Thursday, January 26, 2023

A new documentary takes aim at Kern County and depicts cops out of control, we pass the anniversary of the famous "snow day" and improvements to Hart Park help make it shine

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 * ... KILLING COUNTY: If you haven't already heard of "Killing County," a new Hulu documentary depicting Kern County as a violent place where police are out of control, you will soon. The documentary reviews a series of officer involved shootings that put Bakersfield in the spotlight several years ago. And yet, the piece has already come under harsh criticism for small but important things like confusing the

Bakersfield police department with the Kern County Sheriff's Department and putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of Sheriff Donny Youngblood. And to top it off, the documentary is introduced by controversial former NFL quarterback Colin Kapernick. So is Killing County yet another hit job or does it reflect a reality we don't want to accept? View it yourself and draw your own ... conclusions.

 * ... EXERCISES FOR LIFE: If hitting the gym is not for you, you might want to consider a few simple exercises that can be done right at home without equipment, and experts say it may just be about all you need. Using just your body weight, experts say a simple routine of squats, lunges and a few exercises on a yoga matt to strengthen your spine and back may be all you need. It's a workout that focuses on mobility and overall core strength. "Your spine is the center of your torso, the hip is what connects your legs to torso, and the shoulder is what connects your arms to your torso," said Jessica Valiant,  physical therapist in Denver. "These are the main areas that you use to reach and lift and pull. If you can work to keep those mobile, you are going to help yourself with 90 percent of the activities that you do every day."

 * ... SNOW DAY: Can you believe it's been 24 years since the famous "snow day" in Bakersfield. Yep, it was this time in 1999 when Bakersfield awoke to an amazing snowfall, grinding the town to a stall as kids enjoyed a rare day in Kern County. Here are a few pictures taken from that day including a couple famous ones by Californian photographer Henry Barrios and KGET.

 * ... HART PARK: Hart Park shines this time of year and the trail hikes above the KCSO shooting range have been full of people enjoying the child and fresh air. And the park, thanks in part of county CAO Ryan Alsop, has never looked better. A relatively new bathroom at the base of the trail near the shooting range is a huge hit, as is the new parking lot and other amenities.

 * ... RIP MICHELE BUONI: Bakersfield lost an angel recently when Michele Buoni died after a short but tragic battle with gastric cancer. A service was held at St. Francis this week in honor of her life. A bright light gifted with a wide smile that she brought to her tennis group almost every day at Bakersfield Racquet Club, Michele was married to her high school sweetheart Mario for 39 years. Her obituary ended with this: "In lieu of flowers, Michele's memory may be honored with a donation to the Bakersfield Racquet Club for the dedication of a court in her name, 1660 Pine Street, Bakersfield CA 93301. If we are lucky, and in the right place at the right time, someone amazing can fall into our lives. For many, Michele was that extraordinary person. "

 * ... MEMORIES: The old Hotel Lebec once graced the old Ridge Route road before the completion of Interstate 5 to Los Angeles, and in its day it played host to Hollywood celebrities, politicians and well-to-do travelers looking for a place to rest after a long journey. Here is a wonderful picture of the place, thanks to John Kelley and the Bakersfield Memories Facebook page. Steven Humphrey, a local historian, added the picture of the vacant property to show us where the Lebec once stood.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

The man responsible for the success of the VW Beetle dies, California winter heating bills skyrocket with the price of natural gas, San Jose requires gun liability insurance and a Harvard study finds warm friendships may be the secret to happiness

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 * ... RIP CARL HAHN: If you ever owned a Volkswagen Beetle, and if you are of a certain age chances are you did, you owe a nod of gratitude to Carl Hahn, the German marketing whiz who as CEO oversaw an

explosive grow of the German "people's car" in the United States. With Hahn as CEO, and behind a clever advertising campaign that emphasized the Beetle's small size and practicality, sales of the VW Beetle rose to a peak of 423,000 in 1968. Hahn died this week at the age of 96. This bit of counter marketing, emphasizing smallness and practicality in a market dominated by Detroit muscle cars, proved a master stroke for sales of the Beetle.

 * ... WINTER HEATING BILLS: Have your heating bills skyrocketed this year? If you're in California, there is aa reason for that. Experts are pointing to uncertainty over when a new pipeline will reopen to deliver relief to customers who are experiencing sticker shock. Heating bills in Bakersfield, depending on the size of the home, have jumped to $400-$500 a month in many cases, and more is on the way.  San Diego Gas and Electric, owned by Sempra, said typical residential gas bills averaged $120 higher in January alone. The Wall Street Journal noted that natural gas production in California is about half of what it was a decade ago.

