Bakersfield · Politics

Term limits for Kern Supes? Proposal by unions, Dolores Huerta heading to 2022 ballot.

Advocates for placing term limits on the Kern County Board of Supervisors say they have enough support to place such a proposition on the ballot. 

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 521, one of the main backers of the effort, announced over the weekend that over 26,000 signatures have been collected for a ballot proposition, surpassing the required number of signatures needed. 

Organizers will officially submit the signatures to the Kern County Elections Office on March 10 for verification, capping an effort that started last September. 

“The people of Kern are ready for change,” said Alicia Aleman, Kern County social worker, in a statement. “The current system lets county politicians ignore taxpayers’ valid concerns and all we want is our unhoused populations to get help, breathe cleaner air and receive adequate public services.” 

Organizers and proposition advocates blamed the current supervisors for mismanaging taxpayer funds and failing to address issues such as roads, parks, animal shelters and elder and veteran care. 

“By enacting term limits, we can bring in politicians with fresh and bold ideas that value every resident, regardless of who they are or what part of the county they live in,” said Sandy Moreno, an in home support services provider and petition proponent. 

The unions efforts to shake up the board and oust some of the current supervisors through the imposition of term limits faces challenges to draw enough support from the public. 

In a conversation with The Sun, Michael Turnipseed – the executive director of the Kern County Taxpayers Association – drew a comparison between imposing term limits to the redistricting issues that the county has faced over the last decade. 

Turnipseed pointed to Supervisor David Couch winning reelection in 2018 in the special election that was held after a federal judge ruled that the previous district violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act by not containing a Latino majority population. 

Couch earned 43.4 percent of the vote and won by a five point margin. He was reelected once again in 2020 by nearly six points. 

“Obviously the people who sued did not get the benefit they wanted when they had the elections and had the change,” Turnipseed. “And the people who voted obviously were happy with Supervisor Couch, because they reelected him not once, but twice.” 

Turnipseed said Couch’s reelection begs the question for term limits proponents: Will this issue impassion Latino voters to mobilize and flock to the ballot box, especially after the new Voting Rights Act compliant districts have not resulted in a Latino candidate? 

“That’s a signal that I look at, that if that district’s not interested in redistricting,” Turnipseed said. “Supervisor [Leticia] Perez’s district isn’t interested in redistricting, I don’t think. She’s there, she’s won reelections. We’ll see what happens. If you can’t beat them at the polls, you get rid of them by term limits.”

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.