Kern County should choose the path to a healthier future

This Monday, the Bakersfield Californian ran an op-ed from the American Lung Association’s Tamira Smith Lopez, entitled Can a City’s Layout Promote residents’ health? You bet. As I’ve blogged before, Kern County is in the midst of developing a Sustainable Communities Strategy—a process that we think provides an opportunity to create more transportation choices, more housing choices and improve public health. This week and next, the Kern Council of Governments (COG) will present the public with four options for how the region can grow and develop over the next several decades.

A coalition of organizations including developers, business leaders, health officials, farmland conservation groups, active transportation advocates, environmental and social equity groups has come together to urge Kern’s decision makers to pick the future growth scenario that best improves quality of life in Kern County. As the COG's own materials will indicate, Scenario 4 does that best. It maximizes the reduction in air-pollution related health incidences—a key factor in a county recently ranked as one of the three most polluted counties in the U.S. by the American Lung Association. It provides more choices for getting around, saving households money on transportation –particularly critical when residents already spend a third of their income on transportation on average. It protects the valuable water resources and farmland that are so crucial to Kern County’s agricultural industry, which adds over $10 billion to the economy each year.  And by locating growth in places with existing infrastructure instead of having to newly build it, Kern local governments could save billions.

The fourth scenario still falls short of our coalition’s requests, and we would still like to see it strengthened. But of the choices before us, we are quite clear:  we urge community members and decision makers to take the path to a healthier future--which as of today is Scenario 4.

You can add your voice to the debate. Help change the course of growth in Kern County by coming to one of the community workshops.

Wednesday, Aug 21, 6-8pm at Rabobank Convention Center (Potato Room), 1001 Truxton Ave., Bakersfield

Tuesday, Aug 27, 6:30-8:30pm at Fresno Pacific University (Bakersfield Center, Room 203) 1100 River Run Blvd, Bakersfield