Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Former homeless shelter director Louis Gill challenges Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Democrat Rudy Salas takes aim at Rep. David Valadao, a big gift for the CSUB wrestling program and CBD retail pioneer Ted Sisco dies

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 COLIN POWELL: We lost Gen. Colin Powell this week, but he leaves behind a legacy of leadership and wisdom. Powell had been suffering from cancer and Parkinson's when he contracted

COVID-19 (he was vaccinated but remained in a high risk group) and died. He was 84. Powell left the nation a lot in his writings, and one of his most powerful were his 13 lessons of leadership. Here they are:

* ... LOUIS GILL: Former non-profit leader Louis Gill is challenging Rep. Kevin McCarthy in the 23rd Congressional District, but are voters ready to send McCarthy packing just as he may be ready to become House Speaker, assuming the Republicans win the House back? Gill spent 21 years with Bethany Services, serving as head of the homeless shelter and the Alliance Against Family Violence. In announcing he faulted McCarthy for focusing on his own political ambition at the expense of the district. Gill will run as a Democrat and will join two others - actor Bruno Amato and teacher Marisa Wood - in the campaign. While anyone challenging McCarthy may seem like a long shot, Democrats believe this time is different. Here is why this is important: McCarthy has enjoyed overwhelming support for reelection over the years, but he did so while positioning himself as something of a moderate in the mold of his mentor and predecessor, Bill Thomas. But the Trump presidency, and specifically McCarthy's loyalty to Trump, as well as McCarthy's wishy-washy response to the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, has cost McCarthy support among moderate Republican business owners and voters. And McCarthy also is widely distrusted by the conservative fringe of his own party, where he is viewed as a Trump conservative out of convenience, not conviction. Has McCarthy lost enough local support to allow someone like Louis Gill to slip through? It's doubtful, but only time will tell. Gill will also have to go up against McCarthy's ability to build a sizable war chest, not insurmountable but tricky to say the least. It's game on. Stay tuned.

* ... RUDY SALAS: Meanwhile the Democrats also took aim at the 21st Congressional District where Rep. David Valadao is seen as vulnerable. Assemblyman Rudy Salas has announced he is running against the Republican Valadao, and he made the announcement surrounded by some Kern County Democratic power brokers, including Supervisor Leticia Perez and civil rights advocates ate Dolores Huerta. Already announced as a candidate on the Democratic side was former Assembly person Nicole Parra, a once formidable leader and opponent who appears to be getting marginalized by her own fellow Democrats. (file photos of Valadao, Parra and Salas)

* ... TED SISCO: It was distressing to learn of the passing of Ted Sisco, one of the retailing pioneers of the CBD industry in Kern County. Sisco died under unknown circumstances and services are pending. He was just 52 years old. This note was posted by employers of his CBD Shoppe on F Street: "It is with great sadness that we have to inform you all of the loss of our owner, Ted Sisco. He was not just our boss. He was a mentor, a leader, and most of all our friend. He cared for all of us employees like family and he truly cared for the well-being of our customers. We thank you all for the shares, phone calls, and prayers. We also ask to please respect his family's privacy during this difficult time. We will continue to stay open for the time being and will give updates on any changes."

 * ... CSUB WRESTING: The CSUB wrestling program may have an enviable record in competition, but the program has struggled to survive through the years thanks to the efforts of volunteers and the Coyote Club. And now one of wrestling's biggest supporters has stepped forward with a big gift to keep the program going. The Tobin family (Craig Tobin represented CSUB on the team when it won a national title) is donating $125,000 to establish the Tobin Wrestling Scholarship at CSUB. It will be paid out over five years. Craig Tobin, a 1979 alumnus, said the focus of the new scholarship is to bring more students into CSUB’s wrestling program and support them in their academic and athletic pursuits. There are currently 30 student-athletes in the program, according to the university. “We want to give back a little bit,” he said. “This is a strong program that CSUB has. There’s a lot of good, hard-working kids out there. All they need is a chance.” (historic picture of CSUB wrestlers provided by CSUB)

 * ... MEMORIES: Every wonder where the lines for the old trolleys ran in East Bakersfield? Well this old map from the Kern County of Old website answers some of those queries.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Walgreens shuts downs more stores due to looting in San Francisco, Hank Pfister Jr. and Carl Bowser among those inducted into the BC Athletic Hall of Fame, a remembering when they broke ground for the homes in Westchester

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.

