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Many questions about Oildale have come up since my wife and I bought our home here some 20 years ago. And through the years, most of the answers have become self-evident to even a weak spark like me. But one question about my little burg is still a cipher to me. Why did Oildale never incorporate and become a city unto itself? The question seems simple enough, but the answer is multifaceted and turns out to be rather complex.
First, are there benefits in being an unincorporated community within Kern County as opposed to our own city? In the minds of many Oildalians, I think the response might be yes. For even though a lot of folks who live in Oildale may receive some form of government support in the form of Social Security, Medicare, food debt cards, etc., these very same people view government with healthy suspicion. In their eyes, becoming a city would add yet another layer of bureaucratic incompetence. It is just more red tape and money to be wasted every time I need to build something or try to earn a living. And by far the worst part would be that an incorporated Oildale could have higher sales and property taxes.
Second, most people I know have no major problem with the law enforcement services provided by the Kern County Sheriff's Department and the California Highway Patrol. Nor do I hear of any complaints with Oildale Mutual Water Co. or Varner Bros., our trash collection service. It would be nice if the Rathbun Branch Library next to North High School were open four days a week like the Southwest Branch on Ming Avenue. But it seems to me that this problem could be solved by a bunch of Oildalians explaining to the Kern County Board of Supervisors that the people here like to read just as much as the people who live in southwest Bakersfield.
Finally, the city of Bell is emblematic of what many people who live in Oildale believe city governance might resemble if we were to become incorporated. I happen to disagree with this assertion. And I think that the local election results on Measure S and the sweeping change in representation at the North of the River Municipal Water District show that we may have more sophisticated governance skills than we thought.
There are some pitfalls to being a community that has existed for more than 50 years but has never incorporated. For one, Bakersfield could decide that the revenue possibilities of annexing Oildale would be less than the cost of providing services, thus making annexation a moneymaker for the city. For that matter, one could argue that the city of Shafter could even consider annexation. Have you ever looked at the official boundaries of the city of Shafter? Most of the city currently consists of almond orchards. There is a legitimate argument to be made that if Oildale does not incorporate, Bakersfield or even Shafter may want to look at annexation.
Another problem with being a long existing unincorporated community is that people begin to wonder why your community has never bothered to become its own city. Do you not incorporate because you lack the talent of self-governance? Are you too lazy to manage your own affairs? I have decided that what I know about the advantages and disadvantages of Oildale becoming a city would half-fill a thimble. And that means it's time to do some research. If you would like to join me on this journey, you can start by going to eHow and read "How Does a City Incorporate?" I will next check the state of California website and try to get more information on the process here in California. Also, I will wander down to the Beale Library.
Being in a community that is unfairly the butt of every local joke can become tiring. One benefit of Oildale becoming its own city could be new respect. Incorporation could give us more control over decisions that impact Oildale. Making Oildale a city could make it a better place to live and raise our children.
What do you think? I welcome your comments and questions. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Noel Pineo is a nonpartisan community activist in Oildale. He is also a substitute teacher, amateur paleontologist and vintage bicycle hobbyist.