News & Events

COMMUNITY VOICES: To achieve solutions, we must rise above the politics

By Jennifer Haley

Originally published in the Bakersfield Californian.

There is a saying in politics, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” Cynical translation: times of unrest and uncertainty present opportunities to push one’s own agenda. Unfortunately, in today’s hyper-partisan society, there is no shortage of efforts to use the COVID-19 pandemic to gain advantage. This default to conflict (and blame) is exacerbating our problems, delaying solutions and hurting the people who can least afford it.

Overcoming the pandemic, recession and social injustice requires a vastly different approach. It starts with recognizing that we all are better off when leaders tackle challenges through a collaborative approach. The next election will come and go, and we will still have to find a way for students to learn, workers to make a good living and families to have a roof over their head in a safe community.

Kern Oil & Refining Co. is a California company. Our small business employs 155 individuals and is committed to investing in sustainable jobs and initiatives designed to improve the economic stability of our region. Our great team produces what we like to call “California Clean” renewable transportation fuels. We support innovation, collaboration and believe everyone is entitled to respect.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and much of the state shut down, our business was (and still is) severely impacted. We had to make exceedingly difficult decisions about how to respond. As the only gasoline and diesel fuel producer between San Francisco and Los Angeles, we are a critical fuel supplier to California’s Central Valley. Temporarily shutting down may have provided financial relief, but would have been devastating to our employees, business partners and the community we serve. I am humbled by our team’s fortitude in keeping our essential operation running, providing the fuels necessary to power the valley and aid the fight against COVID-19.

There are no easy answers to the challenges facing our great state, but sadly there are plenty of political agendas, which threaten our recovery. One example is recent unsubstantiated attacks on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Economic Recovery Task Force, simultaneously claiming it has not produced solutions quickly enough but somehow has also exerted too much influence over state policy. Besides being illogical, these attacks are not productive and do nothing to address the actual issues facing our state.

We are blessed with public and private sector leaders across the political spectrum who care deeply about California, who are charting a positive path forward in impossible circumstances while balancing public safety, business, labor, social justice and the environment. There will always be time to debate philosophy; but right now, we must focus on collaborating to produce positive action, not gridlock. It’s imperative for leaders to have the flexibility to respond and adjust as more information becomes available and circumstances evolve.

Our company will always be California first, and pledge to be part of a solution for our home state. We know it will require both compromise and sacrifice, but together we can adapt and innovate in pursuit of a brighter tomorrow.

So, to the governor, we say count us in to help. To California’s leadership on both sides of the aisle, we say the same. Calling the Golden State our home is a privilege. We all must work together — leveraging our unique talents and diverse perspectives — to confront and overcome our public health, economic and social justice crises. We have a real opportunity to leave California better than we found it, if we have the courage to stand together.


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