Monday, March 19, 2018

A vintage car show downtown clogs the streets and drives customers away, Traco Matthews leaves Aera Energy for another job and knowing when the small things can have a big impact

Monday, March 19, 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 to 

 * ... CAR SHOW: I'm not a fan of car shows, but I understand those who get into these kind of things. But the days of staging these shows in the downtown area - particularly a work day - should be long gone considering the problems they create. On this past rainy Friday, it was near impossible to navigate downtown as the Cruzin Bakersfield vintage car show wound through the downtown streets. The irony here is that shows like this actually hurt downtown businesses, not help them.
When you rope off streets you are pushing people out of downtown, not inviting them in, and the local shops and restaurants suffer. What should have been a busy night at the local eateries was turned into a retail nightmare, and one restaurant owner told me it took her a full hour to get into work. The Cruizin Bakersfield car show does a lot to help local charities, but next time they should consider Stramler Park or the Kern County Fairgrounds. Benefiting charities at the expense of local restaurants and retail shops is a bad deal.

  * ...  BOULEVARD: More big news in local food and entertainment: The Boulevard, a 45,000 square foot project over off Buck Owens Boulevard, will open next month featuring gastropub style cuisine, an outdoor beer garden, state of the art bowling, laser tag, bocce ball and a ropes course. This is yet another project by the Bynum family, this time David Bynum and Trifecta Management. His brother, Don Bynum, is part of a group that runs Temblor Brewing Co.. The BLVD, as it will be known, sits in the same spot that once housed the old Home Base. It will open April 19.

 * ... TRACO MOVES ON: A big congratulations to Traco Matthews who is leaving Area Energy to become one of the Human Resource directors for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools. Matthews announced the move on Facebook and we will no doubt hear from from this man who has thrown himself into our community. (picture of Traco with Aera's Cindy Pollard)

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Showing your love used to be buying them flowers or writing a poem. Now it’s just looking at them for 5 minutes without checking your phone."

 * ... EAST SIDE: Sometimes it's the little things that make a difference, and Ward 2 City Councilman Andrae Gonzales is the master of knowing that small things can make a big impact. Since unseating Terry Maxwell on the council, Gonzales has made his "neighborhood clean up" Saturday a fixture of his office, and he was out again this weekend with Ward 2 residents cleaning the streets. This week his monthly "Keep East Bakersfield Beautiful" cleanup covered the alley between Monterey and Lake Street from Williams to Beale.

 * ... SHAME ON THE PADRE: Meanwhile shame on the Padre Hotel and managers in its Brimstone lounge for putting this grand hotel in a bad light. I was dining with a friend when he submitted a $40 Padre gift certificate to pay for drinks. Our waiter told him that "management" said the $40 could only be used for food. Say what? Perhaps not coincidentally, former Valentien manager Jeramy Brown is one of the managers at the Padre now, and he was known for rejecting gift certificates when he worked at The Mark across the street. If a gift certificate is for "solid food only," perhaps it should stipulate that.

 * ... MEMORIES: This old picture of 19th and Chester looking west down 19th Street is compliments of the Kern County of Old Facebook page.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Emilio Huerta is eyeing a new Latino district on the Board of Supervisors, the battle for the iconic Silver Fox neon sign and a new radio show will honor our local veterans

Friday, March 16, 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 to

* ... HUERTA: What was really behind the decision by Emlio Huerta to drop out of the race
challenging Rep. David Valadao? Was it really to concentrate on recruiting more Democratic candidates as Huerta told the press? Or simply an acknowledgment by Huerta that he could not unseat the Hanford Republican? Could be, but consider this theory: Huerta realized he could not beat Valadao and his now lining up to run for a seat on the Kern County Board of Supervisors once the district lines are redrawn per a federal court order. This much is certain: there will be a second "safe" district for Latinos once the redistricting is complete, likely in time for the November elections. And once those district lines are clear, expect the son of Dolores Huerta to throw his hat into the ring.

