Bakersfield Sings the Overpopulation Blues

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

March 4, 2013

Joe Guzzardi

Back in the 1950’s Bakersfield, CA. was a sleepy San Joaquin Valley town best known as the nation’s country music capital. Before there was Nashville, there was Bakersfield. Music fans who admired Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and what was referred to as California’s country sound---Western swing and honky-tonk---traveled to Bakersfield to enjoy the music scene. Often when I drove from Lodi to Los Angeles, I’d stop in Bakersfield to hang out and visit the Country Music Museum.

Today, Bakersfield is California’s best example of how overpopulation and the resultant urban sprawl destroyed a small agricultural town’s charm and turned it into a nightmare. In the 1950s, when Haggard and Owens topped the country charts, Bakersfield’s population was 35,000. Today,according to the Census Bureau, 348,000 reside in Bakersfield. Hispanics, now 46 percent, led Bakersfield’s population explosion.

Bakersfield is one of the United States’ fastest growing cities. Since 1970, population has increased 400 percent from 70,000 to its current 348,000. Bakersfield is California’s ninth largest city. Fresno, to its immediate north, ranks fifth; Los Angeles, directly south, is first.

In 2006 the American Lung Association named Bakersfield as the nation’s most ozone-polluted city. Following up on that dubious distinction, in 2013 Bakersfield was identified as having the worst air as measured by atmospheric particulate matter, mostly caused by the increased construction over the last decade.

But new home building worked out poorly for Kern County buyers. Because of the ongoing foreclosure crisis, some locals are living in their cars or squatting in vacant lots. [Mortgage Crisis, Ethics Central in Panel Discussion, by Rachael Cook, Bakersfield Californian, February 16, 2012]

School and hospital overcrowding go hand in hand with unanticipated population surges. Despite new schools built in an effort to keep up with more demand for classroom seats, one North Bakersfield parent complained that her fifth grader’s homeroom had 47 students, 12 more than the maximum legally allowable total of 35. Bakersfield’s emergency room conditions are in equally bad shape and described by critics as in “crisis” mode, mostly because of an influx of low-income residents.

Despite Bakersfield’s multiple population related woes, the city’s most influential voice, the daily Bakersfield Californian, endorses the Gang of Eight amnesty plan even though through chain migration, it will eventually draw more people to Bakersfield specifically and California generally.

 

[Does the President Want a Deal on Immigration, by Michael Gerson, Bakersfield Californian, January 29, 2013] 

Supporting more immigration through amnesty and giving permanent legal status to aliens already here defies logic. Anyone who looks around the disaster that is Bakersfield as well as California’s other major cities can easily conclude that too many people are competing for too few resources.

Watch CAPS National Media Director Joe Guzzardi debate United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez.

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