 * ... GUN INSURANCE: The first mandatory gun insurance law has taken the books in San Jose, and gun owners are already finding a way around it. On Jan. 1 a new law went into effect mandating that gun owners have insurance covering costs related to accidental gunshot injuries or death. Some gun owners are simply placing their weapons elsewhere, outside the city, or joining new legal challenges to the new law.

 * ... LIFELONG FULFILLMENT: At some point in life we will all ask ourselves this: what is the real secret of a full life? Well according to an 85-year study by Harvard, personal connections are the most important factor in long-term health and happiness. Said The Wall Street Journal: "Contrary to what many people might think, it's not career achievement, or exercise or a healthy diet. Don't get us wrong; these things matter. But one thing continuously demonstrates its broad and enduring importance: good relationships.... Good relationships keep us healthier and happier. Period. If you want to make one decision to ensure your own health and happiness, it should be to cultivate warm relationships of all kinds."

 * ... MEMORIES: A couple of important old historical pictures from the Kern County of Old Facebook page, a treasure trove of historical photos. The first one shows Merle Haggard at his local office an the second a wonderful old photo of the Kern County Union High School.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Despite California's war on fossil fuels, petroleum and natural gas production is surging, Mother Nature's post storm beauty and In-N-Out heads east to Tennessee

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 * ... FOSSIL FUELS: If you live in California, you are subjected to the loud, chaotic drumbeat of a message that views fossil fuels - oil, natural gas - as the enemy. But what happens when the wokeness of official state policy meets reality? That answer is here and it won't please those who are hellbent to destroy the fossil fuel industry. Said the Wall Street Journal: "Thanks to a mix of events, from the Russian

invasion of Ukraine to the U.S. economic recovery, fossil fuels are showing surprising resilience, despite President Biden's push to transition to clean energy and the industry's own history of boom-bust investing and heavy reliance on debt. So here's the truth: U.S. production of natural gas is near an all time high and crude oil production are at 2019 levels and prices have spiked, particularly in California.

 * ... RAINSTORMS: The storms and rain that pummeled Kern County produced some wonderful images. Enjoy these shots and thanks to all the contributors like Pam Taylor, Rusty Burchfield, Melissa Dignan, 

* .... MACYS: It's a wonder how any retailer in men's or women's clothing stays alive these days, so it should come as no surprise that Macy’s will be closing more stores in 2023, including a big one in Los Angeles. Among the four stores set for closing is the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza outlet, along with stores in Fort Collins, Gaithersburg, Md., and Hawaii. Meanwhile, struggling retailer Bed, Bath and Beyond is flirting with bankruptcy and also announced it is closing more than 140 stores nationwide, including many in California, but the Bakersfield store is not on the list and survives, at least for now.

* ... KMAC: After Kevin McCarthy became Speaker of the House, just about everyone from Bakersfield posted a picture on social media of them with McCarthy. But few reflected the utter joy of accomplishment better than this picture of McCarthy's family posted by the Speaker himself.

If you have a business downtown and you finally said 
"enough!" and moved to Seven Oaks, no one would blame you. Even the most loyal downtown advocates have been pushed to the limit, enduring countless indignities to vandalism, break-ins and run-in with vagrants destroying local property. Local accountant Andrea Rutherford-Hill knows the feeling too well after her downtown offices were vandalized twice, as witnessed by these pictures here. And so it goes.

 * ... LIBERTY HIGH: You have to love this collage produced by the Kern High School District to recognize the Liberty Patriots and their first division 1A state championship. Liberty beat Pittsburg in the state championship game 48 to 20.

 * ...  IN-N-OUT BURGER GOES SOUTH: It looks like In-N-Out Burger is moving east and plans to set up shop in Tennessee. It's the farthest east the company has ever ventured.  In-N-Out owner and president Lynsi Snyder – who is also the only granddaughter of founders Harry and Esther Snyder – said the company was eager to expand into Tennessee.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this old photo of the Fox Theater back in its day, compliments of the Kern County of Old Facebook page. And the last picture - from the Kern County History Fans - shows the then and now corner of Union Avenue.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Kevin McCarthy fights for political survival of his dream to be Speaker, a bomb cyclone of rain and wind ravages California and the abortion pill will soon be available in pharmacies

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 * ... KEVIN MCCARTHY: The political fate of Kevin McCarthy hangs in the balance as this week's Bakersfield Observed goes to press and it's hard to find anyone who doesn't have a take on his dilemma. Make no mistake: in Bakersfield McCarthy remains hugely popular, and in this fight he has won the

overwhelming and enthusiastic backing of radio and TV hosts who have rallied behind the local BHS driller and former owner of Kevin O's Deli. Others rally behind McCarthy out of the sense that we get no respect here, part of that deep seated insecurity that screams Bakersfield is happy to be out of step with more liberal parts of the state. Interestingly, locally McCarthy's most vocal critics come from the extreme right wing of his own party, the pro-MAGA crowd, the very same people who have been preventing him from being elected speaker of the House- at least so far. 

