CALIFORNIA CITY - The March 28 California City Chamber of Commerce meeting brought several accounts up to date. First and foremost among them was California Senator Shannon Grove’s new Field Representative Eunice Lee, who brought us the latest on what the minority leader of the California Senate is up to on our behalf.
Lee said Grove is working on two separate bills seeking to address serious issues here and through the Central Valley. The first is Senate Bill 224. Over $1 million of agricultural equipment was stolen last year from Tulare County farms alone, she said. The stolen items include tractors, all-terrain vehicles, farm trucks, vehicle batteries, field-agiculture pumps, entire bee hives, live goats, nuts and other produce, and a whole host of items that are of value used in agriculture throughout the Central Valley.
Lee said Grove has seen enough of these crimes and has heard from farmers about the huge costs they are incurring due to the thefts. The issue has gotten so bad that in Fresno they actually have an “Ag Task Force” to combat the problem. The Fresno County website explains it as such: The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office is committed to combating rural crime dedicating one (1) full time Deputy District Attorney to prosecute agricultural crimes and those crimes happening in our rural communities.
This Deputy District Attorney serves as a member of the Fresno County Sheriff’s “Ag Task Force.” The Task Force works as a team to address the growing problems facing the Fresno County agricultural community.
The Task Force’s focus is on crimes that impact the economic livelihood of farmers, ranchers, agricultural related businesses and rural residents. It works to prevent criminal activity through education, encouraging the application of an Owner Applied Number (OAN), outreach, and to apprehend and prosecute those that perpetrate these crimes.
In addition, the Ag Task Force is a member of the Central Valley Rural Crime Task Force. The Rural Crime Task Force is a collaboration of eight (8) counties: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare. This Task Force shares information and resources in a proactive approach to combat rural crimes that occur in multiple counties.
SB 224 proposes a fine of up to $10,000.00 when the value of the stolen property exceeds $50K. The revenue from the fines would be used to fund rural crime prevention programs in the Central Valley and Central Coast. That may seem a tad removed from here, but Bakersfield has the same problem, and according to them it is all drug related. The Kern County Sheriff's Office has caught drug users with agricultural pumps in third back seats and transversely found drugs in stolen farm trucks. SB 224 aims to end that using the funds from the thieves themselves.
The second bill Grove is pushing in Sacramento is Senate Bill 415. A much less dramatic bill, but nonetheless necessary to be able to use military and tactical vehicles purchased or obtained from the military. It directs the state to “establish a registration procedure for military and tactical vehicles for on-highway use. A vehicle subject to this article shall be registered only to a local fire department for use in the exercise of its official duties. The registration procedure shall be implemented by January 1, 2021.
This would allow fire departments to be able to use the uber heavy duty vehicles for a new task saving lives and property. Both cills were introduced by Grove last month. Both bills have been read once, and remain in motion to date pending approval.
Cal City Chamber of Commerce President Alexia Svejda had to recuse herself the last half of the meeting so she could put on her other hat. That being one of three Kern County Economic Development Specialists. She reported that Edwards Air Force Base will go back to hosting Air Shows again next year as they have in the past. The Los Angeles County Air Show will alternate between Fox Field and Edwards. October 10and 11 in 2020 and will bring the USAF Thunderbirds back to Edwards for the first time since 2009. Fox Field has hosted the Los Angeles County Air Show since 2014.
Svedja also urged regional residents to send letters of support for the idea of bringing President Trumps new Space Force to Edwards AFB for its base of operations. Edwards has a $2.14 Billion dollar fiscal impact on the region and offers 11,149 jobs to the region making it the largest employer in our region.
Svedja also spoke of one group that aids in supporting the base to keep it open and the jobs it provides here. One such group is the Edwards Community Alliance, while another longstanding one is the EAFB Civilian Military Support Group which has been fighting for Edwards and supporting it’s mission since their establishment in 1989. The group routinely hosts events in celebration of Edwards AFB and successfully fought off the bases near closure back in 2006. Svedja covers the base among the many communities under her purview as a Kern County Economic Development Specialist.
Cal Rossi of Southern California Edison was also present for the meeting. He stated that sometime in the near future there will be a meeting in Cal City to discuss the immediate and future goals of that company in Cal City. No specific date has yet been set but mid April is likely when that will happen. Also mentioned Tortoise Days here in Cal City coming up April 27 and 28 in Central Park. There will be bands and vendors, an art show, a fishing derby, and many, many more activities for all.