The trash along Highway 99 through Bakersfield is deplorable. If the only thing motorists see of our city as they travel through on Highway 99 is what's on the side of the road, no wonder people think of Bakersfield as the armpit of California. The roads are littered with garbage. I don't see this kind of disgusting trash on other parts of Highway 99. It is truly a serious problem.
One day last month, I helped with Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall's volunteer litter cleanup along a couple of local Highway 99 on-ramps. We were not allowed to go onto the actual freeway to pick up the trash, as that would have been too "dangerous." Sheesh -- we are grown-ups, and we know to stay well off the road. In any case, the trash on the on- and offramps is bad because it blows off the freeways and collects there. You pick it up one weekend and it's bad again the next weekend.
My brother visited me recently from Oregon and commented on how bad the roads look because of the trash. I asked the leader of our trash pickup group about having our state and county "guests" (otherwise known as prisoners) do this job and again was told that it was too much of a liability. The state does not want to get sued. Baloney! They use "guests" in Oregon and other states. Are our prisoners so wonderful that they are above this work? I would think if you earned a bed in jail that you have also earned the right to earn your board by working to pick up trash -- and you have lost your right to sue.
Perhaps those "guests" might even like to get out of that cell and get some sunshine, and to do this they could sign some sort of release stating they hold the state harmless. This state is so politically correct that we have lost all sense of right and wrong. The "guests" now make the rules. Sheesh, again!
I understand the funding for Caltrans has been cut. If that is the case, why are other cities along Highway 99 and Interstate 5 looking so much better? Why is Bakersfield left out in the cold when it comes to trash pickup funding along our portions of California's primary north-south arteries?
Many people stop here on their way through the state, and I guess when they are done with their fast food garbage, they think it's OK to just toss it out the window. Beer bottles are an entirely different topic.
Bakersfield is a great place to live. The people here are friendly and caring. They love their home and want to see it kept clean -- well, most people at least, because we do have our idiots, too. But I think the majority cares about where we live and wants to keep our town looking nice. It just seems to me that we have been hung out to dry by our leaders in Sacramento who do not care one bit about our town and this issue.
What can be done to get somebody in charge to clean up Highway 99 in Bakersfield? I think Mayor Hall is doing all he can, but there's woefully little that he can do.
If local volunteers are not even allowed to go onto the actual freeway to pick up the trash, the folks in Sacramento need to identify an agency that can.
Last month, I wrote to Gov. Jerry Brown about this issue and included pictures of the side of Highway 99, northbound, between California Avenue and Airport Drive, a stretch of about two miles.
It would be better if Brown were to come here and see for himself what an eyesore this truly is, but perhaps the photos gave him some idea. I hope he can help get this cleaned up.
Sybil A. Villaryo is retired from her job as a customer services clerk for an insurance company who now volunteers in the community. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words. The Californian reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.