By The Bakersfield Californian
Bakersfield City Councilman David Couch and oil and gas lawyer Harley Pinson will face off June 5 for the Board of Supervisors' 4th District seat, currently held by the retiring Ray Watson. The 4th District covers the entire Western border of Kern County, from the mountain communities of Frazier Park to the north side of Delano, with the western half of Bakersfield and vast stretches of oilfields and farm land in between. Its constituents have long clamored for a responsive Supervisor who is just as interested in the average person as the monied interests within the district. The clear choice in the race is Couch.
A financial manger with Morgan Stanley, Couch has served on the Bakersfield City Council since 1998 and has shown himself to be a fair-minded councilman who consistently has fresh ideas and a collegial attitude toward his counterparts on the council. He is strongly attuned to constituent concerns and has worked to address city pensions, an issues that also impacts county employees. With his experience on the council, Couch is also in a good position to help bridge the divide between the city and county on issues such as the recent dispute over animal control costs.
Pinson has campaigned on pension reform and also advocated for more county leadership on persistent problems like teen pregnancy, illiteracy and gang prevention. He's right in saying the Board could provide more civic leadership on long-standing social problems that impact the lives of so many constituents. However, he's offered few specifics on how to fix those problems. On pensions, he has blasted unions but has been vague on what the county might do to control ballooning costs. By contrast, Couch, owing to his professional background and experience negotiating with city unions, is well versed in the economic forces contributing to unfunded liabilities and demonstrates a thorough understanding of the pension problem.
While Couch is the best choice for the 4th District, we cannot endorse his proposal to make Supervisors' jobs part-time and fill the void with a strong executive management structure within county government. Such a move would simply shift the burden of governing to unelected paid staff -- and would save little if any money. In any case, Couch should reserve judgment on reducing Supervisors' hours until he's actually served as one. District 4 covers a vast area that will require a full-time commitment in every sense of the term.
Still, with his knowledge of the workings of local government and his track record of responsiveness to constituents, Couch is the best choice for District 4 Supervisor.