* ... CALIFORNIA WOES: One of the more thoughtful, and experienced, commentators on life in California is Dan Walters, the dean of the Sacramento press corps who now works for the Golden State non-profit Cal-Matters. This week Walters laid out California's greatest challenges: the multi-year drought, public 

schools struggling with post Covid issue, our deteriorating electrical grid and a shortage of housing for the homeless. And Walters, whose columns run in The Californian but whose writings can be accessed online, said this: "California used to be the place where people went to make better lives for themselves, but now we've become one of those places that people leave because we make it too difficult for them to prosper. Newsom often disparages states such as Texas as Florida, but they are gaining population while California is losing it."

 * ... BOMB CYCLONE: Thanks to a fast moving atmospheric river, California is being lashed by heavy winds and rains that have caused havoc and even death in northern California. Atmospheric rivers are common in California and hugely influential in terms of the drought and the damage they can cause because of too much moisture. So what exactly is an atmospheric river? This answer comes from The New York Times: "These storms get their names from their long, narrow shape and the prodigious amount of water they carry. They form when winds over the Pacific draw a filament of moisture from the warm, moist air over the tropics and channel it toward the west coast. When this ribbon of moisture hits the Sierra Nevada and other mountains, it is forced upward, cooling it and turning its water into immense quantities of rain and snow."

 * ... ISABELLA DAM: And how does all this rain affect Lake Isabella, which has been flirting with dangerously low levels? One who had the answer was Steven Mayer, the gifted Bakersfield Californian feature writer and one of the more thoughtful analysts around town, who posted this on Facebook: "Isabella Lake’s water level grew by more than 1,000 acre feet in a 24-hour period. On the afternoon of Wednesday, Jan. 4, the lake held 55,670 AF (acres feet) of water. Twenty-four hours later, it was measured at 56,697 AF, a difference of 1,027 acre feet. Great progress, but we must keep it in perspective, as 56,697 AF is only about 10 percent of the lake’s capacity, and only 39 percent of the average lake level for this time of year. Still, more is pouring in (much more than is being released downstream), and lots more precipitation is forecast. " (photo courtesy of Mayer's Facebook account)

* ... ABORTION PILLS: Here is an interesting development in the blowback against the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade: It looks like pharmacies will soon be carrying abortion pills thanks to new changes made by the Food and Drug Administration. This is a big change that will likely - by design - give more women access to the abortion pills on demand. Up until now, the pill was only dispensed by a few mail order pharmacies or by certain doctors and clinics. Abortion pills are already used in roughly half of the cases where pregnancies are ended. (In California, the pills will be available without prescription)

 * ... TRACO MATTHEWS: It was good to see Traco Matthews being recognized as the local NAACP's "Man of the Year" as part of the celebration of Black History Month. Matthews is among a local group of young, motivated and talented "next generation" leaders that will help define and mold what life in Bakersfield and Kern County will look and feel like in the next in the next several decades. The event will be held Saturday, Feb. 4, at Bakersfield Country Club.


 * ... MEMORIES: So who knew we used to have salt baths down near Mill Creek Park? I didn't until I spotted this on the Kern County History Fans collection of remarkable photos on the group's Facebook page.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Las Vegas Raiders bench local boy Derek Carr, California loses population in the latest Census, the founder of the Gilroy Garlic Festival dies and the real estate market cools as interest rates rise

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 * ... RAIDERS SAY GOODBYE TO DEREK CARR: Bakersfield loves its heroes - veterans, police and firemen, historical figures, gifted kids and of course athletes - so there was a collective sigh of

resignation when the Las Vegas Raiders decided to bench hometown boy Derek Carr. The 31-old Carr, a graduate of Bakersfield Christian High and Fresno State, holds virtually every passing record in Raiders history but was benched (and could be traded) after a disappointing season. Stay tuned for Chapter 2 in the NFL for Derek Carr.

 * ... BLUE STATE EXODUS: Americans are on the move again, making decisions about where they live and where they leave or stay depending upon politics, cost of living and personal preferences. And the verdict is in: Americans are leaving predominantly Democratic controlled states like California and moving to cheaper and more conservative venues like Texas, Florida and North Carolina. According to the latest Census, the U.S. population grew by about 1.2 million between July 2021 and July 2022 with foreign immigration accounting for a million of that. California lost 343,000 residents, New York lost almost 300,000 and Illinois 141,000. By contrast Texas grew by 470,000 residents following by Florida with 416,000 and North Carolina with 133,000. Other states losing population including New Jersey, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Minnesota. Others gaining population include South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Arizona, Idaho, Alabama and Oklahoma.

