Thursday, February 14, 2019

Rains bring good news for the snowpack in the high Sierras, the hi-speed rail to nowhere will end in Bakersfield, and a happy ending for a stray dog

Friday, February 15, 2019

 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 to live. Send your tips to

 * ... SNOWPACK: Do you remember just a few years ago when we thought it would never rain in
Bakersfield again? We went three straight winters with hardly a trace of rain and then this year comes and - voila - we are deluged with rainfall. At this point, the high Sierras are at 123 percent of the normal snowpack, and more is coming. Enjoy these days because this stuff doesn't happen often.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Someone just called me a pompous ass... I was so flummoxed, my monocle fell right into my shark fin soup."

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "You can a lot about a woman by her hands. For example, if they are around your throat she is probably upset."

 * ... HI-SPEED RAIL: After Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he was killing parts of the high-speed rail project, this is what it will look like at the end and billions of dollars.

 * ... GOOD FORM: Remember the black labrador mix who was abandoned near Lake Ming the other day? Well the dog has now been adopted by a couple who were looking to replace their own dog who recently died of cancer. Richard McDonald adopted the 2-year-old lab mix as a Valentine's Day gift for his wife Patty, who has been looking for a "special" dog to replace their own dog. They were told the dog's name was Anakin, but may in fact rename it. By whatever name this dog is going to have a good home. (photo courtesy of The Bakersfield Californian)

 * ... ANNE FRANK: If you are a history buff you are in for a treat next month when the step-sister of Anne Frank will appear at the Fox Theater for a special lecture. Eva Schloss, now 90, will discuss her relationship with the young Anne Frank before she was rounded up by the Nazis and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp where she died. This event is expected to sell out so you will want to buy your tickets soon. The talk will be particularly relevant given the anti-Semitic comments coming from freshmen in Congress and the ongoing attacks on the state of Israel.

 * ... RAISING CANE'S: We have a new fast food franchise in town, and this one comes with some serious positive reviews. Raising Cane's, which specializes in chicken strips, has opened on Coffee Road north of Rosedale Highway. In typical Bakersfield style, it is standing room only since it opened earlier this week.

 * ... MEMORIES: A full service gas station on the old Grapevine.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The California snowpack is rocking this year thanks to a wave of storms in the Sierras, Carl's Jr. hops on the plant-based meat trend, Crabfest nets some big money for St. Francis Parish School and Mexicali does a gang busters business

Monday, February 11, 2019

 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 to live. Send your tips to

 * ... PLANT BASED MEAT: If you think the move toward plant based diets is a fad, think again. Sales of plant based meat substitutes are growing at 23 percent a year and have now reached $1.5
billion in sales annually. Carl's Jr. recently introduced the Beyond Burger, a fully plant based alternative that uses beet juice to mimic meat juices, and Taco Bell is touting its meatless alternatives. The meat industry is so concerned that cattle ranchers are lobbying lawmakers across the country to define "meat" as coming from true meat sources like cattle.

 * ... MEXICALI: Have you been to the downtown Mexicali since Mexicali West closed? Suffice it to say but the place is packed, drawing customers from the now shuttered Stockdale Highway location. Some of the Mexicali West employees are now working downtown, including the ever popular waiter Jackie.

 * ... SNOWPACK: They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and no where is that truer than these images of the California snowpack this year compared to last. The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which is a primary water source for the state, is 123 percent of normal — an astounding number when you consider at this same time last year, it was a mere 26 percent."

 * ... CRABFEST: Monsignor Craig Harrison and the St. Francis Parish wrapped up another successful Crabfest this weekend, raising more than $200,0000 for the elementary school before a packed crowd at the fair grounds. Crabfest is always one of the grand networking events of the year, and I found myself seated with Frank and Rosemary DeMarco of Rosemary's Creamery (and their daughter Rosemary) along with state Sen. Shannon Grove, Mayor Karen Goh and Roy Charles Keenan. So many others I spotted there, including St. Francis Principal Kelli Gruszka, Adam Belter, Fran and Gregg Gunner, Lisa and Craig Edmonston, Holly Arnold, Jim and Beverly Camp, Corey and Duane Keathley, Michael Turnipseed, Assemblyman Vince Fong, Chamber president Nick Ortiz and Hispanic Chamber president Jay Tamsi, City Councilman Andrae Gonzales, Sylvia Mendez and H.A. Sala, Dr. Javier and Laurie Bustamante, Jim Cretol, Jim Scott and Robin Mangarin Scott, Annalise and Trevor Townsend, Lillian and David Brust, Paul Andre, Lauren and Jeremy Helper, Brandon Stallings and Gina and Joey Pearl. Special awards of excellence honors were given to Teresa and Shawn Shambaugh and Mary Johnson. (photo of state Sen. Shannon Grove and Rosemary's Creamery owner Frank DeMarco)

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 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "What if a politician did blackface and ended up getting murdered by a revenge-seeking Liam Neeson?"

