Local Politics

Thursday, Aug 21 2014 04:18 PM

CITY BEAT: Sullivan takes record, council finances

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    Bakersfield Ward 6 Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan

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By THEO DOUGLAS, Californian staff writer tdouglas@bakersfield.com

SULLIVAN IS LONGEST-SERVING: That rumbling beneath your feet Thursday wasn't the San Andreas Fault bringing destruction to poor old Frazier Park -- it was Ward 6 Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan passing 19-year Ward 7 rep Mark Salvaggio to become Bakersfield's longest-serving council member.

Count it out, Bakersfield: on Thursday, Sullivan, 74, marked her 6,973rd day representing the southwest.

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ABOUT YOUR REPORTER

Theo Douglas covers municipal government for The Californian. He writes in this spot every Friday. Contact him at tdouglas@bakersfield.com, at Facebook.com/TBCCityGov or on Twitter @TBCCityBeat.

Her political career began in November 1994 when former Ward 6 Councilman Kevin McDermott won election to Ward 4 -- having moved to the northwest and thus no longer being eligible in his old area.

Sullivan, a real estate saleswoman and mother of four, was recruited by a group including future Congressman Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and political consultant Mark Abernathy of Western Pacific Research.

She won a special election June 6, 1995, to finish McDermott's unexpired term, and has won five elections since. There are no City Council term limits in Bakersfield.

The freshman councilwoman wasn't afraid to make unpopular decisions almost from the start.

Later that year, Sullivan was the swing vote in a Nov. 8 4-3 decision by the Bakersfield City Council to ask voters in an advisory ballot measure whether the city should build a "multi-use stadium facility" near the downtown convention center.

It was slated for the March 26, 1996, ballot -- until Sullivan changed her mind and her vote.

Sullivan said at the time she didn't like the proposal's financing but in a recent interview, she said another reason for changing her vote was because she supported the stadium but believed residents did not.

"I just really had not voted my heart on that vote. That vote was basically for it to go down, and I didn't want it to go down. Because I knew if the community voted it down we would still be talking about 'The community didn't want it,'" Sullivan said.

City Manager Alan Tandy said he didn't think the concept would have worked anyway. He described Sullivan as fair and kind and highlighted her positive orientation.

"I think it makes her very happy to go to a concert at Bright House Amphitheatre or the Arena or something in town that is in town partially as a result of her vote," Tandy said.

In the early 2000s, Sullivan began to become known for her positions on social issues -- convincing the City Council in 2002 to post "In God We Trust" as a civic motto in council chambers.

Cities from Missouri to Oceanside have since done the same.

Sullivan formed the nonprofit In God We Trust-America Inc. with Abernathy to take the idea nationwide.

The group is having a fundraiser next month but according to the Franchise Tax Board, its corporate status was suspended and its tax-exempt status revoked Feb. 1, 2012, for owing the state money.

To get both reinstated, the group needs to pay the state $60.18.

"We need to be proud of our country. God has blessed our country, still is, and hopefully we can give him reason to continue to bless our country," said Sullivan, who characterized the group's problems as a paperwork issue she said will soon be resolved.

Last year, Sullivan, who is anti-abortion, supported the Human Life Ordinance, which would have restricted abortion in Bakersfield.

After months of debate that sparked restrictions to the council's public comment policy, members voted to table the issue.

"It really wasn't" a city issue, said the councilwoman, who is midway through her fifth full term and unsure if she'll run again in 2016. "But it didn't hurt discussing it."

CARNAKIS THE MAGNIFICENT: Your No. 3 longest-serving council representative? Why, that would be Ward 3 fixture Manuel Carnakis, who served from 1943 to 1961 -- part of a council that opposed extending Highway 178 west of 24th and M.

He went on to be mayor from 1953 to 1957, making time to race a series of black-and-yellow Class C speedboats, all named Woisme.

H STREET IMPROVEMENTS: Council representatives in Wards 2, 5 and 6 continue to raise and spend money although none face re-election until 2016.

Campaign finance statements from Jan. 1-June 30 show Ward 2 Councilman Terry Maxwell started with just more than $10,000 cash but spent $1,800, leaving him with slightly more than $8,200.

Maxwell, who didn't raise any money, paid $1,300 to a campaign consultant, and the rest in contributions to groups including the Kern County Republican Party and assemblywoman Shannon Grove.

Ward 5 Councilman Harold Hanson has said he isn't running for re-election and didn't raise any money. He started the reporting period with just more than $20,400 in cash, but spent about $2,400 -- most on donations, including $761 to CASA of Kern County and $500 each to the Bakersfield Homeless Center and the Bakersfield Music Theatre.

Sullivan raised $1,250, including donations of $500 each from Giumarra Vineyards and Kooner Investment Farms, but paid $1,306 to WPR. She began the reporting period with $81.85 in cash, and after fundraising and payments had just $25.85 left.

WHAT YOU'RE SAYING: The Californian's online readers had much to say about the prospect of luxury apartments downtown:

Curtiss: "The word 'upscale' is certainly not conducive to the immediate area. Oh, don't forget about the halfway house around the corner."

Elginphelps: "Next, let's start taking down the bungalows between Chester and Oak and put in similar housing for upscale renters who are itching to live in the so-called Artisan District."

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