October 21, 2020; 23-ABC (Bakersfield, CA)

Yesterday, NPQ published a newswire about police organizations that tried to bully domestic violence organizations into withdrawing their stated support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Today, we report on something similar in Kern County, California, where the board of supervisors refused to contract with two local organizations for COVID outreach based on their support of calls to defund the police—an initiative nourished by BLM.

One of the organizations, the nonprofit Building Healthy Communities, had been slated to receive $1.2 million; the other, Adelante Strategies, expected $250,000. BHC had already hired 30 canvassers based on the contract negotiations and was in the midst of training them. The supervisors will pay costs already incurred, but no more.

Supervisor Zach Scrivner objected because, he said, both groups had used Facebook to post their support for initiatives to defund the Kern High School Police Department and the Bakersfield Police Department. Scrivner claims to be suffering from an abundance of sensitivity: “I think how our sheriff’s department, our deputies, and our law enforcement would feel if the county of Kern contracts with an organization that is calling for their defunding,” said Scrivner in the course of the meeting.

Scrivner was joined by supervisors Mick Gleason and Mike Maggard in opting not to support the contracts. Letitia Perez, the chair of the board, said she supported Scrivner and Gleason in their views to remain politically unbiased but was concerned about whether the board holds every contractor to the same scrutiny.

Reyna Olaguez, representing both organizations, said demanding groups to toe a political line was unreasonable. “It’s just really sad to see that if we don’t stand with your views when it comes to politics, we’re out of being considered for this contract that’s really aimed at encouraging our communities to slow the spread of coronavirus and to open Kern County fast.”

Supervisor Gleason, speaking of nonprofits seeking contracts with the county, reflected, “Whether they’re putting stuff out on Facebook or whether they’re wearing a MAGA hat, I think either one of these are inappropriate”—failing apparently to see a difference between partisan activity and the right to advocate. Perez did not agree. “We’re not the thought police,” she said. “People have the right to think, believe and love.”—Ruth McCambridge