 * ... WALGREENS AND SHOPLIFTERS: A true sign of the times are the live shots from California retailers like Walgreens, where shoplifters are causing so much damage that the chain has been forced to

close locations. That's right, all those videos you have seen of people cleaning out Walgreens with stolen items have finally taken their toll, particularly in San Francisco where Walgreens is closing four more retail outlets, citing the "organized" theft rings. Why all the theft? Well it all started when the state decriminalized store theft, saying any theft under $900 would are treated as a misdemeanor. And that opened the floodgates, yet another well intentioned law that backfired. Walgreens has now closed 17 stores because of the thefts.

 * ... BC ATHLETIC HALL OF FAME: Bakersfield College honored some of its most prominent former students this week, holding its inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame dinner over at the Luigi's banquet hall of 19th Street. It was a packed hour of BC supporters to recognize some of the biggest names in BC athletic history. Among those honored:
 * Gil Bishop – BC Athletics Director from 1954 to 1968.
 * Carl Bowser – Football head coach who led the team to the 1988 National Title
 * Bruce Burnett – BC state wrestling champion in 1969 and 1970.
 * Gerry Collis – BC baseball and football coach. He is the winningest head football coach in school history with 121 wins.
 * Bob Covey – Track and field coach for 42 years at BC. His teams won 24 league titles, 10 league cross country titles, named California Coach of the Year five times.
 * Billy Cowan – Basketball and baseball athlete. Set several school records in basketball.
 * George Culver – All conference player in baseball in 1962 and 1963. Played nine seasons in Major League Baseball.
 * Frank Gifford – Named Junior College All-American at BC in 1949. Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
 * Dean Jones – Starting point guard for BC’s state champion basketball team in 1978. Coached men’s basketball from 1985 to 1993.
 * Colby Lewis – Standout pitcher for baseball in 1998 and 1999. First team All Conference player in 1999. Draft in first round by the Texas Rangers.
 * Aisha Harrison-Maston – State champion on women’s track and field team in 1997. Won individual titles in long jump, triple jump, and 100-meter hurdles.
 * Hank Pfister Jr. – Standout tennis player winning conference, sectional championships for BC before playing 11 years in the ATP Tour. Won two French Open doubles titles.
 (file photos of Hank Pfister and Carl Bowser)

* ... TRASH HAULERS: Let's hope this all turns out well but a local group of family owned trash haulers, with familiar names like Varner Brothers and Superior Sanitation, have banded together to sell their businesses to a Fontana-based company. Those being sold include Howard's Garbage, Lamont Sanitation, Mountainside Disposal, Price Disposal, Superior Sanitation, Varner & Son, Varner Brothers, Kern Refuse Disposal and Metropolitan Recycling Corp. Some of the locally owned companies cited a wave of upcoming state regulations as the reason they are leaving the business.


 * ... MARK ROOT: The Bakersfield community laid to rest Dr. Mark Root, the popular obstetrician and gynecologist who was killed in a motorcycle accident recently. An overflow crowd turned out at St. Francis for an emotional mass that centered on Root's passions, his love of medicine and his devotion to family and friends. Monsignor Michael Braun came out of retirement to helped preside over a mass that emphasized Root's legacy of loving fiercely and freely, living bravely and boldly and honoring family.

 * ... SPOTTED AT BRUNCHFEST: Two of the hardest working people in our local pet care industry, city animal control director Julie Johnson and Dr. Rose Rakow of Stiern Veterinary, were spotted at this weekend's Brunchfest celebration at Stramler Park handing out samples of the Babe alcoholic drink. The event was put on by American General Media and its lineup of local radio stations.

 * ... OLD WESTCHESTER: Thanks to my friend Chris Lowe for posting this remarkable aerial picture of  new homes being built in Westchester around 1948. This picture confirms that the Westchester neighborhood is located north of 24th Street and the residential area to the south is known simply as downtown.

