Judge approves new Kern County districts

Supervisor Mick Gleason: ‘A sad day in Kern County’s rich history’

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Judge approves new Kern County districtsRidgecrest (in the far northeast corner) remains in Kern County’s 1st District, highlighted in blue. — Courtesy graphic

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Nearly two weeks after Kern County and Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund representatives came to terms at a court-ordered settlement conference to revise boundaries for new districts, Judge Dale Drozd signed off on the agreement.

Drozd ruled in February in favor of MALDEF’s claim against the county that supervisor districts that were redrawn after the 2010 census violated the Voter Rights Act. He directed the parties to redraw boundaries to create a second “minority majority” district to condense Latino votes.

“If there is a shred of ‘good news’ in this decision, it is that Eastern Kern County has retained two votes on the Board of Supervisors,” said 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason. Since the ruling, he and 2nd District Supervisor Zack Scrivner have advocated for maintaining two representatives in the vast, but sparsely populated, communities in East Kern.

Gleason said that he and Scrivner “had to fight desperately hard” to retain that representation.

On the whole, he called the decision “A sad day in Kern County’s rich history. 120,000 Kern County residents woke up [Thursday morning] with a different supervisor than the one they voted for in the last election. There were few winners coming from this decision, mostly losers, and the judge and the proponents of this action are singularly responsible for creating a more divisive community,” said Gleason.

“As a result of this poor decision, we now have two specially designed Latino districts and three specially designed non-Latino districts. Instead of creating a blended, more integrated community focused on improving the quality of life for all our constituents, the judge has created more politically motivated, single-minded and ethnically biased factions. I’m afraid Dr. Martin Luther King is rolling over in his grave.”

Throughout the process, Gleason has expressed concern about having a “Bakersfield centric” county, where a majority of supervisors would be focused on metropolitan interests to the detriment of the rural areas.

He said that the new districts carry another political implication for Ridgecrest, once the highest concentration of voters in the 1st District.

With the boundary changes, the district loses Delano, Shafter and McFarland while gaining southwest Bakersfield — “essentially trading one low-propensity voting block for a high-propensity voting block.”

It will become increasingly difficult for aspiring candidates from Ridgecrest and the Kern River Valley to defeat a Bakersfield-based candidate. “The math is simply against us. We will need strong candidates with unifying and winning strategies.”

He thanked his constituents for patience and understanding on this “critically important” issue.

“The Indian Wells Valley remains a leader in the political vitality of Kern County, and we are blessed with a bright and wonderful future.”

Story First Published: 2018-04-13