Thursday, September 22, 2016

Catholic Charities steps up to fill an important void in our community and leaving cable TV (cord cutting) starts to pick up steam in a big way

* ... CHARITY: We live in a crazy, scary and unpredictable world, but take the time to look around and you will always find glimmers of hope: neighbors helping those who are struggling, people
reaching out to each other to lend a hand, random acts of kindness among strangers. Consider what is happening today (Friday) from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the alley behind the local Catholic Charities office on Chester Avenue. Working with the CAPK Food Bank, Catholic Charities will be distributing fresh produce to the community - all completely free of charge - until the produce runs out. Why? Because there is a huge need. Catholic Charities and other groups like them often work anonymously to fill important needs in our community, but they all deserve our support and thanks.



 * ... CORD CUTTING: More Americans than ever are abandoning cable television and the traditional local networks in order to save costs, get more bang for the buck and choose exactly what they want to view. This trend toward "cord cutting" started with the millennials and - according to studies - has now become popular across all generations. One study found that some 35,000 Americans leave traditional cable every month. Consider this: a retired friend told me she lives solely off Netflix and original programming from Amazon Prime (she pays about $20 a month compared  between $150 and $200 monthly for fully loaded cable) while another friend told me he does the same but gets limited local programming with the HULU for an additional $8 a month fee. The implications for local TV, the major networks and their advertisers are ominously obvious.



* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "I guess I should have realized something was off when my poodle received a Wells Fargo credit card."

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: Nothing says 'peaceful protest' more than stealing and vandalizing someone's property.

 * ... GOOD FORM: Marilou Burlingame shared this pleasant encounter at a local Subway recently.  "When we went to pay for our purchases, we were told by the cashier that our orders had been paid for by the young man ahead of us (we probably reminded him of his grandparents). What a surprise! We thanked him profusely but failed to ask his name (shame, shame). Will definitely do the same for someone else. It was a great day, beautiful weather, my husband passed the test and lunch was paid for by a very nice young man. Doesn’t get any better than that!"

 * ...  MEMORIES: When a reader mentioned the long-gone Coachlight Inn, it triggered these memories from Kelly Lucas. "When I dated my wife in the 1970s we’d go to the Coachlight Inn regularly on dates. I almost always ordered a couple of filets, one for me and one for my girlfriend, now my wife. The cost of the dinner was around $22, and that was a lot of money for a teenager. Coachlight boasted that patrons got to pick out their steak. So, once when ordering my $11 steak filet dinner I found out I could select a filet and have it prepared as the $8 shish kabob - a $3 savings X 2. That was a great deal, and meant money for dessert! Either Rudy never caught on, or figured my frequent patronage qualified me for a discount. My wife and I hold many wonderful memories of those dinners at the Coachlight Inn."

 * ... MORE MEMORIES: And finally, my friend Dan Giordano shared this sweet memory of the old Stockdale Inn: "Richard, I remember both (Coachlight and Stockdale Inns) quite well and after reading your Wednesday post about them it brought back a some great memories. One being… the Stockdale Inn is where I proposed to my wife Patty 45 years ago. Thanks for the memory."



Tuesday, September 20, 2016

34th Assembly candidate Vince Fong weighs in on the Kern County economy

Bakersfield Observed is proud to provide a forum to local candidates to express their views. Today we hear from Vince Fong, a Republican running to succeed Rep. Shannon Grove in the State Assembly District 34

PAGA Reform is Needed to Protect Kern County’s Economy
By Vince Fong

Supplying nearly half of California’s private workforce, small businesses are the lifeblood of our community and the backbone of our economy. We depend on their success and prosperity to employ our neighbors and friends and to support our local economy.

Unfortunately, hundreds of small businesses in Kern County are being forced to turn off their lights and shut their doors in the latest scheme by opportunistic trial lawyers.

Thanks to a state law signed in 2003 by then-Governor Gray Davis , trial lawyers are exploiting employees to sue their employer for any violation of the California Labor Code. The Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) was originally designed to prevent employers from abusing their employees but has transformed into a hammer that is bludgeoning businesses into bankruptcy and putting people out of work.

Even the most minor violations of the California Labor Code, like pay stubs that lack the start or end date of a pay period or paychecks that by misplacing a period or comma in a company name, can result in millions of dollars in PAGA penalties. And, when businesses suffer as resources go toward litigation instead of investing in their workers, they are forced to make hard decisions – like laying off employees, reducing benefits or moving out of state.