 * ... MEMORIES: A special thanks to the Kern County of Old website for this old picture showing a group of students from 1919 at Kern Union High School (Now Bakersfield High School). Students names: in no particular order Emma Howard, Robert Bennett, Rosa Driver, Lena Hogge, Emma Sanders, Leo Kennedy, Walter Vernon, Grifa Colston, Mark Wilcox and Orneeta Atkinson. The Professor seating in front is probably, last name Dunn or Wilcox.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

A new study finds 300,000 victims of priest sexual abuse in France while others who left the priesthood accused continue to work with children, authorities warn about fake Covid-19 vaccination cards for sale on the internet and services are set for Dr. Mark Root at St. Francis Church

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.

 * ... PRIEST SEXUAL ABUSE: The sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is well known and there are few communities that have escaped being touched by the scandal. Locally, former priest Craig

Harrison faces allegations from multiple men that he used his power and influence to extract sexual favors and two lawsuits against Harrison are moving forward. (He has not been charged criminally because the statute of limitations has expired, but he is subject to civil action) Now comes word that in France alone, a study found an estimate 330,000 victims of child sex abuse within the church over the past 70 years. Those are truly astounding numbers, and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said that "in country after country, state after state, we learn of horrifying stories from survivors and of the devastating effect that abuse has had on victims." So what happens to priests who have been identified by the Catholic Church as being "credibly accused? Well, an Associated Press analysis found that nearly 1,700 priests and other clergy members that were credibly accused are "living under the radar with little to no oversight from religious authorities or law enforcement." And some of them, the AP said, are working as teachers, nurses, volunteers at non profits and other even foster and care for children. And yes, the AP said some had continued to abuse children even after leaving the church. Harrison's name appeared on the Diocese of Fresno's list of priests who have been "credibly accused" released earlier this year.

 * ... MARK ROOT SERVICES: Services for the late Dr. Mark Root, a popular obstetrician and gynecologist who died in a motorcycle accident last week, have been set for this Friday at St. Francis Church. The service is set for 1:30 p.m. with a lunch and reception afterward at Woolgrower's. Root, 65, died while on on a night motorcycle ride and was not found for several hours. No cause of the accident has been determined.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Wow so when Facebook and Instagram go down, everyone loses their mind, but I have been feeling down for the last ten years and nobody cares. Is it because I'm brown??"

 * ... PASSAGES: Lauren Skidmore takes over the Bakersfield Homeless Center and the Alliance Against Family Violence this week and she will be tested from the start. The stubborn pandemic lingers, the public's appetite and patience for the homeless have worn out their welcomes, and virtually everyone agrees the number of homeless on our streets is woefully undercounted. Meanwhile, over at CSUB men's basketball coach Rod Barnes is preparing for a new season that kicks off Dec. 2 against Santa Clara. Barnes will appear on my Bakersfield Observed podcast this week, and if you want to catch Skidmore's conversation with me, check it out on the podcast on Spotify or

 * ... BEWARE FAKE COVID CARDS: Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer is warning the public to stay away from fake COVID-19 vaccination cards for sale on the internet. Her advice is simple: don't buy them and don't print them out. “Our office is aware of counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination record cards advertised on social media websites, e-commerce platforms, and blogs, as a way for individuals to misrepresent themselves as vaccinated,”  Zimmer said in a news release. “These counterfeit records are illegal and undermine the health and safety of our community. Please do not purchase a fraudulent vaccination record card, do not make your own, and do not fill in blank vaccination record cards with false information.” People are also discouraged from posting a vaccine card on social media, where personal information can be stolen.

 * ... SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: The Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra will be celebrating its 90th concert season with a live performance this Friday at Mechanics Bank Arena. The concert will open its doors at 5 p.m. with an optional pre-concert lecture and the concert begins at 6 p.m. Guest violinist Simone Porter will be performing Bruch's Scottish Fantasy while Maestro Stilian Kirov turns his attention to Dvorak's Symphony No. 9.

 * ... MEMORIES: Some wonderful old shots of our community back in the day courtesy of the Kern County History Fans.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Crystal Palace plans on reopening in November, Samantha Fish comes to World Records and Bakersfield loses a prominent obstetrician-gynecologist in a motorcycle accident on the Westside Parkway

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.

