Concerns about how Newsom administration policies are affecting Kern County resurfaced Wednesday in a letter local officials sent organizers of the California Economic Summit taking place next week in Bakersfield.
Nine organizations including county government sent California Forward a three-page message warning that the administration’s actions in the areas of oil and agriculture have brought “economic disruption, insecurity and uncertainty” to an area critical to the state’s production of food and renewable energy.
“It would be negligent of us to not point out to CA Forward’s leadership in advance of your economic summit,” the letter states, “that despite Kern County’s longstanding contributions and commitments to California, harmful state policies and lack of support by the current administration (are) causing devastation to our county, our economy and our residents.”
Although the letter does not raise new issues, it gives wider audience to a message the county and local groups have made repeatedly in recent years to an administration that has restricted petroleum production and water delivery in the name of health and safety, environmental protection and sustainability.
The CEO of California Forward, whose annual conference is scheduled to convene Thursday and Friday after a local orientation Wednesday, said he appreciates the concerns expressed in the letter. Too often, he said, people with different perspectives don’t talk to each other as frequently as they should — but that the summit will address that.
“For us, this is actually what the California Economic Summit is about,” CEO Micah Weinberg said. He added California Forward is interested in lifting up the concerns of inland California — “and always (has) been.”
Besides Kern County government, organizations listed as signatories to the letter were the Kern Economic Development Corp., Kern County Taxpayers Association, Central Valley Business Federation, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, Kern Law Enforcement Association, Kern County Firefighters 1301 labor union, Kern Citizens for Energy and Kern Black Chamber of Commerce.
President and CEO Nick Ortiz of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce said that although his organization was not listed on the letter — he sits on California Forward’s board of directors — the chamber supports the county’s ongoing efforts to educate Sacramento policymakers and stakeholders on the “disproportionate impacts” state policies are having on the regional economy.
Ortiz said he advocated that Bakersfield host the event this year because it represents an opportunity to “move out of our tired ideological corners and begin to reset the terms of the debate.” He emphasized California must meet its energy needs, invest in water storage and conveyance and stop viewing environmental protection and economic growth as mutually exclusive.
He added that inland California, “especially Kern County,” shouldn’t be an afterthought, and that “we represent the best hope this state has for housing, jobs and innovation.”
County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop said Thursday the letter points out serious concerns Kern has expressed for a year and a half now. With many administration officials expected to participate in the summit, he said, “there’s no better time” to reiterate the county’s grievances.
“The letter is simply a regurgitation of what we’ve been pointing out,” he said.
Several local officials are scheduled to speak at the event, starting with Ortiz and also including the county’s top planner, Lorelei Oviatt, Chairman Zack Scrivner of the county Board of Supervisors and Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield.
The letter noted its signatories are eager to hear the administration’s framework for helping to surmount very challenging times. It includes statistics underlining the county’s prominence in ag production, solar power and wind turbines.
Without a solution, it says, Kern faces loss of jobs, business and family income, as well as budget cuts that will reduce funding for critical county programs and services.
“We welcome further discussion around these issues with CA Forward, the Newsom administration and legislators, working together to seek solutions that will lessen the blow to our county, economy and residents,” the letter concludes.