Previously, the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) handled these cases, but due to a lack of resources, they were not able to process every case. This act attempted to be the solution, but trial lawyers discovered how to walk away with the biggest chunk of change at the expense of vulnerable employees and businesses.

Here in Kern County, PAGA is a four letter word that many business owners would like to avoid and is harming our business climate. After facing millions in penalties and legal fees, many local businesses are contemplating closing their doors. It has gotten so bad in Kern County that California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse recently hosted a small business summit to inform business owners about the trial lawyers’ latest ploy. And PAGA abuse continues to grow across California.

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove has been a champion for Kern County business owners who are facing PAGA lawsuits from unscrupulous trial lawyers. She has led the reform effort in Sacramento, carrying legislation that fights to protect both employees and businesses. But much work still remains.

If elected to the California Assembly, I will continue the charge against these frivolous actions, making PAGA reform one of my top priorities. If your business has been affected, please share your story with me as we work together to find a solution.

Our local small businesses are simply trying to survive, dealing with over-regulation, over-taxation, and over-litigation in a state that ranks last in business climate. This is one burden we should remove. It is time we protect Kern County workers and stop shakedown lawsuits targeting our local small businesses.

Vince Fong is a candidate for the 34th Assembly District.

Two Bakersfield lads to start in the National Football League this weekend, Terry Maxwell clarifies his position on the Westchester street barriers and more on the old Coachlight Inn

* ... LOCAL PRODUCTS: Not sure if this ever happened before but this Sunday two products from Bakersfield high schools will be starting quarterbacks in the National Football League. Derek
Carr (Bakersfield Christian/Fresno State) is the starting QB for the Oakland Raiders while Cody Kessler (Centennial/USC) has been tabbed to start for the Cleveland Browns when they take on the Miami Dolphins.




* ... MAXWELL: I ran into City Councilman Terry Maxwell the other day at The Mark Restaurant where he serves as general manager. A longtime opponent of the 24th Street widening, Maxwell is in a fight for his political life against challenger Andrae Gonzales, who has promised a less confrontational approach to public service. And he also happens to support the 24th Street project, a fact that is not lost on many downtown residents. As many of you know I also live downtown, and I told Maxwell there were rumors that - because of his opposition to the widening  - Maxwell will remove the newly installed cul-de-sacs on the south side of 24th. "That is absolutely not true," he told me. "The (decision on the widening) is with the courts now and I have no intention of taking out the barriers." Maxwell wanted this on the record, and now it is.



* ... GREEN FROG: For residents of La Cresta and surrounding east side neighborhoods, it was bad enough when the Green Frog Market shut down three years ago. But now, some say, it has gotten worse since Dollar General moved into the building off Alta Vista. "The parking lot is a just a mess," one resident told me. "We had to call corporate to get them to clean up old tires discarded next to the building that sat there for weeks."



 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "My grandfather just passed away and as a moment of silence, I'd like you all to drive four miles with your turn left signal on."

 * ... GOOD FORM: Isn't it amazing how a simple gesture can make you feel? Consider this note from Lloyd Klingenberg: "Just wanted to let you know about King Door. Recently someone decided they needed by garage door opener more than me. I went to King Door and purchased a new one and to my surprise I received a thank you card for using their business. Maybe some other businesses might want to think of this as I will remember King Door."

 * ... MEMORIES: Al (not Alvin) Sandrini sent me this note to reply to an earlier question:
 "I spoke to Rudy Kochevar, who is in Denver for his 60th high school reunion. He told me that he purchased the Coachlight Inn from Bill Wright in 1975, while he was teaching for the Bakersfield City School District. The location of the Inn was where Los Hermanos is now located. This is much closer to 34th than I remember, but that was a few years ago.  In the early days, there was only a small bar in the rear of the restaurant. The bar got busier when Rudy started working as the evening bartender. The bar was expanded and a patio was built to allow more room for the customers. The Coachlight West was the old Stockdale Inn, which was located on the corner of Stockdale Highway and New Stine Road (where the Shell Station is now located). The Coachlight West was moved to the new location at Oak and California."




Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fall in Bakersfield, 17 propositions on the California ballot this year and some really (I mean really) bad form around town

 * ... FALL: This is the time of year when the coming of Fall teases us; we get a hint of cooler air and then the heat returns. But it is coming and even the Wall Street Journal noted it with a story about
'September resolutions.' Among them: fall is the most popular time for marriages, gym memberships soar, we start planning fall soups and healthier eating and the change in temperatures inspires us to clean out our garages and closets.



 * ... EL NINO: Speaking of fall, last year at this time we were anticipating a huge El Nino year to help alleviate the drought. This year? No El Nino is on the horizon and we are all praying for rain to clear the air.