 * ... MARK ROOT: Bakersfield lost one of its most prominent and popular doctors this week when Dr. Mark Root was killed in a motorcycle accident on the Westside Parkway. The California Highway Patrol

said Root was traveling east bound on the parkway Monday night when his Harley Davidson left the road and careened down a slight embarkment and through a fence. He was located several hours later and the CHP said they believed Root may have been traveling at a high rate of speed. Root, 65, was a respected and popular long-time obstetrician-gynecologist who delivered hundreds of babies in town, as well as serving as chief medical officer at Bakersfield's Memorial Hospital. Gifted with a quick wit and keen intelligence, Root became a fixture at Memorial Hospital and in local medical circles and was active in any number of local charitable causes. He is survived by his wife Bernadette and children Daniel, Jordan and Jackie. Services are pending. (family photo of Mark and Bernadette Root)

 * ... RENO FLIGHTS: There is some good news for local travelers: Meadows Field will soon get service to Reno from ExpressJet Airlines. The new agreement will run for eight months and provide flights three days a week. The service will start as early as next week.

* ... SAMANTHA FISH: Live music has been one of the casualties of the ongoing pandemic, but some local venues are inching back into the business. This weekend, World Records will be hosting Samantha Fish, a red-hot blues guitarist recently voted one of the greatest female guitarists of all time. World Records owner Pat Evans said customers must show proof of being vaccinated.

 * ... CRYSTAL PALACE: And more good news on the music front: After going dark or more than a year, Buck Owens' Crystal Palace is planning to reopen in November. The problem, KGET says, is staffing. The Palace is looking for part-time bartenders, servers, hostesses and kitchen staff.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "I’m giving a best man speech at my brother’s third wedding, and I’m going to open with 'Hi, it’s me again.'”

 * ... JOSHUA TREES: There is an odd story coming out of east Kern County where hundreds of protected Joshua trees have been found uprooted and destroyed. KERO-TV reported authorities are trying to determine if they trees were cut down legally, to make room for a solar farm, or if they were destroyed illegally. Stay tuned. (photo by KERO)

 * ... MEMORIES: Take a moment to gaze at these historic photos, one of the Garces traffic Circle back in 1954 and the other a "before" and "after" shots of the old French shop. Thanks to the Kern County History Fans Facebook page.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Studies show even extreme athletes may live no longer than weekend warriors, Lauren Skidmore steps up to take over the homeless shelter, the Basque Club boycotts the Kern County Fair and the collective shame of our stray dog crisis

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.

 * ... EXERCISE:  Here's some good news, particularly you weekend warriors out there who try to squeeze seven days of exercise into a weekend. It turns out a number of studies show that there is a limit to how much exercise benefits you. In other words, just because you exercise like a demon seven

days a week doesn't mean you will live longer than someone who does much less. First some background: a study from the Centers for Disease Control shows that about 10 percent of all deaths among Americans between the ages of 40 and 70 ae a result of too little exercise. But scientists still don't know what much we need to evercise to actually live longer This month, a study published in the JAMA Network Open indicates that taking 7,000 steps a day seems to be the optimum, with long term benefits leveling off at 10,000 steps. So take 20,000 steps a day if you like, but don't expect to live any longer.

 * ... LAUREN SKIDMORE: The move by the Bakersfield Homeless Center to hire Lauren Skidmore as its new chief executive officer seems to be a stroke of genius. Replacing outgoing CEO Louis Gill was always going to be hard, but the choice of Skidmore is about as good as it gets. Skidmore has spent  five years as district director for Assemblyman Vince Fong, and before that she spend time as director of the Kern Citizens for Sustainable Government. She also serves on the Bakersfield College Foundation board and the Kern County Planning Committee. In addition to running the homeless shelter, Skidmore will serve as CEO of the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault.

 * .. SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "It’s that time of year where girls wrap entire table cloths around their neck and call them scarves."

 * ... BASQUE CLUB: The Kern County Fair opens this week and let's hope it gets over its rocky start. For the first time since anyone can remember, the Fair will go on without one of its all-time culinary favorites: the Basque Club food shack. The club decided to forgo the Fair because of fears of the coronavirus, a wise choice.