 * ... SILVER FOX: Let's hope Rod and Julie Crawford succeed into their effort to get the old neon Silver Fox sign back on the roof of their bar, the iconic Silver Fox Starlite Lounge across from Mexicali on 18th Street. The sign was donated to the Kern County Museum before the bar was sold to the Crawfords, and now they'd like it back. Said Rod: "Drive down 18th street at night and imagine how that neon sign would look lit," he said. I agree, and with the rapid improvements to what I call the 18th Street Corridor, it would behoove the museum to return the sign to its original place. Think about all the classic neon signs around town, and how they add to the character of our town.

* ... MEDICARE SCAM: If you are on Medicare, you likely have heard that the government will soon issue new Medicare cards with new identification numbers to replace your Social Security number. It's all about privacy and making sure your Social Security number does not fall into the wrong hands. That's all good news, but with every change in Medicare you can depend on the scammers to be one step behind. Here is one scam going around town: someone calls you from "Medicare" and tells you that you need a temporary card for a small fee. They want all your personal information, bank and credit card numbers, so they can process your temporary card. The truth: Medicare would never call you and it does all communications by mail. Do yourself a favor and ignore these scammers.

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "Don't tell me you miss me. Tell me you are outside with tacos."

 * ... KERN VETS: We live in a community that honors its veterans, and for the first time ever we will now have a radio show devoted to honoring the service of our local vets. Chad Garcia, who spent 13 years in the Army as an airborne infantryman, will host "KERN Vets" starting this Saturday on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM. The show will run every Saturday from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. His first guest will be a veteran of the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.

* ... MEMORIES: Check out this picture of the old fire station #1 at the southeast corner of 20th and K streets around 1935. The structure was demolished around 1939 when the new fire station #1 was completed at 21st and H streets.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Stinson's merges with O'Leary's Office Products, Flame Broiler opens a new location and the new Movie Studio Grill is advertising for employees

Wednesday, March 14, 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 to 

* ... STINSON'S: Another big move by furniture and office supplies company Stinson's: they have taken over rival O'Leary's office supplies in a merger that will combine the two most prominent locally owned players serving Kern County. Ben Stinson III told me he expects the merger to bring the same
level of customer service - and competitive pricing - to the newly merged company. O'Leary's founder John O'Leary will stay with the new company for at least three years, working in business development and making sure the transition is smooth.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Instead of calling it the John, I’m going to start calling my bathroom the 'Jim.' That way I can say I go to the Jim every morning."

* ... FLAME BROILER: A sixth location of the popular rice bowl restaurant Flame Boiler is being built in the Artisan Square shopping center off Allen Road. Known as a venue for healthy eating, Flame Broiler now has more than 180 franchise locations in California, Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Oklahoma.

* ... SYMPHONY: Reader Gerhard Schmidt wrote to talk about audience protocol at local symphony events. "The audience attending the performances of the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra tries very hard to demonstrate their appreciation by applauding after each movement or segment of a piece.  On Saturday, the 10th, the last piece instead of the typical 3 to 4 movements, had 13 shorter segments. The flow was very much disrupted by the thirteen times applause interruptions, once even before a segment was completed. The conductor had to turn around and hold up his hand, indicating STOP. Actually, proper form at symphonic concerts calls for applause only at the end of the composition."

* ... MOVIE THEATER: Bakersfield is about to get its newest - and some might say riskiest -- entry into the local movie theater scene. It's called the Studio Movie Grill and it is now hiring employees for the latest location at Rosedale and Calloway Drive, just a few doors down from the 5 Guys burger restaurant. The theater will offer a robust menu and in-studio dining. The company has been wildly successful in other cities. Will it fly here?

 * ... DENNIS MILLER: Ain't this the truth from comedian Dennis Miller:

* ... MEMORIES: Enjoy this old photo of the original Hall of Records downtown, and its replacement.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

A prowler with a scoped rifle cases homes in Seven Oaks, new retail around the Maya Cinemas, some important work being done by Jim Scott and KGET and some old pics of Disneyland

Monday, March 12, 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 to 

* ... PROWLER: Did you see the story on the local television website about a prowler in Seven
Oaks? A homeowner's security camera caught the prowler, a young black man, holding a scoped rifle, or possibly an assault weapon, walking up to the front door. The security camera scared him off but it's enough to make you think about crime throughout our community. This is Seven Oaks, not downtown, not Oleander, not the east side, and not Niles Street. Let that sink in for a minute. Police later arrested William Kindred, 24, and believe he may be the man with the weapon.

