Monday, May 25, 2020

Restaurants open up for Memorial Day weekend, Supervisor Mike Maggard on fighting the coronavirus and City Councilman Willie Rivera decides enough is enough

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 person or organization.

 * ... MEMORIAL DAY IN PICTURES: It was the perfect holiday weekend, mild temperatures that will give way to valley heat this week, but a memorable one nonetheless. My thanks to all the
photographers who shot these scenes of life in Kern County.

 * ... RIVERA IS OUT: Ward 1 City Councilman Willie Rivera, who was just 22 when he was elected, is stepping down as he accepts a new job with AERA Energy. You can bet that they are already lining up potential candidates to replace Rivera, whose term in office was not supposed to expire until 2022. Rivera issued this statement: “It is my hope that notifying you of my intentions now will allow the city to take action to schedule an election for my replacement to coincide with the city council elections already scheduled for November 3, 2020. Doing so would avoid any additional special election costs and allow the residents of Southeast Bakersfield to choose their next representative."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Thanks to the magic of Twitter, you’re no longer restricted to fighting with family, friends and neighbors; you can now trade insults with total strangers. And you don’t even have to face them! Invigorating, isn’t it?":

 * ... BIKE SHOPS: The pandemic has led to a rush on bike shops, and local shops say they are selling everything they can get their hands on and are swamped with repairs. Over at Action Sports, which prides itself in customer service, owner Kerry Ryan noted there has been a crush of tuneups and repairs now that people are dusting off their bicycles and taking them out for family time during the lock down. If you need proof, hang around the bike path at the Park at RiverWalk to enjoy hundreds of families out on their bikes enjoying the mornings. Said Ryan: "We doubled our staff to meet the demand at the door," he said. "Our safety measures have pleased all but a few. The lockdown has made people appreciate getting out of the house and bicycles are the exciting way most people can do that.:

 * ... MOVING FORWARD: Supervisor Mike Maggard borrowed an analogy from his son when he talked about life during a pandemic. His son, active military, said during a firefight the only option was "to keep moving forward. Doing nothing is death." Maggard said the same was true during the pandemic where "standing still is not an option. We have to move forward." Maggard appeared with county CAO Ryan Alsop on KGET's Saturday afternoon show "Kern County In Depth" with host Jim Scott.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out the old Vaughn Taxi from around 1910, thanks to our friends at the Kern County History Fans Facebook page.

 * ... MORE MEMORIES: This picture dates from 1903 at Daytona Beach, Florida. It's not local but it's a wonderful picture anyway.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Kern County begins to open up after the long closure, San Louis Obispo closes "bubble gum alley" and local meteorologist heads to Florida

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 person or organization.

 * ... RESTAURANTS REOPEN: There could not have been better news for the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who either own or work at one of our restaurants. Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, they can now open their doors with certain restrictions. The bars won't be open but you will be able to enjoy table service. The folks over at The 1800, voted best new restaurant of the year by
readers of The Californian, summed it up nicely on Facebook when they wrote this: "Brighter days are ahead y’all! As a family owned and operated restaurant our goal is to be the safest restaurant to re-open, not the first. We love and miss you Bakersfield and will keep you updated on our plans.

 * ... MORE OPENINGS: Some restaurants were ready to open quickly, including Shawna Haddad's Two Goats and a Goose (formerly Muertos in the Wall Street Alley), and Wikis Wine Dive and Grill. Others, like Uricchio's Trattoria, were taking it slowly having just reopened to offer curbside service. Meanwhile, The Outlets of Tejon announced that hoped to be open on May 27, but that date could chance. The food court at the Outlets will remain closed temporarily.

 * ... BUBBLE GUM ALLEY: Now here is a true sign of the times. Apparently concerned about the health aspects of San Luis Obispo's famed "bubble gum" alley, authorities there have decided to close it. For how long, we don't know.

KERO TV meteorologist Allison Gargaro has left the station, joining Fox 35 in Orlando, Florida in a similar position. A graduate of Arizona State University, Gargara joined KERO two years ago and quickly engrained herself in the community.

 * .... REMEMBERING HARVEY: There was a nice tribute to the late Mayor Harvey Hall, posted on the marquee of The Fox Theater downtown. Has it really been two years since he passed?

 * ... MORE MARQUEE ACTION: The use of theater signage during the pandemic has exploded across the United States. Take a look at some of these random shots.

 * ... MEMORIES: Who remembers Freddie's Top of the Hill on Mt. Vernon? Thanks to the Kern County of Old Facebook page for this blast from the past.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Gov. Newsom wants to shrink the state prison system at the same time business people are being threatened for reopening their shops, Uricchio's Trattoria to reopen for curbside service this Tuesday and Pastor Angelo Frazier to appear on The Richard Beene Show

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 person or organization.

