First, let me express my sincere congratulations to the excellent individuals that were selected to serve on the Bakersfield Citizens Oversight Committee for Measure N. There were so very many excellent applicants, it was difficult for the City Council to select among them.
The selection process was simple and clear: for each round, applicants that received four or more votes from among votes cast by the seven council members made the cut. There were four rounds. So, with each round, council members could easily determine the selected individuals, as well as the diversity of the committee following each of their votes. To be sure, it was a difficult choice among the many excellent candidates.
Keep in mind, though, that some of the slots were spoken for. That’s because the city had told corporate organizations they would have representation. That left fewer remaining spots to fill from among the approximately 80 other applicants that reside within the city limits (another five applicants failed to qualify due to residency).
The selected committee members are well-qualified, excellent representatives of the diverse Bakersfield community — but with two glaring exceptions. There is only one individual to represent the Latino community, which numbers well over 50 percent of Bakersfield’s population. An even more outrageous gaff is that the lone Latina representative is also the lone woman on the committee. That’s right, ladies! Out of nine members, one is a woman! I was disappointed at the lack of recognition of our overwhelmingly Latino community. An accurate representation, given the Latino majority in the city of Bakersfield, should have called for at least two to three Latinos to be selected from among the 20 Latinos (evenly divided among men and women) who applied.
Moreover, that failure was compounded by the fact that only one in nine oversight committee members is a woman. An egregious offense, considering that the population of Bakersfield is over 51 percent female. Approximately 25 percent of the applicants were women, so there is absolutely no excuse for this additional affront to equitable representation on the committee. No less than three women should have been appointed.
Again, this reflection is in no way meant to disparage those outstanding individuals who were selected. However, it should be a stark reminder that several members of the Bakersfield City Council are still sympathetic to the “good ole boy network” mentality, and are more beholden to the major corporations than they are to their constituents who approved Measure N, and will be paying that 1-cent sales tax for years to come.
Mary Helen Barro has over 40 years of experience in small business management, electronic and print media, public relations and public affairs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.