 * ... NOVEMBER BALLOT: Did you know there will be 17 statewide propositions on the November ballot in California, in addition to all the tax raising local initiatives for schools? Other than Prop 64 which deals with legalizing and regulating marijuana, most of these initiatives are little known to the average person. It should be up to all of us to do our homework and research and understand each initiative, but my guess is most folks will simply vote "no" on the ones they don't understand, and frankly I can't blame them.

 * ... WARNING: If you attend Bakersfield College or live in the area, be aware of a man driving an older gold Toyota Camry who has been following and approaching female joggers in the area. The college is taking this so seriously that it has warned students to be careful, particularly in the early morning hours.

 * ... BAD FORM: A reader named Andrea submitted this item which qualifies for my bad form Hall of Fame: "I witnessed a mother pull into the parking lot of a convenience store with her toddler sitting in the front passenger seat, not in a booster seat in the back where he should have been. She engages the child in some sort of conversation. The child then gets out of the car and urinates in the parking lot all the while she sits there and watches him. He then gets back in the car and they leave. I cannot think of a single legitimate reason for the mother allowing this."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: Apparently saying "make it a double" followed by a wink doesn't work at a the pharmacy.

 * ... SCAMS: Judy Marberry wrote to say she too has received telephone calls from people posing as IRS collectors. "In reading your letters I felt I needed to reply to the scam calls. I sympathize with your reader and the public really needs to be made aware of the dangers it could present. In the last three months my husband and I have received a total of 18 scam calls. All recordings suppose to be IRS. I did report this to the consumer affairs but it was a total waste of time."

 * ... MEMORIES: A reader asked me to pose this question to all of you. Here goes: "Do you remember the Coachlight Restaurant on the west side of Union Avenue north of 34th Street?  It had an outdoor patio.  It was one of our favorite places and where Michelle and I went for dinner the night we got engaged. I’m trying to figure out which building it was in, but it may be gone. Flood Ministries is at 3509 Union which seems like it might be in the same place."



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Bakersfield Museum of Art set to roll out its public art project with miniature Ford pickups painted by local artists, and Big Mike's Ragin BBQ is headed downtown to The Mark restaurant

 * ... TRUCK ART: One of the most interesting 'public art' projects is coming our way soon with the unveiling of a series of miniature fiberglass 1956 Ford pickup trucks painted by local artists.
Sponsored and coordinated by the Bakersfield Museum of Art via private funding, the project will celebrate our local blue collar roots with this series of whimsically painted fiberglass trucks that will be placed throughout the community. They will be previewed later this month at the museum. Visit bmoa.org for tickets.



 * ... BIG MIKE'S: Big Mike's Ragin BBQ is headed downtown in a partnership with The Mark restaurant on 19th Street. Up to this point Big Mike's (run by former Green Bay Packers lineman Mike Ariey) has been a catering business but now he will be running a lunch service at The Mark from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Entrees include baby back ribs (my favorite from Big Mike's), tri-tip and garlic chicken with sides and salad. The move comes on the heals of The Mark shutting down its weekday lunch service. Big Mike's will be featured in the outdoor eating area (branded The Park at The Mark) with the hope of creating an atmosphere similar to the patio dining at Luigi's Delicatessen.



* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: How long will it take before a rock band renames itself "Basket of Deplorables?"

* ... CENTRO: I finally made it over to Centro 18, the (relatively) new Mexican fusion restaurant on 18th Street next to the Chain Cohn building. If you are a fan of scallops, as I am, try the appetizer where the scallops are delicately prepared in a butter and garlic sauce and topped with parmesan cheese. The service was excellent and I am told the Sunday brunch is one of a kind.


* ... HAPPY JACKS: Congratulations to Happy Jacks and owners Frances and Ruben Rosales. The popular downtown eatery known for its burgers and pies recently celebrated its 54th year in business. I treated myself to a bacon cheeseburger and the eatery's outstanding home fries with cheese after a bike ride over White Wolf grade.



* ... BAD FORM: Kym Vliem shared this bit of bad form: "On Thursday in the time it took to pull in to a parking space on 17th by the City Building Department we saw two cars illegally U-turn;  one from a parking space on 17th to head back towards Chester and the other heading east on 17th who flipped a U mid-street to get a parking space facing west. I guess people consider DMV rules only as 'suggestions' anymore."