 * ... CHANTRY: Michelle Chantry, who resigned as chief executive officer of The Bakersfield Californian, has been appointed chief operating officer of Western Valve in Bakersfield. Western Valve was established in 1991 as a valve repair and machine shop but now features an impressive 50,000 square foot state of the art manufacturing facility on five acres.

 * ... MEMORIES: And lastly, I can't get enough of these old pictures of the old clock tower. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Three Kern County cities make a list of the "worst cities" in America, McFarland High rolls out the "early college" program and graffiti vandals deface freshly painted utility boxes on Panorama Drive

Friday, February 8, 2019

 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 to live. Send your tips to

 * ... WORST CITIES: Three Kern County cities made the list of the top 50 "worst cities" in the United States. Arvin, Taft and California all made the list, which was compiled by The Wall Street
Journal based on affordability, the local economy, the quality of life and the community. The top five "worst" cities were Highland Park, Michigan, Makaha, Hawaii, California City, Florida City and Mendota, Ca.

 * ... MCFARLAND HIGH: Did you know that McFarland High School has boasted the highest graduation rate in Kern County for the past three years? And the high school now has become the first in the state to introduce the "early college" program, which allows seniors to graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate's degree from Bakersfield College. Starting next year, all ninth graders at McFarland High will be enrolled in the early college program.

 * ... GRAFFITI: Remember when local artists teamed up with county administrators to paint the utility boxes at Panorama Park with color images of flowers, trees and skylines? It was a thoughtful project, and it brought a new energy and positivity to the popular park along Panorma Drive. And as things go here, it didn't last long before graffiti artists ruined it all. Almost all of the freshly painted utility boxes have been tagged.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Half-time Super Bowl show review: The good news? I saw two nips. The bad news? They belonged to that Maroon 5 guy."

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "Once you reach that level of dad where you put your phone in your shirt pocket there is no way back."

 * ... JAZZ FESTIVAL KILLED: The Bakersfield Jazz Festival, a benchmark event for our community, is taking a year off and will not be held this year. Jim Scully, the direction, had this to say: "The week of BJF is filled with events at CSUB this year honoring the new CSUB president, so it’s the right year for a reboot. We are taking a year to reinvent and re-imagine our event. We will be back and stronger than ever in 2020 - best to you all, and thanks for your support."

 * ... ETHICS PANEL: The Kegley Institute of Ethics out at CSU Bakersfield has brought on two professors as part of its Faculty Fellowship. They are Dr. Alice Hays (CSUB Department of Teacher Education) and Dr. Jeanine Kraybill( CSUB Department of Political Science). Dr. Hays’ project focuses on collaborating with local teachers and CSUB students to promote the development of ethical, social, and educational competencies in young students. Dr. Kraybill’s project focuses on the “different voice debate,” centered on representation of female judicial officers in the United States and, related to this, whether (and, if so, in what ways) female judges adjudicate differently on key issues than their male counterparts. Dr. Kraybill will investigate this issue by developing a survey that examines this question with juridical officers throughout California. Kraybill appears every Thursday at 2:30 p.m. on The Richard Beene Show on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM.

* ... MEMORIES: Check this out, the old Southern Hotel in its heyday.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Supervisor Mike Maggard tells Jim Scott the remaining local pot shops will have to close this summer, a local writer questions if there is a 'war on men' and does it do more harm than good and a farmer's market is coming to east Bakersfield

Monday, February 4, 2019

 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 to live. Send your tips to

 * ... POT SHOPS: After years of rancor and political wheeling and dealing that led to a conflict of interest charge against Supervisor Leticia Perez, it looks like Kern County's experimentation with legal marijuana will end this summer. That's according to Supervisor Mike Maggard who told
KGET's Jim Scott this weekend that in May, all of the existing pot shops in the county will have to close, unless they are granted extensions in February. For their part, the pot shop owners have been requesting an extension to recoup their investments, holding out hope that they can stay open a few more months with Supervisor approval.

