positive changes, yet it is something larger and transformative.
Yes, the measure will provide for more police on the streets, more resources to deal with homelessness, opportunities to expand our economic development and provide for the financial stability for the foreseeable future.
But it also is the latest example that shows we are a community that works together to improve our city and expand our opportunities.
A larger and proactive police force will be able to interact with the citizens in ways that are not possible when they are simply running from one crisis to the next. The real opportunity is in the power created when the police force is working with citizens to create the mutual benefit of a safer, more prosperous community. A policeman who has time to create relationships with families in any given neighborhood will be much more effective in serving the needs of that neighborhood.
The homeless crisis has grown in the state, and Bakersfield is not immune to it. We have innovative and effective programs in place, and we will continue to be innovative and compassionate in our solutions. Measure N gives us new resources, and we will work with the entire community to improve the quality of life in Bakersfield by addressing this problem together.
The opportunity to expand our local economy by attracting and retaining more jobs to Bakersfield is an exciting outcome of Measure N. Working with the business community and reaching out to show what is unique and special about Bakersfield will have a lasting impact on the future of our beloved city.
At our last City Council meeting, we passed a resolution which begins the establishment of the Citizens Oversight Committee. It will provide independent verification that the revenues collected are prioritized and spent are as was proposed in the measure. The business community, represented by the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, Bakersfield Association of Realtors, Kern County Taxpayers Association, Kern Citizens for Sustainable Government and others, has already expressed interest in participating in this important endeavor. This committee ensures that from the initial policy decisions to implementation at the neighborhood level, the community is working together for the same goal, a Better Bakersfield.
Nothing is as powerful or important to the success of a city than the synergy that is created when its citizens work together in collaboration to seize the opportunities available. Measure N shows that that power exists in Bakersfield and that by working together we will continue to make Bakersfield a wonderful place to live and work. I am excited about the future of this city.
Bob Smith is the Bakersfield City Council Ward 4 councilman.