Fate of Kern supervisor map to be negotiated Wednesday in Bakersfield

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Federal Judge Dale A Drozd ruled in February that Kern must have two Latino-majority supervisor districts, likely before the November elections. 

But the big question that remains, is how?

One-by-one citizens from all over Kern voiced their opinions Monday ahead of Wednesday’s settlement conference between the county and plaintiffs represented by the Mexican American Legal and Educational Defense Fund, or MALDEF.

Their task? To agree on a new map that carves out two of the five districts as Latino-majority.

The current map, which the court deemed illegal, only has one Latino-majority district, despite Latinos making up a majority of people in Kern County.

“You need to really understand that you have been found guilty,” labor rights icon Dolores Huerta said in front of the Board of Supervisors, “You have been found guilty by a judge, you have been ordered to make new maps that would be representative of the community of the Delano, Shafer, Waco, Lost Hills area.”

But Tehachapi City Manager Greg Garrett fears having eastern Kern–currently split in two north and south districts–lumped into one big district.

“Let’s not duplicate services, let’s not create more overhead, let’s figure out whats best for all of us. Kern County’s a great place, we have so many opportunities, so many great people. Let’s not sacrifice one group of citizens over another to try to get something done quickly, let’s do it right,” said Garrett.

But the settlement conference will happen Wednesday, behind closed doors one way or another.

“If the settlement process fails, the court will likely order an expedited legislative process. Whatever plan emerges from that process, must be approved by the judge,” said County Counsel Mark Nations.

Supervisor David Couch confirmed to 17 News Tuesday he has retained counsel George Martin to look into making this process more transparent.

But Couch also acknowledged he feels there is little chance that happens before Wednesday’s conference.

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