 * ... NEW RETAIL: Two new businesses opened in the new retail area built adjacent to the downtown Maya Cinemas. The first tenants are Yogurtland and China Bistro. There is room for another half dozen or so retail tenants.

* ... LOCAL TV: Some of the best reporting on local television appears every Saturday afternoon hosted by veteran anchor Jim Scott. In a world when media is fragmenting, and the ranks of reporters who play the watchdog role have dwindled to almost nothing, we desperately need the kind of reporting that Scott brings with "Kern County In Depth." It's relevant, local, civil and presents all sides. The problem? KGET buries it in the Saturday afternoon time slot, a ratings disaster for such an important show that should be more widely viewed.

* ... ADAM BOWLES: Congratulations to meteorologist Adam Bowles who has left KERO TV for a new job in New Orleans. The Mississippi State University alumni announced his departure on Facebook, pretty much par for the course for the millennial generation.

 * ... WOOD-DALE: The opening of the second location for Wood-Dale Market in Grand Island Village has been a huge hit. Perhaps this is no surprise but for owner Israel Vasquez, pouring thousands of dollars into a new location - with its pricey rent - is enough to make you sweat. But both Vasquez and his son Chris told me the reception in the Seven Oaks area has been outstanding. One of the big hits: the locally produced Santa Carota, grass-fed and carrot finished beef.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "There’s someone out there for everyone. All you have to do is sort through 6.93 billion people. Good luck."

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this old picture from the 1955 opening of Disneyland and its commissary.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Teachers live in fear as the Dolores Huerta Foundation seeks to strip them of their ability to suspend students due to "willfull defiance," Sequoia Sandwich Co. is sold and Wood-Dale Market opens in Seven Oaks

Wednesday February 28, 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 to

* ... SHAME ON DOLORES: Shame on Dolores Huerta and her foundation for pushing a bill (SB 607) that would virtually strip local high schools of their ability to suspend students. In the name of
"equality" and in a mad rush to reduce suspensions, Huerta argues more Latino students are being
suspended than whites, and therefore this amounts to discrimination. Say what? To follow that logic, teachers and administrators would have to be all racists, singling out Latino students for punishment, and that is patently absurd. SB 607, authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, would delete a provision of the Education Code that allows a child in grades 4 to 12 to be suspended or expelled from school for  disrupting school activities or willfully defying teachers or other school personnel.
Meanwhile, talk to a teacher in one of our public high schools, and they will tell you moves like this scare them to death. Students routinely tell teachers to "fuck off" and teachers are physically attacked by students. One teacher told me he asked a student's name and was told, "I don't need to tell you, you fucking retard." If teachers cannot discipline students, chaos will rein supreme, and in some schools, it already does.

 * ... RIP BILL MURRAY: A good man and a longtime local businessman died unexpectedly recently. I learned of the death of Bill Murray on Facebook via a post from his son, Tyler. Murray was the longtime manager of local hotels, including the Doubletree, and recently moved to Washington state. A service will be held Friday in Des Moines, WA.

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: CSUB basketball Coach Rod Barnes knows the multiple roles he plays in the lives of his players: coach, surrogate father, mentor, counselor and consoler. Which is why I was touched with what he posted on Twitter Sunday after his team beat Seattle on "senior night. Said Barnes: "Every year senior night is tough for me. Grateful to be a part of these young men's journey. The best is yet to come. Go Runners!"

* ... WOOD-DALE: The owners of Wood-Dale meat market say they will open their second location in Seven Oaks later this week. Israel Vasquez, owner of the iconic butcher shop, said the second storefront at Grand Island Village will open Thursday, featuring an expanded meat market, fresh fish and hot meals to go. The original Wood-Dale, on Stine Road, will remain open. Under Israel and his son Chris, Wood-Dale has won a large and loyal following who appreciate the quality and customer service of a world class butcher shop.

