Friday, January 19, 2018

Kern County politics may be the best spectator sport in town, turmoil at KNZR and remembering the time when Clark Gable visited Bakersfield

Friday, January 19th, 2018

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed, now online only. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this such a special place. We value your feedback. Email your news and notes (good form, bad form, kids doing well, anniversaries, observations) to

 * ... MIKE MAGGARD: The race for 3rd District supervisor - Mike Maggard is seeking reelection - is starting to resemble a soap opera, full of intrigue, deceit, accusations and denial. The latest:
political activist T.J. Eposito says he has been behind the "Mad Mike" attack ads on the radio and social media. Esposito told me a super PAC was behind the ads, and he vows there is more to come. "A revolution is no picnic," he told me on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM. "It's going to be uncomfortable... dirty acting will be uncovered." As for Maggard, Esposito said "he hasn't seen nothing yet." Esposito is furious with Maggard because he voted against regulating marijuana and seemed to denigrate folks who rely on medicinal marijuana for their health. One thing seems clear: Esposito and his group are not going way, and this race will get uglier as the weeks and months pass.

 * ... SCRIVNER: Meanwhile another incumbent supervisor, Zack Scrivner, has picked up another opponent in high school teacher and LGBT activist Whitney Weddell. No word on if marijuana will be front and center of that campaign, even though Scrivner voted with Maggard not to allow its sale in Kern County. And no supervisor story this year would be complete without a heavy dose of irony. As a college student, Scrivner was busted for possession of marijuana but here decades later positions himself on high moral ground by voting against it. (photo courtesy of The Bakersfield Californian)

 * ... INGA BARKS: Rumors are flying around town that KNZR radio has parted ways with longtime afternoon talk show host Inga Barks. I reached out to KNZR station manager Mary Lou Gunn, as well as Inga herself, but have heard nothing, which may be normal considering we are talking about personnel changes here. Barks has been absent on the radio recently (illnesss? vacation?) and that could have led to the speculation. Her mugshot and bio material remain on the KNZR website. Stay tuned.

 * ... JAZ MCKAY: Meanwhile, KNZR owner Alpha Media faced greater problems at the local station when social media exploded over a post by afternoon host Jaz McKay making racist comments about local Hispanics. McKay apparently posted a Facebook live post of him listening to Spanish language radio stations and referring them as "Spic" channels. That was picked up by former KNZR employee Chad Garcia who shared it with his followers, triggering a firestorm of complaints. McKay was not on the air Friday (a guest host filled in) and he told the local newspaper he was sorry if it offended anyone. All in all a bad day for Alpha Media. What is it they say about karma?

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Accidentally liked two posts from the same person and now Facebook thinks we’re getting married."

 * ... MORE TWITTER: "I just want one month where a headline doesn't appear that makes me picture Donald Trump having sex with someone."

* ... TRAGEDY: What a horrible week for our young people in Bakersfield. First, 16-year-old Centennial High student Clayton Boen died after falling out of a vehicle in a DUI related incident. Then, it was revealed that a 13-year-old Rosedale Middle School student committed suicide after she was bullied at school.

 * ... HOLIDAY LIGHTS: The folks who run the annual holiday light show out at CALM had their biggest year ever. According to Steve Sanders over at the Kern Superintendent of Schools, this was a record year with 67,618 people enjoying the light show that celebrated its 15th year. "That was about 15,000 more than last year and 10,000 more than our previous record year in 2012 of 57,993," Sanders said. He explained that will net over $200,000 for CALM, all of which goes directly into exhibits and improvements.

 * ... OLD DAYS: The other day I interviewed local historian John Kelley on the Old Ridge Route, the circuitous, winding road built in 1915 that connected Bakersfield and Los Angeles. Among the fascinating tidbits: how Hollywood celebrities like Clark Gable and Carole Lombard would visit some of the old hotels like the Lebec Hotel as a weekend retreat. When I returned home, a neighbor (I  live in a 1934 bungalow downtown) sent me a note about Clark Gable visiting my street. Julie (Clerou) Riegel said this: "On a Sunday afternoon in the mid 1950s, Clark Gable and his wife, Kay Williams, drove down Cedar Street in their long, shiny, beautiful black car to visit Kay Williams’ brother who lived next door to you. Even though I was a young kid, I can remember every detail... his dark overcoat, crooked smile, slick chocolate brown hair, and the confident and friendly wave he gave to all of us kids waiting in the street. I think he and his wife visited a few more times but I can’t remember those visits. So Clark Gable stood, walked, parked, smiled and waved not more than 20 feet from your yard."