* ... STRAY DOG CRISIS: Here is a some good news if you ever lose your dog: on average, experts say lost dogs are within six to seven houses of their own while missing. That's right, your lost dog may literally be around the corner or in someone else's home. That was among the nuggets of wisdom I received when Julie Johnson appeared on the Bakersfield Observed Podcast with her observations on the stray dog and cat crisis. Despite the recent "Empty the Shelter" drive,  Johnson said the SPCA and the city Animal Care Center  (Johnson serves as executive director of both) are near capacity, and things are not expected to get better soon. The problem: too many people in Kern County treat their pets as disposable items, so called puppy mills proliferate and a good number of people simply refuse to spay or neuter their pets. (file photo of Julie Johnson at the shelter)

 * ... MEMORIES: This first picture is of the old ice house on Chester just north of the Garces Circle. I am not sure of the date but this gives you an idea of what the place looked like back in the day. And for all you who spend time in Carpenteria, enjoy the second old shot from the beach city in a quieter time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Red hot conservative Kern County votes to oust Gov. Newsom but is overwhelmed by the rest of the state, owners of the popular eatery Dot and Ott say they have had enough and Trump lashes out at Kevin McCarthy for his betrayal

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.

* ... CALIFORNIA RECALL: If you want to know how out of step Kern County is with the rest of the

state, consider this week's California recall election. Kern County voted whelmingly to recall the governor, by some 58 percent, while the rest of California went the other way. By the time the ballots were counted, 63.9 percent of California voters cast ballots against the recall, with just 36.1 percent voting in favor of recall. Even once red Orange County voted against the recall.

* ... CHANGING CALIFORNIA: While Kern County voted predictably Republican, once conservative counties like Orange flipped and voted to keep Newsom in audience. This of course drew the inevitable criticism from other parts of the state, like the post below:

 * ... RIP DOT AND OTT: One of the most promising local restaurants in town, Dot and Ott on 18th Street, its closing for good. In a message posted on Facebook, the owners of the downtown eatery said between the pandemic and general uncertainty they were getting out of the business. "Bakersfield, our doors at Dot and Ott are permanently closed, as of today, Tuesday September 14. Yes, again," it read.  
"We thank you, all who supported us, and our staff who showed up during a time when staffing was so difficult. This is not a one-reason decision. It was a culmination of many things- COVID, staffing (though we need to give a huge thank you to our staff that was with us up until today), funding, shut-downs, numbers, etc. It ultimately comes down to not wanting to fight a constant uphill battle. This industry is not for us, but we put our all into it and are proud as to how it evolved. We will go out thankful with the opportunities, thankful for those in the community who supported us, and thankful for those who wrote nice reviews. Thank you again. With love, the Blackwells."

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "Costco is the only place that you can walk out with a Kayak, 25 pounds of salted meat, eight pairs of jeans, ten bottles of suntan lotion, a midget pony and part ownership of the Washington Football team.

 * ... TRUMP SCOLDS MCCARTHY: Former president Donald Trump remains furious with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, saying the Bakersfield congressman "fucked me" after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. According to a soon-to-be released book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Trump doesn't trust McCarthy and believes McCarthy's sole aim in life is to become speaker of the House. "This guy called me every single day, pretended to be my best friend, and then, he fucked me," Trump said, according to a new preview of the book by CNN. "He's not a good guy." In the week following the Capitol attack, McCarthy endorsed a resolution to censure the former president while saying Trump "bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack by mob rioters." Despite McCarthy's later attempts to repair his relationship with the former President - including a trip to Mar-a-Lago to visit Trump in late January - Trump reportedly continues to hold McCarthy in low esteem. "Kevin came down to kiss my ass and wants my help to win the House back," said Trump, according to the book.

 * ... FACE OF EVIL:  If Jamie Osuna doesn't have the face of evil, show me someone who does. Osuna is charged with the 2019 torture killing of his cellmate, Luis Romero, at Corcoran State Prison. He was beheaded and some of his body parts were removed. At the time of the incident, Osuna was serving a life sentence for the torture and killing of Yvette Pena of Bakersfield. Osuna, 33, plan to argue that Osuna is incompetent to stand trail.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this picture of the old Beale clocktower, where it stood before the 1952 earthquake and what the intersection looks now.