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Kern County Grand Jury offers recommendations for Measure N

Made law by Bakersfield voters in 2018, Measure N has provided more than double the revenue expected. A grand jury has now offered its recommendations for future sustainability.
Posted: 6:14 PM, Jun 13, 2023
Updated: 2023-06-13 21:27:21-04
Bakersfield City Hall South (file)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — It's been 5 years since Bakersfield voters passed Measure N, the one-cent city sales tax that was meant to fund public health and safety projects. Implemented in 2019, there has been some confusion specifically with regard to the citizen oversight committee the law created.

To assess the issues and the overall effectiveness of the new tax, the Kern County Grand Jury created a report released recently entitled "Measure N: Is It Working?"

According to the report, Measure N had been expected to raise $50 million a year but has exceeded that expectation, raising more than twice what was expected. Bakersfield Ward 1 City Councilmember Eric Arias said those funds have played a big role in improving city parks, infrastructure, homelessness, and policing.

"Whether that's tackling some of the affordable housing issues, growing our Rapid Response Teams, establishing our Park Ranger program," Arias said, listing off just a few city programs that have benefited from Measure N funding.

Another Measure N beneficiary is the Bakersfield Police Department. With the help of Measure N funds, BPD has been able to hire more than 400 new officers and staff, improve and expand their facilities, implement new technology and systems, acquire 120 new vehicles, and create partnerships to assist Kern Behavioral Health, as well as provide public and event security as needed.

But along with the revenue came the creation of a citizens oversight committee meant to supervise the use of Measure N funds. Over the years, confusion regarding the oversight committee's role has plagued its members.

The grand jury found that some members feel the public perception of what they're empowered to do differs from what authority they are legally permitted. The report states that members don't feel they have enough time to review issues before they're expected to provide recommendations, and many of the practices within budget meetings often lead to frustration and a lack of communication or interest.

"The grand jury report contains some useful suggestions, especially about the format of the meetings and the materials they provide the committee, and I'm confident the city will respond appropriately," said Measure N Citizens Oversight Committee member Clayton Campbell. "It's like with any relationship. There are opportunities for us to do better. Certainly, the grand jury pointed out challenges with communication between the council, committee, and staff."

23ABC News has reached out to additional oversight committee members for their comments. We will include their statements if we receive them.

The grand jury recommended that the city council provide the oversight committee with a manual that more specifically outlines their responsibilities and expectations, adjusts the budget presentation to allow more time for review, and consolidates certain committee meeting practices for the sake of efficiency by January 2, 2024.

The Bakersfield City Council has 90 days to submit its response to the grand jury's report.


Measure N was introduced in order to improve Bakersfield's city parks, infrastructure, homelessness, and policing, but it also has more priorities.

According to the city's website, Measure N also aims to improve rapid responses to assaults and robberies.

It also aims to keep public areas safe and clean while enhancing city amenities throughout the community. The ultimate goal of Measure N is to improve the quality of life for Bakersfield residents while making the city a more attractive place for its guests and visitors.