 * ... GILROY GARLIC: Don Christopher, whose fondness for the special aroma of garlic led to a lifetime love affair, has died at the age of 88. It was Christopher who founded the world famous Gilroy Garlic Festival in 1978 and led to the renaissance of the ingredient that has come to define different types of cooking. Thanks to the festival, Gilroy is now known as the Garlic Capital of the world. From 1974 to 1995 America's annual garlic production more than tripled to 493 million pounds. For years Bakersfield leaders have tried to emulate Gilroy's success, at first trying to brand Bakersfield as a "carrot capital" but the idea simply didn't catch on. (file photo of Christoper)

 * ... REAL ESTATE MARKET COOLS: Not long ago it seems like the era of low interest rates and a hot housing market would be with us forever. But everything changes and now the slowdown is upon us, both locally and nationally. Rates have spiked north of 6 percent and sellers are finding that buyers have become picky. Across the nation home prices declined in October and most economists expect that trend too continue. So far this year prices are down 3 percent from their June highs. The average rate or a fixed rate mortgage was 6.27 percent just before Christmas.

 * ... INFINITI CLOSES: Bad news for Infiniti customers in Bakersfield who have just learned that the local dealership is closing. The family that owns Infiniti of Bakersfield sent emails to existing customers say the company is in the process of finding a new home for the Infiniti franchise. In the meantime if you need your Infiniti service, they can do so at the Nissan of Bakersfield location on Pacheco Road.

 * ... ADVENTURE WAITS: The new Cuban coffee shop downtown opened just recently but has already undergone a name change. Founded as Paper Plane coffee shop, the name of the 19th Street business has been changed to Adventure Awaits after its owner learned the previous name had been trademarked. 


 * ... MEMORIES: Take a look down old 19th Street from the Kern County of Old Facebook page. Its caption: "Early 1900's - Old Meets New In Bakersfield - 19th Street ...Horse and Horseless Carriages
It looks like a REDLICK'S sign upper left"

 * ... MORE MEMORIES: And take a look at this old snow day picture from 1927 up on Breckinridge Mountain. From the Facebook page by Kern County History Fans: "Breckenridge Mountain 
Kern Sports Club - "On the trail"  January 23, 1927"

Friday, December 23, 2022

Private investment sparks a renewal in the "Eastchester" zone, Pastor Roger Spradlin addresses his church while battling cancer and the never ending battle to clean up trash and debris

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 * ... MERRY CHRISTMAS: One of the winners of 2022 was downtown Bakersfield, pockets of which have shown remarkable growth and improvement thanks to private investment that seems to be going block by block. Homelessness, vandalism, crime and graffiti remain a problem to be sure, but the downtown

area east of Chester (known as "Eastchester") has enjoyed dynamic growth despite the problems. Call it "the Sage" effect because none of this would have happened without the vision of City Councilman Bob Smith and his company Sage Equities. Smith helped put his daughter Stasie and husband Shai in business with Cafe Smitten coffee shop on 18th Street, a development that seemed to spark other private investment in the area, including Sage's 17th Street Townhomes. Sage is also about to open another apartment complex, The Que, further down 18th and three other projects are in the planning stages. Add to that a flurry of downtown shops opening - PaperPlane Coffee on 19th and The Botanist on 18th just opened recently joining the 18th Street Bar and Grill, Zama, BottleShock and others  - and we have what one calls a positive trend. 


 * ... HOMELESS TRASH: Next time you see a city maintenance vehicle around town, you might want to thank the driver for pitching it to help fight the mess that homelessness creates. Check out these photos posted by the city highlighting the Support Team for Operations, Rangers and Maintenance (STORM) , which assists Park Rangers in trash removal. Here, more than 500 pounds of trash was removed from the San Miguel Grove off the Kern River Parkway. The last picture shows the Grove after cleaning.

 * ... WELCOME HOME: Pastor Roger Spradlin of Valley Baptist has been courageously fighting a tough battle against cancer and recently returned home to the church to preside over services once again. Faced with a fatal prognosis, Spradlin has displayed amazing courage and compassion as he fights the battle of his life.

 * ... RIDGE ROUTE: John Kelley knows more about the old Ridge Route, the curvy and dangerous road that connected Los Angeles with Bakersfield before Interstate 5, and he has access to hundreds of old pictures and drawings of the old road. Here are three John highlighted on his Facebook page.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this old advertisement for the grand opening of the Rice Bowl downtown, compliments of the Kern County History Fans Facebook page. The caption: 1948 - Grand Opening Rice Bowl... 1119 19th Street ... Bakersfield, Kern County, California ... Owners: William "Bill" Leong (1904-2003) Helen Leong (1913-2004)