 * ... RELEASING PRISONERS: Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to drastically shrink the footprint of California’s prison system, blaming massive budget cuts triggered by the coronavirus. According to his revised budget, Newsom wants to close two state prisons, shutter all three of the state-run juvenile prisons and cut some inmate firefighter programs. And if that is not enough, he is also proposing that prisoners be released early by shortening parole to a maximum of two years, down
from five years. The irony, of course, is all this comes at the same time that state officials are threatening to jail business owners who open during the pandemic. Now think about that: at the same time we are releasing hardened criminals, we are threatening local business people - the lifeblood of our economy - if they reopen their business to make a living. Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood is among those who think this is ludicrous, as does District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer. Let all that sink in while you gaze at the picture below of some of the inmates of our state prison system.

 * ... RESTAURANTS: If one thing is for certain, it's that we are all itching to go back out to eat at our favorites haunts. And while we aren't there yet, people are voting with their feet. Outside Luigi's on Friday, takeout customers enjoyed sitting at a long table to catch up, and the same was happening Bootlegger's on Oak Street. This week, Tuesday to be exact, Uricchio's Trattoria opens back up for curbside pickup and it's safe to assume there will be a mad rush to catch up with owner Claire Porter and her crew of regulars.

 * ... OPEN UP: Speaking of the pandemic and the lockdown, Pastor Angelo Frazier of Riverlakes Community Church has been an outspoken proponent of allowing churches to reassemble and for businesses to reopen in Kern County. You might have spotted him at the rallies in front of City Hall, wearing a mask and waving signs urging the reopening of the economy with reasonable accommodations. Frazier will be my guest on The Richard Beene Show this Monday at 2:30 p.m.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "When a disc jockey or a talk show host or a journalist who is being paid to work from his or her home tells people who can’t work, pay bills or pay their rent or mortgage to 'Stay home and be careful because we’re all in this together,' it’s okay to question the premise."

 * ... PUBLIC DEFENDER: An attorney in the Kern County Public Defender's office has triggered a firestorm over a Facebook post suggesting there should be a "memorial" for the "victims" of law enforcement officers. The post read: "If Friday is Peace Officer's Memorial Day then is Sunday their Victim's memorial day?" Bad form? You be the judge.

 * ... EARTHQUAKE: Did you feel that 6.5 earthquake out of Nevada on Friday? It happened around 4 a.m. and while it produced little damage (see the pictures below) it was felt in some parts of Bakersfield.

Well here is another sign of the times. The Jim Burke Ford dealership on Street was vandalized this past week to the tune of some $70,000. Apparently a homeless person took rocks and bricks to the showroom windows as well as damaging multiple new vehicles on the lot.

 * ... MEMORIES: Who remembers the old River Theater, where Oildale teenagers of the 1960s would enjoy a matinee for just 25 cents Thanks to the Kern County of Old Facebook page for this nugget.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Bob Hampton, enthusiastic Taft businessman and USC alum, dies at the age of 83, Sheriff Donny Youngblood minces no works in calling for the reopening of the economy, and Dr. Brij Bhambi lays out the road toward herd immunity

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 person or organization.

 * ... HERD IMMUNITY: Centric Health's Dr. Brij Bhambi says herd immunity may be the only way to deal with the long-term consequences of the coronavirus. Bhambi said society has moved from "trying to eliminate the virus to trying to live with it," and it is now clear the nation is too
restless to stay locked down much longer. The only viable option, Bhambi said, is "a reasonable strategy to build herd immunity." That means protecting those at risk - the elderly and people with health issues - while allowing the young and the healthy to return to work. At the same time, society must continue with social distancing and other precautions like wearing face masks. Still, he warned, there will be casualties."Not everyone is going to take personal responsibility" for their own welfare, he warned.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "When this is all over I hope there are lots of job openings for people who can bake bread and put together jigsaw puzzles."

 * ... RIP BOB HAMPTON: In some ways Bob Hampton epitomized Kern County and his adopted hometown of Taft: larger than life, rooted in a blue collar work ethic, successful in a quiet way that was never flaunted and loyal to a fault. He was an enthusiastic graduate of USC, worked in the recycling and waste industries and although he could afford to live in Bakersfield's finest neighborhoods, it was Taft where he worked and called home. Hampton was 83 this week when he suffered what appears to be a heart attack at his Taft office and later died. The outpouring of affection for Hampton and his widow, Judy, was immediate and impressive.

