COMMENTARY: The McFarland City Council race deserves to be more than a popularity contest

November 2, 2020 /

Considering what McFarland has gone through this year — with the City Council voting to allow GEO to operate in my hometown — the McFarland City Council race might be one of the most important races in Kern County. 

However there hasn’t been much publicity regarding the candidates or what their plans are if elected.  

There are eight candidates running for the council seats: newcomers Saul Ayon, Ricardo Cano, J. Russell Coker, M. Anita Gonzalez and H. Robert Gonzalez and incumbents Stephen G. McFarland, Rafael Melendez and Eric Rodriguez.  

There has been no media coverage on the race, and when Kern Sol News reached out to the candidates to request their participation in a candidate forum, we heard not a single thing from every single candidate. Have other media outlets experienced the same thing? Why are the McFarland City Council candidates so quiet?

This should have been the loudest race. McFarland drew national attention when its City Council approved permits that allowed GEO to open detention centers here. You would think these council members would have something to say about where they stand on this issue. But we have heard nothing.  

As a resident of McFarland, I have seen just a few yard signs around town advocating for the election of a few candidates. So far there hasn’t even been a forum. The only real thing we know is their names. 

Without the knowledge of who these candidates inherently are, citizens of McFarland are in the dark in terms of how these candidates would help or harm their town. 

Sure, the pandemic may have stopped the candidates from gathering for a forum, but in the era of technology, there is no excuse for the candidates not being able to convene virtually or partake in a phone interview. 

In the public eye, city council members are at the forefront of the municipal government. It’s only fair for the residents of McFarland to be aware of what each and every candidate is bringing to the table before voting solely based on name.  

We need to know what each and everyone represents in their own words, not just a list of names on the City’s website or yard signs. 

The city of McFarland does not deserve to be treated as a popularity contest. It needs to be treated like a city with particular needs. But who out of the list of candidates are qualified to help with those needs, and how are they planning on doing that? I want to know what they stand for as an individual and collectively.

What’s most worrisome is there has been no effort by the candidates to communicate with the residents of McFarland about what they stand for. Is this a reflection of how they will be as a member of the city council?  

Whomever we decide to elect will directly impact our local issues and government. As election day is tomorrow, time is of the essence and by this point we should have a clear understanding of our future city council members’ views and how they plan to incorporate them.

Although I am not a voter, I know the actions of those elected will directly impact me for years to come. Their decisions will heavily influence my way of life in McFarland, which is why I think it’s very important for city council members to make their intentions for the city abundantly clear.