Failed bond measure is a wake up call

The voters said no to Measure C last week, but it doesn't mean Taft College can't get a bond passed in the next couple of years.

Last week's vote was not a rejection of TC or the college's position that more money is needed to finish the work started 14 years ago with Measure A.

It was the voters saying they don't want to give their money to a college that all too often ignores Taft.

It was a wake up call for a college that has lost its connection with the community it takes its name from, the community that funds it.

Taft College started talking in January about an $82 million bond measure, then wisely pared it down to $50 million when the West Kern Community College District Board of Trustees voted to put it on the June 5 ballot.

That was a wise move, given that area property owners are paying on three school bonds, including Measure A, and will be for years to come.

The College made some wise campaign moves, with Superintendent-President Deb Daniels campaigning for Measure C at the annual State of the City Luncheon, the Taft City Council study session and the Taft Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum.

That was all well and good, but words were wasted on too many people who feel alienated from their community college.

It may be Taft College, but is it really Taft's college at this point?

On one hand, the need to increase enrollment with students from Bakersfield and other Kern County communities is obvious and beneficial.

While Taft College isn't the intimate little college many of us attended, the increased enrollment has increased learning opportunities and quality of education for local students.

On the other hand, with the high number of students, professors and administrators who travel to Taft several days a week, there are far too few people who connect with the community the way a good college does. Many never go further than Cougar Court. 

All too often, what happens on Cougar Court stays on Cougar Court.

There are a lot of interesting and fun activities that go on down there, but the community never hears about it because only the people at the college are informed.

Taft College desperately needs a public information apparatus to start reconnecting. A good, local public information officer with boots on the ground on campus is essential.

College officials say they can't afford it, but last week's vote showed the college can't afford not to.

Lack of connection with the community just cost the college $50 million.

Sometimes it seems like the Cougar Court crowd just doesn't get it.

Two years ago, a highly regarded Stanford Business professor spoke to the TC Petroleum Partners - in Bakersfield.

His presentation was so well received that he was invited to TC to speak again.
He did, but only a handful of people showed up because the community wasn't invited.

It gets worse

Just over a month before the election, the Taft College Foundation threw a fancy (and presumably expensive) invitation-only soiree at Seven Oaks County Club in Bakersfield.

Talk about being tone deaf.

Here's the college asking Taft voters to approve a bond issue and the foundation is spending big money in Bakersfield. That didn't go unnoticed by the voters.

In the weeks that followed, Taft College' STEM program took its outreach to Bakersfield schools, getting attention from the Bakersfield media.

Voters by this time are asking why they should pitch in even more tax money to help a college that seems to be more interested in partying on the lawn at Seven Oaks than being a part of Taft.

That being said, the college can still get back into our good graces.

The powers that be on Cougar Court need to make reconnecting with Taft their priority.

Tell us what is going on down there, and invite us down to see.

Find new ways to reach out and connect the students, faculty and administration with the community.

Look back at the successes of the past, like the annual luau or International Club banquet to find things that will work today.

Just be our friend.

Then, in two years or so, come back and ask for another bond. Then we'll talk.