 * ... SEQUOIA: Another popular Bakersfield restaurant, Sequoia Sandwich Company, has been sold. Long a favorite of the lunch crowd under owners Jeff Simpson and Gary Blackburn, Sequoia grew from its original 18th Street location to branches on Rosedale Highway and Ming Avenue. Originally bankers, Simpson and Blackburn opened Sequoia in 1999. The company was sold to the same people who purchased Sequoia's Clovis location a couple of years ago. I am told that longtime Sequoia manager Valerie Damron will become the new operational manager.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this notice for the opening of the old La Cresta airfield up where Greenlawn Cemetery now sits.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Central valley Republicans Kevin McCarthy and David Valadao pick up challengers, keep an eye on those young protesters and Bakersfield gets another burger joint

 * ... MID TERM ELECTIONS: The Democratic Party has a good chance of retaking the Congress in the mid-term elections, but so far it looks like the Central Valley Republicans are in little danger of losing their seats. Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy got his first challenger this week in Mary
Helen Barro, a longtime Democratic activist but one not likely to be able to mount a serious challenge to McCarthy. And over in the 21st Congressional District, labor activist Dolores Huerta is using her sharp elbows to make sure other Democratics don't join her son, Emilio Huerta, in opposing Rep. David Valadao. Virtually no one gives Emilio Huerta a chance of unseating Valadao. If the Democrats expect to retake the House, they likely will have to pick up seats elsewhere.

 * ... STUDENT PROTESTS: Keep an eye on the young students calling on Congress to enact sweeping gun control. That's the word from CSUB professor Jeanine Kraybill who told me these early protests show the promise of developing into something much deeper and more widespread, reminiscent of the early days of the Vietnam War protests. The political parties that ignore this movement do so at their own peril. 

 * ... EVACUATION: So were you listening to the radio, or watching TV, when the mandatory evacuation order scrolled across the screen? That's right, it called for a "mandatory evacuation" in Kern County and then was quickly dismissed. What happened? It looks like the mistake was make in the county emergency management department. Remember what happened in Hawaii recently? Who has the hand on the button in Kern County?

 * ... WILDEST DREAMS: A popular consignment shop that was once across the street from The Padre Hotel has moved east to 716 19th Street. In Your Wildest Dreams Consignment is now part of the emerging "east of Chester" renaissance that has shown remarkable resilience in the past few years. Expect it to open soon and check out its eclectic wares.

* ... IMBIBE: A couple of events coming up at Imbibe Wine and Spirits that are worthy of your attention. First, on Thursday, March 1, Imbibe will be featuring 13 wineries pouring over 40 high end wines (some over $100 a bottle) from the Mt. Veeder area of the Napa Valley. Tickets are $35 each. Then, the following week on March 14 the craft beers of Barley Forge Brewing will be featured during a tasting that cost just $15. Make sure you check out The Patsy, a coconut beer that is unique and popular.

 * ... CALI BURGER: Yet another burger joint is opening in town, this one off Olive Drive and Highway 99. CaliBurger will open Monday at 10:30 a.m. at 5646 State Road in Oildale, right off the 99 and Olive Drive. The restaurant offers burgers and chicken sandwiches along with "perfectly seasoned fries and delicious shakes." The burger joint has locations in 13 countries, including Spain and Taiwan.

 * ... OLD PHOTO: Check out this picture I borrowed from the Kern County of Old Facebook page. Amazing.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Democratic leaders worry that Dolores Huerta's self interest will spoil their chances of unseating Rep. David Valadao, Youngblood says Perez should not have voted on marijuana and Santa Carota burgers are a big hit

 * ... DOLORES HUERTA: For those who don't know her, Dolores Huerta is known as a labor rights "icon" because of her work decades ago with Cesar Chavez. But for those who do know her,
she is known as something of a political bully who puts her own interests above that of others. Sound harsh? Not if you know Huerta, and more evidence of that was on display recently when the Los Angeles Times wrote about her involvement in the Democratic fight to unseat Rep. David Valadao in the 21st Congressional District. If you remember, Huerta's son Emilio challenged Valadao in 2016 and lost badly. He was a horrible candidate and he failed to raise much money. He is running yet again, and Democratic leaders fear he will again fail to flip a district that went heavily for Hillary Clinton in the last election. But Huerta has made it clear that she doesn't want the Democrats to recruit any other candidates. "She told me clearly," one Democratic official told The LA Times, "stay out of the race." Democrats privately worry that the 87-year-old Huerta is putting her own self interests above that of her party, and for those who know her, this comes as no surprise.