 * ... LETICIA PEREZ: For her part, it looks like we indeed may be heading to a trial for Supervisor Leticia Perez on the conflict of interest charges filed against her. If you are new to town, Perez was charged because she failed to disclose that her husband, Fernando Jara, was lobbying for marijuana interests at the same time she was poised to vote on pot regulation. The charge is a misdemeanor but has hurt her politically and called into question her judgment. Stay tuned and let's see if there is a last minute settlement. Perez is represented by H.A. Sala, one of our town's most accomplished and aggressive defense attorneys.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "If you’re ever feeling down on your appearance, remember: even the ugliest potato can become a beautiful delicious French fry. Everybody wants a French fry."

 * ... WAR ON MEN: Are we witnessing a war on men? Has the assault on 'toxic masculinity' gone too far? That is what Stefanie Daubert wondered in a Community Voice opinion piece written for The Bakersfield Californian. I will be interviewing Daubert on The Richard Beene Show on Tuesday. Tune in to hear her explain why this war on men (my words, not hers) could be doing more damage than good.

 * ... FARMER'S MARKET: Is northeast Bakersfield getting a farmer's market? Apparently so if you believe this Facebook post I spotted. Word on the street is that the owner of Hen's Roost, the popular vegan restaurant downtown, is behind the new farmer's market.

 * ... MEMORIES: Don't you love this old postcard promoting the Santa Fe railroad, circa 1950s? Thanks to the Facebook page Kern County History Fans for this one.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

A high school teacher and a graphic porn site but Bakersfield in the news, City Councilman Andrae Gonzales brushes off an attack by Fernando Jara and Jean Fuller pushes an "early college" program

Friday, February 1, 2019

 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 to live. Send your tips to

 * ... FRONTIER PORN: There wasn't a bigger story this week than the revelation that a Frontier High School science teacher allegedly posted graphic videos on a porn site. Will the teacher, Emily
Salazar, lose her job now that virtually every male student at the school has likely watched their teacher perform in the most graphic fashion? Legal experts, including noted plaintiff lawyer Daniel Rodriguez, say it is not clear if Salazar can be fired for her behavior outside the classroom. Rodriguez noted that in some similar cases elsewhere, the teacher was transferred but kept her teaching credentials. Stay tuned for this one. (file photo of Emily Salazar)

: Ah local politics .... dripping with irony and full of grand standing, personal attacks and duplicity. Let's start with the latest dustup in the Kern County Democratic Party where political
consultant Fernando Jara (husband of Supervisor Leticia Perez) launched a vicious personal attack on City Councilman Andrae Gonzales for allegedly not being Democratic enough in the mid-term elections. Among other things, Jara said Gonzales was directly responsible for two Democrats losing their races for supervisor: Jeff Heinle (he lost to Mike Maggard) and Grace Vallejo (she lost to David Couch.) But he didn't leave it there, opting to go personal with this post: "You are the money changer, not a follower of the radical Jesus of the Gospel.You are the inn-keeper who sends children to be born in mangers. Certainly, Councilman, you are the man who reaches out for a bag of coins from the powers that be and hand over your leaders and the poor of this community, people of color, the least of these, to political, economic, and psychological Lynching. Repent." All this hides the fact that there is no love lost between Perez and Gonzales, or the fact that it was Jara's own work for the marijuana industry that led to conflict of interest charges against his wife. For his part, Gonzales took the high road and dismissed Jara's attacks as "nothing. I don't pay attention to him." (Facebook photo of Fernando Jara)

 * ... KAMALA HARRIS: Do you like your health insurance? Is it provided by your employer, or school, or perhaps you work for the county or the city? Polls and any number of surveys reflect that the overwhelming number of Americans are happy with their insurance, despite the fact there is a push on the left to move to a single payer system. And who is leading that charge on the national level? None other that Kamala Harris, the California senator who announced a presidential run this week. Under her plan, all private policies (including plans negotiated with local and state governments) would be stripped and replaced by a Medicare for all program. How does that make you feel?

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, you’re probably really hot."

 * ... EARLY COLLEGE: A few select high schools in Kern County are the first in the state to offer a new program called "early college" where students can graduate from high school while also earning their junior college associate's degree. The idea: allow students to take college level classes while in high school while forgoing traditional college tuition, and graduate from high school ready to transfer into college as a junior. Heading up the program is Dr. Jean Fuller, former minority leader of the State Senate who has been termed out of office.

