Bryan Osorio, 22
Bryan Osorio, 22, is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley, returning to his hometown of Delano to run for city council. He’s been a leader in student government, a vocal advocate for undocumented folks, and now he’s hoping to represent young inclusive voices in his city.
What was the best advice you received before you ran?
I think it was encouragement mainly due to my own self doubt. Because of my age and the stereotype about millennials, I was aware of how I’ll be perceived. But I was told, ”If not you, then who? And who is that person?”
How do you stay informed, not with national news, but with what's going on in your city and what people's needs are? How do you stay grounded in the Delano community?
I have identified some local groups that meet often which keeps me connected to county politics. That's been one of the most helpful things because there are people from my city, Delano, who are going to these meetings and expressing their concerns.
Also just getting to know people one-on-one. Asking them what are the issues that they face, whether or not it’s relevant to the city. I think just getting to know people of Delano has been very helpful and eye-opening.
If you could get beers with any politician? Who would it be and why?
I think it would be with Kevin de León because of his Latinx background. He’s been an inspiration to me for how he can code switch between Spanish in English and how he fought for the rights of marginalized folks, specifically undocumented immigrants. That's something that I hope to do now and in the future.
What do you think is your greatest achievement?
This past March, there was an incident here in Delano where ICE agents pursued two undocumented parents. The parents had an accident because of the chase, and it left their children orphaned.
I came back from Berkeley and I organized a small march and demonstration. It was something that young folks here had never seen before. Neither had adults. They were glad that there's someone out there organizing this because they wanted to be heard. For me, it was very touching.
You’re running for Delano City Council. In your own words, what does the city council do?
City council decides on ordinances that affect the city as a whole and for the most part, not a lot of people know they do. When that happens, cities vote on things such as taxes increases, utilities, things people have complaints about. But because of the lack of civic education there is, people feel like that's just the way of life. It's just government screwing them over. City council has the most influence over your life here in terms of government.
You spoke earlier about ICE in your community. What do you think from a city level, local governments could be done to support undocumented people?
The most basic thing is introducing a sanctuary city bill. Even though California is a sanctuary state, there's a lot of push back from cities in this area within Central Valley, specifically in my county, Kern County. Even though it’s mainly a statement of support, that can go a long way.
But in terms of substantial things, I would push for an investment in a city legal defense fund. I hear a lot of people asking, “Why don't undocumented immigrants start the pathway to citizenship?” But that’s due to a lack of resources and lack of fund - aside from restrictive immigration policies. The average income here is less than $40,000 and it's around $20,000 for farmworkers in the area. If you really want to put your money where your mouth is, that's one of the first steps. It’s a long term project of course, but one of the first steps that you can do to support undocumented immigrants in the area.
What are the potholes in Delano? What are the issues in your community that are being neglected but you think really need to be addressed?
I have three things. One is planning to prevent water bill increases, two embracing all of our communities, three inspiring our youth and young adults.
Firstly, fixing water bill increases. They come as a result of the city paying back a state bond for keeping the water wells in the city on par with EPA standards. There was a $20 million bond and so the city can repay it, they started gradually increasing the water bills. That’s one of the major complaints in the city. When talking to city officials, there hasn’t been an active effort in seeking out grants and lobbying efforts that would address this. It has to do with infrastructure repairs but also clean and affordable water. That's something the state of California faces across different regional areas - who has control the water and who has it cheaper.
My second major issue has to do with embracing all communities, particularly with three sub populations - immigrants, LGBTQ, and senior residents. These are communities that are often neglected, not just in Delano but across the board. For undocumented residents I would want to establish a legal defense fund. Looking at the metrics of large municipal areas around Delano, we rank the lowest in the state, and probably in the country, in our relationships with LGBTQ folks. So for me, it's about, implementing non-discrimination laws, just so we have it on paper that there can't be discrimination in terms of city employment or public housing. Lastly, senior residents. We need to start subsidizing public transportation costs which have tripled in the past four years.