 * ... SHERIFF YOUNGBLOOD: Sheriff Donny Youngblood minces no words when it comes to the pandemic and what it means for local businesses. Youngblood said the current state policy of threatening restaurants and bars with losing their alcohol licenses if they open was "tyrannical" and that his office has no intention of playing the enforcer when "people are just trying to make a living." In a perfect world, Youngblood added, the state should allow individual counties and cities to make their own decisions about opening with proper social distancing protocol. I am not a science denier, he said, but rather a person looking for a reasonable accommodation for people and businesses.

 * ... NORDSTROM CLOSING: One of the growing list of victims to this pandemic is Nordstrom, which is closing 16 locations because of the disruption in sales. Among those to be closed in the Nordstrom on State Street in Santa Barbara.“These types of decisions are never easy because we realize what this means for our employees,” the retailer’s corporate office said in a media statement. “Our goal is to best position ourselves to serve customers in each market where we operate. Because of the impacts COVID-19 has had on our business, we need to take a critical look at the physical footprint of our stores to determine which we will continue to operate.”  Nordstrom has been an  anchor in the Paseo Nuevo mall for almost 30 years along with Macy's, which closed three years ago.

 * ... ZELEZNY: Hats off to Lynette Zelezny, the CSUB president who was voted the CSU President of the Year by the student associations of the university system. Zelezny was the face of the Cal State system when CNN aired a report on the system moving to online learning in the fall.

 * .... MEMIORIES: Back in 1952, just after the big earthquake,  this is what Chester Avenue looked like. Thanks to the Kern County of Old Facebook page for this shot.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Experts say it is harder to contract the coronavirus outside, the Padre hotel restaurant and bar opens back up for to-go service and is it safe to allow churches to reopen?

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 person or organization.

 * ... CORONAVIRUS: It might come as no surprise, but it is worth noting that medical experts now concede it is much better for you - and harder to contract the coronavirus - being outside rather than inside. This news come as people have become weary and restless over local governments closing parks and
beaches, shutting down basketball and tennis courts and generally doing everything possible to keep people inside. “Parks, beaches — as long as they're not cheek to jowl, cycling, walking, this is good,” said Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Enjoy nature. It’s good for us, and it has very low risk of spreading the virus.” And that, is good news.

 * ... CHURCH SERVICES: Meanwhile, we have all heard the arguments for reopening church services in this pandemic. But Glenn Bland, owner of Bland Heating and Solar, cautions it may not be the smartest idea. This is a tad long but worth a read: "Lately I’ve seen lots of noise about opening houses of worship and restaurants with social distancing measures in place. As an expert in HVAC technology, I’m saying it’s just not possible. Air conditioning systems recirculate the air within the building envelope at a rate of approximately 400 cubic feet per minute per 12,000 btus of capacity.
Typically there’s about 12,000 btus of unit capacity for every 200 square feet of commercial building.
Example: 2,000 square building/200 = (10) X 400cfm = 4,000cfm. So in a 2,000 square ft. building with 8 ft. ceilings, every four minutes would be a 100% complete circulation of all the air in the building. The formula is directly proportional so the rate of change stays the same regardless of building size. nAre you getting the picture? It wouldn’t matter if you’re 6 feet apart or six inches, everything contained in your bodily excretions in vapor form is shared with everyone in the building envelope every FOUR MINUTES. Worship via Zoom, order for take out or delivery, let your hair grow a little longer, cut your own toenails, shop on-line, etc. Having patience a little while longer may save your life or the life of someone you love."

* ... CAFE SMITTEN: I was thrilled when the owners of Cafe Smitten decided to reopen their restaurants for take-out service. That, and news that Uricchio's Trattoria would open for curbside service on May 19, sends a strong message that we may be slowly returning to normal. Mayor Karen Goh was also happy about Smitten, posting a series of pictures and this valentine on Facebook: "Thank you, Bakersfield, for continuing to support our SMALL BUSINESSES. Welcome back, Cafe Smitten, Shai and Stasie Bitton! Delicious quinoa bowl – perfect combination of warm red quinoa, egg, avocado, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and kale."

 * ... MORE EATS: Elsewhere, I hear the Brimstone bar at The Padre Hotel will reopen, possibly this week. Also returning for curbside service is Woolgrower's this week, and next Tuesday, May 19, Uricchio's Trattoria will be up and running with a limited pickup service.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Nobody looks back on their life and remembers the nights they had plenty of sleep."

 * ... FOX THEATER: You have to admire the creative thinking at The Fox Theater, which is raising money during this pandemic by renting out its signage for $200 a day.

 * ... MEMORIES: Take a trip down memory lane and check out these photos, separated only by the hands of time.