 * ... MEMORIES: The Beale Clock Tower circa 1949. Thanks to the folks at the Kern County History Fans Facebook page.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

City Councilmen Willie Rivera and Andrae Gonzales are part of the blue wave in the Central Valley, crime plagues our local businesses and hats off to Mayor Karen Goh and others for pitching in to pick up trash

Monday, January 28, 2019

 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 to live. Send your tips to

 * ... THE BLUE FUTURE: If you want to know what the future looks like for Kern County
politicians, you might start with City Councilmen Willie Rivera and Andres Gonzales. Though the council is a non-partisan office, both Rivera and Gonzales are Democrats, and unlike their brethren in the Bay Area or Los Angeles, they reflect Valley values that put them more in the center of the political left. Both are Hispanic, young, progressive, smart and willing to listen, qualities that elude some on the far left. And both are making their mark on a council that traditionally has been populated by those on the far right. You also have Assemblyman Rudy Salas and Supervisor Leticia Perez as young Democrats, but Perez's future is less certain given her upcoming trial on conflict of interest charges related to her husband's consulting for marijuana interests. Watch both Rivera and Gonzales; they are both to be reckoned with.

 * ... HOMELESS: I started my Sunday with an early bike ride and followed that with errands to Sprouts and Target on Stockdale Highway. If there were ever any doubt about our growing homeless problem, it was dashed by my encounters with the homeless in areas far from the city center. We were on cross bikes and on the dirt trail under Allen Road we encountered an encampment of perhaps 20 or so homeless. Tents, trash and rubbish littered the area., and it reeked of urine. Later in the day at the Target center on Stockdale Highway, there were homeless begging for money at each entrance. And so it goes.

 * ... HISTORY QUIZ: Did you know the Kern River (and Kern County itself) was named after Edward Kern, a cartographer who was on the 1845 expedition led by Gen. John C. Fremont? The Kern River was originally named Rio Bravo de San Felipe by Father Francisco Garc├ęs when he explored the area in 1776. Fremont was known in the period as "The Pathfinder" and he later ran for president twice, as well as serving as general in the Civil War with a checkered record.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Not to brag, but I’ve worked my way through every single class of antidepressants."

 * ... CRIME: Spotted this on Facebook. It speaks for itself: "In the last three days I have witnessed 3 robberies  yes 3! What has this world come to lately. First robbery was at Vons on Ming Ave. Lady walks out with a whole cart full of groceries without paying . She is followed by the store manager and asked for receipt. She fumbles in purse for receipt ( there was no receipt)  Manager asks her come in and he rings her up and low and behold she pays for it and is on her way. I talked to the manager and he said it happens daily and most thieves get away with it. Next day in Sunglasses Hut at Macy’s a guy walks up and grabs sunglasses and runs out of the store. Today at Vons on Stockdale Hwy a guy walked out with 4 large cans of formula and food stuffed up his sweatshirt. He runs through the parking lot with a get away car waiting for him. The employees didn’t run after him because as one said to me that there is no punishment for their crime. It makes me sad when many of us are trying to have a positive attitude and support our country and some just feel that it is theirs for the taking. I don’t think these crimes are because of the government shutdown since before the shutdown I have witnessed thieves walk into a store with a wagon and load it up with alcohol and just walk out. Something has to change! It seems that there is a trend of attitude with some that it is ok to just take what they want."

 * ... TRASH CLEANUP: I have often said that it is up to all of us to combat trash and litter, even if that means giving up some of our spare time to deal with it. So that was way I was thrilled to see a Facebook post by Mayor Karen Goh noting that employees of the Kern County Superintendent of Schools partnered with Keep Bakersfield Beautiful to clean up the downtown area on Saturday morning. Now that is what you call good form.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this old ad for the old Saddle and Sirloin on Union Avenue, circa 1953.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

County CAO Ryan Alsop rolls out an ambitious plan to upgrade Hart Park, Harry Starkey leaves the West Kern Water District, and do remember the great snow day 20 years ago?

Friday, January 25, 2019

 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 to live. Send your tips to

 * ... HART PARK: The county is getting ready to roll out an ambitious, multi-year project to renovate and improve Hart Park, the 300-acre green lung of lakes, trees and hiking trails that has fallen into disrepair. County CAO Ryan Alsop laid out the plans for me on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM (the complete interview is posted on The plan, which must be approved by the
Board of Supervisors, would implement improvements over three to five years. Among the improvements would be a dog park, a splash water park for children, new signage at both entrances, upgraded picnic and play areas, food vendors, increased law enforcement patrols at all hours and restricted access to the river where people leave trash. Improvements to the four bathrooms will begin soon and funded out of the current budget.

