When imagining public safety the side of town someone lives on may affect what they think of. For residents on the East side of Bakersfield, they think of lights and crosswalks- an afterthought for those who have them.
There is a growing concern about the lack of infrastructure development to keep people safe. Community members are advocating for money in the city budget to be allocated to investing in this aspect of public safety.
“There are other things that entail public safety. Ensuring that there’s safe roads, ensuring that there’s lighting, ensuring that there’s crosswalks where needed,” said Ashley De La Rosa.
This idea of public safety meaning lights is not new. People have been approaching the city council for years to get specific spots in town to have more lighting. The city council also recognizes this problem of different areas not having the same resources.
“We know that specifically in parts of East Bakersfield and Southeast Bakersfield we have the hardest time,” said Arias. “Because in certain communities like the ones that were mentioned by the speakers on Wednesday (June 1 city council meeting) Casa Loma, Belle Terrace, along MLK BLVD, in the MLK Lakeview area, these are certain communities that are much older and haven’t received those basic infrastructure needs since they were built many decades ago.”
One area for example is Rexland Acres, the Greenfield Walking group approached the County Supervisor around 12 years ago asking for sidewalks according to Arias. Now they have received $15 million from both the state in active transportation monies along with allocations from Supervisor Leticia Perez from the county budget to build sidewalks, road repaving, and crosswalks with flashing lights near the schools. According to Council Member Eric Arias of Ward 1, this is the model they’d like to implement in other areas.
“That’s a really exciting project. The thing is, we need to do that in a whole lot more places,” said Arias.
Infrastructure is just the first step to ensuring public safety for the community. Da La Rosa said investing needs to happen simultaneously with talking to the community and seeing what they need.
“I know that they’re making efforts in terms of having this youth commission, great. We want it to be simultaneous,” said De La Rosa. “As you’re developing, talk to the community, listen to what the needs are. So, talking about what preventative measures we need, adding dollars for mental health resources, being able to allocate funding to the areas that need more funding.”
One reason De La Rosa is passionate about lights and infrastructure development being prioritized is that light can save someone’s life. De La Rosa recalled a story of an older woman in her neighborhood crossing the street and because of how dark it was a semi-truck did not see her and ran her over.
“That’s so hard for our community. I mean it was hard for me to even comprehend that. I don’t feel safe walking at night, said, De La Rosa. “I don’t feel safe with my mom walking and I know that in our communities many people don’t have a form of transportation.”
She stated that the people in her community that have cars are getting off of work in the evenings and have to walk in the dark to get groceries or pick up medicine. Community members in these areas risk their lives for basic necessities.
The final adoption of the city budget is June 15 and the community members want more money allocated to developing their communities and prioritizing safety.