By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
New Bakersfield City Councilman Willie Rivera said he has a way to counteract the notion that his young age is a handicap.
"I try to be a sponge as much as I can," Rivera said Monday on "First Look with Scott Cox." The 22-year-old said he works to listen and learn as much as he can, and hopefully know more than city staff.
Simulcast host Scott Cox had previously teased Rivera about his age, saying he'd need a juice box after completing a City Council meeting.
Rivera got in on the joke, bringing a package of Juicy Juice boxes to Cox.
"My Mom says I can only have one until I finish my chores," Cox joked.
But other than the juice, Rivera talked about serious matters.
He said Ward 1, which he represents, needs the most pothole and street light work of any area of the city. The most common calls he receives are about street maintenance. Folks ask him to drive particular streets to see problems, he said, and he takes pictures and sends them to city staff.
Cox told Rivera that he knew going into the job that it would take time to fix everything that needed attention. Rivera said he's been surprised at how quickly some things are done -- such as graffiti removal -- once he passes on constituent concerns to city staff.
"They are doing their job. And they are extremely responsive," Rivera said of city staff.
Some work, such as installing a sidewalk, curb or gutter, can take longer, and funds must be identified to do it.
"We have to be a lot more creative," Rivera said. But Rivera said it's an easy case for him to make to the full council that Ward 1 needs the most infrastructure improvements.
Rivera shared some ideas for the future:
* He'd like to hold a City Council meeting in Ward 1. He said council meetings begin at 5:15 p.m., and some people aren't off work yet. He said he'd like to take a meeting out to the community in hopes of building participation.
* He said he hopes to get more work opportunities and economic activity in the ward, and see a renewed interest in employing people locally.