 * ... SNOW DAY: Has it really been 20 years since the "great snow day" in Bakersfield? I remember waking to what I thought was sunlight but it was the reflection off a fresh coat of snow that toppled four trees at my southwest Bakersfield residence. It was a remarkable day for a desert community like ours. Enjoy these pictures published by The Bakersfield Californian, KGET TV and KERO TV.

 * ... HARRY STARKEY: Harry Starkey. general manager of the West Kern Water District for the past nine years, is leaving to join the Hallmark Group, a consulting and project management firm based in Sacramento. One of the leading authorities on water law and water politics in California, Starkey will be dividing his time between  Bakersfield and Sacramento. He has also agreed to become a regular Wednesday guest on The Richard Beene Show (KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM) at 1:30 p.m. Greg Hammett, manager of the Belridge Water District. is taking Starkey's position at West Kern.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Apparently putting Alka-Seltzer in my mouth while getting baptized and pretending I’m being possessed by the devil is not funny."

 * ... RODRIGUEZ: Local plaintiff's attorney Daniel Rodriguez
is moving his firm to a new building on Truxtun just blocks from the courthouse. The building is located near the old church plaza that is now home to the Tower Craft Bar. Rodriguez and Associates is currently located in an historic brick building on Eye Street near Dagney's Coffee shop.

 * ... DANIEL ROOT: Daniel Root, a Garces High grad, has taken a job with the law firm of Young Wooldridge in the firm's water department. Root went on to attend University of San Diego where he earned his B.A. in Business Administration in 2012. He later obtained his law degree from McGeorge School of Law with an emphasis in Business Law and Environmental Law. He joins the firm's experienced team of water and environmental attorneys and will serve the needs of clients throughout Kern County and the state of California.

* ... PERRY FINZEL: Perry Finzel, field rep for former Congressman David Valadao, has joined the staff of Rep. Kevin McCarthy in Bakersfield. Valadao lost his bid for reelection to Democrat T.J. Cox and McCarthy picked up Finzel after Cox was sworn into office.

* ... MEMORIES: Don't you just love these old photos that appear on the Kern County of Old and Kern County History Fans Facebook pages?

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Anne Frank's step sister to speak at the Fox Theater downtown, Michelle Chantry is leaving The Bakersfield Californian, and cities with homeless populations are flirting with health epidemics

Monday, January 21, 2019

 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 to live. Send your tips to

 * ... EVA SCHLOSS: Put March 12 on your calender when Eva Schloss, the step sister of Anne
Frank, comes to Bakersfield to speak at the Fox Theater. Schloss lives in London and is being brought here by the Chabad Jewish Community Center. Chabad has asked me to conduct the interview and I am honored to do so. Schloss and her family were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz, where her parents died.

 * ... HOMELESSNESS: It goes without saying that homelessness is a problem across the country, not just here in Bakersfield. And how various municipalities are dealing with it is eye opening to say the least. In Denver, the city council voted unanimously to decriminalize the offense of people committing certain low-level crimes like lying in a public right-of-way, urinating in public and panhandling. While I understand you can't fill the jails with people who happen to be homeless and defecate in public, we are flirting with a real health crisis here in our cities if we don't get a handle on it. Stay tuned.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "I'm just saying before you choose a name for your baby you should google 'popular stripper names' first."

 * ... BRC PRO: Congratulations to Mark Fredriksz, the club pro at the Bakersfield Racquet Club, for his amazing transformation after losing almost 40 pounds. Fredriksz never seemed to be overweight, but his doctor told him he needed to embrace healthier eating or he was at risk of becoming diabetic. So he cleaned up his act and now eats vegetarian a few times a week, just enough to keep him honest. He has dropped 38 pounds and the last time I saw him, he was heading to the Hens Roost vegan restaurant for lunch.

 * ... CHANTRY OUT: Michelle Chantry, chief executive officer of The Bakersfield Californian for the past two years, is leaving the newspaper for another job. The paper has yet to officially announce her departure but employees were told of it last Friday. No word yet on where Chantry is going or who will replace her.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this very cool old picture compliments of the Kern County of Old Facebook page.