Bakersfield community wants to stay involved in decision-making as the city switches to renewable energy

June 15, 2023 /

The Kern Coalition and the organizations that comprise the group hosted another meeting in the educational series for all Energy: The Time Is Now. The latest two meetings have been held at the Kern Community College District Weill Institute in downtown Bakersfield. 

As the meeting was starting participants could pick up a hot plate of rice, beans, and a fajita blend surrounded by snacks and drinks. There was also an option for adults to utilize childcare and headsets for Spanish interpretation. According to the Coalition, the priority is to have community engagement and feedback.  

Like other meetings in the past, vast numbers of community members attended. However, there was a noticeable difference in attendance in-person and participation over Zoom. Some Kern residents who attended stated a huge reason for this is the lack of inclusion, especially at the decision-making levels. There were limited informational packets, and multiple presenters had slides with jargon residents possibly couldn’t understand. 

Ucedrah Osby, Founder and Executive Director of Community Interventions, attended both Energy meetings. 

“I would like to see meetings that intentionally give communities space. People have questions and they need to be answered, whether you want to be truthful or not, the answer is the answer,” Osby said.

Osby continued to explain that information was not as transparent and digestible as it needed to be for the demographic CERF is meant to serve. 

During the meeting, a Coalition representative described Kern County as having a surplus of hydroelectric power, and an audience member asked how that could influence residential electricity bills. Many questions like these were dismissed or unanswered. 

“I want more conversation. I want more from leadership because that will equal more from the community,” stated Osby.

The first meeting covered what it means to define climate change, and what individual or group actions make the best solutions. The recent meeting discussed information about the 10 Key Climate Change Solutions (IPCC). 

Rob Ball, Deputy Director of Planning with Kern Council of Governments (COG), presented during the last segments of the meeting. He addressed his role in the city plan to invest in ultra-clean diesel and renewable natural gas trucks, long and short-range battery electric trucks, and hydrogen fuel cell trucks. 

Informational slides also mentioned the construction of the high-speed rail system and potential phasing, investment in automation, and support of solar and other domestic sustainable enterprises. 

“We help the city and county decide how they can best use transportation tax dollars,” Ball explained.

Ball currently advocates for automation advancements in the workforce and mentioned that KCCD is one of the first community colleges to provide a four-year program in Industrial Automation.

“We can build jobs, not just low-cost, Amazon warehouse-type jobs. Higher trained, higher-tech jobs that you find in automated manufacturing…That is really one of our biggest challenges as a region, is not only having higher skilled jobs but having the education and resources needed to provide their skills for the workforce.”

Maribel Tejada is a FIELD Assistant Manager of Recycling. FIELD is a nonprofit that is affiliated with the Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps, these organizations focus on gaining job skills for youth. Tejada was in attendance for both meetings in the Energy series.

“The fact that you’re learning something new, and being able to obtain new information to apply it to the earth. Like how they’re talking about climate- things you don’t think matter, but I know it changes the environment. If we learn more about it we can do our part to try to make those changes and make things better for [the environment].” Tejada said.

Leilani Torres also works for FIELD as the Recycling Social Business Manager. Torres and Tejada were both encouraged to attend the meetings by FIELD.

“Before the first meeting I didn’t know much about climate change, and now I can put my part in a conversation,” Torres stated.

Torres expressed wanting to learn more about the SB1383 law that according to CalRecycle became mandatory in 2022. It regulates the region’s ability to conduct education and outreach programs regarding recycling and waste management.

Topics about misinformation regarding climate change, proper waste management, and reducing emissions were mentioned at the second meeting in the Energy: The Time Is Now. According to the Kern Coalition, the next workshop will also discuss plastic waste management and recycling.  

The Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF) continues to support outreach in hopes to build generational wealth and job opportunities in the region.  

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