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Rep. Kevin McCarthy walks a political tightrope by aligning himself with the president, and follow the money, and connections, in the 3rd District supervisor's race

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

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 such a special place. We value your feedback. Email your news and notes (good form, bad form, kids doing well, anniversaries, observations) to

 * ... KMAC: Here's a question worth pondering: how much damage is Kevin McCarthy doing to himself because of his close relationship with Donald Trump? It's topic No. 1 at lunch across town when when it comes to our favorite locally grown House Majority Leader, and increasingly folks are
going public with what they think. While a recent Washington Post story credited McCarthy for his ability to establish a relationship of trust with the president, here are home some people are thinking he has sold his soul for political expedience. It's a growing chorus of criticism that is growing bolder by the day, and you have to wonder what McCarthy is thinking as he shares the spotlight with a president who has become so divisive. Two vocal critics of McCarthy (albeit both are Democrats so some of this is expected) are criminal lawyer David Torres and plaintiffs attorney Matt Clark, both of whom use social media to take on McCarthy. Consider this recent post by Torres: "Why does our Representative Kevin McCarthy continue to defend the actions of President Trump? Why does 'Trump’s Kevin' believe it is ok to turn his head and ignore the hatred, racism and ugliness that spews out of Trump’s mouth and policies? Is it too difficult for McCarthy to shed the cloak of cowardice and exhibit fortitude, not like a man, but like a caring human being, and tell his constituents, better yet, American’s, that he condemns the President’s ill choice of words and lack of diplomacy against impoverished countries? That he does not believe those countries Trump impugned are inferior to the USA and that McCarthy acknowledges the scores of Americans from Haiti, Jamaica, Africa and Latin American countries who have contributed greatly to our society." (photo of David A. Torres)

 * ... MAGGARD VS HEINLE: Just how ugly will the race for 3rd District county supervisor get in the months ahead? If the last week is any indication, it will be plenty ugly. Supervisor Mike Maggard has come out swinging, accusing his challenger - city firefighter Jeff Heinle - of being backrolled by pro marijuana interests. But here's a hint: follow the money and
pay attention to who is supporting both Maggard and Heinle. There is no direct evidence that Heinle is backed by pro marijuana interests, and even if he were, it's totally legal as cannabis enters the mainstream of California politics. And here's something interesting: political strategist Kim Schaefer is now running Maggard's campaign. But it doesn't stop there. Schaefer is also working for a group called Kern Citizens for Patient's Rights that has a medical marijuana initiative on the city ballot. While it wouldn't affect the unincorporated county, the irony here is rich that Maggard's campaign is being run by an operative who is helping run a pro medicinal marijuana initiative that Maggard voted against when it came before the Board of Supervisors. What is it they say about politics making strange bedfellows? Anyway, would that qualify as a conflict for Maggard? Schaefer, by the way, formerly worked for Congressman Jim Costa and briefly was chief of staff for Supervisor Leticia Perez, who Maggard has accused by plotting against him along with her political consultant husband, Fernando Jara. As I said, pay attention to these connections and their own interests. Isn't politics grand? (photo courtesy of The Bakersfield Californian; Kim Schaefer photo from Facebook)

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "When people with multiple personality disorders are about to die, whose life flashes before their eyes?"

* ... SANTA CAROTA BEEF: Good news for the local ranching family that produces the grass and carrot fed Santa Carota beef: Eureka Burger will be featuring the beef this month. The burger, produced right here in Kern County, will be available at the Eureka Burger locations in Bakersfield, Hawthorne, San Diego and Las Vegas.

 * ... AMC THEATER: Have you been to the remodeled AMC Theater off California Avenue near Coconut Joe's? The theater features six small viewing rooms, each with about 20 seats with fully reclining, comfortable chairs. What's best: you can buy your tickets online and reserve your seating. The chain also has full beer and wine service and an extensive menu. The bad: a lot of ambient noise from the lobby and I had to use Fandango because the AMC website was not working. Still, worth your try.