 * ...MORE BAD FORM: As long as we are talking about bad form, Judy Herndon had this to say: "I recently saw a newer-model white pickup in the parking lot of the Von's store at Coffee and Hageman with large white lettering on the back window, saying:  F*** CANCER.  People, I doubt that anyone hates cancer more than I. Cancer took my mother's life when I was just a child. But this language, displayed in public as it is, is so offensive on so many levels. Of course it does nothing to actually eradicate the disease, yet it is a sad example to set for children who view the vulgarity.  Instead of offending the public and lowering standards, why not help with fundraising efforts to fight the disease, or help those suffering from it, or help community members get screened so cancers can be found and battled earlier.  DO SOMETHING to help the situation instead of cursing it. "

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Kern County voters will be asked to approve $1.5 billion in bonds this November, Stars Dinner Theater is in trouble again and celebrating a BLT from Pyrenees Cafe


 * ... BONDS: If you are an administrator at a local school district, chances are you are sweating out the Nov. 8 general election. Why? Because Kern County voters will be asked to approve almost a
dozen school bond measures that would add some $1.5 billion in assessments on home and business owners. At least two of the measures - the Kern Community College District and the Kern High School District - will appear on almost every Kern County ballot. There are good arguments for all of these measures, but putting them on the ballot all at once can only hurt their chances.

 * ... STARS: It was distressing to read that the Stars Dinner Theater is some $50,000 behind on its rent and is once again seeking donations from the public to stay afloat. I say 'once again' because the community theater always seems to be teetering on the financial edge, constantly flirting with going out of business and having to spend an inordinate amount of time finding deep pockets to bail it out. The problem is not with Stars - its productions are first rate - but rather with the state of live theater in America which serves a very small - if loyal - niche audience. Without a sugar daddy coming forward, Stars will face either having  to either downsize to a smaller, more humble location or closing its doors for good.


* ... DRESS CODE: I know California is known for its casual vibe, and I recognize it is an even more relaxed dress code here in the Central Valley, but is it too much to ask folks not to wear their pajamas to traffic court? Not that the plaid pajama bottoms didn't match the faux leather blue boots on the older woman who lacked proof of insurance after an accident, but seems this sartorial choice was pushing the envelope of appropriateness.

 * ... SCAM: I received a call the other day and, not knowing the number, let it go to voice mail and sure enough it was yet another scam. The caller told me it was the IRS and it was preparing to file a lawsuit, and it instructed me to call back immediately. I wonder how many people fall for this and other scams that target the vulnerable.


 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "These meal replacement shakes aren't too bad when you chase them with a BLT."

 * ... FOODIE: And speaking of BLTs, one of the few restaurants open on Labor Day was Pyrenees Cafe, where I ordered and enjoyed a fabulous BLT with avocado on a soft croissant. Check it out next time you are on the east side in search of a good meal.

 * ... BAD FORM: It is just me or are stretches of the Westside Parkway starting to take on all the ugly characteristics of Highway 58?


 * ... OVERHEARD: At the downtown Starbucks off 24th Street, a barista is telling a customer she has already started Christmas shopping.

 * ... GOOD FORM: Ken Beggs wrote to give a shout out the Kern River Golf Course. Said Beggs: "Don't know if you are a golfer but in the last three months Kern River Golf course has turned into a local jewel. It's always been a fun and challenging course but a new greens keeper has put this course in super condition. Perfect fairways and greens. I've played this course for 30 years and never seen it in this kind for great shape. Congratulations to Jim and his crew."

 * ... BAD FORM: Finally, Lupe Flores weighed in some bad form which has become a sign of the times: "First of all I enjoy your blog very much. I saw a new  pickup here in town with a bump sticker that read 'life is a bitch don't vote for one.' It had a picture of Hillary Clinton. I thought this was very poor taste. Keep up the good work and take care."

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Elephant Bar shutters its Stockdale Highway location, and Sam Outlaw brings his brand of alternative country to Temblor Brewing Co. this Friday

 * ... RIVERWALK: I was surprised to learn the other day that The Elephant Bar abruptly shut down last week. Along with California Pizza Kitchen, the franchise eatery was one of the first anchor tenants of Castle and Cooke's The Shops at River Walk, but given the competitive nature of the restaurant business, and our fickle nature, it didn't make it. Regional and national franchise restaurants always have a tough time competing against the locally owned eateries, where owners like Claire (Uricchio's Trattoria), Jake (Jin Sushi), Sonny (Mexicali) and Rod and Julie (Pyrennes Cafe) are always there for a personal greeting to make sure your stay is satisfying. No word yet on what will replace The Elephant Bar in that location.