Lastly, inspiring young adults. This is like the crux of what I hope to represent. The Bakersfield municipal area, is in the last five educated areas in the United States. And it's a result of your lack of public investment in education and the local control funding formula. The gang life here develops from a lack of educational and recreational activities. We do have a recreation department that addresses young children, up to the age of 14, but nothing after that. I want to create programs that keep people occupied so they have more chances and opportunities. But specifically, Central Valley and Delano suffer is a concept known as brain drain where, people go out to college in other areas, but they never come back, or the leave because of the workforce industry here. Our economy is very dependent on agriculture, and not a lot of people go to college to study agriculture. We need to find ways to expand the workforce here. So it's adequate to the needs and experiences of our young folks so that we can retain them or offer them the option of retainment.
I also want to highlight to foster youth within our area because it's they are often neglected because they're mainly helped by county programs, but we have to address the trauma that they face. There's a high proportion of students who enter homelessness once they age out of the system.
You predicted my next question. So you chose to go back to Kern County and get involved in local politics. A lot of young people choose to go to state capitol or DC. Why did you choose local office?
Since the 2016 election I began thinking about how I could go back home. I contemplated dropping out of UC Berkeley because there was a lot of fear in my community from lack of information or misinformation. I wanted to get involved with local nonprofits that really aren’t present here and provide a platform that helps undocumented people with DACA renewals filling and citizenship paperwork. For me, it’s about how can I serve as a resource for people to aspire to be more to do more.
What is something you love about your city?
I appreciate my city for its humility. A lot of people here in the area are very down to earth, very grounded and there’s definitely culture here. And Delano’s culture was something that I really missed when I was away. In terms of city politics or city structure, I appreciate the accessibility and willingness of city officials to listen. I appreciate them taking the time to meet with me individually, when I was trying to pass a sanctuary city law a couple years back. The willingness to help the community is there, it's just how they act on it.
Who has been your biggest mentor?
That would be a former school board member, Jean Flores. I met her two or three years back when I interned at a law firm and she was a secretary there. We were mainly talking about everything that was not related to legal work. She was active within the UFW movement and the march with Cesar Chavez back in the 60s and told me about her work. She’s been very helpful mentors since then.
What is your response to all the commentary out there that says millennials are ignorant of politics, not socially aware, or just naive?
Let us lead. Let us see what we can do. Just give us a chance. That's, that's my response. That's it, nothing more, nothing less. And if you don't want to help us, then watch us lead.
What past experiences do you have anything most prepares you for the campaign trail?
So I ran for student government in college and I helped run another student government campaign the year before that. So talking to people is not new to me. But in a city of 40,000, there's a lot of diverse needs, and we don't have the answers. That's where it gets complicated.
I was within our UCSA and ASUC, where I had to lead efforts, organize a department, and figure out how we can most effectively work with people not just in terms of legislation, but in terms of supporting a culturally defined group. Sometimes people don’t want to talk with you and you’ve just got to go onto the next door.
I think handling rejections is also something I'm prepared for. But the resiliency of, you know, the bigger pictures, that's what's going to keep me going. And that's something that definitely think that my years in student government and UC Berkeley have shown me. Berkeley has opened my eyes, not just in student government, but in their organizing spaces outside of those institutions. And they’ve shown me what inclusively and intersectionality look like, and I hope I can pass that on within the city.
Well, what do you think the biggest doubts people have about you, as a candidate are? And what do you say to people who think you're too inexperienced or too young to run?
One of the things that I heard from council member is that I've been a gone for too long. Even though there have been periods of time where I've been in Delano, they say I’ve been far away from home, and I don't know what the needs of the community are. As a recent graduate, I don't want know the world that lays ahead of me. So for me, I don't need to know the needs of every Delano resident, I just need to know that it’s a time for change. That's something folks have agreed with me on. Most of the city council members have been there for the past two decades. For the most part, they’ve all been there since 2000. And it's time for a new voice.
I bring a new set of inclusive beliefs. We will address underserved communities that will uplift the community as a whole. I don't see that right now and that's what you think distinguishes me from any current incumbent re-seeking office, or any other challenges that we may face.
What advice do you give to other young people considering running for office?
I believe that young people should run. I'm going to start meeting with other young candidates across Central Valley to show that there’s a wave of resistance. There’s a wave of change from young people because they’re tired of seeing things fall apart.
I just hope people believe in themselves and be strong in who they are. I hope people get grounded with their community. Be here and side with the people.
The views expressed in this interview are those of the candidate, and do not reflect the beliefs and views of Ballot Breakers or its staff.