 * ... EAST HIGH: East High School will be inducting 10 more people into its alumni hall of fame. The Feb. 10 banquet, held at the Marriott Hotel, will honor Ruben Elias, Rudy Gonzalez, Milt Henderson, Michael Mangrum, Julio Mercado, Dr. Jim Nuanaz, Ron Ray, Dr. Caleb Thompson, Mary Gordon and Judy Marsha Baer Yeager.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Steve Schilling given a proper sendoff as he heads to retirement, the Wounded Heroes Fund puts on a comedy jam and Rod and Julie Crawford survive the nuclear scare in Hawaii

Monday, January 15, 2018

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 such a special place. We value your feedback. Email your news and notes (good form, bad form, kids doing well, anniversaries, observations) to

 * ... OLD GUARD: There was a big send off for Steve Schilling as the outgoing CEO of Clinica Sierra Vista last week, and it many ways it showcased the changing of the guard in Kern County.
Schilling spent more than 40 years building Clinica into one of the largest providers of healthcare in the West, and over that time he moved adroitly on the political right and left to get what he needed to provide basic health care for the underserved. Among those I spotted at a reception at the downtown Women's Club were former Congressman Bill Thomas, former state senator and supervisor Roy Ashburn, Supervisor Mike Maggard, Mayor Karen Goh, Ben Stinson III, cardiologist Dr. Brij Bhambi, attorney Matt Clark and Schilling's replacement, new Clinica CEO Brian Harris. At one time Schilling, Thomas and Ashburn were at the center of political power in Bakersfield, and it was curious to see them back together for perhaps one of the last times.

 * ... TBC TROIKA: And speaking of the old guard, it was also curious to see so many former Bakersfield Californian big wigs at the reception, all of whom have since left TBC to strike out on their own. (Full disclosure: I too am a former TBC employee). The exodus from our local newspaper of top talent in the past year has been stunning, and it was on full display at the Schilling reception. Among those I spotted were former lifestyles editor Jennifer Self, now a director of advocacy for Clinica, former city editor Christine Bedell, now an alumni affairs director at CSUB, and former columnist Lois Henry, TBC's star editor/reporter who abandoned ship to work with a business advocacy group. And taking their picture? None other than John Hart, formerly one of TBC's talented photographers. Between the four of them, they represented more than 80 years of reporting on Kern County.

 * ... SOUND WALLS: It looks like work has started to build sound walls on the north side of 24th Street as the widening project moves into the construction phase. The sound walls (only on the north side, not the south) go in first followed by a total widening, resurfacing and installation of a landscaped median. The entire project, from Highway 99 to C Street, is expected to take two years. As City Manager Alan Tandy told me: "It will be a mess." Ain't that the truth.

 * ... COMEDY HOUR: Hats off to Julio Torres and the folks over at the Wounded Heroes Fund for a raucous, hilarious and successful comedy night to support the service dog program for combat veterans. Held Saturday night at the  Elks Club near the Garces Circle, the event raised money to train service dogs for veterans suffering from post traumatic issues.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "If I got a nuke alert I wouldn't call my family and say goodbye or anything. I'd be here tweeting top quality content for you all, harvesting retweets until the fireball took me."

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: A tropical outdoor bar is shown in a picture with this written on a chalkboard: "We have beer as cold as your ex's heart."

 * ... HAWAII: Rod and Julie Crawford, owner of Pyrenees Cafe and the Silver Fox Starlite Lounge, had just arrived in Hawaii for a vacation when the alarm sounded that a nuclear strike was imminent. This Facebook post from Julie says it all:  "Just want to say I LOVE YOU to all my friends and family today. I didn’t realize how sweet life is till I thought it was gone. Huddling between the beds holding our six year old baby girl between us kissing each other good bye was the real deal. I’ve never been so scared or more thankful all at the same time. I was not happy to die but glad we were all together as a family. Ok so now back to the vacation in beautiful Hawaii."

Friday, January 12, 2018

City firefighter Jeff Heinle challenges Supervisor Mike Maggard. Will the question of regulating marijuana be enough to elevate Heinle's candidacy? And check this out: there is some good news in the fight against cancer

Friday, January 12, 2018

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 such a special place. We value your feedback. Email your news and notes (good form, bad form, kids doing well, anniversaries, observations) to

 * ... MAGGARD VS HEINLE: Hold onto your seats but it looks like we have a doozy of a race coming up when Supervisor Mike Maggard faces off against city firefighter Jeff Heinle in the 3rd District county supervisor's race. Maggard has already come out swinging, implying Heinle will bring "Bay Area values" to more conservative Kern County, and he also accused Heinle as being a front man for pro marijuana interests. And even worse, Maggard claims fellow Supervisor Leticia Perez and her husband, consultant Fernando Jara, may also be conspiring against him. For the record, Heinle was born in the Bay Area but moved here as a teenager and has served 27 years as a city firefighter, hardly a carpet bagger. Heinle also took issue with Maggard on two important issues: he said he would support the regulation and sale of marijuana and he would have supported the Rudnick proposal to build a concert venue off Interstate 5.

