Prospective mayors discuss future visions of Bakersfield

Dylan Bryant, Reporter

Since Harvey Hall was first elected 16 years ago, he has been one of Bakersfield’s most-liked mayors. For some college students, he may be the only mayor they’ve ever known. But in November, residents of Bakersfield will be electing a new mayor, and it’s shaping up to be a pretty tight race.

Karen Goh, a former county supervisor and CEO of local nonprofit Garden Pathways, and Kyle Carter, known for his decorated local business career, have been presenting their visions for the city.

While both are Republicans, and both talk of bringing new jobs and businesses to the city, each have a unique background that seems to shape their view of government. Both candidates agreed to interviews with The Rip. The interview with Carter was held at one of his newest ventures, the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame, and Goh responded to questions via email.

In your opinion, what is the most important duty of the mayor of Bakersfield?

“Our city charter states that the mayor’s job is to promote local economic growth, that’s job number one,” Carter said. “Job number two is to run the (city council) meetings, and job number three is to be the face of the city.” Carter wants to take a more hands-on approach to welcoming businesses here. “That’s kind of my thing,” he said.

“The most important role of the mayor is to provide leadership that produces cooperation and progress,” said Goh. “The mayor is the leading voice in celebration and inspiration – celebrating successes and inspiring confidence for greater things. As the visible leader and ambassador of the city, the mayor confidently articulates and facilitates the goals of the city in full cooperation with the city council and city manager, as well as speaks encouragement to all residents and visitors. … This depth of knowledge and leadership that produces cooperation and progress are essential for a mayor to successfully fulfill the duties identified in the city charter.”

What is your view of the role of Bakersfield College and its importance to the community?

“I see Bakersfield College as the centerpiece for the kind of educational resources essential to drive a successful economy in this city and the greater things that are yet to come,” Goh said. “BC prepares students to become the responsible, educated, and skilled workforce that is indispensable to economic growth, both to expand local businesses and attract new employment providers. … Bakersfield College, with its commitment to serve all students, especially those who are underprepared, non-traditional and underrepresented, is central to developing individuals of value to our community and making our community a better place for all people.”

“I see BC as a major key in this,” Carter said. He shared his experience getting his carpenter’s license at Bakersfield College as a young man and emphasized his support for vocational training programs on campus. As a Kern Community College District trustee and former developer, he said the campus is in need of repair. “I can walk around campus and see structures falling apart, that’s why I support Measure J.” That measure would provide additional funding for campus reconstruction.

Why should Bakersfield college students prefer you to your opponent?

“A lot of people think we are the same, we run in the same circles, we’re both Republicans, but there are huge, gigantic, differences in the way that we attack things,” Carter said. He said that a main difference between him and his opponent is that he sees himself as a “rubber hitting-the-road” kind of person and that he “doesn’t see a whole lot of that coming from the other camp.

“It’s a lot like baking a cake. There are a lot of people around, and they like to stir and stir and stir and stir, and they’ll go to meeting after meeting after meeting, and they’ll stir and stir and stir. At some point in time, you have to put that cake in the oven. You can stir it to death. People are happy stirring and stirring and stirring because if they’re getting a paycheck for stirring, and never having to have a completed project, that’s where our world has kind of gotten turned upside down. I’m not going to be back here four years from now having to apologize because I didn’t get something done, and that’s what I’m angry about. We keep sending politician after politician after politician to Washington D.C. or Sacramento or downtown Bakersfield, and we get nothing for it. And that’s why I’m running for mayor, I want to get something done.”

“I have a depth of experience, training, and aptitude that have prepared me, I believe, with critical skills for the job of mayor in this place and time,” Goh said. “I’ve realized, over time, that I’ve been greatly blessed, through no merit or planning of my own, but through mentoring and encouragement of others, with incredible experience that is broad and deep in the very abilities needed for this job. … I began my career as a teacher in Bakersfield and then was recruited to the demanding world of New York City where I developed strategic leadership and executive decision-making skills. My business experience includes management at the highest levels. I left that job to return to my family in my hometown of Bakersfield and to lead a non-profit corporation dedicated to helping the hurting and the homeless on the toughest streets of Bakersfield. … Then, through nothing I planned, Gov. Schwarzenegger asked me to accept an appointment as Kern County supervisor where I served from 2010 to 2013 in a county government operation managing over $2 billion dollars of taxpayer money and serving on numerous public service commissions. That was an amazing growth experience and one that solidified my sense of responsibility to those who work and pay for the cost of government. So I have been blessed to gain a level of experience in business, community service and government with substantially greater depth and breadth than my opponent. Those experiences came to me because of what others saw in me; at each level I tried to live up to the trust that was placed in me.”

Both you and your opponent have claimed to have the ability to bring employment opportunities to Bakersfield. What specifically do you plan on doing to create new jobs here?

Goh said, “Creating new jobs is the purview of businesses that are able and willing to take a risk on new investment of their money, time, and intellectual property with the hope to produce a product or service that is new, better or cheaper than what is available. As mayor, I will be a steady voice in declaring, ‘Bakersfield is a great place to do business,’ and then make sure we live up to this reputation. I will also be the champion that retains our up-and-coming work force and attracts new workers by highlighting all the advantages of living in Bakersfield and creating jobs here. My door will always be open for those with ideas how to make our business community and quality of life more attractive. … With recent top 10 rankings for STEM jobs and high-tech GDP growth, Kern is emerging as a recognized technology hub across several industry sectors including, aerospace/defense, energy, food processing, healthcare, and logistics. We must find a way to expand on the use of technology in these industry sectors, as well as in oil and agriculture.”

