Coouch, Pinson talk about their plans to reform KC government at forum in Taft
David Couch and Harley Pinson agree: Kern County's government needs major reform.
Couch, a Bakersfield City Councilman and Pinson, a retired oil industry attorney are the candidates running for the Fourth District seat on the Kern County Board of Supervisors.
They met Tuesday night in a 90-minute forum at OT Cookhouse.
Couch reiterated the position he took on Monday, saying Kern County needs to move to a part-time board of supervisors and give more authority to a stronger chief administrative officer.
Pinson said the county has too many departs, boards and commissions for the supervisors to effectively supervise.
Both agreed the board of supervisors and the entire county government needs to be more transparent and much more responsive.
There are 32 departments and 71 boards and commissions the supervisors have direct supervision of, Pinson said.
Services and the departments that provide them need to be reorganized and prioritized, he said.
Couch said the county doesn't need a full-time board of supervisors. Echoing Assemblymember Shannon Grove's efforts to change California's legislature to a part-time body, he said shifting to a form of government much like most cities use would make county government more effective.
Pinson, in a television interview Wednesday morning, said he thinks the part-time board idea should be submitted to the voters.
They are trying to replace Ray Watson on the board. Watson is retiring this year after 10 years as a supervisor.
Unlike Watson, who said he can be more effective for his constituents by working on issues in Bakersfield, Pinson said he will spend a lot of time in Taft if elected.
In response to a question about how he will keep in touch from a board that is perceived as one that has no knowledge or interest of the issues in the outlying areas, Pinson said he will stay out in the district.
He said he will be here for many events, both formal and informal, like the chamber's weekly Sit n' Sips.
“That's how you find out what people's concerns are. You have to be there,” he said. “ A supervisor needs to be present, a supervisor needs to be available, a supervisor needs to be approachable.”
Couch said the problems in Taft are the same everywhere – even in the county seat.
“That is an issue with every community in the county, including Bakersfield. Sometimes I feel like I'm talking to a wall,” Couch said. “The board of supervisors is not reaching out.”
He said he would schedule events, and meet with councils and city managers and attend monthly city manager meetings as well as working in the community.
“Instead of just being in your community, we have to be in your community working on a specific project,” he said.
Couch and Pinson answered eight questions submitted by three panel members, then fielded several questions submitted by the audience. They also delivered opening and closing statements at the forum sponsored by the Taft District Chamber of Commerce and visitors bureau.
The effects of the state prison system under AB109 and its effects on Kern County and Taft were another major area for discussion.
Right now, Kern, like many counties, is receiving more lower-security inmates that in the past would have gone into the state prison system. That is overcrowding the county jails
It comes at the same time that AB109 has closed community correctional facilities in Taft, Shafter and Delano.?So far, Sheriff Donny Youngblood has refused to move county inmates to the empty CCFs. He has cited many reasons, including complications with transportation, liability and medical care issues.
Instead of releasing many inmates back to the streets after serving only a fraction of their sentences, Pinson said the county should be looking at the unused CCFs. He said the board of supervisors should hold public hearings on the issue involving Youngblood and the cities.
Couch said the only answer to housing more inmates is more prison space.
That's going to cost money, the state has promised funds to help with the cost of housing inmates, but the county will have to come up with matching funds.
Issues central to the Taft and its surrounding unincorporated neighborhoods were also discussed.
Pinson said the county should fix up South Taft, Taft Heights and Ford City, to prepare them to be annexed by Taft. He said the county could fund infrastructure like adding curbs, sidewalks and gutters and other major issues by redirecting funds being used inefficiently in other areas of the county. Couch suggested an approach the City of Bakersfield has used – providing no-interest loans to property owners who want to have sidewalks.
The loans are then paid paid over 9 years on property taxes.
Couch also emphasized his goal of reducing blight in the community, noting one abandoned and deteriorating house that still stands despite being red tagged eight years ago.
Both touted their backgrounds as giving them the expertise to represent the Fourth District. Pinson cited his experience working on management teams in the oil industry and dealing with land issues, and Couch said his 14 years on the Bakersfield City Council plus stints on the Local Agency Formation Commission and KernCOG gives him the ability to effectively represent the district.