 * ... DONNY YOUNGBLOOD: Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood thinks Supervisor Leticia Perez should have recused herself from voting on legalizing marijuana sales because of a possible conflict of interest with Perez's husband, Fernando Jara. Jara denies he was involved in local pot issue but others, including Supervisor Mike Maggard and his chief of staff Jeff Flores, claim otherwise. "I like both Mike and Leticia so I am caught in the middle," Youngblood told me. "But yes I do think she should not have voted" on that issue.

 * ... SANTA CAROTA: The locally produced Santa Carota beef hamburgers now served at Eureka burger on Stockdale Highway have been a huge hit. Priced at $17, this burger is not cheap by any means but is hugely popular. Cody Bossaert, Eureka's local general manager, told me the restaurant sold 160 Santa Carota burgers the first week alone.

 * ... PICKLEBALL:  Here's a tip for the Chabad of Bakersfield, the new owners of the old Laurelglen Tennis Center: if you own those tennis courts behind your facility, convert them into pickle ball courts, charge for admission (or a pickbleball monthly membership) and reap the rewards. Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America, and you saw it this weekend when the Bakersfield Racquet Club held its first "Coconut Cup" (named after the sponsor Coconut Joe's) drew more than 100 entries from places like Shell Beach, Fresno, Nippomo, Pismo Beach, Visalia and the Antelope Valley. Pickleball is so popular at BRC that they froze the membership and there is now a waiting list.

 * ... THE PLUNGE: Enjoy this old picture of the Union Avenue Plunge, where Bakersfield cooled off during the hot summers.

Friday, February 16, 2018

District attorney looking into a conflict of interest on the Board of Supervisors, a classic Craftsman comes up for sale downtown and a new Greek eatery gets some love...

 * ... CANNABIS: It appears the Kern County District Attorney's office is looking into the controversy involving Supervisors Letitia Perez and Mike Maggard in the ongoing debate over
marijuana. Specifically, KGET's Danny Freeman reported that the DA public integrity unit was looking into allegations that Perez had a conflict of interest when she voted to regulate marijuana in the unincorporated areas of the county. Fernando Jara, Perez's husband, is alleged to have been deeply involved in the cannabis fight therefore creating a conflict for his wife. Stay tuned because all this is just heating up.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "The problem with drinking with people from work is they’re the ones I bitch about when I’m drunk."

 * ... CRAFTSMAN: One of my favorite homes in Bakersfield, a beautifully restored Craftsman on 19th Street downtown, has come up for sale. Easily one of the most recognizable homes in the downtown area, the home has 2,637 square feet of living space, four bedrooms and two baths, a detached garage and a classic wrap around porch. The price: $625,000.

 * ... DARLINGSIDE: Don't miss the Boston-based group Darlingside when they appear at the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame on Wednesday, March 7. Sponsored by Passing through Productions, tickets are available on for just $20 each. Consider this excerpt from a recent review of the group: "Boston quartet Darlingside manage exactly that on their new album, Extralife, a sumptuous set of harmony-heavy songs that, like an impressionist painting, conjures the feeling and texture of end times while leaving plenty of space for the listener to decide just what such an event would actually look like. The follow-up to their acclaimed 2016 album, Whippoorwill, finds Darlingside eschewing the Americana-leaning folk-rock of their earlier work to explore experimental, complex chamber pop, all while spinning sparkling yarns of underground bunkers and nuclear fallout."

 * ... SULTAN'S: Have you tried Sultan's Mediterrean Grill out off Allen Road? A friend swears it is the hottest new eatery in town, featuring fresh Greek entrees at affordable prices. The restaurant is located on the corner of Allen and Brimhall roads.

 * ... FATHER CRAIG: Monsignor Craig Harrison may be one of the most joyful, hopeful and spiritual person I know. But even a man of the cloth has his limits. What bugs him most? Negativity, divisiveness and personal attacks. "That's the main reason I defriend people on Facebook," he told me this week. "I use Facebook to uplift me, not to make me angry." And the other reason he defriends on Facebook? "People who post every meal they eat." Sounds about right, Father Craig.

 * ... OLD BANK: I found this photo of the old Anglo-California bank, located at 18th and Chester, on the Kern County of Old Facebook page. The building now houses the Chain Cohn Stiles law firm.