We don’t all think of the same thing when we hear the word “homeless”. Some people think of homelessness as the state of being vagrant as the result of bad choices. Some look at homelessness as the product of bad luck, discrimination, or simply circumstances beyond the control of the homeless person. But homelessness is in fact several different social problems lumped together. It’s much more complicated than we think, and as a result, most of us give its causes no thought at all.
Looking at homelessness in this way can cause problems within our community. Often good hearted people give their hard earned money to those with their hands out, believing that they’re helping someone who has temporally fallen on hard times. The generous and good hearted people of Bakersfield hate to think of someone going hungry or suffering when a little charity can provide relief.
But the fact is that the money given to a person on the street has the potential to fall into the hands of drug dealers, human traffickers or organized crime. Statistically, money is more likely to be used in this way than it is to be spent at a grocery store.
From each paycheck a typical Bakersfield earner spends nearly a third of his or her income in taxes, much of which is spent to assist the poor. Programs exist to provide food, housing, healthcare, and even mobile phones to the poor and disabled. Whether these types of programs are the proper use of government is a political question that people argue about. But the reality is that, whether we want it or not, everyone who pays taxes is contributing to programs that exist to help those very people who are on our streets asking for more money.
Why are there so many homeless people in Bakersfield when such programs exist? The answer to this question is complicated, but the solution is not to make additional contributions from what’s left of one’s paycheck. Cash paid to a homeless person is charity with no accountability, and charity with no accountability isn’t charity at all. Rather, it’s enabling someone to perpetuate their situation without seeking a true solution.
The solution lies in bridging the gap between the people who need services and the services that exist to help them.
The city government can do much to deal with the problem of homelessness. As mayor, Kyle Carter’s vision is for a concerted effort by the city council, the Police Department, and local social service agencies and charitable organizations to assist homeless persons in obtaining services that are already available, to root out the lawbreakers who don’t want to be helped, and to make Bakersfield a cleaner, safer community.
Bakersfield is located in the heart of the most valuable and fruitful land in the world. The largest employers in this community are businesses in the oil and agricultural fields, government service, and healthcare. Healthcare and government provide services to the community. These service and support organizations suffer when the businesses which produce or sell tangible things struggle.
The recent drop in oil prices has caused thousands of Bakersfield residents to lose work. The ongoing drought has caused central valley farmers to cultivate less land, and consequently to employ fewer workers.
The present economic situation has taken a toll on Bakersfield, and underscores the importance of further diversification of our economy. As mayor, Kyle Carter intends to serve as an ambassador for the community, to seek out and recruit businesses which wish to relocate to a business-friendly environment. More business in Bakersfield will lead to more tax revenue, more jobs, and more security for our service industries in difficult economic times.
Making Government Accessible
Bakersfield’s city government is presently accessible to anyone who wishes to be heard. The Bakersfield Municipal Code sets time limits on public comment on each issue the City Council considers, which can cause people to feel that they have gone unheard. The code also gives the mayor the power to preside over city council meetings and to permit additional time to concerned citizens if it is warranted.
But in a representative government a citizen shouldn’t have to speak for himself or herself at a city council meeting. The mayor and the members of the council should advocate for their constituents. As your mayor, Kyle Carter will always be available to hear from the people of the city, and will strive to bridge the gap between the representatives and the represented. He’ll also leave the microphone on a little longer if the people of Bakersfield aren’t being heard by their City Council.
Cleaning our Streets
Californians pride themselves in their commitment to taking care of our environment. And yet despite considerable effort, our public roadways are often strewn with litter. Mayor Harvey Hall has spent years cleaning and beautifying Bakersfield, and Kyle Carter plans to continue these efforts with renewed vigor.
Littering is already against the law, and such laws must be enforced. But law enforcement isn’t the only solution. The Bakersfield Police Department is overburdened with high crime rates and insufficient personnel. Litter enforcement laws cannot take priority over gang violence or drunk driving.
In order for law enforcement to deal with smaller problems like litter and vagrancy, they need enough resources to deal with our high crime rates. Fixing the big problems will help us fix the smaller problems.
Kyle Carter believes that solving our public safety problems will help us solve our litter problem. A cleaner, safer Bakersfield will be the inevitable result of these efforts.
Bakersfield has approximately ten sworn peace officers for each ten thousand residents. Ten. Los Angeles has twenty-six officers per ten thousand citizens. San Francisco boasts Twenty-seven.
But how do we compare in rates of violent crime? Bakersfield is in the top ten cities in the state in violent crime rate. This is on a list that includes Oakland, Stockton, and Fresno, cities known nationally for their crime.
While our police are overburdened dealing with a disproportionate violent crime rate, our theft crime rate is even higher. Bakersfield ranks fourth in the state in theft crimes, with a rate even worse than that of Los Angeles and Sacramento.
The obvious conclusion from these statistics is that our police force must be reinforced. The BPD has done an admirable job with the resources at its disposal. They put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect the community, but we have a crime problem and our men and women in blue need reinforcements.
As mayor, Kyle Carter will take the lead in obtaining federal and state funding to bolster our police force to reduce crime and make Bakersfield a cleaner, safer place to live.