 * ... THE POT VOTE: The real question in the Maggard-Heinle race will be this: to what extent did Maggard injure himself by voting against regulating and taxing marijuana when the county faces such a huge budget deficit? I think Maggard and the other supervisors were stunned by the blowback on social media by people of all ages, incomes and races after the Supervisors chose not to regulate cannabis. This much is true: there is a huge number of people (doctors, lawyers, veterans, business people) who support the legalization of marijuana because they recognize is it a relatively benign natural drug and its taxation could greatly help our community. The backlash is real. Will it be enough to elevate Heinle's candidacy? We will see.

 * ... CANCER: Are you ready for some good news on cancer? I posed that query to Dr. Ravi Patel, chief oncologist at the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center who appeared on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM this week. And indeed there is some good news. It turns out total deaths from cancer have dropped 25 percent since 1991, mostly because more people are giving up smoking. And if you want to reduce your chances of getting cancer, keep your weight down. Patel said it also turns out that 35 percent of all cancers are linked to obesity.

 * ... ECONOMIC WOES: Every year the Milkin Institute surveys the nation's largest metro area and rates them in terms of economic growth. The best performing large metro area? That would be Provo, Utah, which has become a technology hotbed. Following Provo were Raleigh, N.C., and Dallas. The worst performing metro area? You guessed it: Bakersfield. We fell from 59 last year to 101 this year. Said Milkin: "One of the largest oil producing counties was hit by the crude downtown a few years ago and employment still hasn't fully recovered."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Optimistic people want to hear the bad news first, while pessimists ask for the good. Realists just start drinking."

 * ... GOOD FORM: Local combat veteran Christopher Quinones believes in karma, so when a cashier accidentally gave him an extra $10 in gas than he paid for, he reminded her of her error. "But I couldn’t let it happen so I had to go back in and tell her what she did because I believe highly in karma. Then she says 'let me find out how God is going to bless you today!'"

 * ... BAD FORM: There are few things worse than bad grammar and misspellings when you are in the communications and marketing business. One repeat offender is the Downtown Business Association whose newsletter regularly contains misspellings and bad grammar. In its latest missive, it confused "your" and "you are." The DBA needs to learn to spell or hire a copy editor.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Jeffrey Green is out at Grimmway Farms as general counsel, City Manager Alan Tandy has no plans to retire and the Silver Fox teams up with Salty's BBQ to serve lunch

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

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 such a special place. We value your feedback. Email your news and notes (good form, bad form, kids doing well, anniversaries, observations) to

 * ... ALAN TANDY: City Manager Alan Tandy says his top three priorities this year will be dealing with a budget crisis, completing the transportation infrastructure projects like the 24th Street widening and the Centennial Corridor, and funding the police department to fight crime. Tandy also told me, during a wide ranging interview on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM, that at 69 years old he has no plans to retire anytime soon.

 * ... GRIMMWAY: It looks like longtime general counsel Jeffrey Green is out at Grimmway Farms. The privately owned company is not talking about what happened, but I have confirmed that Green's long tenure with the carrot company is over. Green worked for Grimmway for 27 years and he told me is now figuring out the next step forward. Green is married to District Attorney Lisa Green, who has announced she will not run for reelection.

 * ... SILVER FOX: The Silver Fox Starlite Lounge, which recently reopened after an extensive renovation, is partnering with Salty's BBQ to provide food service. According to Rod and Julie Crawford, the Starlite's owners, Salty's will be serving from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. It all starts next Monday, Jan. 15.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "There's water falling from the sky in Los Angeles. Grab your gluten-free, vegan, certified organic supplies, and take cover!"

* ... TAXES: All those tax and fee hikes passed by the California legislature are starting to show up in our lives. Chris Padham is one who noticed the new fees when he went to the DMV to renewal his motorcycle registration. Check this out: "Just paid the registration fee on my 16 year old motorcycle. Last year was $109, this year $148. And I have three more vehicles coming up. A good thing the economy is picking up so I can afford the privilege of paying for the crazy train, and public transportation and without a doubt the general fund. Who knows, maybe even some left over to improve the roads:"

 * ... BAD FORM: I won't name names, because that is besides the point, but I was alerted to perhaps one of the worst examples of bad form that I have seen in a long time. It turns out two 10 year olds were friends and one was mildly developmentally disabled. When the disabled child returned home after spending the night with his friend, he carried a note from his friend's mother. In it, the mother proclaimed the friendship was off because the disabled child liked cartoons that the mother deemed "too young" for her son, as well as the fact the disabled child occasionally shook his hands involuntarily. She said she didn't want her son picking up those habits so the disabled child was no longer welcome. This left me speechless. How about this mom: you should celebrate your son befriending someone with special needs. It may teach him patience, empathy and understanding and at the end of the day make him a better person. Shame on you, mom.

