Editorial: Mountain Communities Ready to Elect Local Representatives But They Also Must Be Ready to Make the Demand

Jumping in front of a parade does not constitute leadership. The development of a MAC (Municipal Advisory Council) was initiated right here as a way to get locally elected representatives for the Mountain Communities. Now it appears that process has been hijacked by District 4 Supervisor Ray Watson’s statement that he will appoint members and will not agree to elections.

One of the most distinctive qualities of these Mountain Communities is the way people pull together. So to be told by Supervisor Ray Watson that he will “not allow elections here until I see people can work together to get something constructive done,” is either stone cold blindness or a lack of attention to what makes this entire mountain tick.

This community has earned respect and shown leadership to the entire county for resourceful community collaboration.

But election of our own representatives to the MAC will not be a part of the bylaws being presented for approval to the Kern County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, Dec. 15 at 9 a.m. in Bakersfield. Approval of the bylaws written by Watson (with the help of those he says he will appoint to the MAC) is number 14 on the supervisors’ regular agenda next Tuesday morning.
According to the rules of that board meeting, members of the community can go explain their wish for elected representatives to the full board.

The only other MAC in Kern County now is in Rosamond, formed by District 2 Supervisor Don Maben. Elections are authorized in Maben’s bylaws. Those who disagree with depriving Mountain Community residents of the right to vote can ask the full board to recommend that Maben’s model for a successful MAC be used here too.

The proof of the Mountain Communities’ talent for working together is well documented. This is just a small sample:

    * The Krista Mutual Water Company, Lebec County Water District, Frazier Park Public Utilities District, Pinon Pines Mutual Water Company and the Mil Potrero Mutual Water Company are all guided by volunteer boards working together to provide for the people who live here;
    * The Pine Mountain Club Board of Directors has operated an incorporated property owners association as a small city for 30 years—they pave and plow their own roads, maintain their recreational park, pool, golf course and facilities, no one does this for them;
    * Every week, with no government funding, mountain individuals work together to shop, cook and deliver Meals on Wheels, serving 90 meals a week—280 meals a month—to mountain neighbors who are having health difficulties and need assistance;
    * Pine Mountain community members demanded firefighter paramedics who would arrive in an acceptable time and their demands were met after 15 years of struggling against a nay-saying Bakersfield bureaucracy which had long sided with a private ambulance company—now Tejon Mountain Village and residents in other areas of the county are committed to emulating the Pine Mountain model;
    * The entire Mountain Community (through Mountain Memories) has produced 42 years of the three-day Fiesta Days events to raise funds for emergency medical care and community projects;
    * In 2006 all agencies of the county, The United States Forest Service, California Highway Patrol, the roads department, the fire department, the sheriff’s department, The Mountain Enterprise, The Mountain Communities Chamber of Commerce and Mountain Communities Town Council came together to coordinate operations for the Day fire, including holding seven community meetings;
    * The Mountain Communities Chamber of Commerce has produced the tourist attraction known as the Holiday Faire for over 25 years;
    * Pine Mountain has produced 29 years of Lilac Festivals and 32 years of Oktoberfests;
    * A coalition of The Mountain Enterprise, the Mountain Communities Chamber of Comemrce and mountain residents produced two rounds of Synergy Summits in which 150 people came together to share visions of future economic development models. The Mountain Communities Shakespeare Festival evolved much of its business plan out of those meetings and awareness of an ecotourism economic development model was formally voiced as a community objective;
    * In 2009 Synergy Summit business owners are working together to get a Small Business Development Center satellite office right here on the mountain;
    * In 2006 the Mountain Communities Chamber of Commerce hosted the Kern County Board of Trade meeting and mini-trade fair at Cuddy Hall;
    * The Mountain Communities Town Council organized three heavily attended meetings about the Frazier Park Estates development, hosting over 500 people and full-throated debate;
* The Mountain Communities Town Council organized and hosted a large public meeting on TXI’s application to the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, influencing the company’s decision to convert to using 99.9 percent biodiesel to make their product;
*In 2008 the community organized to ask for and receive its own Air Control District to allow wood burning fireplaces based on local air quality measurements rather than those in the San Joaquin Valley;
* In 2008 some members of the community organized and delivered 67% of the votes for District 4 supervisor to a candidate other than Ray Watson;
    * The Tri-County Watchdogs produced their PEIR (Peoples’ Environmental Impact Report), a 100-page analysis of the impacts of Tejon Mountain Village on the region;
    * The mountain’s Station 58 was the only Kern County Fire Department participant in the 2009 “Great Shake Out” exercise= because a mountain Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) was well-organized and urged KCFD to participate in the earthquake drill;
    * This community developed the Mountain Communities Boys and Girls Club that has served over 1000 children in after school and summer activities;
    * This community established the Frazier Park Rotary Club of the Mountain Communities that held this year’s Festival of Books to promote literacy;
    * This community worked together to create the Frazier Mountain Park skate park;
    * The community (and this newspaper) organized public meetings for citizens to learn about CEQA and hosted a “Taste of the Mountain” event to hear from the Kern County Planning Department about their Tejon Mountain Village recommendations;
    * This community continually demonstrates its ability to work as FMHS students, Rotary members, Lake of the Woods Property Owners Association and AARP members, to clean up our streets and park;
    * The community’s local, independently owned newspaper (The Mountain Enterprise) is going into its 44th year of publication as a community effort, with a wide network of citizen reporters who have chronicled all of these efforts and a thousand more.

This does not sound like a community that has failed to demonstrate its capability to work together. We are independent, capable, resourceful people from whom residents of Bakersfield can learn a few things about self determination and self sufficiency.

Some closing thoughts:

The genius of our democracy is that we understand there is a tension between governmental authority and the will of the people.

Checks and balances are what help us keep our way of life. Sometimes it isn’t pretty. People disagree. But putting disagreements out in the town square for open debate is part of the process that makes this country great.

The old-fashioned, conservative ethic of independent self-determination is at stake here.

Supervisor Ray Watson has done many beneficial things for this area. His staff has been helpful. This attempt to ban elections is a dark mark on his record that is unnecessary.

He has little to fear.

In fact, according to the Kern County office of elections, Maben’s MAC hasn’t actually been to election yet because his original appointees have done such a good job that no one has stepped up to challenge them to an electoral race.

But knowing they can is a safety valve. If something goes wrong, people have the democratic right to debate and challenge.

Why should people of the mountain have less rights than those of Rosamond?

Dignity demands that a convenient white lie about this community be put aside and recognized for what it is.

The desire for elected representatives is what began this Mountain Communities MAC effort.

Elected representatives should be included in the MAC bylaws.

This is part of the December 11, 2009 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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