 * ... SAM OUTLAW: One of the hottest young alternative country musicians, Sam Outlaw, will be in town this week for a gig at Temblor Brewing Co. A native of Los Angeles, Outlaw burst onto the scene only a few years ago and is fresh off a successful European tour. His honest lyrics and alt country sound born in Southern California make for a compelling show. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at www.passingthroughproductions.com or at the door. Showtime is 6 p.m. this Friday.



 * ... SPOTTED: A woman in a white Toyota Highlander is casually flossing her teeth at a red light on Calloway Drive. It's nice to know I am not alone in tending to dental hygiene while behind the wheel.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Turns out a degree in communications doesn't help in a marriage. I guess that's why it's called a bachelor's degree."

* ... GUNFIRE: A regular reader dropped me this note about the opening day of dove season: "While at Kern River Golf Course on the opening day of dove season, as we were listening to all the gunfire around us one of the guys in our foursome wondered out loud if this was what it might be like on a typical golfing day in South Chicago."

 * ... ASSISTANCE LEAGUE: Do me a favor and do two things right now: take a $10 bill and put it in a safe place, and mark Wednesday, Sept. 21, on your calendar. When the day comes, drive down to 20th and R streets and spend that $10 for a trip tip sandwich lunch to benefit the Assistance League, which does so much good in our community. You will be supporting Operation School Bell, which provides school clothing to needy kids.

 * ... FEEDBACK: Some reader feedback from Jay C. Smith: "Don't get me wrong, I enjoy your blog and appreciate you for keeping it up. I did almost choke when you quoted an informant who had seen a second car with a 'F--- Trump"'sticker saying 'welcome to the intolerant and low-class world of progressive America.' Are you/he or she kidding me? At Trump rallies they chant 'Hang the Bitch.' And that's the rallies, not two yahoos driving around. Is that the tolerant and high class behavior 'progressive America' should learn from?"

Elephant Bar shutters its Stockade Highway location, and Sam Outlaw brings his brand of alternative country to Temblor Brewing Co. this Friday

 * ... RIVERWALK: I was surprised to learn the other day that The Elephant Bar abruptly shut down last week. Along with California Pizza Kitchen, the franchise eatery was one of the first anchor tenants of Castle and Cooke's The Shops at River Walk, but given the competitive nature of the restaurant business, and our fickle nature, it didn't make it. Regional and national franchise restaurants always have a tough time competing against the locally owned eateries, where owners like Claire (Uricchio's Trattoria), Jake (Jin Sushi), Sonny (Mexicali) and Rod and Julie (Pyrennes Cafe) are always there for a personal greeting to make sure your stay is satisfying. No word yet on what will replace The Elephant Bar in that location.



 * ... SAM OUTLAW: One of the hottest young alternative country musicians, Sam Outlaw, will be in town this week for a gig at Temblor Brewing Co. A native of Los Angeles, Outlaw burst onto the scene only a few years ago and is fresh off a successful European tour. His honest lyrics and alt country sound born in Southern California make for a compelling show. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at www.passingthroughproductions.com or at the door. Showtime is 6 p.m. this Friday.



 * ... SPOTTED: A woman in a white Toyota Highlander is casually flossing her teeth at a red light on Calloway Drive. It's nice to know I am not alone in tending to dental hygiene while behind the wheel.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Turns out a degree in communications doesn't help in a marriage. I guess that's why it's called a bachelor's degree."

* ... GUNFIRE: A regular reader dropped me this note about the opening day of dove season: "While at Kern River Golf Course on the opening day of dove season, as we were listening to all the gunfire around us one of the guys in our foursome wondered out loud if this was what it might be like on a typical golfing day in South Chicago."

 * ... ASSISTANCE LEAGUE: Do me a favor and do two things right now: take a $10 bill and put it in a safe place, and mark Wednesday, Sept. 21, on your calendar. When the day comes, drive down to 20th and R streets and spend that $10 for a trip tip sandwich lunch to benefit the Assistance League, which does so much good in our community. You will be supporting Operation School Bell, which provides school clothing to needy kids.

 * ... FEEDBACK: Some reader feedback from Jay C. Smith: "Don't get me wrong, I enjoy your blog and appreciate you for keeping it up. I did almost choke when you quoted an informant who had seen a second car with a 'F--- Trump"'sticker saying 'welcome to the intolerant and low-class world of progressive America.' Are you/he or she kidding me? At Trump rallies they chant 'Hang the Bitch.' And that's the rallies, not two yahoos driving around. Is that the tolerant and high class behavior 'progressive America' should learn from?"