Carter said, “I don’t have a crystal ball, but what I’ve done in the past is probably what I’ll do in the future. I’ve created over 20 businesses and thousands of jobs here already.” Carter spoke on the importance of diversifying our local economy. “Whenever oil is down, we feel it. Whenever there’s a drought, we feel it.” He says one of the ways he plans on welcoming businesses is through ribbon-cutting ceremonies, continuing a tradition of of Mayor Hall.

“The other part of my plan has to do with annexation” he began. “If you hold up a map of Bakersfield, it looks like a piece of swiss cheese. We’ve got these county islands and peninsulas,” he explained. These areas of Kern County stretching into Bakersfield cause problems for police, fire, and residents, he said. Through incorporating these areas into the city, he said the population of Bakersfield will go from roughly 350,000 to 600,000, without a single person packing a bag. Bakersfield would become the fifth largest city in California. “You don’t think things would change?” he asks intently, “You don’t think things would change if we were the fifth largest city, in the most populous state, in the most amazing nation on Earth?” Carter said annexation can bring Bakersfield the kind of voice needed to bring business and tax dollars into the city.

In the past, the Bakersfield City Council has debated laws that would limit access to abortion. If asked to break a tie, would you take steps to limit access to abortion, or keep the laws the way they are?

“I would try to prevent the killing of every child in the womb that I possibly could,” said Goh. “Many people choose abortion not as their first choice, but as what seems at the time to be their only option. As mayor, I would work hard to increase opportunities for supporting single pregnant women and linking them with adoption services. We need to turn some of our protesting into providing real options.”

“I would take steps to limit access to abortion in every way I could. I am very pro-life. I am very against pro-choice. That’s just how I feel,” Carter said.

What do you propose to do in order to ensure police are held accountable, yet are equipped to keep residents safe?

“First, you have to look at the cause of the problem, and that’s AB109 and Prop 47.” Carter states that the two pieces of legislation that are responsible for the release of thousands of criminals in California have created an influx of criminal activity here. He said letting prisoners go in Bakersfield because it’s the closest city to many prisons must end, and that we should let prisoners out “where they have a support system” so that they don’t revert back to crime.

“Second, we’re stressed out. Every year our city grows but we don’t grow the size of our police force. We have to add numbers to our force.” He said that the number of shootings by BPD last year “is a sign of stress. If you have a stressed out police force, and they’re shooting a bunch of people, it’s because they’re stressed out. When things are in balance, you don’t have to worry about it. When things start to get out of balance, that’s when you start having these problems. … And I’m not saying police brutality is OK, I think we need to be tough, but we need to be fair. Now, if it gets to the point where it’s become militant, then we’ll need to get on that, but I don’t think it’s there, I see serious signs of stress.”

Goh replied, “Our community must support a strategic balance of prevention, intervention, and suppression to combat violence, as well as partnerships through community policing. With the governor’s ‘early release’ program, thousands of state prisoners have been and are being released and many are taking up residence in Bakersfield. … I will listen to the experts, encourage them, and work hard to get them the personnel, technology, equipment, and training they need to apprehend, prosecute, and jail dangerous criminal on our streets. At the same time, I will equally encourage support for training and resources for every community service organization, faith-based or secular. They are able to provide counseling, mentoring, and job training to those people who are in or have been in prison and street gangs or have drug habits that put them at risk of committing a crime. … I also would bring residents and law enforcement together to build trust, exchange ideas, and grow in mutual respect. I’ve been actively involved in community initiatives that do this. I will use my visibility as mayor to continue to support the good efforts already under way. Garden Pathways and I, as a board member of the Bakersfield Safe Streets Partnership, work directly with gang members and police officers to bring about understanding of law enforcement’s responsibilities to the public for community safety as well as options available for both police and gang members to lessen tensions and reduce crime. … An important thing we can do to improve public safety, which disproportionally affects minority neighborhoods, is to encourage young men and women from these neighborhoods to consider law enforcement as a career. BPD is eager to assign officers to work in the neighborhoods where they grew up. They are uniquely familiar with the culture of neighborhoods, and are likely to be trusted as someone that is known as a member of that community.”

One barrier homeless people face to accessing services they need is that they are not available to those suffering from addiction, a disease that disproportionately affects the homeless. Thus, in order to be fed, clothed, and housed, hundreds of Bakersfield’s homeless residents must first be detoxed, a medical treatment available only at a handful of locations, and often inaccessible to those without healthcare, which many homeless people lack. Thus, would you support making local detoxification centers accessible to those without insurance, as a first step to addressing homelessness in Bakersfield?

Goh said, “Yes, I would support making local detoxification centers accessible to those without insurance. (However, because of the complexity of homelessness and many ongoing community initiatives, it’s not appropriate to classify this as “a first step.”) While federal housing regulations often limit the accessibility of federal housing to individuals who are using drugs and alcohol, our community provides other options for persons suffering from addiction. Most homeless individuals do not need medical detoxification (provided often in a hospital setting). Social detoxification treatment offers an effective path to recovery. The No Place Like Home initiative, with its ‘housing first’ strategy, provides permanent supportive housing with accompanying treatment and wrap-around services. Treatment and wrap-around services are critical for dually diagnosed homeless persons with both substance abuse and mental health challenges. I support making both medical and social detox services available to those without insurance.”

Carter explained that he is a member on the board at the Bakersfield Homeless Center, and that he joined in order to build them a new shelter. “First off, we have to get this city a new homeless shelter.

The one we have now is an old tire shop or something, and it’s being held together by chewing gum. Now, in regards to detoxification, I would hope that at the new center we have the facilities for that, but we just don’t have it right now,” he explained. But he isn’t without a solution for those without shelter.

He said “one thing we can do as a city to help is to stop giving money to these panhandlers.”

He believes panhandlers often desire their predicament and abuse the generosity of others to support bad habits.

“Instead of giving money to that panhandler, give your money to the homeless center,” he asked of residents.