 * ... RIDGE ROUTE: Did you know that Ulysses S. Grant Jr., one of two sons of the famous ex president and Union Civil War general, died at the Sandberg Summit Hotel on the old Ridge Route that connected Los Angeles and Bakersfield? Grant had come west and settled in San Diego, speculating in real estate and building a hotel, and was staying at the Sandberg when he died in September of 1929 at the age of 77. The Sandberg was located just south of Gorman and was a favorite haunt for the rich and famous on their way to and from Los Angeles.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Bakersfield Observed is now online only. Today's topics: Super PAC enters the fray behind the local marijuana vote, just how responsive are our city council members and Supervisor Mike Maggard's office shows some class

 Monday, January 8, 2018

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 such a special place. We value your feedback. Email your news and notes (good form, bad form, kids doing well, anniversaries, observations) to

 * ... BALLOT INITIATIVE: Keep an eye on that ballot initiative to put the question of marijuana before Kern County voters. First, the Political Action Committee (PAC) pushing the measure is well
funded by outside interests who see Kern County as an ideal place to cultivate cannabis for the Los Angeles market. And make no mistake about it, this has nothing to do with the retail sale of pot but rather big money investors who are salivating over our ability to grow, package and distribute marijuana, much as we do pistachios, grapes and almonds. Word is this could be the same money that is behind those "Mad Mike Maggard" radio advertisements attacking the supervisor for voting against regulating marijuana in Kern.

 * ... WHO IS LISTENING: I ran into a retired Bakersfield elementary school teacher the other day who shared that she began using medicinal marijuana after brain surgery. "I called (city councilman) Ken Weir because I live in his district, and I even wrote him a note telling him how it (marijuana) has helped me. He never called me back. So I called Andres Gonzales (Ward 2 councilman) because I knew him when he served on the school board. Same thing. Never got back to me. And I even worked on his campaign." Both Weir and Gonzales voted against the regulation or sale of medicinal cannabis in Bakersfield.

 * ... FLU SEASON: It seems like just about everyone in town is sick with the flu, or at least flu like symptoms, and it's a strain that puts folks down for two solid weeks. How bad is it this year? In Ventura, a friend received a call from Kaiser with a prerecorded, “widely broadcast” message warning that wait times in all ERs and Urgent Care facilities are very long right now. In other words, "don’t even think about coming in." Meanwhile here locally, doctors at Preferred Family Care on Truxtun say this is one of the worst flu seasons ever.

 * ... SIGNS: Have you seen the signs that pranksters put up on the "Welcome to California" posts along the state lines? They read: "Official sanctuary state. Felons, illegals and MS13 Welcome! Democrats need the votes!"

 * ... LOCAL HISTORY: Are you a history buff? Ever wonder what the city of Bakersfield looked like before the 1952 earthquake? Or what a sleepy little burg it was before Interstate 5 connected us with Los Angeles. On Wednesday, January 17, I will host local historian David Kelley on my radio show (KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM) to chat about the old Ridge Route and the grand hotels that lined the winding, dangerous road. It was a favorite retreat for the Hollywood elites, yet today little evidence is left. Tune in at 1:30 p.m. for a fascinating interview.

 * ... MAGGARD: Hats off to Supervisor Mike Maggard's office for being responsive to its constituents. A resident of La Cresta, upset at the overflowing trash bins on Panorama Bluffs, complained to Maggard's office and the next day the park was spruced up. Said the resident: "We may disagree on the marijuana issue but his staff is great with stuff like this," she said.

 * ... TYRONE WALLACE: Another Kern County kid heads to the pros. Tyrone Wallace, a former Bakersfield High School standout who later went to Cal Berkeley, has signed a contract to play for the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA. Wallace played with the a D-League affiliate in Salt Lake City before signing with the Clippers. Wallace scored his first NBA points with the Clippers this week.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Breaking news ... a Citizens Initiative is being pressed to put the question of legal, regulated marijuana on the ballot

 This is not entirely unexpected but it looks like there is a push to put the question of regulating marijuana in Kern County on the ballot, bypassing our City Council and Board of Supervisors who have rejected the idea. I will be chatting with the organizers of this ballot initiative at 2 p.m. on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM today ... if you are out of the area listen to the interview live on KERNRADIO.COM ... 

Our collective shame ... must we?

 La Cresta resident Esther Brandon posted this disgusting photo of a trash can on the Panorama Bluffs walking trail. No excuses here, from those who leave their trash in the park to the inability of the county to keep up with the trash pickup. Go figure.